Although mountain biking enthusiasts can all agree that it is a fun, exhilarating activity, there’s no denying that it can also be dangerous. Mountain biking is often done through rough terrain through mountainous areas with rocks, dirt and trees. This is a safety hazard for many reasons.
Crashing your mountain bike could injure any one of your limbs, but thankfully most will heal on their own. One thing that mountain biking could permanently injure is your brain. Brain injuries often don’t heal properly, if it at all. So, how can you minimize the risk of brain injury while mountain biking? Wear a proper helmet!
When you are mountain biking it is best to wear full face MIPS mountain bike (MTB) helmet, here are 7 facts about a MIPS helmet used by mountain bikers!
1. What is MIPS?
If you are new to mountain biking, you may not have heard of a MIPS helmet before. MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. It is a type of technology included in certain helmets to add extra protection.
MIPS is designed to reduce harmful forces from certain impacts called rotational forces. This is because statistics have shown that when a person falls off their bike, they tend to fall at an angle which creates rotational motion.
If the brain is hit at an angle as it would be during a rotational motion, it can strain the brain tissue, leading to severe brain injuries. Rotational motion is actually the cause of most concussions or other serious brain injuries.
The MIPS technology within the helmet will allow the head to move around to redirect rotational force when a person falls. The technology therefore adds an extra layer of protection to your head and brain from certain types of impacts.
It is a fairly new technology as it was launched in 2007, but only after two decades of research to ensure the MIPS technology was ready and beneficial. As of 2019, 14.2 million MIPS-equipped helmets have been sold across over one hundred reputable helmet brands.
2. The Difference Between Open-faced and Full-face Helmets
The main difference between an open-faced mountain bike helmet and a full-faced helmet is in the name: one fully covers your face and one doesn’t. Knowing when to use each type of helmet is important before you take off.
Most mountain bikers wear an open face, also known as half-shell, helmet while they ride. This is because an open-faced helmet tends to be more comfortable and allows the wearer more breathing room. It does, however, also offer less protection.
If you are a casual mountain biker who takes easy trails, an open-faced helmet would suit your needs just fine. They offer venting holes for proper ventilation and are lightweight, making them more comfortable to wear for longer.
Just remember if you do choose an open-faced helmet, your face, especially your chin and teeth, are exposed which can make crashing and face-planting really painful.
If you are an avid mountain biker that often takes risks and goes downhill a lot, you will need a full-face MTB helmet to protect both your head and face. Even if you are not an expert mountain biker, a full-face helmet can be a good option for those who want extra protection.
Take time to get used to a full-face helmet if you’ve never used one before as they can be hot and bulky so you should get used to feel before wearing it for an extended time on a ride.
Paying for a more expensive full-face helmet will be better in the long run rather than paying for an expensive medical or dental bill if you hit your chin or teeth.
3. How Many Times You Can Wear A MIPS MTB Helmet
If you are just starting out with mountain biking or just got a new helmet, one important thing to note is how many times you can wear your helmet before replacing it, no matter what type of helmet it is.
If you are ever in an accident where your head/helmet gets hit, you need to get a new helmet. This is because the foam inside any helmet, even ones with MIPS technology, is only meant for one-time use. So, if you crash it and the foam becomes compressed, it will no longer take the weight of another impact.
If you have not crashed in it, you should simply consider replacing your helmet every five years. This will ensure it has the latest, safest technology available in it as helmets are constantly being adjusted and updated.
Also be wary about wearing a helmet that you have dropped on the ground. As the drop could mimic an impact, your helmet may have been damaged enough to need to be replaced.
Check the helmet for damage both on the outer shell and the foam inside. Look carefully as cracks may be small. If there are any cracks, the helmet needs to be replaced.
4. How MIPS MTB Helmets Are Certified
There is a law in the United States that states every bicycle helmet sold must meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) safety standards.
To do this, a helmet will be secured to a head form that measures g-force on impact. The helmet will then be dropped two meters onto an anvil to mimic a potential impact.
The helmet’s straps and stability will also be tested by being yanked to mimic getting caught on something.
MIPS helmets specifically require a full sliding layer to function correctly. This layer needs to encompass the entire helmet, so when searching for a MIPS helmet, ensure that you check it is properly manufactured.
For a full-faced MTB helmet to meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s standards, it needs to have more coverage and pass a higher impact level test. This is because full-faced helmets are used in riskier situations.
5. Why You Can’t Wear A Regular Road Bike Helmet While Mountain Biking
If you are already an avid cyclist and want to transition into mountain biking, you may want to just use the same gear. But, this is not recommended as full face MIPS MTB helmets are made specifically for mountain biking.
If you were to look at a road bike helmet next to a mountain bike helmet, the main difference would be that the road bike helmet does not have a visor and tends to have more ventilation holes while the mountain bike helmet does.
Road bike helmets also do not come in a full-faced helmet as the mountain bike helmet we’ve been discussing. This is because there is more of a risk when mountain biking.
Road cyclists also need to have their vision unobstructed as they are frequently close to cars, trucks and busses, so they need to be able to see everything around them.
6. How to Check If a Full-Face Helmet Fits You
One of the most important things to consider when buying a new helmet is the fit. If the mountain bike helmet does not fit you properly, it will not protect you properly.
If your full-face helmet fits you properly, it will come in contact with your entire head snugly. If it is too loose, it may shift during a potential impact to no longer cover and protect your head.
Many mountain bike helmets are adjustable to a certain extent with height adjustments and tension adjustments. If you are not sure how to adjust these to fit you specifically, talk to a worker at the shop beforehand.
If the helmet moves more than an inch when you move or it slides, even after adjusting and tightening everything, it may just be too big for you.
As straps are also adjustable, make sure they are tight enough that the helmet cannot move more than an inch. Tug on it when fastened to check the strength to make sure it will not come undone in an accident.
The straps should meet in a Y and come just below your ear, this is also adjustable.
7. Various Types of MIPS MTB Helmets
There are plenty of different helmet companies that carry a variety of MIPS MTB helmets. They may be different shapes, have different ventilation or tension systems include other, high-tech features. Which one you choose is based on personal preference if they are all certified.
The most important part of a MTB helmet is the foam liner that takes most of the damage in an impact. The liner is typically made of polystyrene and can either be softer for slow speed impacts or harder for high speed impacts. Some companies carry helmets that feature both types of foam.
Other than the foam, most helmet features are based on personal comfort or convenience. If you are a hot person for example, you may want a full-faced helmet with larger vents at the front.
If you don’t want a full-faced helmet all the time, you can get a half-shell helmet with a removable chin bar to switch between the two types of coverage.
Ultimately, your biggest deciding factor should be whether or not the helmet fits you and contains MIPS technology, everything else is just a plus.