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The 5 Best Road Bike Helmets of 2022

Our experts tested the top bike helmets from Bontrager, Bell, Giro, POC, and more to find the best
Best Road Bike Helmet of 2022
A group shot of the most recent helmets on test show their many unique styles and venting strategies
Credit: Emily Hollomon
Tuesday October 25, 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

Our road bike experts have tested over 30 of the best road bike helmets in the last six years. This update features 16 of the year's best, purchased and tested side-by-side. We wore each while pedaling through long endurance rides, short jaunts around town, and everything in between in all types of weather. They've seen the heat of a southern summer, the cold snowstorms of mountain winter, and rain that poured for hours. We evaluate and score each based on important metrics like ventilation and comfort to truly find the best contenders. Whether you seek a great deal or a helmet with the best impact rating, we have recommendations to get you started.

See our recommendations across all bike categories in our best bike helmet review. For the trail riding friends out there, we've also tested the best mountain bike helmets and the best downhill helmets. If you're in need of a new bike or bike accessory, our comprehensive and exhaustive list of bike and bike-related products may be of interest. We've tested everything from the best electric bikes and best mountain bikes, to accessories like bike locks and bike phone mounts.

Related: Best Mountain Bike Helmet

Editor's Note: Our team updated this review on October 25, 2022, adding a handful of new and updated models to our test lineup.

Top 16 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 16
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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award 
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Overall Score
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77
71
Star Rating
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Pros Ventilates well, comfortable, unique style, sunglass garageLightweight, comfortable, well-ventilated, easy to adjust, high visibility color optionsTop-in-class ventilation, exceedingly comfortable padding, ANGI sensor-readyGreat ventilation, elegant style, advanced MIPS liner designGreat ventilation, comfortable, durable
Cons ExpensiveExpensive, high-volume shapeBad fit for tall heads, expensiveExpensive, heavier than other high-end helmetsHeavy, bulky
Bottom Line This uniquely designed helmet offers excellent airflow and performance that warrant its high costAn extremely comfortable, well-ventilated, and lightweight helmet with minimal wind roar for all-day riding and steep climbingThe best ventilation of any helmet we tested with exceptional padding, but with fit concerns for those with tall heads, and a very high price tagA high-end road biking helmet with excellent ventilation and a unique MIPS liner designA comfortable and very well-ventilated helmet that is a bit heavy and bulky
Rating Categories POC Ventral Air MIPS Bontrager Velocis MIPS Specialized S-Works... Giro Aether MIPS Specialized Airnet...
Comfort (25%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Ventilation (25%)
9.0
9.0
10.0
8.0
9.0
Adjustability (20%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
Weight (15%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
4.0
Style (7.5%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Durability (7.5%) Sort Icon
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Specs POC Ventral Air MIPS Bontrager Velocis MIPS Specialized S-Works... Giro Aether MIPS Specialized Airnet...
Measured Weight 295 g (Size L) 300 g (size L) 320 g (Size L) 330 g (size L) 364 g (size L)
Size Range 56-61 cm (size L) 58-63 cm (size L) 55-59 cm (size L) 59-63 cm (size L) 59-63 cm (size L)
Number of Vents 15 12 24 11 22
MIPS No, SPIN Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sizes S, M, L S, M, L S, M, L S, M, L S, M, L


Best Overall Road Bike Helmet


Bontrager Velocis MIPS


84
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 9.0
  • Ventilation 9.0
  • Adjustability 8.0
  • Weight 8.0
  • Style 7.0
  • Durability 8.0
Weight: 300 g | 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 astounded us with its all-day comfort and superb ventilation. The straps are easy to adjust, and centering the chinstrap buckle is a cinch. We love the easy-to-use BOA dial adjustment that creates equal tension around the head for a snug and comfortable fit. It also includes a velcro visor and sunglasses port, and we liked the duotone color design. The minimalist 37.5 fit padding has fewer contact points to create the feeling the helmet is floating just above your head. The polycarbonate shell wraps around the entire exterior, leaving none of the EPS foam exposed to inadvertent denting or damage. With all of these features, this helmet still has one of the lowest weights in our lineup while including MIPS technology.

