We have put together a comprehensive guide on bike helmets and have selected some of the best bicycle helmets available. Whether you’re hitting the road or a rocky trail, there’s a comfortable and safe helmet just for you.
We’re sharing some of our favorite bike helmets and depending on your riding style; you may want to add one of these helmets to your shopping list.
In a hurry? The test winner after 11 hours of research:
BELL STRATUS MIPS
Why is it better?
Last Updated: January 2, 2019
By Max Shumpert: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding bike helmets available for those who are interested in cycling protection gear. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best bike helmets currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
Bell Stratus MIPS Cycling Helmet
Giro Savant Road Bike Helmet
Giro Reverb Bike Helmet
Bell Super 2 Helmet
Smith Optics Forefront All Mountain Bike
Best Mountain Bike Helmets
If you’re an avid mountain biker, you already know that you’re prone to wiping out more easily than other riding styles. Best mountain biking helmets need to be comfortable, well-ventilated and offer a little more protection than other biking helmets.
Here are some of our top picks for mountain bike helmets.
1. Smith Optics Forefront All Mountain Bike Helmet
At first glance, you can tell that the Forefront bike helmet is lightweight and breathable; both features are important when hitting the trail.
A removable visor increases your safety and helps to shield the sun from your eyes while the back of the helmet offers good protection for the back of your head.
Where most bike helmets are made have a liner made from EPS foam, this helmet uses Aerocore technology which uses Koroyd tubes that absorb 30 percent more impact than other helmets.
We love the Forefront helmet because it has adequate ventilation (21 vents) which is a must when working up a sweat on a mountain bike trail. The ventilation system maximizes airflow to keep your sunglasses or goggles from fogging.
This helmet comes in a variety of colors and is comfortable for long trail rides or a few short trips down your favorite riding spot. There is also an integrated receptor that is perfect for mounting a light or a POV camera (like a GoPro).
2. Bell Super 2 Helmet
Bell bike helmets are popular among mountain bikers as the company has been manufacturing helmets for over 60 years. This mountain bike helmet, with 23 vents, has overbrow ventilation, which helps to draw in cool air and draw out heat.
The visor is designed to “breakaway” for easy removable but doesn’t affect the helmet’s integrity. Another plus about the helmet’s visor is that is can be worn comfortably with a pair of mountain biking goggles.
The padding in this helmet is designed to dry quickly and is resistant to odor. Bell mountain bike helmets fit snug, are easy to adjust, and offer adequate coverage to protect the back of your head.
We love this helmet because not only are there are variety of colors, it’s so lightweight and comfortable that you almost forget that you’re wearing a mountain biking helmet. If you want to add a chinbar to your helmet for a little extra protection, this helmet is compatible.
Best Road Bike Helmets
The main goals behind the design of a road bike helmet is to keep the helmet lightweight, aerodynamic, and an adequate amount of ventilation. Here are a few of our top picks for road bikes.
1. Bell Stratus MIPS Bike Helmet
One look at this Bell Helmet and you know it’s lightweight and offers great airflow. With 18 vents and overbrow ventilation, the Stratus helmet pulls cool air in through the front and pushes it out the back. This design also helps with the aerodynamics when needs as a road bike bicyclist.
With the Float Fit technology, the helmet is easy to adjust, and the No-Twist tri-glides keep the straps from getting twisted or moving around as you ride.
We love this helmet because the polycarbonate outer shell bonds to the EPS foam liner to make a sturdy and lightweight helmet. Equipped with MIPS, this helmet offers extra protection from impact in the event of an accident.
2. Giro Savant Road Bike Helmet
At first glance, you may think that Giro bike helmets look like every other recreational helmet on the market.
While the Giro Savant helmet may appear to be less aerodynamic than other road bike helmets, it’s a lightweight, aerodynamic, and properly ventilated helmet.
