If your mountain biking gear budget has been stretched thin and you’re tempted to skimp on the helmet, don’t. Skip that extra bit of carbon instead. It’s true, mountain bike helmet prices are creeping up, but we find little reason to complain. For hurtling over rocks and dodging trees, spending a little extra on a good lid is a sound investment. Fit and retention systems continue to improve, and safety advances like the Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) aim to reduce the chances of a serious injury. For a breakdown of these important considerations, check out our comparison table and buying advice. Below are our top mountain bike helmets of 2017.
 

1. Giro Chronicle MIPS ($100)

Giro Chronicle MIPS bike helmetCategory: All-mountain/XC
Weight: 13.1 oz.
Vents: 14
What we like: Safety, comfort, and performance at a great price.
What we don’t: Small step down in liner quality.

Giro’s all-new Chronicle nabs our top spot for 2017 by proving you don’t have to spend a ton to get a safe, comfortable, and lightweight mountain biking helmet. Drawing heavily from the Montaro MIPS released last year, the Chronicle nearly matches that helmet’s performance but at a significant $50 discount. You get fantastic coverage for all-mountain riding, a MIPS liner, and plenty of padding and ventilation for long days over variable terrain. More, the helmet has features typically found on more expensive models: the visor is large enough to shield the sun but also adjusts to accommodate goggles, and the fit system is secure and easy to use even with gloves on (don’t let its small diameter fool you). Overall, the Chronicle delivers what the majority of riders need at a good price.

The Chronicle’s value is what makes it so appealing, but there are a few small design compromises. For one, the padding on the interior feels a bit plasticky compared to a premium option like the Troy Lee Designs A2 below, and in theory is a little less absorbent (in use, we’ve found it stacks up well to the A2 and others). You also get smaller vents and fewer of them than some of the high-end models on this list. But wearing the Chronicle back-to-back with helmets that cost nearly twice as much doesn’t reveal any significant differences. The impressive all-around performance at a discount is what makes the Chronicle our favorite mountain biking helmet.
See the Giro Chronicle MIPS  See the Women's Giro Cartelle MIPS

 

2. Troy Lee Designs A2 ($169)

Troy Lee Designs A2 bike helmetCategory: All-mountain/XC
Weight: 13.3 oz.
Vents: 13
What we like: Premium build and a very comfortable fit.
What we don’t: Pricey; Limited visor adjustability.

A second brand new helmet to land high on our list is the Troy Lee Designs A2. Building on the successful and popular A1, the A2 retains that helmet’s high levels of comfort with a few notable upgrades. To start, ventilation is improved with wide channels at the front and expansive openings at the back. Also, the A2’s safety suite has been modernized, making it a great match for aggressive bikers. The helmet uses an innovative design with 2 types of foam: EPS, which is found in most bike helmets for absorbing impacts at high speed, and tough EPP for low speed crashes. Along with a MIPS liner and breakaway hardware on the visor, the A2 is built for techy climbs and rowdy descents.

In terms of fit, we found that the A2 has a deep, wide, and very adjustable interior that was a favorite among our group of testers. Comfort is near the top of the pack with a minimalist but smart design with thick padding around the forehead. One issue we ran into was that the lack of padding along the top of the helmet resulted in sweat collecting along the MIPS liner and occasionally running down the front of our heads. This was only a problem on extended climbs in the heat, however, and likely won’t affect most riders. And the visor doesn’t slide high enough to fit a goggle, an unfortunate downside at this steep price. But for serious trail and enduro riders, it may be worth the extra cash.
See the Troy Lee Designs A2

 

3. Bell Super 3R ($230)

Bell Super 3R bike helmetCategory: Downhill/all-mountain
Weight: 27.7 oz.
Vents: 33
What we like: Fantastic 2-in-1 full-face and half shell design.
What we don’t: Heavy.

