Protect Your Noggin – Find the Best Bike Helmet

Everyday life, comedian Jerry Seinfeld observes, often exposes us to the risk of injuring our heads. Common sense suggests we should curtail our head-cracking activities. It’s what any reasonable person would do. Instead, we have invented the helmet so we can keep pursuing them.

Biking falls into the category of activities that are too enjoyable to quit just because we might crack our noggins. That’s where bicycle helmets come in.

Debates over the lawfulness of mandatory helmet-wearing will not be resolved anytime soon, but everyone agrees on one simple fact: If you fall from your bike and hit your head, a helmet helps prevent injuries. It all boils down to personal safety.

We’ve compiled a list of the best bike helmets in 2019 and a knowledgebase buyer’s guide about picking the lid that best fits and protects your noggin.

Our Top 3 Recommendations

NO.
COMPANY
STATS
FEATURES
PRICE
9.6
FROM $40.00
9.4
FROM $200.00
9.3
FROM $240.00

Bicycle Helmet Reviews

Bontrager Specter WaveCel Road Bike Helmet

Bontrager Specter WaveCel Road Bike Helmet - best bike helmet
PROS
  • Best road bike helmet

  • Revolutionary WaveCel protection technology

  • Boa System for size adjustments

CONS
  • Ventilation issues - helmets can get too hot

Virginia Tech crash-tests bicycle helmets and awards a star-based rating. This Bontrager helmet earned five stars. With a numeric score of 10.8, it is surely in the running for the safest bike helmet on the market.

The secret is Bontrager’s proprietary WaveCel technology. Underneath the standard expanded polystyrene outer shell, the helmet is lined with a collapsible cellular structure that protects your head upon impact. The WaveCel layer first flexes to dampen the initial punch. Then it absorbs the impact energy by crumpling, much like a car bumper. Finally, it slides to redirect the blow away from your head. 

The safety features don’t add much weight: The helmet weighs under 400 grams. The ventilation does leave something to be desired, however – it tends to run too hot. The moisture-wicking pads that keep the sweat out of your eyes are easily detachable for washing purposes.

The helmet is easily adjustable with one hand thanks to the Bontrager’s adoption of the Boa Fit System for strap adjustments. Simply turn the wheel and the helmet comes down to the perfect size.

Bontrager Specter WaveCel Road Bike Helmets are available in five colors and sell for just under $150.

Troy Lee Designs A1 Classic Helmet MIPS

Troy Lee Designs A1 Classic Helmet MIPS - best bike helmet
PROS
  • MIPS protection

  • Ample ventilation

  • Modern and sleek design

CONS
  • Weak visor bolts

The brain is arguably the part of the body you want to protect the most. TLD’s Multi-Directional Impact Protection System technology does exactly that: A protective inner layer moves with an angled impact and lessens rotational trauma that can be detrimental to your brain.

The A1 Classic Helmet is the highest rated MIPS helmet on the Virginia Tech bike helmet security list, second only to the discontinued Lazer Cyclone. Since safety is a helmet’s most important function, especially in mountain biking, this product takes the best mountain bike helmet title.

Eight intake passages on the front do a good job of keeping your head cool. The helmet comes in four different sizes and customer reviews report that they fit most head shapes with ease. 

The weak point of this product is the visor. While it does offer direct sunlight protection, the bolts that hold it pinned to the body of the helmet are weak and the visor is prone to falling off. We recommend you check the bolts before each riding session so as to avoid unpleasant and dangerous situations during a high-speed descent.

Other than that we can’t recommend this item highly enough. It even meets our aesthetic standards with its sleek design – and it comes in 6 distinct color schemes. Troy Lee Designs lists this item at $139.

Kask Protone

Kask Protone - best bike helmet
PROS
  • Octo Fit system for optimum fitting

  • High-quality padding

  • Very lightweight

CONS
  • Many people find the design unappealing

The Kask Protone is one of the most sought-after helmets on the market – and for good reason.

