18 of the best mountain bike helmets ridden and rated

We all know by now that helmets are an essential bit of kit to take out on the trail. Thanks to recent advances in bike technology, riders are now going faster than ever and this has led to a revolution in helmet design.

The default shape for a trail helmet is now to have the shell extended over the back of the head. Obviously, this design offers extra security in a very crucial area. You would expect the added protection to be traded for heat but most trail helmets also have the ventilation to keep you cool when you’re working hard for added versatility.

Extending the shell down at the tail and around the temples means this new breed of helmet puts more meat between your head and whatever you point it at, and makes them more secure and stable in terms of fit.


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They’re also less likely to ride up and expose the forehead, like some XC helmets, and are generally more comfortable and durable. It might say ‘all-mountain’ or ‘enduro-specific’ on the label, but if you want a do-it-all helmet then this is the type we’d recommend.

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The 12 helmets here represent our pick of the newer models, as well as some more established favourites, and cover a broad price spectrum from under £50 right up to a whopping £190.

Scroll down to read reviews of the best mountain bike helmets, but first, here’s a quick guide to what to look for:

Key Features

Bell Helmet

EPS

This stands for expanded polystyrene and it’s at the core of every helmet. It’s lightweight, cheap and, like a crumple zone in your car, compresses during an impact to absorb the energy.

MIPS

The Multi-directional Impact Protection System uses a second internal plastic liner, close to the scalp, that can slide over the inner shell by a few millimetres at the moment of impact. This helps reduce rotational brain injuries from glancing impacts. MIPS adds cost, takes up space inside the helmet (which impacts on sizing) and usually restricts airflow.

Padding

Padding thickness and density has a significant effect on sweat absorption as well as overall comfort. The helmets with thicker internal padding may run a little hotter than those with minimal, narrow strips, but are less likely to dribble sweat.

Helmet Padding

Retention Device

A retention device allows you to adjust the size and fit of the helmet. They generally fall into two camps — the dual-pinch type or rotating dial. Both systems are effective, but the dial system can be used one-handed, so you can adjust the helmet on the move.

Retention device

Shell

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.

Ventilation

Ventilation

Front cooling ports, rear exhaust ports and a combination of internal shaping to encourage airflow are typical ways of reducing heat build-up.

Helmet Visor

Visor

The best visors can be tilted up and down, but there’s no point getting it out of the way if it falls down again. It needs a stable adjustment system, either via a ratchet or fixed screws.

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Kali Interceptor

Price: £149.00

Rating: 8/10

The Interceptor is a reassuringly solid helmet with a raft of innovative safety features. The slim, ventilated profile should appeal to a broad spectrum of riders. The (relatively) heavier weight when put against other comparable helmets is the only real sticking point.

Read the full review of the Kali Interceptor helmet

7iDP M2

Price: £59.99

Score: 8/10

With a loud and proud colour scheme that continues onto the straps, the M2 helmet is not subtle, but the rugged design combines well to make it an aesthetic winner. At £60, the M2 is killer value and a decent trail helmet.

Read the full review of the 7iDP M2 helmet

Buy Now: 7iDP M2 helmet at Chain Reaction Cycles from £39.99

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Bontrager Lithos

Price: £99.99

Score: 8/10

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.

Read the full review of the Bontrager Lithos helmet

Buy Now: Bontrager Lithos helmet at Triton Cycles from £99.99

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Kask Rex

Price: £150.00

Score: 8/10

In terms of fit and comfort, the Rex is up there with some of the best helmets. Unfortunately, the limited visor adjustment and meaty price tag counts against it.

Read the full review of the Kask Rex helmet

Buy Now: Kask Rex helmet at Wiggle from £99.99

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Bell Super 2.0

Price: £99.99

Score: 10/10

There’s extensive coverage around the temple and occipital lobe; in fact the Super 2.0 is one of the sturdiest feeling helmets here with first-rate construction quality and solid fasteners that incorporate an easy to use (with one hand) tensioning band.

