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Over the past six years, we've tested over 30 full-face downhill helmets. This review focuses on 18 of the best lids on the market today. Traditionally, full-face helmets were reserved for bike park days, downhill racing, and burly freeride lines. These days, the advent of lightweight full-face helmets and convertible models has made them a legitimate option for aggressive trail riding, enduro, and e-biking. Our testing process featured countless bike park laps, ridgeline freeride trails, questionable gaps, and plenty of everyday trail riding. We kept detailed notes during our testing process and then scored these helmets on a predetermined set of performance metrics to determine our award winners and recommendations for varying needs, riding styles, and budgets.
The Mainline MIPS is a newer model from Smith. 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 DH 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 is the best option for dedicated bike park riding or downhill racing. While it is DH 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.
We feel the best full-face downhill helmet is the Fox Rampage Pro Carbon MIPS, which posted the highest among the beefy downhill models we tested. If we are going to ride big, sketchy freeride lines or frequently ride at race speed, this is the helmet we would reach for…every single time. This top-of-the-line helmet has a carbon fiber shell paired with dual-density EPS foam and a MIPS rotational impact protection system. It has good coverage, a snug fit, and a highly protective, robust feel. Additionally, this helmet has a clever breakaway visor with screws designed to shear off and release the visor upon impact. Despite this helmet's heavier weight and heavily-padded feel, the ventilation levels remain decent.
This helmet isn't perfect. It feels very secure and protective but certainly fits a bit snug. This is the result of the generous, thick padding inside, which did loosen up slightly over time. The range of uses for this helmet is also a bit narrower than some other options. This is a full-on DH helmet suited for racing and big freeride lines. Other helmets are more versatile and offer lower weight and better ventilation. While we feel this helmet is the best of the best, it's not for everyone.
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 anything but pure gravity riding. It is best 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 does not come with any sort of rotational impact protection system.
The Bell 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.
The Fox Proframe RS is the Best For Enduro Racing. Sure, there are slightly lighter enduro-focused helmets available, but the Proframe RS feels more substantial, robust, and protective compared to the featherweights. This DH-certified lid has excellent airflow for mashing the pedals on a punchy mid-stage climb. The range of vision is tremendous and the visor is great. The fit is excellent and this helmet features a BOA dial and multiple cradle adjustments to fine-tune it to your head shape. If you are heading to the enduro start gate, we highly recommend this helmet.
The Proframe RS is a dedicated enduro helmet. As a result, it isn't the best choice if you can only have one full-face helmet. Yes, it has a DH certification, but it isn't a pure downhill helmet. There are better options for ripping bike park laps all day or building sketchy freeride lines. At this price, the Proframe RS is a bit expensive as a niche helmet. In addition, while it is reasonably light and airy, there are better choices for trail rides with substantial amounts of pedaling.
The Giro Insurgent Spherical is a proper DH helmet that offers a comfortable fit and versatile attitude. This lid has a traditional, padded/pillowy feel and the fit is extremely consistent without any pressure points or loose areas. The Insurgent provides true, all-day, comfort. Despite feeling like a pure downhill helmet, the relatively low weight makes this helmet very versatile. It is happy as a clam banging bike park laps but isn't out of the question for enduro racing. The biggest compliment we can say of this helmet is our testers consistently reached for the Insurgent over much of the competition for our full-face-worthy adventures.
This helmet isn't quite perfect. The padded and pillowy feel is comfortable and secure feeling but can make things quite toasty in warm temperatures. When ridden back-to-back with enduro-oriented helmets, the Insurgent simply can't match the airflow or breathability…it can get soggy pretty quickly. Another item worth mentioning is that while more and more manufacturers are moving towards Fidlock magnetic closure systems to secure their helmets, the Insurgent uses a traditional D-Ring system. While this design is bombproof and secure, there is no doubt that it is much harder to use, especially while wearing gloves.