Although the internal recessed vent design adds a little additional bulk, this is more than offset by the wonderful cooling ventilation from maximized airflow. Even our testers who are more prone to sweating experienced a profound difference with the cool channels of air that also reduce wind roar. The Velocis is a little on the pricey end, but its exciting new design in ventilation proved its worth on long rides in the high-elevation heat of the Eastern Sierra. This is a product that reinvents ventilation and is bound to change road bike helmets for the better.

Read more: Bontrager Velocis MIPS review

best overall road bike helmet
The Velocis is our favorite overall road bike helmet, blending top-notch overall performance with a middle-of-the-road price tag.
Credit: Emily Hollomon

Great Ventilation at a Reasonable Price


Specialized Airnet MIPS


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Ventilation 9.0
  • Adjustability 6.0
  • Weight 4.0
  • Style 6.0
  • Durability 8.0
Weight: 364 g | Diameter Range: 59-63 cm
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent ventilation
Reasonable price
Comfortable
Durable build
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavier than most premium helmets
Round, bulky shape

The Specialized Airnet stands out for its excellent ventilation at a fraction of the price of most premium helmets that perform similarly at keeping your head cool. The helmet is well-built and very comfortable, with a pretty classic design. It has all the adjustment features you need, and includes extra features normally found on more expensive models, like built-in sunglass grippers and an optional soft visor add-on.

While the Airnet has impressive ventilation in a comfortable design, it is definitely heavier than most of the high-end offerings in our lineup. The size large model we tested weighs around 60 grams more than most of the other top performers. The rounded design also feels a little bigger and bulkier than some of the sleeker designs. However, the Airnet is extremely well-ventilated, very comfortable, and comes at a fraction of the price of most premium designs, making it a great choice for everyday riding in warmer conditions.

Read more: Specialized Airnet MIPS review

road bike helmet - great ventilation at a reasonable price
The Airnet provides tremendous ventilation which is much appreciated on those long, hot climbs.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Best Bang for the Buck


Smith Persist MIPS


66
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Ventilation 5.0
  • Adjustability 6.0
  • Weight 7.0
  • Style 8.0
  • Durability 6.0
Weight: 325 g | Diameter Range: 59-63 cm
REASONS TO BUY
Very comfortable
Durable, full shell
Versatile for multi-disciplines
Affordable
REASONS TO AVOID
A bit heavy
Limited ventilation

The Smith Persist brings excellent across the board performance to a lower price point. It's comfortable, better ventilated than most helmets in this price range (and many more expensive ones), adjustable, and stylish. The Persist received consistent praise from other riders for its looks and comes in a collection of both bright colors and more neutral ones for those who prefer a subdued style. Smith advertises this helmet as an all-rounder, good for road, gravel, and MTB and it doesn't feel out of place in any of these areas.

As such a great all-around value, the Persist does compromise in a few areas to hit its price point. The head retention system moves in bigger jumps than more highly priced helmets, making it tough for some to find the ideal circumferential tension. Ventilation is adequate, not exceptional like our choices from Bontrager and Specialized. The padding is comfortable and absorbs sweat well but gets clammy on cooler descents. Even so, we think these are reasonable sacrifices to save a good chunk of change off the list price of many of the top-tier models. We think most riders will be totally happy with this helmet, and it comes highly recommended.

Read more: Smith Persist review

road bike helmet - best bang for the buck
The lighter weight makes the Persist comfortable in the rolling mountains of Virginia.
Credit: Emily Hollomon

Best-in-Class Ventilation


Specialized S-Works Prevail 3 MIPS


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 7.0
  • Ventilation 10.0
  • Adjustability 8.0
  • Weight 7.0
  • Style 8.0
  • Durability 8.0
Weight: 320 g | Diameter Range: 56-61 cm
REASONS TO BUY
Top notch ventilation
Angi safety integration
Great retention system
Unique style
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
Poor color choices
Doesn't fit tall heads

The Specialized S-Works Prevail 3 is the helmet for you if you need the best ventilation available. Specialized have replaced the foam bridges with woven aramid fiber ones, opening the helmet to allow maximal airflow. The liner pads wick moisture away and don't create hotspots and the retention system is one of the best available. The dial is smooth, adjust in small steps, and doesn't pinch anywhere around your skull.

