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Full-Face Helmet For Mountain Biking: Do You Really Need One

There is no arguing against it, safety is the most important thing when it comes to mountain biking.

Most mountain bikers will wear an open-face helmet and it seems to do the job just right, so do you really need a full-face helmet for mountain biking?

Full-face helmets are unnecessary when it comes to most types of mountain bike rides especially when you are more into cross-country biking. However, if you want to push your skill level while riding tougher downhill trails, then you should use a full-face helmet to protect your entire face.

It can never be argued that full-face helmets are indeed very safe compared to open-face helmets. However, there are instances where you probably wouldn’t need a full-face helmet because there are some downsides to using it. As such, let’s look at the instances where full-face helmets can be useful.

Rider in full-face helmet

Do You Need a Full-Face Helmet for XC and Trail Mountain Biking?

When it comes to biking, the first safety tip that any seasoned rider would tell a beginner mountain biker is to always wear a helmet. That’s because accidents and crashes can be quite common among different mountain bikers regardless of where they may be biking.

When it comes to helmets, most bikers tend to make their choices between an open-face helmet and a full-face helmet. Now, talking about full-face helmets, the fact that they protect your entire head makes them quite safe. However, you should also know that there are different types of mountain biking riding styles depending on the terrain.

So, if you are someone who prefers to bike cross-country (XC) on smoother surfaces or on trails that may be rough but aren’t exactly quite dangerous, do you still actually need to wear a full-face helmet?

As safe as full-face helmets may be, there really is no need for you to wear them if you only ride trails casually or you are an XC rider. That’s because wearing an open-face helmet can already be more than enough for your protection and you need the extra ventilation it provides.

For you to understand why full-face helmets aren’t really necessary for XC or trail mountain biking, you need to know more about full-face helmets and what they do.

Full-face helmets are designed to have a similar appearance to your usual motocross helmet in the sense that they cover the entire head including your face. In contrast, open-face helmets only cover the head part but not your face.

So, when you look at it, full-face helmets are great for face-first collisions with the surface or with any other obstacle when you do end up crashing. This allows you to minimize the damages that can be done to your face all while the helmet also protects your head from injuries and concussions.

However, in cross-country and trail mountain biking, the chances of you hitting yourself face-first on something hard during crashes tend to be minimal when compared to other types of rides like downhill mountain biking. As such, there really is no need for you to wear a full-face helmet if you just want to protect your head from injuries.

Also, full-face helmets can get quite hot, especially during the summer. That’s because these helmets are not ventilated well enough to make sure that air can pass through freely to make your head and face feel cool.

So, when a helmet lacks ventilation, the heat can build up inside the helmet and make it more difficult for you to focus on your rides. This can lead to accidents, dehydration, or even heat stroke if the summer sun has become too hot out on the open road.

You also need to consider the fact that full-face helmets are heavier and bulkier. This will make them quite uncomfortable for some riders who need to ride for several hours on a cross-country mountain bike ride.

There is also the chance that the extra weight and bulk can lead to serious neck injuries when you get into an accident when XC or trail biking.

Finally, visibility can be an issue in relation to full-face helmets because of how these helmets can bother with your peripheral vision. This means that you might have trouble seeing any obstacles along the way when you are biking cross country or on a trail.

Advantages of a Full-Face Over an Open-Face Helmet

While we did say that full-face helmets aren’t really necessary when it comes to XC and trail riding, here are some of the advantages that they have over their open-face counterparts:

  • Full-face helmets are manufactured under standards that are stricter. This means that you are less likely to run into a subpar full-face helmet as these helmets undergo testing to ensure they are safe.
  • A full-face helmet protects your face in case you get into accidents where you crash face-first. This may be unlikely in XC or trail biking but they are very common in downhill biking because of how you will be riding down steep trails and roads.
  • Wearing a full-face helmet minimizes the chances of debris and insects bothering your face and mouth while you are riding. This doesn’t sound like it should be a big factor but it really matters for those who have experienced getting slowed down by an insect while biking.
  • Finally, some full-face helmets come with extra features that make the helmets a lot safer. Some come with anti-rotation features that will prevent your head from jerking or moving at all sorts of angles during a crash. There are some that may come with ventilation features that make up for the lack of airflow in full-face helmets.

Do I Need a Full-Face for Downhill Mountain Biking?

So, now that you know the advantages of a full-face helmet, you are now thinking about whether or not it should be used for downhill biking. To that end, it is in downhill mountain biking where full-face helmets become more advantageous.

First off, most downhill crashes put the rider into face-first collisions. So, having a full-face helmet will minimize the chances of injuring the face and chin area when you do end up crashing face-first while riding downhill.

Second, ventilation is no longer a huge issue in downhill riding because you get to pick up speed more when you are riding downhill. The faster you are riding, the better the airflow will be.

And third, the weight of the helmet is not as big of an issue in comparison to XC or trail riding. That’s because, again, it is much easier to pick up speed when you are riding downhill. As such, the added weight on your head won’t make it too difficult for you to pedal the weight you are carrying as gravity aids you in your descent.

Do I Need a Full-Face for Enduro Mountain Biking?

While I did say that you need to wear a full-face helmet when you are riding downhill, what about Enduro mountain biking? Do you also need to wear a full-face helmet when you are joining an Enduro mountain biking race?

For starters, Enduro mountain biking is a combination of a lot of different aspects of mountain biking. And a lot about Enduro involves riding downhill. This means that you will end up seeing yourself descending through steep and difficult slopes that may be quite dangerous for your face if you do end up in a crash.

So, what I am obviously pointing out here is that full-face helmets are almost a necessity when it comes to Enduro mountain biking because of the risks involved with them. The downhill descent can increase the chances of face-first collisions, and that is why a full-face helmet becomes very useful and sometimes even mandatory in Enduro events.

Conclusion

Full-face helmets are indeed safer when compared to open-face helmets. But the advantages that you can get from full-face helmets depend largely on the type of rides you are on. As such, full-face helmets are not necessary but it doesn’t hurt if you own one especially if you also go on downhill rides.

I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.