The Specialized Gambit earned high regard for its impressively light weight and top-notch ventilation. This helmet is truly unique and is the first lid that is a legitimately good option for wearing on aggressive trail rides. This helmet shines in those trail riding situations where you need to do loads of pedaling but also find yourself saying "I should really be wearing a full face right now". It is also a great choice for e-bikers who climb to aggressive trails. This featherweight helmet feels different than any other full face helmet as it lacks the heavily padded and cushy feel. In fact, it feels much more like a half-shell helmet with a chin bar. This helmet breathes unbelievably well and still carries a DH certification.
While this helmet makes its money on being crazy light, low-profile, and airy, it isn't the most protective or confidence-inducing. Blasting down gnarly trails or boosting jumps can feel a little disconcerting as this helmet is just so light on your head. Where a beefy downhill helmet feels like it is hugging your head, the Gambit doesn't feel nearly as substantial. We also found it to move around a touch more on the head than more generously padded models. That said, if you're seeking the coverage of a full face without the weight or ventilation penalty, check out the Gambit.
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.
This review is brought to you by OutdoorGearLab Review Editor, Pat Donahue. Pat is the former Senior Mountain Bike Review Editor at OutdoorGearLab. He 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.
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 for this comparative analysis. Our 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 in the great state of Washington. We rode aggressive terrain as much as humanly possible. And believe it or not, we even climbed while wearing these lids…you know, just to see.
Analysis and Test Results
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.
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.
We don't rate products based on their price. That being said, who doesn't love a good value? Mountain biking is definitely an expensive sport and often price and performance go hand in hand. Full face downhill mountain bike helmets can be very expensive and the average price is continually rising. The Fox Rampage Pro Carbon MIPS is the most expensive model we tested, and it also happens to be one of the highest-rated. For significantly less money, we feel the Troy Lee Designs D3 Fiberlite represents the best ratio of price to 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 Giro Insurgent Spherical earned top honors in our comfort metric. This traditional DH lid has a cushioned and heavily padded feel. That being said, it makes its money off of an extremely consistent fit with no pressure points or pinches. The shape is just perfect and testers found themselves constantly reaching for the Insurgent because it is so easy to get along with and is quite versatile on the trail.
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-style helmet that uses a conservative amount of padding with strategic placement. The areas where your head contacts the padding are 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.
The Fox Proframe RS has a consistent fit that blends a moderately-cushioned feel with tremendous airflow. If you need a lid for long days on the enduro race course, we highly recommend the Proframe RS.
If you happen to live and ride in hot climates, the convertible Bell Super Air R Mips has a tremendously breezy and well-ventilated feel. Among convertible helmets, the Leatt MTB 4.0 Enduro is also exceptionally comfortable. In both full-face and half-shell settings, it is pleasant against the head and is absent of any pressure points or hot spots.
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, 360 Turbine, Smartshock, etc, 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 MIPS at the top of the heap. It has excellent coverage, a stout carbon shell, a clever breakaway visor, in addition to the MIPS rotational impact protection technology.
Other models like the Giro Insurgent Spherical, 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 RS scored the highest in terms of protection. These two helmets had a more substantial feel and enhanced protective properties compared to the competition. Out of the convertible options, the downhill-certified Bell Super DH MIPS and Leatt MTB 4.0 Enduro were standout performers.
The average weight of our downhill-specific full-face helmets in our test is approximately 40-ounces. The average weight of our enduro-oriented options is about 28-ounces. For comparison, the average weight of the half-shell helmets is around 12.5-ounces. This means that full-face bike 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 MIPS, which at 42.7-ounces is one of the heavier helmets we tested. We feel it is also the most protective and robust. It didn't feel especially heavy on our heads and we have no problem carting around a little extra weight in the name of protection.
