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There was a time when only the most serious downhill racers and huge trick throwing free riders wore full-face mountain bike helmets. Those helmets were bulky, hot, and heavy. No mountain bike rider who had to pedal to the top of climbs would have even considered wearing one.

 

However, mountain bike technology has improved, and today’s trail and enduro focused mountain bikes are just as capable as the pro downhill bikes from the not so distant past. As mountain bikes have improved, so have mountain bike trails. Now, features once reserved for bike parks can be found on many local trails. Now that many of us face these more challenging and higher risk features, on incredibly capable bikes, on a daily basis, it only makes sense that more protection is in order.

 

Fortunately, helmet manufacturers have taken note, and mountain bike helmet technology has improved just as much as mountain bike technology. Helmets today are lighter and safer than ever. Better still, a number of manufacturers now make full face helmets aimed specifically at riders who frequently tackle gnarly descents, but have to earn those turns via long, grueling climbs.

 

These helmets are much lighter than their solely downhill focused counterparts. They also tend to have much better ventilation, generally accessed via large vent cutouts in the chin bar. These trail and enduro focused full face mountain bike helmets strike a great balance between light weight, high ventilation, and great protection.

 

Of course, with any middle ground, there is bound to be some compromise. Are these helmets as burly as full-on downhill helmets? Probably not. Are they as light and cool as a good open face helmet? Definitely not. But will they help protect your face in the event of a crash and also be perfectly capable of being worn on climbs? Definitely. In fact, I would not be surprised if these trail oriented full face helmets start becoming more frequent at cross country races. And take it from someone with a nice scar to show for wearing an open face helmet on fast descents: You want to protect your face.

For those who truly want a best of both worlds experience, There is also a new “convertible” style of Mountain Bike Helmet. These are full face mountain bike helmets with removable chin bars. This allows you to remove the chin bar and have an open face helmet for long hot climbs, and then for the protection of a full face helmet on the descents. If this sounds more like your cup of tea, you can read our Convertable mountain bike helmet review and comparison here.

How Do Mountain Bike Helmets Work?

Mountain bike helmets are generally comprised of two layers: an outer, polycarbonate layer, and an inner layer made of eps foam. The hard, plastic outer layer protects the eps foam and allows the helmet to skid, rather than catching and whipping your neck around. Meanwhile, in the event of a hard impact, the eps foam will crush and/or break, absorbing some of the force of the impact. This force absorption is the main way that helmets protect your brain.

MIPS and Other Anti Rotational Features

A few years ago, a company named MIPS began making a bright yellow plastic liner, which quickly showed up inside of a few high-end mountain bike helmets. The idea behind MIPS was that traditional helmets did a great job of protecting heads and brains from direct, straight on impacts, but in reality, this is not the nature of most crashes. Most often, a helmet contacts the ground or another foreign object at an angle, creating a rotational force on the helmet, and by extension, your head. MIPS aims to solve this problem. It is attached to the helmet via small, plastic pegs. When a strong rotational force is exerted on the helmet, these pegs sheer away, allowing the helmet to rotate without whipping the head and neck with it.

 

Fast forward until today, and almost all high-end mountain bike helmets contain MIPS, or another technology aiming to solve the same problem.

 

For our money, anti-rotational safety tech is even more important in full face mountain bike helmets than it is in open face models. This is because the chin guards tend to come to something of a point. While this is great for aerodynamics, it creates a convenient place for the helmet to “grab” the ground, causing the helmet to rotate or not rotate independently of what the rest of your body is doing. Therefore, it is essential to remove that rotational stress from your head and neck.

What To Look For:

Fit

The most important thing to consider when choosing the best mountain bike helmet for your individual head is…the shape of your individual head! Every head is shaped a bit differently from every other, and this makes it hard to say which mountain bike helmets fit well, and which ones do not. In reality, some will fit certain people better, while others will fit other people better. Furthermore, fit is even more fickle when dealing with full face mountain bike helmets than with open face. This is because most open face helmets feature some sort of retention system to fine tune the fit. This is not typically found in full face helmets. Often, full face mountain bike helmets will come with two sets of pads, one slightly thicker than the other, but this is about the extent of the fine tuning that can be done with full face mountain bike helmets.

 

Trying helmets on is key. If you don’t have access to them locally, make sure that the store you order from has a solid return policy, so that you can exchange it if it doesn’t agree with your melon. Personally, I use BackCountry.com for this very reason. I will sometimes order two or three helmets, keep whichever fits best, and return the others using Back Country’s preprinted shipping labels. In fact, I recently went through a Fox Proframe, TLD Stage, and Two Bell Super DH mountain bike helmets trying to dial in just the right fit and feel for my own head.

How We Judged

If you have read any of our helmet review articles, you know that we value safety above all else. While it is nice if a helmet is lightweight and ultra breathable, we would just not wear a helmet if those were the primary objectives. That said, it is difficult to quantify just how safe a full face mountain bike helmet is. Unlike open face helmets where some cover vastly more of your head than others, full face helmets are very similar in this regard.

