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12 Best Cross Country (XC) Helmets 2021 [CPSC, CE Certified]

Cross-country (XC) riding as a discipline is definitely one of the most popular forms of mountain biking. It’s not as extreme as downhill or enduro, but we find this to be a more fun form of off-road cycling. Regardless, safety always comes first, and picking out the right helmet for your XC adventures may be harder than you think.

There are countless MTB helmets available in the market. However, you will rarely find any that is advertised for XC riding. Normally, any mountain helmet is adequate for XC-style biking. But to make your choice easier we have tested and reviewed the best XC helmets so that you can make a well-informed decision. A buying guide and answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions have also been included in this article for your convenience.

We have prepared this list by carefully researching online and then by testing out multiple helmets in person. According to their performance, a score rating was given to each product. After much deliberation, we have decided that Troy Lee Designs A2 is the helmet worthy of being named as the ‘Overall Best Choice’.

Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS

Protective package w/ great and comfort cooling | Overall Best Choice

Troy Lee Designs A2 is not a helmet with a lot of fancies, high-end features. But as an overall package, it remains unbeaten. The A2 is a sturdy lid that fits comfortably and securely on your head. The ventilation system works incredibly well, and the visor shields your eyes from rain and bright sunlight. Additionally, integrated MIPS technology protects your skull from rotational impacts. To top it all off, this helmet comes in various stylish colors and at a reasonable price.

  • For Type of Riding: MTB
  • Head Circumference: S (54-56 cm), M/L (57-59 cm), XL/XXL (60-62 cm)
  • Construction: Dual-density EPS co-molded with EPP
  • Weight: 350 grams
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Safety Standard: CPSC, CE EN1078 & AS/NZ 2063 certified
  • Fit System: 3-way rear adjustable dial system
  • Visor: Adjustable, removable
  • Ventilation: 13 vents
  • Additional Safety Technology: MIPS
  • Colors: 13 color combos available

 

A quick view of our list of some of the finest XC helmets that are chosen for you: 

XC HelmetVentsOur Ratings
Smith Optics Forefront 22088
Giro Aether1190
POC Octal X1985
Kask Rapido2482
Giro Chronicle1485
Troy Lee Designs A21395
POC Tectal Race1695
Kali Protectives Maya 2.01283
Bell Z201885
Giro Verce1887
Fox Racing Dropframe Pro1592
Giro Montaro1686

12 best XC helmets you can buy today

HelmetPreviewHead Circumference
(cm)
Weight
(grams)
Fit SystemCertificationVisorAdvanced Safety FeatureNumber of Vents
Smith Optics Forefront 2Smith Optics Forefront 2 MIPS Men's MTB Cycling Helmet51 - 62374VaporFit dial adjustmentCPSC, CE EN1078Three-position adjustableMIPS, Koroyd20
Giro AetherGiro Aether Spherical Adult Road Bike Helmet51 - 63263Roc Loc 5+ AirCPSCNoMIPS11
POC Octal XPOC, Octal X Spin, Helmet for Mountain Biking, Uranium Black, M50 - 62231 - 314Rear dial adjustable systemCPSC, CE EN1078NoSPIN19
Kask RapidoKask Rapido Road Cycling Helmet,Medium,White52 - 62220 - 240Up’N’Down adjustment systemCPSC, CE EN1078, AS/NZ 2063NoNo24
Giro ChronicleGiro Chronicle MIPS Adult Dirt Cycling Helmet51 - 65346Roc Loc 5CPSC, CE EN1078AdjustableMIPS14
Troy Lee Designs A2Troy Lee Designs Adult All Mountain XC Mountain Bike A2 Jet Helmet54 - 623503-way rear adjustable dial systemCPSC, CE EN1078, AS/NZ 2063Adjustable, removableMIPS13
POC Tectal RacePOC, Tectal Race Spin, Helmet for Mountain Biking51 - 62337 - 390Rear dial adjustable systemCPSC, CE EN1078, AS/NZ 2063AdjustableSPIN16
Kali Protectives Maya 2.0Kali Protectives Maya 2.0 Adult Off-Road BMX Cycling Helmet50 - 63392Dual closure ratcheting harness systemCPSC, CE EN1078AdjustableLDL12
Bell Z20Bell Z20 MIPS Adult Road Bike Helmet - All City Matte/Gloss Blue/Hi-Viz (2020), Small (52-56 cm)52 - 62305Float Fit RaceCPSCNoMIPS18
Giro VerceGiro Verce MIPS Womens Mountain Cycling Helmet - Universal Women’s (50-57 cm), Matte True Spruce (2020)50 - 57312Roc Loc SportCPSC, CE EN1078RemovableMIPS18
Fox Racing Dropframe ProFox Racing Dropframe Pro Helmet52 - 60499Fidlock SNAP helmet buckle & internal padsCPSC, CE EN1078, AS/NZ 2063FixedMIPS, M.O.RE. guard15
Giro MontaroGiro Montaro MIPS Adult Dirt Cycling Helmet51 - 65378Roc Loc 5 AirCPSC, CE EN1078AdjustableMIPS16

