The best mountain bike helmets ridden and rated
Find the best mountain bike helmets here amongst our pick of favourites. A mountain bike lid is protection but it can also be stylish and comfy.
What is a mountain bike helmet?
A mountain bike helmet has more head coverage than a road helmet. MTB helmets also have peaks to keep sun (or rain) out of your eyes. They are much lighter and more ventilated than a motorbike helmet.
The best mountain bike helmets in 2020
These lids our are what we think are the best mountain bike helmets available currently.
- Bell Super 3, £119.99 – Best Buy
- Oakley DRT5, £159.00 – Best Buy
- Endura Singletrack II, £74.99
- Bell 4Forty, £89.99
- Giro Tyrant, £134.99
- Troy Lee Designs A2, £140.00
- Giro Montaro, £149.99
- Endura MT500, £149.99
‘Buy Now’ links
You will notice that beneath each product summary is a ‘Buy Now’ link. If you click on one of these links then mbr may receive a small amount of money from the retailer should you go to purchase the product from them. Don’t worry, this does not affect the amount you pay.
Bell Super 3, £119.99
The Bell Super 3 is the best trail helmet because it strikes the right balance between durability and venting. It’s weighty and the lower edge where the EPS is left exposed is starting to look tatty but its cracking value for money and the chin bar compatibility lifts it to a whole different level.
Oakley DRT5, £159.00
At 440g the Drt5 is on the heavy side, but comparable with favourites like the Bell Super 3, and its secure hold on your head means it’s not really noticeable when riding. It’s also slightly more money than top end lids like the Giro Montaro or Endura MT500. But it’s a step up in quality from both of those, the finish is brilliant, and the extra features that could be so gimmicky are actually astute and desirable.
Endura Singletrack II, £74.99
Although it still feels novel to see Endura on a helmet (they’ve not been making helmets for very long) it has become instantly assuring.This lid reduces the price by omitting the extra protection of the drinking-straw-like Koroyd filling of its higher-end helmets. Whether this directly reduces weight and improves ventilation is difficult to say, but there’s no debating the fact that the Singletrack II in an impressively light and brilliantly cool-running helmet. And one that still offers good back-of-head protection depth. The retention strap may not wrap all the way around the head but it does the job just fine. An excellent warm weather lid.
Bell 4Forty, £89.99
Following the agreeable modern trend of premium spec helmets coming it at well under £100, the 4Forty has MIPS protection, a fully wrapped outer, a modern shape and a very tastefully done two-tone colourway. Unlike most brands, Bell integrate MIPS into their retention system which results in less interior bulk. The padding is arranged in such a clever, overlapping way that will delight those sweaty-foreheaded folks out there. It’s only the fact that it runs slightly hotter than megabucks helmets that give the game away.
Giro Tyrant, £134.99
This quirky looking lid is being worn by 50:01’s very own Ratboy in the marketing shots. So does that mean it’s irrelevant for the rest of us? Riders who prefer to ride loop on a Sunday instead of finding twenty different ways to slide along a log? Not in our opinion.
Troy Lee Designs A2, £140.00
There’s general consensus that Troy Lee makes some of the best-looking trail lids around. The A2 fits great, has good ventilation and a lot of protection. It’s at the pricier end of the scale at £140, but the brand’s even more comfortable, older A1 model is still a great product and cheaper too, so long as you’re cool with the helmet being, err, not so cool.
Giro Montaro, £149.99
The Giro Montaro is sleek, super comfortable, full adjustable and has a ton of trail-friendly features – it doesn’t get a full 10/10 rating however due to the pads design and durability and the price.
Endura MT500, £149.99
The MT500 is packed to the gills with features, including an adjustable peak, anti-bacterial padding, eyewear dock as well as a clip-off accessory mount for a headlight or helmet-cam. The peak lifts far enough up to store goggles and the straps are held securely under the peak edges and a large (removable) clip at the back.
The best mountain bike helmets 2020: verdict
When designing the best mountain bike helmets there are a lot of boxes you need to tick – goggle storage, strap management, MIPS protection, etc. And there are some helmets that when you get out of the box and put them one, they fit like a glove. You don’t have to muck about with the straps or the retention devices, and when it says medium it fits a medium.
All of which includes the three best mountain bike helmets on test – the Bell Super 3, Endura MT500 and Giro Montaro.
The Endura MT500 does tick all those trail/enduro boxes and fits like proverbial glove but it just doesn’t look that sleek. How a helmet looks shouldn’t matter but it does and the MT500 is definitely function over form.
