The Best Full Face Downhill Mountain Bike Helmets
Best Overall Full-Face Downhill Bike Helmet
Fox Racing Rampage Pro Carbon Weld
Our Editors' Choice Award for the best full-face downhill helmet goes to the Fox Rampage Pro Carbon Weld, which took the highest overall score in our test. This top-of-the-line helmet features the latest and greatest in safety features, including Fluid Inside technology that reduces the forces to the brain in the event of angled impacts and protects against linear impacts. Also, a clever magnetic break-away visor intentionally releases on angled impacts. This helmet is heavy, but it boasts exceptional airflow.
This helmet isn't perfect. There are some quirks to the fit as well as a pressure point on the forehead. If you are in between sizes, we recommend thinking about sizing up. Also, the Rampage Pro Carbon is expensive, but if you're willing to spend the money for the best downhill helmet on the market, we think this is it.
Read review: Fox Racing Rampage Pro Carbon Weld
The 7Protection M1 is a supreme value. This helmet delivers rock-solid performance at an eye-popping price tag. This lid is a fantastic option for the person just dipping their toes into the gravity scene and doesn't want to break the bank. Protection levels are decent, and this helmet is surprisingly light for a budget-focused helmet.
The M1 isn't quite perfect. The 7Protection helmet has a warm and stagnant feel. Warm air and humidity don't escape all that effectively, and the result is a sweaty and hot melon. The poor ventilation theme continues at the chin bar as the ventilation ports on the chin bar aren't very effective. One other minor quirk is that the end of the visor is strangely narrow. Regardless, this is a quality helmet at a very reasonable price.
Read review: 7Protection M1
Best Convertible Helmet
Bell Super Air R MIPS
The Super Air R MIPS is our favorite convertible helmet. This helmet is extremely light and airy. It is an excellent choice for the aggressive trail and enduro riders who pedal to the top of their favorite downhills. The chin bar weighs practically nothing and can be easily stowed in a pack for the long, uphill, en route to that gnarly downhill. It works very well as a half-shell and as a full face. We loved it.
To be clear, this isn't the perfect helmet. Given its low-profile design and feathery attitude, it just doesn't feel as robust as other downhill-focused helmets. This is not a great option for a week-long trip to the whistler bike park or sending big, janky, gaps. We recommend looking for a bulkier, heavier, DH-focused helmet for that sort of thing. Also, riders with strong jawlines may feel like their chin is hanging out of the bottom of this helmet.
Read review: Bell Super Air R MIPS
Best for Enduro Racing
Troy Lee Designs Stage MIPS
The Troy Lee Designs Stage MIPS is our top pick for enduro racing. This feathery helmet has excellent ventilation. This superb airflow provides an excellent oxygen supply when mashing the pedals on an enduro stage and also keeps the crown of your head quite cool. The Stage helmet has an excellent range of vision thanks to a chin bar that is tucked out of the way. This helmet is downhill certified.
This helmet has a somewhat narrow range of applications. It is built for enduro racing. Despite the downhill certification, we would recommend something more substantial for downhill and park riding. Even with the supreme ventilation, we would still recommend a convertible lid for embarking on big climbs to get to the top of rowdy downhills. This isn't a great choice as an only full-face helmet. It is best suited as second helmet for race days.
Read review: Troy Lee Designs Stage MIPS
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is brought to you by OutdoorGearLab Review Editors Pat Donahue and Dustin Schaad. Pat co-owns Over the Edge mountain bike shop in South Lake Tahoe, and has been heavily involved in the bike industry for the past eight years. He enjoys all forms of mountain biking to nasty downhill trails to all-day epics. Pat is joined by Dustin, a former professional mountain biker and Red Bull Rampage participant. Both Pat and Dustin bring to this review a wealth of downhill experience and understand the finer points of head protection.
While wearing these helmets while riding gnar as much as humanly possible is fantastic, a comparative analysis isn't that simple. Prior to purchasing these lids, we researched virtually every full-face mountain bike helmet on the market. We poured over the technology, specifications, and marketing jargon before selecting the most intriguing helmets. Field testing took place in all corners of the western United States and Canada. Whistler Bike Park, Northstar Bike Park, and a huge number of janky under-the-radar shuttle runs. Believe it or not, we even climbed while wearing these lids…you know, just to see.
Analysis and Test Results
It is important to mention that none of the helmets in our review were bad. We have some clear favorites, and we feel that some lids stand out as more impressive with better designs and execution. That said, these helmets are all totally functional in their own right. Carry on to find out our favorite helmet in each of the performance metrics.
Our team of professionals spent several months riding this batch of test helmets. We compared and analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of each model based on on-trail experience and close inspection in our laboratory. We determined six important performance metrics, such as comfort, protection, weight, durability, ventilation, and visor. Each model was ranked based on these metrics, and that helped determine the final scores.
We don't score products on price or value. That said, everyone wants a strong value when they are slapping down the credit card. Bicycling is an expensive sport, and everyone wants to stretch their dollar as far as possible. Full face downhill mountain bike helmets can get quite expensive. The 7Protection M1 is our Best Buy winner for its supremely impressive price tag and reliable performance.