1. Smith Optics Forefront 2: Koroyd layer, camera/light mount, goggle compatibility

Smith Optics Forefront 2 MIPS

  • For Type of Riding: MTB
  • Head Circumference: S (51-55 cm), M (55-59 cm), L (59-62 cm)
  • Construction: Aerocore in-mold construction
  • Weight: 374 grams
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Safety Standard: CPSC & CE EN1078 certified
  • Fit System: VaporFit dial adjustment
  • Visor: Three-position adjustable
  • Ventilation: 20 vents
  • Additional Safety Technology: MIPS, Koroyd
  • Colors: 8 color combos available

Features & Considerations
  • Enhanced Protection: The extended head coverage and durable Aerocore in-mold construction also includes a Koroyd layer consisting of polymer tubes to absorb impact.
  • VaporFit Adjustment: The VaporFit retention system includes adjustment for both circumference and height to achieve the perfect fit.
  • MIPS: An integrated MIPS layer has been added to protect angled or rotational forces.
  • Goggle Compatibility: There channels in the front and the back to allow for eyewear storage without obstructing ventilation.
  • Adjustable Visor: The protective visor’s position can be adjusted according to your preference or to make space for goggles.
  • Camera/Light Mount: The top of the helmet has a threaded insert under a plastic cover to allow mounting of a camera or light.

Some Weaknesses
  • Ventilation is not as great as expected.
  • It is quite an expensive helmet.

The Smith Optics Forefront 2 MIPS has one of the most durable protection that we have seen among MTB helmets. It pretty much covers the entire back of your head, down to your neck. The Aerocore construction, as they call it, held up very well against our tests. There is also MIPS technology built-in for rotational impact protection. But what makes this helmet unique is an extra honeycomb layer of a welded polymer called Koroyd. This layer further improves impact absorption by collapsing. With this, you really feel less of the force on your head.

The Forefront 2 basically has everything you would look for in an off-road helmet. An adjustable visor, seamless compatibility with goggles or other eyewear, and even a device mount. Whether you go riding at night or want to record your journey, this helmet has you covered. Additionally, we think this helmet looks awesome in any of the color schemes available. One downside is that the Koroyd layer inhibits the flow of air slightly, so you might not want this for very hot climates.

SMITH Size chart

Smith Optics Forefront 2 MIPS Helmet

Smith Optics Forefront 2 MIPS Helmet

2. Giro Aether: Lightweight, well-ventilated, highly adjustable

Giro Aether MIPS

  • For Type of Riding: Road, XC
  • Head Circumference: S (51-55 cm), M (55-59 cm), L (59-63 cm)
  • Construction: In-mold polycarbonate shell with EPS liner
  • Weight: 263 grams
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Safety Standard: CPSC certified
  • Fit System: Roc Loc 5+ Air
  • Visor: No
  • Ventilation: 11 vents
  • Additional Safety Technology: MIPS
  • Colors: 14 color combos available

Features & Considerations
  • Lightweight: During rides you won’t even notice that there is a helmet on your head due to the low weight.
  • Sturdy Construction: Multiple features in the structural design makes this helmet extremely durable even during hard impacts.
  • Superb Ventilation: There are only 11 vents, but they work incredibly well when combined with the internal channeling that forces air into your scalp.
  • Roc Loc 5+ Air: This retention system offers not only height and circumference adjustment, but also fore-aft tilting of the helmet.
  • MIPS: Integrated MIPS offers safety against angled impacts by allowing the outer layer to slide over the inner lining.
  • Eyewear Support: The front vents have docking ports containing rubber grips to safely hold any eyewear when not being used.

Some Weaknesses
  • There is no visor included.
  • Price may be out of reach for many people.
  • Might not fit if you have a wide head.

The Giro Aether MIPS may primarily be a road helmet, but the structural integrity and durability make it worthy of use for less aggressive cross-country riding. The in-mold construction, dual-density liner, a reinforcement arch, and the MIPS layer combine to provide protection that is just as good as many MTB helmets. This thing is seriously built to take a beating, while also being remarkably lightweight. Our testers reported that they barely noticed the helmet while pedaling.

You will also never get too hot-headed. The design of the ventilation is very effective in driving the airflow over your scalp to remove heat and moisture. A visor is not included, but that should not be much of a problem if you use goggles or sunglasses. Docking ports also provide a safe place to store eyewear when not in use. Even though the Roc Loc 5+ Air retention system provides very good 3-way adjustability, the shape of the helmet is favored towards oval heads. Other than that, an overall solid helmet.