However, the unique design may not be for everyone. The Prevail 3 sizing is quite different from its predecessor, proving a challenging fit. Testers with tall, rounded heads found that the top was too flat to fit them comfortably. It pressed down painfully into the tops of their heads. If you've used and liked the Prevail II, be sure to try on the new version before you buy, it's a very different fit. The Y-buckles aren't movable on the Prevail 3, making it tough to adjust to some heads. The lack of adjustability and quirky sizing kept the helmet from taking the top spot, but if it works for your head shape and you need maximal ventilation, the Prevail 3 is a great, albeit pricey, option.

Read more: Specialized S-Works Prevail 3 review

road bike helmet - best-in-class ventilation
The airy ventilation system of the Prevail 3 is unique and effective
Credit: Emily Hollomon

Lightweight Performance and Unique Style


POC Ventral Air MIPS


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Ventilation 9.0
  • Adjustability 7.0
  • Weight 8.0
  • Style 7.0
  • Durability 9.0
Weight: 295 g | Diameter Range: 56-61 cm
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent comfort
Great ventilation
Sunglass garage
Unique style
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive

The POC Ventral Air MIPS stands with the award winners for its excellent ventilation and comfortable design, at one of the lightest weights in our test lineup. The deep recessed air channels move air very efficiently from the large forehead vents to the open trailing edge. The lightweight construction proved very comfortable on 100+ mile rides without creating any neck strain. The liner pads wick moisture away and don't create hotspots. Our testers had no complaints regarding this model.

The unique shape and design may not be for everyone. The Ventral Air abandons the typical streamed lines of most helmets and offers a new geometric design for the bold road cyclist. The venting design creates for very quiet wind roar as well. We loved the sunglass garage, and it held our shades secure at high speeds. The webbing straps are easy to adjust and supple with secure y-buckles that lie flat under the ear. This helmet may not suit everyone's style, but with nearly a dozen colors to choose from, chances are you can find one to suit your personality if you can afford it.

Read more: POC Ventral Air MIPS review

road bike helmet - this model performed extremely well and we consider it a well...
This model performed extremely well and we consider it a well ventilated comfortable choice for those who like the unique style.
Credit: Ryan Baker

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
84
Bontrager Velocis MIPS
bontrager velocis mips road bike helmet review
$225
Editors' Choice Award
81
POC Ventral Air MIPS
poc ventral air mips road bike helmet review
$260
Top Pick Award
81
Specialized S-Works Prevail 3 MIPS
specialized s-works prevail 3 mips road bike helmet review
$300
Top Pick Award
77
Lazer Z-1 MIPS
lazer z-1 mips road bike helmet review
$220
77
Giro Aether MIPS
giro aether mips road bike helmet review
$350
73
Giro Synthe MIPS II
giro synthe mips ii road bike helmet
$200
71
Specialized Airnet MIPS
specialized airnet mips road bike helmet review
$120
Best Buy Award
69
Bell Stratus MIPS
bell stratus mips road bike helmet review
$150
68
Bell XR Spherical
bell xr spherical road bike helmet
$225
66
Smith Persist MIPS
smith persist mips road bike helmet review
$120
Best Buy Award
64
Giro Cinder MIPS
giro cinder mips road bike helmet review
$160
63
POC Octal MIPS
poc octal mips road bike helmet
$200
62
Lazer Tonic MIPS
lazer tonic mips road bike helmet review
$85
57
Giro Agilis MIPS
giro agilis mips road bike helmet review
$100
55
Oakley ARO5
oakley aro5 road bike helmet review
$250
53
Bontrager Starvos WaveCel
bontrager starvos wavecel road bike helmet
$105

road bike helmet - we extensively tested all the helmets in our review based on our six...
We extensively tested all the helmets in our review based on our six key performance metrics. Here, the Z1 impresses with its lightweight ventilation, comfort, and classy style.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Why You Should Trust Us


