Part of the reason that mountain biking is so much fun is that there is a little element of danger. Your adrenalin is flowing!
But the fact of the matter is that when you are on the trail, things can go wrong, and you can get hurt. That is why it is always recommended to wear protective gear on the most important parts of your body.
And what part of your body is more important than your head?
A good quality MTB helmet is the most important piece of protective gear that you will use when mountain biking.
While you might skimp on other bits of MTB protective equipment, never skimp on your helmet!
To help you find the right helmet, we have put together a list of the 6 best mountain bike helmets that you can buy today, for both adults and children. We have also compiled a complete buying guide to show you everything you should be thinking about when choosing the right MTB helmet.
You can check out our complete Mountain Biking Guides here.
6 Best Mountain Bike Helmets
Giro MTB Helmet Switchblade MIPS Dirt
While there is no denying that this is a pricey helmet, it is one of the best options that money can buy.
This is a full face helmet, though the front face guard is removeable, so you can make the helmet lighter and more comfortable when you are tackling easy trails.
The helmet is fully safety certified, even without the face guard, and Giro is also one of the most trusted brands on the market.
It has all the latest safety features including MIPS, the shell in-moulded to the EPS protection, and a lock fit system so that it always stays in place.
Anyone who feels hot under the collar while riding will also love this helmet as the padding is anti-microbial, and there are 20 vents with internal channelling to keep you cool.
This helmet comes with lots of great features. It has a removable and fully adjustable visor, plus a spare visor with camera mount.
It comes in four sizes for adults, accommodating skulls ranging from 51 to 65 cm, and there are four cool colour options to choose from to personalize your style.
- Full face with removeable chin bar
- Safety certified
- Four sizes from 51-65 cm
- Four colour options
POC Unisex Radhelm Trabec Helmet
This skater style open face helmet both looks cool and offers great protection. It offers great protection around the temples and down the back of the head.
Weighing just 800 grams, it matches a top-quality EPS protective layer with a full moulded shell. The shape of the helmet is design to mimic the trabecular bone structure, which the company claims ensures resistance and durability. The inner core of the helmet is reinforced with aramid filaments which makes this helmet feel extra sturdy.
It has 16 vents for breathability and aerodynamics, as well as a fully adjustable visor.
There are three sizes available, and also ten colour options including phosphate green and krypton blue.
- Open Face
- Skater style
- Trabecular bone structure design
- 10 colours
- Three sizes
Lixada Kids MTB Helmet Full Face
If you are looking for the best possible protection for young MTB enthusiasts, then this affordable kids’ helmet from Lixada is a great choice.
This is another full face helmet where you can remove the face guard when desired to make a more lightweight option.
The helmet includes a lot of the features that you would expect from a more expensive adult’s helmet, but at a fraction of the cost. This includes an adjustable dial system for sizing, fully adjustable straps, a removable and washable internal liner, and 13 flow vents.
There are four colour options so you can find the right style for your picky kid, ad the helmet is fully adjustable to fit kids from ages 3 to 15.
- Full face with removeable face guard
- Fully adjustable
- Four colour options
- Sizes for ages 3-15
Brooks Supa Cross Mountain Bike Helmet
This is an open face helmet with a few key differences to your standard model. In particular, the EPS protective layer is made entirely from recycled materials. But don’t worry, it still has a CPSC safety certification.
The helmet is lightweight and super comfortable, and has 14 ventilating port to keep you cool, including two large scuttle vents on either side.
The helmet comes in six different colours, including some hard to come by options such as gold.
There are five size options accommodating heads from 53 to 62 cm in diameter. The helmets also come with additional pads of various thicknesses to help you achieve the perfect fit.
- Open Face
- CPSC safety certification
- Made from recycled materials
- Six colour options
- Five sizes
Uvex Jakkyl Unisex Mountain Bike Helmet
This is another fantastic full face helmet, with a removeable face guard so you can use it as a more lightweight alternative when on XC rides of light trails. It is safety certified both with and without the face guard.
It uses classic EPS construction with an in-mould polycarbonate shell for maximum protection, while the detachable faceguard is made from fiberglass.
Weighing less than 700 grams, it is one of the lightest full face helmets on the market.
It has a fully adjustable IAS system, that uses FAS webbing, which means that you can get the perfect fit, which is good since there are only two sizes available.
All the internal lining is also fully removeable and washable, so you should have no excuse for a smelly helmet. Choose between a traditional matte black, or a dynamic yellow and blue option.
- Full Face with removable face guard
- Safety certified
- Two size options
- Sophisticated adjustable fit
- Two colour options
Smith Forefront 2 MIPS MTB Helmet
If you like the latest tech, you will enjoy this sophisticated helmet from Smith.
In addition to the EPS protective later, this helmet uses Koroyd, which is a series of tiny connected cylinders than form an additional crumple zone. All of this is covered by an in-moulded plastic shell.
Underneath all of this, the helmet also features a MIPS layer, which also means that it can slide on your head for additional safety when needed.
The helmet also includes lots of features such as camera mount, goggle channel, and even a place to clip your sunnies, also by Smith of course.
Do You Need a Mountain Bike Helmet?
Since I assume that we can all appreciate the importance of protecting our heads on the case of a mountain biking accident, I suppose the question is whether you need a specialist MTB helmet or you can just use a standard bicycle helmet?
While a standard bicycle helmet is certainly better than no protection at all, for trail riding you really do want something a bit more robust.
MTB helmets generally cover more of your skull, especially down the back of your head and around the temples. They also generally have a stronger structure, and more features to dissipate force of impact if you do find yourself thrown from the saddle.
So, while you could use a standard bike helmet, why risk it?
