Mountain bike helmets are an essential piece of gear, and they come in all shapes, sizes, and price points. Not only that, different helmets offer different types and levels of protection from injury. Singletracks tested and reviewed more than a dozen lids this year, and we’ve rounded them all up in one place to help you find the right one when it’s time for a replacement or upgrade.
|Bontrager Rally WaveCel||Half-shell||$150|
|Fox Speedframe Pro||Half-shell||$160|
|Giant Rail SX||Half-shell||$165|
|O’Neal Trail Finder||Half-shell||$80|
|POC Axion SPIN||Half-shell||$150|
|POC Coron Air SPIN||Full-face||$275|
|POC Ventral Air SPIN NFC||Half-shell||$275|
|Sweet Protection Dissenter||Half-shell||$120|
|Sweet Protection Trailblazer MIPS||Half-shell||$180|
|Urge BP Lunar||Full-face||$200|
Half-shell mountain bike helmets
On hot days, it’s hard to beat a half-shell helmet. While these helmets obviously offer less coverage than their full-face cousins, brands are finding ways to offer greater levels of protection against not just head-on impact, but also rotational forces as well.
Bontrager Rally WaveCel Helmet
The Rally is light, well-vented, and looks great. It seems like the WaveCel claims have even been substantiated. Under Virginia Tech’s most recent testing, the WaveCel Rally came in as the 10th safest mountain bike helmet. Bontrager also has a MIPS version of the Rally that came in 2nd. Both of those still have the 5-star rating from VT as “best available,” but I would bet that the WaveCel version has the edge on comfort.
Fox Dropframe Helmet
The Fox Dropframe toes the line between enduro and downhill, and it offers about as much protection as your noggin can get without a chin bar. For hard riding sans lift access, the helmet presents a perfect compromise, providing additional coverage around the ears and back of the head without the considerable heat or weight penalty that accompanies a full-face lid. Plenty of ventilation holes keep air moving, and an indentation around the back holds a goggle strap firmly in place. This is enduro, after all.
Fox Speedframe Pro
This is the best-feeling and sharpest-looking gravity half shell that I’ve tested in a long while. The fit is dialed and dialable, it breathes well, it’s not super heavy despite the MIPS insert, and it costs less than a new set of bike tires. Given the burgeoning selection of MIPS’d lids in this price range, the solidly clean and precise aesthetic puts the Speedframe Pro at the front of my half shell lineup.
Giant Rail SX MIPS
When the Rail SX MIPS half shell from Giant arrived, my immediate thought was “this helmet looks light.” The external plastic shell stops short of covering the lower edge, leaving some of the foam EPS layer exposed, and the chin strap latches closed with a simple “trident” style clicker instead of the glove-friendly Fidlock that much of the competition is using. Alas, at 410g (size large) it’s a fairly average weight lid with some cool features to note.
The Giro Manifest is a really comfortable helmet. By using MIPS Spherical, it does seem to create a more inviting home for your dome, and other features like AURA keep the air flow up inside the helmet while ensuring a level of safety. It is hard to ignore the price tag on the Manifest, however. At $260 for a half-shell helmet that isn’t necessarily a game changer, it’s a tough pill to swallow. Though, for those who want a helmet for trail riding that is very comfortable, with the latest iteration of MIPS, the Manifest delivers.
Kask Caipi Half Shell MTB Helmet
The Kask Caipi half shell is a go-to lid for warm rides on flowy singletrack or dirt roads, and it will certainly be strapped to my head and frame on a number of bikepacking adventures throughout the summer. The fit is unnoticeably comfortable, and the clean design doesn’t stand out and scream ‘bike racer’ like other lids sometimes do. Though I wish the visor had more than one fixed position, the hardware that makes that possible would add weight, and this helmet wasn’t drawn up with goggles in mind to begin with. The Caipi is a solid piece of protection that’s worth a look as winter marches back into its cave.
O’Neal Trail Finder
We all want adjectives like light and fast and cheap and safe to melt together and be poured into the molds of our favorite gear. O’Neal has managed a good deal of that tech and material fusion in their 362g Trail Finder half-shell MTB helmet.
POC Axion SPIN Helmet
After thinking through this review and my time with the Axion SPIN, I don’t have anything negative to say about the new trail helmet from POC. It comes in at a sweet price, is comfortable and nicely vented, and it looks good. There isn’t much more that we can ask.
POC Ventral Air SPIN NFC Helmet
Although it’s pricy, the POC Ventral Air SPIN NFC performs like a premium helmet should. It looks good whether you’re wearing Lycra or baggies and feels great on the dome, while logging big miles. The added NFC feature should comfort those who want to feel a little more secure on solo rides, or when their medical information is vital to first responders.
Sweet Protection Dissenter
For $120 the Sweet Protection Dissenter is a competitive candidate in entry-level helmets. It looks aggressive which will earn points with quite a few trail riders, is well-vented, comfortable, and comes at an acceptable price.
Sweet Protection Trailblazer
There are a lot of helmets on the market right now that offer the “next level” of protection, with attractive statistics about their capabilities, and even electronics to store personal health information or phone someone after a bad accident. The Trailblazer keeps things nice and simple, which is what most of us want in a helmet. It looks great, has a MIPS version that isn’t too expensive, it vents well, and it’s comfortable. The Trailblazer might not be on a path of its own, but it’s surely on a good one.
While half-shell helmets are adding features to make them safer, many riders are choosing to wear full-face helmets on more and more rides outside of the bike park for even more protection. As full-face mountain bike helmets become lighter weight and more comfortable, the tradeoff between comfort and safety is all but eliminated.
iXS Trigger Full Face Mountain Bike Helmet
If you like to get loose and protect your precious grill in the process, the Trigger FF will help you do so with a combined decrease in sweat and neck pain compared to the competition. It fits well with the gravity-oriented direction a lot of riders are taking their day-long adventures in, resting comfortably between your chill half-shell trail protection and a full-on DH park lap bucket. At the somewhat steep price point of €239, a featherweight full face helmet is not something every rider may need to own. However, it’s a fantastic piece of gear for those who do. Given its minimal weight, I now have fewer excuses to leave the full face at home.
POC Coron Air SPIN MTB Helmet
While I can’t say for sure that this full face helmet from POC saved me from a concussion on its own, I can say that my head and neck didn’t hurt after a full speed stop that was entirely absorbed by my dome and an innocent tree. The fit and functionality inside and outside the Coron Air SPIN are spot on, as you might expect from a helmet developed with professional enduro racers like Martin Söderström and Robin Wallner. The seemingly solid fiberglass shell has fourteen intake vents and six exhaust vents, providing ample airflow on hotter days. I have ridden in this lid through temps exceeding 80° F (26.6° C) and it provides every bit as much airflow as the top competition.
Smith Mainline Full-Face
The Mainline is light, breathable, and it looks great. The DH-certification and D-ring buckle add to the Mainline’s ruggedness, while the Koroyd-lined interior makes it easy to wear. Smith fans have long been waiting for a more serious mountain bike helmet, and this offering shouldn’t disappoint.
Urge BP Lunar MTB Helmet
The farsighted French team at Urge BP took a conscious step to minimize their carbon footprint with the latest Lunar full face helmet. The shell is made from recycled EPS, the visor from recycled ABS, and the straps woven from recycled PET, for a combined total of 80% recycled materials utilized throughout. While finding ways to recycle our helmets once they’re spent is also important, using recycled materials seems to be a smart step in the right direction.