10 Best Mountain Bike Helmets Fully Reviewed & Compared

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Mountain biking is an exciting, but dangerous sport that carries with it a risk for brain injury. Experienced, and novice riders alike should invest in a quality mountain bike helmet, because regular road bike helmets will not provide the coverage needed for falls on the trail. With advancements in design and safety features, there is a wide range of mountain bike helmets that vary in coverage, weight, ventilation, and comfort to suit the needs of any rider. While the price tag may seem high, the potential damage to the head and brain far outweigh the monetary cost. Personal safety is always worth the investment.

Last Updated: July 21, 2018
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By Tess Bercan:

In this update, you will find a few new additions to our list of helmets to keep your precious head safe while you ride. Enjoy our list and be sure to check back, as we continually update our list. You will also want to check out our Bell Super 3R, which offers supreme face protection.

Bell Super 3R
  • Bell Super 3R
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Face protection
  • Price: See Here
Troy Lee Designs A1
  • Troy Lee Designs A1
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Adjustable visor
  • Price: See Here
Giro Chronicle
  • Giro Chronicle
  • 4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Moisture wicking padding
  • Price: See Here

 

10 Best Mountain Bike Helmets

 

1. Bell Super 3R

This versatile all-mountain helmet strikes the perfect balance between protection and comfort. With a removable chin strap, riders have the option of full face coverage without the weight and bulk of typical downhill helmets. It is ideal for riders who need some extra room to breathe on the way up and added protection on the way down. Users who crash note excellent face protection and significantly reduced impact during a fall.
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Protection:
This MIPS helmet comes with a detachable chin bar for optional full-face protection during down hills. The chin bar is not as strong as those rated for downhill riding but users note it protects the face surprisingly well during a crash. The adjustable visor is easy to wear with goggles as well for added facial coverage.

Fit:
The float fit system is easy to adjust for a customizable fit. Riders note feeling very secure when the chin bar is in place. However, the straps attach to the top of the helmet and this causes a bit of movement when worn without the chin bar.

Comfort:
This lightweight and breathable helmet will be a bit more comfortable and less noticeable than the downhill alternatives. Some users note a bit of discomfort due to the exterior straps but most find this to be a great, versatile helmet to keep you comfortable through the extent of your ride.

Ventilation:
This helmet features 23 vents including 6 new brow vents to increase breathability.

Weight:
Despite the comprehensive coverage, this helmet is surprisingly lightweight.

Style:
This helmet is available in a variety of single color and multicolor designs including some particularly for women.

Value:
This helmet is a bit expensive considering it is not downhill rated and will likely need to be replaced after one or two big falls. However, for versatility and lightweight full coverage many riders feel it is well worth the price.
Pros
  • MIPS
  • Removable chin bar
  • Face protection
  • Full head coverage
  • Lighter weight
  • More breathable
Cons
  • More expensive
  • Less secure fit when worn without chin bar

2. Troy Lee Designs A1

Lightweight, breathable and very comfortable. This helmet seems to be a favorite among those who struggle to find a helmet that will fit. At a relatively low price, this helmet offers MIPS technology and coverage that extends around the side of the face and back of head.
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Protection:
This MIPS helmet provides coverage that extends around the sides and back of the head and a visor that can accommodate goggles for added protection.

Fit:
Many reviewers who have struggled to find a comfortably fitting helmet find a nice fit in this one. With three sizes and a triple position adjustable retention system, this helmet accommodates even the hardest-to-fit head shapes.

Comfort:
The great fit and plush padding makes this helmet one of the most comfortable options available.

Ventilation:
This helmet has 16 vents which give it moderately good airflow.

Weight:
Between the lightweight design and great fit, this helmet feels as though it is barely there.

Style:
Style is a big selling point for this helmet. It is available in a variety of cool color combinations with a large TLD logo that really pops.