To test road bike helmets, we selected the highest performing products available to test and abuse. We performed side-by-side comparisons on the same ride in the same conditions to compare such metrics as ventilation and comfort. Comfort was also assessed by riding all day in different riding positions. We rode in all conditions including spring snowstorms, sweltering heat, pelting thunderstorms, thigh-pumping climbs, and exciting descents for hundreds of miles altogether.

To complete our unbiased testing in an objective manor, we scored and rated each product based on six performance metrics:
  • Comfort (25% of overall score weighting)
  • Ventilation (25% weighting)
  • Adjustability (20% weighting)
  • Weight (15% weighting)
  • Style (7.5% weighting)
  • Durability (7.5% weighting)

Our expert testing team includes Nick Bruckbauer, Ryan Baker and Luke Hollomon. Nick is a former competitive runner and eventually found his road bike legs by grinding away in the beautiful and steep mountains above Santa Barbara, CA. He now lives and adventures in the outdoor playground of South Lake Tahoe, CA. Ryan lives in Mammoth Lakes and spends the winter ski patrolling. When the ice melts and the snow clears, he can be found on soul-soaring rides into headwinds up the steep grades up the eastern Sierra from Tahoe to Lone Pine. Luke is across the country, in Richmond, VA. He rides and races thousands of miles per year on the rolling roads that professional riders like Ben King, Emma Langley, and Eddie Anderson cut their teeth on.

We put the Z1 to the test on some long, grueling climbs.
We put the Z1 to the test on some long, grueling climbs.
Fast, light, and stylish describe the Giro Synthe MIPS. Will it also...
Fast, light, and stylish describe the Giro Synthe MIPS. Will it also describe you?
The POC Ventral Air SPIN lives up to its name effectively moving air...
The POC Ventral Air SPIN lives up to its name effectively moving air for great venitlation.

Analysis and Test Results


We chose helmets that are best for road biking. While all of the helmets meet the same safety standards set by the U.S. Government, construction methods and design features vary by manufacturer and model. To help find the best model for each rider, we scored each model on six important metrics: comfort, adjustability, weight, style, ventilation, and durability.

A Note on Rotational Impact Protection

Many road bike helmets on the market today also come with a Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS), which incorporates a thin plastic liner inside the helmet between the EPS foam and the padding that sits against the head. This layer is designed to act as a "slip-plane" between the head and the helmet, with the intention of reducing rotational forces on the brain that can result from certain types of impacts.

Most of the helmets in our current lineup are equipped with a built-in MIPS liner. On most models, the MIPS liner consists of the typical thin plastic slip-plane liner housed between the EPS foam and the padding that sits against the head. Two models we tested take the design a step further. The Giro Aether and Bell XR Spherical have a MIPS Spherical system that eliminates the standard plastic liner and instead consists of a two-piece dual-density foam shell where the two pieces are free to rotate against one another. This unique design doesn't necessarily provide any additional crash protection compared to a traditional MIPS liner but are intended to improve comfort and reduce weight and bulk.


Value


To help you find the best balance between price and performance in your next road bike helmet, we rated each helmet in our lineup against the competition and mapped out which models represent the best overall value. The Smith Persist offers high-end performance in a very affordable package. The Giro Agilis provides similar features as Giro's higher-end offerings with a little heavier weight and a much more affordable price.

Comfort


Road cyclists often spend long days in the saddle for both training and racing, making a comfortable helmet a crucial piece of equipment. Ideally, your helmet should "disappear" once you put it on and shouldn't cross your mind during your ride. While head sizes and shapes are extremely variable from rider to rider, our testers consistently found certain design features that helped a helmet adapt to different heads, adding to the overall comfort regardless of the user.


