Helmets Buyer’s Guide | MBR – how to pick a helmet, what EPS and MIPS mean, key features of trail helmet, ventilation, etc…
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Trail helmets have changed — they’re no longer based on lightweight XC designs with multiple vents, flimsy visors and minimal protection. They now feature extended coverage, impact-deflecting liners — such as MIPs — and visors that are adjustable and secure. To reflect the higher speeds, jumps and general risk-taking amongst modern trail riders, these helmets are tougher, but still come with the ventilation required to keep you cool on a hard ride. To make it easier to film your exploits, some trail helmets also get clip-on accessories for head cams, and a few even double as light mounts.
With these mounts, protective liners and additional coverage comes extra weight and cost, but you are getting a helmet that is tougher, more comfortable and offers a level of protection better suited to modern trail antics.
As most helmets conform to the current CE safety certification, it’s a given that they are going to do their job in a crash. However, there’s currently no test for fit, venting or adjustability, which is why we’ve focused on these areas. All helmets need to be fine tuneable for fit so they grip your head firmly, but without creating hot spots or discomfort. You also don’t want to boil in the bag while riding, but often manufacturers will prioritise protection over heat management and reduce the number, or size, of the vents, so striking the right balance between the two is key.
Look out for…
EPS or expanded polystyrene foam, and this is at the core of the helmet. It’s lightweight, inexpensive and works by crumpling and dispersing the force of the impact.
EPS can dent easily and degrade in sunlight, so to protect it from damage it’s covered by a thin plastic micro-shell.
To add extra protection in this vulnerable area, the shell often wraps under the bottom of the helmet.
AKA a Multi-directional Impact Protection System, this is an internal plastic liner that slides over the inner shell at the moment of impact, helping reduce rotational brain injuries from glancing impacts.
Front cooling ports, rear exhaust ports and a combination of internal shaping to encourage airflow are typical ways of reducing heat build-up.
A retention device allows you to adjust the size and fit of the helmet. Most use a rotating dial, which allows you to tweak the fit on the move with one hand. The very best retention devices have height adjustment, allowing you to get them snug against the back of your skull.
Padding thickness and density has a significant effect on sweat absorption as well as comfort. Helmets with thicker internal padding may run a little hotter but you’re less likely to get sweat running down your neck. Some pads are impregnated with metallic particles to reduce odour.
The best designs can be tilted up and down, so they’re out of your eye-line when riding downhill, but there’s no point tilting it out of the way if it falls down again. It needs a solid adjustment system — either via a ratchet or screws.
On some helmets the visor can be adjusted so far up that you can park your goggles underneath. This allows you to push them out of the way on a climb and pull them back down again for the descent.
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