Value:
With the A2 now available, this model offers great protection and comfortable MIPS coverage at a moderate price.
Pros
  • MIPS
  • Adjustable visor
  • Very comfortable
  • Accommodates most head shapes
Cons
  • Not the most breathable

3. Giro Chronicle

This compact helmet offers affordable deep coverage with a secure fit and MIPS technology to protect the skull from all angles. The Giro Chronicle is a solid option for those who ride on diverse terrain. It find a nice balance between adequate protection and breathable design.
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Protection:
This helmet offers deep coverage that provides protection to the sides and back of the head. MIPS technology works to reduce rotational force and absorb energy during a fall. It also has a visor that can be lifted to accommodate goggles for added eye protection. However, some users wish it could be lowered a bit more to block out the sun during early morning or evening rides.

Fit:
Available in 4 sizes with Giro’s adjustable Roc Loc fit system help to create a comfortably snug fit. These helmets do seem to run a bit large so most users would recommend ordering down if you are inbetween sizes.

Comfort:
When sized and adjusted properly, most users find this to be a very comfortable and compact helmet.

Ventilation:
This helmet features moisture-wicking CoolMax padding and 14 vents to keep your head cool and dry.

Weight:
There is some reasonable weight associated with the comprehensive protection and full coverage of the Giro Chronicle. However, it does not seem to be notably heavy, even after hours of wear.

Style:
This helmet is available in a variety of solid, matte colors for classic and understated style.

Value:
At the lower end of the price spectrum, this helmet is a great value for deep coverage and MIPS technology.
Pros
  • MIPS
  • Secure and adjustable fit
  • Moisture-wicking padding
  • Google-compatible
  • Rear Skull Coverage
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Visor does not effectively block sun

4. POC Tectal

4. POC Tectal
This innovative helmet comes stocked with special features for comfort, and durability. Including the first helmet to come equipped with Recco reflectors for search and rescue teams to use to find you if you were to fall off your bike, or get caught in an avalanche. The POC Tectal comes in different sizes, and adjusts to fit better. It also has polygene anti-odor material inside the helmet to help prevent it from smelling bad after wearing it.
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Protection:
The POC Tectal does not have the MIPS inside it but, that doesn't mean it won't keep you safe. Instead of MIPS it has a aramid fiber grid which is used with aerospace, and the military for body armor, and ballistic tests.These materials help make the helmet stronger inside and out, and absorbs impacts. It also has a full coverage design to help keep your temples and the back of your head safer.

Fit
This helmet comes in six different sizes to choose from. It also has an adjustable visor so you can lift it out of your line of sight when needed,

Comfort:
Customers said that this helmet was quite comfortable to wear for periods of time. Inside it has the EPS liner.

Ventilation:
The POC Tectal has plenty of ventilation with a total of 17 so you won't have to worry about overheating.

Weight:
This helmet is reasonably light weighing at 345 grams for a medium/large.

Style:
You will have plenty of color options with the POC Tectal as it has 10 different colors to choose from. The uni-body gives it a nice sleek design and it also comes with a clip in the back for your googles.

Value:
This innovative, quality grade helmet comes at a price but you can't put a price tag om safety. This helmet is worth the couple extra money. You can never be too safe when riding your mountain bike, and with the POC Tectal being equipped with Recco you can feel at ease.
Pros

First helmet to be equipped with Recco

10 different color options

Adjustable to fit most sizes

Good ventilation

Aramid fiber grid for protection

Polygene material to keep it from smelling

Overall coverage

Cons

Doesn't have MIPS

Doesn't have a spot for a camera or a head lamp

5. Giro Switchblade

5. Giro Switchblade
This 2-in-1 helmet has a downhill rating with and without the removable chin bar. It is a bit heavier and more cumbersome than some of the other options but it offers great protection for those who like to climb everything they go down.
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Protection:
This MIPS helmet has a detachable chin bar and is rated for downhill riding both with and without the chinbar in place. It provides solid protection and deep coverage that extends well over the ears even when the chin bar is not worn.

Fit:
The Switchblade is available in 3 sizes and features Giro’s patented Roc Loc Air DH fit system for a customized fit. Some users feel it sits up a bit low on the brow but most are able to make adjustments for a proper fit.

