In this article I’m going to cover the best budget mountain bike helmets. With dozens of brands and hundreds of possible options to choose from, this was not an easy article to write.
Another factor that adds to the complexity is that usually the term “budget” doesn’t correspond to what is generally deemed “best”. And when it comes to helmets there are very little if no short-cuts you can take in terms of safety. So where it matters very little if you swap out an aluminum seatpost for a carbon one, it does matter if you swap out a non-MIPS helmet for a MIPS one with Spherical technology and reinforced polycarbonate.
Wearing any helmet significantly reduces the change of both brain trauma and death (60 and 70% respectively). Obviously it depends what type of helmet you use as well, and the difference in chance of sustaining a concussion between the one with the best rating versus the worst is about 2.5. Meaning that it’s 2.5 more likely you get a concussion with the least safe helmet.
There’s a 10-fold difference between the cheapest helmet and the most expensive one (about 30 versus 300). And both those helmets sit at opposite sides of the safety spectrum. I’m very aware of the fact that in general promoting cheaper helmets means promoting products which are less safe. But now that I’ve said it, what you do with that is your responsibility.
What you’ll find on this list are helmets that have an average suggested retail price of 150 USD or lower. I’ve included a table overview at the end of this article so you can see what type of crash technology you get for what price. The overview also includes Virginia Tech ratings with an 8.4 being the best, and 26.57 the worst.
With all that out of the way, let’s head over to my list of the best budget mountain bike helmets.
Troy Lee Designs A1
The Troy Lee Designs A1 takes everything from its more premium brother the A2, but is offered with a standard EPS liner instead.
Furthermore it comes with a regular padding not the X-Static one.
This shaves a couple of dollars from the price, which means you still get a great-fitting, comfortable helmet that excels in the area it should excel in, which is safety and crash protection.
Alissa B | Site Owner – January 11, 2023
The A1 Classic MIPS helmet combines confidence-inspiring extended coverage and MIPS technology, well-designed features, and all-day comfort in a quality helmet that’s durable enough for the long haul. I’ve put mine through the wringer with 9000 miles including extra-long days, extreme heat and cold, and months of non-stop daily wear. I’m still happy to put it on for my next ride, whether that’s at my local trails or across a faraway country.
Fox Racing Mainframe Trvrs
The Fox Racing Mainframe Trvrs is one of the more affordable half shell mountain bike helmets with a decent Virginia Tech rating.
Crash technology does help improve both the strength of a helmet as well as its means of absorbing and redirecting impact energy. The only thing is that on average you have to pay twice the amount of money you have to pay for this helmet if you want the latest and greatest.
So what you get for a sub-100 USD price is a great-looking helmet with MIPS technology, a polyamide shell instead of polycarbonate, a fixed visor, and that’s about it. It means this helmet covers the basics for a decent price, and is a great option to obtain MIPS technology at an entry-level price.
Sean Leicht | Contributor – May 12, 2021
The Fox Mainframe is a solid helmet when comparing the price to the features included. Sure, there might be a few cheaper helmets on the market with similar features, but many of them look like hot garbage. The size range on the helmets make it easy to fit a plethora of head sizes, the helmet is comfortable and stylish. My only complaint is that the Mainframe runs slightly warm even though there are plenty of vents, breathability is not as good as some of the more expensive helmets on the market. Additionally, an adjustable visor would be nice but it’s not a deal breaker given the budget price point. If you are looking for an affordable, MIPS equipped helmet, the Fox Mainframe is worth taking a look at.
Giro Source MIPS
The Giro Source MIPS is very similar to the Radix MIPS, yet has a definite mountain bike helmet look.
It shares almost all of the same technology. MIPS evolve sits underneath a polycarbonate shell and single EPS liner. The polycarbonate wraps around the edges to protect the delicate foam, and is reinforced at the sides for added protection.
The design is blocky, with a longer, 3-point indexed, adjustable visor and extended coverage at the back of the helmet, making it an allround, affordable trail helmet. I prefer indexed visors versus non-indexed, because they are easier to get in the correct position while riding.
You can store your glasses in the front-facing vents, which offer ample ventilation in a helmet of average weight. The Roc Loc 5 fit system is found throughout their lineup and offers excellent adjustability.
Ben Haworth | Technical reviewer – January 18, 2023
The Giro Source MIPS helmets should definitely be at the top of your try-on list. It’s one of few helmets that I’m not in a rush to remove.
