Whether you're racing XC marathons, smashing pump track laps or cruising the local trail loop, making sure you’re properly protected in the event of a crash is absolutely essential. And regardless of where or what you’re riding, a good MIPS mountain bike helmet should be at the top of your protective gear list.
The best mountain bike helmets are no longer just head-shaped blocks of polystyrene either. Our top recommended helmets are packed full of the latest and safest head-saving features, with one of the best being the MIPS rotational impact protection system.
MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. Most mountain bike crashes do not send forces directly to the head, but rather the head is impacted at an angle. When a crash happens, the MIPS slip-plane engages and slows down the rotational forces. This technology has quickly become popular with many helmet manufacturers and MIPS helmets have gone down in price since it was first introduced too.
If you’re unsure on what you should be looking for when choosing a MIPS-equipped helmet, keep scrolling to see Bike Perfect’s best recommendations and buying advice.
Best MIPS mountain bike helmets
The latest Ambush packs some revolutionary helmet technology, and it’s something that’s seriously appealing and potentially lifesaving if you frequently ride solo. Specialized has integrated a G-force reduction receiver named ‘ANGI’ onto the back of this helmet. ANGI links to the Specialized Ride app and can be set up to send a text to an emergency contact if it detects a sudden stop in motion.
In addition to ANGI, Specialized has worked with MIPS to create MIPS SL, a version of the rotational safety technology that's only available in Specialized helmets. MIPS SL essentially blends MIPS into the helmet padding itself, which creates a lightweight and comfortable system.
Paired with a deep cupped fit and a low weight the Ambush is a pleasure to wear for long days in the saddle. Generous coverage means you’re well protected for everything right up to enduro racing. It looks great and works seamlessly with all glasses and goggles we’ve tried. Considering the dialed fit, unique safety features and wide availability in bike shops, it’s sensibly priced too. It’s worth noting the sizing runs large, so head to your local Specialized dealer to try before you buy.
For the manifest Giro has cut no corners, resulting in one of the most tech-packed and ultimately safest options out there.
A highlight with the Manifest’s stacked-out feature list is how MIPS is alongside two EPS liners which work together to create a slip plane that further diverts forces away from your brain upon impact. MIPS is nothing new but the way these two work together makes for one of the most free-moving designs out there, which should ultimately improve protection.
It’s not just rotational impact protection either, the entire shell of the helmet sees Giro’s AURA reinforcing arch which again provides high levels of direct impact protection.
Internal grippers keep glasses secure when both worn or stashed, a magnetic buckle deals with strap closure, and a ratchet dial means on the fly adjustability is a cinch. If you’re a goggle wearer you may be disappointed that the visor doesn’t go high enough for eyewear to be stashed above though.
The Trailblazer utilizes a multi-piece shell construction, which uses four different strategically placed panels that are all designed to deal with different types of impacts on specific areas of the helmet.
There’s no arguing it doesn’t look killer either, plus it’s got a fully dialed fit to match. The Trailblazer sits low making the helmet feel well balanced, and the ample amount of shell coverage instills the confidence to ramp it up to 11 on gnarly terrain.
Keeping things cool is Sweet’s legendary STACC venting. To the eye, these small intakes don’t look like much, but the way the air is drawn in and channeled across the temples before exiting out the oversized exhausted vents feels really effective across all trail speeds. As a result, it’s become one of our go-to options for nearly all trail duties.
There is a cheaper non-MIPS option available, however, given the protection levels on offer for a slight price increase, we’d bag this one every time.
Yes, the Tyrant has featured in our previous guide for the best enduro helmets, but it’s too good to miss out here. The overall design, construction, fit and looks make it our favorite open-face helmet for aggressive riding.
The trials inspired looks oozes a casual appearance, but the extended coverage provides the confidence to attack the most testing terrain. Despite the low number of vents, it runs surprisingly cool meaning there are no second thoughts about wearing it during long and hot alpine adventures.
To top everything off is a relatively affordable price tag. Other than the occasional creak from the ratchet system and a slight reduction in hearing sensitivity the Tyrant is nearly flawless.
Lazer is a lesser-known company from Belgium, but it certainly doesn't lag behind the helmet competition. We've found that the Jackal is on par with offerings from bigger brands. That's thanks to some standout features, including excellent ventilation. Compared to other enduro lids, the Jackal has much more evident vents, which make for a cooler riding experience.
The overall coverage area and fit of the helmet work great for trail and enduro riding as well. If you prefer to wear goggles, you'll be happy that this helmet plays nicely with goggles whether you're wearing them or storing them.
Another neat feature is the integrated GoPro mount so you can film and share the best bits of your rides. Plus, to put your mind at ease in case of a crash, there's a 50% crash replacement policy that lasts for three years.
One of the benefits of MIPS being on the market for a while is now the technology doesn't have to break the bank. Smith is one brand that has implemented MIPS into a helmet that's well under $100.