Read the full review of the Bell Super 2.0 helmet

Buy Now: Bell Super 2.0 helmet at Cycle Store from £89.99

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Troy Lee Designs A1

Price: £129.99

Score: 9/10

The Troy Lee Designs A1’s stability is so secure you quickly forget you’re wearing it, and construction quality and durability has been fantastic during a full year of bashing around. It’s still a staff favourite at mbr, but the heat issue and the steepish price just keeps the Troy Lee A1 from gaining top marks.

Read the full review of the Troy Lee Designs A1 helmet

Buy Now: Troy Lee Designs A1 helmet at Chain Reaction Cycles from £69.99

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Bluegrass Goldeneyes

Price: £99.99

Score: 9/10

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.

Read the full review of the Bluegrass Goldeneyes helmet

Buy Now: Bluegrass Goldeneyes helmet at A Cycles from £56.10

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Smith Optics Forefront

Price: £190.00

Score: 9/10

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.

Read the full review of the Smith Optics Forefront helmet

Buy Now: Smith Optics Forefront helmet at Merlin Cycles from £79.00

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Cratoni AllTrack

Price: £119.99

Score: 8/10

The AllTrack is a sorted product, with excellent build quality, that has resisted scuffs and scrapes. Overall function is top drawer, but it’s neither the lightest nor the cheapest all-mountain lid, making it a good choice, if not an exceptional one.

Read the full review of the Cratoni AllTrack helmet

Buy Now: Cratoni AllTrack helmet at Freestyle Xtreme from £103.99\

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Kali Maya

Price: £89.99

Score: 8/10

Kali is known for pioneering modern safety technologies and the Maya uses interlocking layers of conical EPS low-density foam in the liner. The company claims this dual construction spreads energy sideways away from the brain in a crash impact.

Read the full review of the Kali Maya

Buy Now: Kali Maya helmet at Chain Reaction Cycles from £79.99

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Giro Feature

Price: £69.99

Score: 8/10

The Giro Feature offers a sorted shape, quality construction and dialled fit adjusters for a fair price, but it’s a warm helmet and we’ve noticed the polystyrene edges around the underside are already starting to look a little scruffy compared to the helmets that feature fully wrapped shells.

Read the full review of the Giro Feature helmet

Buy Now: Giro Feature helmet at Cycle Store from £66.49

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iXS Trail RS

Price: £84.99

Score: 8/10

If trail popularity is any gauge, Swiss brand iXS has done well with the Trail RS because we see a lot of these out there. One of the big draws could be the extremely comfortable fit. The Trail RS shares the cosiest padding of any trail helmet alongside the Troy Lee A1 and is well cushioned.

Read the full review of the iXS Trail RS helmet

Buy Now: iXS Trail RS helmet at High On Bikes from £69.95

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Bell Stoker MIPS

Price: £84.99

Score: 7/10

The Stoker gets the impact-reducing MIPS rotating liner for less than most lids without it, and the helmet is also available for £65 without the technology. The thin plastic MIPS layer does make the helmet run marginally hotter, and together with less absorbent padding, the Stoker is considerably steamier than its big brother and more sweat dribbled into our eyes on hot days.

Read the full review of the Bell Stoker MIPS helmet

Buy Now: Bell Stoker MIPS helmet at Cycle Store from £76.49

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O’Neal Orbiter II

Price: £61.99

Score: 7/10

Even with extended wraparound coverage, which goes all the way down at the back of the head, cooling is good. This is probably thanks to several huge venting ports on top of the helmet, but heat build-up around the forehead is a little excessive due to the thick wad of internal padding and a big bug mesh.

Read the full review of the O’Neal Orbiter II

Buy Now: O’Neal Orbiter II at Tredz from £61.99

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Sweet Protection Bushwhacker

Price: £139.99

Score: 6/10

Bringing a bit of Scandinavian style to the trail helmet market, the Bushwacker’s sleek, close-fitting shape is well vented and uses a fully enclosed, five-piece shell with thicker EPS around the top, sides and rear for added protection.

