Our son is rather obsessed with motorcycles and loves pretending that his mountain bikes are dirt bikes, so of course he needed a “full-face helmet.” After asking for one for quite some time, we broke down and bought him the Bell Sanction for Christmas.
He immediately got to work testing it for me. We received an insane amount of snow while on vacation in Idaho, and the kiddo was happy to do some “snow-biking” with his new helmet. He’s since used it for biking in the house (yes, that’s a thing in our home), some short rides outdoors on the ice (helmet mandatory), and a mid-winter mountain bike trip to the desert.
While my little guy didn’t NEED a full-face helmet, there are some kids who do. Kids who race BMX, or who are particularly aggressive at the bike park require the additional coverage. Unfortunately, there’s a surprising lack of full-face helmets for kids, with the Bell Sanction being one of the only choices for a 4 year old (I’ve listed a couple others later on). Fortunately, I can recommend the Sanction as a solid choice both for young kids and older ones.
Review in a Nutshell
- One of the only good choices for young kids
- Excellent head and face protection
- Several fun designs to pick from
- Suitable for BMX or mountain biking
- Heavy and hot compared to a regular mountain bike helmet
- Pads are bit rough and not removable
Where to Buy:
- $75 at Backcountry.com
Bell Sanction Detailed Review
The Bell Sanction comes in three sizes (S, M, L) that supposedly fits heads ranging from 52 cm to 60 cm in circumference. That said, it seems to run a little small. I’d recommend adding about two centimeters to your child’s actual head circumference to get the right fit. I know one mom with a 3 year old and she said the small was a little tight on her child. As for us, we bought a Small for my 52cm 4-year-old, and it fits but probably not for long….
(For more information, read our guide to fitting a kids’ helmet.)
If you need a full-face helmet for BMX or the bike park, or you just have a crash-prone pre-schooler, the Sanction provides excellent head and face protection. It is CPSC 1203 Bicycle and CE EN1078 certified (i.e. certified for use on bicycles in the U.S. and Europe).
That said it is NOT ASTM-F1952 certified for downhill use, so if you have an older child who is getting into gravity riding, choose a helmet like the Six Six One Comp instead.
Colors and designs
Given that the Sanction is one of the only choices for children’s full-face helmets, it’s fortunate that it comes in several colors and designs. The helmet looks snazzy, and grown-up, meaning that little groms love it. In fact, I think these helmets look better in person than they do in the pictures.
Compared to a normal bicycle helmet, full-face helmets are heavy. In fact, the Sanction weighs a whopping 950 grams. For comparison, my sons’ Kali Chakra comes in at 208 grams. For little necks, that extra weight is a lot, and they will likely want the helmet off much soon than a lighter helmet. My little guy seems to make it about 20 minutes before he wants the Sanction off; he’ll wear his Kali for hours at a time.
That said, compared to other small-ish full-face helmets (the Fly Racing Kinetic Invazion Youth helmet for example), the Sanction is actually really light. So if you NEED a full-face helmet, this is a good choice.
Like the weight issue, full-face helmets are inevitably hot. To protect the face, heavy pads push up against the ears and cheeks. This isn’t a fault of the Sanction, but a necessity of the sport. For this reason, if your child isn’t racing BMX or downhill, I’d urge you to keep them in a lighter-weight, better ventilated helmet–perhaps one with MIPS if head-safety is your primary concern.
The Bell Sanction is a solidly built helmet. This isn’t a cheap kid’s helmet like the cringe-worthy Razor helmet one of our neighbor kids wear. It has a hand laminated fiberglass shell over and expanded polystyrene liner.
The one complaint I have with the Sanction has to do with the inner padding. The pads are not particularly soft, and while my son hasn’t complained about them, I’m surprised. The other problem is that they are glued directly to the polystyrene liner so they can’t be removed for washing. Eventually those pads are going to get really gross……
One of our favorite places to look at reviews for bike gear is Outdoor Gear Lab, and we usually trust their opinion. In their review of the Bell Sanction, however, I think they missed the mark. This helmet is primary intended for use by kids, but they test it as a downhill helmet for adults. Nonetheless, their review is worth a read.
In comparison, the customer reviews on Backcountry.com are universally positive, particularly for the folks who bought the helmet for their young kids. Comments include: “Perfect helmet for the kids.”
Other Options / Comparison Chart
As I previously mentioned, there aren’t many full-face helmets options for kids, particularly for young kids. Here are a couple of other option on the market and how they stack-up against the Bell Sanction.
|Helmet||MSRP||Weight||Minimum Head Circumference (per manufacturer)|
|Fly Racing Kinetic Invazion Youth||$100||1,225g||47 cm|
|Cratoni C-Maniac||$104||320g||52 cm|
|Six Six One Comp||$100||900g||52 cm|
If you want a full-face helmet for your young child, your options are limited. Fortunately lack of selection doesn’t mean lack of quality. The Bell Sanction has grown-up design and functionality in a small package. It’s worth the $75 price tag.
- $75 at Backcountry.com