Reviews You Can Rely On

10 Best Bike Helmets of 2022

We tested all sizes and shapes of helmets for road, mountain, recreational riding, commuting, and everything in between. These are the best of the best.
10 Best Bike Helmets of 2022
From Left to Right: Bell Z20, Lazer Z1, Bontrager Starvos, Giro Agilis, Kask Infinity, Poc Octal, Oakley ARO5, Giro Synthe, Bontrager Ballista, Giro Cinder
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Our Top Picks

Tuesday July 26, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

Looking for the best bike helmet for road, mountain, recreational riding, or commuting? Our cycling experts have spent the last decade testing hundreds of bike helmets to help you find the best model to help make your bike adventures safe, comfortable, and fun. We took these helmets on our mountain bikes, road bikes, gravel bikes, and electric bikes, and evaluated and scored each model based on essential metrics like protection, ventilation, features, comfort, weight, and durability. Whether you're looking for a helmet for casual riding, commuting, road racing, bikepacking, cross-country, trail, enduro, or downhill mountain biking, we’ve compiled this list of the best options for each type of helmet.

If you like rippin' up or down the mountain or forest trails, check out our recommendations for the best mountain bike helmets and downhill helmets. For road cyclists, our comprehensive road bike helmet review has today's lightest and sleekest options. If you're looking to save a few bucks, our budget helmet review has some great options that are light on the wallet.

If you need a new bike or bike accessory, check out our comprehensive and exhaustive gear reviews of bike and bike-related products. If you don't know where to start with bike gear, check out our list of the best pieces of bike gear.


Best Overall Bike Helmet


Bontrager Velocis MIPS


Weight: 300 grams | Diameter Range (size L): 58-63 cm
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable with easy adjustment
Excellent ventilation
Lightweight
Minimal exposed EPS Foam
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive

The Bontrager Velocis MIPS is shockingly comfortable all day long, and its ventilation is some of the best we've found, keeping your head plenty cool on long, hot rides. The chin straps are easy to adjust and you can easily center the adjustment buckle. We love the simple BOA dial to adjust the fit around the head, too. It allowed us to evenly tension this helmet around our heads and create a snug yet comfortable fit. The minimalist 37.5 fit padding has fewer contact points than many helmets. This makes you feel like the helmet is floating just above your head. This helmet has a full-coverage polycarbonate shell that doesn't leave any of the vulnerable EPS foam exposed to potential dings or dents. Plus, it has MIPS technology to add extra protection to that noggin if you crash. This helmet has a velcro visor and sunglasses port, which we found extra handy for evening rides. With all of these features, this is still one of the lightest helmets we tested. We also think the duotone color design looks fast, and don't we all want to look faster on our bikes?

While the internal recessed vent design adds some extra bulkiness to this helmet, we all loved the cooling effect that the ventilation system creates. Even our sweatiest testers noticed a significant difference in the cool channels of air. They reduce wind roar, too, so we can live with the added bulk. The Velocis is pretty pricey, but the innovative ventilation design is worth the price for long rides in the heat.

Read review: Bontrager Velocis MIPS

best overall bike helmet
We loved the Bontrager Velocis MIPS for its all-day comfort and internal recessed vent design that added even more overall comfort.
Credit: Ryan Baker

Excellent All-Around Comfort and Performance


Bell Z20 MIPS


Weight: 312 grams | Diameter Range (size L): 59-63 cm
REASONS TO BUY
Well-ventilated
Comfortable padding
Adjustable
Classy design
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavier than other premium models
Pricey

The Bell Z20 MIPS is one of Bell's flagship models and is another one of our favorite premium helmets. It has high-end comfort, excellent ventilation, and a classy high-end style. This helmet performs as well as other high-ranking helmets. But, we think this is one of the best-looking helmets we've tested. It has a unique shape, and we're just really into the look of this helmet. It has well-cushioned padding and excellent ventilation, too. The fit of this helmet can accommodate smaller heads and shorter foreheads with a flatter slope on the front. It's also available in many stylish color combinations to match your favorite cycling kit.

