Full-Face Bicycle Helmets
Summary: Some bike helmets offer limited protection for the face. Most lack the fully-padded chinbar that makes motorcycle helmets more protective by far.
Our inquires about bike helmets with full facial protection come from two sources: parents of boys and riders who have smushed something.
Helmets for kids
The current least expensive full face helmet for kids appears in the US market under the Razor brand or PTI's Mongoose brand. It is a well-made helmet from a reputable Chinese manufacturer. It is sold in big-box mass merchant stores, and you may be able to find it at Target or Toys R Us. It meets the CPSC standard and has a limited amount of padding in the chinbar, although the standard does not include a chinbar test. If you can find it, it will probably retail for about $25.
For child riders the same Chinese manufacturer formerly produced a very interesting helmet for PTI that was branded as a Mongoose. This innovative helmet was labeled Child BMX and was model number MG-108. It was a thin-shell BMX model with the thick crushable foam liner wrapping all the way around to form the chinbar. It is an interesting design and was the first we have seen with full impact padding in the chinbar for bicycle use. It has minimal vents. It was sold by stores supplied by the distributor Pacific Bicycle. We found them at Toys R Us for $20 in mid-2003, or $15 on sale. Until 2007 you could see them on the Mongoose Web site.
In 2007 a company known as Helmets R Us, a long time supplier of bulk helmets to helmet promotion campaigns, introduced a child's or youth helmet called the Face Saver with a chinbar. The company will take individual retail orders, but sometimes has a minimum of $30.
In 2008 we found a Bell X-Games Full Throttle at Wal-Mart for $40. It meets the CPSC standard for bike helmets, but nothing more stringent. The chinbar does not have energy management padding. It has a strong and reliable D-ring buckle. We don't know what sizes it may be available in. It could be considered a BMX helmet.
Also in 2008 we found the Mace Hornet, a full face helmet for kids ages 6 to 10 (two sizes fit 51-57cm heads) with a fiberglass shell and a chinbar padded inside with thick foam. It is being discontinued on some Web sites, so we don't know about its future.
Kids also use BMX full face helmets for their "Bicycle Motor Cross" events. They are usually made with a hard fiberglass shell and minimal vents. Most of them do not have crushable foam in the chinbar. Adults generally find them too heavy and hot for bicycle use, leaving the rider with a wet head even in winter. But the kids ignore the sweat and use them for short BMX events in the heat of summer, so they are not out of the question for some riders in some circumstances.
For the adult
For adult riders, there are more choices, but nothing with a full padded chinbar. The helmets are known as downhill mountain bike racing helmets. We don't know how much protection you get from a chinbar that lacks crushable foam, but at least these are bicycle helmets, with ventilation. You can find them in our latest helmet article.
Motorcycle helmets are another possibility, but like the BMX helmet they are heavy and too hot for bike riders. They do have fully padded chinbars, and will meet one of the motorcycle helmet standards like DOT or Snell, far surpassing the impact protection and coverage of bike helmets.
We can't recommend lacrosse helmets like these, even though some have chinbars and facial protection in the form of facemasks. They are not certified for bicycle level impacts.
We also do not recommend hockey helmets for bicycle use, despite the face protection some of them have. Hockey helmets are not designed for bicycle-type impacts and do not meet the impact protection requirements of the bike helmet standard. The same applies to football helmets or helmets for most other sports. Unlike a bicycle helmet, many of them are multi-impact helmets, but they are not designed for a hard hit on pavement.
This page was updated or partially revised on: March 7, 2015.