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Equipment Mountain Biking

Choosing a Bike Helmet in New Zealand

Mountain Bike helmet selection

Getting the right bike helmet could save your life!

All bike helmets sold in New Zealand and Australia must meet a government approved safety standard, so you can rest assured that no matter what you buy from a legitimate retailer, it will be safe.

(With thanks to Torpedo Seven for the following article on choosing a bike helmet)

Bike helmets are an absolutely essential piece of gear when you are riding a bike, not only because it is illegal not to wear one in New Zealand, but because bike helmets could save your life if you are in an accident. 

Bike Helmets come in three basic styles; street style, road and mountain. Different styles have features specific to their riding situation. All helmets are designed to protect a riders head from impact at the same time as being both lightweight and comfortable to wear. 


Helmet Construction:

The differences: There are 2 main types of bike helmet construction, hard shell & in mould construction. Entry level mountain bike helmets consist of a foam liner that is taped or glued to a hard shell exterior. This type of construction makes the helmet slightly heavier with fewer venting options.

The majority of medium to high end bike helmets will have an in mould construction. This means the interior liner of the helmet is built into the hard outer shell while it is still in the manufacturing mold. Therefore, creating one piece of material with a hard outer. In mould helmets are lighter, stronger and have more venting options.

There is generally no difference between the two options in terms of protection and overall safety.

The benefits: The main points of difference is hard shell construction bike helmets have a cost benefit (cheaper to buy), and in mould helmets have a weight and ventilation benefit. However, with the added benefits of in mould you can expect to see a higher price tag associated with the technology.

Helmet Construction Materials

There are also some lesser known technologies making there way in to bike helmet construction, the most prominent of those is the use of Koroyd (honeycomb material) in combination with EPS foam (in mould). The use of Koroyd in the construction of bike helmets allows manufacturers to drastically cut weight and volume, without compromising protection. 

Key Features of a Helmet

Liner: Most inner helmets are made of expandable polystyrene (EPS) foam, designed to dissipate the force of impact. EPS foam liners are an industry standard for action sports, have a low-profile and are lightweight. Higher end helmets are made out of lighter and stronger materials, therefore the more expensive the helmet, the more force it will absorb when your head takes a knock.

Shell: The outer component of a bike helmet is typically made of composite materials like fibreglass, or very hard plastics such as polycarbonate or ABS. The hard shell is designed to spread the force of an impact over a broader area

Ventilation: Vents are designed to keep you cool and comfortable while you’re riding. Road cycling helmets typically have a large amount of vents to enhance wind flow over your head and keep you cool. Having a large amount of vents also makes the helmet lighter.

Strap: Trail bike helmets usually have thicker straps for rough terrain, and road helmets have lighter and cooler straps. The strap should be comfortable, adjustable and easy to take on and off.

Weight: Higher end helmets are made out of lighter and more expensive materials. The lighter the helmet, the more comfortable it will feel when you are out riding.

Fit System: Some helmets will come in one size, compared to others that will come in S, M, L etc. All bike helmets will have an adjustable fit system to enable each size to fit a range of head sizes. That way you can adjust the fit of the helmet to your individual head size. Entry level helmets have a basic fit system with less range of adjustment. Higher end helmets will have an adjustable dial at the back of the helmet, which allows for a more precise fit. 

Finding the correct fit is essential! All helmets will have a size guide range that refers to your head circumference. If you are unsure of your size, be sure to take a simple measurement and refer to the size guide.

To discover the best way to get the correct fitting helmet, take a look at this video on bike helmet fitting. Although the soundtrack is a bit crazy, the video brilliant.


When to Replace Your Helmet

Bike helmets are designed to absorb the impact when you hit your head. Therefore if you take a tumble and hit your head, your helmet will become damaged. Helmets are only good for one crash. You should replace your helmet after any significant impact, even if the helmet appears completely fine. 

If you’ve been crash-free, the general recommendation is to replace your helmet after five years use. This is because your helmet will weaken overtime, through exposure to sunlight and pollution. 

Equipment Mountain Biking

How to choose the right mountain bike size

Getting the right mountain bike size for you!

