Best Mountain Biking Helmet

The 7 Best Mountain Bike Helmets Reviewed – [2017]

What are the best mountain bike helmets worthy of protecting your head? If your riding trails its only a matter of time before you crash and hit your head.

So make sure what you have on your head is going to protect it.

But what should you look for in a helmet? And what factors are most critical?

We took 12 of the most popular models and tested them for durability, protection, comfort, adjust-ability and ventilation.

For more of my top gear recommendations, have a look through these popular Outside Pursuits guide links: MTB shorts, bike racks, multi-tools and repair stands.

Quick Answer: The Best Mountain Bike Helmet

  1. Troy Lee Designs A-1 Helmet
  2. POC Tectal MTB Helmet
  3. Smith Optics Forefront Mountain Bike Helmet
  4. Giro Montaro MIPS Bike Helmet
  5. Bell Super 2R MTB Helmet
  6. Giro Feature Mountain Bike Helmet
  7. Fox Flux MTB Helmet

First lets take a look at the MTB helmets, then well talk about how to choose the best one for you. Here is a feature overview of my top 3 overall picks with full reviews and our buying guide below.

The Best Mountain Bike Helmets

 Troy Lee Designs A-1 HelmetPOC Tectal Race Bike Helmet Smith Optics Forefront Mountain Bike Helmet
editors choice
Weight:17 Ounces12 Ounces11 Ounces
Construction:Polycarbonate Impact Shell with EPS linerFusion In-Mold Polycarbonate Shell with with EPS linerIn-mold Koroyd tube co-polymer construction
Ventilation:16 distinct vents with internal channeling.15 large channeled vents bring cool air in through the front.12 vents with internal channeling for superior ventilation.

Mountain Bike Helmet Reviews

#1 Troy Lee Designs A-1 Helmet Review

The Troy Lee Designs A-1 Helmet is a straight forward option that is designed for optimal protection of your head. The helmet has 16 air vents that move air into, over, and out of the helmet and the CoolMax pads will keep you dry– perfect for riding in hot and humid conditions.

The helmet has wide range of adustability, I was easily able to get a great fit by adjusting the simple cam-lock stabilizer. The shell of the helmet is constructed with an advanced smoot, polycarbonate, shell material.

This simple and effective design is for the mountain biker and cross country rider whose is looking for safety and functionality, instead of extra unwanted features.

Probably the first thing I noticed about the helmet was the design provides full protection of your head, because if it doesn’t do that, what good is it as a helmet?

The A-1 Helmet helmet also provides excellent protection for the back of your head, so if wipe out doing a back flip or just manage to hit the back of your head, you will have full protection.

The padding is minimal compared to other helmets in its class, but the strategic placement and easy adjustability of the pads makes this a non-issue.

Troy Lee Designs A-1 Helmet

Troy Lee Designs A-1 Helmet

As is the case with most helmets we tested, they tend to run tight, so when you measure your head and if your on the borderline of a size, go up to the next size.

The Troy Lee is the best mountain bike helmet for a big head because its the only one with size of extra large.

The helmet felt a little odd compared to other helmets we tested because of the thinner padding but you will come to appreciate the stream lined feel.

Its price point places it square in middle of the pack compared to other helmets tested. In my opinion it is the best mountain bike helmet for the money.

It is light weight, well ventilated– maintaining the highest quality and protection. The Troy Lee Designs is my top overall pick for a trail riding/mtb helmet.

#2 POC Tectal MTB Helmet Review

If you’re ready to head out on the trails but you need a new helmet, I would seriously look at the POC Tectal helmet. Once you pick it up you will see the quality construction that went into it.

The solid unibody construction of the Tectal gives you serious protection in the event of a head impact. And you know it’s a question of when, not if!

The Tectal has a unique “Aramid” grid that you’re paying a little extra for. The Armid grid is able to absorb and dissipate the forces of an impact reducing forces on your skull to prevent injury. The helmet has large openings for ventilation that was designed in a wind tunnel to optimize the size and placement.

