One of the greatest things about cycling is that anyone can do it. Because it’s easy on the the joints and a no-impact activity, it’s great for anyone who is out of shape or has joint problems due to aging. Pedaling builds muscle and provides an effective aerobic workout, which is good for you whole body. It’s something that kids, adults, and even older people can do. Another great thing about cycling is that you can make it as easy or difficult as you want. If you want something a little less rigorous, you can find flat, paved trails in a lot of public parks. If you’re looking for something a little more intense, try mountain biking. There are even thrill-seekers who participate in stunt biking. Riding a bike is a skill that you learn in childhood that can grow with you into old age. It doesn’t matter how old you are, though, the one thing you need to be sure of when riding is that you’re safe. Wearing a bike helmet is essential, no matter how old you are.
Compare: Bike Helmets
When a bike helmet is the right size and worn correctly, they can prevent most head injuries from any falls or collisions. They’re the most important piece of safety equipment you can wear when riding a bike and it’s important to wear on anytime you’re cycling, no matter your age or level of experience. Before we show you our list of the six top bike helmets of 2017, let’s take a look at the things you need to know before deciding what helmet is best for you and your needs. Remember to only buy helmets that are CPSC certified to adequately protect you from falls.
Fit and Size
If a bike helmet doesn’t fit right, it won’t give you the proper protection. The helmet should be snug but not tight. Different brands have different adjusting systems to make sure you get the right fit, but it’s still important to start with the right size.
Helmet sizes will vary slightly by manufacturer, but they all basically stick to the same sizing guidelines. The only measurement you’ll need to take is the circumference of your head. Place a measuring tape about an inch above your eyebrows and around the widest part of your head. Do it a few times just to make sure you’re getting the right number. Then, use a size chart to figure out what size you should get. Sizes come in sizes ranging from XS to XL. Each manufacturer should have their sizing listed on the helmet packaging or you can locate it online.
How do you know you got the right fit? Here are some tips:
- The front of the helmet should sit a little low, one or two finger widths above your eyebrows.
- Leave the helmet low – don’t tip it back. It’s supposed to protect your forehead and won’t do so if it’s not in the proper position.
- The chin strap shouldn’t have any slack under your chin. Makes sure to pull it until it is snug.
- Straps should form a “Y” shape around your ears.
Types of Bike Helmets
There are four different kinds of bike helmets and what kind you should buy generally depends on what kind of cycling you’re going to be doing. Something important to mention is that there are also multisport helmets available and, while these may be good for some activities, they are not specifically designed for cycling. It’s probably best to stick to a bike helmet that is designed especially for the sport.
Road Cycling Helmets
Lightweight and thin, road cycling helmets are designed for racing. They have large vents in the top to allow more airflow and have thin straps to help keep the wearer cool.
Sports helmets are a little heavier than road cycling helmets. They’re a good fit for most biking situations and provide the required standards of protection. They’re affordably priced.
Mountain Bike Helmets
These will provide a high level of protection because they’re designed to be used off-road. There may even be ways to customize the fit to assure that it stays in place during particularly grueling or bumpy rides.
Full Face Helmets
These are made to be used for cycling where there is an increased risk of crashing and falling, like BMX riding, very intense mountain biking, or stunt riding. They resemble a motorcycle helmet and are hard shelled with added full coverage of the neck, face, and back of the head.
Components of a Bike Helmet
To keep bike helmets effective while also being lightweight, most use what is called in-mold construction. The outer shell and the inner liner are fused together without using glue, making them stronger. The shell is the hard plastic part that holds everything together and takes the brunt of the impact. But the shell is only a part of what protects you.
All bike helmets have supportive foam liners that spread the force of an impact around, therefore making it less damaging. The liner should fit your head properly and, if it doesn’t, inserts are available.
Some new technology that’s developed that you might see when shopping for a helmet is called MIPS. It stands for “multi-directional Impact Protection System” and is designed to help provide more protection from the rotational forces that can occur during a crash. They have a low friction layer of foam added that lets the helmet rotate slightly, taking the force that would usually be absorbed by your head and brain.
Care, Maintenance, etc.
Bike helmets need to be replaced every three to five years, no matter how well they’re taken care of. Exposure to the sun, heat, cold, and rain can compromise the integrity of the outer shell while time can cause the protective inner foam to deteriorate. If you’ve had an accident, replace your helmet even if it doesn’t look like it’s damaged. Even fine, microscopic damage that you can’t see it enough to make the helmet ineffective. Bike helmets are only designed to take an impact once.