With a polycarbonate shell, an EPS liner, and 25 vents, this helmet helps you stay comfortable and cool during any length of ride.
We love this helmet for many of its features, but the Roc-Loc 5 suspension fit system makes it easy to adjust your helmet quickly.
Best Recreational Bike Helmet
Recreational bike helmets have a little more variety when it comes to shape and design. While good ventilation and a lightweight design are important for recreational bike helmets, you have more options.
Check out our favorite recreational bike helmet.
1. Giro Reverb Bike Helmet
The Giro Reverb helmet has a basic and uncomplicated design with a classic, “retro” look. With nine vents, this helmet keeps your head cool.
The polycarbonate outer shell with an EPS liner keeps this recreational helmet lightweight but is tough enough to handle anything you might encounter while on the city streets.
We love this helmet not only for its classic look in a variety of colors but the Auto Loc Fit system makes it easy to adjust your helmet for a perfect and comfortable fit.
The Giro Reverb bike helmet also comes with a removable visor which is a great feature when you need a little extra sun protection.
What Are Bike Helmets?
A cycling helmet is a lightweight type of headgear that minimizes the force of impact and protects the head when a bicyclist falls off his or her bicycle.
Bike helmets come in a variety of sizes, styles, and can be worn by adults and children; there are even bike helmets for babies.
Why Do You Need A Bicycle Helmet?
If you’ve ever observed other bicyclists on the roads or trails, you will see that some wear helmets and others who don’t (maybe you’re one of these bicyclists).
While the importance of wearing a bike helmet may seem obvious, many riders have excuses as to why they don’t want to wear one such as the helmet being too uncomfortable or too hot.
Research shows that wearing a bike helmet can reduce the risk of a head injury about 50 percent and the risk of injuries to the head, face, and neck by about 33 percent. Head injuries can lead to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and can be life-changing.
In some cases, a bike helmet can save your life in the event of an accident while riding your bike.
How Do Bike Helmets Protect You?
Some people hate to wear a bicycle helmet because they think it makes them look “dorky.” A bike helmet’s main purpose is to protect your head, not to be a fashion statement.
Bike helmets have a hard outer shell and a soft inner liner.
The outer shell is designed to withstand the force of an impact during a bicycling accident (particularly when the cyclist has struck his or her head).
The impact spreads out on the outer shell and reduces the severity of a head injury, such as a skull fracture. The inner liner absorbs most of the impact energy, so your head doesn’t.
You might notice that many bike helmets “bump out” in the front and the back. This design feature can work to stop your face or the back of the head from making direct contact with the ground.
Construction of a Cycling Helmet
A bike helmet has a relatively simple design and has three main parts. Whether you’re looking at mountain bike helmets or road bike helmets, the construction is more or less the same.
The simplicity of the bicycle helmet makes it easy to manufacture, but each helmet should have a flawless construction to ensure the safety of each rider.
As we stated earlier, the liner is the part of the helmet which absorbs the energy from the impact. Helmet lines need to be comfortable yet durable. A common material for inner liners is Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam (you may know EPS foam as “Styrofoam”).
EPS granules (or beads) are placed into a mold and then they expand and fuse together with steam and pressure. Since the inner liner must be strong and able to “absorb” the impact energy, there are often layers of reinforcement within the foam.
Even though the use of EPS foam sounds pretty basic, it’s a much stronger and protective material than many riders may think.
Depending on the helmet, the outer shell may be made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is a form of polyester which is turned into plastic.
Another common material for outer helmet shells is made from polycarbonate or another high-quality plastic. Older helmets may be made of layers of fiberglass in epoxy.
Although retro bike helmets might look cool and offer protection, they are usually heavier than lightweight bike helmets. Older bike helmets may not have the same safety standards as today’s best bike helmets.
Shells are usually glued onto the inner liner and then taped around the edge.
The third part of a basic bike helmet is the straps. Straps are typically made of polypropylene or nylon and are adjustable.