It features an adjustable visor for sun protection and a goggle on the back if you choose wear them. The 4 point harness system keeps the helmet firmly on your head and is fully adjustable to get the perfect fit.

The helmet comes down on the back of your head further than most helmets giving you superior protection where you most need it and most likely to hit your head. The liner is comfortable and has wicking properties to keep your head cool and dry.

The POC Tectal provides superior protection and is one of the best MTB helmets you can get. And since it’s your head your protecting, isn’t it worth it?

#3 Smith Optics Forefront Mountain Bike Helmet Review

When I think of Smith Optics the first thing that comes to mind is their ski goggles BUT their helmets are definitely worth a look. The Forefront MTB helmet was designed from the ground up for superior protection of your head!

It has an In-Mold construction of “Koroyd tubes” that are made from a co-polymer that not only looks bad-ass, like something out of Start Wars but it protects your head better than a typical EPS foam helmet.

And it’s not just looks and protection, it also gives you lighter weight AND its cooler because the hollow construction of the co-polymer tubes allows significantly better airflow through the helmet. This keeps you cooler when the temperature starts rising.Smith Optics Forefront All Mountain Bike Helmet

The fitting system will give you unmatched fit and comfort and the 4-point harness keeps it securely on your head if you crash.

What I really like other than the protection and looks is it has a pre-installed mounting bracket for a bike headlight (click here for my reviews of bike lights) or a GoPro to record your ride.

The co-polymer construction gives the helmet the lightest weight of any tested, 11 ozs! You barely notice it on your head. It has large vents to allow good airflow and a goggle retention strap but also works fine if you just wear sunglasses.

This particular helmet does NOT feature MIPS (Multi Directional Impact Protection System) construction, if you want the extra protection, click here for Smith’s MIPS Forefront helmet.

#4 Giro Montaro MIPS Bike Helmet Review

There is a lot to like about the Giro Montaro MTB helmet. The more I learn about MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) the more I like it and is one of the reasons why the Montaro is on my list.

If your not familiar with MIPS, in a nutshell it helps protect against head injury in a crash by reducing your head rotation. You can read all about the technology by click the link above.

Knock on wood, I haven’t had any major crashes so I cant say if it helps but since I value my head, to me the slight extra cost is worth it.

You can get an idea of how the inner liner can rotate independently from the outer shell reducing the rotational forces on your head in a crash.

Giro Montaro Helmet with MIPS

Giro Montaro Helmet with MIPS

While MIPS is a good reason to get the Montaro, (along with the Smith Optics), its by far the only reason. The Montaro is also one of the most comfortable MTB helmets on the market. The Montaro’s light weight is one of the main reasons. After you start riding you will forget its on your head, which is the best test for a helmets comfort level.

The lining has an anti-microbial pads made with silver that prevents the growth of odor causing bacteria. Nice! Not only that it has wicking properties that absorb your sweat and keep you cooler at the same time.

Giro Montaro Helmet with ROC LOC

Giro Montaro Helmet with ROC LOC

The Montaro like most of the helmets uses the “Roc Loc 5” fitting and adjustment system.

I will tell you it really works, with a turn of the wheel you can get the perfect fit, unless you have a very odd shaped head…

The visor is a pretty big and gives you sun protection and gives you a large range of adjustment plus is easily removes if you don’t want it on by two thumbscrews.

One of the better features of the Montaro and Giro helmets in general is the ventilation. The helmets vents are very effective at getting air to flow into the helmet keeping your head cooler and drier than most other helmets.

The Montaro also has built in camera mount so you can record your thrills and hopefully not too many spills. The mount is not as good as I would have liked, but it does the job.

The polycarbonate shell is durable and resists dents and scratches well. It fully covers the foam padding protecting it when the help gets tossed around or you set it down on a rough surface.

The Montaro has a lot going for it, not the least of which is the MIPS head protection and the best MTB helmet under $200.

