Best full-face MTB helmets 2023 – ultimate head protection for serious gravity riding

Benoit Coulanges at Fort William 2022
(Image credit: Paul Brett)

Full-face helmets are a mandatory piece of equipment for riding or racing downhill. A full-face is the best mountain bike helmet for protection from inevitable crashes. The increased coverage of the chin bar and improvements in structural integrity as well as manufacturers introducing their specific patented safety technology, means you have plenty of choices for shielding your head from trail debris and during accidents. 

Full-face helmets today are also far more comfortable, better ventilated, and generally easier to live with than the more simple full-face helmets of the past.

All this means that full face mountain bike helmets are no longer exclusively used for downhill mountain biking and are now being chosen as the best enduro helmets for gnarly stages and also e-MTBing where riders can clock up huge amounts of elevation.

Gee Atherton's World Champions Red Bull full face helmet

Full face helmets are no longer exclusively used for downhill mountain biking (Image credit: Paul Brett)

This has stimulated the market for a modern breed of convertible helmets. These hybrid full-face helmets have a removable chin bar and can be as comfortable as any half-shell helmet for climbing and general riding yet still meet the safety certifications required for gravity-based racing when the chin bar is fitted.

Whether you're looking for a one-piece helmet or one with a removable chin bar continue scrolling for our picks for the best full-face helmets. If you're not sure what to look for, then there's a list of FAQs at the bottom to help you out.

Meet the testers

Why you can trust BikePerfect Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

A man washing himself in a muddy puddle
Guy Kesteven

Guy's been testing and writing about mountain bikes since the 90's, he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear.

Graham Cottingham riding at Dyfi bike park
Graham Cottingham

Based in Edinburgh, Graham has some of the best mountain biking and gravel riding in the UK right on his doorstep. With almost 20 years of riding experience, he has been involved in downhill and enduro racing so has plenty of full-face experience.

Best full-face MTB helmets

Specialized Gambit full-face helmet

The Gambit is light but super tough (Image credit: Future)
The best full face helmet – incredibly light, but has full DH certification

Specifications

Weight: 615g (medium. actual)
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large
Rotational safety: MIPS SL

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Full ASTM DH safety certification
+
Excellent ventilation
+
3D-adjustable cradle 
+
Compatible with the Specialized ANGi crash sensor

Reasons to avoid

-
High price
-
Sparse ‘XC’ interior might scare some

The Specialized's Gambit is a super lightweight full face helmet that delivers full ASTM downhill protection. It incredibly still vents, breathes, and weighs almost the same as an open-face helmet. That means it's our go to helmet that we when the terrain is starting to feel a bit tasty and feel the need for extra protection than wearing a regular trail helmet. 

Despite the low weight and maxed out ventilation, Specialized has still managed to achieve a full DH safety certification and it is further kitted out with a MIPS SL liner for protection against rotational forces. The interior doesn't look luxurious with its minimal padding, they are well-positioned though. There is a cradle to assure a secure fit with plenty adjustment for different head shapes, which is simply adjusted via a dial at the rear of the helmet. 

The peak is fixed in quite an upright position which is either a positive for goggle storage and style points or a negative if you're looking for protection from the weather.

The helmet is also compatible with the Specialized ANGi crash sensor ($50 / £45 extra), for peace of mind when riding solo.

Read more on why the Specialized Gambit full-face helmet is one of our favorite full face helmets in our full review.

POC Otocon full-face helmet

Otocon the pinnacle of POC's ‘Whole Helmet Concept’ (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
Full-face protection from the innovative Swedish safety brand

Specifications

Weight: 799g (size M-L)
Sizes: XS-S, M-L, XL-XXL
Rotational safety: Dual-material liner with multi-impact EPP

Reasons to buy

+
The pinnacle of POC's ‘Whole Helmet Concept’.
+
Dual-material liner with multi-impact EPP
+
Breakaway peak
+
Easy breathing and hearing
+
Removable cheek pads

Reasons to avoid

-
Cradle can fold over when pulling the helmet on

The Otocon is available in two options, the feature-packed Otocon Race Mips or a cheaper, but lighter, standard Otocon. Both helmets feature the same EPP/EPS dual-density shell, ventilation, POC's Race Lock head retention, break-away peak spec they represent the pinnacle of their ‘Whole Helmet Concept’.

The Whole Helmet Concept is an amalgamation of digital and structural safety features that, POC claims, will protect riders during and after an impact.