The Z20 weighs 336 grams in size large, so it's about 20-30 grams heavier than other top-tier models. But, 20-30 grams isn't much. This helmet makes up for those extra grams in comfort and performance. This is undoubtedly an expensive road bike helmet, but it's competitively priced for a top-of-the-line helmet with high-end features.

Read review: Bell Z20 MIPS

bike helmet - excellent all-around comfort and performance
While pricier than most helmets, the Z20 provides great value by performing well in every test metric.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Great Value For A Premium Model


Giro Agilis MIPS


Weight: 336 grams | Diameter Range (size L): 59-63 cm
REASONS TO BUY
Very comfortable
Durable
Good adjustability
Affordable
REASONS TO AVOID
Slightly Heavy
Limited ventilation

The Giro Agilis MIPS is another of the highest-performing road bike helmets we've tested at any price, but the low price tag of this offering makes it a fantastic value. We think this model is as comfortable as any other helmet we've tested. It features a headband that wraps around your entire head and just the right amount of padding in all the right places. The integrated MIPS liner comfortably cradles the head, too. The full-coverage polycarbonate shell covers the EPS foam liner so that almost none of the sensitive foam is exposed to the elements. This is one of the least expensive road bike helmets we tested. With all these high-performance features at such a low price, this is a tremendous value for a bike helmet.

While the Agilis features excellent comfort, adjustability, and durability, it isn't as ventilated and weighs more than some premium helmets. The full-coverage polycarbonate shell doesn't feel as sleek as some of the high-quality and more expensive helmets, either. However, we'll take these trade-offs to get a less expensive helmet than many other top-tier models. We think most riders will love this helmet.

Read review: Giro Agilis MIPS

bike helmet - great value for a premium model
The Giro Agilis provides amazing comfort and durability in an inexpensive package.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Best All-Around Bang For The Buck


Giro Fixture MIPS


Weight: 312 grams | Diameter Range (One size): 54-61 cm
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent comfort
Large detachable visor
Extended coverage
Affordable price
REASONS TO AVOID
Limited sizes
Non-adjustable ear splitters

We were so impressed with the Giro Fixture MIPS that it earned our Best Budget Helmet pick. Its deep fit, extremely adjustable harness system, and MIPS rotational impact system make it an excellent choice for comfort and protection. The MIPS system has a plastic insert that rotates inside the foam shell on impact to help absorb rotational forces. This is an affordable helmet with MIPS protection, so it stands out among budget-friendly helmets. We were impressed by the polished and thoughtful design, especially considering how much extra protection this helmet has. The polycarbonate outer liner won't separate from the EPS foam because they're fused together. The large visor kept the sun off our eyes, was flexible enough to survive a drop on the ground, and kept brush out of our faces on tight trails. This helmet also comes in a bunch of fun colors.

We looked hard to find any flaws in the Fixture's design but couldn't find much. This isn't the least expensive helmet on the market, but we think it's worth the price. Some might find the non-adjustable, sewed ear splitter straps annoying, but we didn't find them problematic during testing. These straps provide ample room for most ear shapes and a range of various head sizes. The only other potential issue we found with this helmet is sizing. There are only two sizes available, the 54-61-centimeter "Universal Adult" size and the 58-65-centimeter "UXL" size. All of our testers could find a comfortable fit with the Universal Adult size no matter their head shape or size. However, we've seen universally sized helmets that don't work for everyone. This sleek all-around helmet works for all cycling, even though it is technically a mountain bike helmet.

