Staying safe doesn't have to be cumbersome. Here's a look at the best mountain bike helmets to stay safe and sleek this year.
For many people, mountain biking is more than just a hobby or a sport. It’s a passion and life path. There are many different reasons why some of us choose this path. It’s great for your health, offers you a break from your busy and stressful life, and gives you an excuse to be in the great outdoors. Let’s look at some of the reasons why people flock to this activity, then go over the importance of protecting your head while biking.
First of all, mountain biking is among the more fun of exercises, offering you a challenging yet exciting workout that is way beyond the experience of a treadmill. Can you remember ever hearing someone say that they just had a great work out at their treadmill, while also having a great or memorable time?
Probably not. One major reason why so many people end up abandoning their new exercise plan is due to getting bored quickly and losing interest. It’s not hard to see why this happens. Compare sitting on a stationary bike and watching TV for an hour to biking up lung-burning, muscle-crushing hills and being rewarded each time with a thrilling descent. There’s simply no competition between these activities.
In addition to this, mountain biking offers you free therapy. We’ve all had rough days where throwing the computer out the window sounds more appealing than trying to work with or fix it, and those who mountain bike have a positive and effective outlet available whenever they need to de-stress.
This gives them a chance to process their difficult thoughts or feelings and find a new way to tackle them, without the expensive bill from a psychologist. As if these benefits aren’t enough, mountain biking gives you a chance to get up close and personal with nature (something many of us lose touch with in daily life) and experience true adventure.
Traveling around on your bike allows you a whole new world of opportunity. You can access areas out of reach to the average horde of tourists in foreign places, or find new and exciting terrain right in your home town.
All of this sounds great, and who wouldn’t want to add this to their life? But whether you are just starting out, or simply looking to improve your mountain biking skills, making sure you’re ready to hit the trails and adequately protected is an absolute must. What makes mountain biking so exciting and adventurous is also what makes it potentially perilous for those who aren’t properly prepared.
Head injuries are among the most dangerous of all possible accidents. A jolt or blow to the head can cause serious disruptions to brain function. According to research, around 900 people die every year in biking accidents, and more than half of those are due to head injuries. Fortunately, bicycle helmets can help with this risk.
At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be anything special about a bike helmet, but a closer look will show you that plenty of thought and research went into their structure. The design, created with a hard shell on the surface and a soft layer beneath, helps helmets to lessen impact, protect your skull, and at times, even save lives. The hard outer shell is crafted to allow the impact to spread over a larger area, decreasing the likelihood of a skull fracture.
The soft inner liner is intended to squeeze and flex, absorbing the (potentially very dangerous or fatal) shock of impact.
Bike helmets are the perfect example of the fact that correct materials have a huge effect on the performance of products. The outer shells of bike helmets are usually crafted from composite materials such as carbon fiber, fiberglass, or harder plastics like ABS or polycarbonate.
The liners are made with two foam layers, creating a bouncy surface that will absorb small bumps and bashes, and a harder layer that will permanently change shape to absorb harder hits. While some helmet brands are working with more advanced materials, the majority of products use simpler materials such as EPP (expanded polypropylene) and EPS (expanded polystyrene).
People once believed that wearing a helmet while biking was very “uncool,” but this is not the case anymore. You’ll never see a professional biker out on the trails without a trusty helmet fastened to their head, and there’s a good reason for that.
Luckily, these necessary implements have been improving with the years, not only aesthetically but in functionality. Practically all helmets made in this day and age look great, but the protection they offer and how well they fit is what is most important.
Keep in mind that you can purchase another, newer helmet whenever you’re tired of your old, worn out one, but that replacing it after a crash is non-optional and must be done. If your helmet gets cracked or the foam becomes compressed, it won’t work in the future, so make sure you throw it out right away.
This is the same reason why you shouldn’t ever purchase helmets second hand, from friends, in thrift stores, or used on the internet. There’s no way of knowing where the helmet has been and whether it will offer you enough protection. It’s always better to buy new, so let’s check out which qualities to search for while shopping for a mountain biking helmet.