Read the full review of the Sweet Protection Bushwhacker helmet

Buy Now: Sweet Protection Bushwhacker helmet at Stif from £74.99

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661 Evo AM

Price: £99.99

Score: 6/10

The sturdy build quality extends to the fully wrapped shell, dense, comfy pads and solid strap webbing points. It’s quick to fasten too, with one hand if needed, thanks to the innovative magnetic buckle. The EVO AM isn’t as dished-out inside as some other trail helmets and two testers complained of it feeling perched, and even tipping back to front on steeper trails while tightly fastened.

Read the full review of the 661 Evo AM helmet

Buy Now: 661 Evo AM helmet at Chain Reaction Cycles from £44.99

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Raleigh Magni

Price: £45.99

Score: 6/10

At 320g, the weight is competitive and the three colour options all use an understated matt finish. For protection, a cleverly engineered EPS liner better directs and manages impact energy in the event of a crash. The internal headband can’t be adjusted for height but the turn-dial retention device has a decent action widthways.

Read the full review of the Raleigh Magni

Buy Now: Raleigh Magni helmet at Tredz from £39.99

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Specialized Ambush

Price: £119.99

Score: 6/10

Once on and adjusted it feels really lightweight, almost as if the helmet floats above your head, and there is equal pressure from all the contact points with your head. On the trail that floating feeling is exactly want you want — light and well ventilated but still keeping your head fully protected.

Read the full review of the Specialized Ambush helmet

Buy Now: Specialized Ambush helmet at Evans Cycles from £119.99

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Mavic Crossmax Pro

Price: £115.00

Score: 9/10

We rated the previous Mavic Notch highly, and the new Crossmax Pro takes the old helmet’s comfortable fit and good durability and adds a couple of worthwhile features and updated styling to really move it on a (ahem) notch.

Read the full review of the Mavic Crossmax Pro helmet

Buy Now: Mavic Crossmax Pro helmet at Chain Reaction Cycles from £103.49

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TSG Trailfox

Price: £74.99

Score: 8/10

The Trailfox is TSG’s new trail/enduro helmet, in the same mould as the Troy Lee A1 and Giro Montaro. It extends quite far down at the rear and is bottom-wrapped to protect the EPS. Ventilation is via eight intake and exhaust vents, linked with internal air channels, and multiple visor cutaways.

Read the full review of the TSG Trailfox helmet

Buy Now: TSG Trailfox helmet at Blue Tomato from £119.09

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Bontager Rally

Price: £79.99

Score: 9/10

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.

Read the full review of the Bontrager Rally helmet

Buy Now: Bontrager Rally helmet at Mantel from £42.99

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Giro Montara

Price: £129.99

Score: 9/10

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.

Read the full review of the Giro Montara

Buy Now: Giro Montara helmet at Wiggle from £125.99

Verdict

Modern all-mountain helmets have adopted the best features and technology from one another and this cross-pollination rewards every type of rider with unprecedented choice, superb quality and improved functionality.

Every head is a different shape so we recommend trying different brands for fit, but the best products always seem to be comfortable for most riders. We can’t emphasise how important this is to helmet choice because if a helmet is uncomfortable you’re not going to wear it.

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We love Smith Optics’ classy Forefront helmet. For a first attempt this superbly ventilated lid is an impressive entry into the mountain bike market. The design of the honeycomb inner shell sucks the heat away from your scalp, but sadly at £190 we felt it was just too expensive to win, and the look of the two-piece shell really is an acquired taste.

Bluegrass and Troy Lee Designs both offer superb products that are very comfortable with excellent protection – there’s a real sensation of feeling safe and sheltered in both thanks to the rock-solid positioning.Troy Lee’s A1 is a little expensive and the thick padding means it’s better suited to cooler weather, but the fit is excellent.

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The Bluegrass Golden Eyes worked right from the off too. It has some cool features including, literally, the O2 gel sweat band, which really delivers in diverting perspiration away from your eyes. If the Bluegrass helmet had a bottom-wrapped shell to improve durability it would score a perfect 10.

Worthy winner in this test is the latest version of the Bell Super 2.0. It ticks boxes in every area and is a fantastic product in its own right, but what really sets it apart is its unique ability to morph into an enduro racing-friendly full face by adding the optional chinbar. It’s an amazingly versatile, comfy and rugged helmet that’s well worth the £100 asking price.