Here’s Why Mountain Bike Helmets Have Visors

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Most cyclists know the importance of wearing a helmet that fits securely around your head and straps under the chin. However, the average mountain bike helmet has another piece of equipment—a detachable visor. So how come mountain biking helmets make you look like a sci-fi character while road bike helmets do not?

Mountain bike helmets have visors for one simple reason: safety. Most mountain bikers spend their time on narrow trails through the woods. Full-face helmets protect your head from leafy branches and other obstacles you encounter along the way on single-track trails. They also provide protection from other environmental dangers such as bad weather.

Not all mountain bike helmets come with visors, but you’ll see that wearing one gives you a distinct advantage when you’re out on the trail.

Man wearing mountain bike helmet that has a visor

Benefits of a Helmet Visor

There are several reasons why mountain bikers prefer helmets with visors. Here are some of the ways that mountain biking helmets with visors can protect you while out on the trail:

Protection From the Weather

One of the most important reasons why cyclists wear visors is to protect themselves from all kinds of harsh weather conditions. You may not think that you need protection during sunny days, but glare from the sun can be very dangerous when you’re out on the trail. Visors can help block glare from the sun and UV rays that damage your eyes, which is particularly dangerous during sunrise and sunset. Visors also transition better from sun to shade than goggles do.

Visors are also useful during rainy or snowy weather. The visor helps to prevent raindrops or snowflakes from getting on your face and blurring your vision. Maintaining clear vision is even more important during mountain bike trail riding than for road cycling because there are so many more obstacles to navigate. Visors provide more protection from rain and snow than goggles do.

Man riding mountain bike in the sun after learning why do mountain bike helmets have visors
Without a visor on your helmet, that sun can be blinding.

Protection From Trail Debris

Another way that visors protect you during bad weather is by protecting you from bad trail conditions that happen when the ground is wet. If you’re riding on single-track muddy trails behind your friends, their bikes will kick up lots of mud splashes and debris. A visor will help to stop debris from getting in your eye, impeding your vision, and potentially injuring you.

Visors also protect you from other trail obstacles such as leafy branches. Avoiding trees and hanging branches is difficult on narrow trails, so without a visor, you’re forced to move the branches out of the way with your hands. You can’t just ride into the branches because you could seriously hurt your face. If you’re wearing a visor, you don’t have to move branches or leaves out of the way as often.

Mountain bikers riding on trail after learning why do mountain bike helmets have visors
You never know what the rider ahead of you will kick up from the trail.

Protection From Crashes

Another reason why your mountain bike helmet may have a visor is to reduce the risk from crashes. Visors both reduce the likelihood that crashes will happen and reduce the risk of injury if a crash happens.

One way that visors prevent crashes is by protecting your vision. When you’re not worried about squinting through sunlight, raindrops, and random splashes of mud, you can focus on looking at the trail and avoiding the obstacles along the way. As mentioned above, maintaining clear vision throughout the ride is even more important for mountain bikers than road bikers.

Man who crashed mountain bike after learning why do mountain bike helmets have visors

Riding with a visor also helps you maintain more control over your bike. When you’re riding without a visor, you often have to ride one-handed while you use your other hand to swat away hanging branches. Even the most experienced trail riders have trouble steering bikes over rough terrain with just one hand. Visors help to prevent crashes by allowing you to keep your focus on the road.

Of course, nothing can completely eliminate the risk of crashes, particularly when you’re taking your mountain bike over rough terrain. Luckily, visors can potentially protect your face and head from damage when you fall. Mountain bike crashes often result in the cyclist falling forward or launching into the air, which puts the face in serious danger. Visors help redistribute the impact of hitting the ground.

Types of Helmet Visors

Now that you understand why mountain bike helmets have visors, you can see the importance of getting one.

Woman mountain biking after learning why do mountain bike helmets have visors

Regarding types of visors, you have a few options on the market depending on your preferences.

