Helmets these days are now not only designed for protection and style, but they are also light and convenient. Helmets with a detachable chin bar are an outstanding example of how practical helmets have become.
The detachable chin bar has come a long way since the first model, the 1998 Giro Switchback. Now not only can we ride up hills with all the breathability we desire, but we can also have full protection for carefree riding down the mountain.
Why Purchase A Convertible Mountain Bike Helmet?
Initially designed for enduro riders, the detachable helmets have become a big player in the downhill helmet market as they provide the option of having just a half shell if required, for not a huge increase in price.
I have been using a detachable full face for the past year or so, and have not looked back. I purchased it as the old open face was getting a bit worn out, and since I had started riding chairlift laps, I figured a full-face was probably a necessity.
The detachable helmets met both these criteria, providing me with a very comfortable, safe open face helmet, which could become a full-face when needed. The advantages became even more apparent when I realized how helpful it was riding out to the park (a good 20 minutes) with the chin bar around my handlebars, and not having the full face obstructing my view of cars while on the road.
The chin bar is very easily reattached (takes around 30 seconds), which I will often do while on the chairlift.
Top Four Convertible Mountain Bike Helmets
Here we have collected the four best mountain bike helmets with detachable chin bars in the market at the moment. We have also reviewed each one so that you know you are purchasing the right one for your needs.
Bell Super DH MIPS Helmet Review
Bringing together the best of both worlds, a detachable chin bar makes for an easy climb and a safe descent. For the price of one, you get a top-of-the-line open face helmet and a fully certified downhill helmet that is comfortable, durable, and easy to use.
Bell has made a couple of outstanding helmets in this field. The Super DH is the successor to, and essentially a beefed-up version of, the Bell Super 3R. The primary difference is that the 3R was not downhill certified (ASTM downhill certifications), while the Super DH is.
Features of the Super DH
The Bell Super DH is a well kitted out lid, with an adjustable visor which goes high enough to hold goggles beneath it, and an easy to use sizing retention system- even with gloves on. It sits close to the head, rather than sitting on top of the head, with deep rear coverage as an open face. The padding inside the helmet is comfortable, durable, and it does not obstruct the ventilation. One of the most well-designed parts of the helmet is that you can remove the chin bar without even taking the helmet off. It is that easy!
Safety Features of the Super DH
In terms of safety features, the Bell Super DH has the more recent MIPS Spherical, which has two layers of EPS foam with an invisible low-friction layer between them, creating a 'ball and socket' type system. As the MIPS Spherical does not have a plastic liner, as the standard MIPS system does, the airflow within the helmet is much better, leaving the rider more comfortable. The big advantage of this in terms of safety is that there are now two layers of foam protecting your head. The outer layer, constructed of EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) foam, is a harder foam compared to the inner layer of EPP (Expanded Polypropylene), and the combination of the two reduces the energy over a much wider range of impact. This means crashes at high-speeds and low-speed, including rotational and direct impacts, are addressed by the MIPS Spherical system. The Super DH is also constructed with in-mold technology (fusion of the outer plastic shell to the EPP foam), which improves its durability and safety in the event of a crash.
The MIPS Spherical contributes to the incredible ventilation, as not only is there 19 decently sized vents, the empty void between the EPP and EPS layers contribute to the internal channeling of the airflow. In addition, there are two ports on the brow and four on the chin bar, which take in air and channel it through the helmet airflow system for full-head ventilation. The Super DH is one of the best-ventilated helmets on the downhill market.
Bell Super 3R MIPS Helmet Review
Well ventilated, very light, and very comfortable. This is the ideal helmet for the typical rider, not riding the extreme lines at extreme speeds, but wanting more protection than an open-face helmet can provide.
Bell has designed a clever helmet for all-mountain terrain. While it may not be downhill certified as the Super DH is, for many riders not taking on the gnarliest of trails, the additional protection is an overkill. It is more of a lightweight and better-ventilated version of the more grunty Super DH.
Features of the Super 3R
The Bell Super 3R features a reasonably new feature by Bell, the Float Fit retention system, which is essentially an upgraded fitting system so that the helmet sits snug around your face. It makes it extremely comfortable to wear and is seamlessly integrated with the MIPS system for improved comfort and no hindrance to the ventilation of the system. Another handy feature of the helmet is the strapping system, which features what Bell likes to call the 'No-Twist Tri-Glides.' These keep the straps flat against your head, under your airs and chin, which makes the straps a bit more comfortable and easier to use. The adjustable visor has enough range to be able to fit goggles underneath, so no more wearing the goggles around your neck either!
Safety Features of the Super 3R
Despite not being a certified downhill helmet, the Super 3R is certified by the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand standards for safety standards. It is MIPS equipped, which is an essential piece of technology that protects your head from angular impacts, preventing brain injury.
With 23 vents, the helmet was never going to be a hot and sticky one. And with the addition of 4 ports on the brow and six on the chin-bar, which takes in air as you are riding and circulates it through the airflow matrix of the helmet, it actually keeps the whole head reasonably cool with or without the chin bar attached.
Giro Switchblade Mountain Bike Helmet Review
Hot and heavy, but is downhill certified as both a full face and open face helmet. In terms of safety, it is hard to beat, so ideal for the rider who wants to be sending those park laps with confidence.
