Mountain biking is fun, enjoyable, and healthy.
But despite all these good things, there also lies a certain level of risk in this sport.
Note that you are traveling huge distances on just two wheels while relying mostly on your endurance and cardiovascular strength. Not to mention the fact that you are most likely going to go through offroad trails that have all there is to offer from Mother Nature.
This is why it makes perfect sense to choose the right mountain biking helmet. This keeps you safe especially since you need to take extra precautions on your head as it is literally the brain of your body. You just can’t afford to put it in harm’s way.
In this article, we are going to show you the right way on how you can choose the right mountain bike helmet so that you’ll have a safer and better time out on the trails.
Mountain biking discipline
There are different kinds of mountain biking disciplines, with each having its own prescribed kind of helmet.
If you don’t have the budget to get a specific type of helmet for riding different kinds of disciplines, then you can just get a trail helmet.
However, you compromise breathability, convenience, and safety. Hence, it’s always best to get the right kind of helmet based on the kind of mountain biking that you are doing.
Cross-country is the lightest form of mountain biking because you are less likely to go through rough off-road trails that have steep descents along rock and root sections.
This mountain biking discipline is more about covering long distances, hence you need to focus more on helmet breathability.
These cross-country helmets are the lightest kind of helmet there is because they help you have an easier time going on long-distance rides.
They also have better ventilation with the help of their multiple air vents. These usually don’t have any visor because you don’t really need that extra protection. Furthermore, these helmets have a more low-profile shape with less coverage on your head’s sides.
Trail helmets are bulkier and a bit heavier compared to cross-country helmets. These are specifically made for trail riding, but not the extreme kind of riding as compared to enduro and downhill.
This kind of helmet has a visor with more coverage on the sides and back of your head. However, they still have the lightweight nature and composition of most XC helmets.
The only main thing that separates them from their cross-country variants is the shape as they provide more protection.
It’s best to wear these if you’re more into flat section trail riding where you ride on a mix of uphill, downhill, and flat section cycling. These are also the most versatile kind of helmet because they can work as a cross-country and enduro helmet.
Then there are the enduro helmets which are ideal if you are into enduro mountain biking. These are race-oriented helmets which means that they provide better safety levels and protection compared to the previous XC and trail helmets.
They usually come in half-shell structures, but there are also full-face enduro helmets out there. Newer and more premium versions even have a detachable chin guard that turns its original full-face structure into a half-shell formation.
These have minimal air vents compared to cross-country helmets and cover more surfaces on the sides and back of your head.
They also have a visor upfront with tight straps that can come in a buckle or magnetic system. But despite all these, enduro mountain bike helmets are still made to become as light as possible because enduro riding also comes with technical uphills alongside the harder downhills.
Downhill helmets are the toughest kind of mountain bike helmet as they provide the highest levels of protection.
Downhill mountain biking is not for the faint-hearted as this requires high amounts of skill in riding on technical sections that include jumps, drops, root and rock gardens, and all those gnarly obstacles in the trails.
This is why downhill mountain bike helmets are bulky, heavy, and doesn’t have many air vents so that it can provide the maximum level of protection needed, even at the expense of comfort and breathability.
They have a long visor that covers the entirety of the upper head which is usually bendable so that it won’t break in case you fall.
It also has a permanent chin guard that also has malleable properties so that it will just bend a bit if you crash with it. It’s just like a motocross motorcycle helmet but in a more low-profile shape and design.
Half-shell vs Full-face Helmets
There are two main kinds of mountain bike helmets. These are the half-shell and the full-face helmets. What separates them is the way they are designed and structured.
Half-shell helmets are the most common kind of biking helmet there is as they are more affordable, lighter, and more convenient. They just protect your head and not your entire face. Think of it as just like a shell that protects your head.
Then there are the full-face helmets which are just like motorcycle helmets used for motocross or dirt bikes. But what makes them different from their motorcycle counterparts is that they are lighter as they will be worn while pedaling.
Half-shell helmets are used commonly for cross-country, trail, and enduro biking because these disciplines require the rider to pedal through uphill climbs, and at the same time, shred fast on downhill sections.
The main disadvantage for these half-shells is that your face and jaw are all exposed to the elements. So, if you crash and fall down your bike, there’s a chance that you get your face or jaw and chin injured.
But the catch is that these are very light and make it easier for you to breathe and to pedal when covering huge distances.
Meanwhile, full-face mountain bike helmets are made for racing. Although breathability and comfort are compromised a bit, it’s still totally worth it because you are ensured of utmost protection and safety against harsh crashes and falls, especially if you are into competitions and races.
Helmet Safety Standards
According to law, every bike helmet sold in the market should meet a series of safety standards. One of which is the CPSC or the Consumer Product Safety Commission minimum safety standard.
There are also other certifications out there that serve as the basis of safety standards for most helmet brands. These are ASTM, CE, and Snell, to name a few.
These standards basically follow the same protocols where they ensure that the helmet is secured to the precise fit and head form of the user. They also measure the g-force rating if ever the rider crashes onto something upon impact.
These helmets even go through rigorous strength testing where they are dropped multiple times. This is why you must make sure the helmet you are buying has these safety certifications.
Helmets are made to provide safety for ourselves, so you should find a way to get the best possible helmet when it comes to providing these safety features as they have also become a standard in the mountain bike helmet industry.
MIPS: A Revolutionary Helmet Technology
MIPS is another consideration you need to make when buying a bike helmet. Most premium bike helmets today already have this MIPS feature.
This is a helmet technology that features a thin material layer that is present between the helmet’s main surface and your head.
This allows your helmet to rotate around your head if ever you crash or during impact. What’s great about this is that all of these rotational movements happen even if you’re still wearing the helmet properly and snugly.
In other words, the entirety of the helmet doesn’t separate from your head or move in an awkward position.
Because it’s just the outer shell and the lining that moves. This also means that your head won’t move upon impact as well as not absorb the force your head would normally get upon crashing on impact.
Although mountain bike helmets with MIPS are more expensive than those that lack this feature, it’s totally worth it because you are less likely to suffer head or neck injuries with this.
Size and fit
Another consideration to make is the size and fit of the helmet. Mountain bike helmets have different sizes which range from small, medium, large, and extra-large.
Make sure that you test wear one first before buying. You can also measure the circumference of your head and compare it to the helmet’s size measurement indicated on their website or mtb helmet itself. This way, you can ensure that you’ll get a good snug fit.
There is also an MTB helmet adjustment knob on the helmet usually located at the back. There’s also a strap you can adjust according to your own preferences and riding style for head protection.
The more air vents the mountain bike helmet has, the better ventilation you get. This makes it more comfortable and breathable on your end, which is just what you need for cross-country riding.
However, this compromises the safety factor because you have more holes now which leaves you more exposed to the elements.
Consider the things we have mentioned and factor them whenever you’re planning to buy a mountain bike helmet.
Focus on safety and comfort before design, and don’t hesitate to spend a lot to get premium mountain biking helmets. After all, it’s going to protect your head, which is undoubtedly the main organ that keeps you alive.