Why Are MTB and Road Helmets Different?

Helmets are a vital part of mountain biking because this protects your head against crashes and keeps it as safe as possible, knowing that there is a high chance that you will crash and fall off your bike because you are just riding on two wheels.

This is why you must choose the right kind of helmet for your cycling needs. That is why there are mountain bike and road helmets.

In this article, we are going to show you their differences, as well as their similarities. We are also going to dive deep into their respective features for you to have a better understanding of their purpose and performance.

Shape

The most obvious thing that differentiates road and mountain bike helmets is their shape.

Road helmets are thinner and have a more low-profile shape compared to mountain bike helmets. They usually have smooth grooves on their sides and have circular edges to maintain aerodynamic movement.

Meanwhile, mountain bike helmets have a more striking shape and usually have bulkier half shells to provide better protection on the harsher terrain of off-road trails.

In simpler words, road helmets have a more circular shape, while mountain bike helmets have sharper edges and box-type structures.

Weight

MTB and road helmets are different from each other because of their weight.

Road cycling helmets are lighter compared to their mountain bike counterparts because they need to ensure comfort and breathability for riders especially since they will be worn across long distances.

Road cyclists also need to be as light as possible so that it will be easier for them to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles in one ride. In fact, they don’t just focus on keeping their gears and bike as light as possible, but also themselves.

They do this by eating a low-carb diet just once or twice a day. Thus, it makes sense for them to prioritize lightweight nature over anything else.

Meanwhile, helmets made for mountain biking are heavier because they have more material in them, which is needed to provide better protection.

Mountain bikers won’t also benefit too much from light helmets because weight isn’t their main priority. Instead, they focus more on technical skills.

Level of protection

Then there comes the level of protection which is a vital factor when choosing cycling helmets.

MTB and road helmets differ from each other because they are designed for different protection levels. Mountain bike helmets provide the highest level of protection because mountain biking is far more dangerous compared to road cycling.

The trails offer various obstacles that come in the form of roots, rocks, stones, and other natural challenges that make the likelihood of crashing out from your bike higher.

This is why a mountain bike helmet, just like any cycling helmet, should be geared towards providing maximum protection in the form of added padding layers, new technology such as MIPS, as well as new kinds of variants.

On the other hand, road biking helmets are designed for minimal protection because they need to compromise them for comfort and breathability.

Biking on the roads isn’t also that dangerous because you are riding on smooth pavement with virtually zero obstacles and challenges that require a skill.

Comfort

Road bike helmets are more comfortable than their MTB variants because they are built for long-term use.

This means that bikers will use them for a longer time every ride as they cover long distances.

Mountain bikers, on the other hand, usually have rides that span just 15 to 30 minutes before they get on another lap on their local trail. This is why they don’t need to focus more on comfort.

This comfort factor is achieved by having less weight and more vents for better ventilation.

The shape of road biking helmets also makes it easier for riders to go as fast as possible because it has less wind drag.

This is made possible thanks to the aerodynamic design of this road cycling helmet. This means that riders won’t have to exert too much effort to pedal because momentum is improved thanks to the helmet’s shape.

Ventilation

Another reason why mountain bike helmets and road bike helmets are different is because of their ventilation. Road cycling helmets have better ventilation because they have more holes where air can come in and cool the riders heads.

Mountain bike helmets don’t have many holes on their outer shell because this compromises safety. Having too many holes for air vents on a mountain bike helmet can lead to rocks or wood hitting your head through these small openings. 

Safety

motorcycle helmet over white background, studio isolated.

Road bike helmets differ from mountain biking helmets because of their safety levels.

In simpler words, mountain bike helmets are way safer compared to their road counterparts because they are built to protect riders from crashing on whatever the trails have to offer.

Mountain biking is also more dangerous compared to road cycling which is why they have higher safety ratings. But this doesn’t mean that road bike helmets aren’t that safe compared to a helmet for mountain biking.

Well, a road bike helmet is safe in a different way because they are designed to protect the upper portion of the head in case the rider crashes onto concrete or asphalt pavement.

Note that asphalt pavement is harder compared to soil found on the trails, which is why it shows that these bike helmets, specifically a road bike helmet, are also built for maximum protection and safety, but just in another kind of way.

Durability

Most mountain biking helmets should not be worn again if they have crashed hard because the materials inside are most likely to have been damaged.

The same goes for a road bike helmet, however, most of these can be used multiple times more even if they already went through a hard crash.

This is because a road bike helmet is made with a different kind of lining that is specifically designed for crashing on hard pavement.

Full face vs Half shell helmets

An MTB helmet comes in two forms. These are half-shell helmets and full-face helmets. Full face helmets are designed for downhill riding, which is the most difficult and extreme mountain biking discipline.

They are just like motocross helmets, but sleeker, lighter, and smaller. Meanwhile, the half shell helmets are for enduro, trail, and cross-country mountain biking.

A cross-country mountain bike helmet such as the Fox Flux share many similarities with road helmets because both of them ride on very light trails and mostly paved roads.

A full-face helmet for mountain biking just like the Troy Lee Designs D4 also has added jaw protection which protects your face from crashes which a road helmet would not have.

A half-shell mountain bike helmet, on the other hand, only have a shell that covers your skull. Road helmets are only half-shells because they need to be as light as possible just like a road helmet.

Conclusion

With all of this being said, you can see that an MTB helmet and a road helmet have their respective differences because of their purpose. However, they also share many similarities with one another.

In short, mountain biking helmets are heavier, bulkier in shape, and are built for maximum protection due to the extreme nature of downhill and enduro riding.

On the other hand, road bike helmets are lighter, more breathable, and comfortable, as well as sleeker in shape because they will be used in long rides on a road bike that span hundreds if not thousands of miles.

It is best that you wear the right kind of helmet based on the kind of biking you do on your mountain bike to ensure the utmost safety and convenience.

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