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We have spent almost seven years testing over 30 full-face downhill helmets. This update to our review focuses on 20 of the best lids on the market in 2023. In the old days, full-face helmets were designed purely for downhill racing and massive freeride stunts. Lucky for us, the development of super light and breathable helmets, along with convertible models, has made full-face helmets far more versatile than ever before. They are now viable for aggressive trail riding, e-biking, and pedaly shuttle laps. Our extensive testing process has involved mind-bending bike park laps, exposed ridgeline trails, janky jumps, and hundreds of miles of enduro-style trail riding. After sufficiently shredding these helmets, we carefully evaluated each helmet on a set of predetermined performance metrics to help us identify our award winners and the best applications of each lid.
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. This model 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, but 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 Leatt Gravity 2.0 is a functional full-face helmet and an excellent value. Sure, this wallet-friendly lid may not have all of the bells and whistles found on high-end helmets, but there is no denying that it gets the job done. This helmet delivers a nice fit and a high level of comfort. Protection levels are solid and it is very nice to see a rotational impact protection system for a helmet in this price range. This lid is a wonderful option for the rider that is dipping their toes into the gravity mountain biking scene and doesn't want to break the bank.
The Gravity 2.0 has a couple of notable flaws. First, it offers poor ventilation and airflow. It only has 11 vents that are covered with a very thick wire mesh material. The lack of airflow paired with the heavily padded area inside of the helmet makes this lid very, very warm. Even when testing the helmet in cool temperatures, it felt quite hot. Another item worth mentioning is the protection levels are about average in this relatively slender helmet. Hardcore riders looking to push their limits in terms of speed and sendyness should look for a more substantial helmet.
The Troy Lee Designs D3 Fiberlite is a high-end helmet with 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.
Versatile and works extremely well in full-face and half-shell modes
ASTM downhill certification
Reasonable weight and ventilation
REASONS TO AVOID
Not best for heavy bike park use
Jack of all trades, master of none
The Bell Super DH Spherical is our favorite convertible helmet. It is essentially two high-end helmets in one. In both full-face and trail modes, the helmet offers excellent levels of comfort and plenty of adjustments to fine-tune the fit. It offers the best system for removing/installing the chin bar among all convertible helmets in our test class. This versatile helmet is an excellent choice for trail or enduro riders who need to climb to access their favorite spicy downhills. Oh yeah, it also carries the ASTM F1952 downhill certification and uses Spherical Technology to reduce the rotational forces that reach the brain.
The Super DH isn't quite perfect. Given its focus on versatility, it isn't the best choice for ripping bike park laps all summer. There are beefier, more robust downhill-focused helmets that are better suited for riding chairlifts frequently. Yes, it has a downhill certification, but there is no denying it is an enduro helmet. In recent years there has been a new crop of full-face helmets that are incredibly light and breathable. The Super DH is reasonably well-ventilated. That being said, there are better options if maximum airflow is a clear priority or if you ride in hot temperatures often.
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 it 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 downhill 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.
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.
We break down our testing into six key metrics:
Comfort (25% of overall score weighting)
Protection (20% weighting)
Weight (20% weighting)
Ventilation (15% weighting)
Visor (10% weighting)
Durability (10% weighting)
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.
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.
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 wallet-friendly Leatt Gravity 2.0 is a comfortable and reasonably protective helmet for riders on a super tight budget.
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. Still, these helmets are all functional in their own right. Read on to find out how our favorite helmets scored in each of the performance metrics.
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. However, 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 are 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. It is also a solid enduro-focused helmet for warmer climates.
Among convertible helmets, the Bell Super DH Spherical is 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. It also offers nice levels of adjustability to fine-tune the fit.
The Leatt Gravity 2.0 is a budget-friendly lid delivering solid comfort levels for a helmet in its price bracket. It has a consistent fit paired with a traditional, heavily-padded interior that is quite pleasant on the head.
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 on 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, and 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 Spherical and Leatt MTB 4.0 Enduro were standout performers, and each featured a rotational impact system. Unfortunately, the two-piece design of a convertible helmet simply doesn't allow for the same amount of padding and overall protection levels compared to traditional one-piece helmets.
The Leatt Gravity 2.0 offers solid protection levels for the price. It is outfitted with Leatt's 360 Turbine rotational impact system, which is a very nice feature in this price range. It should be made clear that this helmet doesn't have quite the same protection levels as some of the beefier options in our test class. Still, it is a great option for riders who aren't looking to push their limits and just want a functional helmet.
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 mountain bike helmet 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. However, 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. Our favorite convertible helmet, the Bell Super DH Spherical, is just a touch heavier at 31 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.
The significantly less-expensive Leatt Gravity 2.0 holds its own in terms of weight. It hits the scales at 35.5 ounces thanks to its overall slimmer and less confidence-inducing shell and average levels of padding.
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 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, but 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 7 Protection 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 toward the face. This may reduce rotational forces by getting that visor out of the way instantly so as 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 DH Spherical stood out as impressive. The mechanism that allows you to remove and attach the chin bar has been redesigned and feels significantly more robust than some other options. The Bell Super Air also has a sturdy latch system. These convertible helmets are a bit more complex and feature more moving parts than the one-piece helmets. As a result, they tend to score a bit lower in terms of durability.
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 Race MIPS and Troy Lee D3, which came with an extra visor.
There are a mind-boggling amount of full-face bike helmets on the market in 2023. Attempting to wade through marketing jargon, technical terms, and protective features can get overwhelming very quickly. Our best piece of advice for finding the best full-face bike helmet for your needs is to be brutally honest about your riding style and the way you intend to use this lid. Identifying the situations in which you will most often wear the helmet will really help narrow the field. From there, this comparative analysis should help steer you to the perfect helmet within the best category of helmets for you, your bank account, and your riding style.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.