In this article I’ll be reviewing the best mountain bike helmets for beginners.
I don’t say anything new when saying that mountain biking can be ridiculously expensive, with an emphasis on “can”. We’re often tempted by jaw-dropping visuals of what the cream-of-the-crop in the professional circuit rides and uses.
Personally speaking, I’m no stranger to the effects of the latest-and-greatest in bicycle products, and have, on occasion, paid way too much for something that added nothing else to my ride experience except for my knowledge of how much money it cost.
The same goes for helmets, with premium ones fetching a premium price. And when you’ve just bought yourself a mountain bike and obviously need some cranial protection to go with it, you’re not looking to spend another 2 to 300 dollars.
With this list I’ve tried to create an overview of great helmets for a good price. The average suggested retail price for a helmet is around 150 USD, so anything below that number can be considered reasonable.
With this overview of the best mountain bike helmets for beginners, you’re assured you’re well-protected, and only miss out on technology which would very well double the price. I’ve added an overview at the end of the article so you can easily compare which helmet features what and make a decision on how much money you’re willing to spend to obtain a certain feature.
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 Radix MIPS
Giro has some of the best rated helmets, and the Giro Radix MIPS is another example of a great mid-tier helmet, that offers great protection, but lacks a number of features which would otherwise add up to the price.
Whereas the most expensive helmets in the Giro lineup offer reinforced polycarbonate shells, MIPS Spherical technology, and dual density EPS, you’ll have to make do with just the MIPS technology with this one.
It does mean you pay less than half the price and still get an incredibly comfortable and great-looking helmet, with a fully adjustable visor and Roc Loc 5 fit system. This system, like many others, works with a dial located at the back of the helmet.
At 315 grams it’s significantly lighter than the average helmet, which adds to the overall comfort. A thick anti-microbial resistant liner ensures there’s a tight but comfy fit and a staggering 25 vents make this one of the better ventilated helmets out there.
Zach Wick | Review Editor – May 9, 2022
Giro’s recently introduced Radix MIPS continues their fine tradition of high-quality, mid-range offerings. It doesn’t boast Giro’s latest and greatest tech innovations, but this durable helmet does offer an extremely comfortable, secure fit, a light weight, and all of the basic must-have features that I expect from a modern mountain bike helmet. The ventilation leaves something to be desired when compared with the breeziest models on the market, and the trail-lid style shell doesn’t provide quite as much coverage as the burlier all-mountain shell styles. Regardless, the Radix MIPS was among the most comfortable helmets I tested, and I think it’s one of the best values on the market. I fully recommend this lid to any trail rider who values comfort, weight, style, and functionality.
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.
MET Terranova MIPS
The MET Terranova MIPS is a great-looking trail helmet with a premium-quality finish.
Although sometimes noted as “lightweight” it isn’t, weighing 355 grams for a size M. That’s 5 grams above average for an open face mountain bike helmet.
At such a weight the helmet sits comfortably when correctly adjusted with the Safe-T Duo system. If that name sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because the Bluegrass Rogue uses a similar system you can adjust both vertically and horizontally using an indexed dial.
There’s an optional gel padding kit for sweat wicking and an LED you can buy. Not including these means the price is kept low enough to be a mid-tier helmet with an excellent crash protection rating.
Robert Johnston | European Editor – September 8, 2021
The Terranova flies under the radar out on the trail, with a generally comfortable and well-ventilated performance and no shaking or creaking on the head. Once you’ve started wetting out the padding, it does saturate quite quickly due to its low volume, which can lead it to dripping into the eyes before you might expect. In this regard it’s a shame that MET doesn’t equip the Terranova with their Dual Gel padding as standard, which they claim to act as a sweat guide, and would lessen this issue massively if so. At €9 it sounds like a worthy investment for sweatier riders or those often riding in hotter climates. Overall, the Terranova is a solid lid, though I’d have a hard time settling for the standard version instead of adding a little extra cash to have the reassurance of a MIPS liner in a crash. But for those not fully sold on the MIPS benefits, it could well be the ticket.
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.
The Smith Convoy is one of the very few sub-100 dollar open face mountain bike helmets featuring MIPS technology.
That makes it worthy of inclusion here. It has a distinctive-looking, and lightweight design at 300 grams and features an integrated visor with eyewear ports.
Although I’ve read otherwise it does not provide comparable protection when compared to the most expensive mountain bike helmets on the market. Those helmets always offer multi-density EPS liners and some form of reinforcement to the polycarbonate shell. This helmet does not.
I never had an issue with EPS liners being exposed, which is the case for the lower edge of this helmet. Premium helmets wrap the polycarbonate shell around this edge. But if you’re less careful with your helmet, expect scratches and nicks in this area.
There’s a huge market for people who start out with mountain biking and want an entry-level helmet. Or people who like their everyday casual ride and looking for a nice looking lid. Those people should look at this helmet. If you’re not unfamiliar with crashing you might consider looking for a helmet that offers more crash technology.
Zach Wick | Review Editor – Jan 18, 2021
The budget-friendly Smith Convoy is a comfortable, lightweight helmet, but it doesn’t offer the refined features or performance that we found in the higher-end models we tested. With a fixed visor position and a basic internal strap mount, the Convoy keeps it fairly simple. It includes MIPS rotational impact protection, a highly-adjustable harness system, and the EPS shell has a versatile, comfortable shape. However, we found that the ventilation leaves something to be desired when things heat up. As one of the least expensive mountain bike helmets available with rotational impact protection, this is a good introductory model for riders just getting into the sport, but veteran riders will likely be looking to get a little bit more out of their lid.
Specifications mountain bike helmets for beginners
Fox Racing Mainframe Trvrs
Giro Radix MIPS
Roc Loc 5
Giro Source MIPS
Roc Loc 5
MET Terranova MIPS
Troy Lee Designs A1
3-point dial fit
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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