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Best MTB helmets 2022: Radical protection on any budget

Ride hard and stay safe with our guide to buying the best mountain bike helmets for hitting the trails

What separates the best mountain bike helmets from the rest of the pack? First, there’s the fact that they should be designed specifically for off-road use. This doesn’t mean they can’t be used on the road or for commuting, but their emphasis should be on the dirt, providing added protection for the gnarliest trails and sufficient ventilation to keep a cool head on the hottest days.

A key area to look for is increased protection for the sides or back of the head to fend off all the potential crash hazards on modern trails such as rocks, roots and those pesky fast-moving trees. Another is the difference in styling, with peaks and chunky, purposeful looks setting MTB helmets apart from their road-centric cousins.

Read on, and we’ll explain which features to look out for, how to buy the right helmet for you and reveal some of the best MTB helmets for a wide range of riding styles and budgets.

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The best MTB helmets 2022: At a glance

  • Best all-round MTB helmet: Giro Chronicle MIPS | Buy now
  • Best-value MTB helmet: Rockrider All Mountain | Buy now
  • Best MTB helmet for XC racers: POC Omne Air Resistance | Buy now
  • Best MTB helmet for protection: Specialized Tactic 4 | Buy now

How to choose the best mountain bike helmet for you

What kind of riding do you do?

Are you happy buzzing around sedate woodland paths, or do you have the urge to launch yourself off every rock and jump in sight? Generally, the more extreme the riding, the more coverage you’ll want from your helmet. This isn’t quite the same as saying the helmet will offer more protection in the average crash, but increased coverage on the back, brow or sides can be beneficial in the event of an off-road tumble.

Think about it as a continuum. At one end, you have full-face helmets as used by daredevil downhill racers, then more enduro-focused lids. Trail riders will want something even lighter yet still rugged, while most XC racers will be happy using the same helmets as road riders. Once you’ve decided where you sit on this spectrum, you can pick a helmet that suits your needs.

How do I get the perfect fit?

Helmets come in a range of sizes to suit different head circumferences. If in doubt, measure yours with a soft tape measure and consult each brand’s size guide to find the size which suits you best.

Many brands tout the efficacy of their particular retention system, with the best offering a wide range of adjustment, security and comfort. However, as clever as the retention system may be, some helmets just fit particular head shapes better. This means it’s a good idea to try a few on if possible.

Which features should I look out for?

Ventilation: All riders benefit from a cool head. But for some, it’s more essential than others. If you’re more focused on the downs or benefit from an electric motor, you may be less concerned than a rider who intends to race uphill. It tends to be that more aggressive helmets have fewer vents in them, and increased coverage generally goes hand in hand with decreased ventilation.

Weight: Being made of expanded polystyrene, most helmets are pretty light. However, when riding uphill in the midday sun, every gram counts. This is why weight is often a big selling point. A lighter helmet is less noticeable on your head, while a reduced weight also means its retention system has to work less hard to keep it in place. Of course, lighter materials or cutting away more of the helmet itself all add to the cost. Now almost universal, in-shell moulding, where the outer and inner parts of the helmet form a single piece, will significantly reduce weight.

Protection: As helmets sold in the UK and the EU must meet the EN1078 standard, all should provide the same base level of protection. Some go above and beyond to meet even more rigorous standards, however, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for helmets with enhanced protection. Many helmets now claim additional protection against concussion-type injuries, either by mitigating the force of the impact via variable density materials or by allowing a degree of movement between the wearer and the helmet. The most popular is a system called MIPS (multi-directional impact protection), which claims to reduce twisting forces transferred from the helmet to your head. Other systems or materials claim improved impact absorption, too, such as the use of multiple densities of conventional EPS foam or proprietary materials such as Hexcel or Koroyd.

Sizing, styling and other features: Cheaper helmets come in a single size. However, as you get to around £50, you’ll find they come in multiple sizes. This results in a less bulky profile and a better fit. Obviously, it’s personal preference, but the styling will generally improve as you spend more. You should also look for clever finishing touches such as magnetic buckles, flush sitting straps and adjustable visors.

How much do I need to spend?

What you’re generally paying for are improved features and secondary performance attributes. Spending around £25-35 on a helmet from a well-known brand should see you adequately protected. The £35-65 range will get you multiple sizes and a better fit. Spend £65-120 and you’ll get something quite special, with improved ventilation, upgraded protection or more genre-specific features and styling. More than £120, and you’ll be looking at the lightest and most richly featured mountain bike helmets on the market.

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The best MTB helmets in 2022

1. Giro Chronicle MIPS: Best all-round MTB helmet

Price: From £100 | Buy now from AmazonGiro’s Chronicle is its all-mountain-focused model. Designed for more aggressive riding, it features extended coverage on the back, while its lowish weight and 14 vents mean it doesn’t sit too heavily and keeps your head cool on warmer days.

Although comfort can vary from one individual to the next, Giro provides a consistently well-judged fit for most riders. The popular Roc Loc 5 retention system is secure, adjusting with a simple twist, and multiple sizes cater for all sizes of head.

Sitting in the middle of Giro’s range price-wise, it also benefits from MIPS impact protection, which may offer extra protection against concussion.

Its much-imitated styling still looks good, and it plays nicely with ski goggles or helmet-mounted cameras if that’s your thing. Available in a wide range of colours, there are plenty of good reasons the Chronicle is such a common sight on the trail.

