Mountain biking is an inherently risky sport. You’re more likely to be injured than road cycling or even skateboarding. There’s a large potential for high energy impacts and falls with lots of momentum.
On top of the risk factors, mountain biking is expensive.
You need a bike (check out our list of the best ones available under $1,000), the right shoes (we’ve done that research for you too), and your safety gear. With all of those costs, it’s tempting to skimp on the helmet. As long as it protects your head, it should be fine. Right? Wrong.
There are differences between mountain biking helmets that increase safety and comfort.
Your helmet is not a place to choose the cheap option and be done with it. An uncomfortable helmet can make or break the enjoyment factor of a ride. A helmet that doesn’t fit properly can increase your potential injuries during a crash.
In mountain biking, you wear your helmet for long hours on the trail to use them (hopefully) infrequently. Why would you choose to ride with something that is miserable most of the time you’re on your bike and then might not even do its job well when the time comes?
We get it – choosing a helmet on characteristics other than price can be overwhelming.
There are half-shell, convertible, and full-face options that vary dramatically in those categories. Today, we’re focusing on the attributes and best models of the full-face variety. We’ve described all of the aspects and features of the best full face mountain bike helmets, along with a list of our favorites. Keep reading to learn more and find your ideal protection choice.
Mountain biking helmets come in two main styles – half-shell and full face. On this page, we’re diving into the details of the full-face mountain bike helmet.
Full face helmets provide extra protection when compared to a half-shell. It covers more of your head, neck, and face. Specifically, your entire occipital lobe, temporal area, both ears, and entire jaw are protected.
Another plus of this style is its ability to control the rotational forces your head and neck experience during a crash. Half-shell styles can protect you from impacts of rocks or branches that contact with your head. However, they leave the twists, turns, and tweaks that result from those hits to occur as they may.
Because they cover your head, neck, and face, full face helmets use design technology to minimize the bumps and bounces that take place after the initial impact of a fall. You are less likely to bang around thanks to the padding and cushioning inside the helmet. This decreases the likelihood of brain trauma or serious injuries.
Extra protection is especially important for downhill, enduro and free riders or those who frequent bike parks. While MTB riders who spend lots of their time climbing or working through technical singletrack are at lower risks of serious crashes, those who bike at high speeds, take big jumps, and travel over lots of rock can see some gnarly falls.
Anyone who plans to push their limits with speed or air should consider a full-face helmet.
It’s amazing how all full-face helmets can look exactly the same yet contain so many overwhelmingly different characteristics at the same time. We’ve broken everything down to make it more clear and easy to digest. We know you’d much rather be shredding the singletrack than comparing helmet padding materials or analyzing safety features. We prefer that too! That’s why we’ve put everything in one place to get us all back on our bikes soon and safely.
For years, the stuffy, uncomfortable nature of a full face helmet lead people to choose the less safe, but more comfortable option. Luckily, as technology and the popularity of the sport has advanced, so has the design of mountain bike helmets. Today, helmets have incorporated vents, air channels, and liners that don’t trap in air and heat.
A key feature to look for is the padding material. The most comfortable helmets use open-cell foam covered with a soft, wicking fabric. This prevents the helmet from bouncing around and banging into your head. It also keeps air circulating, prevents sweat from pooling between you and the helmet, and adds to the overall comfort.
Another important consideration is how well you can physically breathe in the helmet. The last thing you want is to be choosing between riding at your limit and playing it safe in order to breathe easily. The chin guard is where all of this happens.
First, look for how close the chin guard sits to your mouth. You’ll want a helmet that sits slightly away from your face, but not so far that you’ll crash into it during a fall. Second, count the number and design of the vents on the chin guard. More and larger vents will help you feel less like you’re suffocating.
No full-face helmet is going to have perfect breathability. You’ll always be aware that there’s something over your head – anything else is an impossible dream! However, it is possible to breathe and not feel restricted by moisture accumulation (AKA sweat) or air flow while you shred.
There’s no perfect helmet that fits everyone’s head. That would be an unmanageable challenge to create. There are, however, designs that allow a helmet to adjust and accommodate a large variety of head sizes and shapes.
