Is A Full-Face Racing Helmet A Good Choice For A Coronavirus Mask?

Illustration for article titled Is A Full-Face Racing Helmet A Good Choice For A Coronavirus Mask?
CountersteerYour true stories of good and bad things that happen in cars.

I’m sure we’re all being good little citizens and wearing masks when we have to venture out into the virus-saturated hellscape that is our current reality. It’s looking like all the difficult social distancing and mask-wearing is working, so I guess we’ll need to keep it up a while longer. This reality brings me to my current question: is a full-face racing helmet a good going-out-for-groceries mask option?

Advertisement

This actually isn’t my question; it was just sent to me by a reader named Ryan, who seems to have been trying it out:

Jason,

No dancing around the subject.

I have been wearing my full-face race helmet as face protection while shopping during the pandemic.

It was worn with a hoodie around the neck. Way more comfortable than a handkerchief and I genuinely miss motorsports, so it feels like a perfect fit.

Got an expert that can comment thoughtfully on this subject, because I feel like I am on to something here?

Unless I am not and thusly, looking/acting like a lunatic.

So, some thoughts: first, if it’s making you feel better about things, Ryan, that’s a plenty good reason right there. This whole mess is zero fun for anyone, so if there’s a way to make it more tolerable, have at it, even if it means vastly over-protecting your head.

Advertisement

As far as the utility of the helmet as an anti-viral mask, I think it could be effective, if paired with another element. Most helmets just have you breathe via the open space around the bottom of the mask, or via ventilation slits in the face part of the helmet itself. This means that even if the air has to travel a more circuitous route to get to your nose and mouth, it’s still coming in pretty unfiltered.

Of course, the full-face mask likely does help in one of the biggest uses of a mask, preventing you from infecting other people if you may somehow be carrying the Covid-19 virus, since there’s a physical barrier that blocks the path of your breath and it’s associated moisture droplets carrying viruses, as well as bits of semi-masticated Funions.

Also, you will look cool like The Stig buying your flapjack mix and Uncrustables™, so there’s that angle, too.

According to the CDC, a cloth face covering is recommended to prevent transmission of the virus; while a full-face helmet does not technically have this, if you’re wearing a balaclava under the helmet, that should be fine!

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled Is A Full-Face Racing Helmet A Good Choice For A Coronavirus Mask?

I mean, the balaclava alone, covering your nose and mouth, is fine on its own, but I guess if wearing the helmet makes you happy, great. Plus, if the Covid-19 viruses start to grow into massive 20-pound spiky balls, you’ll really be set.

Advertisement

Oh, and if you’re a pro drag racer or something and have one of these $1,200 masks with full air supply and filtration systems, I bet you could dry-hump a Covid-19 virus and still be fine.

I mean, I’m not advocating you do that, but look at that thing!

Most of us don’t have helmets like that, though. I’m going to say as long as you’re breathing through some kind of tight-weave cloth, you can wear any kind of helmet that makes you happy.

Advertisement

Maybe others know things I don’t, though—do some helmets have viable air-filtration systems? Motorcycle helmets? Thoughts on this whole helmet idea?

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

The answer is a resounding yes. Either the people around you will understand that you’re attempting to minimise transmission risk and will keep their distance, or they’ll think you’re nuts and keep their distance. Either way, objective achieved.

As an aside, I don't get why more pro drifters don't wear forced air helmets like the drag racing ones you mentioned - it seems like inhaling loads of tyre smoke can't be good for your lungs, given the particle size and shape.