New materials and new designs mean that full-face mountain bike helmets and convertible helmets are now better than ever. Enhanced protection technology, better ventilation, lighter weight, and more comfortable - ready for a day at the bike park or a trip to the mountains.
Mountain bike helmet design has evolved significantly in the last few years, and they’re now safer and more comfortable than ever. If you’re looking for more protection, for bike park riding, enduro and downhill racing, or just peace of mind, you’ll want to check out our pick of the best full-face and convertible mountain bike helmets – we’ve tested extensively to bring you this guide.
If you’re more of a trail rider and aren’t looking for full-face protection, check out our list of the best mountain bike helmets that are ideal for riding your local trails or all-mountain adventures.
Best helmet for hot conditions
Weight: 747g | Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Rating: 10/10
Pros: Good value for money, excellent ventilation, MIPS, secure fit, easy to put on
Cons: Not as adjustable as some
You can pedal in it without feeling like you’re on a turbo trainer in a sauna, it’s light enough that you don’t feel restricted in your movement and it offers better protection than an open-face trail helmet.
As there’s no retention device, you may need to play about with different pad thicknesses to get a perfect fit with the Proframe. The brow pad, neck roll and cheek pads are all available in a variety of sizes are spares are included in the box to let you customise your fit.
The best thing about the Proframe though? It’s the ventilation. There so much airflow to your mouth that it’s difficult to believe that you’re wearing a full-face. For days in the bike park or trips to the alps it’s the perfect foil. For full-face protection with open-face ventilation, we’d not hesitate to take the Fox Racing ProFrame.
Read our full test review of the Fox ProFrame
Troy Lee Designs Stage
Best for enduro and trail riding
Weight: 708g | Sizes: XS-S, M-L, XL-XXL | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Super stylish, comfortable, good ventilation, MIPS
Cons: TLD label comes at a premium.
For a full face that is properly downhill certified, the Troy Lee Designs Stage is incredibly lightweight, it’s only 90g heavier than the test winning Bell Super Air open face. TLD has been able to cut the weight and still meet the certification because it’s using a dual-density closed-cell foam in the construction – there’s a regular EPS inner layer with more resilient EPP wrapped over the top. Inside you’ll also spot the distinctive yellow MIPs liner, which in the Stage moves quite freely because there is no retention device anchoring it in place.
Instead to fine tune the fit, Troy Lee relies on an array of different pad sizes – you get two different thickness neck rolls, three jaw pads and two liners included in the box, and the Stage is also available in three sizes. That said it does come up a little small, so if you’re borderline we’d recommend going up a size.
At pretty much half the weight of the Giro Switchblade and Leatt Enduro 4.0, the Stage is an incredibly easy wear. The visibility is so good that we quickly forgot we were wearing a full face. With the massive number of vents especially in and around the chin bar, we also didn’t get as hot riding this helmet even working hard on the climbs.
Like the Fox Dropframe, the Stage uses magnetic Fidlock SNAP buckle, it slots together easily and you don’t have to pull it over your head like the D-ring system used in the Giro Switchblade. The helmet has an adjustable visor, anchored by a nicely machined thumb screw. At full height there’s just about enough space to park goggles but the strap gutter is not as well defined as some.
Due to the excellent ventilation and superb fit, it really doesn’t feel like you’re wearing a full face. The only sticking point is the price. But if you’re looking for a bit more protection for enduro or trail riding, and the occasional day at the bike park, this is the one to get.
Read our full test review of the Troy Lee Stage
IXS Trigger FF
IXS Trigger FF
New generation lightweight, DH-certified full face lid
Weight: 679g | Sizes: S/M, M/L | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Good value, plenty of airflow, lightweight
Cons: No rotational protection, only two sizes, cheek pads can pop off
Lightweight and breathable, and very well ventilated, the IXS Trigger FF is a DH-certified full-face mountain bike helmet that’s one of the lightest we’ve tested, though not quite as light as the Dainese Linea 01.