# 5 Bell Super 2R MTB Helmet Review

The Bell Super 2R Helmet 2015 is a full face, feature packed helmet to keep your head protected on the trails and give you confidence go all out knowing your melon will not get hurt.

This top of the line helmet includes:

  • Wraparound Protection with a removable chin bar
  • 23 channeled openings,
  • 4 Velocity Flow over brow ports,
  • 6 chin-bar vents,
  • Integrated Breakaway Camera Mount,
  • GoggleGuide Adjustable Visor System
  • Twin Access Gear Retention system
Bell Super 2R MTB Helmet Review

Bell Super 2R MTB Helmet showing its modular construction

The helmet is comprised of a Fusion In-Mold Polycarbonate Shell with internal reinforcement– this helmet packs in all the safety features you will ever need, while going above and beyond minimum safety standards.

The Bell Super 2R MTB helmet is a versatile helmet for both recreational rides and extreme trail riding. Its unlike the other helmets tested,  it features a modular construction so you can take the chin guard off when not needed, making it two helmets in one. You really get the best of both worlds, a great open face helmet AND the best full face mountain bike helmet.

The helmet provides full coverage, is well ventilated, has an open visual field, and accommodates any size protective goggles.

The wheel adjustment system gives you a custom fit and the option to add in a ‘Go Pro’ camera is a nice added bonus for catching your best rides (or crashes) on video.

Whether you are a pro or just want to ‘look like a pro’—this helmet will do the trick. The Bell Super 2R Helmet is well worth the money and is packed with added features that make it one of the best full face MTB helmets on the market.

One thing to keep in mind is it tends to run a little small to size so if you are borderline in a size, go up to the next size. If you are into more extreme riding then the Bell Super 2R Helmet is your best bet.

#6 Giro Feature Mountain Bike Helmet Review

The Giro Feature Mountain Bike Helmet is the perfect blend of protection and performance. This model is ideal for trail riding in rough terrain.

You will love Giro’s updated shape that provides more coverage than most other mountain bike helmets.

Giro Feature Mountain Bike Helmet

Giro Feature Mountain Bike Helmet

The helmet has twelve vents that provide upward air flow, pushing heat up and out of the helmet— preventing heat exhaustion on a hot summer day.

The In-Form fit system provides maximum stability adjustment, while the adjustable moto-style visor offers additional protection for the eyes.

Giro is well known for making excellent helmets and this model is no exception. The adjustable visor is a nice feature of the helmet keeping the sun out of your eyes.

The wrap around design hugs your head comfortably and not only looks good but provides full protection for your head.

Like any helmet, make sure you take careful measurements of your head before ordering to get the correct size.

This is a solid helmet with its best features being the 12 effective cooling vents, the light weight design, and the comfortable, secure fit.

In my opinion the Giro Feature helmet is the best MTB helmet under $100 and is one of my top picks for a mountain bike helmet.

#7 Fox Flux MTB Helmet Review

Fox Racing is not that well known for their helmets, but I really like their shorts and other protective gear so I assumed the helmet would be good as well. There is a lot to like about the Flux but there were some things I didn’t as well.

The helmet uses an a bit of an unusual adjustment system called the ”De-Tox”. Nothing to do with drying out after a long night of drinking but a ratchet adjustment system instead of a dial wheel.

While a dial wheel is certainly faster and easier I actually liked the ratcheting , felt more secure for some reason. The bottom line is, it works fine and offers a large range of adjustment. And really, how often are you changing the adjustment anyway?

What I wasn’t crazy about was the padding, it strangely doesn’t have that much. There is enough to be comfortable but it could use more. I found it to be ok, just not as good as the Troy Lee A1 helmet or Smith Optics.

Fox Flux MTB Helmet

Fox Flux MTB Helmet

It’s one of the heavier helmets out there, but that’s due to the extra polystyrene foam inside the helmet, it’s definitely thicker than many other helmets. I would assume it gives you an extra measure of protection because of it.