Read review: Giro Fixture MIPS

bike helmet - best all-around bang for the buck
At the end of the day, nothing could top our favorite model, the Giro Fixture.
Credit: Zach Wick

Best Overall Mountain Bike Helmet


Giro Manifest Spherical


Weight: 401 grams | Diameter Range (Size L): 59-63 cm
REASONS TO BUY
Dual-shell Spherical impact protection
Amazing ventilation
Sunglasses storage
Good coverage
Adjustable visor
REASONS TO AVOID
Average weight
Expensive

The Giro Manifest Spherical is our top choice for a mountain bike helmet. This helmet is pretty unique and has everything we've come to expect from a high-end, half-shell helmet. It has a sleek, well-executed design. It uses the MIPS Spherical rotational impact system, which is made up of two separate EPS foam shells connected with elastomers. These foam shells have different densities and are designed to rotate against each other in case of angular impact, much like a ball and socket joint. The interior foam shell extends lower on the back and sides of the head, allowing the helmet to comfortably fit a wide variety of head shapes. Large air vents and interior channels give some of the best ventilation we've seen in a mountain bike helmet, and the interior padding does a great job of absorbing sweat.

We had a hard time finding anything to complain about with the Manifest. We found no issues with performance during testing. It does have a failry high price tag and only an average weight. But, we think the dual-shell design's protection is worth the weight. Even though it's a few grams heavier than some helmets, on the trail the difference isn't noticeable with the secure fit. We're also not very concerned about some added weight for a trail helmet that does it all. The price tag might seem high at first glance, but it's comparable to other high-end mountain bike helmets. And we think this helmet outperforms all the other high-end mountain bike helmets, so the price is justified.

Read review: Giro Manifest Spherical

best overall mountain bike helmet
As usual, Giro's high-end construction is built to last.
Credit: Zach Wick

Best Value Mountain Bike Helmet


Giro Radix MIPS


Weight: 360-grams | Diameter Range (Size L): 59-63 cm
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable
Affordable
Adjustable Visor
Lightweight
REASONS TO AVOID
Small visor
Average ventilation

The Giro Radix MIPS is the latest iteration of functional, affordable, mid-range helmets from Giro. It has the shell shape of a classic mountain bike helmet, fits comfortably, and has great features for cyclists of all kinds. This affordable helmet has a versatile fit and feels remarkably secure as soon as you put it on. Giro's Roc Loc harness is one of our favorite fit adjustment systems that we've tested, allowing you to dial in the fit to your exact preference. The MIPS internal liner protects from rotational forces in case of a crash, and the EPS shell offers excellent coverage. The Radix MIPS is also one of the lightest mountain bike helmets we tested. The size large weighs only 360 grams.

While this is a versatile and protective helmet, the Radix MIPS isn't quite as burly as some beefier mountain bike helmets designed for going fast downhill. The traditional shell shape doesn't cover quite as much of the back and sides of the head as other helmets. Also, the visor is smaller and flimsier compared to some helmets. We wouldn't recommend this helmet for aggressive all-mountain riding, but we would recommend it for more general cross country and trail riding.

Read review: Giro Radix MIPS

best value mountain bike helmet
We test these helmets in a range of conditions to get a feel for their fit, comfort, ventilation, features, and protection.
Credit: Kelby Spore

Great Value For Classic Skate Style


Retrospec CM-1


Weight: 445 grams | Diameter Range (Size L): 58-61 cm
REASONS TO BUY
Simple design
Inexpensive
Classic styling
Versatile
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
Three sizes

For an inexpensive, classic, high-quality helmet, check out the Retrospec CM-1. This is a straightforward, "skate-style" bike helmet that will protect your head while you ride. We like this because it's incredibly versatile. It works for commuting, skating, biking, and much more. After rigorously testing this option, we concluded that it provides a lot of value for those looking for a basic, reliable helmet to keep their head safe. It has plenty of interior padding and a thick EPS foam shell attached to a scuff-resistant ABS outer liner. The simple design means there isn't much that could go wrong with this. The CPSC-certified EPS shell is the thickest in our testing, so it should do well to protect your head during impact. It comes in small, medium, and large sizes that fit heads from 51-63 centimeters in circumference. It comes with interchangeable pads to customize the fit for your head size and shape, too. The chin buckle adjusts easily to get a secure fit, and the straps come with sliding adjustable ear-splitter clips to dial in the fit around your ears and sit flat on the side of your face. Our testers all thought this was one of the most comfortable helmets because of the thick padding.

