New materials and new designs mean that full-face mountain bike helmets and convertible helmets are now better than ever. Enhanced protection technology, better ventilation, lighter weight, and more comfortable - ready for a day at the bike park or a trip to the mountains.
Mountain bike helmet design has evolved significantly in the last few years, and they’re now safer and more comfortable than ever. If you’re looking for more protection – for bike park riding, enduro competition, or downhill racing – or just peace of mind, you’ll want to check out our pick of the best full-face and convertible mountain bike helmets – we’ve tested dozens of models over the years to bring you this guide.
If you’re more of a trail rider and aren’t looking for full-face protection, check out our list of the best mountain bike helmets that are ideal for riding your local singletrack, or wearing on all-mountain adventures.
Best helmet for hot conditions
Weight: 830g | Sizes: S, M, L | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Downhill-certified, adjustable visor, new MIPS Integra Split system, excellent ventilation
Reasons to avoid: High price, heavier, noisy when at speed
We loved the original Fox Proframe when we tested it, mainly for the generous airflow that kept our lungs inflated and our head cool. This second generation model is heavier and more expensive, but gains several features that make it worth the extra weight and cost. One is the MIPS Integra Split protection, to reduce injury from rotational impacts, a convenient BOA dial for the tension fit system, and an adjustable angle visor.
What remains from the old model we loved so much is the excellent airflow and ability to pedal all-day in total comfort. We noticed a bit of wind noise compared to some rivals, and it’s not the cheapest option on the market, but Fox has really ticked a lot of boxes with its latest ProFrame RS.
Best for enduro and trail riding
Weight: 708g | Sizes: XS-S, M-L, XL-XXL | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Super stylish, comfortable, good ventilation, MIPS
Reasons to avoid: TLD label comes at a premium.
When we first picked up the Troy Lee Designs Stage helmet we couldn’t believe it was fully DH-certified. It’s just so light for a full-face helmet. In fact it weighed only 90g more than the Bell Super Air open face helmet when we put it on the scales. Less weight doesn’t mean reduced protection. Far from it. The Stage gets a dual density closed cell-foam structure, with a softer EPS (expanded polystyrene) inner protected by a more resilient EPP (expanded polypropylene) outer layer. These two materials work in tandem to absorb different velocity impacts, maximising protection while minimising weight.
Inside you’ll also find a MIPs liner to help protect the brain from rapid rotational forces on impact. To buckle up the chinstrap there’s a quick and user-friendly Fidlock magnetic buckle. We did find that the Stage comes up a teeny bit small, and given that the only size adjustment is through different pads, it might be worth trying before you buy. In terms of ventilation, we found it ran a touch hotted than the Fox Proframe, but nothing that made us red-faced and dripping with sweat. It’s hard to resist TLD’s cache and handsome looks, but you can also choose the Stage confident in the knowledge that its highly protective and super comfortable.
New generation lightweight, DH-certified full face lid
Weight: 679g | Sizes: S/M, M/L | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Good value, plenty of airflow, lightweight
Reasons to avoid: No rotational protection, only two sizes, cheek pads can pop off
One of the lightest fully DH-certified full-face helmets we’ve ever tested, the IXS Trigger FF makes a great choice if you prioritise freedom of movement and breathability. Only the Dainese Linea 01 made less of an impression on our scales. We were (literally) blown away by the ventilation on offer from the Trigger. In fact we’d say that it actually runs cooler than some open-face helmets, thanks to well-designed channels over the scalp. We even found it a bit chilly on winter bike park laps!
Comfort is on par with ventilation, and the retention system is easy to dial in without creating pressure points. There are only two sizes, so if you’re at the extreme of the bell curve you might struggle for a perfect fit, but average head diameters should be well covered. While IXS might not be the first name to come to mind when searching for a new full-face helmet, the Trigger’s excellent comfort, ventilation, and blocky good looks makes it highly recommended.
Great ventilation, fit, and looks
Weight: 812g | Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Excellent protection, from Koroyd and MIPs, great ventilation, fit and looks
Reasons to avoid: Not as light as TLD Stage or Fox Proframe
The Mainline is an excellent example of how the enduro racing discipline has helped develop the modern mountain bike helmet. Sure, full-face lids of yore always paid lip service to lower weight and decent ventilation, but in practice we’d always take them off when not descending.
