Ready to buy a new mountain bike helmet? Getting started as a mountain bike rider but not sure what type of helmet is best for you?
If you are in the market for some new headgear and are unsure what to buy, then you have stumbled upon the perfect guide.
Mountain bike helmets are not just designed to keep you protected anymore. Nowadays they are so much more. You will soon realize that even helmets are designed to help you become a better rider.
So, read on and find the best mountain bike helmet for you and your style of riding.
What Makes a Mountain Bike Helmet Different from Other Helmets?
People ride bikes for all different reasons and on different surfaces. Some for racing, others for commuting, some for exploring, and many for exercise. As cyclists in general, we are on roads and trails, and there are various types of gear for the different surfaces we ride on. But as a mountain bike rider, there are different components you need to consider that you wouldn’t when riding on the road.
One of the biggest differences is the visor. A mountain bike helmet visor sits right on the front of the helmet. Visors are shaped differently between helmets, but they all have the same basic use. That is, to keep out the many elements of the trails like mud and adverse weather. Because, unlike road cycling, mountain bike riders hit the trails in any kind of weather. Some even prefer the mucky stuff. And because of the many direction changes and objects in your path, it’s critical to keep a clear vision on the trails.
Another difference you will notice is a more extended rear section of the helmet. That’s because if you crash on a mountain bike, you aren’t just sliding off like the usual type of fall on a road bike. When you crash on a mountain bike, you fall off, and sometimes even flip over. So the extra protection is a well-needed addition when going from a road to a mountain bike helmet.
Besides the visor and extra protection, some mountain bike helmets come with extra internal protection. More or thicker pads and foam to be exact. That’s because the falls can tend to be worse than that of road cyclists.
So now that you know what makes a mountain bike helmet different from other helmets, let’s explain the different types.
Basic Types of Helmets for Mountain Biking
Mountain bike helmets are divided into two different categories: half-shell and full-face.
As their names apply the full-face goes over the entire head covering the face. But the half-shelf is half the full-face and covers only the top half of the head. Let’s briefly discuss both.
A full-face mountain bike helmet is built for aggressive downhill riding. That’s because it offers the most protection by covering the entire head. You will find that most full-face helmets are worn with goggles. Also, they tend to be heavier than their half-shell counterparts. However, many of the newer styles come with a removable chin guard so you can experience the best of both worlds.
Remember, this type of helmet is all about protection at high speeds and may be overkill for the average rider. But if you are ready to ride more aggressively, then this is the helmet type for you.
Half shells are great for beginners and average mountain bike riding. It’s also great for long rides on trails that aren’t too technical. Mountain bike half-shell helmets have extended head coverage and vent better than full-face. Basically, it feels more refreshing with a half-shell.
Overall, most riders can get away with wearing a half-shell. But if you are planning on some extreme riding, then the full-face is the only way to go.
How to Choose the Best Mountain Bike Helmet
Now that you know the basic types of mountain bike helmets, it’s time to dig a little deeper. Let’s learn about the different components that will help you choose the best mountain bike helmet.
So, once you choose whether a full-face or half-shell is best for you, read below. The following information will help you decide between the many different makes and models within the market.
The first component to consider is protection. Put simply: make sure you are comfortable with the amount of protection your helmet has to offer.
One of the first decision you will make is whether you want a helmet with MIPS or not. MIPS stands for “Multi-directional Impact Protection.” Although you pay more for it, it adds an extra layer of protection. When a mountain bike helmet has MIPS, it comes with a slip-plane liner between the pads and foam. This reduces the rotation forces on the brain upon impact. Many bike helmets come with MIPS, although some companies have designed their own impact protection system.
A few other aspects to consider in regard to protection are the internal foam pads as well as external coverage. For example, some half-shell helmets cover more on the rear of the head than others.
So, find the level of protection you are most comfortable with and ride safely.
Another critical component is the fit of the helmet. Different brand helmets fit differently. Make sure to view their size chart. It’s typically measured in centimeters. To determine your head size, simply measure the circumference of your head with a tape measure. Take that number, compare it to the chart, and determine your size.
Consider adjustment mechanisms as well. Size adjustable helmets provide a more precise and comfortable fit. Some adjustments are one or two straps while others use dials. Also, there will be chin strap adjustment if there is a strap.
So, find a helmet that fits you the best for a safe and comfortable ride.
There is a huge difference between a helmet that vents poorly and one where you can feel a constant breeze. The longer you ride or, the hotter the weather, the more critical air flow becomes. So, determining how well your helmet vents is crucial.
You will notice that mountain bike helmets have large vent holes along its outer shell. Some have more than others and vent better. So generally speaking the more ventilation holes, the better the air flow and the fewer holes, the less air flow.
But remember, extra vent holes reduce the helmet coverage. To make up for fewer holes, some helmets add additional vents through the foam liner to maximize airflow to your head. Others may use air channels or sweat-wicking technology.
Ventilation can have a direct effect on the helmets weight as well. Typically, the more vent holes, the lighter the helmet becomes. Light and breezy makes for a super comfortable ride. But naturally, it’s at the sacrifice of protection and coverage.
