Can you use a mountain bike helmet for road biking?

All bike lovers are aware that wearing helmets is the key precautionary step they take before the hot the roads, every single time. No matter where you are busy paddling you need a helmet to protect you from an impact all the time. It is not a replacement for knowing how to ride a bike better but sure is the first safety step you should take for yourself.

There are tonnes of mountain bikers who tread within the city to run errands or use mountain bikes for short distance within-the-city travels. However, the question which remains in our minds is, “Can you use a mountain bike helmet for road biking?

All cycle helmets are made for unisex use. There are helmets specifically made for children, for mountain biking and for road biking separately. There must be some reasons as to why these helmet manufacturers make them differently to suit different purposes. Let us first figure out why you need a road bike helmet in the first place.

What are road biking helmets and why are they necessary?

A proper road biking helmet must have a few necessary ingredients for it to be safe on the road. All road biking helmets are manufactured keeping in mind the various aspects of in-city roads, sharp corners, and bends. The modern-day cities are full of traffic almost all the time. It does not matter what time of the day it is. In general, a road bike helmet is not supposed to or required to have a visor at all.

Visors are guards attached to the front of the helmet which safeguards your face or eyes from direct sunlight or rainfall. However, having a visor upfront in your road bike helmet is unnecessary albeit disadvantageous feature you should avoid.

The reason is simple, you don’t get a wider view of the circumstances you are cycling in if your road bike helmet has a visor. Even then most helmet manufacturers put in a detachable visor for you to make it a feature-packed product and understandably so. The flexibility of having a detachable visor is nonetheless helpful.

Normally, road cycling bike helmets are supposed to have more vents and feel more breezy in comparison to their mountain biking helmet compadres.

The logic to incorporate more vents is to allow more airflow for a swifter ride within the city. To some people, it may seem strange as to why helmets with more vents tend to be more expensive in comparison to a bike helmet which has fewer vents.

The reason is simple, more vents require more expansive research and design in comparison to helmets that are more covered. Plus, road bike helmets are supposed to have more airflow, lightweight, and still be able to adhere to the safety standard protocols laid down by various safety certifications like the CPSC and CE.

Road bike helmets can afford to have larger vents i.e., more empty spaces on the helmet because the manufacturers or helmet designers understand that in case you fall, you are going to fall on a plain surface or a pavement. The risks of something going through the vents injuring the head on a plain surface is way lesser in comparison to rough off-roads where there are spiky bushes.

Road bike helmets are therefore more compact, airflow friendly, and have the least of drag possible for a faster traveling experience. The pricing, however, depends upon branding as well.

What are mountain bike helmets and why are they necessary?

All mountain bike helmets may look similar to road biking helmets but there are key differences between them. The overall head coverage (especially on the sides and the back portion) on a standard mountain bike helmet is supposed to be more than road bike helmets as you are more likely to hit rough road patches with sharp obstacles like stones, branches, or broken trees, etc.

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Mountain bike helmets usually have in-built visors although removable visors are better any given day. With a detachable visor, you can have the flexibility to open them if you need a wider view. The positioning of the visor on a mountain bike is normally such that you can easily fit in your goggles.

Some cyclists prefer wearing sunglasses and some don’t. That is why some quality mountain bike helmets are manufactured with the intent to provide the rider with the flexibility of removable visor goggles in-built with the helmet itself. The visor will safeguard the face and eyes from glaring sunlight and protect the eyes from ultraviolet rays. However, if you wear the visor during your commute in a dark alley, you will face difficulty in spotting hurdles.

Can you use a mountain bike helmet for road biking?

The shortest answer to that is yes and no! The smartest answer to that is – you should prefer not to. All mountain bike helmets are designed to be much more sturdy and protective in comparison to road bike helmets because of the terrain considerations. The mountain bike helmets normally have a design that will suit the trailer jumps and overall ruggedness. Whereas, the road bikes are aerodynamic and lightweight, which is best suited for a faster commute.

The difference between a road bike helmet and a mountain bike helmet is not just the visor. The visor is not just a way to guard your eyes from glaring sunlight or from rain but is designed in a manner that sticks out in the framework of the helmet altogether. Why does it stick out? The reason is simple. If you fall on a rough trail with your face towards the ground you are going to get saved by the outbound visor as it will take the first impact.

Road bike helmets do not need visors at all. Just keep wearing your favorite pair of sunglasses and you are good to go. Road bike helmets are predominantly less of a drag and lightweight for you to enjoy substantially faster maneuvering through the roads.

All mountain bikers travel at a slower pace in comparison to road bikers. The reason is of course the difference in terrain. The ventilation system of a bike helmet speaks a lot about how fast a person can go wearing one of those. That is why the designers of road bike helmets adopted more vents.

The estimated use of vents in a road bike helmet is as high as 60% area coverage. Since the airflow is high, the road bike helmets are made with the intention to have less drag, MTB helmets are no way a match. So in case you want to use a mountain bike helmet for road biking go right ahead. However, for long-distance in-city travels, the use of a mountain bike helmet is going to feel fatigued at the end of the day.

Conclusion

So, when can you use a mountain bike helmet for road biking? Here is a list of recommendations and considerations you should keep in mind while wearing a mountain bike helmet for in-city road biking –

  • If that is the only helmet you have, you better put that on before you hit the road. Wearing a helmet is better than no helmet at all.
  • MTB helmets are heavier and in general, it will weigh you down and drag you behind if you try to paddle faster
  • Try to purchase a road bike helmet for yourself for all your in-city commute
  • If you like wearing visors then simply buy a road bike helmet with detachable visors.
  • Try an MTB helmet and ride a mountain bike off the road. Similarly, wear a road bike helmet and commute within the city and feel the difference.

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