Enduro bikes these days are allowing riders to go faster than ever before on terrain that would once have been strictly reserved for downhill bikes, and due to the pedal-friendly nature of enduro bikes, these riding locations can be found in previously out of reach locations, too. As a result, if something unfortunate does go wrong, crashes can be fatal, so making sure you are properly protected by one of the best enduro helmets is totally essential. Without a doubt, a helmet is the most important piece of the protection puzzle.
Regardless of your chosen mountain bike discipline, we all know a helmet is an essential piece of kit that you absolutely cannot do without. But what makes an enduro helmet different from the rest? As a discipline, enduro is a gravity-focused mountain bike genre that entails pedaling your bike to the trail summit before enthusiastically ripping your way down, often on very technical, DH graded terrain. In an enduro race, the descents will be against the clock too meaning maximum effort will be put in to try and achieve the best stage times possible. On the whole, enduro is technical and physical.
This means choosing the best mountain bike helmet for these conditions means looking good ventilation during maximum effort outputs, extremely high levels of protection for riding fast on technical terrain, and well, look stylish while doing so.
Scroll down to view Bike Perfect’s roundup of the helmets for enduro riding, and to see what design features you need to be looking for in your next lid, skip to the bottom for a guide on buying the best enduro helmets.
Best enduro helmets
Pioneered by the 50to01 crew the Tyrant has quickly grown a cult-like following, and it’s a movement we’re fully on board with.
The Giro Tyrant combines progressive but casual looks with a raft of the latest and greatest safety technologies. It’s a combination that has led it to be our favorite open-face helmet for all hardcore riding disciplines where a full face isn’t always required, enduro being one of them.
Beneath the old-school BMX-inspired guise is MIPS’ most up to date spherical technology which with its scientifically proven safety benefits is enough to instill an extra level of confidence on its own, but pair this with a helmet that contains so much shell coverage and we’re yet to find another open face lid that makes us feel this safe.
What probably surprised us most when riding in the Tyrant is how cool it remains during long hot days in the saddle, despite its low number of vents and extended protection profile. When riding you can physically feel the cool air channel in through the front of the helmet before dispersing out of the rear.
Most impressive of all is how this entire, close to flawless package comes in at a relatively affordable price.
Helmets that are convertible between open face and full-face are nothing new, but the Arbitrator from Scandinavian brand Sweet Protection feels like it brings a whole new meaning to the dual-use statement.
When in full-face mode the Arbitrator far exceeds full DH specification and closes with a double D-lock fastener, yet release the clip at the rear of the helmet and the full carbon fiber chin guard detaches, a normal buckle closure untucks, leaving you with a traditional looking tech-packed trail helmet. Whilst we wouldn’t necessarily carry the chin guard around on the majority of our rides the pure versatility of a true best of both worlds convertible helmet makes a ton of sense if you’re wanting one helmet that will allow you to hit the bike park over the weekend before blasting the local trail ride on Monday.
Sweet prioritizes protection over everything else and, as a result, the Arbitrator features Sweet’s perfected multi-density EPS liner, an industry-leading MIPS liner and an outer shell that has been specially tuned to deal with a huge variety of impacts.
Ventilation hasn’t been missed in the mass levels of protection either and the Arbitrator features Sweet protection’s STACC venting which allows for cool air to be transferred over the temples without any compromise to the overall protection.
It’s by no means cheap but the entire Arbitrator package is a ton cheaper than buying both a full-face and open-face helmet separately too, especially considering the world-class protection features.
The Dropframe is Fox’s answer to the new breed of extra protection open-face helmets targeted at aggressive riders. Now with the addition of MIPS the overall protection levels have been raised even further. The extended coverage is a confidence booster, but the exposed ear design does offer slightly less protection than the Giro Tyrant, it does mean hearing is totally unaffected though.
The overall fit of the Dropframe sits low and as a result, the protection levels do feel a good chunk higher than most trail helmets and the eight large intake vents and seven exhaust vents do a good job of temperature management. We’ve big fans of the magnetic closure strap too, fasting your helmet has never been easier.
The lack of an adjustment dial does make selecting the correct size critical though, but due to the Dropframe being available in most good bike shops trying for size is relatively easy. The visor is also fixed and whilst it didn’t cause us any issues on the trail it’s worth considering if your particular about peak placement or always perch your goggles when climbing.
The design doesn’t make it the lightest either, but we think the protection levels more than make up for the slight weight penalty.
If you’re an enduro rider that’s maybe not hitting it between the race tape the Session helmet from Smith brings a near-perfect balance of protection and shell coverage for big climbs and gnarly descents.
Smith breaks the mold and blends traditional EPS with a unique looking and super high impact absorbing Koroyd construction. Koroyd is a series of honeycomb sections of thermally welded straw-like tubes that offer protection from direct and angulated impacts.
At 374g it’s light too so if you are an all-day epic sort of rider the helmet should be comfortable for the full ride. If you’re a Smith goggles or glasses user there as also specific ventilation channels to help maintain fog-free vision with these optics.
The Kortal is pricey but POC's newest enduro helmet comes packed with features that mean it's a top performer when you're riding the trail and when the trail is riding you. Almost every feature on the helmet has been tailored specifically for enduro riding from the extended coverage, impressively lightweight to the ventilation and peak design which takes goggle straps and storage into consideration.
However, in the unfortunate event of a crash the Kortal's features will come into play. The latest MIPS Integra system protects against rotational forces to the brain as does the peak which is designed to break away from the helmet. The built-in RECCO Reflector helps emergency services locate you and the twICEme Medical ID stores medical and emergency contact information which can be accessed immediately using NFC.