 

Another standard for judging a helmet’s protective capability is its safety certifications. However, these certifications are terribly out of date at best, and based on limited or faulty understandings of brain injuries, at worst.

 

For this review, we took into consideration the safety features of a helmet, its weight and ventilation, and, to a slightly lesser degree, its visor and any additional features that made the helmet more or less desirable.

Our Top Picks

Leatt DBX 4.0: Best Overall Lightweight Full Face Mountain Bike Helmet

Fox Proframe MIPS: Best Ventilated Full Face Mountain Bike Helmet

Troy Lee Designs Stage MIPS: Best in Class Weight and Visor

Our 1a pick for best full face mountain bike helmet is actually the Bell Super DH convertible mountain bike helmet in its full face configuration. As a convertible style helmet, it also adds the versatility of being two helmets in one. You can find the full review of the Bell Super DH here and our review of other convertible helmets here.

  • Safety Tech 100% 100%
  • Weight 80% 80%
  • Ventilation 90% 90%
  • Visor 60% 60%
  • Features 60% 60%

Pros

Leatt’s Turbine Tech

Great Ventilation

Good Value

Cons

Heaviest in Test

Weight: 850g

Vents: 22

  • Safety Tech 80% 80%
  • Weight 100% 100%
  • Ventilation 100% 100%
  • Visor 60% 60%
  • Features 80% 80%

Pros

Massive Vents

Ultra-Lightweight

Cons

Non-Adjustable Visor

Weight: 735g

Vents: 24

  • Safety Tech 80% 80%
  • Weight 100% 100%
  • Ventilation 100% 100%
  • Visor 60% 60%
  • Features 90% 90%

Pros

Ultra-Lightweight

Great Ventilation

Stylish

Cons

Expensive

Straps and cheek pads can irritate ears

Weight: 690g

Vents: 25

Leatt DBX 4.0

 

Best Overall Lightweight Full Face Mountain Bike Helmet

 

  • Safety Tech 100% 100%
  • Weight 80% 80%
  • Ventilation 90% 90%
  • Visor 60% 60%
  • Features 60% 60%

Weight: 850g

Vents: 22 vents

Adjustable Visor: No

Use: Enduro

Price: $229.99

What We Like: Leatt’s Turbine Tech, Great Ventilation, Good Value

What We Don’t: Heaviest in Test

The Leatt DBX 4.0 is an amazing lightweight full face mountain bike helmet, and our top pick for best full face mountain bike helmet. It might not be as ultralight as the TLD Stage, but it provides a level of protection and a solid feel that most helmets in this category just can’t match.

Combine this with Leatt’s turbine technology, and there is no lightweight full face helmet that we would trust more to protect our brains and pretty faces than the Leatt DBX 4.0. Finally, at only $229, it is actually a great value for a helmet in this category as well.

Fox Proframe MIPS

Best Ventilated Full Face Mountain Bike Helmet

  • Safety Tech 80% 80%
  • Weight 100% 100%
  • Ventilation 100% 100%
  • Visor 60% 60%
  • Features 80% 80%

Weight: 735g

Vents: 24 vents

Adjustable Visor: No

Use: Enduro

Price: $175-$250

What We Like: Massive Vents, Ultra-Lightweight

What We Don’t: Non-Adjustable Visor

There is just not as much to say about the Fox Proframe as there is about many of the helmets that we review. This is for two reasons. First, it does not utilize a ton of unique features that need to be explained. Instead, it relies on well known, tried and true technology to deliver a solid helmet. Second, it doesn’t include features that involve big tradeoffs with pros and cons that need explaining.

The Fox Proframe is a helmet designed to be lightweight, provide downhill certified protection, and unmatched ventilation. It does all three of those things and does them extremely well.

Finally, with a list price of $250, and sale prices as low as $175, the Fox Proframe is easily the best bang for your buck full face mountain bike helmet in our review, if you get a color that has been marked down.

Troy Lee Designs Stage MIPS

Lightest Full Face Mountain Bike Helmet

  • Safety Tech 80% 80%
  • Weight 100% 100%
  • Ventilation 100% 100%
  • Visor 60% 60%
  • Features 90% 90%

Weight: 690g

Vents: 25 vents

Adjustable Visor: No

Use: Enduro

Price: $295

What We Like: Ultra-Lightweight, Great Ventilation, Stylish

What We Don’t: Expensive, Straps and Cheek Pads Can Irritate Ears

The Troy Lee Designs Stage is the lightest helmet in our review, and one of the best ventilated. Both of these factors make it an extremely attractive choice. Impressively, it manages to deliver this low weight while also delivering the best visor of any helmet in the category.

However, comfort issues and a $300 price tag also set the Troy Lee Designs Stage apart from its competition for the wrong reasons.

We participate in affiliate programs to help us fund Gear Hacker. Some of the links in this website are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase a product using our link, we will earn a small commission. Don’t worry! This comes at no additional cost to you, and we will never base our reviews on whether or not we earn a commission off of a product. With that said, if you find our review helpful and decide to purchase an item we review, we would be very appreciative if you use our links to do so. It will help us bring you more awesome content in the future!