What to Look for in a New Mountain Biking Helmet
- Secure, yet comfortable: No one likes the sensation of a helmet that moves around each time you hit a bump. Not only does this create the unsettling sensation that your helmet might slip down and obscure your vision at any moment, but a loose helmet means an unsafe helmet. Find a product that will attach firmly to your head, yet still offer you plenty of comfort. This is especially important for dedicated mountain bikers who spend many hours out on the trails. Many helmets come with extra foam inserts that are intended to help the helmet fit better, so if you find yours loose, this could help. These can be trimmed down or taken out altogether, in order to suit your needs and improve your comfort level.
- Quality ventilation system: Mountain biking is an intense sport, which means sweating comes with the territory. With a quality ventilation system on your helmet, however, this won’t be a problem. The right helmet will help your head stay cool, even in hot weather, to keep you from the dangerous risk of overheating as you ride. Quality systems of ventilation include plenty of holes in the helmet, cooling pads, and more.
- Non-obscured vision: It’s common sense that if you hope to stay safe while you bike, you need to be able to see where you’re going. Some mountain biking helmets have visors to keep the sun out of your eyes, which is great, but they come with the disadvantage of obscuring your range of vision. It isn’t uncommon for bikers to remove their helmet’s visor in order to see better. Find a product that allows you to see as much as possible, even with a visor, and this won’t be necessary
- Full head coverage: Many bike helmets used to be designed with a “mushroom head” style to them, which didn’t do much to protect the back of the head or improve your personal style. In the ideal mountain biking helmet, your head will have full coverage, keeping it safe from damage in case of a crash.
Here are some of the best helmets for mountain biking on the market for riders of all skill levels and experience.
- Troy Lee Designs A-1
- Bell Super 2R MIPS Equipped Helmet
- Giro Xar
- Fox Flux MTB Helmet
- Smith Optics Forefront All Mountain Bike Helmet
- Arcus Mountain Bike & Enduro Helmet
Troy Lee Designs A-1
Troy Lee Designs is committed to covering your head where it matters, allowing proper ventilation in their helmets, and equipping you with a system for adjustment to hold it all in place. These principles are what led them to design their A-1 Helmet, which is recommended for use on all cross country or mountain pursuits.
The foam inside is EPS and the outer shell is made from reliable polycarbonate material. Although avoiding accidents is ideal in every circumstance, the A-1 can stand up to a serious beating when necessary.
The helmet fits great, covers the entire head, feels comfortable, and is constructed with strong, durable materials. Although it’s a bit heavier than other helmets, the protection and perfect fit make it worth the extra weight, and it doesn’t feel heavy when you’re actually wearing it.
This helmet comes with 16 air vents, intended to let air move out of, into, and over your head to let your it breathe. It also comes with pads crafted from synthetic materials and intended to help you with sweat management. This product can be worn comfortably even in the hottest of climates. Choose between a fun array of colors including Reflex Orange, Drone Turquoise, and Reflex Red.
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Bell Super 2R MIPS Equipped Helmet
Bell is a brand that began in a garage, became established in 1954, and has been providing quality products ever since. Their Super 2R MIPS Equipped Bike Helmet is our best all-around protection pick on the list. It stands out from the other products due to its full, detachable face guard.
This extra protection is especially useful and suitable for mountain bikers who like to ride in thick forested areas, minimizing the risk of unfortunate face/branch collisions.
People with bigger heads often struggle to find the right brand helmet to purchase. They might find that the helmets they buy are too conforming or tight, hitting pressure points on the head, or simply uncomfortable.
This brand, however, fits perfectly. So well, in fact, that you might forget you’re wearing it. For customers with a head size around 23 inches (58 centimeters), a large helmet should be the right size, so plan accordingly. However, the only way to know for sure what size will fit you best is to measure your head and find out. This can be done by taking a string, wrapping it around to get the size, then measuring that with a tape measure.