Size chart

Giro Aether MIPS Helmet

Giro Aether MIPS Helmet

3. POC Octal X: Eye garage, Recco reflector, SPIN technology

POC Octal X SPIN

  • For Type of Riding: XC
  • Head Circumference: S (50-56 cm), M (54-60 cm), L (56-62 cm)
  • Construction: In-mold unibody polycarbonate shell with EPS liner
  • Weight: 231-314 grams
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Safety Standard: CPSC & CE EN1078 certified
  • Fit System: Rear dial adjustable system
  • Visor: No
  • Ventilation: 19 vents
  • Additional Safety Technology: SPIN
  • Colors: 4 colors available

Features & Considerations
  • Superior Protection: The EPS liner under the hard outer shell is infused with aramid bridge technology for enhanced structural integrity.
  • SPIN Technology: Similar to MIPS, this is POC’s own slip-plane technology to protect from rotational forces. It stands for Shearing Pads INside.
  • Eye Garage: Small pads in the front outer vents allow you to securely store goggles or sunglasses during a ride.
  • Recco Reflector: This technology, requiring zero power, contains passive transponders that can reflect radio signals from a detector to guide rescuers in the right direction.
  • Comfortable: An easy to use dial-adjustable system ensures a good fit and a wide range of sizes are also available. For better comfort, the straps are molded to the EPS foam.
  • Well Ventilated: The 19 air-flow vents are superbly well designed and ensure excellent movement of air through the helmet.
  • Lightweight: Considering all the protection it provides, the helmet is comparatively lightweight and does not feel burdensome.

Some Weaknesses
  • The visor is not included.
  • It is quite expensive for the average user.

The POC Octal X SPIN is undoubtedly one of the best in terms of build quality. With the polycarbonate shell, better rear coverage, and aramid bridge technology integrated EPS liner, this helmet provides full proof protection. It also features SPIN technology consisting of silicone pads that not only cushions linear impacts but also reduces the effect of rotational forces. Despite the level of protection, we were surprised with the weight and how light it feels on the head.

The Octal X fits quite comfortably as well. The retention system and straps can conform to the head size and shape of almost all. There hardly ever was a time when the helmet felt too hot. Air circulation is handled very well by the ventilation. The lack of a visor should not be a problem if you use goggles which can be stored in the vents. We like the addition of a Recco reflector. It can help put your mind at ease on long solo rides. This is truly an incredible XC helmet, even after considering the price.

Size chart

POC Octal X SPIN Helmet

POC Octal X SPIN Helmet

4. Kask Rapido: Lightweight, well-ventilated, perfect for beginners

Sale
Kask Rapido

  • For Type of Riding: Road, XC
  • Head Circumference: M (52-58 cm), L (59-62 cm)
  • Construction: In-mold polycarbonate shell with EPS liner
  • Weight: 220(M) / 240(L) grams
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Safety Standard: CPSC, CE EN1078 & AS/NZ 2063 certified
  • Fit System: Up’N’Down adjustment system
  • Visor: No
  • Ventilation: 24 vents
  • Additional Safety Technology: No
  • Colors: 7 colors available

Features & Considerations
  • Lightweight: This helmet is barely noticeable when you put it on, in fact this is the lightest one in our selection.
  • Great Ventilation: There are a whopping 24 airflow vents that suck in cool air from the front and exhaust warm air out the back.
  • Affordable: If you are on a budget but you still want a quality helmet, then this is one of the best choices for you.
  • Highly Comfortable: The Up’N’Down retention system by Kask provides adjustability for both the circumference and the helmet height.
  • Relatively Good Protection: Despite being lightweight and having no MIPS, this is a solid helmet thanks to the in-mold construction.

Some Weaknesses
  • A visor is not included.
  • The strap webbing is not as soft as you would expect.
  • No MIPS layer.

The Kask Rapido is a great entry-level helmet for those who do not need advanced features and also those who do not want to spend a lot on a helmet. This helmet has a no-frills design, while still retaining good looks. Moreover, there are multiple color options that you can get. We have found the ventilation to work splendidly. The 24 vents do an excellent job of maintaining good airflow to all parts of the head. The shape of the helmet is quite aerodynamic as well, so less drag will occur.

Another great aspect of this helmet is the weight. It is super lightweight and does not feel like a burden at all. The internal shape is just right and can accommodate nearly all head shapes. Additionally, the retention system provides both height and circumference adjustments. Therefore, the helmet is pretty comfortable. If only the chin strap webbing were softer, it would have been perfect. Also, there’s no need to be alarmed by the lack of MIPS technology. For beginners, this is not really required.

Size chart

Kask Rapido Helmet

Kask Rapido Helmet

5. Giro Chronicle: Fully adjustable visor & goggle compatibility

Giro Chronicle MIPS

  • For Type of Riding: MTB
  • Head Circumference: S (51-55 cm), M (55-59 cm), L (59-63 cm), XL (61-65 cm)
  • Construction: In-mold polycarbonate shell with EPS liner
  • Weight: 346 grams
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Safety Standard: CPSC & CE EN1078 certified
  • Fit System: Roc Loc 5
  • Visor: Adjustable
  • Ventilation: 14 vents
  • Additional Safety Technology: MIPS
  • Colors: 7 colors available

Features & Considerations
  • Great Protection: This is a highly durable helmet with a sturdy outer shell fused to EPS foam and good coverage in the back to keep your head safe.
  • Roc Loc 5: This retention system provides a very comfortable fit by allowing you to adjust the tension, height, and fore-aft tilt.
  • Adjustable Visor: The P.O.V visor has an indexed adjustment mechanism with three riding positions and one high position to make room for goggles.
  • Affordable: The price, when compared to the quality of the helmet, is surprisingly low, making it an excellent choice for those on a budget.
  • MIPS: Your head will stay protected from angled forces thanks to the MIPS layer that allows the top layer to move independently from the inner layer.
  • Wide Size Range: This is one of the few helmets that can accommodate head sizes of up to 65 cm in circumference.

