How to Choose a Mountain Bike Helmet Like A Pro In 2023: Ultimate Guide

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Imagine blazing down a mountain trail, the wind in your face, and adrenaline coursing through your veins.

Now imagine doing that without the proper protection.

A mountain bike helmet is your first line of defense against head injuries, and knowing how to choose a mountain bike helmet is crucial for both your safety and enjoyment.

But with so many options, how can you make the best choice?

Fear not; we’ve got you covered.

In this guide, we will explore the different MTB helmet types, key factors to consider, advanced safety technologies, certification standards, additional features, and care tips to help you make an informed decision.

Key Take Aways

Understand different helmet types and features for optimal protection and comfort.
Consider factors such as fit, weight, ventilation, and safety technologies when selecting a mountain bike helmet.
Properly care for your MTB helmet to ensure its effectiveness over time.

Understanding Different Mountain Bike Helmet Types

As diverse as the world of mountain biking is, so too are the helmets designed to keep you safe on the trails.

Mountain bike helmets come in different types mentioned below:

  • Half-Shell MTB helmets (for casual trail riding)
  • Full-Face MTB helmets (for adrenaline-pumping downhill runs),
  • Versatile convertible helmets (these offer the best of both worlds),

There’s a perfect helmet for every rider and riding style.

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of mountain bike helmets and what they offer.

Half-Shell MTB Helmets

Choose a Half Shell Mountain Bike Helmet
Half Shell MTB Helmet

Half-shell mountain bike helmets are the go-to choice for cross-country and trail riding, providing a balance of protection, comfort, and ventilation.

They resemble road cycling helmets but are designed specifically for the demands of mountain biking.

They offer an extended coverage for the back of the head, adjustable visors, and impact protection.

Popular half-shell helmet models, such as the Giro Manifest, Bell Super Air Spherical, and Smith Session MIPS, offer a range of safety features.

Some of the safety features offered are MIPS liners, unibody shells for rigidity, and thickened sections of EPS foam in high-impact areas.

Additionally, these helmets come equipped with convenient features like adjustable visors, rotational impact protection systems, goggle clips, and mounts for lights and action cameras.

When choosing a half-shell helmet, it is essential to consider factors like protection, fit and size, weight, and ventilation.

Try on different helmet models from reputable brands like Troy Lee Designs, Fox, and POC.

Find the perfect fit and features for your needs, ensuring optimal comfort and safety on the trails.

Full-Face Helmets

Choose a Full Face Mountain Bike Helmet
Full Face MTB Helmet

For aggressive, high-speed, gravity-fueled and advanced mountain biking disciplines like downhill and enduro, a full-face helmet is the way to go.

These helmets offer full head coverage, including a chin guard for added protection.

As a result, full-face helmets provide mountain bikers with increased confidence and a greater sense of security.

However, the increased protection offered by full-face helmets comes at the cost of reduced ventilation features.

Despite this drawback, modern full-face helmets, such as the Smith Mainline and Troy Lee Designs A3, have made significant progress in weight reduction and improved ventilation.

These advancements make full-face mountain bike helmets more appealing to trail riders who value the additional safety provided by full-face coverage.

When considering a full-face helmet, be sure to try on different models to find the right fit and features that suit your riding style and preferences.

The iXS Trigger FF, for example, features an easy-to-use Fidlock buckle on the chin strap.

On the other hand, breathable and light full-face helmet from Oakley offers enhanced safety with good ventilation and reduced weight.

Convertible MTB Helmets

For mountain bikers who are seeking a balance between the versatility of half-shell helmets and the added security of full-face helmets, convertible helmets provide a compelling option.

These helmets can be converted from a half-face to a full-face configuration.

They readily offer a reliable adaptability for varying trail conditions and riding styles.

However, convertible helmets tend to be heavier due to the extra protection required for full ASTM downhill certification.

Models like the MET Parachute MCR and Bell Super DH Spherical offer removable chin bars, MIPS technology, and adjustable retention systems.

But they may not provide the same level of comfort and weight savings as a dedicated half-shell or full-face mountain bike helmets.

Nevertheless, convertible MTB helmets can be an excellent choice for mountain bikers who want the flexibility to switch between helmet configurations on the fly.

How To Choose A Mountain Biking Helmet (Video Explainer)

Please watch the video below for the right guidance on choosing a mountain biking helmet.

The video will help you to make the right choice so that you have a comfortable mountain biking experience.

Video Explainer About Choosing MTB Helmets

4 Key Factors to Consider When Choosing MTB Helmets

Choose a Right MTB Helmet
Right Mountain Bike Helmet

Choose a mountain bike helmet while keeping in mind several key factors, including protection, fit and size, weight, and ventilation.

Each of these facets play a critical role in ensuring your MTB helmet provides the safety and comfort you need for an enjoyable ride.

In the subsequent sections, we will dive deeper into each of these factors and how they influence your helmet selection.


Protection is of paramount when it comes to mountain bike helmets.

Primary function of MTB helmets is to safeguard your brain from potential impacts during a cycling collision.