Spending a lot of time in FL, ventilation is important to me. The Flux has 20 large vents that provide adequate airflow. Not quite as good as say the Giro Feature or Montaro, but good.  The visor is pretty small and offers little adjustment. You can remove it completely by just unsnapping it.

What’s a little odd it the “spoiler” on the back of the helmet. It looks kinda cool, but whether it serves any real purpose, is questionable. Fox claims it adds to the ventilation by sucking air into the back of the helmet. Since you can’t modify it, there is no way to know if that’s true.

The helmet is very durable with a polycarbonate shell that can take lots abuse, which being a mountain bike helmet it inevitably will. The Flux comes down far over the back of your head offering full coverage and protection.

Overall the Flux is a good helmet at a reasonable price. If I were buying a new helmet, I would go with the Troy Lee A1 or Giro Feature for a comparable price. But if you want to go with the Flux you won’t go wrong.

How to Choose the Best Mountain Bike Helmet for You

Best Mountain Bike Helmet

Mountain bike helmets are specialized helmets that are designed to protect the rider’s head from a major crash. They are well ventilated even at low speeds, and are often built with visors to protect riders from mud, rain, and sun.

The better helmets provide rear-head coverage, and some provide full face protection with a wraparound chin bar. These helmets are ideal for downhill mountain biking and park riding. Here are some things to think about when selecting a mountain bike helmet.

What to look for in a MTB Helmet

There are two styles of mountain bike helmets to consider; the first is the open face design. An open face model resembles a traditional road bike helmet and is typically lightweight, aerodynamic, well-ventilated and provides coverage to the side and back of the head.

Similar to road bike helmets, mountain bike helmets are made with an inner EPS liner, molded or glued to a hard outer plastic shell. Open face helmets are great for versatile riding styles because they can be used for road biking as well.

Full face options are ideal for downhill mountain bike riding or other high speed riding where the risk of injury is increased. Full face styles provide full protection around the head, while shielding the chin, jaw, and cheeks, as well.

These models are heavier than open face designs, though they are made of light, high-tech materials such as carbon fiber. Due to their intricate design, full face helmets are typically more expensive, however, they provide the option of customizing your helmet to include additional safety features, such as neck braces.

Comfort

Comfort is certainly up there on the list of important characteristics of a MTB helmet. If its not comfortable you may skip wearing it. The helmet should be snug but not so tight as to be uncomfortable. The helmet should move very little when you try and rotate it.

Sizes for helmets are pretty general and usually only available in small, medium and large. Sometimes there is an extra large size. Cheaper brands may only offer one size, these should be avoided.

Weight

Most bike helmets are very lightweight and typically made of an EPS or Expanded Polystyrene covered with an outer shell. Better quality MTB helmets typically have two layers bonded together. Helmets with this design are usually lighter and stronger and of course more expensive.

Cheaper helmets glue or tape the outer plastic shell to the inner foam liner. This design will typically fall apart after a short period of time, especially in hot weather.

Safety First

All mountain bike helmets must meet the American Society for Testing and Materials, Snell, and/or U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission safety requirements, regardless of the designs, features, or price range.

This allows you to focus on which type of helmet to purchase based on your individual riding needs, as oppose to attempting to discern whether or not the helmet is a generally safe choice.

For example, a full face helmet provides more overall protection, but it is not the best option for an individual who wants to ride cross country, or on a single track, due to the limited visibility.

Likewise, an open face option is not ideal for someone participating in extreme sports because the lack of coverage and increased risk of injury require a more comprehensive design.

Best MTB Helmet

Finding the Right Fit

The most important factor when choosing your mountain bike helmet should be selecting a model that has a secure fit. The helmet should be snug, but not too tight, and should sit about an inch above your eyebrows. There should also be enough wiggle room on the side to wear goggles or sunglasses as well.

If possible, try on your favorite pair of sunglasses with the helmet you are considering, to make sure they are a good fit. No area of the helmet should be painfully tight, and any area that does not make secure contact with the skull should be supplemented with additional pads or liners.