Some Weaknesses
  • Tends to tip forward and might need a few tries to fix it.
  • Ventilation may not be enough for very hot and humid days.

The Giro Chronicle MIPS is one of the most reasonably priced MTB helmets created by Giro. Despite its affordable cost, it still provides the top-notch protection that you would expect in higher-end helmets. The rear coverage is great and it can really take a heavy blow without showing many signs of damage. To add to that, MIPS is there for any rotational forces. The visor on this helmet is very convenient. It can be set in fixed steps with one hand while riding, and at the highest setting, you have enough space to store eyewear inside the vents.

Speaking of, the 14 vents are nothing too exceptional, but they get the job done. In terms of comfort, the Chronicle easily stands out from most other MTB/XC helmets. With the Roc Loc 5, not only can you fine-tune the circumference, but you can shift the helmet forward and backward as well. Add in the fact that the suitable head circumference ranges from 51 to 65 cm, and you get a very well-fitted helmet. However, you might need to fiddle around with the settings until you get rid of the annoying forward tilt.

Size chart

Giro Chronicle MIPS Helmet

Giro Chronicle MIPS Helmet

6. Troy Lee Designs A2: Protective package w/ great and comfort cooling | Overall Best Choice

Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS

  • For Type of Riding: MTB
  • Head Circumference: S (54-56 cm), M/L (57-59 cm), XL/XXL (60-62 cm)
  • Construction: Dual-density EPS co-molded with EPP
  • Weight: 350 grams
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Safety Standard: CPSC, CE EN1078 & AS/NZ 2063 certified
  • Fit System: 3-way rear adjustable dial system
  • Visor: Adjustable, removable
  • Ventilation: 13 vents
  • Additional Safety Technology: MIPS
  • Colors: 13 color combos available

Features & Considerations
  • Superior Protection: The helmet is made of dual-density EPS molded with EPP material which gives it the ability to withstand low-speed and high-speed crashes.
  • Great Comfort: You will get a perfect fit with the adjustable strap dividers and rear dial system that also lets you adjust the fore-aft tilt.
  • Excellent Ventilation: The large intake and exhaust vents combined with the internal channeling provides very efficient cooling.
  • MIPS: A built-in MIPS layer greatly reduces the effects of rotational impacts on the brain in certain crash situations.
  • Break-Away Visor: The visor is attached using break-away screws that will break off and prevent snagging in the case of a crash.

Some Weaknesses
  • Offers very little visor adjustability.

Troy Lee Designs A2 is undoubtedly one of the best MTB/XC helmets we have ever seen. It has quickly become very popular and after testing it out we know why. It does great in all the main features that people look for in helmets, such as protection, comfort, ventilation, etc. The helmet is made of a combination of dual-density EPS and EPP material which absorbs impacts better than regular EPS. An integrated MIPS layer and good coverage in the rear make this very safe for your head.

The retention system and straps are well designed giving a well-tuned custom fit for anyone. Additionally, the helmet also has a good shape and comfortable inside padding. What further enhances your comfort and riding experience is the ventilation. There are only 13 vents, but the airflow is impressive due to the internal channeling and the vent layout. If you use goggles, then the visor might be a problem since it offers very limited adjustability. Other than that, there are no drawbacks. Even the price and weight are competitively low.

Size chart

Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS Helmet

Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS Helmet

7. POC Tectal Race: Premium quality lid packed w/ features

POC Tectal Race SPIN

  • For Type of Riding: MTB
  • Head Circumference: XS-S (51-54 cm),M-L (55-58 cm), XL-XXL (59-62 cm)
  • Construction: In-mold unibody polycarbonate shell with EPS liner
  • Weight: 337-390 grams
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Safety Standard: CPSC, CE EN1078 & AS/NZ 2063 certified
  • Fit System: Rear dial adjustable system
  • Visor: Adjustable
  • Ventilation: 16 vents
  • Additional Safety Technology: SPIN
  • Colors: 4 color combos available

Features & Considerations
  • Excellent Protection: The combination of a hard outer shell, an EPS liner reinforced by aramid bridge technology, and better coverage provides unmatched protection.
  • SPIN Technology: The built-in SPIN pads contain a silicone gel-like substance that gives protection against both rotational and linear forces.
  • Highly Comfortable: A fit adjustment rear dial and well-designed straps, as well as high-quality inner padding, ensures a comfortable fit.
  • Well Ventilated: The 16 vents and deep air channels guarantee an ample amount of airflow through the helmet for cooling.
  • Adjustable Visor: Loosening a small screw at the center of the visor allows you to adjust its position according to your preference.
  • Goggle Clip: Not only can you lift the visor to stow goggles. You can also store goggles at the back securely using the goggle clip.
  • Recco Reflector: In case of an accident, this technology uses passive transponders that can reflect signals from a detector to be located by searchers.

