If you’re in the market for a mountain bike helmet you might have crossed the debate about open faced and full faced helmets. A helmet is the most important piece of protective gear because it prevents brain damage and even death.
So which one is should you pick, an open or full faced mountain bike helmet? You need to wear what fits your type of riding and level of comfort. Most mountain bikers wear an open face (half-shell) helmet, it’s more comfortable compared to a full face MTB helmet, but offers less protection. Go for open faced if you’re more of a casual rider. Riders that like to push the limits are better off wearing a full faced helmet. They offer more protection which downhillers for example need.
So let’s dive a bit into the differences. Obviously full face mob helmets offers more protection but it’s not all about the safest helmet possible. You’re more likely to make mistakes when riding fatigue. Also faulty parts, sloppy maintenance or other riders can ruin your day.
When to get an Open-faced MTB Helmet
Get an open face MTB helmet when you’re a casual rider, take easy trails and nothing to gnarly. There’s less chance that you’ll end up planting your face on a rock on easy and medium trails. Sure it can happen, but the chances are slim and it’s up to you to make choose the type of helmet you’re going to wear.
Open faced helmets are a lot cooler because of all the venting holes and way more suitable in hot environments.
Open Face Helmet Pros
There are many pros to an open face helmet. They are lightweight, not very noticeable and have proper ventilation. They are perfect in warmer climates and offer a lot of protection. They are also easier to carry around and easier to take off.
Not all open face helmets are equal, some of the cheaper helmets feel uncomfortable and restraining, so make sure to get one that’s balanced in price, performance and comfort. I’ve found a couple that offer optimal protection, comfort and ventilation. Make sure to check them out.
Open Face Cons
The biggest problem is obviously that it doesn’t protect your face. Your chin and teeth are exposed and if you make a crash you might be unlucky and hit your chin. If you a casual rider you probably have some time to fall properly,. It’s not always that dramatic but it can happen nonetheless.
When to get a Full-faced MTB Helmet
Full faced are for hardcore mountain bikers who ride difficult trails, downhill and like to go fast. Don’t hesitate to get full-faced if you don’t consider yourself a hardcore rider or feel embarrassed wearing one.
Get a full-faced MTB helmet when you worry about hitting your face. If you already have dental problems or just worry about medical bills more than the average mountain biker, go for it. A 200USD helmet is better than a 5k dental bill.
If you’re into downhill, always get a full-faced helmet. Enduro rider should also consider getting a full-faced as there is lots of speed and downhill riding involved.
Full Face Pros
Obviously, the biggest benefit to a full-faced helmet is that protects your entire face. This doesn’t mean you’re immortal all of a sudden. If you hit your face before and worry about that, a full-faced helmet can take some of that away.
A full-faced helmet protects your brain and face and the hard shell has better pierce resistance. You’ll need your brain more than your face, but people still need to look at you. Also, your chin and teeth are fully protected.
Because your mouth is partially covered you won’t swallow nasty flies as easily. I think it’s one of the most disgusting things and when it happens I usually vomit and think it’s in my throat the rest of the day.
Full Face Cons
One of the biggest issues is that you need to be careful to get overconfident. Wearing protective gear like a helmet doesn’t mean your skill level suddenly went up. Always ride to your ability and pay attention. Losing focus is one of the biggest dangers and a slight mistake makes you eat shit.
Full face helmets are more expensive and not all full-face are equal. There are a few helmets that offer comfort, aren’t too bulky and still offer maximum protection.
Full face helmets get hot, especially in the summer. You need to maintain speed to keep the helmet ventilating and this can be dangerous. The wind needs to move through it in order to get the temperature down.
Full face helmets are bulky and heavy and you really need to get used to them if you come from an open-faced. Some don’t have issues with it and others can’t get used to it and go back to open face helmets.
Wear What Works for You
Some claim full-face helmets make you look like a tool. Not sure if protecting your brain and face makes you a tool because people have responsibilities. I think the older you get the more you realize you still want to be able to go to work the next day and or support your family or pay your mortgage for that matter.
I also wonder if these people will visit you in the hospital. Let them call you a tool, it sure beats facial reconstruction surgery. Why should anyone tell what you wear because of some kind of twisted athletic morality? People will find something to gatekeep anyway.
You Only Need a Helmet Once
I’m sure there are people that ride without helmets who will never hit their heads. It only takes one time to completely change your life and pay the price for being irresponsible. No matter how skilled you are, accidents can happen. If you’re lucky enough your helmet is never tested but if something happens, you’ll be lucky you needed it.
Keep in mind that once you hit your head you need to get a new helmet, even if you can’t see anything on the outside. Microfractures will weaken the material and your helmet won’t be able to deal with the next impact. This is also why you shouldn’t throw your helmet around!
It’s generally advised to replace a helmet after 5 years even if it seems as good as new. The materials used in producing a helmet slowly lose their effectiveness and deteriorate. It’s up to you, of course. Helmets can be very expensive but if you treat it right, you can prolong its useful life.
Always wear a helmet when you ride your mountain bike but be aware that waring protective gear doesn’t make you invulnerable. A false sense of security can make you overconfident and sloppy. Don’t think you can do everything if you’re fully covered in protective gear, always ride to your ability.
If you’re looking for maximum protection at go for a full-faced helmet. It might be a bit uncomfortable but can save your life.
Get an open face helmet when you’re more of a laid back type of rider. Just make sure the helmet also protects the back of your head. Replace your helmet every 5 years and don’t throw it around.