Now that you have seen and started to learn about some of the top options available when it comes to mountain bike helmets today, it is time to go a little deeper and learn more about these helmets, some of the different styles of helmet, and the features they offer. This way, you will have a better understanding of which one of the preceding helmets would likely be the right choice for you.
Main Features Found on Most Helmets
When you start to look at the different types of mountain biking helmets on the market, it is helpful if you have some knowledge of the main features that these helmets include. It can be a good way to help ensure that you are getting the helmet that is right for you, that will fit, and that you know what all of the parts are and what they do.
- MIPS – MIPS is a designation that some of the mountain bike helmets will have. It stands for Multidirectional Impact Protection System (MIPS). This is discussed later on in the article and why it is important for impact protection.
- Hair Port – There are some helmets on the market that feature hair ports. These are helpful for those who have ponytails.
- Straps – The straps are the system that will help to keep your helmet on your head and firmly in place so it can protect you. There are different types of strap systems available. It’s always important that you have the right size for the right fit.
- Ventilation – The vents that you see on the helmet, and that are often highly touted in product descriptions, help to improve the flow of air over your head. Ventilation helps to keep you cooler and provides comfort as you are riding while preventing excess sweat.
- Visor – Some of the helmet models will include this piece, which helps to shield riders from the sun.
Basic Types of Helmets for Mountain Biking
You will find that most of the helmets that are on the market, including those listed above, tend to utilize EPS foam padding, or expanded polystyrene foam padding as the main part of their construction. However, they will still feature a polycarbonate shell around the outside of this foam. Not only will this help to protect the foam from damage, but it also helps to spread the force of an impact over a larger area on the helmet, which can help to reduce injury.
A typical helmet is also going to have a harness or strap to ensure fit and that helps to keep it attached to the head. This strap is adjustable as well, which will make it possible to get the perfect fit. It is important that the strap is in good working condition, and that it helps to keep the helmet in place in the case of an accident. After all, if the helmet were to fly off your head when you go over the handlebars on a trail, it would not be doing you much good at all.
There are two basic categories of helmets for mountain bikes. There are those that cover the entire face, and the half-shell options that cover only part of the head. Let’s take a closer look at these two different types of helmets.
The half-shell mountain bike helmet system are a popular option because they can be used for off-road riding, but they look close enough to a typical road bike helmet that they could pull double duty. The biggest difference between the half-shell and the road helmet tends to be the fact that the half-shell helmet includes a visor, while the road helmet does not. A quality half-shell helmet also offers quality foam padding, straps, and more.
These visors are more necessary for those who are out on the trails, as they can help to keep the sun, rain, and other elements out of the face and eyes. With some of the helmets, including many of the full-face helmets, the visors will be adjustable. They are also removable in most cases, which makes these types of helmets very versatile. You can easily take off the visor and use it as a road helmet when needed.
One of the other differences you are likely to notice is that the half-shell helmets will generally provide a bit more coverage and protection than the road helmets. This is because those who are out and riding the trails, whether they are just out for a lazy Sunday or they are competing in a cycle-cross event, tend to have a higher risk of crashing.
You will find that the half-shell helmet is also lighter in weight compared to other types of helmet. Low weight is nice, but it can still provide an adequate amount of protection from impact. They have quality liner systems, can handle impact, and have good padding. When using the straps properly, you can be sure the helmet will stay in place, as well.
These helmets can be worn with sunglasses or with goggles, both of which have their advantages and disadvantages. Sunglasses are easy to put on and take off, while they might not provide quite as much protection as the goggles do. However, one of the issues that some people have with the goggles is fogging since they do not have ventilation.
These types of helmets tend to be a top option on the list for those who are brand new to mountain biking, as well as those who have been enjoying this activity for many years. They are versatile, available in many styles, and at many price points. However, they are not the only option.
The other basic type of helmet is the full-face helmet. This type of helmet is going to cover the entire head, which will provide you with a substantial amount of protection from impact. These features help to make this a good choice for those who want to ride fast and who do a lot of downhill riding and racing. Bikers who like cycle-cross might prefer this type of helmet, as well.
The chin guard on the helmet will help to protect your chin and mouth from rocks, dirt, and other debris that you could be facing out on the trails and during an impact. While these are popular among many riders, they are not as ventilated as other types of helmets, and this could be a concern for some riders.
Most of the helmets of this type come with an adjustable visor, which means you can wear it when you wish to but push it up and out of the way when you do not. Many riders have positive experiences using an adjustable visor and some have found it offers safety in the event of a crash. However, the construction of the adjustable visor should be considered as well as how easy it is to see through.