Getting the right mountain bike size for your body can be the difference between a great ride and a terrible ride that will haunt you in days to come.  Why?

  • Your back may have poor posture
  • Your legs over extending (saddle too high)
  • Your legs not extending enough (saddle too low)
  • Your arms too extended, limited control of the bike
  • Your arms too squashed up, uncomfortable steering of the bike

What influences the bike size?

Frame size this is the height and length of the frame.  This is a key thing to get right
Saddle height This is a key parameter to get the leg spinning the pedals at the right angles.  Mountain bikes are designed so there is a lot of adjustment possible, it’s unlikely you’ll every ride with the saddle all the way in, touching the frame.  
Saddle position you can move the saddle forwards and backwards, although on a mountain bike this is rarely changed.
Handle bar stem length this is rarely changed given the adjustment possible on the saddle.

How to choose the right size?

  1. First choose the right frame size, based on your height
  2. Adjust the saddle to fit your leg length.
  3. Go!

A typical size chart:

Bike Size
Rider Height (inches)
Rider Height (cm)
5′ 2″ 5′ 6”
158 168
5′ 6″ 5′ 10”
168 178
5′ 10″ 6′ 2”
178 188
6’ 2” 6’ 6”
188 198
There are size charts for every bike type from every manufacturer.  There is no standard however sizes hover around the same ranges.  So if you’re a medium on one bike then chances are you’re a medium on another bike, unless you’re at the boundary of the range.

How does Leap choose the right bike frame?

We think getting the right bike size is hugely important for a great ride so we ask for the height of the rider to help determine what size you’ll need. Since there are so many bikes, shops will possibly stock different brands of a certain bike type so the sizes may vary slightly.  With the height of the rider the bike shop can decide on the best size, they’re the experts and know their bikes.
Be concerned if you book somewhere and they’re not asking you for it, you might not get the bike you need especially if you’re a Small or X-Large as they carry fewer of these models.
Equipment Mountain Biking

What’s the best type of mountain bike to ride?

Downhill mountain biker and hardtail mountain biker riding trails
Improvements in technology has resulted in a range of incredible mountain bike machines that are purpose built for particular riding styles. The many choices makes it hard to know the best type of mountain bike to ride!

A hard tail, regular mountain bike, that you probably learnt to ride on can certainly get you down the hill.  However there are a raft of other types of bike which will make getting down the hill, and up again, extremely enjoyable due to comfort, traction, cornering ability and it’s ability to help you cycle uphill again.

Here are our recommended best types of mountain bike to ride for a variety of New Zealand bike trails.
Recommended bike to use
Whakarewarewa, Woodhill Forest, Makara Peak and other all round mountain bike parks
Full suspension
Skyline Gondola
440 MTB Park, or other shuttle assisted bike parks
Downhill, Gravity or Full suspension
Grade 3+ Great Rides, eg. 42 traverse
Full suspension All purpose or XC
Grade 2 Great Rides, eg. Timber Trail
Full suspension or Hard tail.
Grade 1 trails, eg. Oriental Parade, Auckland Waterfront, Hawkes Bay iWay
Hard tail
Why are full suspension bikes the most common bike listed above?  They’re the most comfortable to ride, and that comfort also means the trails are safer and easier to ride resulting in a much better experience for you.  There are much better options than hanging on for dear life riding down a technical trail on a hard tail.   
Since full suspension bikes are more expensive and require more maintenance they’re not as common to find for hire.  However, Leap makes it really easy to find shops that rent them, just filter the search results
On the flipside, given their cost to buy they’re often bargain to hire, typically $80-$120 per day, and all maintenance is taken care of for you.
Equipment Mountain Biking

What are the different types of mountain bikes?