While we think the CM-1 is an excellent value, we did find some drawbacks to the design. With a massive EPS shell, thick padding, and few air vents, this helmet can get hot on long rides or on warmer days. We found ourselves avoiding it on the hottest days since it made us sweat so much on longer rides. Short morning and evening commutes were never a problem, but we avoided this for more intense cycling. We have some concerns about the ABS outer shell separating from the EPS foam over time. Although we didn't see any evidence of separation during testing, this is an issue we've had with this style of helmet in the past. Most adhesives will eventually stop working over time when exposed to heat. But if you avoid leaving this in the sun when you aren't wearing it, you can minimize this risk of separation. Despite those concerns, we think this skate-style helmet is an excellent value that will serve anyone, from aspiring BMXers to commuters.

Read review: Retrospec CM-1

bike helmet - great value for classic skate style
The CM-1 is comfortable for short commutes and urban riding.
Credit: Zach Wick

Best Ventilated Mountain Bike Helmet


Specialized Ambush 2


Weight: 378 grams | Diameter Range (Size L): 58-62 cm
REASONS TO BUY
Great ventilation
Seamless eyewear integration
Reasonable price
REASONS TO AVOID
Fixed visor

We've tested many well-ventilated helmets, but the Specialized Ambush 2 is the best of the best in this category. Specialized claims to have used computational fluid dynamic modeling to optimize the airflow with this helmet's design. This is noticeable immediately when you roll forward, and you'll feel the air moving over your head through the helmet. Even at low speeds, you can feel air moving from your forehead out through the back of this helmet. Also, the MIPS SL rotational impact protection system doesn't require an internal plastic liner. This further enhances the ventilation effect since there's no plastic sheet to block the wind. We had no issues with sweating or excess heat while wearing this, even on long, hot, exposed climbs. But breathability isn't all this has to offer; this was one of the highest-performing mountain bike models in every category. It has some great features, such as a well-designed eyewear holder: two small vent ports on the front of the helmet have rubber flaps to hold your glasses securely. This lets you easily stash your sunglasses beneath the visor with no chance of accidentally dropping them on rough trail sections. The helmet also has a highly-adjustable strap, harness system, and a great, burly visor.

The visor on the Ambush 2 is not adjustable, however. But, it easily comes off and back on, so it shouldn't break in the event of a crash. The visor's high position on the helmet doesn't provide as much protection from the sun at lower angles, though. The adjustable harness works well to give a secure fit, but the way it connects to the back of the helmet doesn't allow you to position it as low as some models. Regardless of these minor flaws, we feel this is an excellent model with awesome features that beats other brands' flagship models in price.

Read review: Specialized Ambush 2

best ventilated mountain bike helmet
We thought the Ambush 2 was the best ventilated mountain bike helmet, but it performed very well overall, too.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

Best Full Face Helmet


Smith Mainline MIPS


Weight: 765 grams | Diameter Range (Size L): 59-62cm
REASONS TO BUY
Well ventilated
Substantial and robust feel
Relatively lightweight
REASONS TO AVOID
Not the best option for pure downhill riding
A little expensive

The Smith Mainline MIPS is a relatively new lightweight full-face model. This was designed along with Smith's professional enduro racers. For a full-face helmet, it's pretty dang light. It isn't the lightest enduro-focused helmet, but it's close. It also has a more substantial, confidence-inspiring feel than some enduro helmets. Smith uses Koroyd in the construction to keep high levels of coverage, impact protection, and ventilation. This airflow is critical when pedaling hard uphill in the middle of an enduro stage or for those climbs in the middle of your shuttle lap. The Mainline has a DH certification, and it felt more robust than some of the other enduro helmets. We think this helmet finds the ideal balance of weight, ventilation, comfort, and protection.

While we loved the Mainline for its substantial feel and outstanding weight-to-protection ratio, it isn't perfect. If you're most concerned about ventilation, there are better options in the full-face helmet world. Though this helmet has above-average airflow, we found some other models breathed even better. Also, this isn't the best option for dedicated downhill racing or getting big air at the bike park. While it is downhill certified, we think getting a heavier-duty DH-specific helmet is a better idea for these applications. As you might expect, this option is on the pricey side. But it's a high-quality, lightweight, full-face helmet, so the asking price is reasonable when you consider this.