Bringing together the full-face design of a downhill helmet with a lightweight and ventilated shape that’s trail-ready is the truly innovative Bell Super 3R MIPS. It’s undoubtedly a pricey piece of kit, and protection still falls short of a traditional full-face helmet, but we commend Bell for the creative and functional design. The 2-in-1 style is great for enduro riders that need the extra protection for races but also want a standard helmet for training rides.

One downside is that even sans chin bar the Super is on the heavier side—something even a good fit can’t completely hide. And ventilation with the chin bar attached is negatively affected (without the chin bar, however, it does a good job keeping you cool). If you like the Super 3R design but don't need the full-face protection, check out the standard (and less expensive) Bell Super 3.
See the Bell Super 3R  See the Women's Bell Joy Ride Super 3R

 

4. Giro Montaro MIPS ($150)

Giro Montaro bike helmetCategory: All-mountain/XC
Weight: 13 oz.
Vents: 16
What we like: Plenty of coverage, MIPS tech, and well ventilated.
What we don’t: Not as good a value as the Chronicle above.

Among Giro’s extensive mountain bike offerings, the Montaro sits in between the $100 XC and trail riding Chronicle MIPS and the $250 downhill and enduro Switchblade MIPS. A top pick of ours since its release last year, the Montaro has a high quality feel in your hands—and most importantly, on your head. Everything from the super absorbent plush padding and secure Roc Loc retention system is high-end. More, the low-profile design has excellent coverage along the back of the head and top of the neck for aggressive riding, and the protection is complimented by an integrated action camera mount and well-designed ventilation system. Air is routed in through a series of large vents at the front and out the back like exhaust, and even the retention system is optimized to encourage airflow.

As with the Troy Lee Designs A2 above, price is what pushes the Montaro down our list. Even at a slightly more affordable $150, the Giro Chronicle above proves that you don’t have to spend a ton to get a safe, comfortable, and secure helmet. That said, this pricier Giro lid does offer a boost in overall comfort with premium padding and larger vents for riders that spend a lot of time in the saddle.
See the Giro Montaro MIPS  See the Women's Giro Montara MIPS

 

5. Troy Lee Designs A1 ($139)

Troy Lee Designs A1 bike helmetCategory: All-mountain/XC
Weight: 12.6 oz.
Vents: 16
What we like: Now comes with MIPS; very comfortable.
What we don’t: Ventilation falls short of the new A2.

While the A2 above has overtaken the A1 on our list, the original Troy Lee Designs is still one of the best mountain biking helmets on the market. The biggest reason this helmet has been widely lauded is its excellent fit. It’s the kind of helmet that has that just right feel the moment you slip it on, and the large opening and secure closure system is accommodating for most head shapes. It’s less like an appendage and more an extension of you, which is a real boon for long days on the trail. More, the feature set of the A1, particularly the very soft padding, is on par with far more expensive helmet offerings.

The reason there is a Troy Lee Designs A2, however, is that there was some room for improvement with the A1. The primary complaint was its lack of ventilation, and this is still its Achilles heel. And the addition of a MIPS liner for 2017 (this was not available in prior years) only increases the issues with pushing hot air out. But the A1 saves you $30 compared with the new model with no compromise in comfort.
See the Troy Lee Designs A1

 

6. Kali Protectives Maya ($100)

Kali Protectives Maya bike helmetCategory: All-mountain/XC
Weight: 12.7 oz.
Vents: 12
What we like: Great protection at a budget-friendly price.
What we don’t: Annoying two-piece fit system.

Kali doesn’t get the publicity of brands like Giro, Troy Lee Designs, or Smith, but they’ve put together an impressive line-up of mountain bike helmets. Our favorite is their mid-range Maya, which is a comfy lid at a competitive $100 price. The Maya has excellent coverage along the sides and back of the head, and its advanced composite foam construction is designed to absorb both low and high-speed impacts. We would prefer more vents for rides in warm weather, but that’s a fairly common issue at this price. For those that ride in cool areas like the forests of the Pacific Northwest or keep your helmet on your pack on extended climbs, the Maya is a great match.