There’s no rotational protection like MIPS or other own-brand alternatives, in instead iXS relies on the more traditional in-moulded construction whereby expanded polystyrene is fused to a harder outer shell. It must be effective though, as the lid has passed extensive DH testing for impact resistance, fixing and security.
Ventilation here is ridiculously good, to the point the Trigger is actually cooler than plenty open face lids, and can even feel too chilly on long rides in wintry weather. Internal padding is well positioned and super cushy against your head. Unobtrusive cheek pads come in two sizes, but can come off too easily as the little ‘popper’ fixing method isn’t the most secure.
With class-leading airflow for a DH-certified lid, the Trigger makes a convincing case for a permanent lightweight full face.
Read our full test review of the IXS Trigger FF
Great ventilation, fit and looks
Weight: 812g | Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Excellent protection, from Koroyd and MIPS, great ventilation, fit and looks
Cons: Not as light as TLD Stage or Fox Proframe
The Mainline is an excellent example of how the enduro racing discipline has helped develop the modern mountain bike helmet. Sure, full face lids of yore always paid lip service to lower weight and decent ventilation but in practice they were always something you couldn’t wait to take off at any given opportunity.
The Mainline is a very modern enduro focused full face helmet. One that eschews the 2-for-1 convertible design in favour of greatly reduced overall weight and significantly increased ventilation. And we mean ventilation in both the easy-breathing and not-overheating senses.
It isn’t as light as the Fox Proframe or Troy Lee Stage but it’s not far off and, let’s be blunt, some riders will just prefer the Smith aesthetic. Which is fine by us.
Read our full test review of the Smith Mainline
Dainese Linea 01
Best for lightweight full-face protection
Weight: 570g | Sizes: XS-S, M-L, L-XL | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Incredibly light weight, high protection rating, plenty of ventilation, flexible adjustable visor, RECCO
Cons: DH racers might want less exposed EPS
Italian protection legend Dainese is back with the world’s lightest ever DH-certified full face cycling helmet. Called the Linea 01, it targets a new breed of long travel e-biker or trail rider looking for extra coverage.
Linea 01’s heavily-vented shell uses a polycarbonate outer layer on top of an EPS liner, but inside, a key to the exceptionally low weight (100g or so less than rivals) is an embedded nylon exo-skeleton that bolsters penetration resistance and overall strength. Dainese also uses different EPS densities in different zones to optimise protection, thick foam cheek pads to protect against the chinbar getting smashed into your jaw and the latest (thinner) MIPs rotating liner.
Extensive vents aid air flow and cooling, including on the chinbar, where a huge mouth port pumps cooling air into the face. The rear retention dial moves with a three-height headband, and there’s a padded chinstrap using FIdlock’s quick magnetic clasp system.
The Linea 01 helmet is so lightweight and well vented, it’s only marginally hotter than some half shells and suitable for riding in all day (even in warm weather) if you want extra protection for e-biking, enduro or aggressive trail riding. While it’s fully certified, DH racers might still want extra material and less exposed EPS for riding usual uplifts where cooling and weight is less of a priority.
Read the full review of the Dainese Linea 01 full-face helmet
Best mountain bike convertible helmets:
Bell Super Air Spherical
Best all-round convertible mountain bike helmet
Weight: 484g | Sizes: S, M, L | Rating: 10/10
Pros: Great ventilation, absorbent padding, fully adjustable visor, comfortable, plenty of protection, optional chin bar
Cons: Old-school snap clasp, need to purchase chinbar separately
Yes, there’s something missing from the image above – the chinbar. Unfortunately you do need to buy this separately, but it does mean that if you’re looking for a truly versatile convertible helmet that works brilliantly as a trail lid too, this should be high on your list.
Bell’s new Super Air is the first trail helmet with Flex Spherical + MIPS technology. Crucially, it will move 10-15mm during an impact event but it doesn’t impact on the sizing or the fit – in fact the Bell Super Air is easily the most comfortable half shell on test. Bell’s retention device is also attached to the MIPS, so there’s no restriction of movement.
