Helmets have come a long way since the clunky hardhats of the 80s. Elements such as comfort, aesthetics, and safety have been ramped up. Today, MTB helmets are as protective to your noggin as they are stylish.
After evaluating the best mountain biking helmets of 2021, we’ve narrowed down the best six in this guide. The Smith Optics Forefront 2 Helmet is our top choice for its price, durability, and protection it offers.
When choosing the “best” mountain bike helmet, it’s about your personal riding style, head shape, and stylistic preferences. We’ve included the best mountain bike helmets of 2021 in this guide based on protective features, comfort, and convenience. Whether you’re on a budget or ready to spend big on top-notch products, this guide has you covered.
Best Overall: Smith Forefront 2 Mountain Bike Helmet
If you want a high-quality helmet that's ultra-comfortable, look no further. The Smith Optics Forefront 2 Mips Wins Best Helmet Overall. Its flexible design offers a versatile fit and the MIPS technology makes it a good choice for all cyclists.
Aside from being very comfortable, the Forefront 2 helmet has an adjustable and practical visor that pleases most riders. Its AirVac ventilation system offers increased breathability, ideal for hot weather.
More than all its other factors, it's the protection system of the Forefront 2 helmet which gives it the first place. The most advanced MIPS technology on the market protects the brain from damage in the event of multidirectional impacts.
But that's not all: the Forefront 2 helmet is equipped with a camera and light mounts to record your adventures hands-free.
- Superior protection thanks to MIPS technology
- Excellent ventilation
- Integrated camera and light mounts
- On the expensive side
Runner Up: Smith Session Bike Helmet
The Session MIPS by Smith Optics is lightweight, comfortable, and perfect for long outings. In addition to being ultra-comfortable, its large ventilation openings are ideal for keeping you cool when it's hot out. However, these openings are not lined with mesh to protect you from sunburn, but the adjustable 3-point visor does keep the sun out of your eyes.
But above all, it is so light that you will forget that you're wearing a helmet, even after several hours. Like the Forefront 2 from Smith Optics, the Session features MIPS technology to reduce the risk of brain injury.
This helmet is the best choice for those who are looking for something durable and high-quality.
- 3 point adjustable visor
- Large ventilation openings
- Comfortable and lightweight
- No mesh under the ventilation
Best Budget - Giro Fixture Dirt Cycling Helmet
Because of its breathability and versatility, we rated the Giro Fixture Dirt Cycling Helmet as the best value mountain bike helmet. It has many of the features of the Smith Optics helmets mentioned earlier, such as large ventilation openings and a compact design.
The advantage? It's offered at a fraction of the price! This helmet is a great choice for those on a budget. It may not have the MIPS protection system or the built-in camera mount, but it is a sturdy and protective helmet.
Another interesting aspect of the Giro Fixture Dirt Cycling Helmet is that it is designed for more uneven terrain. Thanks to its Roc Loc® Sport fit system and its molded polycarbonate shell, this helmet gives you the durability you need to hit all the trails.
- Fitted with Roc Loc® Sport
- Not as many advanced features
THE BEST MOUNTAIN BIKING HELMET FOR THE TRAILS
Thanks to its multiple protection systems, we evaluated the Trailblazer MIPS helmet from Sweet Protection as being the best for hitting the trails. First, it has MIPS brain protection technology, an integrated layer inside the helmet that protects the head in the event of a fall.
The outer shell is made of 4 types of polycarbonate for optimal protection. We also noted the precise fit of this helmet: with the Occigrip system, it stays securely in place on the head.
Obviously, the Trailblazer MIPS offers excellent breathability thanks to its Digitally Optimized Ventilation System (DOV).
What else: The patented STAAC design works with a front ventilation opening to allow air to enter the temple without exposing it to the sun and risk of injury.
- Excellent ventilation system
- Loaded with security features
- Perfect for downhill riding
BEST HELMET FOR WARM WEATHER
Highly ventilated and manufactured according to a design that puts comfort first, the POC Ventral SPIN (CPSC) helmet wins first place in the category of the best helmets for warm weather.
