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7 Best Women’s Mountain Bike Helmets For YOU

A good mountain bike helmet is the single most important piece of gear you can have for mountain biking. Not only does it keep your brain intact (super important), but a good mountain bike helmet can also keep you comfortable and cool. There’s not much worse than an ill fitting, hot, and painful lid.

To help you find the best mountain bike helmet for YOUR head, we’ve tested, reviewed, and surveyed our community to identify the best helmets around. Some of these are women-specific lids, but most are unisex helmets that just look good (and work well).  Because unlike a saddle, for instance, there’s really no need to have a women’s specific helmet.

shredly mtb short review

It’s also important to note that these are half-shell mountain bike helmets (as opposed to full-face mountain bike helmets).  For trail riding, a half-shell helmet is what you want. 


POC Tectal

This is my favorite mountain bike helmet and the one I wear almost daily. Comfortable even on long rides, the POC Tectal offers superior rear-of-the-head protection while remaining comfortable.

It has an integrated visor that can raise to accommodate goggles, an enviable strap system, and comes in fun, bright colors. We also dig that it had Recco technology, so if you get lost or hurt while out riding, help can find you.

The ONLY con on this helmet is that it doesn’t have MIPS, so if that’s important to you, choose a different lid, or upgrade to the POC Tectal Race MIPS.

Read Our Review: POC Tectal

Price & Where To Buy:


Smith Forefront 2

Finally a cute mountain bike helmet! In fact, I think Smith has the best helmets for women right now, coming a wide variety of attractive colors AS WELL as being functional.

The Smith Forefront 2 isn’t cheap BUT it does offer durability, safety, and comfort. The helmet has both MIPS and their proprietary Koroyd® construction.

While the coverage and comfort are both excellent, the helmet is a bit lacking in terms of ventilation. It has lots of vent holes, but doesn’t reach the head quite as well. Still, on all but the hottest days, this is a great choice.

Price & Where To Buy:


Specialized Tactic 4

The Specialized Tactic 4 is a top pick for those concerned about both safety AND affordability. The Tactic is the highest-rated mountain bike helmet in the highly respected Virginia Tech helmet ratings.

We felt that the safety of the helmet was further solidified by the fact that it has MIPS technology, full rear of the head coverage, and it’s certified even for use with e-bikes. It is also ANGI compatible, which is Specialized’s crash sensor. You have to buy the sensor separately, but there is a place to attach it to the helmet.

You would expect this level of safety to come with a higher price tag, but in fact, the Tactic is one of the more affordable Virginia Tech five star helmets. Of the nine highest rated mountain bike helmets in their study, the Tactic is the only one under $150. 

The only thing that our reviewer didn’t love was the fact that the visor is not adjustable, and that it’s not ponytail friendly.

Read Review: Specialized Tactic 4

Price & Where to Buy:

Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS

The Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS helmet does not come in particularly feminine colors, but it’s a nice enough helmet we’ve included it anyway.  The A1 boasts MIPS technology, excellent ventilation, and a lightweight design. We also like the extended rear of the head coverage to help keep you safe.

This is a fairly bare bones helmet. It doesn’t offer a GoPro mount, goggle clips, or Recco. But it does offer a good quality lid at a mid-range price point.

Read Our Review: Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS

Price & Where To Buy:


Smith Engage

Smith’s Engage is one of our team’s go-to mountain bike helmets a staple for our rides. Renowned for its incredible comfort even on those extended trails, this helmet ensures a snug fit while boasting the added safety of MIPS technology.

It comes with a two-position adjustable visor, though storing goggles can be a slight challenge. This helmet stands out with its variety of vibrant color options, a sturdy dial at the back for fit, and ample ventilation to keep you cool.

If there’s a downside, it’s the limited size range. Although it comes in small thru extra large, in testing, we found that smaller and larger heads aren’t well accommodated.

However, its durability and comfort make the Engage a top pick. For those who’ve faced helmet crashes, Smith offers a generous crash replacement discount, underlining their commitment to rider safety.

Read Review: Smith Engage

Price & Where To Buy:


Giro Women’s Montara MIPS

We’ll admit it: our favorite thing about the Giro Women’s Montara is that it looks sooo good.  It comes in a variety of stunning colors and has a profile that is flattering rather than bulky. 

Fortunately, it is functional as well as beautiful.  The Montara has all the bells and whistles: MIPS technology, goggle straps, a GoPro mount, adjustable visor, and Roc Loc adjustment system.

The only thing that we’re not crazy about is that it doesn’t provide quite as much coverage as a helmet like the POC Tectal does.

Read Review: Giro Montara

Price & Where To Buy:


Giro Manifest Spherical

If price is no object (gulp), the Giro Manifest Spherical is the helmet you want. Not only is it safe and comfortable, it is loaded with ALL the extras.

These include a magnetic buckle, grippers for sunglasses or goggles, MIPS, and tons of adjustability. The helmet is also amongst the more ventilated, breathable helmets around, so it works well for hot weather riding.

Our only complaint, once again, is the lack of more feminine colors.

Price & Where To Buy:


POC Kortal

The POC Kortal stands out as a reliable companion for mountain bikers, emphasizing safety, comfort, and user-friendly design. The helmet has superior rear of head coverage, commendable ventilation, and a fit that ensures all-day comfort.

It works particularly well for “enduro” riding and is compatible with goggles. The visor is larger than normal which we appreciated for keeping sun off our faces.

Its design is tailored to handle both regular biking and e-bike adventures, certified to the Dutch NTA 8776 electric bicycle helmet standard.