Depending on how the liner and shell are attached, the straps either run through the liner and shell or are attached to the helmet with rivets or anchored at the top of the helmet.
Types of Bike Helmets
Once you start shopping around for a bike helmet, you’ll notice that while bike helmets serve the same purpose, there are many types to choose from and some may suit you better than others.
A recreational bike helmet is also known as a multi-use or casual bike helmet. Recreational bike helmets are a great option for people who ride on the weekends with the family or for someone who is bikes when he or she has the chance.
Recreational helmets are often a more affordable option, but it doesn’t mean that these types of helmets are safe or made out of high-quality materials. Another bonus of having a recreational helmet is that it can offer adequate protection if you use inline skates or a skateboard.
Although most bike helmets are lightweight, road bike helmets are typically lighter than other types. Since road biking focuses on aerodynamics and speed, road bike helmets have more of a streamlined design than other helmets.
Most road bike enthusiasts log in long hours and miles, so the increased ventilation of a road bike helmet can keep road riders cool and comfortable.
With mountain biking, there’s never a dull moment and wearing a helmet is a definite “must.” Even the most experienced mountain bikers are prone to wiping out on a steep and rocky incline, so a mountain bike helmet has a sturdy design.
Most mountain bike helmets have great ventilation, have a built-in visor, and better coverage for the back of the head. Some helmets are available with full-face coverage for increased safety when riding.
While a recreational or even mountain bike helmet may offer adequate protection when riding your BMX bike, there are specific helmets just for BMX riders.
Depending on the style of riding you do on your BMX bike, you may prefer a full-face helmet to an open-faced helmet. If you’re just riding in the driveway, an open-faced helmet is sufficient. Anything more, such as dirt jumping, requires a full-face helmet.
Before we talk about women’s bike helmets, it’s important to mention that women can wear any type of bike helmet. While most men have larger heads than women, the head shape is more or less the same.
Women’s helmets are about the same as men’s bike helmets, but they are often available in a smaller size, and some have a design that works with a woman’s long hair (don’t worry, men with long hair can wear bike helmets, too).
Women’s helmets may also have a hair port, which is a space for a ponytail, and the color choices may be more “feminine.” but overall, adult bike helmets are unisex and serve the same function.
Kids Bike Helmets
While everyone can benefit from wearing a bicycle helmet, children of any age should wear a bike helmet. Children are just as vulnerable to getting hurt (if not more) while a passenger or a when riding a bike.
Whether a child rides as a passenger (such as a pull-along cart) or on his or her own bikes, wearing a properly fitting helmet is a must.
Additional Features For Bike Helmets
Now that we’ve discussed some of the most common types of bike helmets it’s time to take a look at some of the common “add-on” features of a bike helmet. While all types of bike helmets have a basic design, some come with features while other helmets do not.
Most bike helmets come with vents; some helmets may have a few smaller vent holes while others may have larger holes. Helmet vents help to keep your head cool and comfortable while riding.
Have you ever heard someone uses the excuse (for not wearing a helmet), “I just want to feel the wind through my hair.” A properly vented helmet can help you feel the wind while keeping you safer.
Venting can also help keep your helmet feel light. More vents make mean a lighter helmet. If you tend to sweat a lot when you bike, consider selecting a helmet with more vent holes.
Sometimes wearing a pair of sunglasses while riding your bike can feel uncomfortable and slide down as you sweat. Bike helmets with visors offer a great alternative for keeping your eyes protected from the sun so you can see the road or trail more easily.
While you’re likely to find a visor on many types of helmets, visors are a common feature on mountain bike helmets. Visors are less popular on road bike helmets as the visor can add extra weight and some resistance.
Helmets with full-face protection look similar to a helmet that one would wear for motocross or when riding a motorcycle. Full-face protection helmets are downhill mountain bike racing helmets, and they have a chin bar as well as a removable shield.
