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Everyone who rides a mountain bike knows that they should wear a helmet. But which one? How much should you spend? Do you need a full face mountain bike helmet? What in the heck is MIPS?

In this mountain bike helmet review, we hope to clear up some of the confusion, explain the most important things to look for, give you a solid breakdown of some of the best open face Mountain bike helmets on the market, and help you choose the best mountain bike helmet for you!

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.

All of that said, the bulk of the research done on all of these technologies has been done by their parent companies, so it is impossible to definitively say if one is better than the others, or if any of them work at all, for that matter. However, there is no research to suggest that they are harmful in any way, and we are of the mind that, when it comes to your brain, any protection is good protection!

Depending on the type of riding you do, a full face mountain bike helmet might warrant consideration. There was a time when only hardcore, downhill riding, Red Bull Rampaging, backflipping rippers wore full-face helmets. They were bulky, heavy, and hot.

However, that is changing. Helmets like the Fox Proframe, Troy Lee Designs Stage, and other trail focused full face mountain bike helmets are ultra lightweight and extremely well ventilated. Furthermore, helmets like the Leatt DBX 3.0 Enduro and Bell Super DH are full face helmets with removable chin bars. These helmets provide amazing versatility, and really provide you with two helmets for the price of one, although they do tend to be on the more expensive end of the spectrum.

Most trail/all mountain riders, and virtually all XC riders still opt for half shell, open face design mountain bike helmets, but recent innovation has made full face and convertible helmets viable options for safety-minded mountain bikers, of all riding styles.

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. 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.

Weight, Ventilation, and Coverage

Weight, ventilation, and coverage is the holy trinity when it comes to mountain bike helmets. Of course, we would all like to have the protection of a full face, downhill helmet, with the light weight and great ventilation of an XC mountain bike helmet. But, the reality is that you tend to give up at least one of these things with any helmet.

As someone who has taken the brunt of a hard crash to the face, I lean heavily toward the “protection” end of the equation when choosing a helmet. Consider the type of riding that you do. If you often find yourself riding at high speeds in rocky or uneven terrain, or doing jumps, you should probably opt for an open face mountain bike helmet with maximum coverage, if not a full face helmet or convertible.

How We Judged

When it comes to helmets, its only real job is to protect your head. Of course, it is great if a helmet is lightweight, well ventilated, looks amazing, and doesn’t break the bank. But, if the key objectives were to stay cool, look good, and save money, then we would skip out on mountain bike helmets altogether, and feel the wind blow joyously through our hair. BUT, since this is not the case, we base our rating on the safety it provides, first and foremost, then on a combination of weight, ventilation, and extra features, with cost as an outside factor. Finally, the best helmets are the best helmets regardless of cost, but we try to give credit for helmets that punch above their price tag.

Best Open Face Mountain Bike Helmet

Top Picks

POC Tectal Race Spin: Best All Around Open Face Helmet

6D ATB-1T EVO: Best Coverage and Safety Tech Open Face Helmet

Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS: Tie for Best MIPS Mountain Bike Helmet

Smith Forefront 2 MIPS: Tie for Best MIPS Open Face Mountain Bike Helmet

Kali Interceptor: Most Innovative Safety Tech

Leatt DBX 3.0 All Mountain: We might not have a specific title for the Leatt DBX 3.0 All Mountain, but it is right at home with the rest of our top picks in just about every category.

Kali Protectives Maya 2.0: Best Bang For Your Buck

Giro Chronicle: Best Bang For Your Buck MIPS Open Face Mountain Bike Helmet

POC Tectal Race Spin

  • Coverage 90% 90%
  • Safety Tech 90% 90%
  • Weight 80% 80%
  • Ventilation 100% 100%
  • Features 90% 90%

Pros

Innovative

Well Ventilated

Great Coverage

Cons

Price Tag

Category: All-Mountain/XC

Weight: 354g

Vents: 15

6D ATB-1T EVO

  • Coverage 100% 100%
  • Safety Tech 100% 100%
  • Weight 50% 50%
  • Ventilation 70% 70%
  • Features 90% 90%

Pros

Innovative Safety Technology

Best in Class Coverage

Cons

Hot and Heavy

Category: All-Mountain

Weight: 484g

Vents: 15

Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS

  • Coverage 90% 90%
  • Safety Tech 80% 80%
  • Weight 80% 80%
  • Ventilation 90% 90%
  • Features 70% 70%

Pros

Well Ventilated

Great Coverage

Great Looks.