Some Weaknesses
  • It is very expensive.
  • The visor is not as user friendly as its competition.

The POC Tectal Race SPIN is a premium quality helmet with pretty much all the qualities that you would look for in an MTB helmet. The build is solid and was able to withstand multiple impacts during our tests. It covers more of the head than other helmets, including the temples and the rear. Despite this, there is no compromise with comfort. The shape is good enough for most people, the retention system and straps ensure a perfect fit, and it is also not as heavy as many mountain bike helmets.

Comfort is further improved by the excellent ventilation. Large vents on the front, top, and rear provide airflow that is comparable to that of road helmets. Our tester says that he never once felt too hot with this helmet. The integrated SPIN technology is similar to MIPS in that it provides safety against angled impacts, but unlike MIPS it also cushions better against linear forces. The visor is adjustable but only by loosening a small screw first. This makes it harder to adjust the visor while riding. The price is steep, but the Tectal Race is definitely worth it.

Size chart

POC Tectal Race SPIN Helmet

POC Tectal Race SPIN Helmet

8. Kali Protectives Maya 2.0: High impact absorption w/ the Low-Density Layer

Kali Protectives Maya 2.0

  • For Type of Riding: MTB
  • Head Circumference: XS/S (50-54 cm), S/M (55-61 cm), L/XL (60-63 cm)
  • Construction: Polycarbonate shell fused with EPS liner
  • Weight: 392 grams
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Safety Standard: CPSC & CE EN1078 certified
  • Fit System: Dual closure ratcheting harness system
  • Visor: Adjustable
  • Ventilation: 12 vents
  • Additional Safety Technology: Low-Density Layer (LDL)
  • Colors: 2 colors available

Features & Considerations
  • Excellent Build Quality: This helmet has an inner multi-density EPS lining fused to an outer polycarbonate shell using a process called Composite Fusion Plus.
  • Good Ventilation: There may be only 12 vents, but they provide reasonably good cooling, even on hot summer days.
  • Comfortable: The ratcheting harness system ensures a good fit for almost all heads. The straps, buckles, and inner cushioning are also quite comfortable.
  • LDL Layer: The Low-Density Layer system by Kali utilizes small cushion inserts made of foam to absorb a large amount of rotational and linear impacts.
  • Large Adjustable Visor: The large visor protects the eyes from the sun and rain very well, and it can be adjusted as well.

Some Weaknesses
  • Sits a little high on the head, giving a less secure feel.
  • Slightly limited coverage at the back.

The Kali Protectives Maya 2.0 is a reasonably priced, high-quality MTB helmet from one of the leading brands in safety technology. This helmet is very safe mainly due to its solid construction. The Composite Fusion Plus process used to bind the EPS and outer shell truly gives the helmet structural integrity unlike any other. Combine this with the LDL technology that protects against both angled and direct impacts, and you get near-perfect protection for your head.

The comfort levels are fairly high as well, with the retention system being able to accommodate most head shapes and sizes. The Maya 2.0 uses a dual-closure ratchet system instead of a rear dial. It worked well for us but we are not sure about its long-term durability. The only problem with the fit is that you might over-tighten the ratchet because the helmet sits a little high on the head. Other than that, this is a solid helmet, with a good amount of ventilation, a large-sized adjustable visor, and a palatable price tag.

Kali Size chart

Kali Protectives Maya 2.0 Helmet

Kali Protectives Maya 2.0 Helmet

9. Bell Z20: Stylish and comfortable helmet w/ great cooling

Bell Z20 MIPS

  • For Type of Riding: Road, XC
  • Head Circumference: S (52-56 cm), M (55-59 cm), L (58-62 cm)
  • Construction: Fusion in-mold polycarbonate shell with EPS liner
  • Weight: 305 grams
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Safety Standard: CPSC certified
  • Fit System: Float Fit Race
  • Visor: No
  • Ventilation: 18 vents
  • Additional Safety Technology: MIPS
  • Colors: 15 color combos available

Features & Considerations
  • Highly Comfortable: The Float Fit Race retention system can ensure a proper fit for nearly everyone thanks to its height, tension and pad width adjustability.
  • Great Style: This helmet has a classy and sleek design that looks great. Not to mention the 15 different color schemes to choose from.
  • Excellent Ventilation: There are a total of 18 vents that are quite large and very well placed to maintain an optimum amount of airflow.
  • Affordable: Considering the build quality and features of this helmet, the cost is not too high and is affordable for many.
  • Lightweight: Compared to other helmets used for cross-country riding, this helmet does not feel burdensome at all on your head.
  • MIPS: Angled/rotational impact forces cause a lot of strain on the brain. These forces are significantly reduced by the sliding MIPS layer.

Some Weaknesses
  • There is no visor with this helmet.
  • Not as protective as the others.

