Want extra protection without getting hot-headed? You need one of the latest enduro lids. Read our guide to lightweight 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.
Best lightweight full-face and convertible helmets
- Troy Lee Stage, £275 – WINNER
- Bell Super Air R, £274.95
- Endura MT500 Full Face, £189.99
- Giro Switchblade, £269.99
- IXS Trigger FF, £199.99
- Kali Alpine, £229.99
- MET Parachute MCR, £300
- Sweet Protection Arbitrator, £269
Mountain bike helmet design has been on a crash course in technology in the last few years. New lids are more advanced than ever in terms of safety features, and plenty are now modular too; something that enables dual usage for trail riding and more serious terrain.
By uniting disciplines, enduro has transformed bike kit by blending features optimised for cross-country efforts with those for downhill speed. 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 pedalling around in all day, this new helmet breed is aimed at exactly that with extra protection over a trail lid.
All eight helmets here represent the latest kit from leading brands. There’s plenty cutting edge, impact-reducing, technology, and designs that range from super-lightweight fixed full faces to helmets with removable chinbars striving for more versatility, a cooler ride with increased vision. Each brand goes about its design goals differently, so there’s a wide spread of weight, price and functionality to best suit individual needs.
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Bell Super Air R
Bells 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.
Endura MT500 Full Face
It’s a decent price and good quality, but there are niggles with Endura’s new lid, including the major one of finding it neither quite comfortable nor cool enough to choose over rivals to wear all day. And, having a hotter, more claustrophobic feel and a less comfy fit is something being the lightest DH-certified helmet on test can’t compensate for.
Switchblade quality and finish is top notch and Giro’s lids last a long time before getting wrecked in everyday use. We love the look of the open Switchblade, but this is noticeably chunkier, heavier and hotter than some of the newer generation convertibles and lightweight full faces here. As a regular trail lid mode it looks cool and offers a good halfway house in terms of protection then, but it’s more expensive, significantly less well ventilated and bulkier than a ‘standard’ extended rear coverage open face helmet.
IXS Trigger FF
With class-leading airflow for a DH-certified lid, the Trigger makes a convincing case for a permanent lightweight full face, if you don’t need the option to remove the chinbar for climbing or the hottest days. It’s the joint best-ventilated helmet here with Bell’s Super Air, and a well-sorted bit of kit.
With excellent comfort, five sizes, a good price, refined finish and solidity, Kali’s Alpine has a lot going for it. Many riders will love the sense of security, but if you’re racer that runs hot and need an extremely airy lid, this isn’t the one. Kali has a brand new Invader lid coming though, which is a super-lightweight full face with a more open design and better cooling, backed by the brand’s safety-first approach, so we’re very keen to get hold of one.
Buy Now: Kali Alpine from eBay for £167.99
MET Parachute MCR
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.
Sweet Protection Arbitrator
The Arbitrator looks great and has good cooling, but it’s also the heaviest lid here at over a kilo. That’s proper DH lid weight, and to be fair, it works extremely well as a full face and is cooler than most. The ‘open face’ part is less convincing and feels weighty, overly top heavy, and perched on, rather than wrapped round, the skull. As such, it’s our least favourite ‘open face’ helmet on its own, but we do rate the looks and performance in DH-mode.
Troy Lee Stage
Being quite close-fitting helps with the great looks, and is achieved by using less material, which obviously means protection levels are reduced compared to a heavier proper ‘DH’ full face. There are also large ventilation holes branches or stones could more easily penetrate if you get unlucky, so (like all lids here) individuals can decide what compromises to make concerning protection.
Rock solid when shredding and delivering good airflow and comfort, the Stage is totally dialled, but also pricey. You can now find it for considerably less than full retail price, however, which makes it even more enticing as a fixed, lightweight full face if you don’t need a convertible option.
Best lightweight full-face and convertible helmets: winner
Choice in lightweight helmets suitable for gnarlier terrain has skyrocketed in recent seasons, and there are loads of excellent products here. Prices are skyrocketing too though, and many riders will rightly baulk at paying up to £300 for a lightweight or convertible full face, especially if they own (or want) either a pure DH lid or a lighter trail open face already.
That makes it harder than ever to single out a single product to recommend, but everyone that tried it loved how the Troy Lee Stage felt and looked. It’s well vented and lightweight, to the point it’s like wearing a trail lid with the extra protection – useful to push that bit harder and not risk smashing your face up. IXS’ Trigger Full Face is also sorted and even better ventilated, but lacks a few extra features like MIPS.
Bell’s Super Air R does exactly what the brand claims, but the price is high and the helmet is considerably less sturdy and solid compared to other convertibles like Met’s excellent Parachute or Giro’s heavier Switchblade. The Parachute is arguably the most versatile and well-rounded product here, but it’s also the top-dollar helmet with a £300 asking price.
Endura’s latest MT500 was a bit of a disappointment and Sweet Protection’s Arbitrator works fantastically as a lightweight full face, but has issues as a trail lid, in terms of speed of conversion and is heavy. Kali’s Alpine is light and feels really protective, but it’s similarly hot to ‘normal’ DH lids and feels a bit of an outlier here, so we’re excited to try the brand’s new Invader lid shortly for comparison. Whichever helmet you chose, the lids here proved one thing; another case of ‘riders never having it so good’.
What to look out for…
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.