Whenever heading out for a pedal on your trusty two-wheeler it is always a smart idea to grab a helmet, because if your head is worth saving, you better protect it. As with the advancements in all other aspects of the sport, helmets have become high tech contraptions that not only provide a cushion for the skull when impacting an object but now also optimize your performance to help keep in the saddle longer.
Just like the stable of different bikes that you have in your garage, helmets can be seen as tools that execute specific jobs very well depending on how they are designed. While there is nothing to say that one headpiece couldn’t be worn for all occasions, the helmets offered today are optimized to perform better in different ways, so we want ahead and segmented this list into three basic categories – road, mountain, and commuter. We rounded up our favorite 15 helmets to give a wide look at the features on the market, hopefully helping you decide which lid is right for you.
Hard Headed Advice
With original leather hairnets being comprised of scrap material and early model expanded styrofoam helmets being not much more than partial pieces of motorcycle helmet interiors, the helmets of today are lightyears away for their beginnings in the early 1970s. With the main goal of a helmet being to keep you alive in the event that your head has an unexpected encounter with an immovable object, there have been huge advancements if material science and design that is helping more and more people walk away from the incident without injuring their head.
The science behind testing on bicycle crashes shows that many head injuries are caused by the rotational motion from the fall transferring to the brain as the head is stopped by the crushing helmet, or otherwise. Providing a small amount of measured travel inside of the helmet allows for the dissipation of the energy that does the serious damage. A lot of the helmets on our list incorporate MIPS, the Multi-directional Impact Protection System, or similar styles of energy dispersion materials that allow for the head to travel just enough in the cradle to add an additional defense against any type of collision.
Road Bike Helmets
Helmets designed for road riding will often prioritize having a lightweight, great aerodynamics, and plenty of ventilation, all aspects that are ideal for longer rides. Expect to see minimal coverage and generous venting from these caps, providing both weight savings and airflow to help dissipate body heat, along with wind tunnel tested silhouettes that are proven to shave seconds when the hammer is down. These helmets generally have few bells and whistles outside of those that are performance-oriented, so if it is not intended to help you go faster for longer, don’t expect to find it in this category.
What is great about the bicycle industry is that the designs driven by top-level race performance end up trickling down to the consumer level products, meaning that you can get high-end features on entry-level products after some time passes. Taking cues from the top-shelf models, the Laver Blade+ is a wallet-friendly helmet that is made for spending some serious time in the saddle. The EPS foam helmet liner construction is fully capped with a polycarbonate shell to provide great impact protection and the 22 large vent ports allow for a generous airflow to keep your head cool. Using the patented Advanced Rollsys size adjustment system allows for tuning in a comfortable custom fit, so when you pop this lightweight helmet on, it will feel like you’re wearing nothing at all.
Giro Syntax MIPS
When you spend hours out on the road churning the cranks your body is guaranteed to warm up, and your head is going to be a major release area for that excess heat. Having a svelte lid that allows for ample air intake and exhaust is key to enjoying those longer trips, and the Giro Syntax MIPS will keep you cool for the long haul. With ample coverage, the 25 wind-tunnel vents channel cool air towards your head, while allowing hot air to exit through the rear. The Syntax uses Giro’s Roc Loc 5 size adjuster laced through a MIPS system, providing a premium fit and extra protection to soften the blow of any unforeseen impact.
Smith Network MIPS High-Viz
There are some moments out on the road, due to narrow roads or high traffic areas, where you may not feel like you are in the safest place in relation to vehicular traffic. For those times, there is some peace of mind knowing you are safer if you are seen by drivers, and the Smith Network MIPS High-Viz helmet will give your head a pop of color that won’t be missed by any motorists. The matte neon yellow and reflective polycarbonate outer shell cradles both a MIPS system and optimally placed Koroyd material zones for additional protection from all angles. Plus, areas specifically designed for light or camera mounts give you the option to add even more rider safety equipment if you like.
