The best mountain bike helmets ridden and rated
Helmets are a mandatory piece of kit on the trail. Here’s your guide to finding the best including what to look for and links to all our favourites.
Hitting the trails, you don’t want to second-guess whether or not a helmet is going to protect you if things go pear shaped. Thankfully, modern open face lids have kept pace with how the latest bikes allow riders to go faster and harder than ever, and the best examples are just as cool and comfortable as ever too.
Extra protection is always welcome, but not many riders want a stuffy full face on all the time, so it’s unsurprising half shell helmets with more coverage have become the staple shape. With deeper shells, these helmets offer way more protection above the ears and down to the nape of the neck, but also maintain the ventilation needed during hard exertion, so are suitable for any kind of riding.
Essentially, by reaching down lower, there’s more hard shell, (and whatever inner liner each brand uses to absorb impacts), between your head and whatever you point it at. It also means, in terms of fit, helmets feel more secure and stable than they used to be and less likely to ride up and expose the forehead or neck like older XC style lids.
As trail and enduro helmets have evolved they’ve picked up more specific features along the way too. Some brands share usage of protection technologies like MIPS that aims to reduce rotational impact forces by twisting a fraction in a crash, while others use their own proprietary technologies for a similar safety boost. Strap grippers and clips now help secure enduro essentials like goggles, with plenty modern helmets even geared up to stash them under the visor. P.O.V cam and night light mounts are also offered by some manufacturers and can be useful features for those that need them.
The ten lids here represent the different ways of interpreting a modern trail/enduro helmet and also a broad price range. The designs and manufacturers here represent countries as far flung as South Africa, Italy and the USA, and include our pick of the bang-up-to-date new models as well as some more established mbr favourites.
With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.
Scroll down to read reviews of the best mountain bike helmets.
Endura MT500 mountain bike helmet
This lid is a little bit pricey – but you do get a lightweight, well ventilated helmet that’s been carefully tailored to trail riding, whilst taking impact protection to a whole new level.
Giro Switchblade mountain bike helmet
A 2-for-1 helmet, this lid allows you to remove the chinbar, so you can wear it as an open or full-face helmet. Pricey, but you are effectively ticking off two purchases in one here.
UK buy now: Giro Switchblade at Wiggle from £199.98
USA buy now: Giro Switchblade at JensonUSA for $250
Bell Super 3.0 MIPS mountain bike helmet
We awarded the Super 2 a test-winning score the last time out, but Bell has made a couple of revisions to the new Super 3 and it certainly doesn’t disappoint.
UK buy now: Bell Super 3 MIPs at Cyclestore for £89
USA buy now: Bell Super 3.0 MIPS at Cyclestore for $127.59
Bontrager Lithos mountain bike helmet
The additional features make the Lithos look and feel like a top-quality product, and the inclusion of a sticker kit to customise the go faster stripes is a nice touch, but we couldn’t detect any vast improvement in comfort or ventilation over the more basic Bontrager Rally.
Bontrager Rally mountain bike helmet
Build-quality is excellent, and at £80 it’s great value for money. The only downside is that, at 400g, it’s a bit on the heavy side, and the deep internal vents produce some truly spectacular helmet hair.
Giro Montara mountain bike helmet
At £130 the Giro Montaro is not cheap, but it’s a top-quality helmet with a high level of protection and a ton of trail-friendly features — you just need to make sure you sort the sizing before handing over your cash.
USA buy now: Giro Montara helmet at Tweeks Cycles for $179.54
UK buy now: Giro Montara MIPs at Tredz for £69
Troy Lee Designs A2 mountain bike helmet
The Troy Lee Designs A2 is an improvement on the original design from one of mountain biking’s coolest brands. The A1 had breathability issues but no such problem with the new A2 — it has massive air vents, which are 25 per cent larger, putting this helmet easily in the top three when it comes to breathability.
Bluegrass Goldeneyes mountain bike helmet
One concern might be the looks — a few people commented on the strange shape — and there is plenty of unprotected polystyrene around the rim that’s prone to potential damage over time too. However, neither stops the Golden Eyes being one of the most stable, comfy and well-vented helmets on test.
Smith Optics Forefront mountain bike helmet
The sky-high price might be prohibitive, and it’s still unclear how the short plastic tubes would cope with a constant splattering of UK winter gloop. However, if this technology trickles down to a more affordable price point, we wouldn’t be surprised to see this helmet boom in popularity very quickly.
