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Guide to Choosing the Perfect Mountain Bike Helmet for Women

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Mountain biking is a rough sport, so wearing an equally tough helmet is essential. However, finding a mountain bike helmet that fits, is comfortable, and is specifically designed for women can be daunting. With many types of helmets available, how can you choose one that best suits your needs?

When purchasing a mountain bike helmet for women, you first need to decide whether you need the extra protection of a full-face helmet. Your helmet should cover the back and sides of your head. However, your foremost concern should be that it fits snugly enough to protect you.

In this article, I’ll explain the pros and cons of both half-shell and full-face helmets. Then, I’ll go over what features are essential for protection and how to ensure your helmet fits well. Lastly, I’ll suggest some popular mountain bike helmet brands. 

What To Look For in a Mountain Bike Helmet

So, what should you look for in a mountain bike helmet? How do you know that a helmet provides good protection?

While shopping for a helmet, consider whether you need a full-face one. Look for common essential features such as a snug chin strap, a non-impeding visor, slip-plane tech such as MIPS, and a round outer shell. If you decide to purchase accessories, make sure their mounts can break away on impact.

So now, let’s go over all these considerations in greater detail.

Half-Shell vs. Full-Face Helmets

When buying a mountain bike helmet, the first decision you’ll need to make is whether your rides are risky enough to warrant a full-face helmet.

Full-face helmets have chin and face guards. They’ll shield more of your head and protect your face. You might appreciate the added coverage if you’re biking downhill, at high speeds, or over rough terrain. A full-face helmet tends to be pricier than a half-shell helmet but can better protect you if (or when) you fall.

However, if your rides are leisurely, a half-shell helmet might be all you need. They don’t have a chin or faceguard but still provide adequate protection. They also might be cooler, as they only extend down the sides and back of your head.

While both are great options, your choice should be based on your protection needs–not aesthetics or comfort.

Female mountain biking

Essential Features for Mountain Bike Helmets

So, aside from fitting well, what are the essential features of a good mountain bike helmet? What should you be looking for when you’re out shopping?

A Strong, Snug Chinstrap

When it comes to what’s important in a mountain bike helmet, its fit and ability to stay on your head come first and foremost. If your helmet falls off or slips, it won’t be able to protect you if you fall—that’s where its chinstrap comes in.

Make sure your helmet’s chin strap fits snugly, but not so snugly that you’re uncomfortable and want to take your helmet off. Ensure you can tolerate it for the full length of your ride. For optimal safety, make sure you can only slip one finger between it and your skin.

A Protective but Non-Impeding Visor

Your helmet’s trusty visor, on the other hand, will protect your eyes from not only the sun but dirt and mud, too. It’s a must-have, but it’s also important to ensure it doesn’t impede your vision.

While mountain biking, you need to be able to see well enough to avoid branches and other potential sources of injury. If your visor extends too far or is too close to your eyes, you won’t have a clear view. This can be disastrous if you’re only wearing a half-shell helmet that doesn’t protect your face.

So, test-drive any contending helmets before you buy. Just put it on your head and look up. You’re golden if you can see well enough to spot any overhead hazards.

Slip-Plane Technology

Slip-plane technology is a feature found in many helmets, especially mountain bike helmets. One example is the Multi-directional Impact Protection System—or “MIPS” for short.

Helmets with MIPS have an inner layer designed to move separately from the rest. When your head hits at an angle, there’s a chance that your brain may rotate in your skull and tear. By adding independent parts, slip-plane tech cushions your brain and helps prevent brain injuries.

So, slip-plane technology—whether MIPS or another type such as Turbine 360—is important. It might even be essential, considering how rough an activity mountain biking can be. If you’re curious, you can read more about MIPS tech in this article by the Altitude Blog.

A Round Outer Shell

When choosing a mountain bike helmet, you want it to have a round outer shell that, if you fall, won’t hold your head up at an angle.

Falling with a bent neck can cause devastating injuries. The uneven stress on your muscles and joints can cause sprains, tearing, and even broken vertebrae.

So, don’t buy helmets that have a boxy or odd shape, no matter how appealing they look to the eye. It’s not worth the years or even decades of pain that follow should you fall wrong.

A Breakable Camera or Light Mount

Installing something on your helmet that’s designed to break sounds counterintuitive—not to mention a waste of money—but it’s essential to your safety.

As with your helmet’s round outer shell, a camera or light mount that’s meant to tear off or break away in a fall or impact helps prevent your neck from bending at odd angles. In short, it helps prevent severe injuries.

So, if you’re looking to mount a camera or light on your helmet, look for mounts with built-in breakpoints. Some examples include velcro attachments or weak plastic-to-plastic mounts.

How a New Mountain Bike Helmet Should Fit

So, now that we’ve gotten essential features out of the way, how should your new mountain bike helmet fit? Should it be snug? Slightly loose? Is there more to it than how tight it fits?

Your new mountain bike helmet should fit snugly, but not so much that you can’t tolerate it. The helmet should cover your forehead, stopping just above your eyebrows, and there should be no more than a finger’s breadth between your skin and the chin strap. It should not move if you shake your head.

Let’s go over how you can ensure you get a good fit.

Mountian bikers looking at landscape

Measure Your Head Beforehand

Before you set out to shop, measure your head first. Nowadays, some helmets have knobs or other ways of tightening them—but you can only tighten them so much. You need to have a clue of what size you’ll need.

So, take a flexible tape measure and write down the circumference of your head. Once you’ve done so, you can compare it to online sizing charts to get a feel for what size helmet you need.

Do a Test Shake of Your Head

One of the easiest ways to tell if your helmet is tight enough is to give your head a firm shake.

If your helmet fits properly, it won’t budge. But if it does, you’ll know you need to either tighten it or get a smaller helmet. This includes your helmet slipping back on your forehead—a common mistake and one that significantly reduces your helmet’s ability to protect you.

Popular Mountain Bike Helmet Brands

These mountain bike helmet brands are popular for a reason—people trust them to prevent injury. In this section, I’ll suggest popular half-shell and full-face helmets you can depend on.

Popular Half-Shell Helmets

  • Giro Manifest Spherical Mountain Helmet. This is a favorite of many mountain bikers who prefer half-shell helmets. It comes with MIPS technology, is lightweight, and has unprecedented airflow to keep cool.

Popular Full-Face Helmets

  • 100% Status Helmet XL. This helmet prioritizes protection over airflow but has a padded chin bar. It also has an adjustable visor.

Conclusion

When purchasing a helmet, it’s best to go for one that fits snugly. Make sure it doesn’t impede your vision, has a snug chin strap, and has slip-plane tech.

To ensure a helmet fits, measure your head first, and give it a test shake. It shouldn’t slip down or ride up on your forehead.

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