The Bell Z20 MIPS is an excellent helmet choice if you prioritize fit and comfort over everything else. The retention system, called Float Fit Race, innovatively integrates the headband with the helmet’s MIPS layer. You can adjust the height, tension, and pad width to achieve the perfect fit with no pressure points, no matter your head shape or size. With this helmet’s ventilation system, you will really feel air flowing over your entire head, starting from the brow. Another cool feature is the sweat guide, which keeps sweat away from your eyes.

As you might be thinking, this is actually a helmet designed for road use. But we found it to be well suited for light XC-style cycling as well. While it is not built like a tank, as the other helmets mentioned, it is a lot sturdier than most road helmets and provides better protection. Don’t forget that it contains MIPS technology as well. Consequently, it is more lightweight than a typical MTB helmet. Finally, what we really appreciate about this helmet is the relatively affordable price.

Size chart

Bell Z20 MIPS Helmet

Bell Z20 MIPS Helmet

10. Giro Verce: Low-cost lid for female mountain bikers

Giro Verce MIPS

  • For Type of Riding: MTB
  • Head Circumference: 50-57 cm
  • Construction: In-mold polycarbonate shell with EPS liner
  • Weight: 312 grams
  • Gender: Women
  • Safety Standard: CPSC and CE EN1078 certified
  • Fit System: Roc Loc Sport
  • Visor: Removable
  • Ventilation: 18 vents
  • Additional Safety Technology: MIPS
  • Colors: 6 colors available

Features & Considerations
  • Excellent Protection: The EPS foam fused to the two-piece shell offers enhanced toughness without the addition of excess weight.
  • Designed for Women: Being part of Giro’s women’s series, this helmet comes in smaller sizes and even has a ponytail port in the rear.
  • Superb Comfort: The extra-plush inside padding is comfortable and the Roc Loc Sport retention system makes the helmet really adjustable.
  • MIPS: The integrated MIPS layer adds an extra level of safety since it significantly reduces the effects of angled impacts.
  • Detachable Visor: The visor comes in handy on the trail, but if you don’t want to use it then it can be easily snapped off and on again.
  • Great Price: This helmet costs way less than some of Giro’s other helmets that have pretty much the same properties and safety level.
  • Reflectivity: Reflective accents on the helmet’s body improves your visibility in the dark to others for added safety.

Some Weaknesses
  • The rear adjustment dial is a little hard to reach.
  • Maybe too small for some people.

The Giro Verce MIPS is an MTB helmet that is advertised as being designed for women. It does not have a special shape or anything since there is no anatomical difference between men’s and women’s heads. Only the average head circumference may differ. But its exterior design may appeal to women more. Also, there is a port right at the back to allow space for a ponytail to fit through. Other than that, there is no real women-specific feature. In fact, even men can wear this helmet without any issues.

The helmet comes in only one universal size. The Roc Loc Sport retention system has a 7 cm range of tension adjustment, giving it a size range of 50 to 57 cm. This range is good enough for a majority of people, although larger heads will find it to be a tight fit. Everything else was great with this helmet. The vents provide effective cooling, the inner padding is comfortable, the visor is adequate and can be detached, and the helmet’s build makes it very protective. Most importantly, this helmet is the least expensive one in our selection.

Size chart

Giro Verce MIPS Helmet

Giro Verce MIPS Helmet

11. Fox Racing Dropframe Pro: Ultimate protection in an open-face helmet

Fox Racing Dropframe Pro

  • For Type of Riding: MTB, Downhill
  • Head Circumference: S (52-54 cm), M (54-56 cm), L (56-58 cm), XL (58-60 cm)
  • Construction: In-mold polycarbonate shell with EPS liner
  • Weight: 499 grams
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Safety Standard: CPSC, CE EN1078 & AS/NZ 2063 certified
  • Fit System: Fidlock SNAP helmet buckle & internal pads
  • Visor: Fixed
  • Ventilation: 15 vents
  • Additional Safety Technology: MIPS, M.O.RE. guard
  • Colors: Chili

Features & Considerations
  • Ultimate Protection: Other than having a solid construction, this helmet has very high coverage, including the M.O.RE (Mandibular Occipital Reinforcement) guards to protect the ears and jaw.
  • Comfortable: Even though this helmet covers a lot of the head, it is still pretty comfortable with soft padding and good shape.
  • Large Visor: The visor is quite big and does a better job of shielding the eyes from sunlight and rain than typical off-road helmets.
  • MIPS: Your head will stay protected from rotational forces thanks to the integrated MIPS technology that allows the top layer to slide over the inner layer.
  • Decent Ventilation: Considering the design of the helmet, the relatively high number of vents do a great job of keeping your head cool.
  • Magnetic Buckle: The Fidlock SNAP buckle is a magnetic type, which allows you to take off the helmet quickly even while wearing thick gloves.

Some Weaknesses
  • It is pretty bulky due to having higher coverage.
  • There is no dial adjustment system.

The Fox Racing Dropframe Pro is quite a uniquely designed helmet. It can be thought of as being halfway between a regular trail helmet and a full-face downhill helmet. It has been built with a Varizorb EPS liner of dual-density which improves impact absorption. There is more than enough coverage at the back and it also has built-in MIPS. On top of all that, there are the so-called M.O.RE guards that wrap around the ears to protect the temples and jaw. Basically, the Dropframe Pro has as much coverage as possible for an open-face helmet.