When choosing a helmet, we encourage you to look at the number of pads and the variety of thicknesses they come in. This ensures most riders will be able to find a secure and comfortable fit.
Second, look at the dial on the back of the helmet or check that it is there at all. These allow you to adjust and readjust while on the trail. You shouldn’t have to take your gloves off or fiddle with lots of straps and buckles to make micro adjustments to your helmet fit. Most of the helmets that made our favorites list include this feature. However, not all of them do. If you’ll be going on long rides or across a variety of terrain types, this becomes essential for maintaining comfort.
While most road cyclists will choose to wear a hat or visor underneath their helmet to protect their face from the sun, it’s impossible to squeeze one in comfortably under a full-face setup. That’s why most mountain bike helmets will have a built-in visor. Not only will the visor keep the rays out of your eyes, but it will also protect you from rain or even limbs and branches along the trail.
When looking at the visor on your potential helmet, check out how easy (or not) it is to adjust. Sometimes you’ll want to push the visor out of the way or slide your goggles up off of your eyes. It’s important to be able to make these changes with ease. The options here vary greatly between helmet designs. Some don’t move at all, some visors slide up with plenty for room for goggles, and some can be pushed out of your sight line only a little. The best comes down to personal preference.
A final consideration is the attachment style of the visor. Many use screws that can be adjusted by hand. However, some need tools to achieve the perfect connection. We prefer the hand adjustment option. One more tool to remember and keep track of is unnecessary and annoying in our book.
Full face mountain bike helmets come with two different styles of chin bar, regular and convertible. The difference is exactly as the name implies. Regular chin bars are built in as part of the helmet construction. Convertible chin bars can be removed and reattached as desired.
Deciding between a regular and convertible chin bar comes down to personal preference.
Convertible options are especially beneficial for riders who mix up their riding style and terrain type often. Removing the chin bar allows you to have the best of both worlds. You can ride with a half-shell helmet for climbs or more moderate rides and then go into full-face mode for the next aggressive downhill portion. Additionally, if you find the chin bar of your full face mountain bike helmet uncomfortable or suffocating, then you might want to try a convertible option.
That said, new full-face mountain bike helmet designs are breathable and comfortable. With the built-in ventilation, they are much less constricting than ever before. Plus, with the convertible options, you have the extra step of storing, attaching, detaching chin bar during your ride.
For a long time, the outdoor industry only designed gear for adult men. Thank goodness, they’ve begun to recognize that women and kids ride hard too! Women and youth helmets are no longer less capable than the industry standard.
Fit is the biggest consideration in capability, comfort, and safety. Women’s helmets are often smaller and more narrow. The same is true for children’s options.
Women’s full face mountain bike helmets often include a ponytail compatible design. Even though this may not seem like much, for those with long hair, this is extremely convenient. You aren’t forced to choose between having your hair out of your eyes, off of your neck, or your helmet fitting. You can have the best of all worlds!
As technology improves and the world of social media becomes ever more popular, many people like to bring an action camera, like a GoPro, along for their rides. This allows you to create first-person perspective videos as you zip along the singletrack. It can also provide extra protection if something happens to you on the trail, like a negative interaction with another human or getting close to dangerous wildlife.
Helmet manufacturers have been watching this trend, and some top of the line helmets have the perfect camera mount built into the design. This makes it easy to find the ideal setup position and keeps you from spending more money on camera gear to mount it properly.
Another way to use this helmet attachment point is as a light mount. Clipping a bike light up high helps to increase your visibility and allows you to ride later into the night and season. Even when the days get shorter, you’ll be comfortable and confident along the dusky or dark trails. Attaching the light directly to the helmet is straightforward and easy – unlike other methods that are time-consuming and cumbersome, like weaving your headlamp through the helmet.
Below, we’ve listed the best full face mountain bike helmets on the market. We’ve analyzed them based on the features that matter and also how well they can hang on the trail.
Don’t forget – even though we have a stand-out favorite, that doesn’t mean it will be the perfect helmet for you. The best full face mountain bike helmet is the one that fits your head, is comfortable, and complements your riding style.
