The best mountain bike helmets ridden and rated
A mountain bike lid is a mandatory piece of kit on the trail. Here’s your guide to finding the best mountain bike helmets, plus our pick of the favourites.
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.
The best mountain bike helmets 2019: best value
7iDP M2 helmet
Not one for the shy folks who like subtle colourways. Even the straps on this helmet are vibrant affairs. Yet, it’s not garish mess. It’s a cool looking lid that belies its modest price tag. Comfort levels are high thanks to abundance of padding and a large retention band. There are plenty of vents worked into the design too,m which is a bonus. Some riders may find it feels slightly perched on top and requires tightening up relatively high. Having said that, it still remains super comfy for those riders anyway.
Lazer Roller MIPS helmet
The Roller is a lower priced version of the Lazer Revolution helmet, And yes, it really does have proper MIPS lining within it for increased injury prevention during snagging impacts. This slip-liner basically reduces your brain being violently jarred in crashes. The overall fit and feel of the helmet is excellent that reminds us of the original Troy Lee Designs A1 classic lid. As usual with Lazer helmets, it is light and impressively well vented. High quality strapping and super comfy retention system round off a great helmet.
The best mountain bike helmets 2019: trail riders
Bell Super 3 helmet
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.
Endura MT500 helmet
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.
Giro Montaro helmet
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.
Bell 4Forty MIPS helmet
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.
Endura Singletrack II helmet
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 does away with the drinking-straw Koroyd filling of its other higher-end helmets. Not only does this improve ventilation – it is a brilliantly cool-running helmet – it also make for an impressively light 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.
The best mountain bike helmets 2019: enduro racers
Abus Montrailer Ace MIPS helmet
This is the top helmet offering from Abus, which kind of makes the price tag look a bit more respectable seeing as other brands best lids cost more than this. Abus are known for making excellent locks mainly. If you’ve seen their helmets before, chacnes are you’ve seen a commuter helmet. But you really should check out their proper MTB helmets these days. This helmet has MIPS protection, a reinforced internal skeleton framework. The performance is excellent and the protection on offer is similarly good. Sure, some people might not dig its aesthetics but plenty of others will.
Giro Chronicle MIPS helmet
When Giro killed off the classic Feature and ‘replaced’ it with the much more expensive Montaro, plenty of people were a bit miffed. Behold the Giro Chronicle! it’s essentially the new Giro Feature but with added contemporary must-haves. One increasingly must-have is MIPS anti brain-jarring slip liner. The exposed polystyrene at the base of the lid belies the price point but the Chronicle is just as comfy and reassuring as any Giro enduro lid of yore. Can feel warm in summer but hey, for UK riding this is a fine helmet.
The best mountain bike helmets 2019: convertible
Bell Super DH MIPS helmet review
This helmet is inspired by the success of Bell’s Super 2R convertible helmet but takes things to the next level in terms of protection and fit. It has put on weight compared to the Super 2R but for the riders this helmet is aimed at, it’s a good move as it gets higher rating of DH safety in lab tests and feels sturdier too. By far the best ting about this helmet though is the airflow and ventilation. It’s a very un-claustrophobic full facer to wear. The fiddly converting mechanism means it isn’t one for multiple mid-ride conversions but if you’re choosing your helmet guise for the day and sticking to it, this is a great helmet.
Giro Switchblade helmet
The Giro Switchblade is an old concept that has returned. The Switchblade was a relatively infamous convertible helmet from the late 90s that looked… well, distinctive. The modern Switchblade is aesthetically entirely different to the one from last century. It’s sort of Giro Montaro enduro helmet that been put on steroids to grow into a full facer. The fit factor is high and along with it the comfort levels are similarly impressive. Struggles in comparison to the newer Bell Super DH MIPS but can also be found in the sales a bit more frequently which evens things up.
The best mountain bike helmets 2019: verdict
The best mountain bike helmets for trail riding: the Bell Super 3, Endura MT500 and Giro Montaro.
The best mountain bike helmets for enduro racing: the Abus Montrailer Ace MIPS and the Giro Chronicle MIPS.
The best mountain bike helmets convertible full-face: the Bell Super DH MIPS and the Giro Switchblade.
The best mountain bike helmets for value: the 7iDP M2 and the Lazer Roller MIPS.
When designing a trail/enduro open face helmet, there are a lot of boxes you need to tick – goggle storage, strap management, MIPS protection, etc – and most companies get there but the helmets that didn’t score well.
With the Mavic helmet the best thing about it is also the worst. The Live Fit memory foam brow pad is a double edge sword – it’s super comfortable but after a few months stinks to high heaven and we’ve yet to find a way to keep it clean.
All of which leaves the top three helmets on test – the Bell, Endura and Giro. The Endura MT500 does tick all those trial/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.
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.