With 18 vents and four brow ports, air flow is excellent and if you do sweat there’s plenty of padding to soak it up, especially around the forehead. The visor is adjustable with room for goggles. Overall it’s comfortable, breathable, light and protective.
Read out full review of the Bell Super Air Spherical helmet
Bell Super DH
Bell Super DH
The best dual-purpose, convertible full-face helmet
Weight: 891g | Sizes: S, M, L | Rating: 10/10
Pros: DH certification, light enough and minimal enough in both modes
Cons: Bit tricky to fit the chin bar with the helmet on.
Bell was one of the first to market with a convertible helmet, so it’s appropriate that the evolution of that model delivers even greater protection and earned a perfect 10 rating. The helmet in question is the Super DH MIPS, now certified to ASTM 1952 DH full-face standards.
It uses a similar wrap-around chin bar and spring-loaded catches to the original Super 2R, but beefs everything up to create a super-sturdy and confidence-inspiring lid.
Weight has crept up a result, but it’s still well ventilated and minimal enough to ride without the chin bar on long trail rides. Then clamp on the chin bar for alpine descents or laps at the bike park.
Effectively offering two helmets in one, the Super DH is the first convertible helmet that doesn’t compromise in either configuration.
Read our full test review of the Bell Super DH
Bell Super Air R
Bell Super Air R
Way lighter and better ventilated than Bell’s previous offerings
Weight: 674g | Sizes: S, M, L | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Good weight, works well as both an open face and a full face
Cons: Expensive, chin bar is a fiddle to fit.
Bell’s new helmet is stylish, versatile, comfortable and lightweight. Being nowhere near as hot or restricting as a proper DH full face, it’s nailed form and function for a trail bike or e-bike lid with added protection, but some riders will demand more security for the hassle of lugging a chinbar round. It comes with a seriously hefty price tag too.
The lid’s twist-to-tighten retention system cinches tight without wriggling and changes height to alter interior dish and tilt. Fit and padding is extremely comfortable, and sizing is as expected compared to other brands.
With 26 vents, the Super Air feels incredibly light on the head with tons of airflow. Under the three-way adjustable peak, four brow slots are especially effective.
Read our full test review of the Bell Super Air R
MET Parachute MCR
MET Parachute MCR
MCR version is the best looking, most sorted Parachute yet
Weight: 839g | Sizes: S, M, L | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Well-built, feels sturdy
Cons: Expensive, fiddly to convert and difficult to put on with the chinbar installed.
At £300, Met’s latest do-it-all helmet certainly isn’t cheap, but quality and finish is top notch and it feels well built, with or without the chinbar. It’s the best looking and functioning Parachute yet, and feels properly sturdy and Alpine-ready in full face mode. Combine this with a good-looking, unobtrusive open face option, and it’s a very versatile combination.
MCR refers to the new chinguard mechanism, which uses magnets to orientate ‘plugs’ into ports on the main helmet. It’s reasonably solid in place, but wobbles and twists more than other convertibles. It’s easy to install once you figure out the locators, but a bit vague to fix too, so you’re never entirely sure when it’s locked down wearing the lid. We found a quick chinbar jiggle reassuring.
Padding, straps and retention dials are of the highest quality. The BOA cradle has really precise increments, and the MIPS integration and plastic webbing is all well designed. A huge peak out front is flexy and can be tipped up right out of sight, which means goggles will fit underneath easily too.
Read our full test review of the MET Parachure MCR
How we tested mountain bike full face and convertible helmets
As well as one tester wearing each helmet on multiple rides over the last few months, the lids have done the rounds between friends and family on various test rides and photo shoots. This gives us a better consensus as to what works best on different head shapes and sizes, and also feeds in information from riders that run at different temperatures or sweat different amounts.
On top of actually riding in the helmets, the lids had to deal with extended life in the back of a van that’s often home to muddy test bikes and kit; something that represents an accelerated, real-world test scenario for the kind of knocks and scrapes all helmets are subjected to over time.