How Often Should You Replace a MTB Helmet?
If your mountain bike helmet remains in excellent condition and your never have to rely on it to protect you, then you should be looking to replace your helmet every three to five years.
However, if there are any visible signs of damage to any of the elements of the helmet, it should be replaced. The hard shell, the inner EPS foam, and all the features are designed to work together. So, if one element is damaged, you really do need to replace the whole thing.
MTB Helmet Buying Guide
Style of Helmet
There are a number of different styles of MTB helmet, so you need to choose the style that is right for you. This will depend on balancing comfort with the level of protection that you need, plus cool factor.
If you are a recreational rider that enjoys medium difficulty trails with your kids, you can probably go for something quite lightweight. If you enjoy tackling the hardest black trails, you are going to want to invest in a bit more protection.
So, here are the different styles:
- Half-Shell Open Helmet – These look the most like standard bike helmets and are best for cross country and light trail riding. They are a bit bulkier around the back of the helmet, offering more protection.
- Open Face Helmet – These helmets are considered to have a “full shell” because they extend down the back of the head and around the temples.
- Full Face Helmet – As the name suggests, unlike the other helmets, these extend around the front of the face with a protective band around the chin and mouth.
- Convertible Full Face Helmet – This combines the best of both worlds, with a front face guard that can be added when tackling more challenging and dangerous terrain.
Regardless of which helmet style you choose, they will share a number of key components.
Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)
This is the foam that is the core protection of the helmet that is made from heads of expanded polystyrene. They spread the energy of impact by deforming on impact, like the crumple zone of a car, making the impact on your head a bit slower and lighter.
This is a hard shell that sits around the EPS, adding protection for the EPS, and also providing a smooth surface to ensure that the helmet slides in the invest of an accident, rather than snagging.
Cheaper shells will generally be glued to the EPS, while more expensive helmets employ in moulding. This not only provides better cohesion, but also makes it easier to identify any damage that may have been done to the EPS layer.
MIPS stands for multi-directional impact protection system. It is a thin layer of material that goes between you head and the helmet. It allows the helmet to rotate on your head in case of impact, reducing impact while still ensuring that the main protective pieces stay in place.
Not all helmets feature MIPS, and bear in mind that when they do, MIPS does not negate the need for a good EPS layer, and it should never be reduced just because a helmet features MIPS.
Padding is what makes the helmet feel snug on your head and makes the whole thing comfortable. It needs to be adjustable so that you can get the fit right. It also needs to be sweat absorbing, cooling, and comfortable.
This is the adjuster on the back of the helmet that allows you to adjust the fit. These days most use a rotating dial which allows you to change the tension with one hand while riding.
Vents at the front and back of the helmet allow air to flow across your skull and keep you cool. You want them to be big enough that they let the air flow through, but not so big that they undermine the structure integrity of the helmet.
The visor is designed to protect you eyes from the sun, and ideally should be adjustable so you can get the best protection depending on the position of the sun. Though they shouldn’t move and jiggle when you are riding.
High-end helmets will also include a number of convenience features, some of which experienced riders will consider indispensable.
If you wear goggles while riding, you will also want a strap gutter, which is a shallow channel at the back of the helmet that holds the strap of the goggles in place.
Many helmets will also have somewhere on the top to secure your Go Pro or similar tech. This kind of protrusion should be designed to break free under a reasonable amount of stress so that they do not become a hazard in the event of an accident.
While all of these features are important, beyond style and cost, there are three main things to consider when choosing your helmet.
The helmet is all about protecting your skull, so how well it does that should be your first consideration.
While there is no 100 percent secure way to know the protection level of a helmet, in the UK a helmet can seek a protection certificate, which verifies that the helmet has been tested against certain standard criteria, which includes impact velocities, roll-off tests, and strap system strength.
This kind of certification can give you peace of mind when choosing your helmet.
To gain the full benefits of your helmet you need to wear it all day on the trail, which means it needs to be comfortable. You shouldn’t be tempted to loosen a strap, or hang it on your handlebars when attacking a lighter part of the trail. It belongs on your head.
For comfort, you will probably be focussing on the padding, the ventilation, and the adjustability.
No matter how good the helmet you buy, it won’t do you much good if it is not the right size for you. Too big and it will slide around, leaving parts of your head exposed and at risk. Too small, it will leave you with a headache and may push dangerously against your skull in the event of impact.
To figure out what size helmet you need, get your hands on a flexible tape measure. You need to measure the circumference of your head at its wides point, which for most people is around the forehead and the back of the head.
Helmets will generally offer a size range based on this measurement in centimetres.
When trying on a helmet, make sure that the inside of the helmet comes into contact with your entire head, and sits level just above the brow.
If you go for a closed face helmet it should feel on the snug side of comfortable. Ideally you should not be able to fully puff out your cheeks while wearing the helmet.
When you are all strapped up, the helmet should not move more than an inch from the ideal position.
Mountain bike riding is the kind of sport where accidents can happen, and they can be serious. Moving at rapid speeds across rugged terrains where there are trees rocks, and plenty of other hard surfaces for your head to impact against in the event of an accident.
While it is not legally required in the UK, it is just foolish to be out on the MTB trail without the protection of a decent helmet.
Luckily, helmet technology has advanced in leaps and bounds over the past years, so a good helmet has never been more comfortable, stylish, or affordable.
Pick yourself one of the fantastic MTB helmets on our list, or use our comprehensive buying guide to find your dream helmet.
- What Are the Cycle Helmet Safety Standards? – Cycle Plan
- Guide to Mountain Bike Helmets – MTB Treks
- The Science of Helmets – Integris
Last update on 2020-12-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API