There are two types of mountain bike helmets that are common; open face and full-faced. This page is about open-faced helmets. These types of helmets are versatile and similar to road bike helmets with a few key differences. They are made with an inner EPS liner and either molded or glued to the outer shell. The outer shell consists of hard plastic for good reasons.
I strongly advise you to never throw your helmet around. Impacts can cause microfractures rendering your helmet useless. One other important thing to keep in mind is to replace your helmet every five years.
Anyway, let’s go into the details and educate ourselves about what makes a good open face MTB helmet.
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How to pick the right open face MTB helmet
There are a couple of key factors that determine what’s the right type of helmet for you.
I owned a cheap MTB helmet once and it was just a nightmare. It felt claustrophobic, hot and the straps annoyed me and even hurt at some point. A good helmet is absolutely vital and if there’s one thing you shouldn’t cheap out on it’s keeping your brain functioning. I ditched it after a few rides and decided to buy a decent helmet (no regrets).
Features to look for:
- It should fit but not too tight.
- It shouldn’t be able to move around, at least very little.
- You want something lightweight
- Proper ventilation
So here are the main ingredients. As for fitting, MTB helmets usually come in different sizes but are limited to small, medium, and large. If you come across a brand that only offers one-size-fits-all, avoid them.
As for movement, there should be a good balance between proper fitting and tightness. A bit of movement is fine but it should stay in place. This is something you have to experience yourself by fitting.
As aforementioned most MTB helmets are lightweight, even the cheaper ones. This mainly has to do with the materials used and not really anything to worry about when it comes to open face MTB helmets. It’s a different story when it comes to full-face helmets, they can be rather heavy.
Helmets have come a long way and premium brands all offer helmets made of the lightest material. Typically a MTB helmet is made off EPS or Expanded Polystyrene which is attached to the outer plastic shell.
They are a bit more expensive, but comfort and brain function is something I personally don’t want to skimp on. They also can resist more impact so you get your money’s worth. Cheaper helmets glue, Velcro or even tape the inner foam to the outer shell, hard pass.
How well a helmet fits is obviously the most important factor. It needs to fit tight (but not too tight) and needs to have a secure fit. You don’t want your helmet to come off when you go headfirst over your handlebar. A helmet should stay above your eyebrows for about an inch.
If you use glasses to make sure there’s enough room. A bit of a wiggle room is fine and should allow your glasses to fit. Not something to worry about, most helmets and glasses go well together.
If you experience anything that annoys you or slightly hurts, that particular helmet isn’t right for you. Image what happens when you go for a ride and there’s a helmet constantly reminding you that it’s there. A great fit is a helmet that you hardly notice but stays in place.
Measure your head in order to determine if you have to get a small, medium or large helmet. Get a measuring tape and measure around your head. Make sure to measure slightly above your eyebrows.
Best value MTB helmet
About half the price of the Specialized Ambush ANGi, the Giro Chronicle MIPS (link to Amazon) is a great helmet that won’t let you down. This helmet offers a great fit making it very comfortable to wear and still offers maximum protection.
It looks a bit more basic but I haven’t seen anyone mountain biking on the catwalk, I still think it looks great. I love the huge visor which can also be adjusted into three different positions. This is mainly designed for people who wear goggles to make extra room.
Ventilation holds up even on longer rides and won’t bring any discomfort. If you’re looking for an affordable helmet that performs well on the trail, this is the one you should get.
Favorite MTB helmet
The Specialized Ambush ANGi is the best helmet you can get. It’s super comfy and has the best safety system around. The crash system Specialized designed is called ANGi, exclusive to the brand.
This helmet is super comfortable, ventilates like no other and is super lightweight. It’s probably the helmet that offers the best protection to keep you safe. It’s hard for me to find anything that’s bad about except for its price, it’s the most expensive one.
Mountain biking isn’t a cheap sport but I personally don’t cheap out on safety gear. This helmet features the lightest integrated MIPS system (Multi-directional Impact Protection System).