Read review: Smith Mainline MIPS

bike helmet - best full face helmet
The Smith Mainline offers excellent ventilation and it likes to get rad.
Credit: Pat Donahue

Best Value Full-Face Helmet


Troy Lee Designs D3 Fiberlite


Weight: 1219 grams | Diameter Range (Size L): 58-59 cm
REASONS TO BUY
Reasonable price
Comfortable, plush, and protective
REASONS TO AVOID
Sub-par ventilation
Heavy
No rotational impact protection system

The Troy Lee Designs D3 Fiberlite is a high-end helmet with an impressively low price. It has many of the same features as the more expensive Troy Lee Designs models but packages them in a more affordable fiberglass shell. We feel this represents an excellent blend of quality and price. It delivers loads of comfort with plenty of padding. And, it has a fit all our testers loved. The heavier construction inspires confidence when firing down a trail. We felt secure and well-protected at high speeds and while hitting jumps in this helmet.

The D3 Fiberlite is one of the heaviest helmets in our review, though. For this reason, it's not the helmet we would choose for anything but pure downhill riding. It's best suited for riding lifts at the bike park, racing, and burly freeriding. Also, we found the ventilation to be a bit below average. And while we feel it provides excellent protection, it doesn't come with any rotational impact protection system.

Read review: Troy Lee Designs D3 Fiberlite

ridge line riding high above the river bed in the troy lee designs...
Ridge Line riding high above the river bed in the Troy Lee Designs D3 Fiberlite.
Credit: dustin schaad

Why You Should Trust Us


Over the years here at GearLab, we've tested more bike helmets than we can count. We tested helmets on the trails, on mountain roads, on our commutes, and everywhere else our bikes could take us. For this review, we compiled test results from all of our bike helmet testing, all purchased at retail prices from many of the same popular merchants where you likely shop. Our team tested and rated all of these helmets for different qualities depending on the model type and its intended use. We put them on and adjusted them to fit. We inspected their construction. We weighed them all. And of course, we wore them while riding our bikes. In short, we put these helmets through the wringer to find the best.

We tested each helmet across several rating metrics:
  • Protection
  • Comfort
  • Ventilation
  • Features
  • Weight
  • Durability

The test team for this review is led by Sam Schild, Nick Bruckbauer, and Jeremy Benson. Sam is an avid cyclist and has ridden his bike over 50,000 miles in the past decade. He has bikepacked across the United States, across Colorado on the Colorado Trail, and all over the American Southwest. When he's not out on the trails somewhere, you can find him mountain biking or trail running on the Colorado Front Range or bikepacking somewhere new. On all his bike adventures, he always wears a helmet.

Nick manages many of the GearLab bike categories. He's an avid outdoorsman and gear junkie. His passions include road cycling, trail and road running, hiking, camping, backpacking, climbing, and skiing. Nick has worn helmets of all different shapes and sizes on all his cycling adventures.

Jeremy is the Senior Mountain Bike Review Editor at GearLab. He is an obsessive mountain biker and racer with a mild addiction to Strava and self-inflicted pain. He enjoys long climbs to reap the gravity-fueled reward of the descents and is especially tough on and critical of mountain biking gear. In the winter months, he can be found backcountry skiing throughout the mountains of the great state of California on two planks or driving down to lower elevations to shred dirt on two wheels.

It's never a bad time testing mountain bike helmets!
It's never a bad time testing mountain bike helmets!
Our tester's helmet was safe and secure as we searched for a camp...
Our tester's helmet was safe and secure as we searched for a camp site.


How to Buy the Right Bike Helmet


Choosing the right bike helmet for your intended use is essential. You'll probably be wearing this on your head for many hours at a time, so you want to make sure it has the features and is comfortable enough to fit your needs. Many different kinds of helmets can be used for multiple types of riding, but having the right helmet for certain activities will probably be more comfortable.

