Everyone knows they should wear a good helmet when riding a mountain bike. It makes sense right? Well, it seems more than 90% of riders wear an open-face helmet. If you crash (which you will if you ride) you could easily smash your face into the ground, a rock, or a tree even if you are going slowly.
Keep reading to learn about the best lightweight full face helmets for mountain biking.
Why Mountain Bike Riders Don’t Wear a Full-face Helmet
Most pros and downhill riders wear a full face helmet. But what about a full face helmet for everyday trail riding? It seems like most riders opt for an open face helmet for mountain bike trail riding.
So why don’t mountain bike riders wear a full face helmet as most all dirt bike motorcycle riders do?
Two main reasons in my opinion.
- Full Face helmets are hotter, have less airflow, and have more of a claustrophobic feel because they cover more of your head and face.
- For some reason, it has been deemed that you look better in an open-face helmet. Somehow it looks more ‘cool’ if you have an open-face helmet on when riding a bicycle.
This is interesting because it is the complete opposite when riding a dirt bike off-road motorcycle. People would think you look stupid if you wore an open-face helmet riding a dirt bike!
Of course, on a dirt bike, you can have much more speed that can blow air through the helmet to cool you down.
Many companies are trying to make full face mountain bike helmets that are comfortable, have good ventilation, and look good but it is not an easy task.
Do Full Face Helmets Look Cool?
Personally, I think the ‘coolness’ factor of the open-face helmet is the number one reason why people don’t want to wear full face even though they know they should.
Granted, a full-face helmet is much hotter and you don’t feel as free wearing one.
Downhill Certified Full Face Helmet
To make things clear, if you are riding downhill parks and/or obtain great speeds on your mountain bike you should always be wearing a full face helmet that is downhill rated.
Meaning, that an independent helmet safety organization has tested and rated the helmet for ‘downhill’ riding or racing.
You will see confirmation of a downhill certification and rating in the product information
Do You Need a Full Face Trail Riding Helmet?
Now we come to the heart of the question. Do you need a full face helmet for just trail riding?
My answer is yes but you will hear many say, “oh, a full face helmet is just not needed for trail riding.” To that kind of thinking I suggest you think about a test.
Not saying for you to actually do this (my total disclaimer!), but what if you slowly walked up to a wall and let your face (chin, lips, and teeth) hit the wall without stopping? Would it hurt?
Yes, it would! And you were just barely moving and letting the wall touch your face!
Think about how it would hurt even if you were only going five miles per hour and falling from sitting up on your bike to the ground, hitting a rock, or a tree? Not going to be good!
So you want a full face helmet. That just makes sense. Ok, now we figure that out, what helmet should you get?
There are several to choose from but the following lightweight full face helmets are the most popular at the moment so let’s discuss each one.
Should You Buy a Helmet With MIPS?
This is a great question and one that I also won’t attempt to answer for you as there is no way I could. There are mixed options on how much or if any at all, MIPS helps you in a crash.
Do the research on MIPS and decide for yourself if you want or need it.
How Much Should You Spend on a Full Face Helmet for Trail Riding?
It seems all of these helmets are around $250 and up so I would suggest looking for the one you want when it comes on sale.
Sure there are cheaper helmets I don’t talk about in this article but I didn’t try them for a reason.
Trail Riding Full Face Mountain Bike Helmets
- Bell Super Air R
- Fox Proframe
- Kali Invader 2.0
- IXS Trigger
- Troy Lee Designs Stage
I won’t get into the if a helmet has a certified downhill rating or not. That is something you should review on the official product website if it matters to you.
I also won’t debate the pros and cons of the removable chin guard such as the Bell Super Air has. There is a wide range of ‘reviews’ on all these helmets.
I suggest you read them wherever you find them but take into consideration that reviews can vary widely on the same product. Some people have an agenda that may not be clear in their review.
I will discuss my opinions on each helmet but that is strictly my viewpoint. Your impression of the same helmet may be very different.
Bell Super Air R
This is a good-looking helmet. It also is very light and has a lot of vent holes. The padding inside is good and seems to be in the correct spots, at least for me. This helmet has MIPS.
Maybe being a dirt bike rider I have always liked Bell helmets so it sways my opinion somewhat as it has a motocross helmet look to it and I like that.
The Bell Super Air felt more like a real helmet than some of the others I tried even though it has the detachable chin guard.
I love the ventilation on the helmet including vents up top to cool your brow. These vents seem to make a big difference compared to helmets that don’t have them.
Yes, that may seem odd but maybe it has to do with how the padding fits my head. It felt good wearing it for long periods of time.