POC is a brand that is constantly innovating when it comes to mountain bike helmet safety and claims that the Otocon is designed with a variety of cutting-edge safety features while balancing light weight and optimal ventilation. The Ibis Cycles Enduro Factory racing team, who will be using the helmets at the Enduro World Series this season and also provided input during the development of the helmets.

The Otocon Race MIPS uses two different liner materials that are optimised for function and protection – the upper zone is constructed from EPS foam and the lower zone is made from EPP. The brand says the transition between EPP and EPS adds strength and stability.

Aramid bridges (thin finger-like portions of very strong, woven material) are moulded to the helmet liner, again to improve structural stability and increase penetration protection.

POC has included extra smart features in addition to structural safety. The Otocon has an NFC Medical ID built in. By recording a rider's medical history and emergency contact information in the helmet and making it accessible to other riders, medical personnel, and first responders, according to POC, this promotes user safety and protection.

For more details on how the POC Otocon performed at Dyfi Bike Park, check out our hands-on review.

Dainese Linea 01 MIPS

Dainese have one of lightest full-face helmets on the market (Image credit: Dainese)
One of the lightest full-face helmets on the market

Specifications

Weight: 570g (medium, actual)
Sizes: XS-S, M-L, L-XL
Rotational safety: MIPS evolve

Reasons to buy

+
570g for DH-level protection
+
Comfortable and well ventilated
+
Multiple pad thicknesses to tune the perfect fit
+
Extra protection through nylon exoskeleton hidden inside

Reasons to avoid

-
Some areas of exposed EPS
-
The light weight will scare off some who perceive less protection whatever the certification
-
You can hear the liner creaking against EPS when riding

If you're looking for the lightest full-face helmet they don't come much lighter than the Dainese Linea 01 which according to our scales, weighs in at a feathery 570g for a medium helmet. Dainese has achieved this by using an embedded nylon exoskeleton to improve penetration resistance and the overall strength of the EPS layer. The result is less material, which means less weight.

Another way to reduce the amount of material used is to add ventilation and even when climbing in hot weather we found the Linea 01 fed fresh air onto the head and cleared any heat build-up very effectively. Combine that with the low weight and it's easy to forget that you are wearing a full-face helmet.

The visor is definitely more decorative than protective and while it is DH rated we would probably prefer the extra reassurance of a heavier lid. However, if your looking for a lightweight full-face for enduro or e-MTB then the Dainese Linea 01 is going to fit the bill.

For more details, read our review of the Dainese Linea 01.

Leatt MTB 4.0 Enduro V21

The Leatt 4.0 is fully ASTM DH certified helmet (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
ASTM DH certified helmet with removable chin bar

Specifications

Weight: 810g
Sizes: S, M, L
Rotational safety: 360 Turbine Technology

Reasons to buy

+
DH certified Lightweight Polymer Compound 
+
Dri-Lex moisture-wicking liner
+
Solid chin guard lock
+
Fidlock magnetic buckle
+
Adjustable visor with breakaway function

Reasons to avoid

-
Standard full face is cheaper
-
Slightly awkward chin guard release

South African brand Leatt’s 4.0 Enduro features a removable chin guard that still meets ASTM DH certification standards. The 4.0 helmet includes a load of smart features including its own brain-saving 360º Turbine inserts that reduce both rotation acceleration and concussion-level impact energy to your head and brain.

The demanding nature of modern downhill and enduro tracks has meant the convertible helmet market has become hotly contested, Leatt's offering though is enough to make it one of the best enduro helmets available.

Renowned for its ventilation and comfort, it’s pretty light also coming in at 810g and is becoming one of the go-to helmets for enduro riders.

Leatt claim their helmet is packed with unique features unlike any other helmet on the market. Including a removable mouthpiece in the chin bar to increase ventilation, it can also remain installed to protect you when riding in poor weather conditions.

A universal sunglasses dock lets you safely dock your sunglasses under the visor when not in use and the adjustable visor opens up enough to place your goggles underneath, so you don’t have to constantly remove them.

You can read how this helmet earned four out of five stars in our Leatt MTB 4.0 Enduro review.

Bell Super Air R MIPS

The Bell Super Air R MIPS (Image credit: Bell)

Bell Super Air R MIPS

Evolving the convertible helmet standard

Specifications

Weight: 676g
Sizes: S, M, L
Rotational safety: MIPS

Reasons to buy

+
Better chin bar security from one of the original convertible full-face innovators
+
Very light for what it offers   

Reasons to avoid

-
Chin bar is not DH certified

The Super Air R MIPS is Bell’s latest-generation convertible full-face helmet and builds on the reputation it established with the original Super 2R, launched five years ago. 

