Best Full Face Bike Helmet of 2020
Best Overall Full-Face Downhill Bike Helmet
Fox Racing Rampage Pro Carbon Weld
We feel the best full-face downhill helmet is the Fox Rampage Pro Carbon Weld, which took the highest overall score in our test. This top-of-the-line helmet features some unique safety features, including a Multi-Composite Technology Shell, dual-density EPS foam, and Fluid Inside technology. Fox claims that Fluid Inside "mimics your body's natural cerebral spinal fluid, and is meant to manage both linear and rotational impact energy." Additionally, a clever magnetic breakaway visor allows it to detach during a crash. Despite this helmet's heavier weight, we were also quite impressed with its ventilation.
This helmet isn't perfect. We found the fit to run a little on the small side, as well as a minor pressure point on the forehead. If you are in-between sizes, we recommend trying one on before you buy and potentially sizing up. Also, the Rampage Pro Carbon is quite 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
Best Bang for Your Buck
Troy Lee Designs D3 Fiberlite
The Troy Lee Designs D3 Fiberlite is a high-end helmet at an impressive price tag. The D3 Fiberlite borrows many features from the more expensive models in the Troy Lee line and packages them in a more affordable, fiberglass shell. This helmet delivers a high level of comfort with plush padding and a crowd-pleasing fit. The heavier construction is confidence-inspiring, and we felt secure and well-protected at high speeds and while hitting jumps. This lid is moderately priced, but we feel it represents an excellent blend of quality and price.
The D3 Fiberlite isn't quite perfect. This is one of the heaviest helmets in our review and is not the helmet we would choose for pedal-heavy trail rides. It is much better suited for riding lifts at the bike park, racing, and burly freeriding. We also found its ventilation/breathability to be a bit below average. While we feel it is a very protective helmet, it doesn't come with any sort of rotational impact protection system.
Read review: Troy Lee Designs D3 Fiberlite
Best for Enduro Riding
Smith Mainline MIPS
The Mainline is a new model from Smith Optics. This lightweight full-face was designed with input from Smith's professional enduro racers. It's pretty darn light, although a couple of ounces heavier than some of the other enduro-focused models we've tested, but it has a more substantial, confidence-inspiring feel. Smith's use of Koroyd helps maintain a high level of coverage and impact protection while still delivering excellent ventilation. This airflow is critical when smashing on the pedals in the middle of an enduro stage or grinding up that pesky climb in the middle of your shuttle lap. The Mainline carries a downhill certification, and it felt more robust than some of the other helmets in the enduro sub-category. Yes, there are lighter options, but we feel the Mainline is an ideal blend of weight, ventilation, comfort, and protection.
While we loved the Mainline for its substantial feel and excellent weight to protection ratio, it does have some compromises. There are better options if ventilation is of the utmost importance. Yes, the Mainline has above average airflow, but some models breathe a little better. We also don't think this the best option for dedicated bike park riding or downhill racing. While it is downhill certified, we'd recommend looking at a heavier-duty DH-specific helmet. The Mainline MIPS is on the pricey side of the spectrum. That said, we feel the asking price is justified for its quality and performance.
Read review: Smith Mainline MIPS
Best Convertible Helmet
Bell Super Air R MIPS
The Super Air R MIPS is our favorite convertible helmet. This helmet is very lightweight with excellent ventilation. We feel it is an excellent choice for aggressive trail and enduro riders who pedal to the top of their favorite downhills. It functions very well as a half-shell and quickly and easily converts to a full-face when you choose. The chin bar weighs practically nothing and can be easily stowed in a pack for long uphill grinds en route to a gnarly downhill. The Super Air R MIPS is basically two helmets in one, and a great option for the rider who only wants to ride with a full-face some of the time.
To be clear, this isn't the perfect helmet. Given its low-profile design and lighter weight, it simply doesn't feel as robust as other downhill-focused helmets. For pure downhill riding, we recommend looking for a bulkier, more substantial, DH specific model. Also, riders with more pronounced jawlines may feel like their chin is left a little exposed. That said, we think this is an excellent convertible helmet that can serve double duty as a half-shell or a full-face.