Where the Kali Maya falls short is its fit system. Breaking from the single twist dial that is nearly synonymous with the premium helmet market—and for a reason—the Maya requires two hands to pinch and adjust at the back. The adjusters do their job and are reasonably good at holding everything in place, but it’s annoying to have to stop and think through the process just to fine-tune the fit. Kali’s focus on protection makes it a good value, even without a MIPS liner, and it’s just the finicky closure system that’s keeping it at #6.
See the Kali Protectives Maya

 

7. Giro Hex ($80)

Giro Hex bike helmet (2017)Category: XC
Weight: 10.6 oz.
Vents: 21
What we like: Superlight feel, great price.
What we don’t: Dated design = less coverage.

As evidence of how quickly mountain biking helmets have progressed, the Hex not long ago was a class leader in the all-mountain category but now it’s fallen mid-pack. Why the downgrade? It’s an old design, plain and simple. The Hex is from a time (all of 5 years ago) when mountain biking helmets weren’t that differentiated from road helmets. Unless you were planning on heading off to Whistler or racing downhill, lightweight XC helmets were the go-to choice, and the Hex’s large vents, budget-friendly price, and decent coverage was all you would need. But as modern full-suspension bikes have made it easier for riders to tackle seriously technical terrain, the helmet market is shifting to react. And while we still enjoy our Hex for longer XC rides when weight and ventilation win out over absolute coverage (it remains a top choice for these uses), if you’ll be tackling rough trails, we encourage you to look elsewhere.
See the Giro Hex

 

8. Smith Rover MIPS ($150)

Smith Rover bike helmetCategory: XC
Weight: 13.1 oz.
Vents: 18
What we like: Smith quality and a lightweight feel.
What we don’t: Fit isn’t as universal as other helmets on this list; non-adjustable visor.

Smith’s unique Forefront helmet created a stir in the market with its distinctive look, but the price of over $200 limited its appeal. For 2017, Smith has released the more reasonable Rover helmet with an eye towards the core XC and trail riding market. We wore the Rover alongside the Chronicle and A2 above and found that it offers competitive levels of comfort and easy adjustability with the large dial, but less protection at the back of your head. More, the helmet feels very light and its 13.1-ounce weight (medium size) is great for full-day rides. The exhaust-like ventilation design at the back of the helmet is pretty wild looking, and we’re not sure it’s completely necessary, but it was good enough for our springtime adventures when temperatures were in the low 70s.

What are the downsides of the Smith Rover? Based on our experience, the fit is less universally friendly than the Giro and Troy Lee Designs helmets above. The helmet didn’t have the same wide and deep fit and sat a little higher on our heads as a result (of course, this can be a positive for certain head shapes). In addition, the visor isn’t adjustable for times when you don’t need the protection, which is a notable omission at a popular price point for all-mountain riders. If the Rover were priced closer to $100, we’d consider it a great XC option, but instead it ends up with a mid-pack finish.
See the Smith Rover MIPS

 

9. POC Trabec Race ($200)

POC Trabec Race bike helmet (2017)Category: All-mountain
Weight: 13.4 oz.
Vents: 16
What we like: Tough construction, smooth looks. 
What we don’t: Unorthodox adjustment system falls short, not a great value.

Still a young brand, POC was born in Sweden and adheres to its untiring reverence for smart and simple design. It has gained lots of traction in North America in the past few years and their flagship mountain bike helmet, the Trabec, is a great example of why. Padding is used sparingly, but effectively, and combined with 16 large vents makes the Trabec a great choice for biking in the hottest weather. POC is known for their tough builds, and a grid of Aramid fibers—the same synthetic material used in body armor—surely ups its ability to take a hard knock.