What to look for in mountain bike full face and convertible lids:
Removed chin bar
Want extra protection without getting hot-headed? You need one of the latest enduro lids. Read our guide to mountain bike full face and convertible helmets. Lightweight full face – and convertible – helmets have been around for ages, but the rise of the do-it-all riding discipline called enduro has made them way more commonplace. One added benefit being safety conscious riders can enjoy fewer weird looks rocking a full face lid at trail centres or local trails nowadays.
Like many other bike components bitten by the enduro bug, the products here mirror this by merging extra protection, full face, downhill helmets with better-ventilated, open face, XC or trail lids. And, whereas downhill helmets used to be too hot, sweaty and heavy for pedaling around in all day, this new helmet breed is aimed at exactly that with extra protection over a trail lid.
MTB peaks help keep both sun and mud and crud out of eyes and should be adjustable for tilt, stable and rattle-free. Any visor used better look good too, even though it’s hopefully not even visible by the rider while actually riding. Flexible materials and breakaway fixtures improve safety by stopping visors being a lever that can twist your neck in a crash.
Internal cushioning is essential to helmet stability and comfort, and also to heat management. Pads soak up a lot of sweat so should be removable for washing, and pay attention to materials chosen, as all fabrics are not equal in terms of next to skin comfort. Some lids rely on multiple pad densities to tune fit instead of heavier retention systems, and while thicker pads can be more comfy, they also run hotter.
Ports or vents are essential to increase airflow to cool the head. Most helmets use a system of intake (front) and exhaust (rear) vents to channel air through internal channels or grooves to regulate internal temperature. Used cleverly, vents can also save helmet weight and improve looks.
Chinbar attachment (where applicable)
Removable chinguards allow switching between uphill and downhill modes in selected helmets. Each system has its own unique clamp mechanism, with the best fitting quickly and easily with the helmet in place. Safety standards on chinbars range from trail riding to full DH certification.
As well as harder shells and multiple foam densities to absorb impacts of different velocities, many lids also offer extra rotational impact protection. The best known is MIPS, which is a slippy plastic liner that slides independently of the outer shell to dissipate impact energy. Other own-brand variants exist too, all with similar aims.
Securing the helmet safely is essential, but look for comfort and adjustability here and straps that aren’t too itchy, flappy or dig in ears or the jawline. Many helmets use magnetic clasps to speed up installation, although simpler plastic clasps can sometimes be lighter and less obtrusive.
A typical retention system takes the form of a compressible cradle that cinches down onto the scalp. The best will tighten one-handed, exert pressure evenly and be multi-adjustable in terms of tilt and circumference to suit all head shapes. Look for solid and sturdy adjusters too as small plastic pieces are prone to damage over time.
All mountain bike helmets have to pass ‘minimum standard’ tests to be sold publically. Parameters include puncture resistance, strap integrity and handling impacts of different velocities. DH-certified helmets can resist higher energy loads and stresses, but require more material (and weight) to achieve this.
The ability to park goggles under peaks is a must for some and requires the room to do so. Rear goggle clips can be a bit of a gimmick though, considering elasticated goggle straps do a good enough job anyway. Some helmets also offer eyewear stow points that will be useful for glasses wearers.
The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute says its testing “has shown that MIPS does reduce rotational acceleration. But when the head is constrained – as by a neck – MIPS does not perform well. That does not happen in the field, where heads are attached to the body.What is MIPS MTB helmet? ›
MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, which is a leading slip-plane technology inside the helmet designed to reduce rotational forces that can result from certain impacts.What is the difference between MTB and road helmets? ›
Mountain bike helmets
These helmets are a little different from road bike helmets. For instance, a mountain bike helmet has a visor at the front of the helmet which helps to keep both dirt and the sun out of your eyes. Ideal for when you're about to tear up the trails!
