What makes a mountain bike helmet the best helmet for riding off road? Well, just as there are different bikes designed for specific disciplines of riding, there are a variety of helmets made to meet the needs of the many cyclists wanting to protect their head.
Within mountain biking alone there are many disciplines or riding styles including Enduro, All-Mountain, Cross Country, Dirt Jumping, and Downhill. The type of trail riding you intend to do will directly affect the type of helmet you need.
First, consider the type of riding you do. If you are an all-around rider who wants a comfortable and protective helmet an enduro style helmet is probably the best bike helmet for you. Or perhaps you are a new season pass holder at your local bike park, then a full face helmet would offer you the best protection for your riding style.
Mountain bike helmets can be broken down into two main categories. Full face and half shell.
Full Face MTB Helmets
Full Face helmets provide maximum protection featuring more coverage including a chin/face guard, often available with removable chin guards for superior air flow. Full face helmets are popular with downhill, enduro, and BMX riders.
Half shell mountain bike helmets will cover the top, sides, above the ears, and the back of the head. Half shell helmets are often opted for by cross-country, trail, all-mountain, and some enduro riders.
Mountain bike helmets offer different features and technology, all aiming to protect your head while riding your trail bike. Protection being the primary function of the mountain bike helmets, helmets designed for mountain biking will provide more coverage than a road bike helmet.
The push for maximum protection in the mountain bike helmet industry has given birth to the trend of rotational impact protection systems. The most common of these systems being MIPS helmets (Multi-direction Impact Protection System) which was the first on the mountain bike scene. This system features a slip-plane liner integrated into the helmet, strategically placed between the foam and the pads of the helmet. The theory behind the MIPS system is that the liner shifts in the event of an impact to reduce the rotational force suffered by the brain. This anti-concussive technology has become the standard in head protection and is present on all of the best mountain bike helmets available in today's market.
Proper fit is crucial for a mountain bike helmet to feel comfortable while riding, as well as for the helmet to properly protect the user. Mountain bike helmets come in different sizes, and each size is adjustable to achieve a perfect fit. To find your mountain bike helmet size simply measure your head around around the largest portion - about one inch above your eyebrows on a level plane. Mountain bike helmets will have a size chart to determine what size you'd wear. See an example of Fox's Proframe helmet size chart below:
Mountain bike helmets feature adjustments like chin straps and a fit adjuster on the rear of the helmet. The straps are easy to adjust and allow you to secure the helmet to your head. The fit adjuster will tighten the helmet shell onto the user's head. See photo below:
In addition to properly fitting, a mountain bike helmet must be worn properly in order to function as intended. The adjustment system and ensuring you order the correct size will allow the helmet to be worn correctly and ultimately provide maximum protection.
With a focus on maximum protection mountain bike helmets are generally heavier than a road bike helmet. While half shell helmets are generally similar in weight, lighter is always better when it comes to rider fatigue and overall comfort. Full face helmets implement weight saving technology in order to limit the amount of weight on a riders neck and shoulders throughout the ride. It is a mountain biker's choice as to where on the spectrum they fall within maximum protection versus light weight.
The vents of a mountain bike helmet are responsible for channeling cool air across your head, as well as allowing heat to escape from your head. Ventilation technology has gone as far as to implement channels that allow cool air to flow over the entire scalp from front to back giving the rider maximum relief from overheating. The style, amount, and design of helmet vents will determine the level of comfort the rider experiences while wearing the helmet. Local weather and riding style play a major role in influencing a rider as to what type of helmet will work best.
Mountain bike helmets on the market have come along way in recent years, and many models are feature rich. From goggle stash spots and adjustable visors, to GoPro and light mounts helmet features are great so long as your riding style will benefit from the added functionality.
The right mountain bike helmet will give the rider the best possible experience on the trails. Each helmet is different and the rider must weigh the protection, fit, weight, ventilation, and extra features in order to find out which helmet is the best for their personal mountain biking needs. Bicycle Warehouse has an inventory including the hottest brands and the best mountain bike helmets in the industry.