Most sizes are general and include small, medium, and large options. To determine which size is best for you, measure around the head just above the eyebrows. Record the measurement in inches or centimeters and look for the size range in which your measurement falls.

Conclusion

Overall, when looking for the best mountain biking helmet it is essential to assess what type of riding you will be doing– recreational or extreme adventure. This will influence what type of added features to look for in a helmet.

Always remember that safety comes first—and finding the right fit and style for your needs can save your life. While some models are equipped with additional features and intricate designs, all helmets are certified to provide full protection in the event of an accident. Taking the time to find the right fit and style for your needs is the best decision you can make.

The Best Mountain Bike Helmet Brands

While the “best” brans is of course subjective and there are a lot of companies making quality helmets, these names usually come up on most peoples list of the best brands of helmets:

Giro: They focus on making quality helmets for most outdoor activities. My first Giro  product was the Seam helmet. It is by far the best ski helmet out there. There bike helmets are second to none. The new Montaro helmet with MIPS technology is worth your consideration.

Fox Racing: Best known for their protective racing apparel, they have gotten into MTB helmets. Based on Irvine California by people who race on weekends they make some excellent products.

POC: Based in Stockholm Sweden, they got their start making ski equipment like goggles and helmets. They have since expanded their lineup to mountain bike protective gear.

Bell: Founded in the 1950’s is one of the best known names in helmets. Originally founded making helmets for car racing they have expanded into biking, motorcycles. When you buy a Bell product you can be assured you are buying a quality product.

Troy Lee Designs small company the focuses exclusively on making mountain biking gear. Having been around for over 30 years, I think its safe to say they know what they are doing and the A1 helmet is one of the best on the market.

FAQ for Mountain Bike Helmets

What is the best helmet?

The most important factors for the best helmet are fit and protection. The best helmet will be of little help if the helmet is loose and doesn’t fit your head correctly. Most modern helmets offer good protection although there are a few stand out brands.

What is the Coolest Helmet?

By cool, I mean best ventilated. The coolest helmets usually have the biggest vent openings to allow airflow. Although vent size is not everything, the design of the vents is critical as well. Troy Lee Designs is one of the best for ventilation.

Should I buy a “cheap” helmet?

All helmets being sold in the US have to meet certain guidelines so they all provide a good measure of protection and of course better than nothing at all. But just because they meet CPSC guidelines doesn’t mean you can’t do better. The new MIPS technology is not cheap but its your head so buying a “cheap” helmet is not a good idea in my opinion.

How do I know I am getting a good fit?

The helmet should fit low on your head protecting your forehead while still covering the back of your head. These are the two most important areas where you are most likely to hit the ground. The helmet should be snug and not move when you try to rotate it, while not to tight so as to be uncomfortable. The straps should fit under your chin snugly but obviously not choking you. A 4-point harness system is best holding the helmet securely on your head in the event of a crash.

When should I replace my helmet?

When you crash and hit your head, you MUST replace the helmet. Even though it may look fine on the outside, the foam inside the helmet is one time use. It crushes and compacts in to absorb the impact to your head. If you are in doubt, you can probably send it back to the manufacturer for inspection. If it’s an expensive helmet and you’re in doubt, it’s probably your best bet. Better to be cautious, it is your head after all!

Back to reviews

I hope this guide was helpful for finding the best mountain bike helmet to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a helmet I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.

Have fun and enjoy the ride!

Need a bike rack to take your bike to the trails? Ride at night? If so see my bike headlight reviews.  Need a quality road bike helmet, see my guide to the best road bike helmets. No matter your riding, you should have a good hydration pack, here are my recommended ones.

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About Richard

I work part time as an IT security consultant. Luckily I can work from anywhere so I go back and forth between Colorado and Florida. I get my fix of skiing, hiking and camping in Colorado in the Dillion area, and when I am in Florida you can usually find me on the water either paddleboarding or kayaking. My recent passion is scuba diving, I got certified a few years ago and "get wet" as frequently as I can.