If riding for long distances in hot weather, having the right helmet can help keep your head cool, so you don't have sweat dripping down your face. In some cases, such as downhill mountain biking, where high-speed crashes are more common, having the right helmet can prevent you from getting a severe head injury. We'll walk you through all the different types of helmets available to help you decide which features are right for you.

Where Do You Want To Ride Your Bike With Your Helmet?


Before choosing a helmet, it's essential to know what kind of riding you're going to do. If you want a helmet that will be good for commuting to work or school, that will be a very different size and shape compared to a larger full-face helmet for downhill mountain biking.

Many of the helmets here fit into the "standard bike helmet" category. What we mean by "standard" is not too specifically catered to one type of bike riding. Most of the helmets in this guide will meet your needs if you're a casual rider.

But while many of these helmets certainly look like standard bike helmets, most are intended for a specific use. We don't think you have to have the exact right helmet for every use case, but there are certain factors you should consider if you're serious about a specific type of riding. We'll outline those below.

Road Bike Helmets


Road-specific bike helmets are typically the most lightweight and well-ventilated helmets. They have specific features designed to fit the needs of road cyclists. They usually sacrifice a little protection to be as light and breathable as possible. Since road crashes less frequently involve colliding with an object after falling off a bike, they have less protection on the back of the head than some helmets. Also, road bike helmets usually don’t have an integrated visor. This is probably just tradition more than anything, but it allows you to easily differentiate between road and mountain helmets. Since road helmets typically don’t have a visor, road cyclists often wear a cycling cap under their helmets to keep the sun out of their eyes.

bike helmet - you can get to some beautiful places on a road bike.
You can get to some beautiful places on a road bike.
Credit: Ryan Baker

Mountain Bike Helmets


Mountain bike helmets typically have more protection than road bike helmets. A mountain bike helmet covers more of the back of the head since it’s more likely you’ll take a tumble during a mountain bike crash. In general, mountain bike helmets provide more significant protection than road bike helmets. This also makes them heavier, though. Also, mountain bike helmets have the potential to be less ventilated than road helmets since they have the extra material for protection.

mountain bike helmets are designed for high speeds on variable...
Mountain bike helmets are designed for high speeds on variable terrain.
Credit: Sarah Strobel

Full Face Helmets


Full-face bike helmets or downhill helmets look like motorcycle helmets, and they’re designed for speeds close to what you can reach on a motorcycle. Full-face helmets prioritize protection over everything else. They cover your entire head, including your chin, so even if you go face first into the ground, you’ll be protected. Full-face helmets are the heaviest style since they have the most material. And because they’re not designed for the rider to be doing much pedaling, they have the potential to be quite hot.

if you're prone to riding aggressive terrain we recommend a quality...
If you're prone to riding aggressive terrain we recommend a quality full face helmet.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Skate Helmets


Skate helmets are helmets that cover the top and back of your head and look like the helmet you’d wear when roller skating or skateboarding. These helmets are usually heavier and less well ventilated. But, they have a less sporty look to them, so they’re great for bike commuters who don’t want to look like a competitive cyclist.

you might be mistaken for a harley rider in a skate style helmet...
You might be mistaken for a Harley rider in a skate style helmet like this one.
Credit: Zach Wick

What Else Look For In A Helmet


Once you've figured out the helmet style that best suits your needs, looking at the specific design features of different individual models will help you narrow down the field considerably.

the classic style makes it an ideal choice for long rides or simply...
The classic style makes it an ideal choice for long rides or simply cruising around town.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Protection


The entire reason you wear a helmet is to keep your head safe. So, this is the most important category when it comes to helmets. Any helmet from a reputable manufacturer should protect your head to a minimum standard, but we aren't that certification agency. We’re not crash test dummies, either, and aren’t going out getting in crashes while wearing these helmets just to see how well they protect our heads. Our analysis of a helmet's protection is based on its overall construction quality, head coverage, and additional protective features like a rotational impact system. All of the helmets we've tested meet or exceed the US CPSC Bicycle standard.