In an interesting move, the retention system ditches the standard click wheel for buttons, and, frankly, we’d have liked it if they had stuck to the conventional route. An effective wheel like the Roc Loc from Giro is far easier to use and simpler to lock into place. The Trabec Race is also a disappointment in terms of value. You have to spend $200 to get the MIPS version, and even forgetting about MIPS at $180, the more affordable Montaro is the better buy.
See the POC Trabec Race

 

10. Smith Forefront ($250)

Smith Forefront bike helmetCategory: All-mountain/XC
Weight: 11 oz.
Vents: 21
What we like: Very lightweight, comfortable fit. 
What we don’t: Ventilation is surprisingly subpar.

A power player in the snowsports industry for over a decade, Smith made the push into cycling a few years ago with the high-end, mountain bike-specific Forefront. What Smith brought to the table was a new foam technology called Aerocore, which combines layers of EPS foam and Koroyd—a unique material that looks like a bunch of plastic straws glued together. They claim it’s 30 percent better at absorbing low-speed impacts and it makes the Forefront among the lightest mountain bike-specific helmet on the market—as well as on this list. Unfortunately, all of the small holes around the head do little for ventilation and the Forefront is among the warmest options. If you ride consistently in cool weather, this shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but even in the Pacific Northwest it’s important to have good ventilation for long climbs. The rest of the design is commendable, albeit very pricey. Even the non-MIPS model will cost you $220.
See the Smith Forefront

 

11. Fox Metah ($150)

Fox Metah bike helmetCategory: All-mountain/XC
Weight: 14.1 oz.
Vents: 10
What we like: Good coverage and comfy fit.
What we don’t: Polarizing looks; low on features for the price.

Fox is a strong player in the bike suspension market, but the company has a surprisingly small line-up of helmet offerings. For over a decade, their Flux helmet was their big seller, but we expect that to change with the recently released Metah. This helmet packs modern features like a substantial visor, extended protection along the back of the head, and massive vent openings. More, the Metah has a nice fit with a wide and accommodating shell, a simple ratcheting adjustment system, and soft padding along the inside.

The primary reason that the Metah drops towards the bottom of our list is the strong competition at this price point. Helmets running $150 typically are lighter, include a MIPS liner, and an adjustable visor for holding goggles. More, the styling is a bit polarizing compared with the clean look of the helmets above and it looks pretty big on your head. The Metah still is a nice helmet and a step up from the old Flux, but we think there are better options in the crowded all-mountain field.
See the Fox Metah

 

12. Bern Morrison ($100)

Bern Morrison bike helmetCategory: XC
Weight: 14 oz.
Vents: 16
What we like: Great styling and value at $100. 
What we don’t: Heavy; only average ventilation.

Bern’s multi-season helmets have been enjoyed on dirt trails for years, but the Morrison was the first mountain bike-specific offering from the iconic brand. As you’d expect, ventilation is much ampler than their models that double as ski/snowboard lids. However, compared with the rest of the market, it’s not a standout. The Bern Morrison utilizes their proprietary construction, which is renowned for both durability and for keeping things low profile so you don’t look like a mushroom. Fit can be adjusted with a simple dial and the liner is removable and swappable with a warmer one should you want to take your biking deep into the shoulder seasons. It is a heavy helmet and feels like it, but it still works well as a daily piece. For anything from weekday commuting to hitting the jump lines at your local park, the Morrison is a solid choice.
See the Bern Morrison

 

13. Fox Flux ($100)     

Fox Flux bike helmet (2017)Category: XC/all-mountain
Weight: 14 oz.
Vents: 17
What we like: Vents well, good fit.  
What we don’t: Silly styling, lower quality retention system.

