Helmets are protective gear universally known for their ability to protect the head from minor and major impacts. Its mechanism is developed to complement the human skull and further strengthen it. There are several types of helmets in the world; different activities require different types of safety measures and differently designed helmets. And the use of helmets isn’t just limited to daily activities but also in wars, construction, sports, and many more.
The helmets used for recreational activities are a bit more niche-centric, and today we are evaluating two such helmets. “Mountain Bike Helmet Vs. Road Bike Helmet” is a comprehensive guide that could save your life in the worst-case scenarios.
Mountain Bike Helmets: Overview
Mountain bike helmets are designed to have a low-cut rear, a visor, a bulkier constitution, and a heavier weight. They are developed to provide maximum protection on dangerous impacts while cycling steep and rocky trails. Impacts on rocky and uneven terrain can result in bikers being thrown off and the rotational forces gripping the helmet. It is why MTB helmets are built with the highest quality safety features to avoid as many fatalities as possible.
Road Bike Helmets: Overview
Road Bike Helmets are more aerodynamic, compact, and well-ventilated than other market helmet variants. These types of helmets are designed to soak in the initial impact during accidents on the road. The riders usually slide on the pavement, and the helmet decreases the crash impact by some amount. It happens due to the space between the rider’s head and the helmet’s outer shell. This space greatly reduces the impact force that transmits directly to the head.
Major Differences Between MTB Helmets and Road Bike Helmets
1. Helmet visor or peak
Helmet visors or peaks are one of mountain bike helmets’ most distinguishing visual features. But Road helmets miss out on the famous peak design of MTB helmets. To most people, the MTB helmet’s peak might be a curiosity, but the peak on the MTB helmet is to protect the rider from sun glare, rain, branches, and trail debris, and it also absorbs impact during casualties.
2. Ventilation ports
Multiple bigger and smaller air vents on the road helmets make them stand out from MTB helmets. While there are ventilation systems in a mountain bike helmet, they are smaller in size and number. It is due to the riding conditions; on pavements, there is minimum exposure to gravel, dust, and dirt in the air, so road cyclists do not require an enclosed helmet. But MTB riders would want to avoid the aforementioned debris getting through their helmets to their head.
3. Shapes & designs
MTB and road helmets’ lids are developed individually; they appear to be drastically different in shape and design. While MTB lids are aggressively designed with more edges, road helmets look round like a water droplet. This shape is especially important for aerodynamics. Although some brands have designed MTB helmets incorporating rounder composition, this is to reduce the rotational impacts during a casualty.
4. Back-of-the-head protection
The lower-cut style of the mountain bike helmets’ rear end is designed for a secure fitting with little to less hassle while adjusting. The back of these MTB helmets has a ratchet system that can micro-adjust for an optimised fit. Mountain bikers benefit largely due to this extra protection to the back of their head; it saves them from aggressive impacts in off-road terrains rather than the smooth texture of the road. Although road helmets have also started to incorporate the low-cut design, they still need to catch up compared to the MTB helmets.
5. Over-ear designs
Mountain Bike helmets are designed to cover both the rear and front and so it reduces the accessibility of the earbuds. The maximum protection with the full chin bar and jawline coverage are unavailable in road helmets. Road helmets are open and provide direct access to the riders’ earbuds.
6. Chin bars & Chin strap.
Since MTB riders deal with rough and steep terrains, they require additional protection from direct impact on the lower parts of their face. It has several downsides, like reduced ventilation, added weight, breathing difficulties, and many more, but one has to look at the full-face protection that comes with it. Compared to road helmets, there is rarely any variant that provides an option for chin bars. The same is the case with chin straps; different variants of helmets have their personalised type of straps. Road helmets’ chin straps are compact and easy to equip and unequip, while MTB helmets have a more bulky variant.
7. Overall weight
MTB helmets are heavier than road helmets due to the additional materials and customisation. The bulky composition, thick shell, expanded rear, and chin bar adds to its overall weight making it exceptionally weighty than a road helmet.
Road helmets are designed with better aerodynamic performance than MTB helmets. Mountain bikers often ride elevated grounds at a slower pace and need little to no assistance from aerodynamics. Road cyclists need this extra assistance of aerodynamics since wind resistance directly affects their overall speed on flat surfaces. The MTB helmets are made of a less aerodynamic design than road helmets.
9. Goggles or sunglasses compatibility
While road helmets have no visor, they still have an option of goggles while riding. These goggles or sunglasses filter bugs, smoke, dust, and unwanted sun rays to keep the cyclist’s vision clear. On the other hand, an MTB also has the option of goggles with bigger lenses, and they go right up to the helmet. These goggles are bigger and mostly have a strap that grips the helmet tightly.
10. Safety, Injury Protection & Durability
Both the MTB and road helmets are designed with the intent of protection from different types of situations. MTB helmets have better head protection coverage, whereas road helmets have a better record of preventing brain injuries.
While they excel in different protection specifications, both helmets have almost identical Multi-directional Impact Protection Systems. It means they have an insert component, a slip-plane layer between the helmet’s shell and the cyclist’s head. This slip-plane acts as a medium that reduces the rotational forces that can cause brain injuries or concussions.
Road helmets might lack durability and break apart more easily than MTB helmets, but it also has a positive aspect. These helmets are designed to break during heavy impacts; this will absorb some of the kinetic energy during the accident.
About Helmet Certification
The most basic thing while riding a two-wheeler is to wear a helmet. It has become mandatory to save yourself from any unseen accident or causality. But with many variants of helmets, people often come to a dilemma of which one to choose. There are helmets that offer different types of protection and specialisation, but to tackle such confusion, manufacturers have certain safety criteria to meet before releasing their products.
There are numerous helmet certifications worldwide; they are put through rigorous safety testing and finally approved to optimal safety standards. These safety certifications include DOT (Department of Transportation FMVSS218), ECE Helmet Certification, Snell (Snell Memorial Foundation M2010) Helmet Standard, and many more in the market. So before buying a helmet, one must check the certifications for validity.
While these two types of helmets are used for two completely different activities, the rider needs to better understand their own riding preferences. For example, choosing the best from these two comes with their application area; one cannot expect to be well-protected by equipping a road helmet on a rough trail and vice versa.
You will have to carefully understand the kind of journey you are aiming for before selecting a helmet. While one is designed for concrete or flat roads, another is for elevated and rough trails; make sure to figure out your travelling route before equipping any specific helmet type. Greenspeed is always looking for ways to inform and guide the masses with the best practices possible. Contact us if you have any questions or queries; we are more than happy to help and grow together.
FAQ about MTB Helmets Vs. Road Helmets
Yes, MTB helmets can be used for the road, but it is better to go for Road Helmets since they are developed to provide maximum security on roads.
While bike helmets can be used for mountain bikes, it is better to go for MTB Helmets instead since they are developed to provide maximum protection while riding a mountain bike.
Yes, MTB helmets provide maximum security, but Road helmets also provide optimum protection in related areas.
You can choose a bike helmet according to your preference; if you are an MTB rider, you can go for an MTB helmet, and if you prefer a road bike, you can go for a road helmet.
No, MTB helmets and Road helmets are completely different products. While mountain bike helmets provide maximum head protection, road helmets are more open.
Brad is co-founder of Green Speed, and he is the hand and mind behind the site’s compelling content. Brad is an avid cyclist passionate about environmental and pollution management and promotes cycling for a healthy and sustainable livelihood. He loves to try and review new gears and cycling accessories. He will most likely be in the gym or cleaning up the beach with this beach group when he is not working.