The Mainline eschews the 2-for-1 convertible design in favour of the greatly reduced overall weight and significantly increased ventilation of a fixed chinbar design. And we mean ventilation in respect to both breathing and not overheating. Getting the fit right is a bit agricultural – we ended up with thick cheek and one thin cheek pad. Equally, the D-ring chinstrap is fiddlier to attach and loosen than a buckle. Overall, it isn’t as light as the Fox Proframe or Troy Lee Stage, but it’s not far off and some riders will just prefer the Smith aesthetic. Which is fine by us.
Great ventilation, fit and looks
Weight: 918g | Sizes: S, M, L | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Good padding and venting, decent price too
Reasons to avoid: Heavy for trail bike use, and the visor is fixed
The Leatt MTB 4.0 Enduro V22 can’t compete on weight with the lightest full-face helmets, but that doesn’t mean it’s heavy, or not worthy of your consideration. It’s certainly robust, for starters, and the Fidlock buckle makes it easy to put on and take off. Any fears that the extra weight would compromise ventilation proved unfounded it when we tested it.
We had some minor criticisms – we’d prefer an adjustable peak, and some of the 360º Turbine pads inside pulled our by accident – but overall we reckon Leatt has done a decent job with the MTB Gravity 4.0.
Best for lightweight full-face protection
Weight: 570g | Sizes: XS-S, M-L, L-XL | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Incredibly light weight, high protection rating, plenty of ventilation, flexible adjustable visor, RECCO
Reasons to avoid: DH racers might want less exposed EPS
Dainese has cooked up something special weight-wise with its Linea 01 helmet. At less than 600g, this is the lightest DH-certified full-face on market. To put that into context, most open-face helmets sit around the 400g mark. Obviously the more vents, the less material needed, so it’s no surprise that the Linea 01 is heavily perforated. But to engineer enough strength into the structure, Dainese has added a tough nylon exoskeleton. The Italian brand also uses different density EPS (expanded polystyrene) to target different impact speeds. And to top it all off, there’s a MIPs liner to help reduce rotational shocks to the brain.
When riding, we loved the generous airflow and cool, airy experience. In many ways it was hard to distinguish the Linea 01 from an open-face helmet. In that respect, some hard charging riders will prefer the extra material and security of a heavier model. But if you want to pedal everywhere and yearn for greater protection than an open-face, then the Linea 01 is highly recommended.
Best mountain bike convertible helmets:
Best all-round convertible mountain bike helmet
Weight: 484g | Sizes: S, M, L | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Great ventilation, absorbent padding, fully adjustable visor, comfortable, plenty of protection, optional chin bar
Reasons to avoid: Old-school snap clasp, need to purchase chinbar separately
Bell’s new Super Air boasts Flex Spherical and MIPS technology. In essence it means the inner and outer shells of the helmet can slide 10-15mm during an impact. And because it’s built-in to the structure, it doesn’t screw up the sizing or ruin the comfort. In fact, we’d say that the Bell Super Air is a supremely comfortable half shell.
The other trick up its sleeve is that it can be converted into a full-face helmet. You do need to buy this separately, but it does mean that if you’re looking for a truly versatile convertible helmet, that works brilliantly as a trail lid too, this should be high on your list.
Classic dual-purpose, convertible full-face helmet
Weight: 891g | Sizes: S, M, L | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: DH certification, light enough and minimal enough in both modes
Reasons to avoid: Bit tricky to fit the chin bar with the helmet on.
Bell was one of the first to market with a convertible helmet, so it’s appropriate that the evolution of that model delivers even greater protection and earned a perfect 10 rating. The helmet in question is the Super DH MIPS, now certified to ASTM 1952 DH full-face standards.
It uses a similar wrap-around chin bar and spring-loaded catches to the original Super 2R, but beefs everything up to create a super-sturdy and confidence-inspiring lid. Weight has crept up a result, but it’s still well ventilated and minimal enough to ride without the chin bar on long trail rides. Then clamp on the chin bar for alpine descents or laps at the bike park. Effectively offering two helmets in one, the Super DH is the first convertible helmet that doesn’t compromise in either configuration.
