Full-face helmets are a mandatory piece of equipment if you are riding or racing downhill. A full-face is the best mountain bike helmet for protecting you from trail debris as well as during crashes due to the added coverage of the chin bar and improvements in structural integrity. While full-face helmets of old were fairly basic, modern full-face helmets are becoming more comfortable, better ventilated, and generally easier to live with.
That means that they 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.
For information on Bike Perfect's testing procedures and how our scoring system works, see our how we test page.
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
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.
An ex-elite downhill racer, Mick's been mucking about and occasionally racing mountain bikes for over twenty years. Racing led to testing kit for magazines back in the day, and, nowadays, he mostly rides enduro-style terrain on conventional and electric MTBs.
Best full-face MTB helmets
Specialized's new lightweight full-face delivers full DH protection whilst still venting, breathing, and weighing almost the same as an open-face helmet. That means it's a helmet that we continually grab if the terrain is starting to feel a bit fruity when 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 which is simply adjusted via a dial that's molded into 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.
Read more about the Specialized Gambit full-face helmet in our full review.
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 downhill riders will 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 on the Dainese Linea 01.
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.
Although the Leatt MTB 4.0 Enduro V21 features a removable chin guard and is aimed at enduro riding, the South African brand has still managed to meet ASTM DH certification standards so you know you have one of the best enduro helmets in terms of protection. The MTB 4.0 helmet includes more technology than just a removable chin guard too, including its own brain-saving 360º Turbine inserts to reduce rotational forces, a break-away visor, and a Fidlock magnetic buckle, all whilst keeping the overall weight low.
The half-shell section of the helmet is based on Leatt's MTB 4.0 AllMtn V21 and has two mounting points on each side of the helmet which securely lock the chin bar in place without any rattle or creaking.
Read how this helmet earned four out of five stars in our Leatt MTB 4.0 Enduro V21 review.
POC is a brand that is constantly innovating when it comes to mountain bike helmet safety and the POC Coron Air SPIN helmet is its downhill and enduro full-face offering. Constructed from EPP, rather than the more commonly used EPS, it should better resist multiple impacts which can occur in a single incident and is finished in a carbon shell for added strength and durability.
Inside POC uses its own SPIN rotational protection which creates a slip plane by using silicon inserts in the helmet's pads, this keeps the system unobtrusive to the ventilation and comfort of the helmet. The helmet's sizing can be tweaked with the included set of smaller pads and the padding around the cheeks are removable to help first aiders take the helmet off carefully.
For more details on how the POC Coron Air SPIN, check out our hands-on first look.
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.
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 recording equipment.
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.
It doesn't take much to imagine where Fox Racing got the inspiration for the Rampage's name. This is a helmet that can handle the biggest freeride hits or downhill tracks.
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.
This carbon helmet is fairly light, but you have to pay the price. Luckily, those on a budget can purchase a non-carbon version of the Rampage for a 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.