Read review: Bell Super Air R MIPS
Best on a Tight Budget
The 7Protection M1 is an excellent value. This helmet delivers rock-solid performance at a very reasonable 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. We feel it offers reliable protection, and this helmet is surprisingly light for a budget-focused helmet.
The M1 isn't quite perfect. It doesn't have the best ventilation, and this helmet has a warm and stagnant feel. The poor ventilation theme continues at the chin bar as the ventilation ports aren't very effective. One other minor quirk is that the end of the visor is strangely narrow. Regardless, we feel this is a quality helmet at a very reasonable price.
Read review: 7Protection M1
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is brought to you by OutdoorGearLab Review Editor, Pat Donahue. Pat is the former Senior Mountain Bike Review Editor at OutdoorGearLab. He is now the co-owner of Over the Edge mountain bike shop in South Lake Tahoe and has been heavily involved in the bike industry for the past ten years. He enjoys all forms of mountain biking, from nasty downhill trails to all-day backcountry epics. Pat brings a wealth of downhill and enduro riding/racing experience to this review and understands the finer points of head protection.
While wearing these helmets while riding aggressive terrain as much as humanly possible is fantastic, a comparative analysis isn't that simple. Prior to purchasing these full-face models, we researched virtually every downhill mountain bike helmet on the market. We pored over the technology, specifications, and marketing jargon before selecting the most intriguing options. Field testing took place in all corners of the western United States and Canada, including the Whistler Bike Park, Northstar Bike Park, and several 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 models stand out as more impressive with better designs and execution. That said, these helmets are all functional in their own right. Carry on to find out our favorite helmets 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 crucial performance metrics, including comfort, protection, weight, durability, ventilation, and visor. Each model was ranked based on these metrics to determine our award winners.
We don't rate the products we test based on price. That said, we always appreciate a good value. Mountain biking is an expensive sport, and often price and performance go hand in hand. Full face downhill mountain bike helmets can be quite expensive. The Fox Rampage Pro Carbon Weld is one of the most expensive models we tested, and one of the highest-rated. For significantly less money, we feel the Troy Lee Designs D3 Fiberlite represents the best ratio of price and performance. At the same time, the affordable 7Protection M1 is a serviceable helmet and a great option for riders on a super tight budget.
Comfort is a critical metric. A comfortable helmet allows riders to focus on the trail or feature in front of them and not be distracted by a pinch or pressure point. Full-face helmets can only be so comfortable, and you'll likely never forget that your head is stuffed into a full-coverage lid. 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 soft-to-the-touch, wicking materials. This padding tends to pack out over time, especially in the cheek/jaw pad area where it is typically the thickest. Once the material packs out, it can become less comfortable, and allow the helmet to flop around more than when the padding was robust.
The POC Coron Air Spin was among the most comfortable helmets in our test. The Coron is plush and loaded with padding. In addition, the shape of the helmet was perfect and we experienced no pressure points or hot spots. The copious amounts of pillowy padding paired with a killer shape was a hit among testers.
The Smith Mainline MIPS is another exceptionally comfortable full-face. The Mainline is a lighter enduro-focused helmet that uses a conservative amount of padding with strategic placement. The areas where your head contacts the padding is incredibly comfortable while the ear pockets were perfect allowing for excellent hearing abilities. We would have no problem wearing this helmet for hours on end. If you happen to live and ride 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, a close inspection of its construction, and included protective features. 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. Rotational impact protection systems, like MIPS or Fluid Inside, are also considered to add protection. We can't verify the effectiveness of rotational impact protection technologies, but they are becoming standard features on most high-end mountain bike helmets.
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, but without a medical evaluation of our brain and some scientific research of impact forces, it was difficult to come away with any concrete conclusions. We scored the Fox Rampage Pro Carbon at the top of the heap. It has excellent coverage, a stout carbon shell, a magnetic breakaway visor, in addition to the Fluid Inside rotational impact protection technology. Other models like the Giro Disciple, Troy Lee D3 Fiberlite, and POC Coron Air Spin weren'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 Smith Mainline MIPS and Fox Proframe scored highest in terms of protection. These two helmets had a more robust feel and enhanced protective properties compared to the competition. Out of the convertible options, the downhill-certified 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 is around 12.5-ounces. This means that full-face helmets are a little more than two to 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 typically offer a sturdier construction. The weight-conscious crowd might skip the protection of the full-face altogether and save twenty or more ounces by rocking a half-shell. That said, gram-counting riders likely aren't spending a considerable amount of time at the bike park. We think it is pretty easy to justify the extra ounces to keep your face and head protected 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, although its snug fit makes it feel lighter on the head than the numbers suggest.
