Looking for a new skid lid and aren’t sure where to start? The best helmets for mountain biking are not nearly as expensive as they used to be, and the technology is only getting better and better. In this guide, we’re taking a look at the 6 Best Mountain Bike Helmets Under $100, narrowing it down from the top 30 highest reviewed helmets on the market.
After the review, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the world of MTB helmets. We’ll begin with a comprehensive buyer’s guide on how to shop for bike helmets. Then we’ll wrap things up by answering some of the most frequently asked questions about mountain bike helmets.
Best Ventilation on an MTB Helmet Under $100 – GIRO Agilis
Riders who are looking for solid construction and a well-ventilated design should look no further than the AGILIS MIPS from the pros at GIRO. Not only does this helmet come in at under one hundred bucks, but it also features the best airflow in its class. This will help keep riders cool even on long distance rides, something other helmets cannot offer.
Major features here include the Roc Loc 5.5. MIPS system … this is a high-tech adjustment design that ensures a tight fit. The hardbody shell is molded from a sturdy polycarbonate. The shell is fused directly to the foam liner for added stability.
The lack of a visor might be an issue for some users, although GIRO does make one that is sold separately. At 1.4 LBS, this is one of the heavier helmets on the list.
Best Fit on an MTB Helmet Under $100 – TeamObsidian Airflow
The folks at TeamObsidian are known for making affordable helmets that still offer big protection. This rotomolded AirFlow bike helmet is not only strong and affordable, but it is also remarkably sleek and lightweight. Anyone who is looking for an entry-level mountain biking helmet should seriously consider TeamObsidian.
This specialized helmet comes with a few handy accessories as well. There is a detachable visor … something even some of the more expensive bike helmets cannot offer. The chin strap comes with extra comfort padding, and all the detachable interior pads are machine washable.
The Airflow Helmet’s interior shape is unique for helmets of this price range. This thing fits like a glove, and it also comes in two different sizes alongside all the on-board adjustment systems. The only apparent problem with the Airflow is that the straps are not as durable as they are with competing helmets.
Best MTB Helmet Under $100 with Tail Light – PHZ MTN Helm
This adult bike helmet from PHZ comes with two features that you aren’t going to find anywhere else for this price. The first is an integrated USB-charge tail light, built directly into the back of the helmet. With 3 different modes of operation, this light can make riders more visible at night.
The other cool thing is a detachable mesh bug net. Anyone who has taken a long bike ride on a warm summer night can tell you how annoying it is to be bit by a mosquito that gets under your helmet. This innovate net eliminates that problem.
Remarkably, even with these features, the PHZ helmet is only about forty bucks. That’s a remarkably affordable price for any mountain biking helmet, much less one with these advanced features.
Of course, there is room for some improvement. For example, the built-in tail light is not bright enough to be seen during the day. Additionally, the light needs to be removed from the helmet entirely in order to be charged. This can be a confusing process the first time you do it.
Budget Pick MTB Helmet – Exclusky Mountain Bike Helmet
Even though it’s a few bucks more expensive than the PHZ helmet that we looked at above, this adult MTB helmet from Exclusky has earned our Budget Pick award for the day. This is because it offers the bend blend of advanced features and solid construction all for just over forty bucks. For beginners and seasoned pros alike … this is a great purchase that isn’t likely to disappoint.
The Exclusky helmet also offers fantastic ventilation. The vents are a bit larger than some of the other helmets, and there are 18 of them on and around the helmet. The single-hand dial retention system is pretty much a standard on MTB helmets these days, but not all under $50 helmets have one that works this well.
The reinforced sun visor is a particularly welcome addition. It blends perfectly with the shape of the helmet, and can be adjusted to match visibility needs. The visor also has its own air vents, something we haven’t seen elsewhere.
This helmet is advertised as being unisex, but it is more likely to fit male heals than female. Be sure to measure your head properly before purchasing a bike helmet.