This is fundamentally a real ‘Goldilocks’ type of product. It’s not too heavy. It’s not too hot. It offers decent back-of-head coverage. The retention band is easy to adjust. The straps are comfy and don’t drift out of setting. And the whole thing looks pretty stylish.
Bell Nomad 2 MIPS
The Bell Nomad 2 MIPS is one of the most affordable mountain bike helmets offering the latest MIPS Evolve technology.
Simply looking from the outside, you wouldn’t expect this helmet to be less than half the price of the average mountain bike helmet.
The overall design weighs 320 grams, which is somewhat lighter than the average helmet of 350 grams. There’s less material at the back of the helmet, which may account for this.
For this type of money you don’t get an adjustable visor, but the thing sits high enough to stay out of your field of vision but for the steepest descents.
The amount of padding can be described as “light’, since there’s decidedly less of it when compared to some of the most comfortable helmets on the market. This makes for a bit of a hard-wearing helmet after prolonged use, but is something to be expected from an entry-level helmet such as this one.
Jim Clarkson | Contributor – August 13, 2019
I found the one size fits all to be great for the middle range, but some people found it a little oversize and a little undersized (not exactly surprising perhaps). It’s definitely able to fit most sized heads, but if you want it to look right proportionally, you may consider something else.
It’s got a fairly simple feel, which is ok for the price, and perhaps a slight overall lack of finesse or refinement, but appropriate for the price range. The chin strap is solid and reassuring. The chin adjusters are decent enough, but sometimes don’t always stay in place – they moved a little too often for me.
Fox Racing Speedframe
The Fox Racing Speedframe is the same helmet as the Pro version in everything but a small number of features.
The Speedframe Pro is one of the best helmets in terms of safety, and the standard Speedframe inherits many of its safety features except for the multi-density EPS liner.
The helmet is known for having an excellent fit, and you can fit a pair of goggles underneath the 3-point adjustable visor, as well as stash your glasses.
To keep the price down when compared to the Pro version, there’s a cheaper liner and the Fidlock snap buckle is missing from the straps, in an otherwise similar 360 degrees fit system.
Daniel Sapp | Contributor – September 22, 2021
The Speedframe Pro has earned itself a spot in a very small rotation of my favorite helmets. The styling is excellent, and the fit is superb. Unfortunately, I find myself foregoing it in favor of my Specialized Ambush on rides when the temperatures and humidity will encourage me to shed my glasses at some point during the ride. That quibble aside, I believe that it’s one of the better fitting and performing helmets currently available that I’ve found, and it’s sure to accommodate a wide range of trail riders.
The Schwinn Thrasher is probably the best-selling helmet on Amazon, so it at least deserves my attention. It’s also dirt-cheap when compared to other models.
One of the more interesting aspects of this helmet is that it is actually rated by Virginia Tech, so it gives us an objective insight in how safe it is in comparison to other helmets that are multiples in price.
It has obtained a 3-out-of-5 star rating at 20.13. To put that in perspective. The best-rated helmet out of 188 tested has 8.4 and the worst 26.57, so it’s about 2.5 times less safe than a helmet which would cost 4 to 10 times as much, depending on what model you’d buy.
The helmet does a lot of things very well. It’s well designed (or well copied), it doesn’t really look cheap, it has an weight of 353 grams which is comparable to other helmets, it has an adjustable dial to create the right fit, there are many color variations to choose from, and if you want you can even get it with an LED.
So for the amount of money you pay for this helmet, you get a lot in return. And I feel it’s a solid helmet for people who truly feel they are occasional, recreational cyclists and mountain bikers, that really don’t want to spend a lot of money on a helmet. The helmet will protect you and it’s a marked improvement from riding with no helmet at all, which is just plain stupid when doing actual mountain biking.
But coming from someone who’s face-planted more than once, reached speeds of 50 mph on 23 mm width tires, sustained concussions, and is walking around with a piece of metal drilled into a fractured collarbone, I simply cannot recommend this helmet if you’re somewhat serious about trail riding.
Johan van Seijen is the founder of restoration.bike. His cycling career has seen him at the starting line of classics such as the Amstel Gold Race and Liege Bastogne Liege. Realizing his racing capacity would fall short of what was needed he obtained a MS from the University of Amsterdam in engineering. His love for cycling changed into riding in an amateur capacity with his local cycling club TFC Weesp as a roadie and supporting MTB Noordwest as a mountain biker. He repairs, restores, and builds bicycles and shares his knowledge on YouTube, Facebook and this website.
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