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A lot of cyclists are concerned about safety and having the proper equipment, but I have never seen a cyclist riding in the city with a full-face helmet, nor have I seen a full-face helmet marketed for city/road riding. Is there a reason for this?

I have a friend who broke several teeth after a tire got caught in some trolly tracks resulting in many thousands of $'s of dental bills, and know of another young woman who died in a similar incident after hitting her head on the curb. Both were wearing standard bike helmets.

If the full-face helmet offers more protection to more of your head, why wouldn't some people want that, even if they're not doing some ridiculous jump on a downhill or BMX bike?

Full Face Helmet

vs.

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    Same question goes for neck braces, padding, and crash armour. The road is not a combat zone - in most of the world, well designed cycling infrastructure keeps bikes and cars apart. Its only when there is contention for space that conflict arises. At this point, it can be physical conflict. Better planning reduces the need for protection.
    – Criggie
    May 9, 2018 at 1:03
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    I think statistically speaking, car occupants should be wearing helmets as they have more and more severe crashes but I think if it was suggested, it would be laughed at.
    – Chris
    Apr 20, 2019 at 6:45
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    @Michael a 2006 study found 280,000 people suffered a motor vehicle induced traumatic brain injury in the US annually. That’s quite a large number wouldn’t you say.
    – Chris
    Apr 21, 2019 at 6:47
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    @Michael you’re right there. Look at how the argument rages on for cyclists. There are politicians, surgeons, cyclists and cycle advocacy groups plus “the man on the street” all weighing in on the debate. No-one can prove they’re definitively better off wearing them and without one, drivers give a cyclist more room when overtaking. I choose to wear one and I always wear one for off-road riding. The chance of ever getting car passengers to start wearing one is slim to none.
    – Chris
    Apr 21, 2019 at 7:29
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    FWIW, there has been some exploration of full-face helmets specifically for road bikes.
    – Adam Rice
    Aug 24, 2021 at 16:43

6 Answers 6

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I often wear a regular cycling helmet as it may slightly reduce the severity of traumatic brain injury in certain crashes. The probability of such a crash is very low. The probability of a crash where the helmet is sufficient to mitigate brain injury in a significant way is even slimmer. However, since the reward for the rare cases where it helps is high (so i hope), I do wear it.

Wearing a helmet comes at a price though. A cycling helmet is inconvenient, often unbearably hot, and rarely comfortable. Oh, and they also do cost money.

On balance, considering risk, reward, and costs, it is oftentimes worth for me to wear a regular helmet.

The balance looks different for a full face helmet:

  • The probability of jaw injuries from survivable accidents while road biking is even lower than that for traumatic brain injury (people rarely face plant from their road bike).

  • I consider facial injuries to be much less debilitating and severe than brain injuries.

  • Full face helmets are much hotter and heavier than regular helmets. Further disadvantages are discussed in other's answers.

To sum it up, I shall certainly not wear a full face helmet.

The balance could be different for me if I were riding steep inclines down off-road. However, considering the draw-backs of full face helmets while getting to the mountain and up the mountain. I doubt, I should use a full face helmet either.

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    Probably most use of full face helmets is lift or shuttle assisted down hills. AM/Enduro etc where there are significant uphill sections are often/usually done using a helmet with a removable jaw or by removing the helmet altogether.
    – mattnz
    Aug 24, 2021 at 1:46
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I think there will be a significant subjective element to answering this question, but pressing on:

  • Full face helmets are relatively heavy
  • Full face helmets offer less ventilation that standard helmets
  • Full face helmets are less aerodynamic that standard helmets
  • Riders don't want to look silly or weird
  • Full face helmets are not marketed to cross country MTB, road or casual cyclists.

However, given that a few decades ago cycle helmets were rarely worn, but are now common; it seems plausible that in the future lighter, more ventilated helmets will be developed and become generally acceptable for less extreme forms of riding.

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    May full face designs also offer reduced visibility on the sides, not a ton, but it is noticeable, which is not ideal for city use on busy streets. Side note i wear one when i ride MTB trails. The trails are not downhill by any means but i like my teeth.
    – Nate W
    May 8, 2018 at 23:32
  • I've seen a couple of nasty over-the-handlebar crashes onto pavement. Riders wearing helmets but hit face first and were knocked out, as well as sustaining trauma to the face. I have wondered if some kind of side of head and face protection could be built in to helmets. May 8, 2018 at 23:49
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    Another reason: Downhill mountain bikers are much more likely to crash. For the relatively unlikely case that a normal cyclist crashes it’s much more acceptable that you are not protected against face injuries, which are probably not fatal in any case.
    – Michael
    May 9, 2018 at 11:22
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    I just want to add something here. Most riders are commuters, wich means slower speeds, better roads and silly falls. This means at most that people will get bruises near the jaw. Which is a good trade off for ventilation and weight. On the other hand, Downhill is all about speed and technique, on bad terrain. So if you fall is going to hurt because you are gonna get hit by something fast and probably in some weird position, like face first.
    – dmb
    May 10, 2018 at 13:09
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    A full face helmet has to be pushed to the back of the head to drink. During that time there is even less protection offered then by a regular helmet. I suppose for road cycling the marginally increased risk due to that offsets the benefit of protecting against another type of unlikely injury.
    – gschenk
    Apr 19, 2019 at 21:02
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A point made in a previous comment suggests full face helmets affect peripheral vision. This is a safety downside.