First off, it’s extremely lightweight, weighing in at just 215 grams (medium size). Its aerodynamic qualities help keep your head chilled and dry as well as safe from harm. Wind tunnel tests demonstrate that it will keep your head comfortable and safe in any riding position.

Bike helmets are worthless if they do not fit properly. Not only does a poorly fitted helmet provide compromised protection, it puts you in even more danger if it interferes with your field of vision. The Protone uses Kask’s patented Octo Fit system – a rubberized wheel controls eight floating-cradle contact points that all work together to make a snug fit. A proprietary Kask technology called MIT affixes the helmet’s polystyrene inner cap to the polycarbonate outer shell, an arrangement that promises to absorb shock in case of a crash regardless of provenance.

Kask spared no expense when choosing the materials that would come into contact with your skin. The straps are anallergenic, the inner fabric is sanitized and antibacterial, and the 3D dry padding makes the helmet feel like you’re wearing nothing at all. 

The Protone comes in three sizes and a whopping 19 color schemes. Prices on Amazon start at $160.

Giro Synthe MIPS

Giro Synthe MIPS - best bike helmet
PROS
  • Extremely comfortable

  • One of the list toppers on Virginia Tech’s MIPS bike helmet safety rankings

  • Enormous vents for excellent ventilation

CONS
  • Steep price

Giro’s Synthe has been lauded as one of the most comfortable bike helmets ever made. How does Giro achieve such an ergonomic and form-fitting design while still achieving an impressive five-star rating on Virginia Tech’s bike-helmet safety list?

It does so with Giro’s proprietary Roc Loc 5 Air Fit system. A wheel controls a pair of ergonomic arms that grip the top of the wearer’s head securely while enhancing the wind-tunnel-tested vent system. Further fitting adjustments work with the Roc Loc 5 to help Giro helmets achieve an optimum snug fit on any head.

The other part of the equation is Giro’s use of MIPS, which dampens the rotational forces exerted on the wearer’s head. MIPS, together with in-mold construction of the inner padding and the outer hard shell, helps the Synthe earn a maximum safety rating on Virginia Tech’s list.

The inclusion of a polycarbonate skeleton allows Giro to carve enormous vents for optimum air penetration. In addition to keeping your noggin cool, the vents give the Synthe a very appealing look and profile. The helmet comes in three sizes and eight color schemes. 

The pricing is a bit steep, though – Giro lists the product at $240.

Bern Melrose

Bern Melrose - best bike helmet
PROS
  • Best street bike helmet

  • Fashionable and stylish

  • Very lightweight

CONS
  • Only a three-star safety rating from Virginia Tech

Bern has become almost synonymous with cool bicycle helmets. The company perfectly combines style and safety to create the best women’s bike helmet for lady commuters. With less-aggressive vent patterns and scaled-down sizes, the Melrose won’t cramp your style – and it gets a respectable safety rating, largely due to Bern’s Zipmold+ construction.

Zipmold+ technology means this lid has a thin PVC outer layer injected with protective foam to make a seamless and safe unit with a fraction of the weight. It’s a nice solution to size and weight problems, but according to Virginia Tech’s safety ratings, Zipmold+ construction is not the safest option. This helmet boasts only three rating stars. 

Biking speeds are lower in urban areas compared to sport riding scenarios, so the Melrose surely provides more than ample protection. Like most Bern helmets, the Melrose lets you add custom brake-light mechanisms provided by the company’s partner, Portland Design Works. This feature raises the safety level considerably. 

The helmet has a drop-down visor that protects your face from the elements and adds to the unit’s overall visual appeal. Thanks to the Zipmold+ construction, the lid sits very low on any shape of head. Combine that with the light weight and you’ve got a helmet that you don’t even notice you’re wearing. 

Boa Systems partners with Bern. The Boa system allows for a close and comfortable fit for any head shape or size. The Melrose comes in two sizes, medium and small, and multiple color schemes, so you can match your helmet to your outfit. Bern lists the item at $80.