Fox's Flux helmet has been a popular choice for all-mountain riders for years. It was an early adopter of the more generous back of the head and temple coverage, and also vents extremely well. The odd spoiler-like attachment on the top of the lid is a little flashy for our tastes (and doesn’t have much of a function, as best we can tell). More, the overall quality, including a subpar retention system, does push it down our list, but be on the lookout for deals online. At $70 to $80, we like the Flux a whole lot more. With a $100 budget for a helmet, however, we prefer the Bern Morrison or Giro Chronicle MIPS above.
See the Fox Flux  See the Women's Fox Flux

 

14. Bell Traverse ($45)

Bell Traverse bike helmetCategory: XC
Weight: 11 oz.
Vents: 22
What we like: Great casual budget option.
What we don’t: Bulky and ungainly for serious riding.

For casual riding or if you’re new to mountain biking, the Bell Traverse is an excellent budget option. It has all the basics you need for the occasional spin at the local park: an adjustable fit, visor, absorbent padding, and reasonable head coverage. Ventilation isn’t half-bad either with large cutouts in the in-mold shell. But it’s clear there wasn’t a whole lot of R&D that went into the design. The fit is the most mushroom-like on this list—a consequence of the one-size-fits-all design—and it can feel ungainly on your head despite an 11-ounce weight. That said, you can almost purchase 2 Traverses for the price of next cheapest helmet on this list. More, Bell added a Traverse with MIPS last year, and at $65 it’s one of the most affordable ways to get that safety feature.
See the Bell Traverse

 

Mountain Bike Helmet Comparison Table

Helmet Price Category Weight Vents MIPS Visor
Giro Chronicle MIPS $100 All-mountain/XC 13.1 oz. 14 Yes Adjustable
Troy Lee Designs A2 $169 All-mountain/XC 13.3 oz. 13 Yes Adjustable
Bell Super 3R $230 Downhill/all-mountain 27.7 oz. 33 Yes Adjustable
Giro Montaro MIPS $150 All-mountain/XC 13 oz. 16 Yes Adjustable
Troy Lee Designs A1 $139 All-mountain/XC 12.6 oz. 16 Yes Adjustable
Kali Protectives Maya $100 All-mountain/XC 12.7 oz. 12 No Adjustable
Giro Hex $80 XC 10.6 oz. 21 No Adjustable
Smith Rover MIPS $150 XC 13.1 oz. 18 Yes Fixed
POC Trabec Race $200 All-mountain 13.4 oz. 16 Yes Adjustable
Smith Forefront $250 All-mountain/XC 11 oz. 21 Yes Adjustable
Fox Metah $150 All-mountain/XC 14.1 oz. 10 No Fixed
Bern Morrison $100 XC 14 oz. 16 No Fixed
Fox Flux $100 XC/all-mountain 14 oz. 17 No Fixed
Bell Traverse $45 XC 11 oz. 25 No Fixed

 

Mountain Bike Helmet Buying Advice

Helmet Categories: XC, All-Mountain, and Downhill

Cross-Country (XC)
One of the most significant shifts in mountain bike helmet design is the amount of head coverage real estate. Only a few years ago, reducing weight was the ultimate goal for most riders (and the big focus of manufacturers), so thin and open XC designs were the rage. Still today, when you’re covering a lot of ground and aren’t tackling anything too sketchy, airflow and a feathery feel wins out over absolute protection. That’s when a helmet like the Giro Hex is an excellent choice. It’s light, airy, affordable, and still provides enough protection for less extreme riders.
Giro Chronicle (descending)

All-Mountain
Most all-mountain riders need more protection: with enough coverage around the temples, sides, and back of the head but with plenty of openings to move all that hot air. The Montaro MIPS is a great example of reaching nearly XC helmet levels of lightness but with extra protection. This category is quickly growing in popularity, and most of the top designs on the market land here, including the Troy Lee Designs A2, POC Trabec, and Giro Chronicle.

