These days helmets are not only highly protective, they are also extremely practical. The convertible mountain bike helmet is an outstanding example of this. We have determined the best four convertible mountain bike helmets to share with you.
A convertible helmet is one with a detachable chin bar. This allows you to detach the bottom portion of the helmet. In doing so, it makes it easier to ride up hills and prevent you from overheating. You can then reattach the bottom portion to form a full face helmet for the descent.
The detachable chin bar has come a long way since the first model, the 1998 Giro Switchback. The helmets are breathable, lightweight, and rather good looking. They are also simple to detach and reattach the bottom portion.
Why Purchase A Convertible Mountain Bike Helmet?
Initially designed for enduro riders, the convertible mountain bike helmets have become a big player in the downhill helmet market. This is because they provide the option of having a half shell when 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 necessary.
The convertible bike helmets met both these criteria, providing me with a very comfortable, safe open face helmet, which could become a full-face when I needed it. The advantages became even more apparent when I realized how helpful it was riding out to the park from home (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 convertible mountain bike helmets 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
- Rating: 4.5/5 – Best Overall
- Weight: 850 g
- Downhill Certified: Yes
- Rotational Impact System: MIPS Spherical
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.
- Well Ventilated
- MIPS Spherical
- Downhill Certified
- Heavier than the Bell Super 3R and Leatt DBX 3.0
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 downhill certified.
Features of the Super DH
The Bell Super DH is a well kitted out lid, with an adjustable visor which goes high enough to store goggles beneath it. The retention dial is easy to adjust while riding, 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. This 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 like the standard MIPS, the ventilation is much better.
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). The combination of the two reduces the energy over a much wider range of impact. This means crashes at high-speeds and low-speed, as well as 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 in the downhill market.
Bell Super 3R MIPS Helmet Review
- Rating: 4/5 – Best Ventilation
- Weight: 784 g
- Downhill Certified: No
- Rotational Impact System: MIPS
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.
- Well Ventilated
- Provides Face Protection
- Not Downhill Certified
Bell has designed a clever helmet for all-mountain terrain. While it may not be downhill certified as the Super DH is, it provides sufficient protection for those not taking on the extreme lines. 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. This 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. It provides 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
- Rating: 3.5/5 – Best Protection
- Weight: 1100 g
- Downhill Certified: Yes
- Rotational Impact System: MIPS
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.
- Good Safety Performance
- Goggle Compatibility
- Poor Ventilation
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. But the Switchblade is just a solid, durable, heavy-duty kind of helmet. 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 considering the 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
- Rating: 4/5 – Lightest Weight
- Weight: 760 g
- Downhill Certified: No
- Rotational Impact System: Turbine 360
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.
- Turbine 360 Technology
- Well Ventilated
- Flimsy Reattachment of Chin bar
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.
Features of the Leatt DBX 3.0
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.
Safety Features of the Leatt DBX 3.0
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. If it was downhill certified, it would require a bit more bulk. However, it still meets helmet safety standards around the world. But it also has the advantage of 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. It is perfect for someone wanting a safe helmet that is light and well ventilated with the reassurance 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. The over brow vent 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 it is not one we would take off the shelf for a gnarly downhill session.
Personally, I love using a convertible helmet. I likely won’t go back to using a standard half-shell or full face for as long as I ride chair lift laps. The practicality of having two helmets with a simple buckle to connect them is just too convenient to pass up!
These are the best convertible mountain bike helmets on the market at the moment. All these helmets are ideal 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.
So which convertible helmet is right for you?
Finding the right one for you depends on your type of riding, the terrain, how much you use it and obviously, your budget.
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.
For riding where you don’t particularly care about ventilation or weight, the Giro Switchblade is one of the more protective models out there.
Both the Bell Super 3R and the Leatt DBX 3.0 are not downhill certified, but are aimed at those wanting a to protect themselves a bit more on day to day riding. They aren’t really designed for the gnarly rocky descents, but will be perfect if you just want to feel more confident at tackling new sections at your local bike park.
If you’re looking for a head to head comparison on the Leatt DBX and Bell Super 3R, check out our in-depth comparison here, or check out the comparison between the Bell Super DH and the Bell Super 3R.