Cons

Limited Visor Adjustability

Category: All-Mountain/XC

Weight: 377g

Vents: 13

Smith Forefront 2 MIPS

  • Coverage 90% 90%
  • Safety Tech 90% 90%
  • Weight 100% 100%
  • Ventilation 60% 60%
  • Features 100% 100%

Pros

Very Lightweight

Comfortable Fit

Innovative Safety Technology

Cons

Sub-par Ventilation

Expensive

Category: All-Mountain/XC

Weight: 340g

Vents: 20

Kali Interceptor

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

Pros

Insane Safety Tech

Great Ventilation

Cons

Subpar Visor

Slightly Less Coverage than Other Top Picks

Only Available in Two Sizes

Category: All-Mountain/XC

Weight: 388g

Vents: 18

Leatt DBX 3.0 All Mountain

  • Coverage 80% 80%
  • Safety Tech 100% 100%
  • Weight 80% 80%
  • Ventilation 80% 80%
  • Features 100% 100%

Pros

Epic Safety Innovation

Lightweight

Well Ventilated

Cons

Not quite as much Coverage as our other Top Picks

Category: All-Mountain

Weight: 360g

Vents: 18

Kali Protectives Maya 2.0

  • Coverage 80% 80%
  • Safety Tech 90% 90%
  • Weight 90% 90%
  • Ventilation 70% 70%
  • Features 40% 40%

Pros

Premium Helmet Protection with a budget Helmet Price Tag

Cons

Two-handed Retention System

Category: All-Mountain

Weight: 360g

Vents: 12

Giro Chronicle

  • Coverage 70% 70%
  • Safety Tech 70% 70%
  • Weight 80% 80%
  • Ventilation 60% 60%
  • Features 60% 60%

Pros

All of the Features of a Top of the Line Helmet at half the Price.

Cons

Warmer than average, not the greatest helmet liner.

Category: All-Mountain/XC

Weight: 371g

Vents: 14

Bell Sixer MIPS

  • Coverage 90% 90%
  • Safety Tech 80% 80%
  • Weight 60% 60%
  • Ventilation 80% 80%
  • Features 70% 70%

Pros

The tried and true features of the Super 3 in an updated package

Cons

Average Weight and Pricing

Category: All-Mountain

Weight: 411g

Vents: 26

Smith Session MIPS

  • Coverage 70% 70%
  • Safety Tech 80% 80%
  • Weight 70% 70%
  • Ventilation 90% 90%
  • Features 60% 60%

Pros

Great Ventilation

Cons

Price to Performance

Chin Strap

Category:  All-Mountain/XC

Weight: 377g

Vents: 15 vents

Giro Montaro MIPS

  • Coverage 60% 60%
  • Safety Tech 80% 80%
  • Weight 70% 70%
  • Ventilation 90% 90%
  • Features 90% 90%

Pros

Decent Coverage

MIPS Tech

Well-Ventilated

Cons

Not as good of a value as the Giro Chronicle, and not on par with our Top Picks

Category: All-Mountain/XC

Weight: 369g

Vents: 16

POC Tectal Race Spin

Best All Around Open Face Helmet

  • Coverage 90% 90%
  • Safety Tech 90% 90%
  • Weight 80% 80%
  • Ventilation 100% 100%
  • Features 90% 90%

Category: All-Mountain/XC

Weight: 354g

Vents: 15

Price: $200.00

What We Like: Innovative, great coverage, well ventilated

What We Don’t: Price Tag

Founded in 2005, POC is a young brand, but they have quickly joined the cutting edge of innovation in mountain bike helmets and beyond. Their POC Tectal Race Spin mountain bike helmet is certainly on that cutting edge, and it is our pick for best open face mountain bike helmet of 2020.

6D ATB-1T EVO

Best Coverage and Safety Tech Open Face Helmet

  • Coverage 100% 100%
  • Safety Tech 100% 100%
  • Weight 50% 50%
  • Ventilation 70% 70%
  • Features 90% 90%

Category: All-Mountain

Weight: 484g

Vents: 15

Price: $179.00

What We Like: Innovative safety technology, Best in Class Coverage

What We Don’t: Hot and Heavy

The top helmets in our review were almost too close to call. That is particularly true for the 6D Helmets ATB-1T EVO. The ATB-1T EVO provides unmatched coverage, unmatched protection, and a fairly competitive price point. But as with all things, there must be some compromises somewhere.

Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS

Tie for Best MIPS Mountain Bike Helmet

  • Coverage 90% 90%
  • Safety Tech 80% 80%
  • Weight 80% 80%
  • Ventilation 90% 90%
  • Features 70% 70%

Category: All-Mountain/XC

Weight: 377g

Vents: 13

Price:$149.00 – $175.00

What We Like: Well ventilated, great coverage, and great looks.

What We Don’t: Limited visor adjustability.

The Bottom Line on the Troy Lee Designs A2 Mips mountain bike helmet is that it is an amazing all around helmet. There might not be one thing that blows you away about the A2, but it does virtually everything very well while having no glaring weaknesses, which can only be said for a handful of helmets on our list. In fact, the Troy Lee Designs A2 ties the Smith Forefront 2 for best open face MIPS equipped mountain bike helmet in our review.

Finally, with prices between $105 and $179 (depending on color and size), it can be the cheapest of our favorite open face mountain bike helmets if you catch it on sale.

Smith Forefront 2 MIPS

Tie for Best MIPS Open Face Mountain Bike Helmet

  • Coverage 90% 90%
  • Safety Tech 90% 90%
  • Weight 100% 100%
  • Ventilation 60% 60%
  • Features 100% 100%

Category: All-Mountain/XC

Weight: 340g

Vents: 20

Price: $230.00

What We Like: Very lightweight, comfortable fit, innovative safety technology

What We Don’t: Sub-par ventilation, Expensive

The Smith Forefront 2 MIPS is an amazing helmet. It is lightweight, provides great coverage, and has loads of safety features. This lands it in a tie for our choice as the best open face, MIPS mountain bike helmet.

That said, it is warmer than some helmets, though I would not go far as to call it “hot.” And at $230, it joins the POC Tectal Race Spin as one of the two most expensive open face helmets on our list.

Still, when all is said and done, the head is one place not to cheap out. If you want the best MIPS mountain bike helmet on the market, then you can’t go wrong with the Smith Forefront 2 MIPS.

Kali Interceptor

Most Innovative Safety Tech

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

Category: All-Mountain/XC

Weight: 388g

Vents: 18

Price: $180.00

What We Like: Insane safety tech, great ventilation

What We Don’t: Subpar visor, slightly less coverage than other top picks, only available in two sizes

The Kali interceptor is an amazing helmet. Its strengths lie in its innovation, particularly in regards to safety technology. As with anything as innovative as the Kali interceptor, there are bound to be some growing pains, and the Interceptor is not free from them.

Nevertheless, at $180, the Interceptor is right in the middle of our favorite high-end helmets, from a price standpoint, and it is loaded with the most next-gen safety features of any helmet that we reviewed. If safety tech and ventilation is your cup of tea, and one of the two sizes fits your head, then the Kali Interceptor is a hard helmet to pass up.

Leatt DBX 3.0 All Mountain

  • Coverage 80% 80%
  • Safety Tech 100% 100%
  • Weight 80% 80%
  • Ventilation 80% 80%
  • Features 100% 100%

Category: All-Mountain

Weight: 360g

Vents: 18

Price: $169.00

What We Like: Epic safety innovation, lightweight, and well ventilated

What We Don’t: Not quite as much coverage as our other top picks

We might not have a specific title for the Leatt DBX 3.0 All Mountain, but it is right at home with the rest of our top picks in just about every category.

 

I know that we are not making it terribly easy to choose, but like the helmets above, the Leatt DBX 3.0 All Mountain helmet is a great mountain bike helmet. While we wish it provided just a tiny bit more temple coverage, it packs some of the most impressive new safety technology of any mountain bike helmet on the market and does so without adding much weight or sacrificing ventilation. Furthermore, at around $170, it joins the 6D ATB-T EVO on the “inexpensive” end of our top picks for best mountain bike helmet of 2020. The Leatt DBX 3.0 All Mountain could easily have been our top overall pick, but we held back a little because it offered slightly less coverage than our other top choices.