If you do have a crash, some manufacturers have crash replacement programs and will often give you a discount on a new helmet. This is worth keeping in mind, especially if you have an accident soon after investing in a pretty expensive helmet.
Many of the helmets we review in this section are fairly expensive ($75 – $500 or more!). These are the cream of the crop in terms of safety and comfort. However, we have found other helmets that are just as safe (remember that higher price does not mean better safety) but cost well under $50 (lots are under $25). One of our favorites is the Schwinn Thrasher Lightweight Microshell. It looks good and offers great safety for less cost than a trip to McDonald’s for TWO!
Best Bike Helmet Reviews
The Giro Synthe Bike Helmet is one of the most comfortable helmets you’ll find. It has an adjustable inner tightening system that allows for tightening around the circumference of your whole head. This is different from most other helmets that adjust by tightening around the back, which pushes the rest of the head forward. This helmet can fit a lot of sizes and shapes thanks to the adjustable interior harness that adjusts from 55 – 59 cm.
The Synthe is also extremely lightweight and well ventilated, although because it is so aerodynamic, it’s not as ventilated or as good at dispersing heat as some of the other helmets on our list. Still, with the vents it does have, one can sure notice the difference they make.
There isn’t a lot of padding, but there’s certainly enough to offer full MIPS protection. It’s also equipped with the Roc Loc Air Fit system which holds to foam slightly above the head, which contributes to comfort and also helps to make up for any airflow missing from the ventilation system.
- Not as cool as some other helmets
The Overtake is also an exceptionally comfortable and easily adjustable helmet. Its Vapor Fit System evenly spreads everything out so there are no uncomfortable pressure points. Like the Synthe, the Overtake can also be adjusted to fit head sizes between 55 – 59 cm while also being after to adjust the helmet forward or backward in three different settings.
This helmet has a smaller profile than most others and offers MIPS protection in the liner. It is extremely durable as the outer shell covers every bit of foam and therefore keeps it from being exposed.
One flaw with this helmet is lack of adequate ventilation. Most of the vents are blocked by a liner. While the liner is supposed to be air permeable, it does not provide the same cooling properties as helmets with a lot of unobstructed vents.
- Very durable
- Poor ventilation
The Giro Air Attack Shield is one of the first helmets that combined the style of a traditional helmet with the aerodynamics or a teardrop shaped one. This is a great helmet for racers or anyone doing time trials because it’s so aerodynamic. It doesn’t have any vents and you might get a bit warm when using it, but this feature also makes it ideal for cold or rainy rides.
It has an eye shield that stays in place, doesn’t fog, and won’t let too much air in when traveling at high speeds. It’s removable and attaches to the front of the helmet using magnets, so it’s easy to remove with one hand if you feel like you need to take it off while you’re riding. If you wear regular glasses, they can easily fit under the shield when you’re riding.
Another thing this helmet offers is great visibility. It’s available in a few different colors. The graphic and logo aren’t very large and most of what you see of the helmet is the bright color. This will help drivers see whoever is wearing it. A lot of accidents happen because drivers simply just don’t see the cyclist. This will help make that a little less likely.
- Highly Visible
- Not vents
- Can get hot when wearing it
The A1 is one of the most comfortable mountain biking helmets available. It envelops the entire head and fits snug without being too tight. It has one piece of foam that is overtop of all of the foam that’s strategically placed for protection, which means only one piece comes into contact with your head instead of all the raised pieces. This also makes it easy to remove and put back in if you feel it needs washing.
A click wheel in the back of the helmet adjusts a tension band and can be easily manipulated with one hand while riding. This helmet is on the heavier side, but it’s fit is so comfortable that it doesn’t seem to weigh as much as it does. There are 16 vents while keep air moving and, because so much of the head is covered by the design of the A1, these vents are necessary to keep the temperature down.
There are some comfort issues when trying to wear sunglasses while using this helmet. The shape of the helmet just doesn’t allow for you to wear sunglasses without the arms being pushed or the front of the glasses touching the helmet. That said, this helmet does have a visor that can help if you are unable to find a pair of sunglasses that works.