Best Bang for the Buck – Tommaso Sparco
At only fifty bucks, the Tommaso Spaco is one of the best all-around deals on the market when it comes
to MTB helmets. This stunningly lightweight bike helmet uses an advanced molding process to achieve
supreme durability. It also happens to be one of the most comfortable helmets on our list, which is
certainly noting to thumb your nose at.
There are 24 vents on this helmet … more than most of the other models we reviewed. But overall, it’s
the lightweight construction that we like the most. After a few minutes it feels like you’re wearing
nothing at all, which is how a helmet should be.
One of the reasons that it’s so lightweight is because it is not as heavily padded as other models. We’ve
found that we don’t miss those extra pads that much.
Best of the Rest – Smith Venture
The Smith Venture is the most expensive helmet on our list, but for good reason. Not only is Smith one
of the most highly recognized brands in the bike accessories industry, but this helmet is made with a
high-tech rotomolded polycarbonate shell. That makes it a contender for the strongest helmet of them
In addition to all that, this is quite simply a very stylish helmet. It’s available in a number of color options
depending on where you buy it from, and it looks like it was built for the mountain trail just as much as it
was for the city skate park.
The integrated visor is a personal preference for most people. This one is not removable, but instead
molded into the helmet itself. The upside here is that you don’t have to deal with any cheap Velcro that
is almost sure to wear out over time.
One of the biggest advantages to choosing a Smith brand helmet is that you can pair it with glasses or
goggles that are shaped to fit the helmet.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Mountain Bike Helmet for Under $100
Choosing the best MTB helmet is a lot like choosing the best mountain bike. While there is a lot to say for style and preference, the most important thing is that you get one, and fast.
Helmets are designed to keep your head protected in the case of a high-impact collision, so the idea of going without one is simply crazy. Even if you’re a skilled rider, there are a number of unexpected hazards that you can encounter on a trail.
Fortunately, MTB helmets are more stylish, lightweight, and breathable than ever before. This makes it easy to keep one on your head for the whole adventure.
The MTB helmets on this list are only a small fraction of what’s currently on the market. With that in mind, we’re now going to share some tips on how to shop for cycling helmets yourself.
Check the Helmet Safety Standards
According to federal law, every bicycle helmet in the US is required to meet the safety standards set forth by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). There are a number of other independent certifying organizations out there, like ATSM, CE, and Snell, but these vary significantly in how they make their certifications.
One of the problems with these standards is that they are all based on G-force threshold, a topic that most of us don’t understand that well. For example, an MTB helmet might tell you that it’s rated with a failure threshold of 300 Gs. But what does that mean in ‘real life?’
Generally speaking, it means that these helmets are designed to sustain a single major impact before becoming broken. That means that if you get in a bicycle accident, you should replace your helmet before you go riding again.
MTB Helmet Materials and Construction
Every manufacturer does things a little differently, but for the most part, all bike helmets are constructed in a similar way. The main part is the crushable foam liner, which is the “inside” of your helmet and the part that absorbs all the impact.
These liners are made from expanded polystyrene, which is both lightweight and capable of absorbing some pretty serious impacts. The thickness of this layer can be adjusted for both slow speed impacts and high-speed impacts. Usually, this is the difference between a skate helmet and a bike helmet.
The outer shell of the helmet is usually made by molded plastic or other synthetic materials. On cheaper helmets, the liner and the outer shell are simply glued together. Higher-priced models on the other hand will actually mold the two layers together
A helmet’s retention system allows it to fit securely over the user’s head. In almost all MTB helmets these days, the retention system is a dial-based crank that will tighten the straps when you turn it. This lets the user get a snug fit that will provide maximum protection.
If you’ve ever spent the day on a mountain bike trial, you probably know just how sweaty things can get. Bike helmets have always been notorious for making these problems worse. Unfortunately, this is why a lot of people still don’t wear helmets.
The best MTB helmets come with expertly-designed ventilation holes. These both draw air in and then release it out the back through a series of 15, 20, or even 24 vents depending on the model. When done properly, this makes it feel like you’re not wearing any helmet at all.
