At Westbrook Cycles, we wear a mixture of both full face and open face helmets when out mountain biking, the majority of the decision making when it comes to what helmet to wear, comes down to personal preference. Wearing a helmet though, is essential in our opinion - with numerous studies showing the effectiveness of helmets in reducing the risk of a serious head injury by significant amounts.
Unfortunately, no matter how talented we are, it’s very easy to fall off a mountain bike - especially when travelling across rough and off road terrain. Whilst we are hopefully able to brush off most falls and crashes, those involving a head collision are usually more serious, especially in the event of not wearing a proper helmet.
One of the biggest choices that riders need to make when buying a new mountain bike helmet, is whether to choose a full face mountain bike helmet or an open face helmet. Hardcore downhill riders will usually choose a full face mountain bike helmet, but those who do more XC mountain biking will choose an open face helmet. This is because downhill trails usually require more in the way of protection than cross country routes, but in this post - we look at both types of helmets and which one best suits your requirements.
Why Wear Full Face Helmets?
Full Face Helmets provide the maximum levels of protection found in any cycling helmet These helmets not only protect your head in the way that all mountain bike helmets do, but they also protect your face and chin from everything from collisions with the ground, across to branches on the way down a trail. In the event of a crash on a downhill trail, often it’s the face and head which comes into contact with the ground first, and in these events - the front of the helmet provides full face protection.
Riders who do a mixture of downhill and cross country mountain biking, often choose a ‘convertible helmet’ which has a removable chin bar, which can be worn during more challenging and dangerous downhill trail sections and removed during cross country sections. This allows the rider more comfort and flexibility, as many riders find full face helmets cumbersome and poorly ventilated, compared to an open face helmet. The benefits of the greater levels of protection though, outweighs downsides in our opinion if downhill biking.
Another smaller benefit of wearing a full face helmet, is not having to eat flies and insects when cycling!
Why Wear Open Face Helmets?
The biggest benefit of using an open face helmet is their light and aerodynamic design. Not covering the face, these helmets cover the sides of the head to a degree, as well as the top and back of the head. These helmets are similar to a road bike helmet design, and are ideal for less aggressive mountain biking, such as cross country mountain biking.
Most riders prefer to use open face helmets as they provide greater levels of ventilation, twinned with good levels of protection. Many open face bike helmets also have peaks and visors to help protect from sun, and we recommend using these helmets with a good pair of eye protection.
All designs of mountain bike open face helmets are approximately the same, but they do vary in materials, technologies and lightness.
MIPS MTB Helmets
MIPS helmet technology is available across both full face and open face helmets. MIPS helmets are easily recognizable thanks to a yellow tab which represents MIPS. The technology is used on all kinds of bike helmets, from those used in the Tour de France, right across to those used on the daily commute.
MIPS is essentially a thin layer of material which allows a small amount of motion between the helmet, allowing the helmet to move in all directions in the event of a crash - this prevents and reduces movement in the head, allowing the helmet to rotate around the head.
MIPS Helmets are generally a little more expensive VS standard non MIPS helmets - but when it comes to protecting the brain, we think any extra is worth paying.