Full Face vs Open Face Helmet MTB: Making the Right Choice for Your Safety

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Mountain biking is a thrilling and adrenaline-pumping adventure that requires the right safety gear. One of the most critical decisions a rider faces is choosing between a full face helmet and an open face helmet. This article delves into the full face vs open face helmet debate, providing insights into their pros, cons, and which option suits your riding style and preferences.


Mountain biking demands the right protective gear, and choosing the right helmet is paramount. Helmets come in various designs, with full face and open face helmets being the two primary options for MTB riders. Understanding the differences between these helmets is crucial to ensure both safety and comfort while riding.

Full Face Helmet: Maximum Protection and Coverage

A full face helmet is a comprehensive safety gear designed to offer maximum protection for the head, face, and jaw. It’s a popular choice for riders who engage in aggressive downhill and freeride mountain biking. Here are some key features and benefits:

  • Coverage: The full face helmet covers the entire head, including the chin and face. This design provides enhanced protection in the event of a crash or impact.
  • Face Shield: Equipped with a sturdy face shield, this helmet shields the face from debris, branches, and flying objects. This is particularly advantageous when riding through dense forests and challenging terrains.
  • Safety: Full face helmets excel in protecting the rider’s face and head from severe injuries during high-speed descents and technical trails. The extended coverage and impact-absorbing materials offer superior safety.

Open Face Helmet: Lightweight and Versatile

An open face helmet, also known as a half-shell helmet, offers a lightweight and versatile option for mountain bikers. It covers the top and sides of the head while leaving the face open. Here are its distinctive features and advantages:

  • Ventilation: Open face helmets typically have more ventilation, keeping riders cool during intense rides. The increased airflow prevents overheating, making them suitable for long-distance and uphill rides.
  • Visibility: The open design provides better peripheral vision, allowing riders to spot obstacles and changes in the trail more easily. This is advantageous for technical maneuvers and navigating challenging terrain.
  • Comfort: With less coverage, open face helmets are often lighter and more comfortable for extended rides. They are a popular choice for cross-country riders who prioritize comfort and breathability.

Comparing Full Face and Open Face Helmets

AspectFull Face HelmetOpen Face Helmet
CoverageCovers the entire head, face, and chin.Covers the top and sides of the head.
Face ShieldEquipped with a protective face shield.Leaves the face open for better visibility.
Intended UseIdeal for aggressive downhill and freeride.Suited for cross-country and trail riding.
VentilationLess ventilation due to full coverage.More ventilation for enhanced airflow.
WeightHeavier due to extended coverage and materials.Lighter due to less coverage.
SafetySuperior protection for high-speed descents.Offers basic protection for various trails.
ComfortMay feel bulkier during long rides.Lightweight and comfortable for extended use.

Choosing the Right Helmet: Factors to Consider

The choice between a full face and open face helmet depends on several factors, including your riding style, preferences, and the trails you frequent. Here are some questions to guide your decision:

  • Are you an aggressive downhill rider seeking maximum protection, or do you prioritize comfort and ventilation for long rides?
  • Do you frequently ride technical trails with potential hazards, or do you prefer smoother cross-country routes?
  • How important is peripheral vision to you? Are you willing to sacrifice some coverage for better visibility?
  • What is your budget? Full face helmets tend to be pricier due to their additional features and materials.


Q: Can I use a full face helmet for cross-country riding? A: While it’s possible, full face helmets are designed for aggressive riding styles. They may feel bulky and warm during long cross-country rides.

Q: Are open face helmets less safe? A: Open face helmets provide a certain level of protection, but they are generally less safe than full face helmets in high-speed downhill scenarios.

Q: Can I remove the face shield on a full face helmet? A: Some full face helmets come with removable face shields, offering flexibility for different riding conditions.

Q: Which helmet is better for enduro racing? A: Enduro riders often opt for full face helmets due to the combination of protection and breathability they offer.

Q: Are there convertible helmets that offer both full face and open face options? A: Yes, there are helmets with removable chin bars, allowing riders to switch between full face and open face configurations.

Q: How do I ensure the best fit for my chosen helmet? A: Follow the manufacturer’s sizing guidelines and make sure the helmet snugly fits your head without being too tight.


When it comes to choosing between a full face and open face helmet for MTB riding, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. The decision depends on your riding style, comfort preferences, and the level of protection you prioritize. Both options have their strengths, and the key is to make an informed choice that aligns with your needs and safety considerations.

Remember, whether you go for the comprehensive coverage of a full face helmet or the lightweight comfort of an open face helmet, prioritizing your safety is paramount on every ride.

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