Key specs – Weight: 365g (M); Sizes: S/51-55cm, M/55-59cm, L/59-63cm; Additional protection: MIPS; Additional features: N/A

2. Rockrider All Mountain: The best-value MTB helmet

Price: £30 | Buy now from DecathlonThis budget helmet takes design cues from the latest high-end all-mountain lids and brings them to an entry-level price point.

Offering enhanced coverage to the back and sides of the head, its chunky profile is cut through by seven separate vents. Offering a decent mix of cooling and protection, it certainly looks the part, and the broad and stylish visor can be easily adjusted and locked in place.

The helmet is held in place by a simple elastic retention system, while a choice of two sizes offers a relatively tailored fit. With an in-mould construction that sees the shell fully bonded to the interior, weight is on the lower side, too.

More XC-focused riders might want to look for a helmet with better ventilation, but for aggressive riders on a budget, the Rockrider is tough to beat.

Key specs – Weight: 320g (M); Sizes: M/53-59cm, L/59-61cm; Additional protection: N/A; Additional features: Elastic retention system

Buy now from Decathlon

3. Smith Engage: A great all-round helmet for trail riding

Price: From £71 | Buy now from ProBikeKitAs the riding the average mountain biker undertakes has become more technical, helmets have adapted to match. So while the Engage would have looked relatively extreme a decade ago, it now sits neatly in the trail riding camp.

This means that while you get a bit of extra protection on the back, it’s not as moto-style as some. At the same time, you still get useful features such as full over-moulding, where the shell covers the edges of the helmet to protect it from damage, plus a medium-sized adjustable visor.

Weight is where you’d want it to be, and the retention system that wraps around your entire head is both comfy and secure.

Given the reasonable price, it’s good to see MIPS protection included, and while ventilation might not be as effective as some models, it’s still pretty good.

Key specs – Weight: 350g (M); Sizes: S/51-55cm, M/55-59cm, L/59-62cm; Additional protection: MIPS; Additional features: N/A

Buy now from ProBikeKit

4. POC Omne Air Resistance M: The best helmet for XC and gravel riding

Price: From £98 | Buy now from WiggleMost XC racers have switched to wearing road bike helmets, so it’s rare to find an extremely light helmet with a peak. Yet despite its aerodynamic styling and relatively light weight, this POC lid is well suited to off-road use.

The helmet uses various densities of foam to tailor its protection and cover high-risk zones, and this is backed up by the MIPS anti-concussion safety system.

Mimicking the design of its road-going sibling, weight and ventilation are superb, while the retention system is secure and unobtrusive. With less extensive coverage than all-mountain designs, you’ll barely notice the Omne is there.

The Omne Air Resistance M’s styling will appeal to speed-focused racers or gravel riders rather than the baggy shorts and kneepads brigade. Smart and good-looking, this is our pick for less aggressive riders.

Key specs – Weight: 325g (M); Sizes: S/50-56cm, M/54-59cm, L/56-61cm; Additional protection: MIPs and variable density foam; Additional features: Strap dividers

Buy now from Wiggle

5. Endura SingleTrack Helmet: A light, well-ventilated helmet

Price: £90 | Buy now from Endura SportThe latest version of the SingleTrack helmet does things a little differently to most. It retains the huge vents from previous versions, but fills some of them with impact-absorbing Koroyd inserts.

Koroyd panels are positioned in high-impact areas around the side of the head, and their honeycomb-like structure is designed to help absorb greater impacts without adding significant weight or impairing cooling. For added peace of mind, the helmet design provides extended coverage at the back of the head, with a bit extra on the temples.

Despite the level of protection on offer, ventilation is superb thanks to the massive vents spread around the shell, so it’s a good pick for more aggressive riders who like to keep the tempo high.

The overall design is excellent. A tacky pad on the back helps keep your goggle strap in place if needed, the peak does its job well, and the padding and retention system are comfy.

Key specs – Weight: 320g (M); Sizes: S/51-56cm, M/55-59cm, L/58-63cm; Additional protection: Koroyd inserts; Additional features: Goggle mount

Buy now from Endura Sport

6. Specialised Tactic 4 Mountain Bike Helmet: The best helmet for all-round protection

Price: From £68 | Buy now from Sigma SportsThe Tactic 4 ticks all the boxes for faster riders, combining great coverage with attractive styling. Yet, despite lying at the gnarlier end of the spectrum, the Tactic 4 is reassuringly heavy on features, while remaining relatively light on your head and wallet.

The protection on offer is second to none. It meets the more rigorous NTA-8776 e-bike helmet certification and has earned the highest 5-Star rating from the well-respected Virginia Polytechnic Institute, putting it above rival helmets which cost 3 or 4 times the price. What’s more, it has MIPS impact protection and is compatible with Specialized’s ANGi sensor which can alert contacts in the event of a crash.

Despite its generous coverage, it does so without being excessively heavy, and the medium size helmet comes in at a very reasonable 380g. It’s also moderately well ventilated, although other helmets here are cooler, and it’s more adjustable than most, too. You can even tweak the angle at which it sits, which is a bugbear on many helmets.

Key specs – Weight: 380g (M); Sizes: S/51-56cm, M/55-59cm, L/58-62cm; Additional protection: MIPS, NTA-8776 certification; Additional features: ANGi compatible, Fixed visor

Buy now from Sigma Sports

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