There are lots of different ways to ride your mountain bike, but hopefully, no matter what your favorite way to ride, you’re wearing a helmet. In our sport, there have been traditionally two different types of helmet to choose from. For those on their local trails, heading cross-country, or planning for long ascents, the open face helmet reigns supreme. They’re lighter weight and much breezier, but of course they do not protect your face—protection you may wish you had on a fast and/or technical descent. Full face helmets, on the other hand, are sturdy for speedy downhill riders who did not need to pedal themselves up the mountain.
What if you’re the kind of rider who does a little bit of both? What if you ride enduro style events or maybe just get to take on the more technical or cardiovascular stuff on special occasions? You don’t need to buy multiple helmets to avoid suffering the consequences between choosing the hot and heavy full face helmet on the way up or the lack of full protection on the way down. Convertible mountain bike helmets are two helmets in one and an excellent choice for riders who need a helmet that can be as flexible as the way you want to ride. Here are some of the best choices available now for convertible mtb helmets to give you some of the best from both worlds.
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Each one of these mountain bike helmets would be a great choice and a lot of the differences between them are minor and often driven by looks or proprietary technology. Among other things they each have in common, they have built in ways to adjust the fit, strong focuses on providing ventilation, and safety features designed to handle any kind of impact you may be thrown into. We like the Bell Super 3R because it’s light weight, well-ventilated, and offers the extra protection you may be looking for at a very decent price point.
1. Bell Super 3R MIPS Adult Mountain Bike Helmet – Best Overall
The Bell Super 3R MIPS helmet is the updated and much improved version of the Super 2R, one of the first mountain bike helmets to have a removable chin bar. In the 3R, Bell has added the Float Fit retention system designed to contour 360° to the shape of your head for a much better fit. The pads in the chin bar are removeable (and washable!) to further modify the fit for more face shapes and sizes. In addition to an upgrade to the included MIPS technology, now the Super 3R sits lower than its predecessor which has increased the safety factor and also gotten rid of the wobble that some complained about in the 2R.
With a small amount of practice, the chin bar can be attached with just one hand and easily fits in or on your pack when it’s not in use. Enjoy the wind through 23 helmet vents, 4 brow intake ports, and 6 additional vents on the chinbar itself to provide full-head ventilation. Still, this is one sturdy helmet thanks to the fusion in-mold polycarbonate shell.
When you feel how light this helmet is, you won’t be surprised to find it’s not fully downhill certified. This will be the perfect helmet for technical and trail rides, but just not substantial enough to withstand a full-speed downhill rides. Further down, check out the Bell Super DH for the souped-up version to take you all the way down the mountain.
- Lightest in its class.
- Float Fit for superior comfort and a snug, personalized size.
- Integrated breakaway camera mount to film your adventures safely.
- Not certified for downhill use, but a versatile alternative for other types of mtb riding.
2. Giro Switchblade MIPS Adult Dirt Cycling Helmet – Best Protection
Another early entrance into the removable chin bar scene, the Giro Switchblade has unparalleled protection features in half shell mode or with the full chin bar added. Giro has used in-mold polycarbonate to fuse the outer shell to the EPS lining for a rugged, sturdy, and lighter helmet. With MIPS built in, the Switchblade meets or exceeds CPSC, ASTM-1952 DH, and EN-1078 standards as a half shell or in the full face configurations making this the first convertible helmet to be downhill certified. The well renown Giro Roc Loc system makes sure that this helmet has a snug fit without crushing your ears or head. Because of the Roc Loc, the helmet is suspended just slightly off of the top of the head which allows better airflow to pass through and out of the back.
Inside, Giro has added hydrophilic X-Static anti-microbial padding designed to absorb up to 10X its weight in water. The pads hang on to moisture while you ride to prevent sweat from dripping down into your eyes while you ride, and then dries quickly. The anti-microbial lining helps reduce the growth of odor-causing fungi or bacteria for a fresher smelling helmet. As if there weren’t enough features already crammed into this trail lid, the one-handed P.O.V. visor feature moves the visor up and down in indexed steps that offer 3 riding positions and an additional fourth position to hold your goggles up and out of the way. An included second visor comes complete with a camera mount to record your most exciting runs.
The Giro Switchblade was among the first of its kind and it is still one of the best picks for convertible mountain bike helmets. Giro has put your safety first in building an mtb helmet that continues to stand the test of time, even among its newer peers.
- Jam packed with features to make this a versatile, DH certified helmet you can turn to for trail riding, downhill descents, and everything in-between
- Emphasis on safety leads to a rugged and extremely protective helmet.
- Slightly hinders your sense of hearing in full face mode.
- The heaviest enduro helmet in our recommendations if you’re the type to count grams.