Our testing revealed that padding design, full circumference headband adjustability, and chinstrap design each played an essential role in overall comfort. Quality padding is crucial, especially in the forehead and temple areas, because the headband adjustment systems on most helmets tighten in the back, pushing the head against the front of the helmet. While quality padding is a critical component, we found that the location and coverage of the padding and the shape of the foam liner were more important than the thickness or density of the padding itself. We found the Bontrager Velocis, Bell XR Spherical, and POC Ventral Air provided exceptional comfort with minimal well-placed pads in the fore and superior areas.

road bike helmet - the bontrager velocis has an easy-to-use boa tensioning system that...
The Bontrager Velocis has an easy-to-use BOA tensioning system that pulls evenly around the entire head for all-day comfort. The 37.5 fit padding is well placed and very comfortable.
Credit: Ryan Baker

All of the helmets we tested have internal headband systems that allow adjustment to fit various head shapes and sizes. The best designs make a complete loop around the head, rather than those that do a partial loop and anchor into the helmet liner near the temples. The Giro Agilis has a newer Roc Loc 5.5 headband system that integrates the MIPS liner into the headband and cradles the head for a snug, customized fit. The adjustment systems on the Giro Synthe MIPS and the Giro Aether Spherical also wrap entirely around the head, earning these models top scores in this category.

road bike helmet - the comfortable padding design, full circumference headband, and...
The comfortable padding design, full circumference headband, and adjustable Y-buckle chinstraps make the Synthe one of the most comfortable models we tested.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Chinstrap design also plays a significant role in helmet comfort. Our testers preferred helmets that incorporated thin webbing straps and a Y-buckle, allowing the straps to lie flat against one's face. The Specialized, Bontrager, and Giro models use different strap designs, but models from all three of these brands stand out with thin, supple webbing material and well-designed Y-buckles that allow the webbing to lay flat.

road bike helmet - the bell xr spherical has great padding, comfortable straps, and...
The Bell XR Spherical has great padding, comfortable straps, and classic styling that got many compliments
Credit: Emily Hollomon

Overall, the Bontrager Velocis MIPS, the Giro Synthe MIPS, and the Bell XR Spherical stand out as the most comfortable models that we tested. These helmets all have the best combinations of sufficient and well-placed padding, adjustable headband systems, and comfortable chinstrap systems.

Ventilation


A well-ventilated helmet helps keep your head and core temperature down, helping enhance comfort and performance. As aerodynamic designs become a higher priority for helmet manufacturers, balancing aero design with ventilation has increasingly become a challenge. The best-ventilated helmets are not necessarily those with the most vents but rather the ones that pair properly placed vents with internal channeling for optimum airflow. The Bontrager Velocis demonstrates this concept by being almost as airy as the S-Works Prevail 3 while having a design that's not nearly as open.


The S-Works Prevail 3 took the prize as the best-ventilated helmet that we tested. The unique aramid cables are much more minimal than the foam bridges found on most helmets, allowing air to rush in at any speed. Only the Bontrager Velocis came close to providing the same level of ventilation. Its deep recessed channels work brilliantly to pull air into the helmet and the 37.5 padding inside floats the helmet off your head, letting air flow right over your skull.

road bike helmet - the velocis and prevail solve ventilation very different ways with...
The Velocis and Prevail solve ventilation very different ways with almost equal effectiveness
Credit: Emily Hollomon

The Specialized Airnet is another well-ventilated helmet. Air movement and heat evaporation are quite noticeable thanks to 21 well-placed vents. On some helmets, the internal MIPS liner can block some of the vents, but that's not an issue with the Airnet. The MIPS liner aligns perfectly with the vents, and there is no airflow restriction. Another standout helmet is the Lazer Z1 MIPS, which packs 31 vents into one of the lightest helmets in our lineup. The lightweight POC Octal also impresses with its aggressive vent design integrated into its unique styling.