Specialized S-Works Evade with ANGi
For most of the helmets on the market, it is hard to deliver the best of all worlds, considering weight, wind-resistance, comfortability, and safety are all vying to be the top feature. Specialized set out to erase this preconception that you can’t have it all by developing the S-Works Evade with ANGi, which is a crash detection smartphone app that will send a text to a loved one if an impact is measured. Highly aerodynamic and very well ventilated, the multi-density EPS helmet liner construction is covered by an aramid-reinforced shell that holds a MIPS SL system, providing the light and most breathable system on the market. Paired with a magnetic buckle tethered to 4X DryLite webbing that won’t stretch, this helmet truly brings the gusto.
As you reach the pinnacle of your riding game, you start to notice how all of the small details really add up to be major benefits, and you start to get a feel for the advantages of the finer things. In a top-of-the-line offering, the Kask Protone takes all aspects of a regular helmet to the next level, providing a pro tour level of experience for any rider. Made by hand in Italy, this helmet is unrivaled in its aerodynamic performance and ability to dissipate heat from the head while riding, thanks in part to the CoolMax antimicrobial liner and venting specifically designed to optimize air intake and exhaust at any angle. Weighing in at just 215 grams, Protone is so light that you will forget that this helmet is even on your head.
Mountain Bike Helmets
When hitting the trails, you’ll find that the helmets will be more oriented to chances of actually making contact with the ground, as mountain biking has a much higher probability of taking a dirt nap than when on the road. While these helmets will also look to be lightweight and breathable, they will rarely make considerations for aerodynamics. On the mountainous side of life, expect to see helmets with adjustable visors, removable and washable headliners, and features specifically designed to accept protective eyewear. The major division in the category will be half-helmets vs. full-face, with the latter providing extra protection when the trails get extreme.
Fox Speedframe Pro
Out on the trail, a good day of riding can really come down to two things: did your gear perform well, and did you look good while doing it? While style points don’t make up for everything, the Fox Speedframe Pro is dripping with tech style, all while not making any sacrifices on functionality. Given 5 stars from the Virginia Tech Bicycle Helmet Ratings program, the MIPS equipped lid is built on a dual-density Varizorb EPS helmet liner that is bolstered by a washable XT2 headliner for cleaning off any accumulated stink, and a Fidlock buckle strap for lightning-quick security that can be done easily while wearing gloves.
Alpinestars Vector Tech
Having years in the game producing products for top-level athletes competing in the highest realms of sport has made Alpinestars into one of the most well-respected motorsports protection manufacturers in history. Though their foray into headgear may be a more recent event, and their participation in the mountain bike scene as even newer, the Vector Tech helmet is the embodiment of all that the illustrious brand has come to be known for. Incorporating a MIPS system under a lid that provides extra protection over the temples and nape, the highly-breathable 19 vent design provides an equal amount of protection and comfort, while the quick-adjust visor and goggle strap channels afford truly desirable functionality on the trail.
Having a racer’s input on a product doesn’t always translate for the everyday rider as the technical ability gap can be polar opposites, but with that pro being a rider known as “The Fresh Prince,” we have seen that ultra-cool style translated into a product suitable for any shredder. With the help of 3x Downhill World Championship racer Greg Minnaar, Oakley dishes out the DRT5 as an all-around workhorse that works well for any riding style. Using a Boa System adjuster for fine-tuning the fit, this MIPS equipped helmet also sees an eyewear landing zone and an adjustable visor that inhibits proper google positioning, the brand that is commonly known for their sunglasses fully deliveries on this comfortable and versatile hard hat.
POC Coron Air Spin
Transitioning to a full-face helmet once things get gnarly is a must, and when you head out for a full day of slashing, having a lid that is made for hours of continuous wear will make all the difference. With roots in making helmets for extreme snow sports, POC knows how to make gear that fits well, and the Coron Air Spin provides all-day comfort and safety for those looking to add a chain bar to their headwear. Safety comes via multi-impact EPP foam core is cushioned by the proprietary SPIN silicone impact absorption padding, giving top-tier crash protection, and the breakaway visor helps to prevent neck injuries when taking a digger. Rounding out the helmet is a fiberglass shell dotted with ample venting ports for great breathability.