Helmet straps aren’t an optional feature for bike helmets. Straps, when adjusted correctly, will help to keep your bike helmet straight and secure on your head. If you wear a helmet without buckling the straps, your bicycle helmet is worthless to you.
Some straps offer a small amount of padding that rests underneath the chin; when adjusted properly, it can make the straps more comfortable.
As we briefly mentioned earlier, many women’s bike helmets come with a hair port. Helmets with hair ports have strap or space that accommodates for ponytails or braids. A hair port doesn’t affect the durability or the safety of a bike helmet.
What is MIPS Technology?
Browsing bike helmets, you may have come across reviews that boast about the benefits of MIPS technology.
What is MIPS?
MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System technology. This technology is used when constructing bike helmets and is designed to offer more head protection from rotational forces.
Helmets that are manufactured with MIPS technology have a low-friction layer that works with the inner liner to rotate slightly during an accident. Although the movement is small, it can significantly reduce the severity and location of head or brain injuries.
While many bike helmet manufacturers use MIPS technology in today’s bike helmets, it may not be in every helmet. A helmet with MIPS technology should be clearly marked.
Bike Helmets Sizing Guide
Some bicyclists don’t use their helmet on a regular basis because they complain that their helmet doesn’t fit right. Not only is it important that your helmet fits properly for comfort but also for your safety.
One of the best ways to ensure a good fit is to try on a helmet, if possible. If you can’t try on your helmet in person, it’s easy to figure out the correct size by using a measuring tape.
Wrap a string or flexible measuring tape around the largest part of your head (this area should be about 1 inch above your eyebrows). If you’re a specific size in one brand of a bike helmet, it doesn’t hurt to double check your size when buying a helmet of another brand.
The general sizing dimensions are as follows:
If you are aren’t a “true” size, or if a helmet is a little too big for a child, you can use stocking cap or cycling beanie underneath the helmet. Keep in mind that if you do this, it may affect ventilation. Always wear a helmet that fits well whenever possible.
When buying a helmet, especially for a child or teen, don’t buy big with the hope of “growing into” the helmet.
Adjusting Your Bike Helmet
If your helmet fits but still feels a little uncomfortable an easy solution is to adjust the helmet. First, it’s important to know how your helmet should fit on your head.
Your bike helmet should be level on your head (not tilted forward or back). The front should rest one inch or less from your eyebrows as this will keep your forehead protected. If your helmet shifts enough that it feels loose (about an inch or more), your helmet needs adjusting.
At the back of your helmet is a strap adjustment mechanism (which is also known as a sizing wheel). Make the proper adjustment until the helmet feels snug enough. After the helmet fits properly, you will want to double check the chinstrap.
Buckle your chinstrap; the straps should form a “V” under each ear. If not, adjust the straps accordingly.
An easy way to test if the adjusts are right is to put on the helmet, buckle your chinstrap, and open your mouth (as if you were yawning). The helmet should press against the top of your head. If not, continue with your adjustments.
Caring For Your Bicycle Helmet
You can get a lot of use out of your bike helmet as long as you take care of it, which is easy to do. If you need to clean your helmet, stick to soap and water.
Don’t use an abrasive cleansers or a scrub pad.
Avoid storing your helmets in extreme temperatures, particularly heat. Long exposure to high heat can ruin the integrity of your helmet.
If your bike helmet has been damaged in any way, especially in an accident, replace it before you ride again. Even if you have a record of zero accidents, replace your helmet every five years. If you have any doubt about the safety of your helmet, replace it with a new bike helmet.
What To Consider When Choosing a Bike Helmet
Before you head out and buy the first bike helmet that you see, there are some important things to consider when choosing a bike helmet.
Type of Biking
The helmet you choose depends greatly on the type of biking you do. If you like to do some downhill mountain biking and do a lot of commuting, you will probably want to invest in two helmets.
