Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Mountain Bike Helmets

Monday November 7, 2022
mountain bike helmet - testing the drt5 on a beautiful spring day.
Testing the DRT5 on a beautiful spring day.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

Where We Tested

Our testers rode in these helmets for hundreds of miles and hundreds of hours on terrain varying from double-track fire roads to machine groomed bike park jumps. From the slick rock and technical trails of the desert southwest to the high alpine single track of Lake Tahoe and down to the coastal redwood forests of Santa Cruz these helmets have seen it all. Casual rides, backyard laps, enduro races, and the occasional post-ride drive home, we didn't discriminate as we put these helmets through their paces. We rode in weather conditions as variable as the trails and rides we took them on, from cold rainy fall and spring rides to the heat of the day in summer.

400 grams isn't especially lightweight for a half-shell mountain...
400 grams isn't especially lightweight for a half-shell mountain bike helmet, but it won't slow you down either.
And it flips up and out of the way for use with goggles.
And it flips up and out of the way for use with goggles.

Testing Process

Our testing process involved significant amounts of saddle time. Real-world testing is the best way to familiarize oneself with the way a helmet fits, its adjustments, and ventilation. We passed each helmet around to multiple testers and gathered opinions from trail riders of all styles and ability levels. Beyond that, we sought out friends and family to try on each helmet and give us their feedback on the fit and feel to get as wide a range of head shapes as possible. We fiddled with all of the adjustments and features and tried all of the helmets with sunglasses and goggles to test compatibility.

Whenever possible, our testers switched between models for side-by-side comparisons. We did multiple test days of back-to-back shuttle laps wearing one helmet after the other and taking meticulous notes as we went. We also weighed each model on the same digital scale and reported the weight in both grams and ounces. We did our best to ensure that each helmet received a similar amount of riding and treatment and used its post-test condition to inform a portion of our durability score.

When all was said and done we poured through our notes and boiled everything down for our ratings. We carefully rated each model on each of our predetermined metrics to calculate our final scores.

mountain bike helmet - testing the session high above lake tahoe on the tahoe rim trail.
Testing the Session high above Lake Tahoe on the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

We did not perform any scientific crash tests to evaluate protection. We leave that to the certifying agencies and instead focus our review on comfort, features, ventilation, and user-friendliness. All the helmets we tested meet the US's CPSC Bicycle standard as well as the European CE EN 1078 standard. The Department of Transportation did not rate these helmets, and they are not appropriate for motorcycles of any kind.

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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

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