Comfort:
Plush pads increase the comfort but the heavier weight and slightly decreased breathability of this downhill helmet make it a bit less comfortable for long climbs.

Ventilation:
With 20 vents, this helmet has decent airflow. It is fairly good for a downhill helmet but there are certainly more breathable options out there.

Weight:
This downhill helmet carries a bit more weight than many of the others on this list.

Style:
Available in 9 colors and patterns, this helmet offers a bit more diversity when it comes to style.

Value:
This helmet is on the more expensive end but with the detachable chinbar you can consider this a 2-in-1 helmet with a downhill rating and MIPS safety technology.
Pros
  • MIPS
  • Detachable Chinbar
  • Downhill rating with and without chin bar
Cons
  • Heavier
  • Less comfortable for long wear

6. Kali Protectives Maya Enduro

6. Kali Protectives Maya Enduro
This lightweight helmet comes with a long visor and space for camera mount. At a lower cost than those with MIPS technology, it offers solid protection and good shock absorption.
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Protection:
Even without the MIPS technology, this helmet is widely regarded to provide great protection for all-mountain riding. Its multi density EPS foam is designed with crumpling buffer zones that will absorb impact during a crash. Additionally, the longer visor offers some additional eye protection and does more to block out the sun than many others on this list.

Fit:
The fit system is the largest complaint about this solid half shell. It requires two hands to make adjustments, making it difficult to fine tune on the trail.

Comfort:
Once the right fit is found, this lightweight helmet is so comfortable that you may forget you are wearing it.

Ventilation:
The ventilation system features 5 forehead vents and 7 vents in the rear of the helmet. It does move air through fairly well but it is still not the most breathable for very hot days.

Weight:
The Kali Maya is very lightweight and has a balanced fit that makes it feel barely there.

Style:
This half shell helmet features a long visor for a moto-inspired look. The simplistic design and 7 solid color choices create a cool look that is not too flashy.

Value:
This helmet will run a bit cheaper than those with the MIPS technology and will still provide solid protection at a reasonable price.
Pros
  • Long visor
  • Molded spot for camera mount
  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • No MIPS
  • Two-handed fit system

7. Fox Metah

7. Fox Metah
The Fox Metah helmet offers more protection around the temples and rear of the skull than a typical road bike helmet without sacrificing much in the way of weight or breathability.
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Protection:
The Fox Metah offers more protection than the typical half shell with a deep profile and rear to protect lower down on your head. It does not feature the MIPS safety lining but the multi-density Varizorb foam works well to absorb impact.

Fit:
This helmet has a three position adjustable fit system but some users still find the fit a bit challenging due to the deep profile. Some riders find the front to be a bit too wide and feel it sits too low on the forehead while the back of the helmet feels a bit too tight.

Comfort:
The lightweight, well-ventilated design and addition of moisture-wicking pads makes this helmet great for long rides. Provided you can find the proper fit for your noggin.

Ventilation:
The visor sits at a fixed height at the front of the helmet to help conduct air through the three large air vents to keep you cool as you ride.

Style:
This helmet gets major style points for the XC inspired design and array of cool color options.

Value:
The price may range but this helmet may run a bit higher in price than other half shells due to the premium design and lightweight feel. At this price you may expect to see the addition of MIPS lining.
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Rear Skull Protection
  • Style
Cons
  • Not a universal fit
  • No MIPS lining
  • More expensive

8. Giro Hex

8. Giro Hex
This breathable helmet offers basic protection at a reasonable price. Reviewers love the customizable fit and ventilated, lightweight design but it lacks coverage for the back of the head.
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Protection:
This lightweight helmet fits snugly but offers minimal coverage. It sits up a bit high and does not provide much protection for the back of head. It does have a removable POV visor that is easily adjusted vertically to provide optional eye protection without limiting your visual field.

Fit:
This helmet is available in 4 sizes and is fitted with Giro’s patented Roc Loc fit system. The fit system and easily-adjustable straps allow you to fine tune the fit to make the helmet snug enough to stay in place but loose enough to avoid headaches.