The POC ventilation system has been tested to offer superior breathability that outperforms other helmets on the market. Adjustable at the back and enhanced with a protective visor at the front, this helmet is ideal for sunny days and hot temperatures. Accelerated airflow zones increase the level of comfort.
When it comes to protection level, it's impossible to say if the MIPS system is more effective than the SPIN safety system by POC, but their functionality is similar. The SPIN cushions allow the helmet shell to rotate slightly in the event of a fall to minimize brain damage.
The POC Ventral SPIN helmet is a great choice if you are looking for a helmet to stay cool in very hot weather.
- Stylish design
- Efficient ventilation system
- SPIN protection system
- Overkill for most users
Best Mountain Bike Helmet for Kids
If your kids are riding with you on your mountain biking trips, they also need a helmet, and there's none better than Garneau’s Jump Helmet. We chose it for its protection and the easy-to-use adjustment system.
Its outer shell and EPS cushion lining are welded together to create a real protective barrier on the child's head. The helmet is also easily adjustable thanks to its Spiderlock Neo adjustment system. The ring tightens around the head to keep the helmet in place.
The helmet gives your kids all the protection and comfort you'd want in your own helmet.
- Simple and easy to adjust
- Robust construction
- Perfect for kids
How to Choose a Mountain Biking Helmet
One of the most important things to consider when buying a mountain bike helmet is its ability to protect. We evaluated six different helmets, some with very innovative safety mechanisms and others based on traditional construction. Choose a helmet that meets your needs based on where you plan to ride and what kind of riding you plan on doing.
Mountain bike helmets have two main components: the shell and the interior construction. The outside shell is normally made of polycarbonate plastic while the inside is often made of EPS foam. The exterior of a mountain bike helmet should be slightly harder than that of a road bike. Pay special attention to the thickness of the outer layer for maximum protection.
How to tell if the Mountain Biking Helmet is properly adjusted?
The helmet should always fit snug and that’s why the six models that we presented to you have precise adjustment systems. A helmet that moves over your head while riding will be likely to cause damage in the event of a fall or collision.
It’s best to opt for a mountain bike helmet that offers increased protection on the sides and back of the head. If you fall on a bike path, these are the parts of the head that are most likely to be impacted.
Several helmets have MIPS and SPIN technologies, both proven to significantly reduce the risk of brain damage. The outer shell is separated from the inner layer and pivots to absorb the shock in the event of a collision.
Always take ventilation into account when shopping for a mountain bike helmet – especially when cross country riding. The best way to assess the ventilation of a helmet is with its openings on the top. Our best choice, the Smith Optics Forefront 2 MIPS has more than one.
The most important features in a mountain bike helmet are ventilation, the weight of the helmet (which should be light) and protection. If your budget allows, choose a helmet with MIPS or SPIN technologies. It will give you increased protection in the event of a fall.
FAQ FOR MOUNTAIN BIKE HELMETS
Why do mountain bike helmets have visors?
The visor protects your eyes and face from the sun, but also from debris such as sand, dust, and branches.
How often should I change my mountain bike helmet?
A bicycle helmet does not have an expiration date, but it should be replaced after 5 to 10 years of use. It will also lose its effectiveness after any collisions or damage.
Can I use my mountain bike helmet for road cycling?
Mountain bike helmets have a visor while road bike helmets usually do not. The body position on a road bike is more advanced than on a mountain bike, so the visor may obstruct vision. For this reason, we recommend choosing a helmet for its specific use.
How are mountain bike helmets evaluated?
Downhill helmets go through rigorous testing on several types of terrain and trails.
We hope our buying guide makes it easier to choose the best mountain bike helmet for you. There are no specific rules to follow when shopping for a mountain bike helmet. Instead, choose one that has been designed specifically for your riding style and that fits your budget! If you’re still stumped, we recommend checking out our top choice, the Smith Optics Forefront 2 Helmet, which has superior technology and protection.