So, read up on the helmets ventilation system to find one that is best for your riding.
The added features are always the most fun. There are many add-ons when it comes to mountain bike helmets. Each different feature can add a little boost to your riding experiences. So, keep an eye out for adjustable visors, removable pads for cleaning, GoPro mounts, goggle clips, and even clips for holding sunglasses.
There you have it. You are now equipped with the knowledge to choose the best mountain bike helmet for you. Now let’s dig into some specifics. The following helmets make up the top 10 list of bike helmets for 2020. So read through each, choose a helmet, and get to riding with a new level of protection and comfort.
The 10 Best Mountain Bike Helmets in 2020 – Reviews and Comparison
1. Giro Montara MIPS – Best Choice for Long Trail Rides
If you are looking for a half-shell helmet designed for going for long rides on the trails, then take a look at the Giro Montara MIPS. It’s a perfect mesh between protection and comfort without adding all the extra weight. The helmet achieves this through an in-mold carbonate shell material and EPS foam. It’s highly breathable too. That’s because it comes standard with a 16 vented slot system. Extra vents mean less stopping to take your helmet off for a quick cool down and more riding. Also, if you wear glasses, you won’t have to worry about sweat dripping down blocking your view. This mountain bike helmet comes with an Xstatic brow pad to help keep your eyes visible when things can wet. It’s users praise this helmet for its excellent comfort and MIPS system for extra protection.
- Excellent fit so you can ride longer without any progressive irritations.
- Ventilation system provides a cool airflow for extra comfort.
- Adjustable visor easily adjusts when elevation or weather changes.
- Multiple color choice providing a style for everyone.
- Feels a bit bulky for some
- Not cheap but a great value
2. POC Tectal – Best Choice for Aggressive Riding on Technical Trails
What do riders love most about the POC Tectal half-shell mountain bike helmet? The answer: it’s light enough for a comfortable ride but has incredible head coverage. So not only does it vent well, but it keeps your entire head secure. And that’s why it’s the best choice for aggressive riding on technical trails. With its EPS liner, unibody shell design, and a robust outer shell, it’s an excellent option for taking your riding to the next level. Its users love this helmet for its excellent fit and style. You will also find the straps to be easily adjustable even when you are wearing gloves. It may be a bit much for those riders who just ride from time to time. But if you are a serious rider then here is a serious helmet.
- Slick design and full coverage so it’s very safe: an unusual but most desirable combination.
- Comfortable with straps made easy to adjust providing a stress-free riding experience.
- Extended coverage provides extra safety giving you more confidence to ride aggressively.
- Adjustable visor for easy adjustments when needed.
- High Price
- The larger profile may cause an issue with your fitting sunglasses.
3. Troy Lee Designs A1 – Best Choice for A Reliable and Comfortable Fit
The longer you ride, the more important comfort becomes. Small irritations become big ones from prolong riding. Well, that’s where the Troy Lee Designs A1 half-shell helmet comes in. Not only is it known for accommodating most head shapes, but its comfort is excellent. With an aerospace filament reinforced shell line and extra thick internal lining, your head will be comfortable, even on the longest of rides. This helmet comes with MIPS technology for extra protection and provides additional coverage along the sides and back of the head. It’s users love how breezy it feels and trusts the brand for its 3-year manufacturer’s warranty.
- Excellent quality with an impressive paint job, just overall a high-quality helmet.
- Inner lining and overall design provide superior comfort and fit for mostly all head sizes and shapes.
- Extended warranty so you can purchase with confidence.
- Full coverage with MIS technology providing your head with the best protection that a mountain bike helmet can offer.
- Doesn’t vent as well as other full coverage helmets.
4. Bell Super 3R MIPS – Best Choice for Meeting The Demands Of ALL-Mountain Bike Riding
If you are looking for a mountain bike helmet made for all types of riding, then check out the Bell Super 3R MIPS. Many like to call it a two-in-one. That’s because it’s a full-face helmet but the chin bar removes with no tool required. So, for those long and straight climbs, you can remove the bar and quickly throw it back on when you’re ready to tackle something a little more aggressive. It may take a little practice at first, but with enough repetition removing the chin bar will become second nature. A few other add-ons are the goggle guide adjustable visor system, GoPro Mount, and an excellent assortment of colors to choose from. Its users love this helmet for its protective yet breathable design providing them more confidence to excel in their riding.
- Excellent ventilation for a full-face helmet.
- Removable chin bar allows it to meet the demands of all types of riding.
- Comes with an easy-to adjust system for a quick and comfortable fit.
- Offers a wide-open slot for your eyes, so vision doesn’t become an issue.
- MIPS technology for extra safety.
- Heavier than some other mountain bike helmets.
- If you do remove the chin bar then you will need a place to put it.