Poc Octal

Poc Octal - best bike helmet
PROS
  • Single-piece EPS construction

  • Weighs under 200 grams

  • One of the safest non-MIPS bike helmets

CONS
  • Distinctive appearance

The Octal splits the biking community down the middle – half think it’s the ugliest thing you can put on your head, while the other half praise its unusual, almost brutalist design. Among all Poc helmets, it is by far the most popular.

The most prominent feature of this helmet is the enormous vent holes. They seem almost comical at first glance. Whatever you think about their appearance, the vents atop this lid offer exceptional ventilation. Another interesting aesthetic choice are the provocative color schemes and reflective patches that add to the helmet’s visibility.

The Octal earns a four-star safety rating on the Virginia Tech list, putting it in one of the top positions for non-MIPS helmets. This helmet is available with MIPS as well, but it costs almost twice as much.

The high-performance EPS used to make the outer shell is quite dense and molded into a single piece that wraps all the way around the head. It is extremely lightweight, with the small and medium sizes weighing in at less than 200 grams. The adjustment system contributes to the helmet’s lightness. 

The Octal is currently listed at just over $200.

Nutcase Little Nutty

Nutcase Little Nutty - best bike helmet
PROS
  • Best kids bike helmet

  • No-pinch magnet leather strap

  • Entertaining visuals to entice little kids

CONS
  • Higher price for MIPS protection

You must wage war on two fronts when you are trying to find the best toddler bike helmet. One battle is finding a model that will protect your young one’s head. The other is getting them to wear it.

Best-known for mountain bike helmets, Nutcase Helmets has created a line of products that win on both fronts of the little-kid battle. 

One the one hand, the Crumple Zone EPS-infused shell protects little noggins when kids take their first tumbles. It disperses energy from the impact that the mischievous devils will almost certainly endure. With the Little Nutty, at least you don’t have to worry about their heads. Some models even include MIPS technology. 

Nutcase solved the problem of getting kids to wear the dang thing by designing an assortment of the cutest and most colorful helmets you could imagine. From owls to toads, and even the stars and stripes, these beautiful designs will make kids happy.

There’s also a no-pinch magnetic leather strap to make fastening the helmet fast and easy. 

The Little Nutty size is labeled XS, for 48 cm to 52 cm head circumference. The Baby Nutty is even smaller. It is probably the best infant bike helmet on the market. The products come with three sets of foam pads for added customization.

Your child’s safety, and a boost to your peace of mind, will cost you about $70. You’ll pay $20 extra for MIPS.

Lazer Z1 MIPS

Lazer Z1 MIPS - best bike helmet
PROS
  • 5-star safety rating from Virginia Tech

  • Advanced RollSys adjustment system for a snug fit

  • Temple protection

CONS
  • Steep price

The Z1 MIPS is a meat-and-potatoes, down-to-earth product. It keeps your head safe. It’s aerodynamic, so it won’t slow you down. It’s well ventilated so it keeps your head cool. It’s light so it won’t make your neck hurt.

It’s everything that a bike helmet should be.

The Z1 has one of the highest ratings on Virginia Tech’s bike helmet safety rankings, earning a five-star rating for “Best Available” safety features. For starters, it includes MIPS technology, a protection layer that mimics the rotation of the brain in cerebrospinal fluid on impact. This drastically decreases the risk of concussion. 

Another safety feature that contributes to the Z1’s exceptional safety rating is the T-pro temple protection layer. You can’t really choose which part of your head will get the blunt of the hit, so having extra layers of protection never hurts

Besides the safety features, Z1’s comfort and fit characteristics are also the subject of praise. The Advanced RollSys fitting apparatus ensures that any shape of head will enjoy a snug fit. It also easily accommodates ponytails. Wearing a ponytail under your bike helmet is the best way to avoid having “helmet hair” after a long ride.

Lazer offers a replacement helmet for each unit that goes through a crash plus a lenient 30-day money-back guarantee. Lazer lists this item at $255, a steep price that’s well worth it for the unique combination of safety, style, ventilation, and comfort this helmet provides.