Modern MTB helmets, like the Troy Lee Designs A3, consist of an outer shell, foam, and an inner liner that work together to absorb and redirect impact forces, minimizing the risk of head injuries.

Advanced safety technologies, such as MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System), are being incorporated into more and more MTB helmets to enhance their protective capabilities.

MIPS is a low-friction layer designed to redirect rotational effects by allowing the impact-absorbing foam liner to rotate slightly during an impact, decreasing the risk of concussion.

As helmet technology continues to evolve, it is essential to choose a mountain bike helmet that offers the latest safety features and meets the necessary certification standards.

Fit and Sizing

A proper fit is essential for a mountain bike helmet to function correctly and provide the intended protection.

To achieve the right fit, start by measuring your head size by wrapping a soft measuring tape or a piece of string around your head approximately one inch above your eyebrows and ears.

Use the helmet size guides provided by helmet manufacturers, which are typically measured in centimeters.

Once you have determined your head size, adjust the tightness of your helmet using an adjustment wheel or interchangeable interior foam pads.

Buckle and securely fasten the chin strap to form a V under each ear.

Also verify that the MTB helmet presses against the top of your head when you open your mouth wide.

It is advised that the chin strap should provide approximately one to two finger widths of slack beneath the chin.

Remember that MTB helmet fit can vary between brands and models, so trying on different options is essential to find the perfect fit for you.

Some helmets even offer advanced fit features like tilt adjusters.

Tilt adjusters on helmets allow you to alter your helmet’s position on your head by rotating the shell further towards or away from your forehead while maintaining the MIPS liner or retention system in its original position.


Weight is a critical factor to consider when choosing a mountain bike helmet.

A lighter MTB helmet can provide increased comfort, especially for weight-conscious riders or cross-country racers who may prefer a road bike-style helmet or XC race-specific model.

Popular lightweight mountain bike helmets include the Rudy Project Crossway and Kask Caipi.

Both of these brands offer comfort and protection without weighing you down.

However, it is essential not to sacrifice safety for the sake of a lighter helmet.

Ensure that your chosen helmet meets the necessary safety standards and provides adequate protection in addition to being lightweight.

As helmet technology continues to improve, manufacturers are finding new ways to create helmets that strike a balance between weight, protection, and comfort.


Proper ventilation is crucial in mountain bike helmets,

Using helmets with proper ventilation helps keep your head cool and comfortable during long rides and challenging climbs.

A well-ventilated MTB helmet will have large vents on the front and rear, with deep channels on the inside of the lid that allow air to flow over your head.

Some MTB helmets, like the Smith Mainline and POC Kortal Race MIPS, are designed with massive vents and advanced ventilation systems to ensure optimal airflow and comfort during your ride.

It is important to note that ventilation can vary between helmet types.

Full-face helmets generally offer less ventilation than half-shell or convertible helmets due to their increased coverage and protection.

Choose a mountain bike helmet keeping in mind that you prioritize finding a balance between ventilation and the level of protection that suits your riding style and preferences.

Advanced Safety Technologies To Consider For MTB Helmets

In addition to basic protection provided by a helmet’s outer shell, foam, and inner liner, advanced safety technologies like MIPS and alternative rotational impact protection systems are becoming more common in mountain bike helmets.

These systems aim to provide additional protection against rotational forces during an impact, further reducing the risk of head injuries.

Let’s explore these technologies in more detail.

MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System)

MIPS technology is designed to provide additional protection by reducing rotational motion and the potential for brain injuries during an impact.

The MIPS system consists of a low-friction layer inside the helmet that allows the impact-absorbing foam liner to rotate slightly during an impact, redirecting rotational forces away from your brain.

While MIPS technology offers substantial benefits in terms of safety, it’s essential to be aware of potential drawbacks.

Some mountain bikers find MIPS helmets to be less comfortable or find that they fit differently than standard helmets.

However, as helmet manufacturers continue to improve MIPS integration, these issues are becoming less prevalent.

When selecting a mountain bike helmet with MIPS, be sure to try on different models to find the right fit and comfort level for your needs.

Alternative Rotational Impact Protection Systems

In addition to MIPS, there are several alternative rotational impact protection systems available, such as POC’s SPIN, Leatt’s 360 Turbine, and 100%’s Smartshock.

These technologies aim to reduce rotational forces during a crash by adding a liner or system to the existing EPS layer of the helmet.

Each of these systems offers unique features and benefits.

For example, SPIN technology utilizes silicone-injected pads within the helmet’s structure that move to redirect rotational forces during an impact.

When choosing a helmet with an alternative rotational impact protection system, it is essential to consider the specific features and benefits of each system and select the one that best suits your needs and preferences.

MTB Helmet Certification Standards

Ensuring that your mountain bike helmet meets the necessary safety standards is crucial for your protection on the trails.

In the US, bike helmet safety is overseen by certifying agencies such as the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), CE EN 1078, and the Department of Transportation (DOT).

These agencies set standards for helmet construction, performance, and safety features.

The above mentioned agencies ensure that your mountain bike helmet provides the protection you need for a safe ride.