Downhill
If you’ll be seeing a lot of aggressive downhill time, we highly recommend upping the coverage. At the extreme end are full-face helmets, which are great for enduro, downhill, and racing but turn into an absolute sauna if you have to do pretty much any pedaling. The Bell Super 3R with its removable chin guard is a nice hybrid option, but still falls short in terms of ventilation with most other trail riding helmets.
Mountain bike helmet line-up

Helmet Weight

A lightweight helmet that you hardly notice on a long ride is a beautiful thing, but you do pay more for the barely-there feeling. It’s unfair to simply compare helmets by weight—old XC styles will win out just about every time—but when they offer similar protection, it’s a useful spec. And in general, the more you pay the lighter the helmet will be. For example, the 14-ounce Bern Morrison is noticeably heavier than the 11-ounce Giro Hex. The core all-mountain market is full of options in the 13-ounce range, which is a great match for most riders. More, how heavy the helmet actually feels on your head can be another thing altogether. In the case of the very light Giro Hex, both the listed weight and feel are the same, but the similarly lightweight Bell Traverse can feel ungainly and far heavier.
 

Ventilation

Nearly all forms of mountain biking require good ventilation. Even at lift-assisted parks you can work up a good sweat on a pump track or pedaling on the flats (not to mention holding on for dear life on the downhill). Ventilation isn’t as simple as looking at the number of vents—although it’s a good place to start. A quality design will work as a system, moving air from the front to back. And this system should include the retention system and padding inside the helmet, both of which have the potential to interrupt the flow. Helmets like the very open Smith Rover are top performers, and among the all-mountain helmets, the Montaro does remarkably well for having less surface area dedicated to venting.
Troy Lee Designs A2 (wild flowers)

Helmet Fit

Fit is the single most important factor in a helmet purchase. When standing on your pedals and grinding up a hill, you don’t want the helmet to be constrictive and give you a headache at the end of the day. You also don’t want it to be so loose that it’s flopping around when trail roots and rocks make for a rough ride. Fortunately, helmets and their respective fit systems have made great gains. A single turn of the adjuster at the back of most helmets progressively cinches the fit around the head. Giro’s current Roc Loc is a standout in terms of ease of use, with a small but glove-friendly dial, as well as security. The goal is to click it in place and leave it alone until you wrap up your ride.
Giro Roc Loc adjustment system

Another factor is shell size: upgraded models come in a variety of sizes to better match the overall shape of the helmet to a person’s head. Base styles will be one-size-fits-all, at least theoretically, which typically means the fit is good enough for casual use but not great for those who need serious performance. Those with larger heads are okay with these one-size helmets because the shell has to be large to fit everyone, and the Bell Traverse is a good case-in-point. But if you’ll be on your bike a lot or plan to push your limits, we recommend spending the $60+ that it costs to get a helmet that comes in multiple sizes.
 

Women’s-Specific Helmets

Most of the helmets we have listed above are considered unisex and are intended for both men and women. There are, however, some women’s-specific designs that are differentiated by smaller diameter sizes, unique colorways, and sometimes a different name. Importantly, the safety technology, pricing, and basic shape of the shell do not change. Fit is what matters most in getting a helmet, so start by measuring your head circumference and then make your decision between unisex or women’s-specific after. When available, we have included a link to the women’s version of the helmet in the product specifications.
 

Padding and Comfort

Getting a helmet with a proper fit is most important, but the padding along the interior plays a big role in overall comfort. And we’ve found the quality of the cushioning correlates closely with price. Cheap helmets like the Bell Traverse lack the plush feel and can lead to occasional skin irritation over time. On the other hand, a soft interior like Troy Lee Designs’ A1 has fantastic cushioning that isolates the fit adjustment system, allowing you to forget about the helmet altogether while riding. Another benefit of premium padding is sweat absorption—more expensive pads do a better job taking in sweat while on the trail. Finally, one feature shared across price points is that you can remove your liner for occasional cleaning. While some brands claim that you can machine wash them, we recommend gently hand washing to reduce the chance of breakdown of the material.
 

