After extensively researching over 45 full face mountain bike helmets, we bought ten of the most compelling ones. We rode these downhill helmets as much as humanly possible from Whistler to Utah, to Northern California. We ranked these helmets based on some of the most important metrics. Yes, all of these helmets will get the job done, but continue reading to learn about which lid is the best overall option, the best convertible model, and the most wallet-friendly choice.
The Best Full Face Downhill Mountain Bike Helmets
We have updated this review with a few converitble helmets. These full face helmets have removable chin bars and are essentially two helmets in one. Check out how they stack up against the competition
Best Overall Full-Face Downhill Bike Helmet
Fox Racing Rampage Pro Carbon MIPS
Our Editors' Choice Award for the best full-face downhill helmet goes to the Fox Rampage Pro Carbon, which took the highest overall score in our test. This top-tier helmet is comfortable, well-ventilated, and constructed of premium materials. The Rampage Pro Carbon wins this award for its striking details on style, ventilation, sizing, visibility and increased safety. The Fox Rampage was always our first choice throughout testing. Testers loved pulling this lid straight from its stylish, yet well-designed helmet bag. The fit, feel, and quality of the Rampage Pro Carbon stands to be one of the best we have ever tested. This well-detailed and stylish lid has all the boxes checked when it comes to top-notch full-face protection.
Read review: Fox Rampage Pro Carbon
Best Convertible Helmet
Bell Super DH MIPS
The Super DH is our favorite convertible helmet. At $300, you are purchasing a downhill certified full-face helmet that works well as a trail helmet too. This makes this a fantastic option for enduro racers or someone who simply only wants to buy one helmet. In full face mode, this helmet has a light feel and excellent visibility. This lid is not as robust as some of the purpose-built downhill helmets. As a result, if you are just looking for a helmet to wear at the bike park, we recommend looking elsewhere. In trail mode, this is a stellar and reliable half shell that breathes well.
Read review: Bell Super DH MIPS
Best Bang for the Buck
Fox Racing Proframe Moth
The Fox Proframe wins the Best Buy Award for its traditional full face fit but with great ventilation and 500 grams of weight savings compared to its competition. It's also upwards of $200 cheaper than the other carbon DH helmets tested. The enduro race scene has progressed over the last few years, and the helmet market needs to follow suit. With full face protection being required for the timed descents but overkill for the transfer stages, weight and breathability are critical. We've seen helmet designs with removable chin bars such as the Giro Switchblade and Bell Super 2R/3R arrive in the last few years. Attempting to offer full face protection but with the versatility of a lighter-weight trail helmet when the chin bar is removed is a tall task. For some riders, this style works great, but other riders prefer the security and safety of a chin bar. This is where the Proframe comes into play.
Read review: Fox Racing Proframe Moth
Top Pick for Comfort
The Bell Full 9 Carbon is a Top Pick for those seeking ultimate comfort. The XT-2 Extended Wear Interior is the most comfortable fabric of any helmet tested. Bell knocked it out of the park on this one. It wicks moisture nicely and never carried an odor, unlike other fabrics. When hiking big spine lines in Utah, the fabric sat so very nicely on the head without any irritation. On cold days on the chairlift at Whistler Bike Park, our heads were always comfy and warm. Testers agreed that the lining of this helmet never irritated their heads. The quality and placement of the fabric on the Bell Full 9 are as good as it gets.
Read review: Bell Full 9
Analysis and Test Results
No matter what style of biking you are doing, wearing a helmet while riding a bike is a no-brainer. The hard part is deciding what type of helmet to wear. For mountain biking, we often ask ourselves "Do we need the added protection of a full-face or can we get away with a lighter, more ventilated half-shell helmet?" When making this decision, we factor in what type of terrain we are riding, what type of bike we are riding, and how rad we think we are going to get. If you aren't quite sure what type of helmet you need, check out both our How to Choose a Mountain Bike Helmet and How to Choose a Full-Face Downhill Helmet articles for more details.
Our expert testers spent months riding and rating each helmet we bought for this review. We compared these helmets based on experiences on the trails and inspection in our lab. Every helmet was scored across seven performance metrics to quality products in this gear category. The combination of these scores, weighted according to their importance, produced the overall ratings. Below, we highlight the star performers in each category, aiming to help you identify the right model for your specific needs. We also describe why each metric is relevant to these products.
There's no doubt that mountain biking is expensive. With prices ranging from $200-$495 for a downhill helmet, there's a broad range when it comes to making the big purchase decision. At $250, we've awarded the Fox Racing Proframe Moth as our Best Buy winner. We've also included a chart below which highlights all contenders in our fleet, as well as their price to value ratio. You'll find that the highest price per value lands toward the bottom right of the graph.
Comfort is a key characteristic because comfortable helmets are less distracting and allow you to concentrate on your line. While you never forget you are wearing a full-face helmet as you might with a half-shell, we look for helmets which feel like an extension of the body rather than a hindrance. The most comfortable helmets have interior padding constructed of dense open-cell foam covered in a soft to the touch and wicking material. This padding tends to pack out over time, especially in the cheek pad area where it is the thickest. Once a downhill helmet's padding packs out, it is not only less comfortable but also tends to bounce around on the head a bit more.
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.