The Airnet provides excellent ventilation with its unique vent...
The Airnet provides excellent ventilation with its unique vent configuration.
The Z1&#039;s 31 vents provide excellent airflow and ventilation.
The Z1's 31 vents provide excellent airflow and ventilation.
The Octal has aggressively large vents, and lacks a MIPS liner...
The Octal has aggressively large vents, and lacks a MIPS liner, leaving nothing to obstruct the flow of air over your head.

Lower scoring products, such as the Bontrager Starvos Wavecel, can be stiflingly hot on even moderately warm days. While aero helmets typically sacrifice ventilation for a sleeker profile, others have a retractable vent cover that gives the option of switching between more ventilation or more aerodynamics.

Adjustability


A helmet must fit well to be comfortable and to function as designed. For a helmet to protect you, it must stay on your head. Correct fore/aft positioning, headband tightness, and chinstrap tension will help ensure that your helmet stays squarely on your head and is ready to protect you when if you ever need it.


All of the helmets in our lineup have a chinstrap system with one strap behind the ear and one in front, where the straps are joined below the ear with a plastic Y-buckle. On most helmets, the Y-buckle allows the straps to be adjusted to change the height of the tension between the front and rear straps. Models with an adjustable Y-buckle typically scored higher in the adjustability rating metric. The Bontrager Velocis utilized this easy-to-adjust system earning it high marks in this category. The strap design also fed through the helmet's EPS foam body to provide more side-to-side adjustability. Other helmets have straps that are permanently anchored to the liner. Despite its lack of an adjustable Y-buckle, the Specialized Airnet MIPS seems to have the ability to fit a broad range of heads while maintaining equal tension on the front and rear straps.

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&#039;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&#039;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.

Each helmet has an adjustable dial near the back of the helmet to adjust the fit and the tension of the helmet's headband. The Lazer Z-1 MIPS has a unique design where the tension dial is at the top of the helmet. While the internal headband sizing varies between manufacturers, most medium-sized helmets we tested offer 4-6 cm of size adjustment and fall somewhere in the 52-60 cm size range, and most large models offer 2-4 cm of size adjustment and typically have a 59-63 cm size range.

road bike helmet - the lazer z-1 has a unique headband tensioning dial on the top of...
The Lazer Z-1 has a unique headband tensioning dial on the top of the helmet.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

While the tension dials on every helmet function as intended, some are on the smaller side, such as on the Giro Synthe MIPS, and some are partially hidden like on the Lazer Z-1 MIPS, potentially making them a little harder to work with while wearing thicker gloves or with cold hands. Our favorite dials have 360-degree accessibility, like on the Bell Stratus MIPS, which are large enough to be adjusted while wearing gloves or with numb fingers. No matter the adjustment setting device, it was important to our testers that it did not cause discomfort in the neck during flexion. The 360-degree dial on the Bontrager Velocis MIPS was unnoticeable while riding.

road bike helmet - the synthe&#039;s roc loc 5 fit system has a small tab system that can...
The Synthe's Roc Loc 5 fit system has a small tab system that can adjust the fore/aft position of the headband by 2 cm.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Each helmet in our lineup also has fore and aft adjustment on the headband system, typically offering between 2-5 cm of adjustment. None of the fore/aft adjustment mechanisms are particularly easy to adjust, but once set, they should stay in place and provide a snug fit without any further tinkering. Some of the adjustment devices are buried under the MIPS liner, making an adjustment even more difficult, as is the case with the Lazer Z-1 MIPS. We prefer an exposed adjuster like what is seen on the Giro Synthe MIPS.

Weight


Road cycling is a gram-conscious sport where both professional and amateur riders go to great lengths to decrease their riding weight. Every extra gram can slow you down on climbs, and a heavy helmet can also cause neck fatigue on a long ride. While helmet weight can certainly impact comfort, all of the helmets we tested are relatively light compared to the overall marketplace, so these comparisons are relative to the models tested in our lineup.

Please note that the Bell Stratus was tested in a size medium, while the rest of the helmets were tested in a size large, so its measured weight may appear lower in comparison to their scores.


