New full face lids are more advanced than ever in terms of safety features, devlivering enough ventilation to keep you comfortable and the right protection for a day at the bike park
Mountain bike helmet design has been on a crash course in technology in the last few years and the best mountain bike helmets in the traditional/regular ‘open-face’ design are safer than ever. But for some riders – and riding disciplines – more face protection is a necessity.
Best mountain bike full face and convertible helmets
- Fox Proframe review – FULL FACE WINNER
- Troy Lee Stage review
- IXS Trigger FF review
- Leatt DBX 4.0 V19.1 review
- Smith Mainline review
- Bell Super DH review – CONVERTIBLE WINNER
- Bell Super Air R review
- MET Parachute MCR review
- Giro Switchblade review
- Sweet Protection Arbitrator review
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.
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Best mountain bike full face helmets:
Price: £225.00 | Weight: 747g | Sizes: S, M, L, XL
You can pedal in it without feeling like you’re on a turbo trainer in a sauna, it’s light enough that you don’t feel restricted in your movement and it offers better protection than an open-face trail helmet. For days in the bike park or trips to the alps it’s the perfect foil. For full-face protection with open-face ventilation, we’d not hesitate to take the Fox Racing ProFrame.
Troy Lee Designs Stage
Recommended if you’re in the market for an enduro/trail full face
Price: £275.00 | Weight: 708g | Sizes: XS-S, M-L, XL-XXL
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.
IXS Trigger FF
New generation super lightweight, DH-certified full face lid
Price: £199.99 | Weight: 679g | Sizes: S/M, M/L
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.
Leatt DBX 4.0 V19.1
Sleek, fast looking, great value
Price: £169.99 | Weight: 987g | Sizes: S-XL
There are 22 vents to channel air and there’s no padding around your ears, letting the air be drawn through efficiently. This does lead to a less secure feeling that a traditional gravity helmet, perhaps because you can feel and hear the wind, but the trade-off is it’s a far cooler place to be.
Great ventilation, fit and looks
Price: £274.99 | Weight: 812g | Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Colours: Green/red, green, orange, black/white, black
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 they were always something you couldn’t wait ot take off at any given opportunity. The Mainline is a very modern enduro focused full face helmet. One that eschews the 2-for-1 convertible design in favour of greatly reduced overall weight and significantly increased ventilation. And we mean ventilation in both the easy-breathing and not-overheating senses. It isn’t as light as the Fox Proframe or Troy Lee Stage but it’s not far off and, let’s be blunt, some riders will just prefer the Smith aesthetic. Which is fine by us.
Best mountain bike convertible helmets:
Bell Super DH
Price: £249.99 | Weight: 891g | Sizes: S, M, L
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.
Bell Super Air R
Way lighter and better ventilated than Bell’s previous offerings
Price: £274.95 | Weight: 674g | Sizes: S, M, L
Bell’s 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.
MET Parachute MCR
MCR version is best looking, most sorted Parachute yet
Price: £300.00 | Weight: 839g | Sizes: S, M, L
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.
Price: £269.99 | Weight: 985g | Sizes: S, M, L
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.
Sweet Protection Arbitrator
Good value considering carbon tech on offer
Price: £269.99 | Weight: 1,018g (549g minus chinbar) | Sizes: S/M, M/L, L/XL | Colours: Black, blue green
Products from Norwegian brand Sweet Protection typically come with a price premium and, while this Arbitrator isn’t exactly cheap, it is pretty much on a par with similar helmets from more mainstream brands. All the more impressive is the quality of materials used and the level of design features. EPS foam, four-piece Polycarbonate shell, Zytel nylon internal skeletal frame, carbon fibre, MIPS and a retention band that can be adjusted for ‘dish’ as well as the more typical wraparound circumference tensioning. The Arbitrator is arguably not suited to ride(r)s that remove and reattach the chinbar frequently; both the open-face mode and the full-face mode require different chinstraps, which quickly gets tiresome if you’re stopping to stash and fiddle every few minutes.
What to look for in mountain bike full face and convertible lids:
Want extra protection without getting hot-headed? You need one of the latest enduro lids. Read our guide to mountain bike 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.
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.
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.