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, a visor is a primary feature that we feel sets a half-shell mountain helmet apart from a half-shell road helmet. Most road helmets do not have a plastic visor because it interferes with your line of sight when looking forward while riding in the drop position on a road bike. Road bike helmets can be paired with a short brimmed cycling cap when the sun is low on the horizon or when riding in the rain. Cyclocross riders also often go with a cap rather than a visor, though cyclocross bikes are rarely ridden in the drops, and a plastic visor probably suffices.
The visors in our test varied in both length and width. Another critical difference is how the visor is attached and secured. All of the visors are attached with two removable screws on either side of the helmet that allows 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, though a coin worked in cranking many of them tight. Four of the eight helmets in our test had an additional attachment point beneath the center of the visor that served to stabilize and tighten it in place. All four of these helmets used a simple slotted slider and an additional thumbscrew that passes through the slider into an insert in the helmet.
We came to prefer helmets with three rather than just two attachments as it allows for the side screws to be left less than cranked and adjust the angle of the visor by just manipulating the center screw. The Fox Proframe, Bell Full 9 Carbon and Bell Transfer only use the two-screw method and require both screws to be loosened to move the visor, and we found that the visor sometimes ended up a bit crooked.
The Fox Rampage Pro Carbon visor is our favorite and took the top score in this test. This all to do with the width, length, and a robust attachment method. Fox uses two hard metal screws on either side of the visor and a third plastic slider/screw beneath the visor to attach and adjust its visor. This massive visor gives the Fox Rampage a very moto look, which we expect from a company with roots in motocross.
Visors are 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 one 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.
The average weight of the eight downhill helmets in our test is 39.5 ounces. For comparison, the average weight of the half-shell helmets in our mountain bike helmet test was around 12.7 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. The gram counting crowd might skip the protection of the full-face altogether and save twenty or more ounces by rocking a half-shell. It's pretty easy to justify the extra ounces to keep your gold grill intact for downhill riding, though.
As with half-shell mountain bike helmets, those that fit securely felt lighter than the scale may reflect. One such model was the Giro Cipher, which at 40 ounces is one of the heavier helmets we tested, though its snug fit makes it feel lighter on the head.
The most cumbersome helmet in our test is the Bell Transfer-9, which despite its super secure fit, feels much heavier on the head than any other helmet we tested. We think the Transfer is an excellent helmet, especially for $200, but if the weight is a deal breaker for you consider its carbon shelled big brother, which weighs less though it is twice the price at $400.
The Fox Proframe is the lightest helmet in our test at just 34 ounces in size Medium, though we don't consider this helmet fit for full-blown downhill shredding. Sure, low weight is essential in a helmet, but we don't believe in sacrificing protection to lose a few ounces. If lightweight is your top priority in a full-face, then we recommend that you check out the Fox Rampage which weighs just 2.8 ounces more than the Sanction while being a more protective lid.
Our ventilation test measured two types of ventilation. We first considered how well each helmet allows cool air to flow into the helmet and transport built-up heat away from the head.
The second thing, which is unique to full-face helmets, is how well each helmet's chin guard allowed the wearer to breathe. This type of ventilation is influenced by the size and shape of the chin guard as well as the size of the vents in the guard. The most significant factor in how well a helmet allows the wearer to breath is the proximity of the chin guard to the mouth. Keep in mind that full-face helmets are always going to feel suffocating compared to half-shells no matter how well-vented or well-placed the chin guard is.
The highest score in this test went again to the Fox Proframe. Let's clarify something real quick though - the Fox Proframe's intentions are steered more towards Enduro, but we will say that the Proframe felt safe and secure on the most prominent lines out there. The next highest score went to the 100% Aircraft. We are stoked to see this lid get some accolades because it was struggling in the comfort department. But the 25 vents and their location on the helmet allows for excellent airflow, and the mouth guard also gives way to a nice feel and good circulation through the chin area.
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.
We did not perform any scientific crash testing on the helmets, but 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 was all good.
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 one included with the Troy Lee D3, which came with a substantial storage bag that can also accommodate goggles, gloves, and a few other small items.
One of the more exciting extras came on the Bell Transfer-9, which is compatible with the Eject system. The Eject system, sold separately, is a small air bladder placed in a recess molded into the inside of the Transfer's polystyrene liner. The bladder can be inflated by a small tube that extends out of the back of the helmet. This system is designed to allow trained rescuers to carefully remove the helmet and minimize secondary injuries by inflating the bladder with a syringe of air. We've noticed that the availability of the Eject System is pretty limited online, so if you are sold on the Transfer-9 because of it, you may want first to try to hunt down a retailer which has the bladders before you buy the helmet. Bell.com does not currently have the system, but we've seen a few for sale on moto oriented web stores.
The highest score in this test went to 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.
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 which have exposed polystyrene foam along the bottom edge do not hold up to day-to-day use as well as helmets which 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, which came through our test with almost no signs of wear. Other helmets we tested did not fare as well.
Consider the type of mountain biking you plan to be doing, the terrain, and your bike when selecting a helmet. This review is designed to help you choose the most appropriate helmet for your mountain biking needs. See our full Buying Advice article for a more detailed description of the differences of full-face, half-shell, and road bike helmets.
— Pat Donahue, Dustin Schaad
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for tips.