You can take off the helmet in a moment thanks to the magnetic Fidlock buckle. The visor is not adjustable, but it is relatively large and shields the eyes better. One major complaint is the lack of a retention system. Instead, it uses a set of pads of varying thickness. Despite this, the helmet is actually quite comfortable and a lot of people can get a good fit. We would still recommend trying it out before purchasing. To conclude, if you want the best protection, even for XC rides, then this helmet is the way to go.

Size chart

Fox Racing Dropframe Pro Bike Helmet

Fox Racing Dropframe Pro Bike Helmet

12. Giro Montaro: Well-cooled protection, fits all heads

Giro Montaro MIPS

  • For Type of Riding: MTB
  • Head Circumference: S (51-55 cm), M (55-59 cm), L (59-63 cm), XL (61-65 cm)
  • Construction: In-mold polycarbonate shell with EPS liner
  • Weight: 378 grams
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Safety Standard: CPSC & CE EN1078 certified
  • Fit System: Roc Loc 5 Air
  • Visor: Adjustable
  • Ventilation: 16 vents
  • Additional Safety Technology: MIPS
  • Colors: 16 color combos available

Features & Considerations
  • Excellent Protection: The EPS liner has a web of reinforcement called Roll Cage molded inside to improve the structural integrity of the helmet.
  • Numerous Color Options: This helmet can cater to the style demands of just about everyone thanks to the whopping 16 color schemes that are available.
  • Great Heat and Sweat Management: The 16 airflow vents ensure a good level of cooling, while the hydrophilic pads can absorb upto 10 times their weight in water.
  • Roc Loc 5 Air: This retention system allows for both tension and fore-aft tilt adjustments. It also lifts the helmet slightly off the head to let air flow inside.
  • Wide Range of Sizes: Almost anyone with any head circumference can use this helmet, from 51 cm all the way up to 65 cm.
  • Adjustable Visor: The visor can be adjusted quite easily to fit your needs or even to make space for stowing away goggles.
  • MIPS: Integrated MIPS technology takes safety to the next level by preventing the energy from rotational impacts from reaching your brain.

Some Weaknesses
  • The visor might feel a bit too long for some users.
  • The adjustment dial is a bit small.
  • It is a bit heavy considering the price.

The Giro Montaro MIPS is an all-around great helmet for trail riding. It has been in Giro’s collection of top half-shell MTB helmets for a while now. We found it to have a good build quality. The EPS liner is reinforced by a web of what they call Roll Cage and is fused to a polycarbonate shell using in-molding. On top of that, a MIPS is also present, providing assured protection to the head. The visor is adjustable and does a great job at shielding the eyes. However, some might not like that it is a bit long.

The helmet is slightly on the heavier side but it fits well. Just like any of Giro’s retention systems, the Roc Loc 5 Air of this helmet lets you get a proper fit. You can adjust both the tension and the fore-aft tilt of the helmet. Moreover, heads of up to 65 cm can be accommodated by this helmet. One small caveat with the fit system is the dial which is a bit small and may be hard to use with gloves on. We really appreciated the large range of color choices. There really is an option for everyone.

Size chart

Giro Montaro MIPS Bike Helmet

Giro Montaro MIPS Bike Helmet


Buying Guide: XC Helmets

Cross-country (XC) cycling is a sub-discipline of mountain biking. It is defined by the terrain on which bikers travel. This is usually a mix of smooth fire paths, rough forest trails and singletrack, and paved paths that connect other trails. XC riders generally do not need beefy helmets. This is due to the moderate levels of danger, compared to enduro or downhill. In fact, since XC riding sometimes involves long distances, many riders prefer lightweight and well-ventilated helmets similar to road helmets.

Cross country riding

Image: Cross-country-riding

1. Weight

The weight of a helmet is an important factor to consider. Obviously, you would not want a helmet to be heavy and become a burden. The less weight a helmet has the better since it will be more comfortable and you notice it less while riding. As a consequence, you can focus more on your rides and enjoy them better. Modern helmets use materials and manufacturing methods that keep the weight at a minimum without compromising protection. Conversely, ultra-lightweight helmets are not typically recommended for any form of mountain biking, even cross-country. These feathery light helmets are more for road cycling and may have too many vents.

2. Ventilation

Any sort of mountain biking is a rigorous activity and you are bound to break a sweat. This is why helmets have multiple holes called vents to let air come in contact with your head as you pedal. This keeps you cool and evaporates a lot of sweat. As mentioned above, too much ventilation is not ideal for off-road use since there is less actual helmet covering your head. Hence, a higher chance of rocks or sticks getting in during a crash. The number of vents is not everything though. The design, placement, and internal channeling can all drastically improve the flow of air without having to use too many vents.

3. Size & Comfort

A helmet must fit well on your head. If it is too large, then the helmet will not protect you during a crash. Rather it will fly off your head just before impact. On the other hand, if a helmet is too small it will feel tight and uncomfortable, making your ride less enjoyable and possibly giving you a headache. Nearly all helmets today have a dial adjustable retention system that lets you tune-in the fit. Many older models and, in rare cases, some new ones as well make use of removable pads of varying thickness to adjust the fit.