One of the things that is important to remember about these helmets is that even though they might look similar to dirt bike helmets, they are not DOT certified. This means that they are not going to provide you with as much protection as you need on a motorbike. You should only use them for mountain biking and BMX biking.
These helmets will feature a chin strap that is attached to the helmet, typically beneath the ear area. Most of the time, you will also want to get a pair of goggles that can go with your full-face helmet that covers more than just the top of the head. It is also possible to get a neck brace to wear with these full-face helmets. They can help to keep the spine safer in the event of an accident, and they can be quite beneficial to those who do a lot of racing and downhill riding. However, these braces should only be worn with a full-face helmet. They are not for the half-shell helmets.
What Is MIPS and Why Is It Important?
You have likely noticed that some of the helmets discussed include MIPS technology and some do not. The Multidirectional Impact Protection System is essentially a specialized construction method that helps to provide the head and brain with added protection from rotational forces that may occur during a fall or crash on the bike. These MIPS helmets will feature something called a “low friction layer”. This layer has the capability to rotate a tiny amount. This movement can help to reduce the amount of rotational force that has been applied to the head. Whether it is an injury with the ground, wall, a crash with another rider, the helmet with MIPS technology can help to reduce head trauma.
When you fall and hit your head, it’s most common to fall at an angle instead of in a level way, which is where MIPS can help. Falling in a rotational motion is something that can seriously affect your brain. At impact, the force transfers to your brain and can result in catastrophic injury. MIPS can help reduce that motion and will make it less likely you experience brain damage.
Most Important Features to Consider When Choosing Your Mountain Bike Helmet
Knowing more about the options available for mountain bike helmets is important when you are making your decision. However, there are certain basic elements and features that you are going to need to consider when you are buying a helmet. Let’s look at a list of those most important considerations to find the one you want to use.
- Safety – Naturally, safety should be your primary concern when you are buying a helmet. Only choose those devices that have proper certification, and that utilize high-quality materials and foam padding in their construction. Always make sure they have plenty of padding for impacts. You do not need to have a MIPS helmet, but it can add some extra protection for your brain in the event of a crash.
- Type – The type that you choose – full-face or half-shell – is likely to depend on the type of riding that you are going to be doing. For those who are just starting out, or who are not planning to race downhill, the half-shell is typically a perfect choice.
- Size – You need to be sure you are getting a helmet that fits properly. The right size is essential for safety, as much as the construction. To know your basic measurement for helmets, you will want to take a piece of string, wrap it around your head just about an inch above the eyebrows, and then measure the string in inches to determine the circumference of your head. Use this circumference number when you are choosing the size for your helmet to ensure it fits.
- Weight – When a helmet is lightweight, it is going to feel more comfortable on the head, so you might want to look at the overall weight when you are comparing helmets. Quality foam padding can help keep the weight light. For the most part though, the weight differences between helmets will be minor, and most riders are not going to notice an ounce or two. Helmets with a heavier weight will be noticeable on your head, just like those without ventilation.
- Aesthetics – Naturally, you want to make sure that you have a helmet that looks great and that fits in well with your style. Fortunately, there are plenty of style and color choices out there, so anyone should be able to find something that works for them.
- Price – Of course, you will also want to consider the price. There are many helmets out there today that are reasonably priced, and that still offer plenty of safety and style. Just make sure that you never sacrifice safety just to save a few dollars on the price. Safety should always be more important than price.
When Should You Replace a Mountain Bike Helmet?
Your mountain bike helmet is one of the most important pieces of equipment that you own and that you will take out with you on all of your rides. It is just as important as your bike. It helps to keep your head safe from injuries sustained during falls and crashes with the bike, which tends to happen far more frequently with trail riding and racing.
You will always want to replace a helmet after you have been in a crash on your bike and the helmet impacts the ground, a tree, or any other surface. The reason for this is simple. The foam padding that provides the protection and distributes the shock of these forces when in an accident is likely going to be damaged in the crash. This means it is not going to protect the wearer as effectively in the future, and you should simply get a new helmet. If the foam is bad, the helmet should be replaced.
Many manufacturers say that you will want to replace the helmet every three to five years, and this tends to be a good rule of thumb. However, if the helmet has not been damaged in that time and the foam is in good shape, it should still provide you with adequate protection.
Now that you have more of an idea of what you should look for with your mountain bike helmet, and you know some of the popular brands, it should be much easier for you to make your final choice. There are a lot of product options available and a range of models. Go back to the list and find a MIPS helmet or other option that can provide vents with air, a quality liner, and plenty of protection. Get a new mountain bike helmet today!