Comfort is a critical metric. A comfortable helmet allows riders to focus on the trail or feature in front of them and not a pinch or pressure point caused by the helmet. Full face helmets can only be so comfortable, and you'll likely never forget that your head is stuffed into a padded bucket. That said, some helmets are far more comfortable than others.
The most comfortable helmets have interior padding constructed of dense open-cell foam covered in a soft-to-the-touch, wicking, materials. This padding tends to pack out over time, especially in the cheek/jaw pad area, where it is the thickest. Once the material packs out, it becomes less comfortable, and the fit gets wonky, causing the helmet to flop around more than when the padding was robust.
The Bell Full 9 Carbon is the most comfortable helmet in our test, and we awarded it the elusive perfect 10 in this test. This model uses dense interior padding, which is covered with a smooth, velvet-like material to hold the helmet in place while preventing pressure points between the head and the polystyrene.
The Giro Disciple is another exceptionally plush full face that is tremendously comfortable against the face. The Best Buy winner, the 7Protection M1 is another exceptionally comfortable helmet, especially for the impressive, budget-friendly, price tag. If you happen to live and shred in hot climates, the Bell Super Air R Mips has a tremendously breezy and well-ventilated feel. It is the closest thing to wearing nothing at all.
We awarded each helmet a relative protection score based on the certification standards that it meets as well as a close inspection of its construction. The beefier and heavier-duty downhill-specific full-face helmets generally scored the highest in this metric. The lighter-duty enduro oriented models and those that are convertible tended to score a little bit lower. This is not to say that they aren't protective, but we feel that the increased ventilation holes and lighter-weight materials and constructions may not protect you as well as the heavier duty DH models.
We did not perform any scientific crash testing on the helmets; we will leave that to the certifying agencies. We did do some unscientific crash testing when things didn't go as planned, and we were forced to devour a couple of dirt sandwiches. We did have one particular hit on the TLD D3 and it came out pretty much unscathed and the rider in decent shape too. We scored the Editors' Choice Fox Rampage Pro Carbon at the top of the heap in this metric. It has excellent coverage, a stout carbon shell, breakaway visor, and Fluid Inside technology. Other models like the Giro Disciple, Troy Lee D3, and 100% Aircraft aren't far behind and are the lids we'd reach for if we were headed to the bike park to ride chairlifts all day.
Of the enduro-focused models we tested, the Fox Proframe Moth scored highest in terms of protection. It had a more robust feel and enhanced protective properties compared to the competition. Out of our four convertible options, the Bell Super DH MIPS was our highest rated.
The average weight of our downhill-specific full-face helmets in our test is 39.5 ounces. The average weight of our enduro-oriented options is about 28-ounces. For comparison, the average weight of the half-shell helmets in our mountain bike helmet test was around 12.5-ounces. This means that full-face helmets are around three times heavier than half-shell helmets. It's hard to quantify how much more protective a full-face is compared to a half-shell, but we think they cover between two and three times more of the head and offer a sturdier construction. The weight-weenie crowd might skip the protection of the full-face altogether and save twenty or more ounces by rocking a half-shell. That said, the weight weenie crowd likely isn't spending a huge amount of time at the bike park. It's pretty easy to justify the extra ounces to keep your teeth intact when ripping DH laps.
As with half-shell mountain bike helmets, those that fit securely felt lighter than the scale may reflect. One such model was the Fox Rampage Pro Carbon Weld, which at 43.5-ounces is one of the heavier helmets we tested, though it's snug fit makes it feel lighter on the head than the numbers suggest.
Another exceptionally portly helmet in our test is the Giro Disciple MIPS, which despite its plush, comfortable, and secure fit, feels much heavier on the head than any other helmet we tested. We think the Disciple MIPS is an excellent helmet, especially for the price. We suggest not being too concerned with the weight, especially for such a downhill-focused helmet.
The Bell Super Air MIPS is the lightest helmet in our test at just 23.8-ounces in size medium (with chin bar attached). As we noted in the review, we don't consider this convertible helmet a good option for full-blown downhill shredding. This is an enduro-oriented helmet meant to deliver full-face protection but isn't designed for ripping dozens of park laps a day.
Among the breathable, lightweight, helmets, the Troy Lee Designs Stage MIPS is the lightest. This was the second lightest helmet in our review coming in at 24.3-grams. Again, this isn't the most protective helmet and its best suited for pedally shuttle laps or enduro racing.
Our Best Buy winner, the 7Protection M1, is a lightweight full-face helmet that delivers a stellar value. At 33.4-ounces, it is one of the lighter options in the test. That said, the protective values may be lacking compared to the spendier, heavier options.
Our ventilation metric considers two types of ventilation.
First, we considered how well each helmet allows cool air to flow into the helmet and transport built-up heat away from the head.