A significant redesign and evolution from the 2R and 3R, this Super Air R features a superior chin-bar attachment system with two latches. It also happens to be 144g lighter than the 3R, too. Ventilation is provided by 18 primary structural vents, while four additional ventilation ports are found in the detachable chin bar. 

For riders who use goggles with their helmet instead of riding glasses, there is a clever rubber grip pad on the back of the Super Air R, to prevent your goggle strap from slipping. 

Troy Lee Designs D4 MIPS

Troy Lee Designs has blended a lot of exotic materials into its latest D4 helmet (Image credit: Troy Lee Designs)
Extend your carbon-fibre safety

Specifications

Weight: 1000g
Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
Rotational safety: MIPS

Reasons to buy

+
Exotic hand-laid composite structure makes it light and very strong
+
Huge sizing range for guaranteed comfort 
+
Sophisticated safety features

Reasons to avoid

-
As with all things carbon, not cheap

Troy Lee Designs possess an enviable reputation for producing premium full-face helmets for downhill-obsessed mountain bikers. The company prioritizes strength and crash-energy dissipation above all else. 

To achieve the best safety rating without neck-straining structural weight, Troy Lee Designs blended a lot of exotic materials into its latest D4 helmet. A top layer of unidirectional carbon provides excellent impact and structural puncture resistance. 

Engineers have also added strategically placed Kevlar reinforcement to areas of the helmet which have high terrain strike probability. It even has considered post-crash safety features, such as the anatomically contoured quick-release cheek pads: which allow for easier helmet removal by emergency personnel.

Read more about the Troy Lee Designs D4 Carbon MIPS helmet.

Giro Switchblade MIPS

The Giro comes with handy spare visor with camera mount (Image credit: Giro )

Giro Switchblade MIPS

A hard charging convertible helmet

Specifications

Weight: 975g
Sizes: S, M, L
Rotational safety: MIPS

Reasons to buy

+
Combines convertible helmet technology with downhill safety certification 
+
Spare visor with camera mount

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavier than some one-piece full-face helmets

The Giro Switchblade MIPS combines downhill helmet certification with removable chin-bar convenience. 

For those riders who are going to climb to the top of steep drop-ins, and want sufficient security on the way down again, the Switchblade's certification is a big win. Beyond its structural strength, this is also a helmet that plays nice with action cameras, as Giro supplies a special visor mount designed to accommodate the best action cameras.

With 20 ventilation ports, the Switchblade stays cool and its internal padding is hydrophilic, which means that it can absorb a lot of moisture before reaching saturation point.

Fox Racing Rampage Carbon

Red Bull Ramage inspired Fox Rampage (Image credit: Fox Racing)

Fox Racing Rampage Carbon

A solid full-face helmet from Fox

Specifications

Weight: 1230g
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Rotational safety: Dual-density Varizorb EPS liner

Reasons to buy

+
Fairly lightweight 
+
Non-carbon version available
+
Magnetic Visor Release System
+
Great comfort with thick padding

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive
-
Heavier than some of its competitors
-
Non adjustable visor

It doesn't take too much imagination to guess where Fox Racing got the inspiration for the Rampage's name. Red Bull Rampage is the ultimate freeride event with the best bike riders in the world riding down the gnarliest terrain.

Fox claim to have created a helmet that can handle the biggest freeride hits and downhill tracks worthy of the Rampage name with aggressive looks and stylish coloring this is one of the nicest looking helmets out there.

There are safety features galore, including liquid-filled Fluid Inside pods designed to protect against linear and rotational impact forces, a dual-density EPS liner and an injection-moulded chin bar.

The helmet features two different systems that help mitigate forces from impacting the head. The dual-density Varizorb EPS liner is designed to spread out forces to a larger surface area. Plus, the Magnetic Visor Release System allows the visor to detach from the rest of the helmet. 

The Magnetic Visor Release System attaches via magnets so it can easily detach in a crash, although it’s not adjustable,

This carbon helmet is fairly light, but you have to pay top dollar. Luckily, those on a budget can purchase a non-carbon version of the Rampage for a much cheaper price. 

How to choose the best full-face MTB helmet

Is a full-face helmet safer?

