The helmet is an integral part of any mountain biker’s armour as it protects the head from impacts caused by falls, collisions and accidents. Owing to the nature of mountain biking, the technical and demanding courses and the variability of the trail surface, there’s little doubt as to why it's become a mandatory item.
BEST MOUNTAIN BIKE HELMETS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The best mountain bike helmets offer extra protection around the sides and back of the head and, in many cases, also include a visor to shield your eyes from the sun, rain and debris. You’ll also notice they are chunkier and less aerodynamic than the road bike equivalent.
Of course there are some exceptions— cross-country and marathon-style helmets tend to possess slimmer facades as well as some aerodynamic trickery but the general consensus is that a mountain bike helmet should provide good all-round protection and ventilation.
Advanced head protection safety measures such as MIPS, SPIN and WaveCell technology should also be considered as they can significantly reduce rotational-motion brain injuries such as concussions.
Scroll down to see BikePerfect’s roundup of the best mountain bike helmets available to buy for 2020.
THE BEST MOUNTAIN BIKE HELMETS IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE
1. POC Octal X Spin
The lightest, airiest and safest lid on the market
Weight: 210g | Rotational safety: SPIN | Sizes: S, M, L | Colours: 4
While POC’s unique aesthetic may not appeal to everybody, few can dispute its presence — particularly in the professional cycling arena.
Compared to the regular Octal on which it is based, POC has made some structural refinements to strengthen the X’s shell, using aramid bridge technology (using strong synthetic fibres) to hold everything together in the event of a crash or impact.
Like the airy Octal road helmet, the X also employs a similar ventilation design but differs by way of an extended shell covering for extra protection.
2. Oakley DRT5
A beautifully designed, quality half-shell helmet with some great novel features
Weight: 455g (medium) | Rotational safety: MIPS | Sizes: S, M, L | Colours: 5
In a segment dominated by rather generic-looking half-shell helmets, Oakley has really stepped things up with the DRT5 lid. Not only is it a real looker, it’s also available in five different colours, including a special Greg Minnaar Signature Series edition.
And then there’s an ‘Eyewear Landing Zone' which can accommodate all makes of sunglasses but was designed specifically for Oakley eyewear.
In terms of comfort and fit, the DRT5 employs a Boa retention system for enhanced comfort, complete with three levels of height adjustability. An integrated MIPS Brain protection System is also part of the package.
3. Scott Centric Plus
An out-and-out performance lid for cross-country-inclined mountain bikers
Weight: 250g (medium) | Rotational safety: | Sizes: S, M, L | Colours: 6
The Scott Centric Plus doubles up as both a road and mountain bike helmet but unlike most of the trail-bent models featured here, the Centric is geared more towards the speed of cross-country and marathon racing.
As such it ditches the traditional half-shell design approach of the trail helmet for a more aerodynamically optimised road-like design.
Nino Schurter and Lars Forster of Scott-SRAM MTB proved its hardiness and performance credentials by winning 2019’s Absa Cape Epic using Scott Centric lids.
4. Specialized Tactic 3
Armed with advanced levels of safety and comfort the Specialized Tactic has rewritten the script for entry-level helmets
Weight: 340g (medium) | Rotational protection: MIPS | Sizes: S, M, L | Colours: 6
At $95/£80, there isn’t much that can match the Specialized Tactic. The in-moulded shell provides strength and ensures you're protected when things get gnarly. It also looks better than some of its rivals, with an extensive colour palette to choose from.
And what about ventilation? Well, that comes compliments of a slew of cooling vents – a boon for those toasty and appreciably humid days on the trail.
At 340g, the Tactic isn’t the lightest helmet around (the POC Tectal and Uvex Quatro are both lighter options) but it represents one of the cheapest offerings in its class.
5. Giro Chronicle MIPS
Hard to trump considering the protection benefits and low price point
Weight: 340g (medium) | Rotational safety: MIPS | Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Colours: 7
Based on Giro’s range-topping Montana, the Chronicle MIPS naturally features a ton of trickle down technology — most notably the MIPS rotational protection system.