It also comes with cheek pads that are comfortable and not too tight the way those on other products are, but some may find that they create pressure points. If, for some reason, you don’t want the cheek pads to be as thick, they can be trimmed down to suit your comfort level and taste, or even taken out altogether.
The cradle at the back is easy to adjust, even while wearing your biking gloves, and so is the chin guard, which can be mounted in just a few seconds while keeping the helmet on. Bike in 80 degree weather with this product and still stay cool.
The Super 2R MIPS Equipped Bike Helmet offers a wider variety of colors than most other products on the market, and even has a star wars themed design. These fun color options make this product a great gift option for the mountain biker in your life.
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Best Lightweight Option
Giro is a brand that started with the hopes of enhancing the connection you have with your ride, and what that makes you feel. This includes your desire to win and experience adventure and freedom. The business has been around for 30 years, and created the next product on the list; the Giro Xar Mountain Bike Helmet. This helmet is our pick for the best lightweight option on the market.
This light helmet will fit well, adjust easily, and feel comfortable, providing you with great airflow and a stylish design. It’s made of quality materials (a polycarbonate shell with an EPS lining on the inside) and is suitable for both biking on the road and out in nature.
This product’s visor is ideal, shielding your eyes from the sun, but keeping your range of vision clear and open. You can also adjust the visor for different types of bike riding, or take it off altogether if you don’t have any need for it. The padding can be cleaned by rinsing and will dry quickly.
Keep in mind that this product is different from others in that you cannot shorten the left side of the helmet’s chinstrap. This makes the buckle a bit off center, but the right side can be shortened which should work well enough for most customers.
This product comes in a variety of colors including white, black, matte lime, and matte blue, with subtle accents so you can stay stylish on your rides.
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Fox Flux MTB Helmet
The Fox brand was created by Geoff Fox, in hopes of competing against the already successful Japanese factories. The business is dedicated to high performance engine parts and suspension for giving riders the ultimate advantage on the track, but also offers extra riding equipment.
The Flux MTB Helmet by Fox is very lightweight and well vented. It uses a cinching system that is different from others and allows for quick adjustments and tightening prior to technical or fast descents.
The helmet offers you multiple areas inside for sticking extra padding, and the product comes with extra replacement pads, unlike many other similar helmets. The padding can be removed, which is useful due to sweat accumulation, and the helmet comes with a visor.
Although this mountain biking helmet provides great coverage for your head, including extra protection at the back with a low profile, you can still wear it with sunglasses and feel comfortable in its sleek, low profile design.
The helmet fits so well with its micro-adjustment at the back, and is so light that you might forget it’s there. In order to make the most use of the chinstrap and prevent it from twisting, try to ensure that the side buckles are placed below your ears.
Everyone has a different shaped head and face, so if you find that the product is giving you pressure points, the foam can be manipulated and pressed in easily to fit you better.
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Best Upgrade Option
Smith Optics Forefront All Mountain Bike Helmet
Smith Optics began in 1965 and is based in Idaho. They started off with the innovative and unique goggle with breathable foam and a thermal lens, which went on to revolutionize the experience of powder skiing and bring Smith Optics to great success across the world.
Smith brand products can be found worldwide, but the manufacturing and warehouse are right at home in the USA (Clearfield, Utah, to be exact). Their Forefront All Mountain Bike Helmet is our best upgrade pick on the list.
It’s clear that plenty of thought went into the design of this helmet, both from how it looks and how it fits. It’s lightweight and uses something called “Vaporfit” for snug coverage and protection. Instead of tightening in just one area around your head, it feels as though the whole helmet is adjusting to fit you perfectly; something that is unique to this product.
Its knob is equipped to make small adjustments, ranging from tight to relaxed and fitting a wide variety of head sizes. Each wearer should find that they have about 5 adjustments to pick from.
In addition to its great fit, you will notice that the helmet offers amazing air flow, allowing you to feel as though your entire head is well ventilated. The ideal helmet offers a level of comfort that will allow you to forget you’re wearing it, and this one definitely fits that description.