The Convoy is more of a trail helmet, so the sides don't extend as low as some enduro helmets. It's still a great design though, and a neat feature is that the helmet is compatible with Smith's eyewear products to make goggle and glasses storage easier.
While the ventilation is not as breezy as dedicated XC helmets, the vents work better than more expensive helmets even. Even though this is a budget helmet, there are few compromises.
Most of the items on this list are meant for trail or enduro riding, but there are some great cross-country helmets that use MIPS technology too, incuding the Scott Centric Plus. The helmet is used by top XC racers on the Scott-SRAM team and is regarded as one of the best XC helmets.
The design is optimized for aerodynamics so riders can go faster when it matters the most. To reduce weight, a foam liner is fused to the polycarbonate outer shell of the helmet. That's combined with MIPS to create a safe helmet that is light on the neck.
Plus, vents allow airflow to channel over the head in order to keep riders cool.
Oakley has taken the minimalist approach when it comes to padding, but it’s a design plan that’s paid off as the overall fit is one of the most comfortable options on the market. Adding to this sublime comfort and cinching things together is a BOA 360 fit system, and high-quality pads provide cushioning plus an odor-free ride.
Glasses wearers will also be pleased to see that Oakley has engineered an eyewear dock on the rear to ensure glasses can be removed and safely stowed and then easily accessible.
It’s also one of the most unique-looking lids available, something that will appeal to those who want to stand out from the crowd. There’s a travel bag included ensuring it stays safe when on the move. The looks may not suit everyone but with a fit so good it almost makes you forget you’ve got it on, the DRT5 is a rock-solid option.
MIPS-equipped helmets don’t have to come with top-dollar pricing, and MET also showcases this brain-saving technology at an affordable price.
The ECHO shares a similar construction to MET’s more premium lids, including increased overall shell coverage. An in-mold outer shell lines the shock-absorbing polystyrene inner shell, all of which is adjustable via a size tailoring cradle. The high comfort pads are removable for washing, so the echo is guaranteed to stay fresh for countless sessions.
If we had to be critical it’s not the coolest option available, but the overall design and killer price make for a wicked gateway to MIPS technology.
With their roots firmly grounded in motocross, 100% sure know how to make a helmet look good. Five color options, ranging from stealthy black to loud orange, mean there's an Aircraft for you regardless of taste. Thanks to an array of included internal pad options, the fit can be bespoke to the individual rider too.
The Aircraft Carbon’s shell uses an aerospace-inspired carbon and kevlar construction, so impact protection strength is high while overall weight is impressively low. With 25 vents generously positioned around the helmet, it remains cool, too. This low weight and breezy design make it a pleasure to wear both on the racetrack or deep in a backcountry epic.
Other neat features include a titanium D ring closure, a highly adjustable visor, along with emergency release cheek pads that can be safely and swiftly removed during the post-crash treatment. The Aircraft carbon is also compatible with nearly all neck braces.
How to choose the best MIPS mountain bike helmet
1. What is MIPS?
MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) is a specially designed helmet liner that is engineered to reduce harmful forces transmitted to the brain during a crash, which in turn reduces the chances of brain injuries such as concussion. It works by the helmet having an inner layer that allows the head to independently move 10-15mm from the helmet. Think of a ball and socket, where the ball can move independently inside the socket shell.
In the event of a crash, this design adds protection against rotational motion impacts and can divert energy that would usually be transferred to the brain, and data shows big improvements over a non-MIPS equipped alternative.
MIPS helmets are usually a little more expensive than a non-MIPS lid, but given the benefits, we almost see it as essential when purchasing a helmet these days.
The best mountain biking 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.
What makes a helmet a MIPS helmet is the integration of its rotational impact protection design into the construction. It can usually be found beneath the helmet pads and is often recognizable by its bright yellow design.
Arguably, 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 will 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. MIPS helmets can fit slightly differently so if you’re unsure about what brand or size will best fit your head shape, we always recommend heading to your local bike shop to try before you buy.
4. Shell Coverage
Helmets are available in a huge range of cuts and shapes, all of which tend to suit one style of mountain biking better than another. XC helmets tend to be slimmer and more aerodynamic, whereas trail and enduro helmets drop down further at the rear and sides to provide more coverage.
How well vented a helmet is often decided by its intended use. XC and endurance lids that are designed to be worn for long durations, during high-intensity efforts, tend to have more airy venting. The best enduro and DH helmets usually prioritize shell coverage over venting.
6. 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 program that allows you to get a new helmet at a reduced rate, something that’s worth looking into if you’re accident-prone.
The traditional buckle design is pretty unbeatable, however, we’re beginning to see the introduction of magnetic closures which bring a new level of ease to fastening your lid. Full-face helmets may still use a simple D-ring closure, these are secure but make putting the helmet on and off and adjustment much more fiddly.