Comfort:
The customizable fit and lightweight design makes this helmet comfortable for long rides. However, some users complain about the straps being a bit rough on their chin and the pads around the ears may be a bit irritating when you start to sweat.

Ventilation:
With 22 vents, this is one of the best breathable mountain bike helmets available.

Weight:
Lighter coverage and air vents make this a great lightweight option.

Style:
Available in a wide array of bright colors that can be stylish but will also help you stand out to cars and other bikers on busy streets or trails.

Value:
Price will range on this helmet but the lightweight coverage is much less expensive than the heavy duty mountain bike helmets.
Pros
  • Customizable fit
  • Great ventilation
  • Lightweight
  • Less expensive
Cons
  • No coverage for the back of head
  • Chin straps may be uncomfortable

9. POC Trabec

9. POC Trabec
This lightweight helmet offers an innovative fit system with buttons and places more weight around the head than right on top. Some users find this unconventional fit to be worth the extra price but others find this helmet to be a bit expensive for the protection offered.
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Protection:
Even without the MIPS lining, this tough helmet offers solid protection with a strong polycarbonate shell and layer of impact-absorbing EPS foam. The deep design also provides extended coverage around the sides and rear of the head to add some neck protection.

Fit:
The unique fit of this helmet places more weight around the sides of your head rather than squeezing over the top. While this sets the POC Trabec apart from the competition many users find the fit system a bit difficult to get used to as it requires the use of buttons rather than the standard dial.

Comfort:
This lightweight helmet offers increased comfort with its unique distribution of weight.

Ventilation:
Sixteen vent slots promote aerodynamic air flow through the helmet to keep your head cool.

Weight:
The POC trabec maintains a lightweight despite the increased head coverage through its quality design and materials.

Style:
The minimalist design and solid color options create a clean and simple look that is far from flashy.

Value:
Reviewers can tell the quality of this helmet immediately. It does carry a bit higher price considering there is no MIPS technology. However, it will still cost about half as much as some of the top brands.
Pros
  • Deep coverage
  • Quality build
  • Comfortable fit
  • Lightweight with good ventilation
Cons
  • No MIPS

10. Smith Optics Forefront

10. Smith Optics Forefront
The Smith Optics Forefront features new patented Koroyd material to absorb shock at a lighter weight. The unique design, MIPS technology and extended coverage in the front and rear of the skull provide great protection. However, it is not the most breathable or affordable option.
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Protection:
The Smith Optics Forefront offers an innovative protection system with Koroyd frame that is proposed to absorb 30% more shock than standard EPS liners. This helmet also offers MIPS technology to reduce rotational force during a fall.

Fit:
Users find the VaporFit retention system easy to operate and fine tune. Most riders are able to find a comfortable fit without too much tinkering.

Comfort:
Strategically placed padding creates a surprisingly comfortable helmet in the absence of large, plush pads.

Ventilation:
The ventilation appears to be the downfall of this otherwise highly regarded helmet. Despite the open design of this helmet, the Aerocore lining does not breathe very well and the vents do not provide adequate air flow when in motion.

Weight:
The open design of the Koroyd frame makes this helmet very lightweight and easy to wear on long rides.

Style:
The Smith Optics Forefront looks nothing like other helmets on the market. The unique Koroyd frame is accentuated by contrasting color in the aerocore lining for a bold style.

Value:
At full price, this helmet is on the expensive end of the spectrum. The quality build, MIPS technology and innovative Koroyd construction help to justify the expense. However, if you do a lot of riding in the heat, the inferior ventilation system will detract from your investment.
Pros
  • MIPS
  • Innovative Koroyd construction
  • Adjustable and removable visor
  • Built to include a camera mount
  • Very lightweight
Cons
  • Not very breathable

 

Metrics Used to Determine the Best Mountain Bike Helmets

Protection

Hopefully, you will never find out firsthand how well a helmet performs in a crash. However, when it comes to protecting your noggin, it is best to hope for the best and be prepared for the worst. Mountain bike helmets have come a long way in available safety technology and have made great strides in making these safety features comfortable and easy to wear.