It is important to note: more vents does not always mean a better helmet. Each vent sacrifices a little bit of that foam core, which is the part of the helmet that is actually protecting you. Too many vents and the safety of the helmet could be compromised.
Fortunately, most of the manufacturers test for this kind of thing before releasing a helmet onto the market.
Most mountain bike helmets are sold in multiple sizes. An improperly-fitted helmet will reduce it’s ability to keep you protected in the case of a collision, so it’s important to take your measurements correctly and don’t hesitate to send it back if it doesn’t fit right.
To choose a helmet size, the user must measure the circumference of their head. Start just above the eyebrows and keep the measuring tape level.
Most bike helmet sies come with a suggest range listed in inches that you can match up with your own measurement.
Depending on the brand and model mountain bike helmet you choose, you might be lucky enough to have one of the following additional features:
Not everyone appreciates a removable visor. We find that this is more common on cheap helmets, and they are usually attached by Velcro. Over time, dirt gets into that Velcro and then it doesn’t work as well.
Built-in visors tend to be a little more expensive, simply because of the more complicated roto molding process.
The PHZ MTN helmet that we reviewed above is the only one on our list that comes with a rear tail light. This is a small, USB-chargeable light unit that fits directly in the back of the helmet. This light can be used in three different blinking modes to help motorists see you at night.
One of the drawbacks of these helmet-mounted lights is that they are rarely as effective as the ones that you mount directly to the bike.
Conclusion: The Best Cycling Helmet Under $100
Protecting your brain is cool and all, but there is something to be said for style. The Smith Venture is one of the most style-conscious helmets that we’ve seen. The built-in visor is a touch that we prefer. It not only looks cool, but it also lets users connect their Smith-brand eyewear to the edges of the helmet.
The Smith Venture is at the very top of the price range for this article. And if we’re being honest, some sizes of the Venture MTB helmet are actually more than $100. We figured that we could cheat just this once, but only because the Venture has just as much high-tech functionality as it does style.
Frequently Asked Questions
Bike helmets are specifically designed to protect the user from serious impacts. There are different kinds of bike helmets, including some that are specially designed for trail riding and mountain biking. You don’t necessarily need to buy a super fancy MTB helmet, but you do want to make sure that it is a bike helmet that was tested according to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Standards.
One of the biggest differences between bike helmets and skate helmets is the safety standards that they are held to. In most cases, bike helmets are held to slightly higher standards in terms of major impact compression. Bike helmets are designed to protect the user from a single, massive blow, such as a car accident. Skate helmets are not built for these kind of high impact hits. They can, however, handle a lot of lowimpact collisions, like the ones that would happen at the skate park. In order works, if you’re going out on the mountain bike, it’s a good idea to have a real MTB helmet with you. Skate helmets will not protect you as well in case of a major collision.
MIPS is actually the name of a Swedish manufacturer who owns the patent on a very specific type of impact protection system. It stands for multi-directional impact protection system, or to put it more simply, a flexible layer on the interior of the helmet that allows the skull to rotate slightly in case of an impact. MIPS was designed to reduce head trauma from the types of rotational trauma that can happen with bike accidents. Several of the helmets on this list come with the MIPS layer.
There is an ongoing debate about how effective the MIPS system is at preventing cranial damage. In fact, some people believe that the inclusion of a MIPS system only increases the price of the helmet and decreases the thickness of the interior liner. The truth is, MIPS only hit the market in 2016, and there have not been a whole lot of studies as to just how effective it is. One thing is for certain: they’re always trying to make helmets more effective at preventing brain injury, so buying an MTB helmet with MIPS certainly isn’t a bad idea.
Bike helmets aren’t designed to be used with hats, but depending on the helmet you buy and the type of hat you have, you might be able to pull it off. The issue is that MTB helmets are designed to form a close fit around your skull. This is what forms the protective barrier … so leaving room for a hat wouldn’t be as safe.