Is There a Difference Between Road and Mountain Bike Helmets?

Helmets are essential for cycling. They protect your head against accidents that can lead to injury. This is very important especially that it’s your brain that you’re protecting, which also happens to be your body’s control center.

But what kind of helmet do you need if you’re into cycling? And is there a difference between a helmet that’s made for mountain biking and one that’s for road cycling?

We will discuss all those things in this article. We’ll also provide an in-depth look into their differences, similarities, as well as their pros and cons, so you’ll know which one to choose.

What is a road bike helmet?

A road bike helmet is a helmet that is specifically designed for road cycling. These are lightweight and have an aerodynamic shape to make it easier for the cyclist to go as fast as possible on highways and paved roads.

Road bike helmets are used by roadies. But some mountain bikers wear them, especially those who are into cross-country mountain biking.

But that’s not recommended because mountain biking needs more protection knowing that there are more dangers and risks involved in the trails. Road bike helmets are built for speed and focus mainly on weight so that the rider can still stay comfortable even if they wear this for hours at end.

What are mountain bike helmets?

A mountain bike helmet is a helmet that is specifically built for mountain biking. They focus on providing the utmost protection and security to your head, knowing that mountain biking comes with many risks.

You can crash, slide, or suddenly fall off your bike when you’re riding on rough roads and trails. That’s where mountain bike helmets come in.

They protect your head and absorb the impact from crashing. Some helmets come with a chin guard protection, just like the full-face helmets.

What are the biggest differences between road and mountain bike helmets?

Shape

One of the biggest differences mountain biking helmets and road cycling helmets have is the shape. A mountain bike helmet has a more aggressive shape that comes in the form of sharper edges and wider coverage.

Meanwhile, road helmets are sleeker and thinner. They also have a more low-profile shape so that they will become more aerodynamic. Trail helmets are also bulkier compared to their road counterparts because this is needed to provide better protection whenever you crash.

Size

A mountain bike helmet is usually bigger than road bike helmets because they need to provide more protection and security, knowing that mountain biking is more dangerous than road biking.

And although a mountain bike helmet and road helmet both have size options such as small, medium, large, and extra large, their specific size dimensions vary. Mountain bike helmets are usually wider and bulkier, while road helmets have a thinner lining and smaller shell width.

Visor

Mountain bike helmets have a visor while road helmets don’t have any. Although this might not be true for all, this is the usual case. You need a visor when you’re into trail riding because you need to get the highest level of protection possible.

A visor gives your head and eyes added protection if you fall as this absorbs impact. It’s also the first part of the helmet that comes in contact with the ground if you happen to experience an over-the-bars crash.

Aside from that, visors can also shield you from the very bright light from the sun if you ride on a hot summer’s day. You won’t have any of these luxuries with a road bike helmet because they don’t have a visor.

The main reason for this is that it just adds unnecessary weight. Although safety is compromised a bit, you don’t have to worry much about that because you are less likely to crash or fall off your bike if you’re just cycling on smooth paved roads. 

Types

There are different kinds of mountain bike helmets. Meanwhile, there’s just one type of road helmet. For trail helmets, you’ll generally find a half-shell and full-face variant. Half-shell helmets are designed for cross-country and trail riding.

Meanwhile, a full-face mountain bike is like the ones you’ll see motorcycle riders wear, but only smaller and lighter. These are used for enduro and downhill riding. However, enduro riders sometimes wear half-shell helmets because they are lighter and more breathable.

There is also a full-face mountain bike helmet that has a removable chin guard which you can remove if you’re climbing uphills and then put back up again if you’re going down aggressive downhill sections.

Related: Are Some Bike Helmets Safer Than Others?

Aerodynamics

Roadies are very particular with aerodynamics because they need to be as fast as possible when riding on roads. Air resistance and drag are the two main things road cyclists want to overcome. And they do that by getting an aerodynamic bike helmet.

This means that road bike helmets are more aerodynamic than mountain biking helmets. What matters most when riding on trails is your technical skill, such as being able to traverse technical sections with huge rocks and slippery roots.

Meanwhile, you don’t need to have lots of skills in road biking. Instead, you just need to have lots of endurance and cardiovascular strength to go fast on your road bike compared to an mtb helmet. And you need to lower down air drag and resistance as much as possible so you can go fast.

Can you use a road helmet for mountain biking?

Yes, but you are just putting yourself in danger. We don’t recommend you wear a road bike helmet if you are going to ride on the trails because these aren’t safe. They’re very light and have a very thin protective layer.

Use a bike helmet that is specifically designed for mountain biking so you can provide the much-needed protection your head deserves.

Don’t compromise your safety just because you feel like wearing a road helmet or because road helmets are cheaper than proper trail or enduro helmets.

Can you use a mountain biking helmet for road cycling?

Yes, you can. But that means carrying more weight when cycling on paved roads. It’s not really much of a problem because you’ll still do well with these. But the thing is, you can get yourself a proper road cycling helmet that’s lighter and more aerodynamic.

This means that you can go faster and have a more comfortable ride. If you want to maximize your biking experience, then it is best that you choose the helmet that’s made specifically for the biking discipline you choose, in this case, a road cycling helmet.

Related: What’s the Best Mountain Bike Helmet for You?

Conclusion

With all this being said, you can clearly see that it is very important to choose the right kind of helmet for the kind of biking you want. It’s all about using the right equipment so you can have the right ride.

Mountain bike helmets provide more protection compared to their road counterparts. But these are heavier and aren’t that breathable.

It’s all a matter of compromising things up to better suit the conditions and areas where you need to focus on as a proper mountain biker, whether you be going on cross-country, trail, or downhill mountain biking.

Helmet protection is always needed for mountain biking. Meanwhile, breathability and lightweight design are the main focus points for road biking helmets.

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AUTHOR
Jomar Teves
A writer by day, a tech enthusiast by night, and a mountain biker at the weekends. After four years in business school and working for multinational clients, Jomar believes he can improve the world through his writings. Jomar has six years of experience as a writer and has a degree in entrepreneurial marketing. Some of his works have been published on Blokt, Clutch Points, and iTech.