We weigh each product ourselves to get an objective comparison, as the manufacturer claimed weights could often be inaccurate. We're happy to report that every helmet we measured was within 5% or less of the claimed weight, which is essentially equivalent when accounting for potential measurement tolerances and precisions.

road bike helmet - the z1 from lazer is one of the lightest and best-ventilated helmets...
The Z1 from Lazer is one of the lightest and best-ventilated helmets that we tested.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Interestingly, some of the more expensive products we tested are heavier than some of their more affordable counterparts. There are several factors for this. Many of the higher-end helmets have more polycarbonate shell material covering the EPS foam liner, which marginally increases weight but also increases durability. Most helmets in our lineup also include an internal MIPS liner for additional crash protection, adding 20-30 g to their non-MIPS-equipped counterparts. We feel that the potential safety benefits outweigh the modest increase in weight for a MIPS liner.

Style


As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so aesthetics are subjective. Yet many of the road bike helmets have unique features that are unaccounted for in the other metrics. This metric shines the spotlight on features like rubber sunglasses holders, retractable vents, or unique aesthetics.


The S-Works Prevail 3 scored highly in our ranking thanks to its low profile, airy design, and unique vent layout. We also like the Giro Synthe and Aether with their flowing profiles and the Lazer Z-1 with its unique adjustment system. Our testers were wowed by the unique design of the POC Ventral Air though it may not please everyone's tastes.

The Y-buckle system is easy to adjust and the supple webbing does...
The Y-buckle system is easy to adjust and the supple webbing does not chaffe.
The Velocis has a semi-aerodynamic shape that is a little...
The Velocis has a semi-aerodynamic shape that is a little higher-profile than many other helmets.

Durability


The EPS foam found in most helmet liners is a relatively soft material prone to dents and abrasion. The most durable road helmets have a protective polycarbonate shell that extends down around the base of the foam liner, leaving very little of the liner exposed. Helmets with this type of full-wrap shell tend to get banged up less during everyday use. However, many helmet manufacturers choose weight savings over enhanced shell coverage. No matter how well a helmet is constructed, they are typically one-hit-wonders when it comes to a crash impact, so our durability assessment identifies the ability to withstand daily abuse and accidental bumps and scrapes.


Most road bike helmets are made from Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam and are intended to withstand one single significant impact, where the foam liner of the helmet is designed to crush and compress while absorbing the energy of the impact. Once a helmet is compressed, cracked, or impacted, it should be replaced because it will no longer have the same level of protection. Helmets made using Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) tend to have a more rubbery rebound with multi-impact capability, which means they can take more hits without losing their form and performance, but that means your skull might be absorbing more of the impact.

The POC Ventral Air Spin and Bell XR Spherical led the pack in durability. Both these models had practically no EPS foam exposed on the helmet exterior. Upon examination, we found the polycarbonate shell covers almost the entire upper portion while extending around the base. The Bontrager Velocis MIPS and the S-Works Prevail 3 were also high-ranking contenders. Both have polycarbonate covering all external EPS foam. Additionally, they wrap from the brim to the occiput and into the interior of each vent which helps to protect the sensitive EPS foam.

road bike helmet - the persist has no exposed eps foam externally, preventing dings and...
The Persist has no exposed EPS foam externally, preventing dings and scratches with its polycarbonate shell
Credit: Emily Hollomon

Conclusion


The primary purpose of a road bike helmet is to protect your head in the case of a crash, and all helmets sold in the USA are subject to the same minimum safety standards. While all helmets may offer the same basic level of crash protection, beyond that, they are far from equal. Different helmet designs go above and beyond by adding extra features such as MIPS liners for extra safety, adjustable headbands and chinstraps, comfortable padding, and different ventilation levels. Our testers racked up thousands of miles in the saddle, through all sorts of conditions, to sort through the differences in each helmet to help you find the best model for your next ride.

Ryan Baker, Nick Bruckbauer, & Luke Hollomon


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