5. Smith Optics Session MIPS – Best Choice for Ventilation
When spending long periods of time riding out on the trails, depending on your helmet, you can get hot, and FAST. That’s because a helmet blocks heat that ventilates from your body. Well, the Smith Optics Session MIPS half-shell helmet helps with that. It’s made to keep you cool and does so through many of its different features. Between its lightweight aerocore in-mold construct, s-static cooling lining, and Air EVAC Ventilation, it quickly becomes one of the best helmets you’ll find for a breathable and lightweight experience. The MIPS System is a plus adding extra protection for its riders. The helmets users love the refreshing breeze as they ride down long descents.
- Excellent ventilation for a cool and breezy ride.
- MIPS technology for extra protection.
- Great comfort and overall coverage providing a cup like fit.
- Good price for its value and technology.
- Sizing may run a little big.
6. Kask Rex – Best Choice for An Excellent Fit
The Kask Rex half-shell mountain bike helmet is built for fit. It achieves this through its optifit adjustment system and a rubberized micro dial placed right in the back of the helmet. Adjustments are quick and easy. Its makers should know because they build this helmet themselves. Yes, they are handmade. So, if you are worried about quality, don’t be, it’s made where quality products are born.: ITALY. Handcrafted in Italy? You can’t find much better quality than that. Its users praise this helmet for its lightweight and comfortable feel. It also provides excellent protection. A few other add-ons worth mentioning is its adjustable visor, goggle holder, and a built-in GoPro-mount. Overall, a high-quality helmet that fits like a glove.
- Lightweight and at the same time top quality for protection.
- Quick adjustments made easy for a comfortable and secure fit.
- Handcrafted in Italy, the land of high-quality products.
- Go-Pro mount to video your ride.
- Top mount clip is hard to open.
7. FOX FLUX – Best Choice for Style
If you grew up riding bikes of any kind, then you may be familiar with the company FOX. They’ve held a strong presence in the world of biking best known for their clothing and gear. Its logo is just what you would guess…a FOX. But in regard to bike helmets, they sure make a stylish one. The Fox Flux’s half-shell design does not just look great, but it comes with a deep rear profile that provides superior protection. Then add in the large air pockets, and detox retention systems and you have one breathable and comfortable mountain bike helmet. Its users love it for its comfort and because it’s made by FOX.
- Excellent ventilation for a cool ride.
- Cool design and color options
- Great fit for long rides
- A lightweight feel which provides even more comfort.
- Rear straps have reported being troublesome at times.
8. Giro Switchblade – Best Choice for Ripping Down Hill
The Giro Switchblade is built for the descent. Its full-face design comes with a removable chin bar and a wind tunnel cheek pad making it perfect for flying down some serious trails. And it’s been crashed tested too verified to CPSC, EN-1078 and ASTM-1952-DH specifications. It can seem a little bulky overall, but it fits well and has an additional adjustment mechanism to assure a firm fit for all size heads. This helmet is comfortable too through its thick internal pads. These same pads can be adjusted, removed, and cleaned. Removable pads are a great add-on for full-face helmets since they tend to accumulate sweat a lot more then half-shell. If you want to tackle more technical trails at a faster pace than this is the helmet for you. Its users love its excellent protection and trust it for more aggressive riding.
- Built for aggressive and consent riding so this helmet will help you improve your riding.
- When chin bar is removed there’s more coverage than other similar style helmets.
- Easy to remove chin bar, so you don’t have to stop riding.
- Removable pads provide constant fresh and clean rides.
- Pricier than others
9. Fox Metah – Best Choice for Convenience
The Fox Metah is quick and easy and super convenient. Throw it on, use the single-hand dial retention for adjustments, and clip in. It’s stylish too with its signature FOX design and a half-shell front head tilt. There’s also plenty of colors to choose from. It’s users praise it for its excellent comfortable. That’s because if it’s vaporizer multi-density impact foam, 10 Big boar vents, fixed anchor y-strap, and a premium quality liner. Overall, another comfortable, simple, and stylish helmet made by FOX.
- Built lightweight for a superior comfortable ride.
- Sweat-wicking and ventilation holes provide excellent breathability.
- Thicker outer case covers the bigger part of your head for extra protection.
- Signature FOX style with multi-color options.
- Fixed visor cannot be adjusted.
10. Kali Protectives Maya Enduro – Best Choice for Shopping On A Budget
The Kali Protectives Maya Enduro is an excellent buy for your money, and it’s the lowest priced helmet on the list. It’s a simple half-shell helmet yet still comes with some impressive features. What stands out most is its compost fusion in-molding technology that merges the EPS foam liner and shell together. How does this benefit you as a rider? Try super light, excellent comfort, better impact energy management, and an increase in range. Besides its decent comfort, you get a head adjustment system that promotes a better fit. Its unanimous, users say you get all your money’s worth and more with this one.
- Excellent value for its price.
- Great comfort and protection from inner foam to the outer shell.
- Multiple color option.
- A more precise fit from the adjustment system.
- Restricted airflow
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into a mountain bike helmet. It’s more than just protective wear that sits on top of your head. Yes, companies go above and beyond to create the safest experience, but they make sure they are comfortable and fun as well.
You are now ready to pick out the best mountain bike helmet for you. Get ready to strap on your new helmet and get to riding. With the right helmet, it can feel like an entirely new experience.