These days, bike helmets are purpose-built for specific types of riding. You can get an ultra-aero road bike helmet that will shave seconds off your mile pace, paying huge dividends over a long ride. You can pick up a mountain bike helmet with top-tier ventilation for staying cool up long climbs that also provide extra coverage for dodgy downhill rides. If you're a commuter, you can get helmets that come with the same tech as high-end road bike helmets — but don't make you look like a lycra-clad Tour de France racer.
Regardless of what type of riding you do, you need a helmet. We don't care if you're just cruising to the coffee shop or headed out for a 100-mile ride: just wear one. The best bike helmet will fit your needs — keeping you safe while also letting you forget it is even there.
Here, we've rounded up our 12 favorite bike helmets to get you going. But first...
Best Overall Road Bike Helmet: POC Omne Air MIPS Helmet Read More
Best Upgrade Road Bike Helmet: Giro Aries Spherical Read More
Best Road & Gravel Biking Helmet: 100% Altis Gravel Read More
Bike Helmet With Best Ventilation: Specialized S-Works Prevail 3 MIPS Helmet Read More
Best Overall Mountain Bike Helmet: Giro Merit Spherical Read More
What to Look for in a Bike Helmet
Safety Standards: If you're worried about whether this helmet or that helmet will keep you safe, don't. Every helmet sold in the United States must meet the standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, so when it comes to safety, you're getting a quality helmet that will protect you, no matter what you pick. Some helmets will feature more head coverage —mountain bike helmets will have the most — but when it comes to the materials used and how well they will hold up in a bike accident, they're all going to do the job.
Keep in mind, though, that if you do get in a crash and your helmet is used, you need a new one, no matter how much you paid. After a wreck, the safety standards no longer apply. One final thing to keep in mind with safety is that a more expensive helmet may in fact have technology that your barebones $40 helmet will not.
MIPS: MIPS (Multi-directional impact protection system) is the most popular protection system you’ll find on today’s bike helmets. While historically only found on upper-tier options, we’re starting to see more and more affordable helmets made with the technology, so it’s definitely something you want to look out for when you’re buying a new helmet.
By utilizing a slip-plane system that mimics the same system your brain uses to protect itself, MIPS allows the helmet to move inside the helmet upon impact, slowing or lowering the amount of energy that is transferred to your head when you crash. Essentially, it keeps you from “rattling” your brain, reducing the chance of brain injury.
Price: While a less-expensive helmet will protect you to the standards set by the CPSC (which are high-quality standards), if you spend more money you will get a helmet that is unequivocally better in every measurable way. This is not to say that you have to spend $250, especially if you're just looking to have the bare minimum protecting your dome. But if you spend more, say around $100+, your helmet is much more likely to be more comfortable, more well-ventilated and feature innovative safety tech that you won't find on a cheap helmet.
Fit: Most helmets come in a few sizes and can be adjusted for a snug fit. To ensure you get the right size, you'll want to take a tape measure, preferably a fabric one used for measuring clothing, and wrap it around your head to find the circumference. Compare that number to the size chart and boom! You've got your size. The sizes for most brands are similar, but it is definitely worth checking out the size chart before placing an order. If you're between sizes, we'd recommend sizing up because a helmet that is too small is never comfortable. You want to forget a helmet is there, not think about it every second of your ride.
Ventilation: Generally speaking, the more expensive your helmet is, the more well-ventilated it will be. Companies spend thousands trying to make helmets aerodynamic, but they also spend big money to make sure your head stays cool. Even when it is cold out, you'll want a helmet that is well-ventilated so that your sweat and excess heat will evaporate up and away from your head rather than drip into your eyes.
We evaluated helmets our staff members own and use regularly, along with a handful of helmets we deemed worthy of being the best — resulting in almost 20 helmets tested, total. Through direct side-by-side comparison and actual bike rides, on and off-road, we put the helmets through their paces over dozens of hours, judging them for fit, comfort, ventilation and value. Before you ask, no, we did not crash-test these. They do, however, all meet the safety requirements outlined above.