3. Bell Super DH MIPS Adult Mountain Bike Helmet – Best for Downhill Bikers
For those who love the fit and construction of the Bell Super 3R but need a helmet more suited for a DH ride, look no further than the Bell Super DH. Bell has beefed up the 3R in more ways than one to bring us a high-end DH certified convertible helmet that looks and feels good as a half shell or a chin bar helmet. The Bell Super DH is lighter than the Giro Switchblade and sits lower for additional stability on the head.
Bell has used the fusion in-mold polycarbonate shell and added progressive layering to the EPS liner. Variable EPS foam densities serve to manage the transfer of energies after certain types of impacts, reducing further the amounts of that energy that get transferred into your noggin. Flex Spherical and MIPS work together to offer against high-speed, low-speed, and rotational impact protection. 19 vents and 2 brow intake ports bring in cool air for full-head ventilation. And, like the 3R, you can expect a breakaway camera mount on the Bell Super DH designed to come off upon impact to reduce the risk of injury to you.
For a rider who is primarily looking for a downhill experience, but also finds themselves on trails to practice many of the more technical aspects of the ride, the Bell Super DH is a highly versatile downhill helmet that can’t be beat.
- Designed with the downhill rider in mind and fully certified with DH, CPSC, and BMX certifications
- Variable EPS foam densities inside to help with energy transfer upon impact.
- Some find the large magnetic chin guard buckle to be irritating to the neck.
- Pricier than other enduro helmet options
What To Consider
Important Safety Features to Look for in a MTB Helmet
Moreso than other types of riding, mountain bike helmets need to be sturdy and well-built, offering more protection than you’d find in a helmet made for a daily commuter or a road bike enthusiast.
Nature itself provides a number of obstacles to contend with that could all be potentially threats. Varied terrain, rocks, roots, and felled objects all contribute to what could make your most traveled trails never quite the same from ride to ride. Helmets need to provide more coverage to all portions of the head, and downhill riders need helmets packed with safety features to protect their head, jaw, and face entirely.
Look for a helmet that is downhill certified if you plan to regularly shred the descent. Still, it is important to consider helmet weight when making your choice as well to prevent any unnecessary additional strain on the neck, back, or shoulders.
Look for helmets with hard polycarbonate shells, smart liners, and enough ventilation to keep you cool in your average riding climate. Many MTB helmets have incorporated Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) or similar technology to reduce rotational forces upon the brain during impact. This is more critical for mountain bikers than it is for other types of cyclists though MIPS-style technology is finding its way into cycling helmets of all types as the research and science improves.
For some mountain bike enthusiasts, this means that it is worth it to have two separate helmets—one for downhill riding like at a bike park with lifts to take you back to the top, and one for single-track, trail-riding, or long-distance riding over varied terrain. For many who ride a mtb, finding one helmet that works as two helmets in one can be a cost saving no-brainer. You may also be interested in our recent post on which Bluetooth snowboard helmets to buy.
Is a Convertible MTB Helmet Right for You?
Whether you already have a full-face helmet and are looking to expand into more cardio-intensive mountain bike trails or you have an open face helmet and have been thinking about adding extra protection, helmets with removable chin bars could be exactly what you’re looking for.
Many times, these helmets are lighter even with the chin bar attached than a lot of their full face counterparts. Without the chin bar, you gain even more weight reduction so nothing is holding you back from powering up those ascents. Similarly, helmet weight on a convertible helmet can be an issue compared to other enduro shaped helmets without the extra components required to attach the chin bar.
Technology is advancing quickly and more brands are starting to create a convertible mountain bike helmet that serves the versatile mtb rider with and without the chin bar. Many of the earlier models, let’s face it, were not good looking and did not feel good to wear.
Requiring tools to put on or take off the removable chin bar was inconvenient at best if not downright useless for on the trail. Now many convertible helmets feature a chin bar that can be removed even while you’re still wearing it.
There are plenty of cool color schemes that will have you looking awesome and riding safely in the bike park or wherever you can find some dirt. Keep watching as the convertible mountain bike helmet continues to improve over time. Here are our three top picks for the best mountain bike helmets with removable chin bars currently on the market.
Though convertible mtb helmets do not always offer the same level of protection as a high end full on downhill helmet, the ones we have showcased here today offer riders the best of both worlds. Helmet weight on these convertible helmets is lighter overall than many full face offerings without sacrificing much of the security when in full face mode. We believe the Bell Super 3R is the best convertible mtb helmet out there now for riders who are looking for trail helmet that will fit great while being light, sturdy, and comfortable to wear with or without the chin bar. If you liked this post, see our recent posts on which low profile bike helmet to buy and bike helmets for big heads.
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