The second aspect is how well each chin guard allowed the rider to breathe. This type of ventilation is influenced by the size and shape of the chin guard as well as the size and materials of the vents in the guard. A significant factor in how well a helmet allows the wearer to breath is the proximity of the chin guard to the mouth. The other is the quality of material in the vents on the chin bar. Some of our enduro-focused helmets have no venting mesh or plastic, just a wide open hole, these obviously breathe the best. Keep in mind that full-face helmets will never offer quite the same airflow as a half shell. That said, some full faces breathe significantly better than others.
The highest score in this test went again to the Troy Lee Designs Stage MIPS with the Fox Proframe Moth and Bell Super Air R MIPS close behind. We would like to reiterate one thing: both the Stage MIPS, Super Air R, and the Proframe are designed squarely for the enduro crowd. These helmets have the safety certifications, but they simply aren't meant for bike park day and downhill racing.
Among the most protective helmets, the Fox Racing Rampage Pro Carbon is the most well-ventilated burly helmet. The 19 vents feature both intake and exhaust ports to pull in cool, fresh, air and pull it through the helmet and then exit the rear. The 100% Aircraft is another notable performer in this metric. The 25 vents and their location on the helmet allow for excellent airflow, and the mouth guard also gives way to a nice feel and good circulation through the chin area.
Visors serve to shield the eyes from sun, rain, or mud, depending on conditions. All of the helmets in our test have visors. In fact, the visor is a primary and critical feature in a mountain bike helmet. It is especially important on a full-face helmet.
The visors on our test helmets vary in both length and width. Another critical difference is how the visor is attached and secured. Almost all of the visors are attached with two removable screws on either side of the helmet near the temples. These screws allow the visor to pivot up and down a few degrees to adjust for conditions. These screws are typically thumbscrews that can be manipulated without a tool. For added security, a coin works in cranking them extra right.
Many of our test helmets, like the Troy Lee Designs Stage MIPS and the 7Protection M1 have a third screw in the center of the visor. This screw is positioned under the visor and is attached to a slider mechanism. Simply loosen the middle thumbscrew and slide the visor up or down on the track.
We came to prefer helmets with three rather than just two thumb screw attachments. They allow you to more or less leave the side screws by the temple alone. Simply use the center screw for all adjustment purposes. The Fox Proframe and Bell Full 9 Carbon utilize the two-screw method and require both screws to be loosened to move the visor. We found that on some occasions, the visor ended up a bit crooked.
Our Editors' Choice Fox Rampage Pro Carbon Weld has a fixed visor that doesn't adjust. This is a safety feature that is designed to allow the visor to break away cleanly and easily in the event of a crash towards the face. This reduces rotational forces by getting that visor out of the way instantly as to not to interfere with the safety features working inside of the helmet.
The Troy Lee Designs D3 and 100% Aircraft MIPS both posted nice scores among our aggressive, downhill focused helmets. In terms of our enduro-focused options, the Bell Super DH MIPS and Troy Lee Stage MIPS were the most impressive.
Visors are typically much more flimsy than the rest of the helmet. This is by design; most are designed to break away in a crash. Unfortunately, visors are typically designed for a specific model and are not compatible with other helmets. For this reason, if you damage a visor in a minor crash that doesn't total the helmet, you have to track down a replacement specifically for that helmet. The Troy Lee D3, which came with an extra color-matched visor, is the only helmet to include a spare.
Full-face helmets are typically more durable by design than other types of helmets. One area of weakness we identified in our half-shell helmet test is the bottom edge of the helmet. Helmets that have exposed polystyrene foam along the bottom edge do not hold up to day-to-day use as well as helmets that keep the polystyrene protected. Full-face helmets do not suffer from this weakness since all of the impact-absorbing foam is encased within the shell.
We did not do any scientific crash or durability testing of these helmets. Instead, we just wore them day-in and day-out while riding, and examined how well they held up. The most impressive helmets in this test were the Bell Full 9 and Fox Rampage Pro Carbon Weld, which came through our test with almost no signs of wear. Other helmets we tested did not fare as well.
The downhill helmets we tested came with a variety of extras ranging from spare visors, helmet camera mounts, and speaker pockets. All came with a storage bag. Most of these bags are simple fabric sacks, except for the ones included with the Troy Lee D3 and Fox Rampage Pro Carbon, which came with a substantial storage bag that can also accommodate goggles, gloves, and a few other small items.
We really liked the Troy Lee D3, which not only includes the sturdy storage bag but also includes an extra color-matched visor, should you damage the first one. We think that these two extras are likely to get used along the course of the helmet's lifespan.
In 2020, there are an insane amount of full face helmets on the market. It can be overwhelming and frustrating to sift through marketing jargon and specifications to try and find the helmet that best suits your needs. Our best piece of advice- be honest about the style of helmet that makes the most sense for your needs. If you are planning on spending a few weeks at the Whistler Bike Park, we suggest getting a full-on downhill helmet. If you want some extra protection for an epic backcountry ride, we recommend a convertible option. See our award section for our top choices in each category.
— Pat Donahue, Dustin Schaad