Mountain bike helmets are better than ever, with increased comfort, safety and, at long last, adding some much-needed style into the mix. Here’s a look at some of the latest trail fresh styles for 2017 that we really rate.
Helmets all perform the same task, to keep your loaf safe in the event of an accident. As you’ll notice from a look at the selection of mountain bike helmets available, there’s a wide variety of shapes and style. Broadly, helmets for classic cross country style riding – the sort of thing most of us do, are the lightest and most compact in shape. Ventilation is high, most of them will have a peak to shield the riders from strong sunlight and rain. As the perception of trail complexity, difficulty and speed increases, so does the level of protection available. This means deeper sides, a longer rear aspect and usually a slightly larger overall silhouette.
Of course, you can wear any helmet, of any style on any ride – the choice of the level of perceived protection each helmet offers and the consequential benefit it may give are your choices.
Modern helmets use a method of construction called InMold. This is where the expanded polystyrene (EPS) liner – the soft impact absorbing ‘core’ of each helmet, is fused directly to the hard plastic microshell skin. This skin provides a durable outer layer for the EPS, so that it doesn’t get banged-up during its regular daily use. Whereas the shell used to be taped to the inner shell, the fusing of the two together greatly increases the structural integrity of the overall helmet structure. Most helmets now incorporate an internal plastic skeleton as part of the process. This framework of thin spars helps hold the liner together and give it structural cohesion in the event of a severe impact.
Remember helmet materials are designed to be catastrophically damaged in the event of a serious impact – this controlled destruction helps dissipate the forces that would normally be concentrated into your head.
In the bad old days, the internal shapes of helmets were very basic. We had only the nylon chin-straps to help stabilise the helmets on our heads. It was common for helmets to slip about and need constant repositioning. Today helmet design is much improved, the basic understanding of fit means helmets stability on heads, ‘cold’ – that is without the straps done up, is so good that it’s often possible to tip your head upside down and have the helmet remain on your head. Much of this ‘head grip’ comes from the widespread use of adjustable cranial retention systems. Basically, these are soft plastic straps which pass behind the head and under your Occipital lobe (the bit that sticks out at the back). When gently tightened, these retention straps pull the head and the helmet together – adding incredible stability, in a comfortable way.
The perceptual safety benefit of ‘bigger’ helmets is less valuable than having a helmet that fits and is stable on your head.
Riding bikes can be a hot business, even in the winter. Most helmets have some sort of venting built into their design to mitigate the normal heat build-up generated by riding a bicycle. If you’re a year round rider, it can be useful to have a summer helmet with as much vents as you can find and a more closed winter helmet. This can help keep warmth in, under very cold conditions, as well as help defect more of the rain.
Generally, as the perceived speed and danger of the style of riding increases, so the level of built in ventilation decreases – just bear that in mind.
This logo is becoming common alongside helmet model names: MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. Developed by the biomechanical specialists at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. MIPS is a ‘slip-plane’ technology; essentially two joined layers, which can rotate against each other. This is designed to work in a similar way as the fluid inside your head, which forms the brain’s own safety cushion, in defence against oblique impacts.
The meat of a MIPS helmet is still made from easily deformable EPS, fused to a plastic microshell – like normal. On a MIPS helmet, attached to the inside face of the EPS is a low-friction inner layer (that your head touches).
No single helmet design, or technology can guarantee protection from injury in every accident situation. That said, MIPS addresses the injury type that many cyclists have – oblique, slow speed with a twisting action to the head. If you have the option of MIPS, we think it’s worth having.
Specialized Tactic 2
The Specialized Tactic 2 was one of the first XC/Trail helmets to use a deep rear shape to offer increased protection, without becoming too heavy or bulky.
The Giro Xar was the first helmet to be specifically marketed as a trail helmet with a slightly bigger silhouette and added protection. This latest short peaked Xar has been updated and refined. A bargain.
Louis Garneau Raid
The Canadian take on the lightweight added protection ‘trail’ helmet, the LG Raid is light enough and sufficiently ventilated to allow it to be used on hard pedalling rides, which having gravity ride levels of protection. MIPS option available.
Bell Super 2
The Bell Super 2 is one of the new breed of helmets seeking to answer the needs of the growing number of riders looking for full face levels side and rear impact protection in a goggle friendly open face design. MIPS option available.
Similarly to the Bell Super 2, the Fox Metah is the natural successor to Fox’s perennially popular Flux trail helmet, but with the added head coverage to cope with the speeds associated with competitive enduro racing.
The Rampage is ideal for use in downhill with full face coverage. The design has motocross heritage, with design tweaks to make it more useful to gravity cyclists. Because it’s designed to be light, it’s useful for 4 Cross or even extreme enduro events.
Bell Super 3R MIPS
The Bell Super 3R is interesting because it’s a full-face helmet when the speeds and stakes are high, yet if and when you need it to be an open face helmet it can be, thanks to a clip-off chin guard. With great goggle fit, venting and MIPS, it’s a unique and legit MTB helmet proposition.
The Ambush is Specialized’s Trail/Enduro open face helmet. It’s a relatively deep and solid looking helmet, yet feels slimmer and lighter than its visuals. A high level of adjustability and a positional peak should make it a hit for UK trail riders.
Giro Montana MIPS
Giro have revised the fit of their extremely popular men’s Montaro model for women to make the Montana, like the trail ready Montaro, the Montana is comfortable enough to be ridden on hard pedalling rides where heat might be a factor, while also giving good overall levels of protection as speed increases.
Bontrager Solstice Youth
The Solstice is a great buy, un-complicated to wear and yet as feature-packed as most of the higher priced adult helmets. It’s hard to argue against the cost. A variety of colours mean that it’s not hard to make it meet the stringent standards of ‘cool’.
Bern Brentwood Zipmold
The Brentwood blends the angular, boxy nature of Trail helmets and collides it with the rounded skate style. The Brentwood can be fitted with a variety of Bern liners, with various levels of venting or warmth, depending on your needs.
Bern Nino Zipmold
A straight up skate style helmet with all the fit and protection details you’d expect from a full-blooded MTB helmet, just with a dose of street appeal. We love the soft peak of the Bern Nino Zipmold, a useful choice for the young riders.
Specialized Kids Shuffle
The Shuffle is a more classical youth cycling helmet, with all the key good stability and adjustment and being Specialized, a high score on the style charts.
Off-Road + Commute
We’ve ridden the Luminite as a commuter helmet where it’s built-in rear LED really helps you stay safe on the (occasionally) mean streets. The rest of the time the helmet is a great all round choice for regular dirt surfing on your mountain bike, so a double- duty winner!
Remember this is only a fraction of the helmets available at Evans Cycles. Also, there’s nothing like actually coming in to try before you buy because each helmet will have subtle fit differences.
We’d love to help you choose your next helmet, so pop in.