In-Mold Helmet Construction

In-mold technology is found on nearly all mountain biking helmets. It combines a thin shell (often polycarbonate) with an EPS foam liner right from the start, and they’re molded together. What you get is an integrated piece that reduces weight, allows for cutouts for ventilation, and lets the helmet work as a single unit to absorb impacts. Some manufacturers, including POC, further beef up the in-mold helmet by inserting a grid of Armamid fibers into the core. The benefit of the synthetic material is extra durability and protection in a crash. There are a couple of completely new construction techniques, including Smith’s Aerocore that adds a layer of honeycomb-like Koroyd under the shell, but as of now nothing can compare with in-mold construction’s great combination of impact absorption and venting capabilities.
Smith Rover (Koroyd material)

Helmet Safety and MIPS Technology

You’ll find MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) listed on many new helmet models like the Giro Chronicle, along with a price hike of about $20 to $30. What are you getting for the extra cash? Extra noggin protection for angled hits is the claim. MIPS technology works by creating a low friction layer between the helmet’s shell and soft liner. We’ve removed our MIPS liners and it’s impressively simple: there’s one thin plastic layer that connects to the helmet with a few small tabs. When hit at an angle, the MIPS layer in theory lets the shell move just enough to help relieve the rotational forces on the head and brain. 

Current safety standards just tell us whether or not a helmet passes their tests (every helmet on our list does), but don’t go beyond that. And the topic of MIPS is hotly contested among industry experts. How often MIPS technology is a safety benefit is difficult to quantify and we haven’t found any solid evidence-based research, but indications point to it being an extra safety measure to protect your head (how much that’s worth is up to you). For more information on MIPS, we’ve found this article by the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute to be an unbiased and helpful resource.
MIPS liner

Mountain Bike Helmet Features

Visor
Mountain bike helmets are differentiated from road biking models by their greater head coverage and the addition of a visor. Regarding the latter, a large visor is great for keeping the sun out of your eyes and offers extra protection from rain and even low hanging branches. There are differences in the shapes—Troy Lee Designs’ A2 visor is wide and relatively short while Giro’s Chronicle and Smith’s Rover are narrow and long—but large moto-inspired bills that stick out nearly as far as a baseball cap are becoming the norm.

The second feature with a visor is adjustability. The benefit of this style of visor is that you can push it out of the way if you want completely unobstructed views of the trail or need to store your goggles on the helmet when not in use. This is a common feature on all-mountain helmets, but less so on XC-focused designs (including the Giro Hex and Smith Rover). It’s important to note that not all helmets with an adjustable visor have the same amount of adjustability—Troy Lee Designs’ A2 slides up and down but doesn’t leave enough space for goggles. Whether or not this is an important feature is a personal decision, but the differences are worth considering when choosing your next helmet.
Mountain bike helmet (adjustable visor)

Goggle Compatibility
Standard glasses are the most common type of eyewear for mountain bikers, but the increased coverage and protection you get with goggles are popular with enduro and downhill racers. To start, you don’t necessarily need a bunch of features to ride with goggles—if they fit under the bill of the helmet and the shape of the shell does a good job keeping the straps in place, you can wear them just fine. Smith’s Rover is a great example of a helmet that isn’t technically optimized for goggles but still works well.

There are a couple helmet features, however, that can make it easier to accommodate goggles. To start, a highly adjustable visor makes it simple to place your goggles at forehead height when not in use (such as on a long climb). More, some all-mountain and downhill helmets include a retainer strap or system at the rear of the helmet to keep the goggle straps in place. Note: it’s best not to assume an all-mountain helmet will have these features as some popular models like the Troy Lee Designs A2 doesn’t have a very adjustable visor. One helmet that puts it all together is Giro’s Montaro MIPS: the visor can be quickly moved out of the way and the vents at the back of the helmet have rubber housing to keep the straps in place.

Action Camera Mounts
Mountain biking is closely linked to the rise in the action camera market, and a helmet mount offers a fun, first-person perspective. Most action cameras like the various GoPro models and Garmin’s VIRB include a sticky mount that can attach directly onto helmets with a smooth space at the front. Heavily ventilated helmets may need a little modification to work, but GoPro, Garmin, Sony, and others sell strap systems that slot through the vent openings to hold everything in place.