Full-face helmets are unnecessary when it comes to most types of mountain bike rides especially when you are more into cross-country biking. However, if you want to push your skill level while riding tougher downhill trails, then you should use a full-face helmet to protect your entire face.What helmet should I wear for mountain biking? ›
Half-shell mountain bike helmets are the best option for most mountain bikers. These versatile helmets are lightweight, have good coverage, ventilation, and useful features.Is it worth paying extra for MIPS? ›
The front piece is made up of three layers: a plastic outer layer, foam padding, and then a hard plastic inner core that has the MIPS technology layered into it. MIPS is definitely worth paying extra for on a bike helmet as it provides far more protection for your head.Are MIPS helmets really better? ›
It's a no-brainer that helmets infused with MIPS offer improved safety and protection compared to regular non-MIPS helmets. The research studies we mentioned above also suggest the same thing. MIPS Company, on the other hand, claims that it can reduce the rotational force impact by about 10%.
The Fox Mainframe (MIPS) is an economical trail helmet. It looks good, is comfortable when riding, has decent coverage, effective ventilation and comes in several colourways. Plus, the MIPS offers an increased level of protection. On the whole, it's a good value trail lid.Are MTB helmets safer than road helmets? ›
“Helmet construction between road and mountain bike helmets will be identical. That is, they will meet all the same safety standards.” “Road helmets are much lighter but will have the same amount of impact protection as mountain bike helmets” - Specialized Bicycle Components, Inc.Are mountain bike helmets safer than road bike helmets? ›
Mountain bike helmets can generally be used for road cycling. In terms of safety, they are suitable. Though, they may not have the improved aerodynamics, ventilation, or weight a dedicated road helmet can provide. With that compromise, MTB-specific helmets are a great option for an all-rounder helmet.
According to a study at the Legacy Research Institute in Portland, Oregon, WaveCel is significantly more effective than MIPS in reducing both linear impact forces and rational forces on the brain.How often should you replace bike helmet? ›
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, for example, advises that unless manufacturers recommend otherwise, you should get a new helmet every five to 10 years.Do bike helmets expire? ›
The government testing body in the US, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), recommends replacing a bicycle helmet every five to 10 years. The Snell Memorial Foundation, which also certifies helmets for safety, states a firm five years.Is it worth getting a full-face helmet? ›
For maximum safety, full-face helmets are usually the best choice. Studies show that the most common area of impact (19.4%) in a motorcycle crash is the chin. Full face helmets provide greater chin protection than other styles of helmet, meaning they are usually the safest option for general use.Are full face helmets safer? ›
Our study showed that the full-face helmet lowered the risk of facial injury by two-thirds, and confirmed that a full-face helmet offers better protection against facial injury than other types of helmet.Is full-face helmet good for cycling? ›
The quick answer is probably no, for most types of cycling, especially if your child is just learning to ride their bike or is riding on the roads. In these circumstances then a full-face helmet might cause more safety issues than it solves.What should I look for when buying a mountain bike helmet? ›
- It does not wobble from side to side, or tilt from front to back.
- It does not move when you shake your head in any direction.
- The helmet stays level across the forehead just above the eyebrows.
- The helmet does not tilt backwards.
The fit should be snug and the helmet shouldn't be able to rotate in any direction. As mentioned, it should sit just above your eyebrows and shouldn't be tilted back or forward on your head.Should you wear elbow pads for MTB? ›
Elbow pads are not a necessary piece of mountain bike protective gear, but they can help prevent your elbows from getting all scraped up – or worse, a broken elbow or arm. I personally don't wear elbow pads, but I know plenty of people who do!How long do mountain bike helmets last? ›
The government testing body in the US, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), recommends replacing a bicycle helmet every five to 10 years. The Snell Memorial Foundation, which also certifies helmets for safety, states a firm five years.
Riding away with one of our top pick awards, the POC Ventral Air MIPS takes rightful its place on the podium. We loved the comfort, style, and ventilation with the Ventral. It provides many of the same advantages and features as other helmets we tested but comes at a slightly higher price.What does MIPS stand for? ›
Understanding Medicare's Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS)How long do bike helmets last? ›
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, for example, advises that unless manufacturers recommend otherwise, you should get a new helmet every five to 10 years.