In fact, you might want to wear a beanie under the helmet in colder weather due to the quality of this ventilation system. The product’s visor can be adjusted and is long enough to offer you sun protection, but short enough to keep your vision free and clear, just as it should be.
You will find goggle strap guides at the back of the helmet, along with a holder on top for your light or even a camera. If you notice that there is a problem with wind noise, this can be improved by adjusting the ear sections.
The straps of the helmet are quick and easy to adjust, even in the middle of a ride. If you find that your head sweats during intense hill climbs, it will cool off quickly once you gain speed.
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Best Budget Option
Arcus Mountain Bike & Enduro Helmet
For those of you looking to save some money, this could be the perfect choice for you. Stylish, quality, and best of all, affordable, the Arcus Mountain Bike & Enduro Helmet is our best budget pick on the list.
Its dial adjustment system comes with 3 positions to suit your individual head size, tightening to a snug fit to prevent annoying looseness or wiggling, and its half shell style coverage offers you the protection you need in the back.
This product was designed to be lightweight and comfortable, but please keep in mind that it is not quite as light as some of the others on the list. The helmet looks great and the appropriate size can be found easily by checking out the accompanying size chart.
The helmet comes with 17 vents for exhaust and 6 large vents for air intake, which work together to keep your head cool as you bike the tough trails, protecting you from overheating. This helmet can be compared to the Giro brand as far as its comfort and fit, with the perfect amount of padding included inside.
The main helmet shape reaches down to cover more area on the head, as opposed to the typical helmet used for cross country biking. The visor can be clipped on but not adjusted. As far as style goes, this helmet looks slick and offers a range of classy, tasteful colors that will allow you to match out on the trails.
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Reasons to Mountain Bike More Often
Perhaps you already love to bike and make it a part of your everyday routine, or maybe you’re a beginner hoping to get started in the sport. Either way, everyone can do with more mountain biking in their lives. Let’s look at some reasons why.
- A chance to get outside: If you feel dull, overworked, or bored throughout the day, going outside can help a lot. Research has proven that even being outside for as little as 20 minutes can boost your feelings of health and rejuvenation, so imagine what an hour long mountain biking trek can do for your spirits. Fresh air is a remedy for just about everything, and mountain bikers get plenty of it.
- Getting in shape: Mountain biking is not for the faint of heart, but not to worry, even the fiercest of professionals started out right where you are. This type of biking is fantastic for your lungs, heart, and muscles, and will get you into shape quite quickly if practiced often. The ideal exercise allows you to stay in shape and have fun at the same time, so it’s time to switch to a fitness activity that you actually like.
- Improvements to your confidence levels: The sensation of reaching the top of that impossible looking hill or navigating your path down a dangerous descent is unbeatable. Another perk of getting into mountain biking is the sheer variety the sport offers riders. Most trails offer challenges and obstacles that are suited for you, no matter what your fitness or skill level is. You only need some determination, practice, and a willingness to push yourself to the limit. This attitude will carry over into other areas of your life, improving your self-image and overall confidence.
- It will teach you to be self-sufficient: Our modern world places too much importance on convenience and comfort, shielding us from many valuable learning and growing opportunities. There is something highly rewarding and satisfying about needing to rely on yourself to find your way through a tough trail, or to think yourself through a breakdown on your bike. The ability to repair issues when they come up is a big part of mountain biking. This means that you will not only be able to faithfully rely on yourself in these situations, but offer help to others when they need it.
- An opportunity to meet great people: People who mountain bike are generally quite happy. This could be due to being so active and fit, having a lot of access to fresh air, or simply their appreciation for nature. Either way, who couldn’t use more positive influences in their life? Getting into this sport, and especially joining and mountain biking club, will introduce you to some friendly companions.
Sources & Further Reading
- Vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature, Journal of Environmental Psychology
- Helmets: How they Work, and What Standards Do, Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (BHSI)
- Facts About Concussion and Brain Injury, Brainline.org
- Who We Are, Bell Helmets
- The Giro Story, Giro
- Fox Racing Company Info
- About Us, Smith Optics,