Taking this a step further, some high-end helmets have a built-in action camera mount. This takes some of the guesswork out of getting the ideal camera angle and saves you from having to use one of your sticky mounts. The systems on Bell’s Super 3R and Giro’s Montaro MIPS are stable and designed to break away in a crash. We certainly wouldn’t make our helmet choice just based on this feature—keep in mind that you can attach an action cam to your handlebars or use a chest mount—but they are an unobtrusive and smart solution for those willing to pay a little extra.
 

When to Replace Your Helmet

The decision to replace an old helmet isn’t always a clear one—and there are still debates to this day about when’s the perfect time. To start, helmets do have a shelf life, so it’s never a good idea to grab your old lid that’s been collecting dust for the past decade without at least taking a good look at it. It’s a good idea to start with the following: can you see any cracks in the foam? Are there any signs of deterioration on the outer shell or inner lining? If anything looks questionable, we recommend erring on the side of caution and replacing it.

For the nitty-gritty answer, there have been a number of tests done to pin down the ideal lifespan. And while there isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, most manufacturers stick to 3 to 8 years. If you ride a lot, there’s a good chance you’ll be replacing it towards the earlier end. For the helmet that’s been sitting for a while, considering the changes in fit and safety technology, buying a new helmet will surely be an upgrade even if your old one still is technically functional.

The rule for replacing a helmet after a crash is far simpler. If you crashed and the impact is significant, the foam inside will be compromised, which diminishes its performance for future crashes. So replace it. In all seriousness, it’s not worth making excuses to avoid replacing a helmet. If it’s old or has been knocked around, get a new one.
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Outdoor Gear

Outdoor Gear Reviews

Welcome to our outdoor gear buyer’s guides and reviews here at Switchback Travel. We take a great deal of pride in researching, testing, and presenting the best gear on the market across a wide range of activities like hiking, camping, skiing...
Mountain Bikes Under 1k

Best Mountain Bikes Under $1,000

Not everyone needs a high-end mountain bike that breaks the bank. If you are new to the sport or don’t plan to ride that often, it’s a good idea to buy a relatively inexpensive bike and upgrade...
Mountain Bikes 2k

Best Mountain Bikes Under $2,000

Mountain biking can be a very expensive sport: there are hundreds of excellent bikes available for $4,000 to $6,000 and those aren’t even at the highest end of the price spectrum...
Rain Jackets (2017)

Best Rain Jackets of 2017

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we know a thing or two about rain. From months of daily drizzle to heavy downpour in the mountains, we’re acutely aware of the benefits of a quality waterproof and breathable jacket. The rain jackets for men and women...
 Trail-Running Shoes

Best Trail-Running Shoes of 2017

For many, running on varied and challenging trails is a welcome break from the monotony of pounding pavement (or even worse, the belt of a treadmill). Better yet, trail running is...
Packrafting

An Intro to Packrafting with Brett Davis

Packrafting originated in Alaska and has its roots there. Guys like Roman Dial were doing adventure races and exploring the backwoods, and there is tons of water up there. They were coming across streams...
Hiking

Hiking and Backpacking Gear Reviews

Of all the outdoor activities we cover here at Switchback Travel, hiking and backpacking are two of the dearest to our hearts. They are some of the easiest ways to get outdoors for people...
Hiking Boots

Best Hiking Boots of 2017

Hiking boots are critical to your comfort and performance on the trail, but this no longer means a stiff and burly model that will weigh you down. The trend is toward lighter materials that still offer decent support, and waterproof boots...
Rock Climbing Shoes 2016

Best Rock Climbing Shoes of 2017

We love rock climbing shoes, and we bet you do too. The good news for climbers is that there are more quality products and styles to choose from than ever before. Impressive new models...