Structurally the Chronicle offers impressive protection but the trade-off is a genuine lack of ventilation. The prominent peak, while adjustable, can sometimes make repositioning your sunglasses a bit of a tricky exercise.
In terms of fit, the Roc-Loc 5 system has comfort sorted thanks to an adjustable dial that can tailor the fit to meet your exact requirements.
6. Leatt DBX 3.0 All-Mountain
A comprehensively specced helmet with a huge emphasis on brain protection
Weight: 360g (medium) | Rotational protection: Turbine Technology | Sizes: S, M, L | Colours: 5
South African company Leatt is world-renowned for its protective neck braces, body armour and full-face helmets — the company knows a thing or two about safety.
The DBX 3.0 All-Mountain is Leatt’s first non-gravity helmet and naturally focuses heavily around the notion of safety. It features 10 'turbines' positioned within the EPS foam liner which are strategically placed in impact-prone areas.
A big drawcard of this particular lid is the proprietary brain protection system called 360° Turbine Technology. Developed in-house by Leatt, it is said to reduce concussion- and rotational acceleration head injuries by 30 and 40 per cent respectively.
7. Bontrager Rally MIPS
A quality, affordable half-shell helmet with MIPS as standard fitment
Weight: 370g (medium) | Rotational protection: MIPS | Sizes: S, M, L | Colours: 5
Priced at under $150/£100 , the Bontrager Rally occupies the same space as the Giro Chronicle, bringing affordability and safety to the highly contested mid-level space. But despite the sticker price there’s nothing low rent here.
As such the Rally comes feature-laden with a MIPS brain protection system, Boa retention dial for superior comfort and a Blendr system for light and camera integration. Ventilation is also of a very high standard.
The clincher? Bontrager’s crash replacement policy which entitles you to a free replacement helmet if it’s been involved in a crash within the first year of ownership.
8. POC Tectal Race Spin
If safety is your number one priority look no further than the POC Tectal Race SPIN
Weight: 340g (medium) | Rotational protection: SPIN | Sizes: S, M, L | Colours: 6
The POC Tectal is the follow-up to the impressive Trabec helmet, POC’s first half-shell mountain bike lid. Building on the qualities that made its predecessor so popular among riders, the Tectal gets better ventilation, a more comfortable fit while still adhering to the company’s ethos of safety first, performance second.
Like most of its current range, the Tectal uses SPIN technology to protect your grey matter against the effects of oblique or rotational impacts. As the flagship model in the Tectal line-up, the Race SPIN gets aramid reinforcement that spans the entire EPS liner for added protection
9. Bell Sixer MIPS
Offering advanced protection, safety and comfort Bell has hit it out the park with the Sixer MIPS
Weight: 410g (medium) | Rotational protection: MIPS | Sizes: S, M, L | Colours: 11
There aren’t many helmets in the world right now that offer 11 different designs/colourways but Bell has always been at the forefront when it comes to panache and innovation.
The Bell Sixer is the firm’s big hitter in the half-shell helmet segment with a big focus on protection and ventilation.
A low-friction MIPS liner is standard fitment and ensures a snug fit in combination with the Float Fit system and a Sweat Guide padding arrangement, the latter of which directs sweat away from the eyes and sunglasses.
At 410g it’s a bit heavier compared to some of the segment staples but the 26-port ventilation system and hardy shell make up for the added grams.
10. Uvex Quatro Pro
A really good helmet let down by a lack of a dedicated slip-plane brain-protection system
Weight: 280g (medium) | Rotational protection: No | Sizes: S, M, L | Colours: 7
Uvex is a world leader when it comes to safety equipment (helmets, glasses, gloves, shoes) so it come as no surprise that the German company has started to dabble in cycling, too.
The Quatro is an MTB-specific helmet that focuses heavily on rider safety, and comes laden with double in-mould construction for added impact protection. Seventeen integrated ventilation channels ensure excellent cooling while an anatomic IAS sizing system ensures that the Quatro adapts to any head shape.
The helmet straps are easy to configure and set up and simple to open, close and adjust on the fly – gloved or not.