Full Face vs. Open Face MTB Helmet: Which One & Why?

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Helmets are lifesavers in the truest sense. Research depicts that head injury risks can be decreased up to 60% by wearing bike helmets. [Source]

So, not wearing a helmet before cycling can actually threaten your life.

While there are pretty different types and categories of helmets, choosing the right one is very important for ensuring your optimal protection and safety. Selecting the wrong helmet can increase the risks of injury and add to your discomfort during riding. Now while selecting to buy a helmet for mountain biking, which type should you buy? Should you buy a full-face helmet or an open face one? We have tried our best to answer all these questions in this article.

Full face and open face helmets are two widely different helmet categories, both having distinctive structural and protective features. Your signature riding style will tell you whether to use a full-face helmet or an open-face one. For a daring rider who prefers speedy and aggressive riding forms, a full-face helmet ought to give proper protection. For less daring forms of riding like road cycling, wearing an open face helmet will be more comfortable and convenient.

What type of cycling are you into?

First of all, you have to define which type of cycling you are into. Choose a full face or open face helmet according to your cycling type. Some may prefer road cycling or cycling on smooth pathways. Some may prefer speedy mountain cycling. Again, some people may enjoy speeding downhill. Depending on your cycling preferences, you will require various levels of protection in your helmet.

Full Face helmets

If you are into mountain biking, downhill riding, or other challenging forms of biking, a full-face helmet is most important for you. It will provide you the needed protection and safety. The face-covering feature may seem claustrophobic or suffocating to some people, but as they say, no pains, no gains. You can compromise this little bit for your extra safety.

Read more: Why should you wear a full-face helmet?

Full face helmets are more necessary if you are into such forms of riding where there are chances of injuring your face. Just using this helmet can protect you from serious facial injuries and complications.

Pros:

  1. Obviously, it offers more protection than open face helmets. Your head, face, cheeks, chin, teeth will not be hurt much in case you fall.
  2. Also, it offers protection from sunlight, rains, wind, cold, insects, and stones.
  3. If you are a sports celebrity and want to race down the road without the crowd recognizing you, full-face helmets will offer you anonymity and secrecy.
  4. You don’t have to wear protection glasses or sunglasses because the visors in the helmet will protect you from everything.
  5. Long trips feel less tiring if you use a full-face helmet, as it will isolate you from the noise and environment.

Cons:

  1. These can be more expensive than other helmets.
  2. Because of reduced ventilation, wearing a full-face helmet can be uncomfortable in the scorching heat. You may need time to get adjusted to its bulky and heavy structure.
  3. Wearing a full-face helmet DOES NOT mean that you are immune to all sorts of risks and dangers. So, don’t be overconfident and be careful always.
  4. To some people, the enclosing structure of the helmet may seem stifling and suffocating.

➥ When it comes to the question of the price of these helmets, you won’t necessarily have to spend a fortune to get your hands on one of these open-face helmets, here are some of the full-face MTB helmets you can buy for less than $100.

Open Face helmets

This type of helmet covers only your head, your face remains uncovered. These are suitable for riders who prefer road cycling or other less dangerous forms of cycling. Some open face helmets are specially designed for mountain biking. These are made bulkier in the back to add extra protection to your head in case of falling. Light weightedness and aerodynamics are their strongest features. Visors are incorporated in some open face mountain bike helmets to protect your eyes from sunlight, rain, or dust. They have an uneven and rough surface.
On the contrary, open face helmets for road cycling do not have visors as they obstruct the vision of riders. They are more ventilating because of the increased number of vents. These helmets bear a glossy and smooth texture to decrease the risk of injuries on smooth roads and pavements.

Pros:

  1. Proper ventilation and breathability with sufficient protection
  2. These are not bulky and heavy, on the contrary, these are lightweight and easy to carry.
  3. Suitable for sweltering and hot summer days.
  4. Better visibility is one of its strong points. It doesn’t have blind spots or visibility problems.

Cons:

  1. If you are a hardcore cyclist, open face helmets are not for you, as these helmets do not give adequate protection to your face.
  2. A survey shows that the chin area of the face is injured in 19.4% of bike crash incidents. [Source] Hence it is a vulnerable spot. Open face helmets cannot protect against this and also increases the risk of injury in the teeth and forehead.
  3. In a long ride, the surrounding noise and environment can tire you as these helmets do not provide isolation.

Are open face helmets that bad an option for mountain biking?

Not always, actually, it depends on the nature of your trail paths and your riding style. For running on rugged terrains at very high speed, wearing a full-face helmet is compulsory because of its protection features. But for riding on trails that do not have hikes, potholes, or gnarly surfaces, an open face helmet will be more comfy and convenient.

Helmets having a removable chin strap

Wearing open face helmets increases the chance of nasty injuries. Full face helmets offer superb protection but at times feel heavy and bulky. A convertible helmet can be a perfect solution to this dilemma. A removable chin bar is present in this type of helmet. Normally it seems like a full-face helmet. Just remove the chin guard, and your helmet becomes an open-face one. Thus you can enjoy the breathability and comfortable feeling of an open face helmet while riding uphill, and ensure your safety and protection while riding downhill.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How do I choose a bike helmet?

Ans.: While choosing a bike helmet, pay special attention to these points.

  1. Proper fitting is very important. Make sure that your helmet fits you appropriately. A poorly fitting helmet can pose risk to your protection.
  2. Choose a bike helmet that is matching with your style of riding. Different riding styles and preferences offer different challenges, and so they need distinctive protection. For aggressive forms of riding like mountain bike riding, a full-face helmet is very useful. Again, for gentler forms like road cycling, an open face helmet works better.
  3. Think about what special features you want in your helmet, and buy one which consists of those features.

➥ When it comes to the fit of bike helmets, we suggest you have a look at our detailed size & fit chart for bike helmets

Q2. How often am I supposed to change my helmet?

Ans.: The thumb rule of helmet replacement is to generally change your helmet after 3-5 years of use. Frequently using a helmet can weaken it due to prolonged contact with sunlight and body sweat. In such cases, consider changing your helmet sooner. Of course, if your helmet has experienced any sort of accident or impact, change it immediately and get a new one.

➥ If you’re undecided as to when is the right time to change your helmets, we recommend you have a look at 4 ways to know when to replace your helmet

Q3. How do I choose a full-face MTB helmet?

Ans. Choose one depending on your head size, more particularly your head diameter. If the diameter of your head is between 20 to 21.75 inches, full-face helmets of small size will fit you perfectly. For heads having a diameter between 21.75 to 23.25 inches, full-face helmets of medium size will be ideal. But if you have a big head of diameter 23.5 to 24.75 inches, you should wear large-sized helmets. [Source]

Conclusion

The bottom line is that in uphill or downhill bike riding you remain at constant risks of injury. Though full-face mountain bikes are heavyweight and less ventilating, the increased head and face protection offered easily makes it the best choice for mountain bike riding. If you are more of a casual rider, opt for an open-face one. But do remember that wearing even the best protective helmet won’t make you fully invincible. So remaining cautious and careful always pays off. Don’t be overconfident in your riding ability and don’t try to play with risks. Ensure optimal protection by wearing a helmet and side by side stay focused and alert while cycling to avoid any mishaps.

My name is Dion Lewis. I’ve been cycling since my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions. In 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 bike gear.

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