Retention system

Image: Retention-system

There is also the matter of head shape. Some people have round heads, while others have a more oblong-shaped head. Make sure to choose a helmet that matches your head shape. We always recommend trying out a helmet beforehand if possible. This is the best way to tell whether it is right for you or not. Other than size and shape, the weight, ventilation, and inner padding all play a part in the comfort of a helmet.

4. Build Materials

All helmets typically have the same layers of material. The outer shell is made of a hard polycarbonate and its main function is to let the helmet slide on a surface instead of snagging. Right under this shell is a thick layer of expanded polystyrene (EPS) which is like a hard foam. The EPS liner is your main defense against injuries and is used due to its low weight and impact absorption capabilities. Finally, you have the soft padding on the inside that is there to provide comfort. When it comes to construction materials, there is not much separating different helmets. The only differences are with the manufacturing process and the quality of materials.

EPS liner

Image: EPS-liner

Outer shell

Image: Outer-shell

Inner padding

Image: Inner-padding

Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org

5. Rotational Impact Protection

Nowadays, technologies such as MIPS, SPIN, WaveCel, etc. are becoming commonplace, especially in MTB helmets. While the market may be dominated by MIPS which stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, they all work using the same basic principle. The helmet is allowed slight movement over the head which greatly reduces the effect of rotational/angled forces. Otherwise, a great deal of strain may be placed on the brain during such impacts. Even if such technologies may be unnecessary for beginners and less aggressive trail riding, we think that having one in your helmet is always better.

MIPS layer

Image: MIPS-layer

6. Other Convenience Features

There are a few features that many riders demand to have on their MTB/XC helmet. One of these is a light or camera mount. Some helmets have a small threaded screw insert for this purpose, while in others you can attach the device to one of the top vents. If these two options are not possible, you can always buy an adhesive mount.

Camera mount

Image: Camera-mount

Probably the common feature found only in off-road lids is a visor. Visors can be fixed or adjustable, removable or non-removable, long or short. Be sure to check out the visor specs before buying, so that it matches your preferences. Another thing that cyclists sometimes look for is goggles/sunglass compatibility. For this, the visor must be adjustable and the front or rear vents should be able to store eyewear when not in use.

F. A. Q.s

Q1. Why do MTB helmets have visors?

Ans.: A visor can block out bright sun rays and prevent raindrops from flowing down your face, which would otherwise impede your vision on rides. Additionally, they protect the face from low-hanging branches that may be present on wooded trails. Road helmets skip out on this piece of hardware to remain as lightweight and aerodynamic as possible. Ultimately, visors are advantageous for trail cycling. In case you don’t want one, there are many models with removable visors.

MTB vs road helmet MTB vs road helmet

Image: MTB vs road helmet

Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Q2. Should I wear a full-face helmet for mountain biking?

Ans.: Full-face helmets protect not only the head but also the jaws, ears, and face. They are the ultimate protection for your skull. Given that, you don’t have to get such a helmet unless you do some serious gravity riding regularly. For most forms of mountain biking, especially XC, full face helmets are just too bulky and don’t provide enough ventilation.

Q3. Are MIPS helmets worth it?

Ans.: In a crash, the inner layer of a MIPS helmet can displace up to 5mm independently of the EPS liner, absorbing rotational forces. This small movement results in a considerable reduction of strain on the brain, which decreases the chance of concussions or other brain injuries. Therefore, you get an extra degree of safety while wearing a MIPS integrated helmet. So when you have to replace your old lid, the extra $20 or so for a MIPS-equipped model rather than a non-MIPS model is well worth the price.

Q4. Can I use road helmets for mountain biking?

Ans.: Wearing road bike helmets are not advisable for use on technical off-road tracks and downhill trails. This is because they usually have more vents and do not offer the same level of protection. It is okay (but not ideal) to wear road helmets if you are on a less aggressive cross-country ride. Nevertheless, if you don’t have an option then wearing any helmet is better than not wearing one at all. But it is recommended to equip yourself with the right helmet for the right job.

Q5. What do you get with more expensive helmets?

Ans.: It has been proven many times that the level of safety provided by a helmet is pretty much the same, regardless of the cost. A $20 helmet absorbs direct impacts just as well as a $200 one. What you do get with the increasing cost is better comfort, longer life, lower weight, rotational force reduction, and extra features such as camera/light mounts.

Conclusion

After going through this article, you should not have any more doubts about which helmet to buy for your adventures on the trail. A lot of hours of hard work has gone into this article and we have tried to be as comprehensive as possible. We can assure you that you will not be let down by any of the helmets in our selection. Whether you want low weight, good ventilation, or solid protection, you are sure to find a suitable one.

Related Readings on Bike Helmets


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Last update on 2021-01-11 at 23:10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Dion Lewis
My name is Dion Lewis.

I’ve been cycling from my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions.

At my college life, I took a part time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally.

Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or a bike gear.

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