A bigger safety downside is this: They must also affect hearing (well-ventilated helmets that don't block too much sound will be prone to wind noise). Hearing is a valuable tool for telling what's coming up behind.

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Because full face helmets are way heavier, less aerodynamic and much less ventilated.

Wearing it on a road bike most probably wouldn't take you very far. The same applies for XC or any discipline where you're making long and steady efforts for one hour or more. A DH race consists of interval-type efforts, and there is rest in between; a DH racer will not be overheated between runs.

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  • Hello Daniel and welcome to Stack-Exchange! Judging from your good answer you might not need the tour, but please have a look nonetheless. A remark: I cannot follow the argument of your final paragraph. If you find it difficult to improve, consider to drop it? There is no need to address the answers of others directly, and the first part of your question sums the answer up quite neatly.
    – gschenk
    Apr 19, 2019 at 21:51
  • Thank you G. Good advice. Apr 21, 2019 at 16:09
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Social norms.

It is definitely not hot in late autumn now, I generaly tend to overinvest into safety items and I could afford such a helmet. But there are some concerns on how my co-workers would understand me using such a gear on daily commuting. Feels like going into street with Formula I car - super smart in general but probably just a wrong place. If these helmets are usefully safer, explanatory work within society (including stats) would help.

Follow up: To be honest, after I finally used such a helmet for city riding (not because of the safety but because of the nasty weather, wind, snow and rain at the same time, wanted to cover more of the head), nobody paid any specific attention to me, so this fear may be exaggerated. For the weather as addressed it was not too hot, also it does not obstruct the vision into sides.

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  • You could also drive a car in such a helmet or even walk in it in the streets when there is snow on the roofs. You can always be even safer... Or you can just sit at home and not cycle at home in fear of an accident. Dec 15, 2023 at 12:33
  • With icicles is falling from the roof, this helmet would make a lot of sense!
    – nightrider
    Dec 15, 2023 at 13:35
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I wear a full face BMX helmet all the time and always have when on my outdoor cycling journeys for several reasons

  1. it protects my entire head from any trauma and bashing on the floor, it protects my entire face not just head, prevents injury to my chin or mouth.
  2. it is mainly because of my BMX history but I always ride a full sized 26 inch wheel, 18 inch frame fully rigid mountain bike and have always found full face helmets more logical, functional and comfortable because I'm used of them. I hate the typical road cycling helmets that protect absolutely nothing. Full face BMX and mountain bike helmets protect everything and are safer.
  3. Defence from physical attack
  4. You can wear proper mountain bike goggles that look like ski goggles to protect eyes better from high winds and any mud or flies god damn annoying flies, glasses do nothing. then can just move the goggles up when you don't want to wear them and still have them strapped around the helmet.

Also I strongly advise sap(?) gloves with the padded metal knuckles and metal pad back of hands that motor cyclist and mountain bikers and BMX wear much much more protection than any road cycling gloves and stops your knuckles from been scraped.

I am mainly cycling mountain bike trails, around parks and BMX tracks and use side roads to get anywhere. I don't really cycle down main highways with traffic lights unless I really have to, most of time on a super busy high way I'll just get off my bike and walk with it or cycle on grass.

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  • Also to add that full-face helmets are less aerodynamic for road and XC specific cycling yes but if its massive advantages in protection is always a win if it's full protection you are looking for and you're more of mountain biker or bmxer. If they can somehow create a more aerodynamic and more road full face helmet that has the jaw guard but still has the aerodynamic design that satisfies roadies then problem solved. but no one has come up with a design yet. Also it doesn't look stupid at all. I actually get loads of people complimenting it saying it looks cool and even how much safer it is. Aug 24, 2021 at 1:29
  • also the hearing disadvantage is an issue for some helmets that dont have good ventelation. doesnt effect line of sight or peripheral vision at all its a little less than a roadie or xc is used to but prevents you from for risk of knocked out or jaw or nose or face bust up when you go swinging over handle bars, or smacking face of the handle bars or if you fall off. but again ive always worn them since i was in bmx competitions as a kid so im used of them and have learned to over come any disadvantage. its honnestly worth just trying it out for your self and seeing what you prefer. Aug 24, 2021 at 1:45
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    You make a good point to wear a full face helmet all the time! So far I solved the "not getting punched in the face" thing by not getting into flights. But with a helmet I may be as aggressive as I please. Next time I buy red herrings at the fishmonger I bring a full face helmet.
    – gschenk
    Aug 24, 2021 at 8:09
  • These helmets do not invariably restrict the view into sides, at least mine does not do. A tiny strip above is covered by the visor, but never obstructs anything more than a sky.
    – nightrider
    Dec 15, 2023 at 9:54

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