Helmets are an accessory of both form and function. They keep you safe in the event of a crash but must remain comfortable in all other facets of wear. They can be pricey but, for those on a budget, it doesn't mean there isn't plenty of choices when picking the best mountain bike helmet under $100.
The challenge when designing the best mountain bike helmets is reconciling the need to conform to the latest safety standards without lacking ventilation or looking too odd.
Beyond the safety rating, fit, ventilation and style are key aspects that influence helmet selection. A helmet that is safe, but is uncomfortable or doesn’t look stylish enough, will not appeal as a mountain bike safety equipment purchase.
Slip-layer liners have been a significant breakthrough in modern mountain bike helmet design. As the technology has popularized, it has also scaled and reduced in cost and can now be found on a number of budget lids.
Here are our picks for the best mountain bike helmets under $100.
Best mountain bike helmet under $100
The South African protective specialist has a helmet that sits just under our pricing threshold. With its DBX 2.0, the designers at Leatt have shaped a trail helmet that offers extensive coverage at the base of the skull.
Any mountain bike brand with extensive experience riding in African conditions will know the value of ventilation. As such, Leatt has shaped no less than 20 ventilation ports into the DBX 2.0 structure to keep you cool, even when climbing on those sweltering hot days. Meanwhile a moisture-wicking liner prevents perspiration discomfort and keeps you feeling fresh.
Weight is competitive at 300g and the most impressive feature is its safety liner. It uses the brand’s 360-degree Turbine Technology to reduce angled impact brain acceleration.
Giro is celebrated for its helmet design, and the brand’s Fixture MIPS helmet brings great safety features at a very attractive price point.
This helmet has a low structure rear molding to protect the base of your head and has the MIPS slider system inside. Originally developed by Swedish researchers, the MIPS liner allows a slip-plane movement between the Fixture’s fit system and the helmet’s outer shell.
By deflecting energy in a crash with acute angular impact, the Fixture MIPS reduces brain trauma.
Beyond its safety features, this helmet also looks great and has near-universal fit ergonomics. Giro’s Roc Loc fit system also makes meticulous adjustment of the Fixture very easy, to ensure you attain the best possible level of comfort when riding.
- Giro MTB helmets: a look at Giro's mountain bike helmet range
No helmet list is complete without something from Bell. The American helmet brand’s Spark is an integrated design with extended coverage.
This is a helmet targeted at trail riders on a budget. It offers an extended structure for secure coverage and has a MIPS liner to dilute the consequences of an angular impact.
With a combination of MIPS and a solid structure, the Spark offers terrific core protection values for the price. The visor is fixed, though, and with fewer vents than many of its rivals, this is a helmet that will run very hot on warm days.
Another trail riding helmet that manages to package many premium features below the $100 threshold is the Lazer Coyote.
The Lazer Coyote MIPS has generous structural coverage and manages to include 21 vent ports. That means you’ll never run hot, even when climbing on those brutally warm summer rides.
An excellent example of MIPS technology that is integrated into an affordable helmet, the Coyote also features a great retention and fit adjust system.
It has been a challenge for helmet designers to find ways of MIPS and cheaper fit adjust solutions to work. With the Coyote, it has the TS+ turnfit adjustment system, allowing riders to find an exact tension for their head size and shape.
Targeted at enduro riders on a budget, the Lazer Coyote MIPS also has a rear shell shape that holds your goggle strap in place.
This is the budget mountain bike helmet for those riders who train around an intense schedule. If you are going to be riding early or late during the golden light hours, the Chamonix has a range of useful design details.
Its straps are fabric stitched with a reflective coating to increase visibility, and Specialized has molded the Chamonix with a proven ventilation system.
Recognizing its use in low light conditions where you could experience glare from a rising or setting sun, the Chamonix also has a compact clip-on visor.
This is a very light helmet that has an abundance of vent ports to deliver an outstandingly cool ride, even when temperatures are surging.
The SixSixOne Recon Scout brings trail riding levels of head coverage at a good price.
Although this helmet does forego the slip-plane MIPS liner, it has a stout structure that covers a lot more of your head and neck than a conventional XC helmet.
Despite its ample coverage, the Recon Scout manages to be very light, at only 303g. A helmet of that mass makes it a lot more suitable for long days in the saddle, reducing the likelihood of neck strain.
Comfort levels are good, too, thanks to large ventilation ports, and there is a peak visor to shield your eyes from sun flare.
SixSixOne also uses a Boa-dial fastening system for its Recon Scout, which is both robust and precise, guaranteeing many seasons of accurate adjustment.
Smith helmets have strong industrial design appeal. Style is a very real attribute for Smith, and its Convoy trail helmet has a pleasing silhouette.
The helmet’s structure prioritizes ventilation. It has no less than 21 ducts and internal channeling manages airflow and perspiration. This makes the Convoy one of the most comfortable helmets you can ride in very hot conditions.
Despite having molded so much of the helmet’s structure to allow for airflow, the inner lining is a combination of MIPS and Smith’s VaporFit adjustment system. This creates sheer energy absorption in a crash but also gives you two inches of adjustability, via the VaporFit system dial.
You will struggle to find a better-ventilated mountain bike helmet under $100 than this one from Kali. It has an amazing 25 vent ports to deliver the greatest possible airflow when you are edging slowly up that steep climb.
For riders who live in a semi-arid climate or regularly ride mid-day, this is an excellent helmet with fair head coverage.
It lacks a MIPS liner or truly adjustable visor, but if reducing heat discomfort is your priority, Kali’s Lunati is great.
How to choose the best mountain bike helmet under $100
Coverage is a big deal when it comes to the protection a helmet offers. Most mountain bikers ride technical sections of trail, and if you do crash, it is best to have an extended helmet structure bracing your fall.
Helmet designers have advanced the design of even cheaper helmets. This has created an offering of helmets that not only look good but also protect the lower portion of the skull.
Some mountain bike helmets under $100 have MIPS liners, which is a notable safety feature. Once reserved for premium products, MIPS has been repackaged into a more affordable range of helmet options and is a great choice to keep your head safe.
The more coverage a helmet provides, the greater your risk of discomfort riding on a warm day. Airflow is everything with regards to thermal comfort and perspiration mitigation.
It is challenging to design a helmet with ample ventilation. For each vent port that is created, designers are removing material. By using advanced computer modeling and software, they can predict where material can be removed to create superior airflow without exposing the wearer to increased crash injury risk.
There is no set number of vents that count as a benchmark, but helmets with more than 20 ports and some form of internal channeling across the head generally facilitate superior airflow. This is something that is most noticeable when you're moving slowly up a climb on a sweltering day.
A helmet with the best safety features won't do its job if it doesn't fit correctly. Make sure to know your size before purchasing a helmet from an online shop. Luckily, most if not all helmets these days are adjustable with straps and rear fit dials. If you don't know your size, it's best to seek out advice at a bike shop and purchase your helmet in-person. Some brands and designs may not form well to your head. If that's the case, try on different options to find the helmet that best works for you.