Drawbacks? Some might find it bulkier and boxier than preferred, and we experienced notable color fading over time.

Read Review: POC Kortal


Comparison Chart: Women’s Mountain Bike Helmets

HelmetSizeWeightMIPS?# of VentsExtras?
POC TectalXS/S: 51-54cm
M/L: 55-58cm
XL/XXL: 59-62cm
340 gNo (Race version does)15Adjustable visor
Goggle clips, Reco technology
Giro Montara MIPSS; 51-55 cm
M: 55-59 cm
375 gYes16Adjustable visor
Goggle clips
Camera mount
Troy Lee A1 MIPSXS: 50-54cm
S: 54-56cm
M: 57-59cm
L: 60-62cm
366 gYes16Adjustable visor
Giro Manifest SphericalS: 51 - 55 cm
M: 55 - 59 cm
L: 59 - 63 cm
340 gYes19Magnetic buckle, adjustable visor, goggle clips
Smith Forefront 2S: 51-55 cm
M: 55-59 cm
L: 59-62 cm
397 gYes20Koroyd®, adjustable visor, camera mount
POC KortalS: 51-54 cm
M: 55-58 cm
L: 59-62 cm
390 gNo (Race version does)17Certified for e-bike use
Smith EngageS: 51-55cm
M: 55-59cm
L: 59-62cm
XL: 61-65cm
350 gYes 21Adjustable visor

How to Choose a Mountain Bike Helmet

Not sure how to pick the right helmet for you? Read on for things to look for in a mountain bike helmet.

Safety/Certifications

The good news is that you don’t need to spend too much time worrying about which helmet is “safest.”  All helmets sold in the United States have the CPSC certification which sets a minimum level of protection. 

Beyond that, we know that there are some things that most likely will improve the safety of a helmet–the amount of rear-coverage, the quality of the fit–but there is limited unbiased laboratory testing telling us which helmets are best.

The best testing is probably done by Virgina Tech. While we like to use this as a starting point, the Virginia Tech ratings do have limitations. It does NOT rate all the helmets on the market, and is missing a fair number of what we consider really great helmets. It also doesn’t test the helmets in the real world, and therefore doesn’t capture how well the helmet fits on multiple head shapes/sizes nor how well a helmet stays in place on an actual trail ride.

MIPS vs Non-MIPS

On the topic of safety, there is a lot of talk about MIPS.  What is MIPS, you might ask? 

It stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System.  Without getting into the knitty-gritty it is essentially a liner inside the helmet that creates a low-friction slip-plane.

There is limited evidence that it is actually safer than a non-MIPS helmet.  While I personally like the added protection of the MIPS, it does add expense, so only opt for it if you aren’t on a tight budget.

Get the right fit

To make sure that your helmet is both safe and comfortable, you need to make sure first that you’re buying the right size helmet.  Most of the helmets on this list come in 3 sizes (S, M, L), although those sizes have different meanings across brands.

In order to pick the right size helmet, you’ll want to measure your head.  Really–stop being lazy and get out the measuring tape.  With a flexible tape, measure the circumference of your head right above your eyebrows.  Make sure to get the measurement in centimeters as that is how most manufacturers size their helmets.

You can then compare this to the size chart each manufacturer provides.  For your convenience, we’ve included the sizes for each helmet in our comparison chart above.

Unfortunately, even once you get the right size helmet, it may or may not fit YOUR head well. Some of us have rounder heads, some have more oval shaped heads.

Even if a helmet works great for your best friend, it may not work great for YOU. For this reason, I suggest trying on some helmets from your local bike shop, or order somewhere with easy returns so you can try a few.

Helmet Ventilation

One reason it is worth buying a NICE helmet (any of the helmets on this list qualify) is the increases in ventilation.  Cheaper helmets are notoriously sweaty and uncomfortable. 

Generally speaking, the more ventilation holes there are and the larger they are, the better the airflow. If you live in a hot climate, I’d definitely recommend spending a little more to get a nicer helmet with better ventilation.

Bell Super 3 Ventilation

Adjustment and straps

Another reason to throw out a little extra cash is to get a helmet with a comfortable and secure adjustment system.  All the helmets on this list have a rear-fit-dial that helps get the perfect fit for your head.  We also really dig helmets, like the POC Tectal, that have clean, dummy-proof side straps.

machines for freedom trail jersey

Weight

The lighter a helmet is, the more comfortable it is going to be on long rides.  Although 100 grams may not feel like a lot in the store (in fact, it might be imperceptible), a few hours into an all day epic, there really is a difference.  Again, we’ve included weight in our comparison chart to help you choose.

Budget

The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a nice helmet.  Skip some of the extras like MIPS, a helmet mount, adjustable visor, goggle clips. 

Instead, focus on finding a helmet that is lightweight, has good ventilation, and that is easily adjustable.  On the other hand, if budget isn’t an issue–add all those nice-to-haves back in.

Considerations for long hair

This isn’t important for everybody, but if you have long hair and like to wear a ponytail while riding, you might want to look for a women’s specific helmet that actually fits a ponytail.  Helmets with more rear of the head coverage, while safer, generally make it harder to comfortably wear a pony or bun.

In our experience, the helmets with MIPS liners also have a tendency to snag long hair which can be rather painful and make a mess of your ‘do.

kristen wearing the poc helmet with a low bun

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About The Author

kristen bonkoski

Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.

An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.

Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life.  Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son.  If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.

Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.

IG: @kristenlbonkoski

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