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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 '18 at 1:03
  • 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 11 hours ago
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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 '18 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. – Argenti Apparatus May 8 '18 at 23:49
  • I had my first crash in January after a brush-by pass from a dualie pick-up truck (four wheels across the back) when he squeezed by me with on-coming traffic. I went off the road, but then came back on the road over a six-inch lip at the edge of the pavement, lost control and crashed. My head didn't impact the pavement but it did make me think how much of my face isn't protected and whether a full-face helmet might be a good idea. (AC joint damage, off the bike for three months, now feeling stronger than ever after the resting.) – compton May 9 '18 at 6:06
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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 '18 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 '18 at 13:09
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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 a 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 is from survivable accidents is in road biking 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 may be different for me if I were riding steep inclines down off-road, as it were. 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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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.

Although Dylan M did have a nasty crash, chances are he's not part of the road racing peloton nor occupies top places in XC racing.

New contributor
Daniel Alejandro Cárdenas is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
  • 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 20 hours ago
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I broke my four front teeth on a road bike. After those medical bills, the months of having completely jacked up face, and all the dentist work, I opt to wear my full face no matter what I'm riding. Could give zero f#$ks what people think. Although I do tend to go hard, even on regular trails or urban areas, always finding something to bump off of or wheelie through, so the FF doesn't seem too weird.

I just suck it up and deal with the heat ..and I ride in hot, muggy, Northern Florida.

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Dylan M is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
  • 6
    I'm sorry to hear about your experience and I'm glad you're on the mend, now. However, your observations here don't actually answer the question of why people who haven't crashed don't wear full-face helmets. Unlike other sites you might be used to, we're not a discussion forum. There's more information in our short tour. – David Richerby yesterday
  • This answer will be improved - please use Edit to add "why you didn't wear a full face helmet before your crash" Was it something you remember considering? There is a relevant answer here, but what you've written so far is all about after the event. Please tell us about your opinions and thoughts on FF helmets before the accident, which is what OP is asking. – Criggie 19 hours ago

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