Head coverage varies from model to model and helps play a role in how protective a helmet will be in the event of a crash. And, the amount of coverage varies from model to model. Some helmets we cover here protect more of the back of the head than others. Full-face helmets provide the most head coverage, followed by mountain bike and skate helmets. Road bike helmets offer the least overall protection, generally.

Most of today's bike helmets are constructed with Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam that is only designed to withstand one significant impact. The foam liner in these helmets is designed to compress and get crushed while absorbing the forces of impact. Once a helmet is cracked or impacted, you should replace it as it will no longer provide the same protection. Helmets made using Expanded Polypropylene (EPP), often found in skate helmets, have a more rubbery rebound with multi-impact capability. You can take more hits in these helmets without losing their form and performance, but your skull will absorb more of the impact on each hit.

more coverage = better protection. it's simple science, but it's...
More coverage = better protection. It's simple science, but it's still science.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

How a helmet is constructed also contributes to how well it protects. All models have an in-mold construction, with a polycarbonate shell wrapped around an EPS foam liner. A lot of today's newer helmets have dual-density foam designs with a mix of EPS and EPP foam. This is to better help with impacts at both high and low-speed impacts. Some helmets use multiple types of foam to help with rotational impacts, too.

Rotational Impact Protection Systems

Many bike helmets on the market today come with rotational impact protection systems. MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) was the first type of rotational impact protection system to come to the market. Recently, many other technologies have been introduced in other helmets. Leatt developed Turbine, a 100% designed Smartshock; Kali implemented LDL; Bontrager made WaveCel; and 6D designed ODS. These systems all aim to solve the same problem, but they approach it in various ways. Some designs, like Smartshock, LDL, and 6D, employ direct and rotational impact protection, while the original MIPS system is designed strictly to help with rotational impacts.

Which technology is best? The jury is still out. We recommend doing some research and deciding for yourself, but they will all provide more protection than a helmet without rotational impact protection. The cost of these systems has come down recently, too. They only add about 5-10% to the price of a helmet, so we definitely think they’re worth the increased price now. The whole point of a helmet is to protect your brain, isn’t it?

most helmets in our lineup have rotational impact protection of some...
Most helmets in our lineup have rotational impact protection of some kind.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Comfort


Some cyclists spend long days in the saddle, so a comfortable helmet is crucial if this is you. Ideally, you shouldn’t notice your helmet once you put it on, and you shouldn’t think about it during your ride. Even though head sizes and shapes vary from rider to rider, our testers consistently found certain design elements that helped a helmet fit comfortably on different shaped heads, adding to the overall comfort regardless of the user.

Padding design, full circumference headband adjustability, and chinstrap design all play an essential role in the comfort of a helmet. Since the headband adjustment systems on most helmets tighten in the back and push the head against the front of the helmet, good padding is essential in the forehead and temple areas. While quality padding is important, we have found during all our testing that the location and coverage of the padding, along with the shape of the foam liner, were more important than the thickness of the padding itself.

comfort is more than just the foam padding on the inside of the...
Comfort is more than just the foam padding on the inside of the helmet, but that's part of it.
Credit: Zach Wick

The best internal headband system designs make a complete loop around the head. Some helmets only do a partial circle around the head and anchor into the helmet liner near the temples. This isn’t as comfortable, generally.

Chinstrap design also plays a massive role in the comfort of a helmet. Our testing team appreciates helmets that incorporate thinner webbing straps and a Y-buckle, allowing the straps to lie flat against the face.

the well-designed straps on the new ambush 2 hold them flat and...
The well-designed straps on the new Ambush 2 hold them flat and don't interfere with your ears.
Credit: Zach Wick

Adjustability


A helmet must fit well to be comfortable and protect you in case of a crash. For a helmet to protect you, it can’t slip off your head on impact. Correct fore/aft positioning, headband tightness, and chinstrap adjustment will help your helmet stay on your head where you need it to be so it can protect your head.