The truth is that if a helmet hurts your head after a while you just won’t keep wearing it. The Bell Super Air just fit well.
The Bell Super Air R is offered in three sizes, small, medium, and large.
There is a ratchet-style size adjuster on the back of the helmet. One thing it seemed like the chin guard was a little too close to my chin but I got used to it.
Would that be an issue in a crash? I have not ‘tested’ that yet luckily.
Would I Wear It? Yes, and I do almost all the time.
The Fox Proframe is very light and has lots of ventilation holes just as the other helmets on this list have. It comes with a wide variety of extra pads to vary the size based on your head shape.
The helmet itself is offered in Small, Medium, Large, and Extra large. I like that as it gives you a better chance of finding the right size for you.
Compared to some others that only offer two choices, small/medium and large/extra large this is a good thing and should be a consideration.
The Proframe has MIPS and was fairly comfortable to wear for me.
One negative that many complain about this helmet is that the visor is not movable. It is designed to break off in a crash but you can’t move it otherwise.
There is no ratchet-style size adjuster on the back of the helmet.
Would I Wear It? Yes, but I like some of the other options better so passed.
Kali Invader 2.0
I REALLY wanted to like this helmet! But I did not. It had everything I was looking for with lots of ventilation holes, lightweight, and a nice look to it.
It was literally the most uncomfortable helmet I have ever worn. I think it is because the padding seemed very thin.
Kali does provide extra cheek pads of varying sizes and an extra set of inner helmet pads but they are the same size so no help there.
The Invader 2.0 only comes in two size options so maybe that had something to do with my issues.
Small/Medium and Large/XL. It does have a ratchet-style size adjuster on the back of the helmet but it seemed to be in the wrong place for me and caused some discomfort.
I did call Kali and they suggested ‘doubling’ the inner padding with the spare set they sent. Ok, sure that may help but really? That is the solution for a $250 helmet? I think I will pass then.
Would I Wear It? No. Sorry to say I could never wear this helmet for more than 15 to 20 minutes maximum.
The IXS Trigger kind of put the idea of a lightweight full-face helmet that you could use all the time on the map. It has a lot of ventilation and looks good.
The Trigger has a MIPS version and a non-MIPS version that is a little cheaper.
The Trigger only comes in two sizes, small/medium and large/extra large so finding that precise fit may be difficult for some.
Luckily, it also comes with a ratchet-style size adjuster on the back of the helmet. Some people won’t wear a helmet that does not have one of these and we agree it does make a helmet fit better.
I like this helmet. The only negatives I found were that it was not as comfortable for me as the Bell Super Air and it seems like a big helmet on the outside. It would be my second choice.
Would I Wear It? Yes, and sometimes do if I feel like wearing something without a detachable chin guard.
Troy Lee Designs Stage
This is another great helmet and worthy of consideration. It may give you the best protection of the bunch and if you can “find the fit” is a solid choice.
I think Troy Lee claims their Stage helmet is the lightest full-face helmet on the market at the time of this writing. It does feel very light and it does have lots of great ventilation.
There is no ratchet-style size adjuster on the back of the helmet so the pads are key to making this helmet work for you. It seems that some of us love the fit and others could not make it work.
The Stage helmet is offered in three sizes, XS/Small, Medium/Large, and XL/2XL, and does come in MIPS.
Some felt the padding rubbed their head the wrong way while others didn’t notice. Take note that the Stage helmet retails at a whopping $299 although you can find it on sale if you look.
Would I Wear It? Yes and no. If it fit me right I would but the ‘fit’ wasn’t to be found in my case.
UPDATE on the Troy Lee Stage Helmet:
I decided to revisit the Troy Lee Stage helmet after a riding friend told me how much he loves his. And he was quick to point out (as we were doing downhill shuttle runs) that the Stage is a downhill-rated helmet.
Ok, that was a good comment for the type of riding we were doing. My friend said to make sure I took the time to get the fitting right with all the different pads they include.
So after some ‘refit’ with the included pads, I found a setup I liked and have started wearing this helmet more and more and surprisingly it may become my favorite of the bunch now.
After a few rides, the helmet really started to fit me perfectly and was very comfortable. It does actually have a sturdier feel to it. I suppose that is because of the extra strength to earn a downhill rating.
Here is how these helmets rank in my opinion.
Best Lightweight Full Face Mountain Bike Helmets
- Bell Super Air R
- IXS Trigger
- Troy Lee Designs Stage
- Fox Proframe
- Kali Invader
We will keep an eye out on new lightweight full face helmets that hit the market and once we try them out we will update this article but until then happy MTB riding and keep it on two wheels!