If saving a few ounces is important to you, the 100% Aircraft 2 is worth a look. At 40.1-ounces, it is light for a high-end, true DH helmet. The excellent levels of ventilation for a DH helmet make it feel even lighter. The Giro Insurgent hit the scales at 36.7-ounces. It is light among the downhill helmets in the test class and is quite well-rounded.
The Specialized Gambit is the lightest helmet in our test at just 21.6-ounces in size medium. Due to its low weight and less burly feel, we don't consider this helmet to be the best option for full-blown downhill shredding. The Gambit is, however, by far the best choice for aggressive trail riders or e-bikers who need a full-face helmet they can wear while pedaling.
The Bell Super Air R MIPS Is the lightest convertible helmet at 23.8-ounces in full-face mode. If you like the idea of a DH-certified convertible helmet, the Leatt MTB 4.0 Enduro comes in at 29.9-ounces.
Among the breathable, lightweight, non-convertible helmets, the Troy Lee Designs Stage MIPS is a true lightweight. This was one of the lightest helmets 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. The Fox Proframe RS is our favorite for enduro racing. At 29.5-ounces, the Proframe RS is heavier than most of the enduro-style helmets, but it also strikes us as the most protective.
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 mesh or screen covering the chin vents, just a wide-open hole. These generally breathe the best. Keep in mind that full-face helmets will never generally not 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 Specialized Gambit. Not only does this lid have large, open vent ports, it's also extremely light and has very little padding. The lack of padding near the face promotes exceptional airflow. If you need a full face helmet to wear while climbing up to your favorite downhill, the Gambit is by far the best option.
Troy Lee Designs Stage MIPS, Fox Proframe RS and Bell Super Air R MIPS were right on the heels of the Specialized Gambit. We would like to reiterate one thing: All of these helmets are designed with enduro racing and aggressive trail 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 100% Aircraft 2 is the most well-ventilated by a large margin. This lid has a whopping 20 vents. There is a smattering of large vents above the brow that allow air to enter the helmet. The chin bar vents are noteworthy as they are not covered in a mesh or screen-like material. This allows maximum amounts of air to get to your mouth. This can be invaluable on a long DH lap or a pedal section of trail. The well-ventilated design paired with a relatively low weight is a recipe for success.
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 Rampage Pro Carbon MIPS has a fixed visor that doesn't adjust. It attaches using shear-off screws. 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 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 2 both posted nice scores among our aggressive, downhill-focused helmets. The Aircraft 2 has a nice, broad, three-position visor with a hole in it to allow air to pass through to the helmet's brow ports. 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. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer manufacturers include spare visors these days.
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 typically 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, Giro Insurgent Spherical, 100 Aircraft 2, and Fox Rampage Pro Carbon MIPS, which came through our test with almost no signs of wear. Other helmets we tested did not fare as well.
Among convertible helmets, the Bell Super Air R stood out. The mechanism that allows you to remove and attach the chin bar is more sturdy than others in this review.
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, 100% Aircraft 2, and Fox Rampage Pro Carbon, which came with a substantial storage bag that can also accommodate goggles, gloves, and a few other small items.
More and more helmets are coming with extra cheek pads to allow riders to fine-tune the fit. In fact, almost all of the helmets added to this review in the past couple of years have included extra cheek pads. The Giro Insurgent Spherical, for example, comes with 25mm cheek pads installed. If you need to snug up the fit, you can install the included 30mm cheek pads. Swapping these pads is extremely simple.
There was a time when helmets shipped with an extra visor, but that appears to be a thing of the past. The only exception is the POC Octocon and Troy Lee D3 which came with an extra visor.
There are certainly lots of full-face bike helmets available these days. Trying to navigate technical terms, marketing jargon, and specifications can be a herculean task. A key piece of advice to finding the best full-face bike helmet is to be perfectly honest about your riding style and what you plan to use it for. Identifying the way you will most often use the full face will really help narrow the field. From there, this comparative analysis should guide you to the perfect helmet within the best category of helmets for you, your bank account, and your riding style.
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