Why do mountain bike helmets have visors? Well, the short answer is that the visors provide ultimate protection against all potential hazards when you’re on your bike on a trail.
Whether it’s a low-hanging branch, a sudden blinding flash of sunlight, a downpour, or a gush of wind, visors can help keep you safe from any unforeseen harm on a mountain bike. It also prevents mud splashes from hitting your eyes.
This was followed by the American National Standards Institute introducing standards for helmets in 1984 that became widely accepted.
Let’s explore the importance of visors and how they affect mountain biking.
Why Do Mountain Bike Helmets Have Visors?
Whether you’re riding long or short distances, here’s how a helmet with a visor can provide additional protection and better vision.
Shields Your Eyes From Sunlight
Mountain biking is significantly different from road biking. On a mountain, there is a higher risk of a sudden blinding flash of sunlight blocking your line of vision.
While road cyclists can manage glare from the sun with some expertise, it’s not the same on a steep mountain trail. A slight misjudgment arising from poor visibility can cost you your life.
Moreover, most mountain bikers love riding during sunrise or sunset when the sun tends to be at an eye-level position rather than overhead. A mountain bike helmet visor will protect your eyes from the sun’s glare even if you’re riding in the direction of the sun.
Protection From Rain and Snow
Just like doing any activity in extreme weather conditions, it’s more dangerous to ride on a mountain during rainy or snowy weather. If you get caught in a sudden storm, a MTB helmet visor can provide extra coverage by keeping the rain off your glasses and protecting your face and eyes from the downpour.
It will allow you to ride your mountain bike, even during bad weather, without hindering visibility.
Plus, constant squinting from trying to ward off raindrops and snowflakes from your eyes can also cause headaches for some people. And if you frequently have to stop to wipe your eyes dry, that can just sour the overall experience.
Shield From Dust and Debris
If you’re racing against other bikers, riding on a muddy trail, or following a biker, some amount of dirt and mud is bound to flick up onto you. If this mud gets into your eyes, it can hinder your sight temporarily and even cause more severe damage.
A MTB helmet visor can protect your eyes from any potential flying dust and debris on a trail.
Sometimes, you may have to ride against the wind and have to face the resulting specks of dust and debris. And if the weather is cold, the wind can sting your eyes and make them water, thus slowing you down.
With a MTB helmet visor, a rider can maintain his/her speed even in cold and windy weather. The visor can also keep your sunglasses and goggles clean if you are wearing them under your helmet.
Prevents Accidents on Single-Track Trails
Most single-path trails are fraught with low-hanging branches and twigs, which often make it difficult to spot the trail ahead. Riding on such narrow trails can be tricky since the rider needs to focus on the tracks and simultaneously avoid these obstacles.
If your helmet does not have a visor, you will have to deflect these overhanging leafy branches with your hands. This can hamper your balance, especially if you’re riding at top speed on uneven terrain.
However, a visor can take the brunt of the force from these low-hanging twigs when you’re unable to avoid them.
Types of Mountain Biking Helmets
Full-Face Mountain Bike Helmets
A full-face helmet provides complete face and eye protection right down to the mouth and chin. It also has a chin guard that can protect your face and chin in case of a crash or head-on collision.
A full face helmet is usually worn while riding downhill, as downhill rides involve higher speed and therefore more severe consequences in case of a crash.
Half-Shell Mountain Bike Helmets
A half-shell mountain bike helmet is basically a helmet a road cyclist would use on a road bike, with a visor at the front.
Although it shields the upper part of the head, there is little cover when it comes to the back of the head. But it does pass the safety standards.
Half-shell helmets are relatively lightweight and offer more ventilation when compared to full-face helmets.
Open-Faced Mountain Bike Helmets
An open-faced mountain bike helmet lies in the middle of the spectrum between a full-face and half-face one. This type of helmet offers more safety when compared to the half-shell, but it’s slightly pricier.
It’s best for riders who wish to venture into slightly trickier terrain rather than onto open roads.
Types of Helmet Visors
Helmet visors fall into two major types:
1. Fixed or Built-in Visors
Helmets with built-in visors have the visors permanently molded or integrated into them.
While some helmets have the visors permanently attached to the outer shell, some provide adjustable visors. You can move them up and down depending on the weather and your needs.
They are ideal for pleasant weather and single-track trails.
2. Detachable Visors
This is a long visor that usually has powerful magnets, plastic snap-in valves, or tool-free screws that offer easy removal and reattachment to the helmet. They provide maximum cover as they are generally wider and longer than built-in visors.
You should know, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to picking the right helmet. The reason why MTB helmets are preferred over road bike helmets is the additional armor they offer.
You can still wear a road helmet on a mountain if you’re absolutely sure that the path you’re about to venture on is safe, easy, and free from any overhanging twigs. If you do, make sure you wear glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from the wind and dust.
Is the Detachable Version Better Than the Fixed Version?
While some helmet visors are screwed onto or permanently attached to the helmet, others can be detached.
Even if you buy a non-detachable visor, it’s always better to buy a helmet with a visor that can be tilted upwards. This enables you to easily transition between a shaded mountain bike trail and a well-lit trail.
Take note that helmets with the snap-on visors tend to be the cheaper helmets, although it’s not advisable to skimp when it comes to safety gear.
What Is the Difference Between a Road Bike Helmet and a Mountain Biking Helmet?
Although the primary purpose of road helmets and mountain biking helmets is to protect your head from injuries, they are not the same. Mountain biking helmets are used on rough, mountainous terrain while a road biking helmet is used on typically even and leveled road cycling paths.
The differentiating factor between the two is the presence of a visor. MTB helmets have visors, while regular cycling helmets don’t have this feature. This is because a visor can hamper the line of sight for road bikers who need to have an unobstructed view of the road ahead.
Additionally, MTB helmets have lower cuts in the back for added safety as mountain trails are more dangerous. The visor adds extra protection and acts as a shield for the rider wearing the helmet.
Road biking helmets are generally more expensive as it costs more to make lightweight helmets with strong lining while still meeting the CPSC safety standards.
Which Helmet is Best for Cross-Country Mountain Bikers?
Road helmets are a better option for cross-country riders who need to travel at a fast speed. The wind resistance that a visor provides can hamper their speed and momentum.
Moreover, the additional ventilation of road helmets can be a welcome relief from the sweat and heat a visor creates.
Should You Use a Visor All the Time?
Whether you always use a visor ultimately depends on your level of comfort and concern for safety. While some riders complain about the restricted line of vision with a visor, its advantages far outweigh its disadvantages.
Not only does a visor protect your skull from injuries, but it also shields your eyes from rain, sun, and dust.
However, if you’re riding your mountain bike within your neighborhood, there’s no need for a visor. In such cases, the visor might be more of a hindrance than an advantage as it can affect your line of sight.
We hope this post has answered your question: “Why do mountain bike helmets have visors?”
I think, after reading above, you’ll agree that a helmet with a visor is essential if you’re riding on hilly, mountainous terrain.
Not only does a visor keep a rider’s head safe, but it also protects a rider’s face and eyes by providing a shield against the wind, sun, rain, dust, and debris. If you’re planning to buy a visor, it’s important to invest in a good-quality helmet rather than settle for a cheaper helmet, which may not protect you well enough.