The standard mountain bike helmet has an in-mold construction which includes a hard outer shell to shield the head and a layer of EPS foam to absorb impact and reduce the force on the brain. In recent years, the addition of a MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection Systems)has become commonplace to further enhance protection. MIPS is an additional layer that can be added to the helmet in between the shell and the liner to reduce rotational force. When falling from a bike, riders rarely drop directly onto their head. Most of the time the head hits the ground at an angle creating an additional rotational force that was unaccounted for in helmets until the development of MIPS. The addition of this low-friction layer works to reduce that rotational force by allowing the helmet to slide relative to the head. The MIPS liner does carry an additional cost but most riders find that cost of the added brain protection easy to justify.

In addition to varying technology, the physical coverage a helmet provides varies from model to model. From full face styles to compact half shells, there is a wide range in coverage all around the head.

Fit

Finding a helmet with a good fit is key not only for comfort, but for safety as well. Ill-fitting helmets can bobble around while riding and may move during a crash. On the other hand, helmets that are too tight can squeeze and cause headaches. We looked for helmets that can be easily adjusted and can accommodate a range of head shapes and sizes.

Comfort

Comfort is an important factor when choosing a helmet. Proper fit is a big contributing factor but the addition of pads and having a good weight distribution can also enhance comfort.  

Ventilation

Having good air flow is key for aerodynamics and keeping you cool while you ride. Depending on the time of year and location you ride, this may be more or less important.

Weight

Safety trumps weight every time so this should not be the main focus when choosing a helmet. Fortunately, design and materials continue to evolve to allow for the creation of lightweight but effective protection. For long rides, weight is worth considering as the helmet you choose will be sitting on your head for quite some time.

Style

Again, not as important as safety but it never hurts to invest in good-looking protection you are excited to show off. When riding covered up in safety gear and goggles, your helmet is a good way to make a statement and personalize your look.

Value

Helmets can be very expensive but keeping your brain safe is worth the investment. We put the price in terms of safety, comfort and convenience factors you are getting with your purchase.

Other Things to Consider

Type of Riding

The type of riding plays a role in which safety features to invest in. Typically helmets are divided into three categories of mountain biking.

  • Cross Country (XC) is the lowest intensity of the three. With less technical descent, XC riders are at lower risk for high-speed crashes. Cross Country helmets can be lighter in weight and have better airflow while still providing adequate protection for this type of riding.
  • Enduro or All Mountain riding is a bit more technical with steeper inclines and bigger drops. All mountain riders require a bit more protection that covers more of the head. Helmets that offer optional full face coverage such as the Giro Switchblade and Bell Super 3R are great for All Mountain rides as coverage can be adjusted based on the terrain.
  • Downhill riding is the most technical, long descents and big drops carry higher chances for big falls. For this type of riding a full coverage helmet with a downhill, rating is well-worth the investment.

Goggle/Camera Compatibility

Consider what gear you already have when purchasing a helmet. You don’t want to spend all that money only to find out that the helmet will not work with your favorite goggles or new GoPro.

FAQs

Q: How do I find the right size?

A: To find the right size you will need to measure the circumference of the largest part of your head by placing a tape measure about 1 inch above your eyebrows and just above your ears. Most helmets have adjustable fit systems to help fine tune the fit for maximum comfort. The helmet should fit snugly with little movement while you ride.

Q: I am a woman. Should I stick to women-specific helmets?

A: Unlike running shoes and clothing, there is not much benefit to limiting your search to women-specific helmets. The helmets on this list are all unisex and most come in colors and sizes that will work for everyone.

Sources

  1. Ellings, John, Best Mountain Bike Helmets of 2017, Web Page, Jun 01, 2017
  2. Tan, Sylvia, Mountain Biking Disciplines - Cross Country, Enduro & Downhill, Web Page,
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