- Full head protection
- Not compatible with some styles of sunglasses
For a truly lightweight helmet that’s extremely comfortable, try the Aeon by Giro. How light is it? It’s so light that you might even forget you’re wearing it. It’s a great helmet for a long ride on a hot day.
The padding inside is pretty thin but more than enough for adequate protection, though is does not have MIPS technology. It has antimicrobial properties to help cut down on the smell. The foam actually holds the helmet off of your head, which means there are no pressure points. This is one thing that makes this helmet so comfortable.
Giro has a special adjustment system called Roc Loc 5 on some of their helmets that’s a band in the back of the helmet that’s adjusted by turning a small click wheel. The wheel is small and can be turned easily with one hand while riding if any adjustments need to be made on the go. You can also adjust the band in three different positions vertically. This is a nice feature that makes this helmet somewhat customizable.
This helmet has a lot of vents – 24 to be exact. This lets cool air in and hot air out while riding. The vents are spaced out around the entire helmet and the padding does not interfere with it.
This helmet is made of lightweight materials, which is great for comfort but not so great for durability. It probably won’t hold up very well with daily wear and tear. It can dent easily and some of its pointy design elements can crack and expose the foam if dropped with enough force. It passes all the safety guidelines and will protect your head in a crash, but it can get quite beaten up when off your head.
- Very lightweight
- A lot of vents will keep you cool
- Doesn’t stand up to wear and tear well
If you’re looking for a helmet that provides enough protection for mountain biking, give the Bell Super 2 Helmet a closer look. It’s a really durable helmet that will stand up to daily wear and tear and abuse. You can order a chin card attachment and add MIPS technology if you feel you want more protection.
One of the best things about the Super 2 is the adjustable visor. It can be adjusted better than most other helmet visors. You can even flip it up completely if you want to try sunglasses or goggles instead. The Super 2 also has a redesigned GoPro mount, but it can be tricky to level.
One downside about this helmet is it’s not particularly comfortable. There are a few pressure points that aren’t very nice and it’s a pretty heavy helmet. It’s also a pretty warm helmet. While it does are 23 small vents, they still don’t allow air to flow as well as some of the other choices on this list.
- Can add MIPS and chin strap
- GoPro mount
Final Thoughts & Recommendations
And those are the six best bike helmets of 2017. As you can see, styles vary a bit and you’ll have to figure out what one will work the best for you and your biking needs.
The Giro Synthe Bike Helmet has a unique tightening system that gets a good fit around the circumference of your entire head instead of just tightening in the back. It’s lightweight, adequately ventilated, and feature MIPS protection and Giro’s exclusive Roc Loc Air Fit System for comfort and temperature control.
The Overtake by Smith is another really comfortable helmet that’s easy to adjust. It disperses pressure with its Vapor Fit System and has a smaller, thinner profile than most other helmets of this style. It’s extremely durable and can take the wear and tear of a daily ride.
Another offering from Giro, the Air Attack Shield combines the stylings of a traditional helmet with the aerodynamics of a teardrop shaped one. This is a good helmet for anyone concerned with speed. The removable eye shield can eliminate the need for sunglasses.
For a rugged and comfortable mountain biking helmet, try the Troy Lee Designs A1. It’s snug without being too tight and appropriately ventilated. It is a little on the heavier side, but it’s so comfortable that it more than makes up for any extra weight you might find between this helmet and another choice.
The Giro Aeon is one of the lightest helmets around. Its aerodynamic design is constructed of lightweight materials and it has 24 vents so it will keep you nice and cool. This helmet does not stand the test of time, though, and is best when used for races.
The Super 2 Helmet by Bell is also a mountain biking helmet that comes with the option of upgrading to MIPS technology. You can also get a chin guard attachment for even more safety. The Super 2 has a GoPro mount and an adjustable visor, making it great for a day out on the trails.
The first thing you need to do when looking for a bike helmet is to decide what kind of biking you’re going to be doing. If you’re planning to ride on the road or paved trails or if you’re worried about speed, look for a more aerodynamic, vented helmet to help keep you cool during long rides and races.
If you’re planning to use your helmet when riding off-road, be aware that the extra safety measures in most mountain biking helmets might make them a little less comfortable than a road cycling helmet. Always remember, safety is the most important thing.
Now that you know what to look for when buying a bike helmet, you should have no trouble figuring out what features you need to get the necessary protection. Just make sure whatever one you choose fit correctly so you know you’re getting all the benefits that your new helmet can offer you.