Without further ado, here’s the list.
Weight: 690 grams for size large
Hands down, we believe the TLD stage is the best value for all of the features. It is exceptionally lightweight and breathable. It includes 25 vents built into the shell. The liner is made from silver, which increases its wicking power and reduces the potential for odors.
It is easy to customize the fit with the variety of size and thickness pads that come with this helmet. The Fidlock magnetic buckle system is easy, even when you’re wearing gloves. The visor is adjustable.
Our only complaint is that there is no built-in accessory mount and no easy place to stick one. However, the rest of our review reads like a checklist of every feature one can hope for in a full face mountain bike helmet. Even though this choice is a little on the pricey side, we firmly believe it’s worth every penny.
Weight: 1,075 grams
Coming in as the most expensive helmet on our list, the Rampage Pro Carbon has all the bells and whistles you’d expect and hope for at this price. Its look and aesthetic is minimalistic in a way that screams high performance. This helmet turns heads in the best way.
The Rampage Pro Carbon is designed perfectly, down to tiny elements like ear spacing. A large variety of pads come with it, including one for the chin strap.
The ventilation setup leaves your head always comfortable – never too hot or too cold. Unlike many of the full face helmets on our list, the Rampage Pro Carbon has an accessory mount built into the visor.
If you can afford the high price tag, you will not be disappointed with this choice.
Weight: 870 grams
For a full face downhill helmet that also kicks it on the trail as a half shell, the Super DH is a solid choice. It’s not our all-time favorite in either mode, but it does everything well enough that it’s an excellent selection for the rider who does it all and only wants one helmet.
In both modes, the Super DH breathes well. With 19 vents, the air is moving, and the helmet feels light. Even though the design isn’t as focused on bringing air in as other models, you won’t find your head feeling trapped and stuffy.
The magnetic closure and dial tightening systems ensure you can make adjustments without removing your gloves on the trail. This truly is your one solution for all mountain biking needs at a price that won’t break the bank.
Weight: 758 grams for size medium
The ProFrame is designed with safety in mind. It includes a multi-directional impact protection system (MIPS) to reduce rotational forces during a crash. Even the liner adds safety features by helping to spread impact forces across a wider area.
The design includes 15 intake vents and 9 exhaust vents. As an added breathability bonus, the visor position feeds air into the vents. This does mean that the visor is not adjustable, but especially for those who get hot quickly, it could be acceptable in this case.
Furthermore, the liner system is moisture-wicking with antimicrobial properties to further supplement the cool and comfort of your head.
The downsides to this helmet are more than you’d hope for at this price point. First, the frontal pad is narrow, which can be uncomfortable if it’s not sitting just right. Second, the only way to adjust the cheek fit is through pads, not the main liner. Finally, there is nowhere to mount your accessories.
All of that said, for the extremely safety conscious who love to feel air moving around inside their helmet, the ProFrame is an excellent choice.
Weight: 886 grams for size large
Though heavy when compared to other models, the DBX 4.0 is a safe, comfortable, and more affordable full face option. 22 vents keep air moving around the head, though the full liner keeps in warmth more than others. If you live in a warm climate and like to climb as well as rock the downhill portions, this may not be your ideal helmet. However, the chin bar is removable, so don’t rule it out until you’ve tried it.
The safety features of the DBX 4.0 go unmatched by most other choices on our list. The 360 Turbine technology includes rubber-like inserts all around the helmet to absorb low-level impacts and protect the brain against rotational forces if you crash off-axis. The dual-density liner also aids in impact absorption. The visor breaks away during a crash to further slow speeds and reduce harm potential.
Overall, this is an excellent budget, convertible helmet to have the best of all worlds in one.
Our best advice is to find a store near you and try on every full face mountain bike helmet they have. See how they feel. Check out how they adjust. Take each helmet for a spin around the parking lot. You’ll quickly be able to tell which ones work for you and which aren’t a good fit (pun totally intended).
If you have more questions for us or think we left something off of our list, let us know! We love feedback and are excited to help more people get out on the trails with the best gear for them.