Built-In Visors

Bicycle helmets with built-in visors have visors that are already attached to the helmet, usually to the outer shell. But just because these visors are fixed doesn’t mean that you have no flexibility. You can usually adjust their height and distance.

A built-in bike helmet visor is a great choice if you’re taking your helmet regularly on trails (as long as they are not too rough). However, if you use the same helmet when cycling on the road, the built-in visors will just be a hindrance. Built-in visors also offer less protection when you fall, so avoid them if you’re riding over very rough trails.

You shouldn’t confuse helmets with built-in visors with full-face helmets, which are helmets that usually have built-in visors but also offer more protection over your lower face and chin.

Detachable Visors

Detachable visors attach to the helmet with magnets, snap-in stems, or screws that you can fix with your hands. This type of visor comes off easily without needing any special tools but is attached securely enough that you don’t need to worry about the visor falling off as you ride.

Most removable visors tend to be wider than built-in visors, offering more protection during bad weather. The average detachable visor also offers more protection during crashes thanks to its durability.

Detachable visors also give you more control over the size of the visor. You can choose the right one depending on the coverage you want and the size of your head.

The Smith Session bike helmet is equipped with MIPS technology has a three-position adjustable visor:

SMITH Optics Session MIPS, Color: Matte Black, Size: M (55-59CM) (E007313OE5559) Check availability

Can You Wear Visors With Goggles?

Some mountain bikers prefer goggles over visors, even though visors offer more protection for the whole face, not just your eyes. If you like the snugger fit of goggles or you want additional protection on days when you know trail conditions will be bad, you can wear goggles with visors. Most visors are adjustable to create more room for your goggles.

In fact, mountain bike visors work well with all sorts of cycling accessories. You can attach goggle clips, POV cameras, and even nightlights to the visor to improve your overall riding experience.

The BELL 4Forty MIPS Mountain Bike Helmet has an adaptable visor system that accommodates both goggles and glasses:

BELL 4Forty MIPS Adult Mountain Bike Helmet - Matte/Gloss Black (2022), Small (52-56 cm) Check availability

Do You Have To Wear a Visor All the Time?

We’ve established that visors are helpful when you’re out on the trail—but they’re also clunky. So do you really have to wear visors all the time?

That depends on what you use your mountain bike for. If you exclusively take it out on the trail, then a visor is probably helpful. However, if you also use your mountain bike as a road bike and for commuting, you can (and should) just wear a regular road cycling helmet during those times. A visor may obstruct your vision if you’re just riding on the road. It may also cause more injuries if you fall because it can drag on the pavement.

Road cyclists riding their bikes after learning why do mountain bike helmets have visors
A visor usually isn’t necessary when you’re cycling on the road.

Another situation where a visor is more harmful than helpful is if you are competing in cross-country mountain biking. Visors are clunky and affect your aerodynamics, potentially slowing you down. While the extra seconds don’t matter if you’re just hitting the trail with your friends, they do when you are competing.

Taking Care of Your Visor

Visors are very helpful, but only if you take care of your equipment.

Regularly clean your entire helmet, especially your visor. After all, your visor can’t protect your vision if it’s splattered with mud stains that block your view of the trail!

If you notice any damage to the visor or helmet, such as a broken strap, replace it immediately. Inspect your whole helmet after every ride. Your mountain bicycle helmet and visor can only keep you safe if everything is working properly, and you don’t want to find out that something came loose as you’re flying over your handlebars.

Man riding mountain bike on trail after learning why do mountain bike helmets have visors

If you have a detachable visor, keep it in a storage bag in a safe place when it’s not in use. You don’t want the visor to get scratched or warped or incur other damage when you’re not using it.

The Final Word on Visors

If you’re serious about taking your mountain bike on rougher trails, a helmet with a visor is a crucial part of your equipment. Visors offer more protection from the weather and obstacles on the trail that could cause a mountain biker to crash. If you’re planning on going over rough terrain, detachable visors are better than built-in ones due to their added protection.