On the flip side the Giro Montaro does look like a £150 helmet, it’s stylish, the colour is on point and it’s just sleek. The sizing is spot on too and it’s easily one of the most comfortable helmet on test. It takes runner up spot simply because the pads fell apart and the Bell is better value.
The reason the Bell Super 3 takes top honours is not because it does anything better than any other helmet – it’s not the cheapest, the lightest or the best vented. It’s not as snug fitting as the Giro or the Troy Lee and there are helmets here with more features. It just does everything as well as the top-end helmets do but it costs £30 less. It also has a feature none of the others have. You can fit a chin bar to this helmet so you can race an enduro, use it on an uplift day or just feel safe when you’re out sessioning jumps. You may not ever see the need for this feature but the Bell Super 3 is like two helmets in one and that’s why it our test winner.
A mountain bike helmet is a must
Mountain biking is very unpredictable, which makes it exciting, but now and again things can go wrong and you will end up eating dirt. To this end we recommend wearing a helmet all times because landing on your head is incredibly dangerous – it can lead to a fractured skull, concussion or much worse.
Any bicycle helmet will work off-road but if you’re a trail rider you’ll want to consider something that is a little bit more robust that. Typically a trail helmet extends down at the back and over the temples and also features a stronger structure with the addition of MIPS liner to help dissipate impact forces. The extra protection does mean a trail helmet may run a little hotter, but most include good quality padding to soak up sweat.
Standard trail features include an adjustable retention device, in-moulded and bottom wrapped micro shell and a matching visor, which should be fully adjustable, so you can tilt it up and down to shade your eyes in bright sunshine. Some of the best trail helmets also get add-ons, like integrated adapters to mount a head cam, magnetic closures, goggle strap clips, storage bags and one here even has a sensor that detects if you’ve had a accident.
Due to the trickle-down effect you will see some high-end features included on budget helmets but we’ve focused on the top-tier simply because that’s where there’s the greatest choice. These helmets are more refined, harder wearing and look pretty sick too.
Key features of the best 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.
To reduce damage to the EPS it’s covered with a thin plastic micro-shell. This is usually in-moulded with the EPS during the manufacturing process and can be a single or several pieces.
EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam and is at the core of the helmet. It’s lightweight, easily mouldable and works exactly like a crumple zone in a car.
Multi-directional Impact Protection System is a moveable plastic inner liner. This slides when your head hits the ground reducing the force of them impact and likelihood of a concussion or brain injury.
Padding thickness and density has a significant effect on sweat absorption, cooling and comfort. Thicker internal padding may run a little hotter but you’re less likely to get sweat running down your neck and the helmet will generally feel more comfortable. Channels are often formed into padding to improve air flow and speed up drying.
Like on a baseball cap, a retention device allows you to adjust the fit of the helmet. Most use a rotating dial, which allows you to vary the tension with one hand while riding. On some you can also adjust the overall height of the device and starting diameter.
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.
To keep you cool, vents at the front and back of the helmet allow air to flow across your scalp. The size and number of vents is key but it’s also important the peak integrates with the vents properly.
Adjustability is the name of the game – the best visors cab be tilted up and down so they’re out of your eye line when riding. Ratchet or thumb screws are handy to stop the visor rattling or falling down.
Goggle parking/strap gutter
On some helmets the visor can be tilted up so you can ‘park’ goggles underneath when you’re not using them. Usually this feature comes hand in hand with a strap gutter – a shallow channel on the back of the helmet that holds the strap in place.
To add extra protection to a high wear area on the lower edge the micro-shell often wraps under the bottom of the helmet.
How to find your helmet size
Get hold of a fabric or paper tape measure if possible. If you don’t have one, don’t try and wrap a metal tape measure around your noggin, it doesn’t work – believe us. In the absence of a fabric/paper tape measure, find some string and wrap that around your head and note its length.
Whereabouts to measure around your head? Essentially around the widest (biggest circumference) part of your head. Around your forehead and around the most prominent bit of the back of your head. Note down the measurement in centimetres. All helmets have size ranges and with your head measured it’s then easy enough to find which sizing has your head size covered.
How often should you replace a helmet?
You should replace a helmet after any slightly significant impact or crash. A lot of helmet companies offer crash replacement schemes so it’s worth checking out their websites for info about such things.
In terms of general lifespan, it’s typically advised that you should think about replacing your helmet every two to three years. Some companies in the past have stated a longer term than this but we’d feel a bit iffy using a helmet that’s had more than three years proper trail riding use. General wear and tear as well as things like UV degradation can have negative affects on the performance and reliability of your helmet.