These MTB crashes will make you rethink helmet safety

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Helmets like this Bell, can have their chin bar removed, and offer a lot of safety and comfort (Photo: Bell)
Helmets like this Bell, can have their chin bar removed, and offer a lot of safety and comfort (Photo: Bell)
  • Seeing the pros get it wrong, rekindles the mountain bike safety debate.
  • When you run out of skill, your PPE must earn its keep.
  • And the full-face helmet remains the best head protection, for advanced mountain biking.

Mountain biking is dangerous. Forget about all those curated Instagram images of happy people staring off into the distance, enjoying the splendid isolation on a ridgeline.

The truth is that what is pedalled-up must be ridden down. Trails are getting steeper and more technical. And bikes? They are getting faster.

A decade ago mountain bike geometry, tyre technology and suspension components were good, but not great. You would usually get a flat tyre, feel instability through the frame or bottom-out your suspension as an early warning sign to calm down, on the descent.

The average 2021 model year trail or enduro mountain bike is light enough to pedal up very steep terrain and can descend the most treacherous of rocky trails with confidence that flatters most rider skill.

This is why you buy the best helmet

Mountain biking technology now far exceeds rider skills. And as bike technology has surged, more challenging trails are being explored.

Conquering your fear and rolling across technical trail features can be rewarding. But risk analysis should always remain part of your riding awareness.

Helmets are an oft-ignored bit of mountain biking kit. We only realize their worth when they serve their purpose.

Two terrifying recent mountain bike crashes showcase the worth of modern helmet technology. Most new premium mountain bike helmets can reduce soft tissue brain trauma with slip-plane liners and other energy dispersion features.

When getting a full-face helmet is worth it

The recent Latin American enduro race crash above, illustrates how a rider can go from being in control to faceplanting onto rocks, in an instant – without any bracing reaction.

We all feel invincible when rolling into that descent and assume we’ll steer away from a direct facial impact with rocks, if things do go wrong. But the forces involved mean that most amateur rider reactions are ineffectual.

With full-face mountain bike helmets getting lighter and providing better airflow, even amateur riders can benefit from an upgrade for comfortable all-day riding.

If you feel a bit self-conscious about riding in a full-face helmet when attempting a very technical trail, there are convertible options with a detachable chin bar.

These helmets function like a typical cycling half shell for most of your ride, with the chin bar only attaching when you need it, to prevent severe facial injury if the odds go against you on those daring downhill sections.

 

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