Bell Helmets Draft MIPS

Bell Helmets Draft MIPS - best bike helmet
PROS
  • Best budget bike helmet

  • 25 vents for optimum ventilation

  • 4-star safety rating from Virginia tech

CONS
  • Slight sacrifices in comfort for security and a lower price tag

Who says you have to break the bank for a MIPS-grade helmet? For a meager $40 you can have premium-level protection for a fraction of the price. It truly is the best cheap bike helmet on the market.

Virginia Tech gave this product a 4-star rating on its bike helmet safety ranking list. This is an excellent safety rating for this price range.

The Draft MIPS helmet has all the features you’ve come to expect from a much more expensive lid. An easy-to-use (but very effective) fitting dial allows for one-handed adjusting, 25 large air vents ensure comprehensive noggin cooling, and you get a cool and mean-looking profile sure to please fashion-conscious bikers. 

At just under 299 grams, your neck won’t be strained from excessive weight.

This product earns our title of best road bike helmet under $100 mostly because of its top-quality safety features and the sleek, modern design we’ve come to expect from Bell bike helmets.

Rudy Project Racemaster

Rudy Project Racemaster - best bike helmet
PROS
  • Sci-fi aesthetics

  • Hexcrush foam padding for added security

  • MIPS included

CONS
  • Cheaply made chin straps

The Racemaster looks like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. It is more than a flashy fashion statement, however. This is a real state-of-the-art piece of technology.
The Racemaster has a MIPS slide layer, which is proven to be effective at protecting your brain from certain kinds of rotational impacts. It also includes Rudy’s proprietary Hexcrush structure foam liner on the inside. It maximizes security and safety by dissipating impact blows sideways, reducing the impact’s force on your noggin.
Quality-of-life perks include an eyewear dock in the rear ventilation holes, an integrated protection grid on the outer layers, and maybe best of all, a bug-stop mesh just underneath the outer shell. The mesh has no impact on ventilation and it helps keep critters out of your helmet.
The retention kit ensures a perfect with a couple of turns of a dial. The Racemaster fits snugly onto any head shape.
At just under 300 grams, this lightweight miracle of technology is available for as little as $126.

How to Know the Best Bike Helmet When You See It

Bike helmets come in many shapes and sizes, with varying degrees of comfort and customization, offering varying amounts of protection to the wearer. 

There are many types of helmets, from commuter helmets that focus more on style than speed or ventilation to specialized helmets, such as aerodynamic or mountain biking helmets. And while the best MTB helmet has vastly different characteristics from the best road helmet, there are some universal features that can be found across the spectrum.

Here are some features you should certainly take into account when selecting a bike helmet:

Safety – The primary function of a helmet is to prevent or minimize injury in case of a fall or crash. In addition to pointing out safety-enhancing strengths and weaknesses of the helmest, we report the prestigious Virginia Tech University and its star-based bicycle helmet safety-ranking system.

The safest helmets incorporate the Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, or MIPS. It consists of an inner layer that contorts with rotational movement, helping to prevent concussions and worse.

Comfort – Comfort is a case-by-case issue – a helmet that fits your noggin perfectly may drive another person crazy. There are, however, fitting systems that adjust the padding and straps in such away that can fit them to a head of any shape. We value those systems, like the Octo Fit system Kask implements in its helmets.

 

Ventilation – The holes on the top of the helmets are not there solely for aesthetic purposes. They are there to maintain a constant airflow to the top of your head, which can be a lifesaver in extreme heat. The ventilation holes also contribute to the aerodynamic properties of a lid.

Weight – This is a no-brainer – the lighter the helmet is, the less strain it will put on your neck muscles. Bike helmets weigh anywhere from 250 to 400 grams, with the lightest under 200 grams.

Aesthetics – Fashion-conscious bikers care about the looks of their lids. Some even think of them as artworks. The best commuter bike helmet has to be eye-catching enough for drivers to notice and stylish enough for the city. While this is a vastly subjective category, we value models that come in many different color schemes or, better yet, manufacturers that allow for customization.