The best helmets have a chinstrap system that attaches under the chin and splits into two straps in front and behind the ear, where the straps attach to the helmet. Usually, the straps are joined by a plastic Y-buckle just below the ear. On many helmets, the Y-buckle allows you to adjust the straps in front and behind the ear. Helmets that have an adjustable Y-buckle usually earn better scores in our adjustability metric. However, some helmets without an adjustable Y-buckle still seem to fit a wide variety of head shapes and sizes.

The fixed Y-buckles on the Airnet are comfortable and well-placed...
The fixed Y-buckles on the Airnet are comfortable and well-placed, but the lack of adjustability could be an issue for some riders.
Giro's chinstrap Y-buckles can easily be adjusted to be either lower...
Giro's chinstrap Y-buckles can easily be adjusted to be either lower down by the chin or higher up by the ears.
Smith's chinstrap system has a simple quick-release tab on the...
Smith's chinstrap system has a simple quick-release tab on the Y-buckle, making adjustment a breeze.

Most helmets have an adjustable dial near the back to tighten and loosen the helmet's headband. While the tension dials usually work as intended, some are harder to use, making them more challenging to use while wearing gloves or with cold hands.

Our favorite dials have 360-degree accessibility and are large enough to be adjusted while wearing gloves or with numb fingers. It’s also crucial that these adjustment dials do not cause discomfort in the neck when the neck is flexed, like when you’re riding.

the roc loc harness adjustment pulls tension evenly around the head...
The Roc Loc harness adjustment pulls tension evenly around the head for a secure fit.
Credit: Kelby Spore

Weight


Some cycling pursuits are more weight-conscious than others, but a lightweight helmet requires your neck to support less weight. Weight, therefore, will affect the comfort of a helmet. Yes, extra grams can slow you down on climbs, too. But we think comfort is the most important benefit of a lightweight helmet.

However, the lighter a helmet is, the less material there will be to protect your head in a crash. More material equals more protection. Generally, road bike helmets are the most lightweight and least protective. Mountain bike helmets, which provide better head coverage, are typically heavier. Full-face helmets cover most of your head, so they give the most protection and weigh the most.

our size m/l helmet weighed 401-grams. not the lightest, but pretty...
Our size M/L helmet weighed 401-grams. Not the lightest, but pretty light considering its coverage and robust feel.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

Ventilation


A well-ventilated helmet helps keep your head cooler, which keeps your overall body temperature down. Ventilation, therefore, enhances the comfort and performance of a helmet. The best-ventilated helmets are not always those with the most vents, either. Some helmets combine well-placed vents with channels built into the helmet’s internal design to create the best airflow. On some helmets, the inner MIPS liner can block some air vents. The best MIPS helmets have a MIPS liner with holes that line up with a helmet's vents.

look at all those vents!
Look at all those vents!
Credit: Ryan Baker

Durability


The EPS foam found in most helmet liners is a relatively soft material that is prone to dents and abrasion. The most durable helmets have a shell that extends around the base of this foam liner. This leaves little of the liner exposed to dents and dings. Helmets with this full-wrap shell seem to get banged up less during daily use. However, this extra durability measure also adds to the helmet's weight.

all signs indicate that this helmet will hold up to regular use.
All signs indicate that this helmet will hold up to regular use.
Credit: Zach Wick

No matter how well constructed, most bike helmets are designed to function for a single impact. So, if you get in a crash and your helmet makes an impact with something, you should replace it to be safe. Some helmet manufacturers even have a crash replacement program to encourage you not to keep wearing a helmet that might not protect you as well the next time you need it.

Since helmets are single-impact, our durability assessments look at how well a helmet can withstand the daily abuses of minor bumps and scrapes.

happy riding!
Happy riding!
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Conclusion


This guide should help make your helmet-buying decision a little bit easier. This list of helmets is the best of the best. So, choose the one from this list that fits your needs the best and get pedaling. Rest assured, we will keep buying, using, and reviewing the best helmets in the industry to keep this list current.

Sam Schild, Nick Bruckbauer, & Jeremy Benson


You Might Also Like

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More