Looking for a new bike helmet? These are the best options for men, women, road cyclists and commuters
Picking out the best cycling helmet is probably one of the least exciting bike-related purchases, but it is one that might just save your life. Whether you’re looking for a cheap helmet for commuting, a stylish option for the weekly club run, or a top-end aero helmet for all-out speed, we’ve selected our pick of the best.
As well as price, there are other factors to consider including weight, ventilation, aerodynamics and comfort, and these vary a great deal between different helmets. But how do you choose the best one for your head, and your budget? We’ve researched the best cycling helmets out there and rounded them up here to help you make your decision.
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Which cycling helmets are safest?
All helmets have to abide by the same safety standards, so no matter how much you spend, all the helmets here exceed those minimum standards. Any helmet sold legally in the UK should meet these standards, but to make sure that the helmet meets European standards, just look for the European CE EN-1078 sticker inside. If you also spot a CPSC sticker, that means the helmet also meets the slighter higher US safety standards. That shows the helmet has passed a number of tests – from shock absorption to the security of the strap and fastening mechanisms.
Some helmet manufacturers go beyond the basic safety standards though. Additional features include MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) layers which reduce rotational forces in the event of a crash, and Lazer’s KinetiCore system, which does the same thing in a different way, using a crumple-zone system to protect your noggin. While this was once restricted to the pricier models on the market, the technology has filtered down to helmets below £50.
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Ventilation, weight and aerodynamics
With safety regulations met as standard by all helmets, these factors are where the price differences come from. Helmets usually feature a number of vents to provide ventilation. Breathability can be a big concern during the summer, so the placement and shape of these cutouts is important – obviously, the more money you pay, the more research and testing will have gone into this.
The compromise here is that these ‘traditional’ helmets will slow you down slightly, as air trapped in the vents causes drag. This likely won’t be a priority unless you’re a serious racer, but if you’re keen to save those extra watts and be as aerodynamically efficient as possible, there are helmets with minimal front-facing vents to help smooth the airflow.
Then there’s the weight of your helmet, which drops down (meaning more comfort) the higher up the price range you venture. The lightest helmets currently on the market come in at around 200g, but many are in the 300g region.
Fit and comfort
Most brands offer a range of sizes, with advice on which head circumference measurement their helmets will fit, so be sure to get out the measuring tape before you go out and spend your money. Given that the fit and internal shape of helmets can vary, it’s a good idea to visit a bike shop and try them on before committing.
Your helmet should be snug once on your head with the retention system fastened. If it moves around, or if there are gaps between your head and the helmet, then it doesn’t fit properly. If it’s too snug, though, you’ll end up with headaches and discomfort after a few miles. A good fit is essential.
Pay attention to the fastening systems and padding, too. Most bike helmets have a retention dial and chin strap in order to secure them in place, so make sure you can adjust them to be comfortable for you.
The best cycling helmets to buy
1. Uvex I-vo cc: Best budget helmet
Price: From £35 | Buy now from Amazon
If you’re after a helmet that combines great protection and comfort, but you’re put off by the asking price of offerings in higher price brackets, then look no further! With the I-vo cc, you get a lot of helmet, for a very reasonable price.
The helmet is so light you’ll barely notice it’s there. What’s more, its internal webbing can be adjusted and you also have the option to change the height of the helmet, to ensure it fits perfectly.
But don’t fret about what all this comfort might mean for safety. Its inner layer has an attached protective layer and when you also consider the polycarbonate outer shell, the helmet provides excellent protection.
Key specs – Vents: 24; Reflective: N/A; Weight: 249g; Extras: Attachable plug-in LED (optional)
2. Mongoose Urban Hardshell: Best BMX Helmet
Price: From £16 | Buy now from Amazon
With the Mongoose’s tough outer shell, you can ride comfortably in the knowledge that your head is well protected. Its adjustable chin strap and interchangeable internal pads ensure that you get the optimal fit. What’s more, it has 12 ventilation holes to help keep your head feeling as fresh as possible.
Appearance is obviously subjective, but we love the simple, retro look of this helmet and the two colours it comes in (black and white), and we’re sure many of you will too! It’s worthy to note that the Mongoose comes in two different sizes, so it’s suitable for both children and adults. It is also suitable for scooters, skateboards and rollerblades.
Key specs – Vents: 12; Reflective: N/A; Weight: 435g; Extras: Interchangeable internal pads
3. Specialized Centro MIPS helmet with LED: Best helmet for commuting
Price: £60 | Buy now from Cycle Store
Given that it basically does everything you’d want for a commute, the Specialized Centro LED is a great option for the ride to work. The most notable feature is the integrated red LED light, which is a very useful safety feature, and means you won’t be missed on the road – especially if you opt for the fluorescent ‘Safety Ion’ colour option as well. The Centro also uses reflective webbing and details to catch a set of headlights from any angle.
As well as being safe in visibility terms, the helmet includes the MIPS system to protect against rotational forces during a crash.
