Mountain biking is finally getting the attention it deserves. More and more people are getting out in the mountains to explore nature in a new way. And that’s great. But there is a flipside to this trend; the number of accidents has unfortunately risen at a high pace as more bikers have entered the sport. So what can be done? Know your limits and prepare well. But we should also make sure that we equip ourselves to be safer. Fortunately, this can be done today without compromising the riding experience.
Read all about what key factors to look for when purchasing an MTB helmet that doesn’t compromise your riding experience & safety.
The mountain biking community is booming. Literally. According to Forbes, mountain bike trails are in heavier use than ever. For example, an increase of 100-500% could be seen in some parts of the United States between 2019 and 2020. Moreover, the bonanza in the bike segment can be seen all across the world, and according to the experts, the huge interest is here to stay.
But there is a downside to the increasing pull of the sport. With more inexperienced bikers in the mountains, unfortunately, more accidents happen.
This means that more awareness needs to be directed toward safety in the trails. The easiest way to make yourself safer is to:
- Know your limits
- Check the trail ahead of your world record run
- Always ride with buddies
- Wear the best equipment
The first points on the list above should hopefully be quite self-explanatory and intuitive. If not, please start implementing them.
However, the last point can be a bit tricky. It’s a jungle out there when it comes to choosing the right equipment. In this post, we will focus on equipment designed to protect the most precious thing you have. Your head.
Look for safety features that solve the actual real-life problems
When sorting through the endless helmet models, their price points, and all brands that are developing them, it can be easy to get lost. That’s why we want to make it simple. After choosing what type of helmet suits your needs you should start looking into what safety features are available. Don’t worry, this is easier than it sounds.
It is important to note that all the safety features are developed to solve a real-life problem. The difference between them is simply that they solve different problems.
Most brands that are developing bike helmets today bring in specific expert brands that focus on solving one particular problem. Depending on your habits and needs, some of these functionalities offered by these brands will be more or less relevant to you. Let’s break it down.
The most common safety features that we see today are:
- Protection from rotational forces on impact by Mips
- Smart protection that makes your vital information available by Twiceme Technology
- Become searchable if you are lost through tech by Recco
- If you insist on riding alone, there are several crash sensors out there
It is important to note that all the features mentioned above are developed to solve a real-life problem. The difference between them is simply that they solve different problems.
Mips is developed to reduce what they claim is a harmful force called the rotational force that occurs during an accident.
Twiceme Technology has developed their tech based on an original idea coming from the military that safely stores your vital information. This info is then easily accessible if an accident happens through a tap of a smartphone (the same technology as e.g. paying with your smartphone).
Recco has developed an integrated reflector that reflects a radio signal that can be sent out during search missions. This means that you are easier to find if you are riding alone and get lost.
The safest alternative? All of them. But if you have to choose due to budget constraints, it depends on what type of rider you are and what type of protection you value. The important part about the above technologies is that they aim to minimize the negative impact on the riding experience.
Other key factors for the best riding experience
Other factors that influence how comfortable a helmet is and ultimately therefore how often you will want to wear it are:
Think about what your personal needs are and think about your riding style when comparing the above factors.
Also think about choosing features that do not compromise on the riding experience by being heavy, uncomfortable, or demanding high maintenance.
Don’t forget about the certifications
Lastly, please take the certifications of the helmet into account. This can be tedious and it is mostly a hygiene factor nowadays. However, it can be important to check whether it has the right certification for your type of riding. The most common certification in the US is CPSC. In the EU, there are for example new standards emerging for e-bikes that can handle higher speeds.
POC Sport’s Damian Philips explains European standards to look out for in an interview with Red Bull. It could be summarized as:
- EN1078 is the only mandatory European Standard and covers all bicycle helmets
- F1952 – 15 is an American standard, but it is relevant as the downhill helmet bicycle standard
- NTA8776 is a new Dutch standard for Speed E-bikes/Pedelecs
Putting it all together
Wow. That was a lot to take in. It seems like a jungle at first glance but in the end, it is quite simple. Let’s put it in a step-by-step list, shall we?
- Find the helmet type that suits your preferred style of riding (going hard – choose a full-face helmet, making those smooth turns? A regular MTB helmet will do)
- Check that it adheres to the correct standards (this again depends on your style (ASTM F1952 – 15 for downhill riding or NTA8776 for e-bikes for example)
- What safety features to include? This depends on your riding style, riding patterns, and safety needs. Make sure you choose features that solve real-life problems and don’t destroy the riding experience
- Make sure you choose a helmet that you want to wear. Nice design, well-ventilated, lightweight, or other features might be nice-to-haves.
Helmets on the market that stands out
There are a couple of helmets that stand out with regards to offering the full safety package.
One is the brand new Dainese Linea 01. These helmets are the result of great user research and an impressive ambition to make safety equipment accessible. This helmet match all official safety standards in the industry for a full-face MTB helmet (not an e-bike since there is no official standard yet). Moreover, it is the lightest full-face helmet on the market (only 570g for an M size). Last but not least it contains the full package of safety features with twICEme, Mips, and Recco. Linea 01 was released to rave reviews and is a great example of how safety does not need to compromise the riding experience. Read more about it here.
Another helmet that was released earlier this year is the POC Kortal helmet. Like the Dainese Linea 01, it contains the full package of safety with twICEme, Mips, and Recco. It’s designed with the highest safety in mind while still keeping you stylish on the trail. With the safety classification of Dutch NTA8776 (the only current standard for e-bike helmets), it closes in on the protective capabilities of a moped helmet, while still being light and simple to take with you on your adventures. Find out more here.
Also a new release from POC is the Otocon helmet. POC’s Otocon is packed with a range of advanced safety features. The Otocon Race Mips, in particular, is in that sense a brilliant example of POC’s “Whole Helmet Concept™”, offering a variety of high-tech safety features, such as Recco and twICEme. Together with the Mips Integra, the product concept of Otocon represents an idea of how helmets will be designed in the future. In this way, the Otocon helmet gives us a glimpse of the future.The Otocon Race Mips has been awarded a Design and Innovation Award for 2022. All the benefits of exceptional protection and award-winning design come in a lightweight package. For more info read here
Get your helmet
Now, we’ve been giving you some great guidelines on how to find the best possible head protection tailored to your needs. Here’s a link if you want to get your hands on one.