The original Switchblade was actually released back in 1998, making it the first convertible helmet on the market. Giro has brought back the style, making a few improvements, and it has made a presence in the enduro category of riding.
The unique thing about the Switchblade is that Giro has decided to keep the over-ear protection and cheek pads once the chin bar has been removed. Usually, the convertible helmets detach above the ears, exposing your ears and cheeks once the chin bar has been removed, which increases ventilation, replicating an open face helmet. However, Giro has chosen not to do this on the Switchblade, making it a bit warmer and very different looking when in 'open-face' mode. It is not a light full-face helmet either. At 1100g (medium) when in full-face, or 800g without the chin bar, your head definitely won't be cold while riding! The ventilation also suffers because of the design, very close to the face with heavy padding. It almost has a design similar to a motorcycle helmet rather than a modern downhill helmet. This does make it very safe though!
In terms of features, the visor has a large range, allowing for goggle storage beneath the visor when not needed. The attachment and detachment of the chin bar is reasonably simple, attaching near the cheeks with two buttons and a wiggle of the chin bar. Everything on the helmet is heavy-duty, including the padding, the chin bar mounts, the visor, so easy to say it is a very durable helmet.
The Switchblade is ASTM downhill certified, with a MIPS liner protecting from the rotational impacts. Because of the additional protection over the cheeks, it is one of the safest helmets on the market in both full-face and open-face modes. There isn't too much to note in terms of fancy safety features, the Switchblade is just a solid, durable, heavy-duty kind of design that you will instantly feel safe in as soon as it is on your head.
The ventilation isn't fantastic, as mentioned earlier when compared to the other convertible helmets. But keep in mind that it is better than many other full-face helmets out there. So if you are looking for a rock-solid, made-to-last helmet, ventilation probably isn't the most important feature you will be looking for, and it will be hard to find a helmet with ventilation better than the Switchblade for the amount of protection and durability that comes with it!
The Switchblade is a sturdy design, and given its primary job is to protect your head in the event of a collision, it will do its job extremely well. Your safety while riding does come at a cost- it will be a hot and heavy ride. But if this doesn't matter too much to you, and you would rather keep your head well protected, then the Switchblade is certainly a good option!
Leatt DBX 3.0 Enduro Helmet Review
Perfect for the enduro rider- well ventilated, comfortable, and breathable, but not necessarily our first choice of downhill specific helmet. Still, a very good option for those wanting great protection and an all-around great convertible helmet, but aren't hitting gnarly lines at fast speeds.
Leatt has earned itself a reputable name following its success in neck braces and other safety equipment. The DBX 3.0 is a light and comfortable convertible full-face helmet, aimed at the enduro rider wanting the use of two but the practicality of having one helmet.
The length of the visor works well for the full-face without looking stupidly long on the half-shell and lifts up just high enough to store some average-sized goggles beneath it. The buckle is the FidLock magnetic buckle system, which becomes second nature after a few practices. As a half-shell, the helmet is particularly sturdy and very light. The chin bar is attached and removed with ease around the sides of the helmet. The primary issue with the DBX 3.0 is the reattachment system is somewhat flimsy. It attaches with two small buckles, which we are certain to have been tested for safety and durability, but seem not as sturdy as we would want to expect from an enduro helmet.
The DBX 3.0 Enduro offers Leatts Turbine 360 technology, which essentially mimics the MIPS technology. The 'turbines' which attach to the EPS foam layer, act to reduce any rotational impact to lessen the potential of brain damage. The Turbines have the advantage over MIPS as they reduce direct impacts as well as rotational impacts, so you aren't just relying on the foam layers. It is not fully downhill certified, similar to the Bell Super 3R, as it is aimed at being lighter weight and better ventilated than if it were bulked out to become downhill certified. However, it still meets helmet safety standards in the U.S, U.K, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and has the chin bar to prevent the face from collecting any dirt on the way down. It is still is an ideal helmet for a rider who doesn't need anything extensive or bulky but just wants a safe helmet that is light and well ventilated with the comfort of having the chin bar just in case.
As the helmet is aimed at providing an enduro rider with the ultimate helmet, the ventilation is was a top priority for the DBX 3.0. There are 18 vents, including one above the brow line, which takes in air as you ride and circulates it through the helmet. It is even covered with a screen to prevent debris from entering or blocking the airflow. The chin bar also has three ventilation ports to increase airflow, as well as one above each ear near where the chin bar attaches.
In terms of performance as a full-face, it is similar to that of the Bell Super 3R. Ideal for the enduro rider in terms of ventilation, comfort, and breathability, but not particularly one, we would take off the shelf for a gnarly downhill session.
Which one is for you?
That depends on your type of riding, terrain, how much you use it and obviously, your budget. If you are looking for something that suits all styles of riding, whether it is climbing long, arduous mountains, fast flat open trails, or rocky descents with technical drops and jumps.
The Super DH is likely the better choice if you do any sort of gnarly descents, but still want a helmet for any other type of terrain. It does come at a cost, but if you consider the fact that you are actually getting two helmets in a single purchase, it is actually an incredible deal. Also, you are paying for the convenience of not having to lug around two helmets if you decide to ride varying terrain.
If you're looking for a head to head comparison on the Leatt DBX and Bell Super 3R, check out our in-depth comparison.