Despite being a fully fixed, full-face helmet the Stage will keep you cool, regardless of whether you're sweating it out on the climbs or pushing the limits on the descents. This is thanks to the 11 large high flow intake vents and 14 open exhaust ports constantly keeping things fresh making you almost forget you’re wearing a full face altogether. Not totally though, as the additional protection over an open face lid encourages you to open the throttle that fraction more, especially in a race scenario.
It’s a combination of EPP and EPS foams that keep you safe should the worst happen and these two layers team together and disperse energy regardless of the impact speed. The latest MIPS liner is also integrated to make sure every protection base is covered.
Due to its light weight, the Stage is a dream to wear and, in usual Troy Lee Designs fashion, there’s a raft of colors and artistic designs to choose from. It’s by no means cheap but with a flawless fit, a technology-packed design and a color scheme to suit nearly any style the Stage leaves you wanting no more.
Bell is certainly no stranger to the convertible helmet party, but the Super DH brings protection to a whole new level with its ASTM 1952 safety standard. This certification means it’s ready to tackle everything from elite-level DH racing with the chin guard attached to big backcountry epics with it removed.
What makes the Super DH so well suited to enduro is how easy the transformation between the two guises is and by following a simple process the chin piece can be removed and installed within a few reassuring clicks. The installation can take a little bit of persistence to perfect but once mastered it can easily be clipped into place right before you drop in. When in open face mode we find the chin guard relatively easy to carry too, and due to its ‘U-shape’ design it can be hooked onto hip pack waistband with little to no interference when pedaling.
Internally the Super DH sees the ball and socket like MIPS spherical rotational impact protection system which sits inside Bell’s specially developed fusion in-mold polycarbonate shell – a process that bonds the outer shell onto the EPS foam liner to create a sturdier helmet.
The price is high, but it’s reflected in the overall build quality and bespoke feeling comfort levels. The pads Bell have used cushion beautifully against your head and does a sterling job of wicking sweat which when paired with the hyper-efficient venting system allows you to thrash from dawn to dusk in pure comfort.
Best enduro helmets: what to look for?
The best enduro helmets use an EPS liner which is often made up of multiple foam densities in order to tune different sections of the helmet for the most common impacts. Due to how well EPS foam absorbs impacts it’s the best material for protecting your precious head should the worst happen.
Above the EPS foam is the helmet's outer shell which is the first point of contact in a collision, this means it plays an integral part in both preventing damage to the EPS foam and dealing with the initial impact. The shell can also be made up of separate sections which again means different areas of the helmet can be tailored to better suit different types of impacts.
Inside most helmets we see an adjustable cage and a series of pads that have the job of providing a secure and comfortable fit.
Arguably, the fit is the most important element to get right when choosing a new lid and having a helmet that fits correctly is essential in ensuring it’ll effectively protect your head in the event of a crash. Even a helmet packing all of the latest and safest helmet technology, if poorly fitting, will hugely reduce its chances of providing the required levels of protection. Whilst most brands offer a well thought out size guide you still can’t beat going into a proper bike shop and trying on a selection of different helmets to see which brand and model fits your skull shape best. The best-fitting helmet for you is also likely to offer the best all-day comfort too – the best helmets make you forget you’re wearing them; something that’s important during a full days racing/riding.
Hitting the ventilation sweet spot isn’t easy, especially in helmets that are designed to be worn for both long slow-speed draggy climbs and testing DH-graded descents. Adding tons of vents is a good way of creating good airflow and exhausting hot air, but whilst this may be good for road and XC riding where the crashing consequences aren’t quite as high, it isn’t the safest option for enduro where the terrain is gnarlier and the impacts are potentially more powerful. Enduro helmets need to maximize shell coverage so vents need to be scientifically placed to still carry cool air through whilst still efficiently disbursing hot air, all without compromising on protection levels.
4. Rotational Impact Protection
Featured on nearly all mid-high range mountain bike helmets now is some form of rotational impact protection system. MIPS is the most commonly used but other similar systems are available all with the aim of transferring rotation impacts away from the brain and significantly reducing the chances of brain tissue injuries, such as concussion. Helmets are so widely available with these systems now we don’t see why you’d opt for a lid without one.
5. Helmet replacement
Helmets are good for one crash and one crash only. Even if you cannot see any damage, if your helmet has experienced some form of impact it’s time to purchase a replacement – it’s simply not worth the risk. Some brands even offer a crash replacement scheme that providing you have the original receipt that allows you to get a new helmet at a reduced rate, something that’s worth looking into if you’re accident-prone.
6. Open Face vs Full Face
With the regular high speeds and general downhill focus, this is often a highly debated decision among enduro riders. Ultimately, unless certain event rules dictate otherwise there is no right or wrong answer and the decision really comes down to personal preference. Full-face helmets, even the latest generation of lightweight options, are still inevitably heavier than most of the best half-shell helmets, run hotter and limit visibility at the trade-off of extra protection. Open-face helmets aimed at enduro tend to have more coverage than most trail lids, vent well and provide great trail visibility but do leave you feeling more vulnerable when the gnar levels ramp. Luckily over the past few seasons, we have seen a new breed of convertible helmets come to the market which essentially offers the best of both worlds – unclip and remove the chain guard for climbing or long stage transitions and simply re-install when the trail begins to point down. These are a great solution but they’re not without their problems. If you’re also using it as a downhill helmet you need to make sure the chin-bar attachment meets the necessary certifications too, as some options are only rated for trail riding.
Visors are really useful, and the best ones are adjustable to keep them out of your line of sight when riding. Visors that flip right up also create a space to stow your goggles when you’re not using them, too.