Top notch dual-purpose, convertible full-face helmet
Weight: 837g | Sizes: S, M, L | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Burly construction. Great open-face mode.
Reasons to avoid: Not the cheapest convertible helmet.
The Leatt MTB 4.0 Enduro convertible helmet is not the most affordable option on the market, but we put it right up there with the best convertible helmets we’ve tried when we tested it. It boasts a rock-solid chin bar, the reassurance of a DH rating and an open-face mode that’s good enough to be your everyday helmet. Even in full-face mode ventilation was generous, and we never felt the need to yank it off the moment we got on the uplift.
Performance in both modes is impressive, which means we’d consider it a viable two-in one product, and that goes a long way to take the sting out of the tail when it comes to the price.
Way lighter and better ventilated than Bell’s previous offerings
Weight: 674g | Sizes: S, M, L | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Good weight, works well as both an open face and a full face. Excellent airflow.
Reasons to avoid: Expensive, chin bar is a fiddle to fit.
Bell’s new Super Air R helmet is stylish, versatile, comfortable and lightweight. It’s nowhere near as hot and stuffy as a proper DH full-face helmet, and comes with the versatility of being quickly and easily convertible from an open-face to a full-face. This makes it ideal for lapping enduro tracks, hitting the bike park, or just trail riding when conditions are sketchy.
Inside there’s a smart retention system that’s easy to cinch open and closed for entry and egress. But the Bell Super Air R is not the easiest to transform between modes – it’s a job best done before you put the helmet on. While not the last word in protection, the Super Air R makes a great two-in-one product for trail and enduro riding.
MCR version is the best looking, most sorted Parachute yet
Weight: 839g | Sizes: S, M, L | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Well-built, feels sturdy
Reasons to avoid: Expensive, fiddly to convert and difficult to put on with the chinbar installed.
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.
The chinbar attaches to the main helmet using magnetic plugs. We found it a bit of a struggle to locate the two with the helmet on, and a bit of a squeeze to get over your head with the chinbar installed. But when combined the whole helmet feels reassuringly solid. We loved the BOA retention adjustment, and it’s great to have MIPs integration to protect against rotational injuries. Overall, the Met Parachute proved to be a well-designed convertible helmet that does everything to a good level.
How we tested mountain bike full face and convertible helmets
As well as one tester wearing each helmet on multiple rides over the last few months, the lids have done the rounds between friends and family on various test rides and photo shoots. This gives us a better consensus as to what works best on different head shapes and sizes, and also feeds in information from riders that run at different temperatures or sweat different amounts.
On top of actually riding in the helmets, the lids had to deal with extended life in the back of a van that’s often home to muddy test bikes and kit; something that represents an accelerated, real-world test scenario for the kind of knocks and scrapes all helmets are subjected to over time.
What are the advantages of a full-face or convertible helmet?
Want extra protection without getting hot-headed, then the latest enduro lids are a sensible option. 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.
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 pedaling around in all day, this new helmet breed is aimed at exactly that with extra protection over a trail lid.
What is MIPs, and do I need it?
MIPs is an internal liner within the helmet that is designed to slide in the event of a crash, with the aim of reducing rotational motion of the brain. Rapid acceleration of the head can leave the brain lagging behind, which can cause brain damage, so MIPs is designed to allow the helmet to continue moving when it is involved in an oblique impact, rather than catching and forcing the head to spin. MIPs is not the only technology designed to reduce rotational injuries, but it’s certainly the most well known, with its distinctive yellow logo and plastic helmet liner. Many helmets now incorporate this technology, and while it carries a small cost premium, in our view it’s well worth the extra investment.
Why do mountain bike helmets have peaks?
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.
What’s the benefit of a removable chinbar?
Removable chinguards allow switching between uphill and downhill modes in selected helmets. You can remove the chinbar at the bottom of a climb and place it in your pack, allowing the maximum airflow for cooling at slow speeds. Or, you can pick and choose what mode to run your helmet in depending on what riding you’re doing. Full-face if it’s steep and rowdy, or you’re going to a bike park, and open-face for more mellow trails. 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.
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 publicly. 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.