Downhill mountain bikers, as we mentioned earlier, benefit from wearing a full-face protection helmet. You probably wouldn’t use the same type of helmet for commuting or just a leisurely ride around the block.
If you do “general” biking such as putting in a few extra miles on the weekends or commuting to work, a recreational helmet is often the best type of helmet.
Risk of Biking Activity
Much like the type of biking that you do, you should select your bike helmet based on the “riskiness” of your bike riding.
All helmets are designed to offer adequate protection, but if you know that you are at a high risk of wiping out (as you might when mountain biking), you will want to select a mountain biking helmet.
Select helmets that will offer more face protection or added protection at the back of your head. For added security when partaking in some “risky” riding, look for a bike helmet manufactured with MIPS technology.
Size and Weight of a Bike Helmet
The size and weight of your bike helmet will depend on the type of riding. A mountain biking helmet or even BMX helmet is likely to be heavier and larger than recreational or road helmets.
Even though helmets are designed to be as lightweight as possible, some might feel too heavy and uncomfortable. Keep in mind that some larger helmets can interfere with your peripheral vision (such as a full-face protection helmet).
Keeping our simple tips for adjusting your helmet in mind, your helmet should fit well. Remember, it shouldn’t shift on your head more than one inch. When fitting your helmet, consider the amount of hair you have and whether or not you’ll wear a cycling cap.
Although helmets with visors are popular among mountain bikers, you can find helmets with removable visors. Having a visor that can be removed is a great option for year-round riding. Visors come in a variety of sizes, and some offer more sun shade than others.
All bicycle helmets are designed to be safe, but no bike helmet can guarantee your safety. Your helmet is safest when it’s the right size and is adjusted properly. Although your bike helmet can greatly reduce your risk of injury, your safety greatly depends on you as a rider.
Helmet straps are also known as the helmet retention system. The design of helmet straps is pretty basic. When looking at helmets and their straps, select straps that are easy to adjust and are comfortable.
Most helmets come with a little bit of padding to improve the comfort and fit while riding. It’s best to find pads that are removable and washable.
If possible, make sure your bike helmet fits well and comfortably without the pads just in case you decide to remove the pads or lose one on the ride. Your pads shouldn’t be the material that makes your helmet a perfect fit.
Although MIPS technology can offer a little extra protection in the event of a crash, you won’t find that every helmet is manufactured with MIPS technology.
If a helmet doesn’t have MIPS, does it mean it’s less safe? Not necessarily. It all comes down to personal preference, and one downside is that MIPS can affect the ventilation of a helmet.
A bike helmet with good ventilation will make you more comfortable and may even get you out on your bike more often. If you’ve ever ridden on a hot day, you know the importance of adequate venting. Looking for a lightweight helmet? Look for one with more vent holes.
Proper adjustments are essential to a bike helmet that fits. If a bike helmet is too hard to adjust or takes too long, you’re probably less likely to wear your helmet.
When adjusting your helmet take the time to make sure that your straps aren’t twisted or too tight.
If your helmet is comfortable, you’re more likely to wear it every time you ride your bike. One of the main reasons why a helmet isn’t comfortable is due to improper sizing and not having it properly adjusted.
If you have the right size helmet and have adjusted (as we described earlier), it should be comfortable and almost unnoticeable.
Bike helmets come in a variety of colors. Whether you want to select a color that matches your bike or a patterned design that makes you “stand out,” choose a color you like and will make you want to wear your helmet.
Many biking experts recommend wearing a helmet that’s white or brightly colored to make you more visible while riding. Since helmets are a “must have” safety accessory, have a little fun with the color.
Selecting The Right Helmet For Your Biking Style
Wearing a bike helmet can make your bike ride more enjoyable and can significantly reduce your chance of a severe head injury.
If you don’t enjoy wearing a helmet, you probably haven’t found the right one. When you select a bike helmet to fit your riding style you are likely to be more comfortable and confident whether you’re riding the streets or trails.
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