What is a Good Mountain Bike Helmet?

The sheer number of mountain biking helmets, types, and helmet terms is overwhelming. If you simply want to know what a good mountain bike helmet is, you are in the right place.  

A good mountain bike helmet is obviously one that keeps you safe in a crash. But in order to keep you safe, you need to wear it. If it is uncomfortable, doesn’t fit right, or makes you really sweaty, you won’t want to wear it all the time. A good helmet is one that you can forget is even there half the time.  

We have collated a list of the things that make a helmet ‘good.’ 

What makes a MTB Helmet ‘good’?

A good mountain bike helmet strikes a balance between safety, comfort, ventilation, and weight. You will find that a helmet that offers a lot of protection will sometimes be heavy or quite warm. Hence a good helmet will keep you safe but also will be comfortable.  

Safety clearly is important. The first three points are directly related to the safety performance of the helmet. 

In order of importance: 

1. Fits correctly 

If it can move around, it won’t be doing its job properly. It also won’t be as comfortable as a well-fitting helmet. A one-size-fits-all helmet is definitely acceptable. Though, if you sit on the upper or lower range of helmet sizes (XS or XL), a one size fits all may not be the way to go.  

For information on helmets for larger heads, see here.  

Look for: An adjustable dial at the back of the helmet. This will tighten or loosen the helmet, giving a better fitting helmet in general.  

Having a good retention system will make a world of difference for the fit.

2. It covers the back of your head and temples 

This is big for safety. Having more coverage reduces the impact to the back of your head, protecting your skull and the effects of brain damage. It also stops sharp objects such as rocks or sticks from piercing your head.  

Looks for: How low the helmet sits on your or the model’s head. Too high, and you won’t be protected enough. Too low, and it will stick into your neck while riding.  

Rear of the Giro Merit

3. Has some sort of slip-plane technology 

I personally would never ride without slip-plane/ anti-rotational technology while out on the trails. A slip-plane technology, such as MIPS or SPIN, help reduce the impact from angular impacts. The energy is deferred, reducing the possibility of brain damage.  

It is such a worthwhile technology to have in a helmet. For good helmets with MIPS, check out this post.

Look for: A helmet with anti-rotational technology such as MIPS, MIPS Spherical, SPIN, Turbine 360, Wavecel, and many others. MIPS is the most common form of anti-rotational technology you will come across in the market today.

Giro Montaro MIPS
The MIPS Layer can be seen easily in this helmet as the plastic layer with yellow dots.

4. Is adjustable 

This includes the fitting system, the chin straps, the position on your head, and the visor.  

Look for: An adjustable dial at the rear of the helmet that you can adjust while riding, with one hand and gloves on (if you often wear gloves).  

If you can move the helmet up and down on your forehead, it helps position and fit the helmet. 

Having an adjustable visor is extremely helpful for blocking the elements while riding. Useful for riding into the sun when it is low, blocking rain and low hanging branches.  

5. It is comfortable, lightweight, and well ventilated 

These are listed of equal importance simply because it depends on personal preference. And they tend to overlap. A hot and sweaty helmet is likely not to be comfortable, but also a lightweight helmet tends to have less padding.  

Having a comfortable helmet makes a world of difference. I can tell you now that plush padding with no pressure points makes riding so so much better.  

I don’t tend to see a heavy helmet as that big of a deal. If you go for longer rides, you start to notice it, and it becomes increasingly less comfortable. But otherwise a heavier helmet doesn’t make much difference to my riding. A typical half shell helmet weighs between 350g and 450g. You can get some heavier ones, such as the Giro tyrant, which weighs over 620g.  

A light helmet doesn’t necessarily mean less safe, but generally, they are more expensive if they do have good safety technology such as strengthening bridges or slip-plane technology 

While they may make the experience of riding better, some features on helmets don’t necessarily make the helmet better. They tend just to make it more expensive! 

Buckle of Giro Merit

What is a good mountain bike helmet for a beginner?

A good helmet for a beginner is generally one with the safety technology but doesn’t have the fancy features. This reduces the price but still keeps the beginner rider safe.  

Some of these include the Giro Fixture MIPS, Bell Spark MIPS, and the Smith Venture MIPS.  

Giro Verce MIPS Helmet Review
Giro Fixture MIPS

We would recommend seeing this post for the best mountain bike helmets for beginners.  

How much should I spend on a mountain bike helmet?

A more expensive helmet doesn’t necessarily make a helmet good. It generally means it has a few more features. You can certainly get good helmets for less than $100, but you pay more for a helmet with adjustable visors or  

For a basic ‘good’ helmet, you want to spend over $50. And for a ‘good’ helmet, you probably want to spend over $80.  

As an example, a good basic helmet will be the Giro Fixture. For a less basic helmet, we would recommend the Giro Source or the POC Tectal Race SPIN.  

For more information on whether it is worthwhile paying a premium for helmets, see Cheap vs. Expensive Helmets.  

How do I choose a MTB helmet?

Choose one on what you needs and your budget. Remember that your safety is so so important, so if you want to save money, spend less on the bike, not the thing protecting your head! 

You need safety technology, you need one that fits well, and you need one that is comfortable enough that you enjoy wearing it.  

Another crucial aspect is determining what you will be using it for. A bike park with technical, steep, or advanced tracks will need to withstand a bit more force than a simpler trail.  

What are the best Mountain Bike Helmet Brands?

There are a huge number of helmets out there. Selecting a helmet based on the brand can actually be a good way to narrow down on the perfect helmet.  

The most popular brands are popular for a reason- they are safe, durable, and comfortable. We’d recommend Giro, Bell, POC, and Smith as reputable brands. For more helmet brands, and information on these brands, have a look at the best mountain bike helmet brands here.  

Giro Merit MTB helmet review

For some reviews on good mountain bike helmets, we’d recommend checking out: 

The Most Stylish MTB Helmets  

The Top MTB Helmets for Hot Weather 

Best Low Profile MTB Helmets