Do different types of bike helmet offer the same head protection? It’s something you might have thought about if you’ve noticed that road, mountain bike and BMX riders all seem to have different styles of helmets protecting their noggins. Are the reasons for these differing designs practical, or is looking the part winning in protection vs fashion?
First of all, its important to state that whatever style of riding you’re into, wearing a helmet is essential for your own safety. The effectiveness of bike helmets is well documented, and we all know people who have taken a nasty spill but who’ve got up saying ‘if it wasn’t for my helmet…’, well, you know the rest.
So, here’s a quick look at the different types of bike helmet for different biking styles and a quick assessment of what they offer in terms of protection, comfort and looks.
These multi-use helmets aim to cover all the bases. Usually affordable,with adequate impact protection for most normal riding. Heavier and less aerodynamic than road helmets, these are suitable for occasional off-road riders and commuters but not suitable for all biking styles. You can pick these up cheaply from retailers such as Halfords.
Road helmets are designed to be as lightweight and aerodynamic as possible for smooth riding. They are constructed from a plastic shell with interior foam padding. Thinner chin straps and larger vents down the sides offer greater cooling potential. A streamlined design and low bulk reduce air resistance for racing speed. Evans Cycles have a great range of helmets for road and racing.
MTB helmets range from similar to road styles, to more like motorbike helmets and everything between. The reality is that depending on your mountain biking style there different types of bike helmet will be suitable. However for most off-road mountain bikers, riding non-technical trails, a generic biking helmet will more than suffice.
But if you start to ride more serious trails you should consider upgrading to something with adequate protection for off road use. Typically MTB helmets are a little thicker, include a visor and have thicker straps to keep it in place as you ride bumpy trails. They also offer varying degrees of increased protection at the back and side of the head culminating in full head helmets with jaw protection.
With all types of helmet coming in both fully enclosed and ventilated options the decision can seem bewildering. The type of riding you do probably covers a few MTB styles so you need to honestly appraise your riding and choose a helmet that offers suitable protection.
As a rule of thumb the faster you go, the more air you get, and the more gnarly the trails, the more protection you need. If you are riding downhill or freeride bikes you should be wearing a full head helmet that offers maximum protection. If riding all-mountain or enduro you will want a well ventilated helmet for the uphills, and depending on how hard you push it on the downs you may want full head with jaw protection or something less extreme. Chain Reaction Cycles have a great range of mountain biking helmets to choose from.
Standard BMX helmets that you see in skate parks are designed for a variety of sports, including skateboarding, roller-blading and BMX riding. Their hard shell, rounded design, normally with small vents is heavier and bulkier than most bike helmets. Very popular in the parks, they offer protection against falling on ramps, bars and when trying tricks. The retro design originated with skaters in the 70s and 80s and still looks good today, Skate Hut is a good place to buy one.
But if you are into BMX racing you need a helmet with superior protection. BMX racing helmets offer full protection around the back and sides of the head, plus face coverage similar to downhill MTB helmets. They’re intended for big tricks and BMX racing where there’s a high risk of collision or crashing. They are mostly hard shell with a motorcycle style full coverage, with few vents.
While it’s true that any helmet is better than none, it’s also important that you choose a helmet appropriate to your riding style. It’s clear that helmet designs have evolved for a number of reasons, including protection, speed and to look good…
Each of these reasons is important in its own way, so you need to decide what is most important for your time in the saddle. But, if it comes to choosing protection vs fashion please think with your head.
We hope you found this guide to the types of bike helmet useful. If you enjoyed it please check out the rest of our mountain biking gear articles. Also be sure to look at our MTB holiday discounts as you could save a fortune!