Giro Chronicle mountain bike helmet
Giro’s Chronicle MIPS is a bit of a halfway house between the Montaro and the now discontinued Sequence. With 14 vents, the Chronicle runs a little hot, but it’s the perfect helmet for harder trail riding — it’s also killer value, has tons of protection and fits like a glove.
UK buy now: Giro Chronicle at Evans Cycles from £71.99
USA buy now: Giro Chronicle at Cyclestore for $126
Giant Rail MIPS mountain bike helmet
Giant’s Rail MIPS helmet rolls low weight, comfort and great features into a helmet suitable for harder riding. A few little niggles prevent it from being a truly excellent all-round performer.
UK buy now: Giant Rail at Tredz for £79.99
USA buy now: Giant Rail at Cyclestore for $82.70
Fox Proframe mountain bike helmet
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. 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 take the Fox Proframe.
UK buy now: Fox Proframe at wiggle for £225.00
USA buy now: Fox Proframe at JensonUSA for $249.95
MET Parachute mountain bike helmet
Remove the Dualgel brow pad, slacken the retention dial and you can pedal around in the Parachute and barely even notice you’re wearing a full-face. As you’d expect, the fact that it has greater coverage means it runs a little hotter than an open-face, but we were continually impressed with its performance as an unobtrusive, comfortable and well-ventilated full-face.
UK buy now: MET Parachute at Tredz for £179
USA buy now: MET Parachute at Wiggle from $188
Bell 4Forty MIPS mountain bike helmet
Overall, this new Bell lid is fantastic quality though, stable in use, and lighter than the more expensive Sixer model, so ticks just about every box for a great value price.
UK buy now: Wiggle for £80.99
USA buy now: Bell 4Forty MIPs at JensonUSA for $95
MET Roam mountain bike helmet
The build quality and solidity of the Roam is really top-notch. Like the latest Bell helmets, it feels solid and extremely comfortable on your head and also lightweight enough you almost forget you’re wearing it. Met’s offer has great airflow and cooling too, leaving just the price, and how craning your neck on the steepest descents can unwind the retention wheel, to consider.
UK buy now: MET Roam at wiggle for £121.00
USA buy now: MET Roam at Wiggle for $175
Scott Vivo Plus mountain bike helmet
The Vivo Plus fits well and feels really light on your head, but it’s not as comfortable and cool as the brand’s £40 more expensive Stego model, which is a helmet we’d really recommend if your budget can stretch to it.
UK buy now: Scott Vivo Plus at Tredz for £89.99
USA buy now: Scott Vivo Plus helmet at Backcountry for $82.96
Specialized Ambush mountain bike helmet
The Ambush Comp sits great on the head, with a really light feel and superb ventilation. There’s a sense air literally whizzes through the big holes and it’s unobtrusive to the point you forget soon you’re wearing it. One complaint for some, however, is in terms of fore and aft stability. There’s a sense it grips the sides of the head more than the front and back and on the roughest trails or landing heavily it can pitch forwards.
UK buy now: Specialized Ambush CycleStore for £84.99
USA buy now: Specialized Ambush Cyclestore for $113.41
Also worth a look…
There are many helmets which didn’t quite score 9/10 or above in our tests. Here is a list of the best of the rest which are definitely worth checking out.
Louis Garneau Raid MIPS
Read the full review of the Louis Garneau Raid MIPS
Read the full review of the POC tectal
Sweet Protection Dissenter
Read the full review of the Sweet Protection Dissenter
Read the full review of the Kali Interceptor helmet
Read the full review of the 7iDP M2 helmet
Read the full review of the Cratoni AllTrack helmet
Read the full review of the Kask Rex helmet
Read the full review of the Kali Maya
Read the full review of the Giro Feature
iXS Trail RS
Read the full review of the iXS Trail RS helmet
Mavic Crossmax Pro
Read the full review of the Mavic Crossmax Pro helmet
Read the full review of the TSG Trailfox helmet
All-mountain helmets have evolved a ton in recent years to match the speeds today’s bikes and riders are capable of hitting. Brands often reach similar design conclusions in areas like retention systems, where dial-based tensioning bands are now by far the most prevalent, but there are still plenty unique qualities and technology between manufacturers. This meant each helmet on test felt distinctly different despite the similar extended coverage look.