Troy Lee Designs D4 Carbon MIPS
If you make the literal leap into the downhill discipline, you’ll soon find that your safety gear, and specifically your helmet, can be what separates a bail from a fail. Troy Lee Designs knows how to make gear that can help you walk away from a beating, and the D4 Carbon MIPS is their fourth generation of a downhill mountain bike helmet. Pushing the limits of material design, the TeXtreme Spread Tow carbon fiber shell has made this TLD’s lightest and most protective bicycle helmet ever. With 24 total vents and a completely removable and washable antimicrobial headliner, this helmet is sure to keep you cool and clean, and the EPP collarbone impact system helps prevent shoulder injuries common in the sport.
Doing Daily Duty
While commuting by bicycle can sometimes be a short trip with not much time in the saddle, it still puts you in a position to take a spill, and a helmet should still be worn. Intended to give car drivers better visibility of the rider on the road and built to blend style with safety, these helmets will opt out of considerations for weight and aerodynamics but will focus on comfort and safety. In this class, features like built-in lighting, optional visors, and hi-visibility colorways make these the choice helmets for making the daily trip into the office.
Spending every day in the saddle getting yourself to and from school or work can mean a lot of time on the road with distracted drivers who are also making their mad dash to the office. Knowing that having a beacon of attention for drivers is the quickest way to have them recognize a cyclist, the ABUS Hyban’s integrated reflectors and 180-degree view LED taillight command driver’s attention, in turn keeping you safe while on the road. Small features like the removable visor, mesh bug netting, and soft-touch straps really add up for large benefits on a helmet that may be taken on and off thousands of times each year.
For some, their hurdle to getting out to enjoy themselves on a bike may be the look of the gear, as not everyone is looking to head out in lycra anytime they want to ride. With the idea that personal style should never hinder a good time on two-wheel, the Thousand Heritage is a city styled lid that provides a vintage appeal in a modern package. A minimalist piece by nature, this helmet is loaded with features like vegan leather straps secured by a magnetic buckle that provides major curb appeal, while smaller details like the secret Poplock retention loop are intuitive additions that will be welcomed by any urban rider.
Bell Daily MIPS LED
Serving up a commuter helmet that can be a go-to choice for either heading into the office or for hopping out to take an evening pedal can be tough. With styling more similar to a traditional road cycling design, the Bell Daily MIPS LED uses a proprietary MIPS Ergo Fit system inside of an EPS helmet liner for a comfortable take on the more serious look. As the name suggests, an integrated LED taillight beams 20-lumens from a USB rechargeable unit built right onto the fit system ratchet, keeping an extra level of safety from being rear-ended. A soft brim adds a touch of relaxed style while the generous vents keep things cool on longer rides or hotter days.
Bern FL-1 Pave
If you are the type that races other office-goers off of every green light and are looking for a technical approach to the classic hairnets that were once standard equipment, the Bern FL-1 Pave is a commuter helmet inspired by the original leather caps worn in the Tour de France. Spec’d with a Boa System for size adjusting and outfitted with either warm or cool weather moisture-wicking headliners, the fit will be exactly as desired for any length of ride. The airy look of the well-ventilated shell keeps the lid lightweight and breathable, while the MIPS system provides a modern level of impact protection.
Bontrager Charge WaveCel
Even though the high-speed pedal-assist e-bike market is relatively new, there has already been regulation on the operation of this class, and as such we are starting to see manufacturers tailor their offerings to meet these requirements. While not solely intended for e-bike riders, the Bontrager Charge WaveCel is a stylish urban rider helmet featuring NTA 8776 certification, allowing for use with S-EPAC’s. Loaded inside the helmet is a proprietary WaveCel liner that was developed with funding from the US National Institute of Health to act as a crumple zone during impacts that then glides to transfer the energy away from the head. Outfitted with a Boa System sizing adjuster, a Fidlock magnetic strap buckle, and manufacturer crash replacement guarantee, this may be the last helmet you ever need to buy.
The 15 Best Bike Pumps
Now that you’ve got the top end covered, you’ll also want to keep your tires — which keep you connected to the road — in tip-top shape. And the simplest way to do that is by making sure they’re properly inflated with one of the best bike pumps.