When selecting a mountain bike helmet, look for a sticker or label indicating that it meets the relevant safety standards.

In addition to meeting certification standards, it is essential to choose a helmet that offers the latest safety features and technologies, such as MIPS and alternative rotational impact protection systems, to provide the best protection possible.

Additional Features and Accessories To Consider For MTB Helmets

When choosing the perfect mountain bike helmet, additional features and accessories can make a significant difference in comfort, convenience, and safety.

Look for helmets with adjustable chin straps and buckles, removable chin bars for convertible helmets, compatibility with goggles and shades, and electronic crash sensors.

Some MTB helmets even come with built-in mounts for lights and action cameras, as well as magnetic buckles for added convenience.

These additional features and accessories can enhance your overall experience on the trails.

But it is essential not to sacrifice safety and proper fit for the sake of convenience.

By carefully considering each of these aspects, you can find the ideal mountain bike helmet that offers the perfect balance of protection, comfort, and utility.

Tips for Proper MTB Helmet Care and Maintenance

Proper MTB Helmet Care

Just like any piece of protective gear, proper care and maintenance are essential for ensuring your mountain bike helmet remains effective and safe.

Regular cleaning is crucial, as sweat, dirt, and debris can accumulate over time and compromise the helmet’s integrity.

Use a mild soap and water solution to clean the MTB helmet’s exterior and interior.

Be sure to follow the helmet manufacturer’s guidelines for proper care.

In addition to keeping your helmet clean, it is important to replace it after a crash or after five years of use, as the materials can degrade over time and become less effective at providing protection.

When storing your helmet, keep it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or extreme temperatures, as these factors can further accelerate the degradation of the helmet’s materials.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your mountain bike helmet remains in top condition and continues to provide the protection you need.

7 Common FAQs About Choosing A Mountain Bike Helmet

1. How do I know if a mountain bike helmet fits properly?

A properly fitting helmet is crucial for safety.

It should sit level on your head, cover your forehead, and snugly fit without wobbling.

Adjust the straps and retention system to achieve a secure and comfortable fit, ensuring it does not move when you shake your head.

2. Can you use a mountain bike helmet for other sports, like skateboarding or rollerblading?

While it is best to use helmets specifically designed for each sport, some mountain bike helmets can be suitable for skateboarding or rollerblading.

However, make sure the helmet meets the safety standards and certifications required for those activities.

3. Are MIPS helmets worth it for mountain biking?

Yes, MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) helmets are worth considering for mountain biking.

MIPS technology helps reduce rotational forces during an impact, providing additional protection against certain types of head injuries.

4. How often should you replace your mountain bike helmet?

Replace your mountain bike helmet after a significant impact or crash.

Additionally, if your helmet is showing any signs of wear and tear, such as cracks, dents, or damaged straps, it is time for a replacement.

As a general guideline, consider replacing your mountain bike helmet every 3-5 years, even if it has not experienced any major incidents.

5. Are there specific helmets designed for different mountain biking disciplines, like trail riding or downhill?

Yes, there are helmets specifically designed for different mountain biking disciplines.

Trail MTB helmets offer a balance between ventilation and protection.

Downhill MTB helmets provide maximum coverage and often include a full-face design.

Choose a mountain bike helmet that suits your riding style and the level of protection you require.

6. What are the best mountain bike helmet brands known for safety and quality?

Several brands are known for their safety and quality in mountain bike helmets.

Some popular ones include Giro, Bell, POC, Troy Lee Designs, Fox Racing, and Kali Protectives.

Each brand offers a range of MTB helmet models with unique features to cater to various rider preferences.

7. Are full-face helmets necessary for mountain biking, or are half-shell helmets sufficient?

Full-face helmets are necessary for more aggressive mountain biking disciplines like downhill or enduro, where the risk of high-speed impacts is greater.

For general trail riding or cross-country, a well-ventilated half-shell helmet provides adequate protection.

Assess your riding style and the level of risk to determine the helmet type you need.

Final Verdict

Choosing the right MTB helmet is an important decision that will greatly impact your safety and enjoyment on the trails.

Consider the factors such as helmet type, protection, fit and size, weight, and ventilation.

Additionally, also make sure you prioritize incorporation of features like advanced safety technologies and certification standards, to make an informed choice for buying a perfect helmet for your mountain biking needs.

Remember, your helmet is your first line of defense against head injuries.

So, invest the time and effort to find the right MTB helmet and ride with confidence, knowing you are well-protected.

P.S. I hope this post was resourceful to you. Do check out our similar in-depth guides about best mountain bike helmets to buy under $50 and under $100.

Additionally, check out our guides about MTB helmets vs. Motocross helmets, Enduro helmets vs Cross Country helmets, MTB helmets vs Road Bike Helmets and Open-Face vs Full-Face MTB helmet.

Also check out why MTB helmets have chin-guards and peaks.

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Rohan runs Biking KnowHow along with his team. Rohan has been a mountain biker since 2005. His mission is to simplify mountain biking for everyone. All Biking KnowHow content piece is thoroughly fact-checked. Our content is backed up with leading research and inputs from expert cyclists.