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The Mountain Helmet Guide

We’ve picked a few of our current favorites, plus outlined the factors you need to consider.

Categories

Cross Country

Need a helmet to keep you cool while you’re hammering watts? Whether you’re racing or not, you’ll want a cross country helmet.

Trail

If you’re after protection and style, look for a trail helmet, which offers greater coverage for additional protection, along with comfort-focused features.

Gravity

Enduro racers and bike park regulars will want a full face helmet for maximum protection for shuttle laps and enduro stages.

Crash Technology

Most helmets today are equipped with some type of rotation-based safety technology. Although some brands use their own proprietary rotation-based technologies, the gold standard is MIPS, or Multi-directional Impact Protection System. These systems incorporate a slip layer between the rider’s head and the helmet’s inner shell, which is independently verified to reduce the damaging effects of certain types of impacts. MIPS Spherical, which is offered on a handful of helmets works the same way, but moves the slip layer between an inner and outer shell, which aids in building lower profile helmets with better ventilation. While this type of technology isn’t required, the consensus is that it does make helmets safer.

Key Considerations

Price

Top tier helmets represent the very best brands have to offer. That means the newest technologies, unique technical features, premium materials, and carefully styled aesthetics with a price tag to match. There are excellent helmets at more approachable asking prices, but expect to forgo some of those premium features when considering value oriented options.

Ventilation

More vents means additional cooling, which has been the long-term trend in design for cross country and trail helmets. Many of the latest full face helmets incorporate enough ventilation to be comfortably worn pedaling, with full-on DH-rated protection for when the trail turns downward.

Eyewear Storage

Do you always ride with glasses, or do you regularly wear goggles? Your preferred eyewear could be a deciding factor, with many helmets designed for easy sunglasses storage, and some enduro-focused options designed to be comfortable with goggles as well.

Retention Systems

Most helmets have an adjustable retention system to give your head a secure, personalized fit in the helmet’s shell. Although we have no issue with push ratchets, we’ve found that dial adjusters hold their adjustment with less fuss.

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Giro Artex MIPS

This low profile, highly ventilated option is perfect for the racer wanting the lightness of a road helmet, along with the sun shielding function of a well designed visor.

  • MIPS with Integrated Roc Loc 5 Retention System
  • 25 Wind Tunnel Vents
  • Removable Visor Can Be Reattached in Seconds
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POC Octal X SPIN

If you’re after the lightness and ventilation of a road helmet along with dirt-worthy protection, this helmet borrows the best parts of a road helmet with a reinforced shell that makes it perfect for dirt and gravel.

  • SPIN Rotation Protection System
  • Dial Activated Retention Mechanism
  • Glasses Compatible ‘Eye Garage’
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Smith Trace MIPS

Although Smith bills it as a road helmet, this premium lid packs Koroyd material, making it well-suited to cross country racers wanting one of the sleekest and lightest helmets available.

  • MIPS Technology
  • Koroyd Impact Absorbing Layer
  • Air Evac Fights Fogging Glasses
  • Glasses Storage Along Upper Vent Line
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Giro Tyrant MIPS

Although it’s better suited to jibbing for the ‘gram than all day pedaling, the slim and low-profile Spherical MIPS construction makes this one of the most popular new helmets among aggressive riders who would rather leave their full face at home.

  • Full Cut Design Covers Ears for Protection & Style
  • Spherical MIPS Technology
  • Compatible with Goggles & Sunglasses
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Fox Speedframe Pro

The Varizorb multi-density liner—which absorbs impacts small or large— along with generous ventilation and goggle compatibility make this a top choice for the style conscious new school trail rider.

  • MIPS Technology
  • Fox 360 Degree Fit System
  • Compatible with Goggles
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POC Axion SPIN

This is one of our top picks for this year thanks to its clean lines and tasteful color options, as well as the deeper fit that cover the sides and back of the head for extra protection

  • SPIN Rotation Protection System
  • Dial Activated Retention System
  • Break Away Visor Detaches in a Crash for Safety
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Fox Proframe

Blending the ventilation needed for day-to-day trail riding with proven DH-worthy protection, the Proframe is still the class leader for full face helmets that won’t punish you for pedaling.

  • MIPS Technology
  • DH-Rated Chin Bar with Generous Ventilation
  • Magnet Powered Fidlock Snap Buckle
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Troy Lee Designs D4 Carbon MIPS

Picking up where the iconic D3 left off, the D4 is quickly becoming the most coveted lid among enduro racers and bike park regulars, and it’s also available in a more affordable Composite-shell version as well.

  • Lightweight Carbon Fiber Shell
  • MIPS Technology
  • EPP Collar Bone Protection
  • Titanium D Ring Fasteners
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Bell Super Air R MIPS

For enduro racers who need to be able to tackle big climbs in comfort, yet needing maximum protection for the descent, this helmet’s removable chin bar offers the best of both worlds and can be reattached in seconds.

  • Removable DH-Rated Chin Bar
  • MIPS Technology
  • Generous Ventilation
  • Goggle-Friendly On-The-Fly Adjustable Visor
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