Brain Buckets: The 7 Best Bike Helmets
As kids, most of us zipped around the streets at breakneck speeds on crummy little pieces of tin. It’s a miracle we’re not all eating through a straw. As adults, we (hopefully) know better than to take to the streets or the hills without protecting our head in a high-quality bike helmet.
The factors to take into account when buying a bicycle helmet of any kind are ventilation, padding, durability of the shell, and the comfort of the fit. Any one of these can create a helmet that is not only uncomfortable but unsafe. We’ve trimmed off anything that could put your melon in jeopardy and are happy to bring you the 7 best bike helmets for your protection. Whether you’re a road rider, a racer, or mountain climber, we’ve got something
Pros: Easily adjustable fit
Cons: Lacks sufficient padding
Road Warrior: If you’re a hard-core pavement pounder, an Aeon is one of the best options when it comes to fit, ventilation, and protection. It has the Roc Loc TT Fit system created by Giro where you can adjust the tension one-handed for a quick and easy fit every time that can also be adjusted on the move. The high number of vents will keep even the hottest rider from dropping out due to heat stroke. The EPS liner is molded into the helmet directly so it won’t wiggle or change the way it fits as you move. They are one solid piece.
In addition to keeping your head cool on the highways and byways the numerous vents also reduce the weight, though not as much as you might think. It’s only 218 grams which makes it virtually disappear when you put it on. Despite the airy design, the Aeon has a roll cage built in for protection from all angles. The X-Static pads are treated with anti-microbials to reduce smell, though they can also be removed for washing. They are the one drawback as they’re not very thick making the fit tight, but slightly uncomfortable. [Purchase: $143+]
Pros: ICEdot compartment
Cons: Poorly designed for use with sunglasses
Hard Shell: Poc has made a name for themselves in bicycle helmets with their solid designs made for streamlining and protection at the sacrifice of ventilation. The Octal breaks that mold by offering more vents while still maintaining that heavy Poc shell. It’s going to feel odd at first since they have made it with more occipital and temporal protection, meaning it covers more of the head. Though its bulky looks might be a turn off, the actual weight is only 194 grams. It is molded as a unibody which offers greater exterior protection and allowed Poc to drop the EPS liner for reduced size.
When it comes to fit the Octal just plain works thanks to a click-wheel retention system that gives plenty of options whether you’re petite or toting around a big ol’ gourd. The back of the helmet offers a strange opening intended for an ICEdot (In Case of Emergency) sensor. Very nice as an added safety feature. It works with or without a cap underneath, though you’re going to have difficulty adding sunglasses do to the added girth in the back. The day-glow colors might also force you to quirk an eyebrow. It takes some adjustment all the way around. [Purchase: $270]
Louis Garneau Course
Pros: Excellent ventilation
Aero Racer’s Dream: When Garneau designed this bike helmet, he took an interesting tact. While others crunched numbers, they just took it out in the field with real riders to find it what worked and what didn’t. The end result is a slick, sleek 250 gram aero-style beauty that mixes speed, weight, and ventilation for the perfect experience designed by racers, for racers. The adjustment system is the brainlessly simple Spiderlock Pro which can be handled with one hand. The vents each pull air into the helmet and push it out the back for improved aerodynamics and greater rider comfort. The in-mold EPS is comfortable while the ‘Aero Inner Nerve’ system moves any shock or jolt throughout the helmet to reduce localized damage. [Purchase: $190]
Pros: Well ventilated
Cons: Poor aerodynamics
Total Comfort: If you’re wondering why a goggle and sunglasses maker for snowboarders and skiers is suddenly making bicycle helmets, we’re just as shocked as you are. This is the first offering from the company in the mountain bike helmet industry, but they have really set the bar high. Not only does it add more protection to temporal and occipital regions of the head, they managed to do it with only 285 grams of weight. The overall design looks like it should be flimsy, but it can stand up to low-speed crashes better than almost anything out there.
It should come as no surprise that ventilation, particularly around the goggles, is where this helmet really makes its mark. The AirEvac technology helps keep your head cool while also allowing air to move up and around your goggles so sweat isn’t dripping into your eyes or causing fogging. The interior of the helmet is strange, though very comfortable, even with a minimized EPS liner. Though it is easy to wear, you will get some drag and there are definite airflow issues where they clearly chose comfort over aerodynamics. [Purchase: $216+]
Troy Lee Designs A-1
Pros: Tight, comfortable fit
Cons: Heavier than most
Heavy Duty: The A-1 clearly has the soul of a downhill bike helmet. It is made of polycarbonate with the EPS molded directly in for superior fit and function. All of the hardware is anodized aluminum that is clearly meant to handle dirt, mud, and any other elements you can throw at it without faltering or failing out on the trail. The added protection does show in the weight, which is a whopping 344 grams. It will offer you more heft, but only so you’ll get to keep walking and talking after a crash.
The fit is probably the best of any bicycle helmet you’ll find, mountain, road, racing, or otherwise. It has a triple position adjustable retention system that allows it to grab on to your cranium and never let it go. The 16 vents provide more than ample air supply, yet are streamlined for comfort. The one issue is you can expect to get sweat stuck right at the forehead ridge without being able to escape. Thankfully the wicking liner helps keep it out of your eyes and it can easily be washed. [Purchase: $89+]
Pros: Very comfortable
Cons: Could use more vents
Full Coverage: Downhill, freeride, slalom, four-cross, and BMX racers would be happy with either the Drop or the Sanction from Bell. We preferred the Drop, but that might just be us. It bears both CPSC and ASTM DH certifications in safety so you’re nearly guaranteed to walk away from any crash. The lining is extensive for a fit that is both tight and comfortable while the visibility is excellent. It doesn’t kick to the side or even move during crashes which can put you back on your bike faster during a race. The one issue is the ventilation is a little stifling so endurance racers will certainly need to clean it out. It also weighs over three pounds. [Purchase: $78+]
Giro Air Attack
Commuter: Though it might not seem like it, bike commuters often are at the greatest risk when it comes to accident and injury. They’re typically on the road during the busiest time of day, complete with motorists that either ignore them or actively disdain them. That is why they need something as heavy duty as the Air Attack. It’s designed to avoid limiting motion and visibility with its high-profile cap, though also allow for reinforced protection at the front and back where most injuries occur when a cyclist crashes.
Though great for commuters, it’s also been known to shine at the Tour de France thanks to the wind-tunnel tested air flow which is meant to streamline aerodynamics so if you feel like taking your game up a notch, this can help reduce drag while keeping your head cool so you don’t arrive at the office overheated thanks to the Roc Loc Air system. It attaches at the temples to hold it in place making it able to hug nearly any head shape, however strange. Coupled with runway-model looks and weighing in at only 264 grams it’s outstanding protection on the road. [Purchase: $128+]