Cross-pollination and development in helmet technology has been great for consumers and rewards mountain bikers with unprecedented choice and better function than ever. Fit is ultimately very individual though, so we always recommend trying different brands and models for size, even if our testers tended to agree on the comfiest products in this test.
With fantastic quality, finish and features, Bell’s brand new trail helmets really tick all the boxes. The cheaper Bell 4Forty model here performs exactly as you’d want from an all-day trail helmet and comes with the majority of bells and whistles found elsewhere, for considerably less cash. It’s super snug and lighter than Bell’s new top-end Sixer helmet, but lacks an indexed peak that stops it going wonky and also runs a bit hotter due to less venting and a chunkier internal webbing. Riders with tall heads might long for a deeper interior from both Bell offerings too.
We were pleasantly surprised by the Endura MT500, considering the brand is relatively new to the helmet game. You feel really protected and safe in the deep Koroyd shell, but its also low profile and very comfortable. Like the Smith Forefront helmet with similar technology, the funky honeycomb liner dumps heat like a radiator if static at the top of tracks for a minute, but for riders that never stop moving, there’s less airflow than some traditional in-molded lids and a steep asking price too.
Another great option is the Troy Lee A2 helmet, which the Giro Chronicle is extremely comfortable and cosy, but runs hotter than the pricier Giro Montaro, so, in common with the Specialized Ambush Comp that offers a really floaty, well ventilated ride quality for a good price, it’s just a touch more of a compromise than the best on test.
Key features of mountain bike helmets
All bike helmets sold in the UK need certification. This means helmets must meet certain fixed test criteria like impact velocities, roll-off tests, and strap system strengths. This is a minimum and many modern helmets surpass these requirements by incorporating composite materials into sub frames or “roll cages” for extra protection.
Crash replacement schemes
If your helmet is involved in an accident, most manufacturers offer a reduced price crash replacement scheme. With proof of original purchase, these programmes can save you up to 50% on an expensive replacement lid.
In-Mold construction describes how the impact-absorbing foam EPS liner is “fused” to the exterior shell in the manufacturing stage. It means helmets can be made lighter and stronger, yet still have more venting than traditional methods.
Expanded Polystyrene is used as standard for impact protection in the liner, with more expensive helmets also incorporating variable density technologies and implants such as Kevlar or Aramid webbing for extra puncture protection. Exposed EPS is easily damaged, so fully hardshell wrapped lids should last longer.
The aim of a Multi-directional Impact Protection System is to reduce the violence of rotational impacts. The design uses a second internal plastic liner close to the scalp to slide over the inner shell for a few millimetres at the moment of impact to reduce rotational brain injuries. (Bell has now incorporated this liner directly into its fit system). Not all brands fully buy into the system’s protection claims, however, and MIPS helmets can run warmer than the same models without the technology.
Internal padding thickness and density has a significant effect on sweat absorption, as well as overall comfort. Helmets with thicker pads may run a little hotter, but can dribble less sweat, and be ‘squeezed dry’ by pressing into the skull. Pads need to be well placed to relieve pressure, durable and easy to remove and wash too to stop helmets from stinking over time.
All the tensioning devices here use a variant of a rotating dial that incrementally tightens an internal headband. Most of these take the form of overlapping plastic webbing although Kali use a thin wire ‘boa’ thread system. Look out for small ratchet increments to get precise tensioning and for a range of cradle height adjustment options for perfect positioning on the brow and ears. Long haired or ponytailed riders might need to check compatibility too.
EPS can dent easily, so to increase durability it’s protected by a thin micro-shell. This is made from plastic, making it lightweight, easy to mould and available in a wide range of colours.
Typical EPS liners have excellent insulation properties, so helmets use cooling vents, rear exhaust ports and a combination of internal shaping to encourage air flow to reduce heat build up. One helmet uses a technology called Koroyd, which looks like a bundle of short plastic tubes perpendicular to the head. These ‘tubes’ collapse along their length if impacted and also channel heat build up away from the head effectively.
Peaks provide shade and keep stuff out of your eyes, but need to be out of your line of vision riding as it can be very distracting. If you wear goggles, check whether they fit underneath, as it’s often the easiest place to stash them when climbing. Peaks that can twist independently on each side can end up wonky – something riders can’t spot themselves.
On some helmets the visor can be adjusted so far up that you can park your goggles underneath. This allows you to push them out of the way on a climb and pull them back down again for the descent.
To add extra protection in this vulnerable area, the shell often wraps under the bottom of the helmet.