4 types of mountain bike, downhil, cross country, electric, trail

We used to just call a mountain bike a mountain bike.  Improvements in technology has resulted in a range of incredible machines that are purpose built for particular riding styles.  Now we’re faced with choices like: Full suspension, Hard trail, Gravity, XC, Downhill, 650B, 29er, Fatboy.  What do these all mean?  And more importantly, what should you choose for your next mountain bike ride?  We explain the different types of mountain bikes to you simply:

Type of Bikes:

While there are plenty of different terms manufacturers use to describe their bikes, there are 4 basic types: Cross Country (XC), Trail, All Mountain (Enduro), and Downhill (DH).


Cross Country:

These bikes are suitable for more gentle off road trails or orientated for speed over cross country courses .

  • Hard tail general.  
    • What many people know as a mountain bike”.  This is probably the most common type of bike, typically ridden by beginners and intermediates largely due to low cost to hire or buy.
  • Hard tail performance
    • A lean mean machine designed for speed.  Advanced riders use these for mountain bike races.  Today they typically ride on 29” wheels due to the benefit of momentum and hence speed the wheels bring.
  • Full suspension XC
    • A relatively new type of full suspension bike, for racers or those favouring speed and encountering some rough terrain. 


Modern full suspension bikes can ride anything.  There’s a comfortable range of full suspensions, they’re well placed riding down most downhill sections and speedy uphill.  That’s in part due to rugged construction and nifty features like doing away with the front derauiller and riding 1×11 or even 1×12 group sets.  These full suspension bikes are the second most common bike you’ll see available for hire or buy.

  • Full suspension.  

All mountain/Enduro

These bikes are orientated for the downhill but still with gearing, dropper post for saddle, and suspension stiffness for the rider to comfortably ride uphill. These are a fairly new breed of bike and not as common.

  • Full suspension Enduro
  • Gravity


Downhill beasts.  There is nothing delicate about these, they’re tough machines designed for speed and control on downhill descents.  They’re not designed for riding up hill, in fact you’ll often see downhill riders pushing these up!  As a result you’ll only really have opportunity to ride these on Shuttle assisted, gondola or lift assisted bike parks.

Wheel size:

Chances are you grew up riding 26” wheels however in the last 5 years or so a few variations have appeared on the market:  27.5” (aka 650B) and 29”.

Why ride on bigger wheels?

  • Larger wheels mean they go over bumps easier due to the angle of attack”.  That is, a bump will hit the wheel lower down, because of the wider angle to the ground, which helps it roll over easier. 
  • Larger wheels have more momentum which helps maintain speed.  Racers love this.

Why ride on smaller wheels?

  • Smaller wheels are more nimble.  This is key for control through technical trails.
  • Acceleration less mass and radius aids acceleration.  This is great for exiting corners.

The end result?  Go in the middle 27.5” wheels are becoming the new standard size and versatile for everything.


For a long time 24 or 27 speed was the norm for mountain bikes, that meant 3 gears up front and 8 or 9 down back.  However, Downhill mountain bikes have had just had one gear up front and 8 or 9 at the rear to avoid the dreaded chain slap and largely because they’re only designed for going downhill!

Modern Trail and Enduro bikes are moving to 11 or new in 2017 12 speed.  That is a single gear up front and 11 or 12 at the rear.  This helps solve the problem of chain slap (making noise) for downhill sections, as well as avoiding front gear difficulties such as the chain coming off.  The rider still has a full range of gears required for up and downhill.  New clutch’ technology for the rear derailleur has enabled this.  


Your bike will probably come out of the box with flat pedals, however there are a few altneratives.  When you’re hiring a bike it will come with flats by standard however most mountain biking focused bike providers will have other pedal types and be happy to install them for you.  Just BYO shoes.


  • Clips SPD, Crank Brothers, etc.
    • Clips are great for riding cross country and single track trail riding.  They enable efficient transition of power and control of the bike. The main types in New Zealand are produced by either Shimano or Crank Brothers.
  • Downhill MTB spiky flats.  
    • The spikes on these can shred shins if you’re not careful so wearing knee protection and suitable flat shoes is highly recommended.

Human powered or electrically assisted:

That’s a whole other topic, here’s a story from two different riders trialling an electric mountain bike.

Best tools for the job we match bikes to trails

Given there are a variety of bikes to choose from, then check out this article which will help you decide which one is best, link here.