Full-face helmets have their roots in motorcycle riding, where speeds are higher and crash forces are greater than in mountain biking. Because of the similarities between the two sports, gravity-oriented mountain bikers use full faces to best protect themselves. Downhill riders and racers always use a full-face helmet and as enduro tracks get more technical enduro riders often also choose to wear full-faces due to the extra protection. 

Many casual riders opt to wear a half-shell helmet, which is what we traditionally think of as what a mountain bike helmet looks like. Half-shell helmets are great for everything from cross-country riding up to enduro riding. However, if you are looking to push yourself on the downhills, a full-face helmet may be warranted. Full-faces protect nearly all of the surface area of your head and face and are increasingly getting lighter and implementing the latest safety technologies, like MIPS. 

Are convertible mountain bike helmets good?

In the past few years, helmet manufacturers have designed helmets that cater to riders who want to go fast on the downhills but still want to pedal on the uphills. One of the problems with a traditional full-face helmet is breathability, making things miserable to climb in. 

This is where convertible helmets come in. Multiple manufacturers make helmets that allow the chin bar to be removed, so you can ride either in full-face mode or the more breathable half-shell mode. We wouldn't recommend this for riders who spend all day every day at the bike park, but it's a great option for trail and enduro riders who are hooked on gravity. 

Even better is the fact some brands are now able to make these convertible helmets to meet DH safety certifications so you know that they will offer the protection that you expect. All you need to do is figure out how to carry the chin piece when you pedal back to the top. 

Do full-face MTB helmets get hot?

Helmets that have ample cooling vents, by definition, must contain less surface structure. Those vents also create entry points for debris or curiously angled trail features, such as sticks. For riders who spend most of their season in cooler conditions, ventilation is not an issue and they can afford to opt for helmets that have the highest possible protection rating, with airflow a secondary consideration. 

Full-faces have never had great ventilation due to their coverage and extra protection although this has improved as more enduro riders choose full-faces options as the best enduro helmets. If you live and ride (or plan to vacation) in a warm-weather location, ventilation becomes an issue nearly equal to the protection and this markedly complicates your full-face helmet choice. 

Do full-face helmets have other safety features?

Many helmet manufacturers have considered how a helmet can help in the event of a crash beyond simply reducing impact forces on the thread. Many brands now include features such as NFC chips to communicate emergency details to first medical responders or crash sensors and recco beacons. Designers have made chin pads seamless to remove to enable medics and emergency response personnel to easily extricate a helmet from an injured rider. 

Like all other helmets, rotational crash protection features in all the best full-face MTB helmets. Systems like MIPS, POC SPIN and Leatt's Turbine technology are all designed to reduce sharp rotational forces to the head and reduce concussions and other brain traumas by letting the helmet move independently of your head. Generally, it's only 10-15mm of movement but this slip plane effect can significantly reduce damaging forces.

Committed downhill riders should also regard how compatible their helmets are with neck braces, which are seen as a part of the head-and-neck safety system for extreme or severe technical mountain biking. 

Do you need goggles with full face helmet?

Eye protection is pretty crucial when mountain biking to stop dust and debris from getting in your eyes. The best mountain bike goggles, rather than sunglasses, are preferred when wearing a full-face helmet as they give superior coverage. Helmets with a considered ergonomic design, which includes a groove, grip pad or clip, will keep your goggle straps in place. The last thing you want is the distraction of a goggle strap which starts to annoyingly slip as you bounce through a high-speed rock garden.  

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Paul Brett
Staff writer

Based in Edinburgh, Paul Brett is a staff writer for BikePerfect.com. He has been an avid cyclist for as long as he can remember, initially catching the mountain biking bug in the 1990s, and raced mountain bikes for over a decade before injury cut short a glittering career. He’s since developed an obsession for gravel riding and recently has dabbled in the dark art of cyclocross. A fan of the idea of bikepacking he has occasionally got involved and has ridden routes like the North Coast 500, Scotland and the Via Francigena (Pilgrim Route), Italy.


An award-winning photographer, when not riding a bike, he can be found at the side of a cyclocross track or a downhill mountain bike world championship shooting the action. Paul has been the founder, editor and senior writer for Proper Cycling magazine that has seen him travel the world interviewing some of the biggest names in mountain biking and writing about some of the biggest cycling brands.


Rides: Scott Spark RC Team Issue, Bergamont Grandurance Elite, Standert Kreissäge Team Edition


Height: 176cm


Weight: 85kg