The large vent at the back is useful if you like to lock your helmet up with your bike, as it’s large enough to fit a chain or D-lock through. It also contributes to Specialized’s 4th Dimension Cooling system, which is designed to keep your head ventilated in hot conditions. The only real downside is that it’s ‘one size fits all’, which means that it’s not quite right for every head.
Key specs – Vents: 17; Reflective: rear strip; Weight: 264g; Extras: clip-on visor and integrated LED light
4. Lazer Vento KinetiCore: The safest premium cycling helmet
Price: £260 | Buy now from Freewheel
The Vento features Belgian firm Lazer’s brand new KinetiCore safety system which, like MIPS, is designed to protect against rotational as well as linear impacts. Instead of adding weight to the helmet with an extra layer of material like MIPS does, KinetiCore takes material away, introducing “crumple zones” on the inside of the helmet that disintegrate on impact.
The result is a helmet that’s just as safe – it has a 5-star safety rating from Virginia Tech – but that’s also much lighter and better ventilated. Indeed, the Vento shaves 50g off the weight of the equivalent MIPS helmet in Lazer’s range, the Lazer Bullet 2.0, and it has 5.4% better ventilation.
Not only does the Vento feature a new safety system, however; it’s also jam packed with other features. Cyclists looking for extra efficiency will appreciate the fact that it’s more aerodynamic than the Bullet 2.0 MIPS. The comfort and fit is superb, Lazer’s ScrollSys tensioning belt at the rear of the helmet making it incredibly easy to get a snug fit. Although we found that the head cradle did interfere a touch with some sunglasses arms. Plus, a small hole at the rear allows the quick fitting of Lazer’s new, 40-lumen, motion-sensitive rear light.
The only caveat is the premium price, which at £260 pushes it towards the upper end of the helmet price range. However, it’s worth nothing that, if you like the sound of Lazer’s KinetiCore system, it’s also available on a range of other helmets, including the far cheaper Strada (£100) and CityZen (£60) commuter helmets and the children’s Nutz and Pnut lids (£40).
- Lazer Strada KinetiCore | Buy now from Rutland Cycles
- Lazer CityZen KinetiCore | Buy now from Freewheel
- Lazer PNet KinetiCore | Buy now from Freewheel
Key specs – Vents: 15; Reflective: No; Weight: 290g; Extras: Lazer KinetiCore
5. Giro Synthe MIPS: Best mid-price road cycling helmet
Price: £136 | Buy now from Wiggle
Among the lightest helmets on our list, the Synthe – as worn by pro cycling team BMC – is almost the most expensive. For that price, you get an incredibly well-ventilated helmet – Giro claims it’s almost a cool as a bare head – which is also comfortable and aerodynamic too.
Mesh panels on the sides help reduce drag while still letting air through, and there are even vents at the front specifically designed to hold your sunglasses in place when you’re not wearing them. Meanwhile, the Giro Roc Loc Air retention system makes fit easy while putting some space between your head and the shell. If safety is paramount, then the MIPS layer is a reassuring additional safety feature.
Key specs – Vents: 26; Reflective: top/front-facing strips; Weight: 234g; Extras: MIPS
6. Giro Vanquish: Best aero road helmet
Price: From £162 | Buy now from Tredz
Giro was the first big helmet manufacturer to break into the aerodynamic helmet world with the Air Attack, but the Vanquish is its newer, top-of-the-range aero helmet. A ‘cliff’ on the shell mimics the airflow of a fully-fledged time trial helmet, while the four frontal vents provide more airflow than the Air Attack’s more closed-off frontal profile.
That’s still not a lot of vents, but they’re large enough for air to get in and pass through without sacrificing aerodynamic performance. And as with the Synthe, the Roc Loc Air retention system makes it easy to fit the Vanquish to your head – it fits as snugly as you’d expect for the money. It’s expensive, but if you’re a racer it could just save you those precious extra seconds.
Key specs – Vents: 4 front, 4 rear; Reflective: no; Weight: 355g; Extras: magnetic eye shield
7. Schwinn Thrasher: Best kids’ bike helmet
Price: From £14 | Buy now from Amazon
In terms of a bike helmet for kids, we believe this offering from Schwinn ticks all the boxes.
As children won’t be reaching the same lofty bike speeds as adults, the protective materials don’t have to be as high tech and expensive. That said, the foam body and tough plastic shell still offer ample protection. What’s more, the adjustable strap and ventilation holes ensure the helmet will be a safe and comfortable fit. Another neat feature we like is the removable visor, to help keep protect against the sun’s glare.
If your little ones are, like I was, reluctant to wear a helmet, then Schwinn has you covered. The helmet comes in five eye-catching designs that are sure to appeal to youngsters— this will help them think that their new helmet is the coolest accessory on the playground.
Key specs – Vents: 20; Reflective: N/A; Weight: 376g; Extras: Detachable sun visor