Clearly, there's a significant difference between an open face bicycle helmet and a full face bicycle helmet. Not so clear is which is the best choice for your young mountain biker or bmx bike rider. We face this decision with our own kids, and want to help you to make the best decision for your son or daughter.
All bicycle helmets, open face or full face, must meet the US CPSC bicycle safety standard in order to be sold in the United States as a bicycle helmet. (Check out our Learning Center for more information on the US CPSC safety standard) Generally, bicycle helmets are constructed of an impact absorbing EPS liner either glued or fused onto a tough ABS plastic, fiber glass composite, or carbon fiber composite exterior shell. Some of the newer helmets offer MIPS technology for premium level protection. (Learn about MIPS) The design of the helmet is what differs, and is what parents need to consider when choosing the right helmet for young mountain bike riders and young bmx riders.
Open face bicycle helmets feature either an aerodynamic design, or a skate-style design. An aerodynamic design appeals to cross country, single track and recreational mountain bicyclists because they are typically:
A skate-style bicycle helmet is designed to offer more head coverage than an aerodynamic helmet. This may be a better choice for more aggressive mountain or street riding, flatland bmx riding or just noodling around in your driveway. Skate style helmets generally feature:
Please check for a US CPSC sticker inside your child's skate-style bicycle helmet to confirm the helmet is approved for bicycling. See our article, Kids Bicycle Helmets vs Kids' Skateboard Helmets - What's the Difference? for more information.
Full face bicycle helmets offer the obvious advantage of jaw, chin and teeth protection. Cyclists engaging in speed riding, vert, dirt jumping, or any riding that gets the cyclist airborne should seriously consider wearing a full face helmet. XSPKids has a wide selection of kid-friendly full face mountain bicycle helmets, and full face bmx bicycle helmets. Important features of full face helmets include:
Full face helmets are sometimes mandatory in competitions, depending on the sponsoring organization(s). The USA BMX mandates a helmet and highly recommends a full face helmet. Technologically speaking, full face helmets are not as heavy, restrictive, uncomfortable or costly as they were in years past. Those excuses not to wear a full face helmet no longer apply.
What's the bottom line? Head protection for mountain and bmx bicycle riding is critical. It's not a matter of if your child will crash, but rather when and how hard. You know your child. Do they push their limits and ride aggressively? Are they riding and racing faster and faster each year? Getting more and more air? More aggressive equals more protection. We recommend full face protection for these cyclists. On the other hand, perhaps you're raising a more cautious rider who's content to stay within his or her limits with no desire to be airborne. An open face helmet may suffice. Most importantly, your youth rider needs head protection.