Another exceptionally portly helmet in our test was the Giro Disciple MIPS, which despite its plush, comfortable, and secure fit, felt 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 Troy Lee Designs D3 Fiberlite is a fantastic value. We loved it despite it being one of the heavier helmets in our review. In other words, weight isn't everything.
The Bell Super Air R MIPS is the lightest helmet in our test at just 23.8-ounces in size medium (with chin bar attached). Due to its lightweight and less burly feel, we don't consider this convertible helmet to be the best option for full-blown downhill shredding. This is an enduro-oriented helmet meant to deliver full-face protection that can pull double duty as a half-shell.
Among the breathable, lightweight, non-convertible helmets, the Troy Lee Designs Stage MIPS was the lightest. This was the second lightest helmet in our review coming in at 24.3 oz. Again, due to the lighter weight and materials used in its construction, we don't feel this is the most protective option. We think it is better suited for pedal-y shuttle laps or enduro racing. The Smith Mainline MIPS is our favorite helmet in the enduro sub-category. Yes, it is a few ounces heavier than the Stage MIPS, that said, we feel it has a more substantial and confident-inspiring feel.
When analyzing the ventilation of the helmets in this test, we considered it in two ways. First, we examined how well each helmet allows fresh air to flow into the helmet and transport built-up heat away from the crown and sides of the head.
The second aspect is how well each chin guard allowed the rider to breathe and air to pass through. This type of ventilation is influenced by the size and shape of the chin guard, as well as the materials covering the vents in the guard. Some of our enduro-focused helmets have no venting mesh or plastic, just a wide-open hole. These generally breathe the best. Keep in mind that full-face helmets will never offer anywhere near the same airflow as a half shell. That said, some full faces breathe significantly better than others.
The best-ventilated helmet in the test was the Troy Lee Designs Stage MIPS with the Fox Proframe and Bell Super Air R MIPS close behind. We would like to reiterate one thing: the Stage MIPS, Super Air R, and the Proframe are designed with enduro racing and riding in mind. These helmets have the safety certifications, but they are much lighter and less burly feeling than the full-on DH models.
Among the most protective helmets, the Fox Racing Rampage Pro Carbon is the most well-ventilated and burly helmet. The 19 vents feature both intake and exhaust ports to pull in cool, fresh air and pull it through the helmet to 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 air 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 on a mountain bike helmet, and we feel they are especially important on a full-face.
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 can often be used for cranking them down extra tight.
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 this middle screw to slide the visor up or down on the track.
We came to prefer helmets with three rather than just two screw attachment points. They allow you to more or less leave the side screws by the temple alone and use the center screw for all adjustment purposes. The Fox Proframe utilizes the two-screw method and requires both screws to be loosened to move the visor. We found that on some occasions, the visor could end up a bit crooked.
The Fox Rampage Pro Carbon Weld has a fixed visor that doesn't adjust. It is attached magnetically, which 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 may reduce 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 had our favorite visor designs.
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 came with an extra color-matched visor and was the only helmet to include a spare.
Full-face helmets are typically more durable than other types of helmets by design. 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 to everyday wear and tear. The most impressive helmets in this test were the Smith Mainline 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 Smith Mainline and POC Coron Air Spin. These helmets include a storage bag and some extra padding that allows you to fine-tune the fit. Fewer and fewer helmets come with extra visors in the year 2020.
Yes, there are an overwhelming number of full-face helmets on the market. It can be mind-numbing and frustrating to sift through marketing copy, specifications, and jargon-heavy features to find the best helmet for your needs. Our most valuable advice is: be honest about the style of helmet that makes the most sense for your riding style, trails, and conditions. If you plan on spending a healthy amount of time at the bike park riding the chairlift, we recommend a full-on, heavy-duty, downhill helmet. If you are looking for some extra protection for rowdy trail rides in the backcountry, some of the enduro-focused or convertible options will likely be a better fit.
— Pat Donahue