Traffic accidents took lives of 857 bicyclists across the U.S. in 2018, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports. Year after year, this number could be smaller if every bicycle rider cared to wear a helmet.
Think you can do without one just because you’re a mountain bike rider?
From angled rocks to sharp tree branches, the objects that can seriously injure your head abound in the great outdoors. Even if your mountain biking game is solid, you’ll be wise to invest in a decent mountain bike helmet.
Our guide will help you zero in on the right one.
Main Types of Mountain Bike Helmet to Explore
Mountain biking spans a variety of riding styles. Some riders stick with the more laid-back trail and cross-country styles. Other riders opt for the more forceful enduro and downhill styles. As you can tell, the main difference between all these riding styles is the challenge involved – and thus the risk.
As a result, mountain bike helmets fall into two major types: half-shell and full-face. Half-shell helmets provide minimal protection, covering only the top, the sides, and the back of the head above the ears. Full-face helmets cover the whole head, including the jaw and the face. Which one is better?
It depends on how intense your mountain biking style is. For instance, trying to do with just a half-shell helmet is close to suicide if you’re an aggressive downhill rider. Likewise, riding in a full-face helmet seems to be an overkill if you’re into cross-country or any other low-profile style. Let’s examine the pros and cons of each type in more detail.
Let’s face it. When it comes to the velocities involved, mountain biking isn’t nearly as dangerous as its motor counterpart – dirt biking. And so, it rarely calls for wearing a full-face helmet. Most mountain bike riders, however, can certainly make use of all the comfort that comes with half-shell helmets.
Namely, half-shell helmets have:
- More adjustability.
- Lighter weight.
- Better ventilation.
But the higher level of comfort comes at the cost of safety. As a result, half-shell helmets:
- Keep the temples and the base of the skull unprotected.
- Leave the face vulnerable.
- Don’t cover the jaw in any way.
Some half-shell mountain bike helmets, however, extend to cover the temples and the base of the skull at least partially. And they can also be worn along with face masks and goggles to provide protection for the face and eyes.
In a nutshell, half-shell helmets are a good fit for most mountain bike riders. They’re especially comfortable to wear in areas with hot weather conditions. Choose them if you value comfort and if you stick with terrains that aren’t dangerous.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, some styles of mountain biking are inherently riskier than others. And if you’re a fan of one of them, you don’t have the luxury of prioritizing comfort over your safety. More extreme mountain bike riders could use the extra protection that a full-face helmet can provide.
As such, full-face helmets:
- Cover all areas of the head equally well.
- Protect the entire jaw.
- Guard the face better.
As they keep you safer, though, full-face helmets take away from comfort. More exactly, full-face helmets have:
- Minimal adjustability.
- Bulkier design.
- Worse ventilation.
Some mountain bike riders complain that full-face helmets feel awkward, heavy, and plain stifling. But this only applies to inferior full-face helmets that also don’t fit. Well-chosen full-face helmets made of high-quality light materials don’t have any of these issues.
Wearing a full-face mountain bike helmet is a must for riders of extreme styles. They may not be the most comfortable thing to wear on your head, but they’ll keep you safer. Opt for them if you routinely ride on dangerous types of terrain or practice riskier styles like enduro and downhill.
Key Things You Need to Keep in Mind
No matter what type you choose, make sure your mountain bike helmet is of decent quality.
Ask these key questions before you buy one:
- Is it safe enough? Best helmets utilize the so-called Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) that safeguards the brain from rotational forces during the impact. Brands like Bontrager, 6D, POC, Leatt, and 100% have similar proprietary systems in place with the same purpose in mind.
- Does it fit your head? Mountain bike helmets that don’t fit are useless. And it’s not just your head size that counts. A helmet should match the shape of your head and provide options for adjustment. The helmets that allow you to tweak them until they sit almost perfectly on your head reign supreme.
- What’s the weight? As a rule of thumb, the lighter a helmet is – the better. The neck is very sensitive to even the slightest variations in load. And there’s no reason to wear a heavier helmet if lighter alternatives offer the same protection. Besides, what mountain biker would be happy to ride with extra weight?
- How much ventilation does it provide? Worst mountain bike helmets make you feel as if you’ve stuck your head into a furnace. These are the ones you want to avoid. Best of the kind let the air flow freely and remove the excessive heat. Such helmets work equally well in hot and cold weather.
Some mountain bike helmets are designed to have additional features. They may include light and camera mounts, clips for goggles, adjustable visors, and more. It’s worth considering whether you need any of these extra features before buying mountain bike helmet.
Ride Safe with the Right Mountain Bike Helmet
As you can see, choosing a mountain bike helmet isn’t rocket science. Pick the type that works best for you and pay attention to the things that matter. With a well-chosen mountain bike helmet and protection in place, you’ll be able to focus on your mountain biking game. And take it up a notch – safely.