Kali Protectives Maya 2.0

Best Bang For Your Buck

  • Coverage 80% 80%
  • Safety Tech 90% 90%
  • Weight 90% 90%
  • Ventilation 70% 70%
  • Features 40% 40%

Category: All-Mountain

Weight: 360g

Vents: 12

Price: $100.00

What We Like: Premium helmet protection with a budget helmet price tag

What We Don’t: Two-handed retention system

The Kali Maya 2.0 rocks. Seriously. We firmly believe that a helmet’s first and only purpose is to protect your head. And at ~$100 the Kali Maya proves that this can be done for less than half of what some of the premium helmets on the market cost.

Granted, there are a few places where the Kali Maya might feel inferior to its higher-end competitors, but safety is not one of them. Sure, we wish that the Kali Maya was a bit cooler. And, sure, we are not big fans of the two-handed retention system adjustment. However, at the end of the day, if you are buying a helmet and you only have a hundred bucks, there is no helmet that we would recommend more highly than the Kali Maya 2.0.

Giro Chronicle

Best Bang For Your Buck MIPS Open Face Mountain Bike Helmet

  • Coverage 70% 70%
  • Safety Tech 70% 70%
  • Weight 80% 80%
  • Ventilation 60% 60%
  • Features 60% 60%

Category: All-Mountain/XC

Weight: 371g

Vents: 14

Price: $100.00

What We Like: All of the features of a top of the line helmet at half the price.

What We Don’t: Warmer than average, not the greatest helmet liner.

At $100, the Giro Chronicle MIPS, and Women’s specific Giro Cartelle MIPS, is a great helmet at a bargain price. I know that some might not consider anything for $100 a bargain, but those people will only suffer getting knocked out once before they change their mind. Furthermore, select colors and sizes can frequently be found on sale for as little as little as $59.99!

The Chronicle MIPS not only provides virtually all of the safety features found in helmets at $50 and $100 higher price points, it does so while remaining just as light as its more expensive counterparts, if warmer than some.

If you are looking for the best bargain MIPS mountain bike helmet on the market, then you could not go wrong with the Giro Chronicle MIPS.

The Best of the Rest

Bell Sixer MIPS

  • Coverage 90% 90%
  • Safety Tech 80% 80%
  • Weight 60% 60%
  • Ventilation 80% 80%
  • Features 70% 70%

Category: All-Mountain

Weight: 411g

Vents: 26

Price: $150.00

What We Like: The tried and true features of the Super 3 in an updated package

What We Don’t: Average weight and pricing

There are no bad helmets on the list, and the Bell Sixer MIPS is certainly no exception to this rule. It suffers from the fact that, at its $150 price point, some of our top picks can be had for roughly the same price, and we just see no reason not to spend the extra few dollars on them.

That said, if and when Bell’s MIPS spherical makes its way to the Bell SIXER MIPS, then that would change everything, and the Sixer might find itself challenging for our top pick. We will keep our ear to the ground for information about this, and will update this review, should Bell give the Sixer a MIPS lift.

Smith Session MIPS

  • Coverage 70% 70%
  • Safety Tech 80% 80%
  • Weight 70% 70%
  • Ventilation 90% 90%
  • Features 60% 60%

Category: All-Mountain/XC

Weight: 377g

Vents: 15

Price: $160.00

What We Like: Great Ventilation

What We Don’t: Price to performance, chin strap

At ~$160 the Smith Session is a solid alternative for those who love what Smith is doing from both a safety and eyewear integration standpoint, but who can’t see themselves shelling out over $200 for the Smith Forefront 2. And while we are more than willing to sweat a little for the added protection of the Forefront 2’s full Koroyd liner, the cooler, minimal application of Koroyd in the Smith Session might be right up some hot-blooded riders’ ally.

Giro Montaro MIPS

  • Coverage 60% 60%
  • Safety Tech 80% 80%
  • Weight 70% 70%
  • Ventilation 90% 90%
  • Features 90% 90%

Category: All-Mountain/XC

Weight: 369g

Vents: 16

Price: $150.00

What We Like: Decent coverage, MIPS tech, well-ventilated

What We Don’t: Not as good of a value as the Giro Chronicle, and not on par with our top picks

The Giro Montaro is a solid all-around open face mountain bike helmet. It doesn’t fall terribly short at anything, but it doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, either. We would still take any of our top picks over it, and we don’t feel that it offers enough improvement over its cheaper sibling, the Giro Chronicle MIPS, to warrant the extra money that it costs at ~$150. However, it is still a great helmet, and is quite worthy of consideration, particularly if you should catch it on a good sale.

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!