Cost – A more expensive lid does not automatically mean a better one. A quick glance at the Virginia Tech safety list shows that you can find an exceptionally safe helmet for under $100. Bicycle helmets range from $60 to roughly $350.

 

Bike Helmet Sizing Guide

Not all heads are created equal, neither in size nor in shape. While nothing replaces trying on a helmet to know if it fits, having a rough estimate is also very beneficial.

The circumference of the head should be measured with a measuring tape positioned as pictured.

The tape should go all the way around your head, from the center of the forehead, over the bump at the back, and above the ears.

Always add a centimeter or two for hair or for beanies or bandanas you may choose to wear. If you find your measured circumference is between two helmet sizes, it’s always smart to opt for the larger size. 

Low-profile bike helmets are the safest, so a snug-fitting lid should drop down, but not too much to impair your vision.

Here’s a general guide to bike helmet sizes:

1. XS: under 20″ (51cm)

2. S: 20″- 21.75″ (51cm – 55cm)

3. M: 21.75″ – 23.25″ (55cm–59cm)

4. L: 23.25″- 24.75″ (59cm–63cm)

5. XL: more than 24.75’’ (63cm)

FAQ

What is the safest bicycle helmet?

According to the Virginia Tech bike helmet safety rankings, the safest helmet is the discontinued Lazer Cyclone MIPS with a 5-star rating and a 10.5 score. The safety-wise best cycling helmet still in production is the Bontrager Specter WaveCel, with a 10.8 score.

Are MIPS helmets better?

Yes. They tend to be safer, and safer means better. MIPS helmets have a large presence on the Virginia Tech bike helmet safety list, proving the life-saving nature of this technology. The Multi-Directional Impact Protection System moves and rotates in such a way that it mitigates rotational damage that is known to cause concussions.

Which Giro helmet is the best?

The Giro Synthe MIPS holds a 5-star safety rating from Virginia Tech while still maintaining a level of comfort and ventilation rarely seen in the industry. The manufacturer lists this item somewhere around $225. Giro bike helmets are known for their unique blend of security and comfort. In our opinion, the best representative is the Synthe MIPS model, which uses MIPS technology and a Roc Loc 5 Air fitting system to achieve the signature Giro combination of safety and snug fit.

Does helmet cause hair fall?

The general public is divided on this matter. While wearing a helmet probably won’t cause your hair to fall out directly, it may damage your scalp and weaken it or speed up a genetically predestined process already underway. Supposedly, the inner scaffolding of the helmet rubs on the scalp and damages hair roots. This can be mitigated by wearing a headscarf or putting a cotton handkerchief under your helmet. Poor ventilation and cheap water-wicking materials cause sweaty and oily scalps, which are a breeding ground for bacteria. Wearing a helmet every day requires a boost in hair and scalp hygiene, but does not directly link to hair loss.

How often should you replace bike helmet?

The general consensus is that a helmet should be changed once every three to five years. While it is very difficult to gather data about the longevity of bike helmets, experts agree that the chemicals and materials are fairly stable, but acquire some wear and tear after a certain amount of time. With proper care, even an older helmet should protect your head from impact. However, everyone agrees that it should be replaced after an accident. The helmets are designed to break so your head doesn’t. Some companies offer a free replacement unit if you crash with their helmet on your head.

How do you measure your head for a bike helmet?

You measure it using a tape measure. Be sure the tape measure goes over the center of your forehead, above your ears, and over the bump on the back of your head. Always add a centimeter or two to account for hair thickness or headgear.

What size helmet does a 5-year-old need?

A five-year-old needs an XS helmet under 20 inches in circumference. Nutcase, which produces some of the best bike helmets for adults, also markets lids to protect your younglings. Check out the Little Nutty and Baby Nutty for the best protection.

Will a bike helmet save your life?

It absolutely could. The best cycling helmet will protect your head from damage while staying comfortable and breathable. The best bike helmet will include MIPS technology, which drastically decreases the risk of getting a concussion when hitting your head.

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