Best Bike Helmets: Protect and Cushion Your Head
Use any of these top-rated bike helmets for your daily commutes and outdoor adventures
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New helmets get launched every year, but an avid road cyclist knows that not all of them are perfect for cushioning and protecting your head. You need a well-fitting helmet that cradles your head and doesn’t rock back and forth as you cycle. Our buying guide features some of the best cycling helmets that will keep you safe on roads and trails.
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Benefits of Bike Helmets
- Safety: This is the “no-brainer” reason for wearing a helmet. Bike helmets provide protection for your head in the event of a fall or crash, possibly preventing brain injury. They could potentially produce some improved visibility in traffic or on a trail, depending on the color you choose.
- Style: If you’re the type of person who likes to put their personality on display, a helmet is a great way to do it. There are literally thousands of colors and schemes, so finding something to match your personal taste won’t be a challenge. Choosing only one, however, might be.
- Weather Protection: Most bike helmets today come with some type of visor. These visors can help make the sun glare manageable or keep the rain out of your eyes. Being able to see in traffic or on the trail can do a lot for your safety and the enjoyability of your ride.
Types of Bike Helmets
Recreational style helmets are the laid-back player in the helmet game. These helmets are suitable for casual riding and commuting. They’re usually a rounder shape and may not have a visor. They offer decent protection for impact, and come in a wide variety of colors and sizes for adults, children, and toddlers.
Road, or road racing, style helmets are designed for speed. They are lightweight, aerodynamic, and breathe very well. They’re designed for road racing, so an unobstructed sightpath is extra important, as well as comfort for long-range, non-stop style riding. Wind resistance is a big factor, so these helmets are usually very sleek and low profile.
Mountain bike style helmets are all about protection. They’re designed to offer extra protection in the rear of the helmet, while also having longer visors for eye protection. These helmets are typically bulkier than road helmets, as drag is less of a factor on the trails. Mountain bike helmets can come in open- or full-faced designs and provide extreme protection.
BMX style helmets are made to provide extra protection in the event of a fall. Many BMX riders spend most of their time at skateparks or on the street performing tricks. The increased likelihood of striking a hard surface necessitates good protection. These helmets also come in open or fully enclosed styles.
Bell Helmets have been a staple in the cycling industry for more than 60 years. Getting its start in the 1950s California car culture scene, Bell Helmets has produced quality head protection for a very long time. They produce everything from toddler helmets to racing protection, like this super cool Bell Super 3R MTB Helmet.
Giro Helmets was formed in 1985 and is headquartered in Santa Cruz, Calif. Specializing in products for extreme people, Giro positions itself on the cutting edge of technology and at the forefront of new products, producing the first modular mountain bike helmet like this Giro Switchblade MIPS MTB Helmet.
Nutcase Helmets bring some fun to wearing a helmet. Formed in 2000 and based in Portland, Ore., Nutcase produces whimsical, fun helmets that can really display the wearer’s personality. Just take this Metroride Bike Helmet for example, with its bright colors and retro-style pattern.
Troy Lee Designs
With its roots in motocross racing, it’s easy to tell that speed has an influence in Troy Lee Designs Helmets. Started in 1981 and based in Corona, Calif., Troy Lee Designs produces some unique patterns and designs aimed at the racing world like this Troy Lee Designs A2 Jet Helmet.
Bike Helmet Pricing
- $25 and under: This range may be ideal for the commuter or child. Helmets in this range will usually be of lesser quality and comfort.
- $25 to $75: This is a good range for most recreational bike riders to take a look at. Helmets in this range are typically comfortable and of decent quality.
- $75 and up: Now we’re talking about some serious headgear. Helmets in the $75 and up range are usually the highest quality of the bunch.
This is about protecting your head, after all. Your helmet should be certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission standards, which you can check out here. The CPSC makes sure that the helmet can handle its intended purpose, whether it be BMX, road, or casual riding. The certification should give you confidence knowing you bought a safe helmet that will protect your head.
There are a lot of “universal” helmets on the market, and while they do provide some level of adjustment, make sure your helmet fits properly. You don’t want your helmet shifting position in the event of a fall. Features like adjustable straps and Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) make getting the right fit easier.
- Style: Consider what style helmet you really need. While a full face downhill style helmet might look cool, you’ll probably overheat on your way to work if you’re a commuter in a warmer climate. Conversely, a road style helmet may make you look fast, but might not provide the level of protection you need for doing bar spins and tailwhips at the X-Games. Choose the appropriate helmet for your style of riding.
- Your Taste: There are so many options on the market today, you’ll be able to find a helmet you’ll love. You may want a plain helmet that blends in with the crowd, or a loud color that stands out. Whichever helmet you choose, make sure that you like it. If you hate your helmet, you won’t wear it, and that just defeats the purpose.
Best Bike Helmet Reviews & Recommendations 2019
- Consider buying elbow and knee pads to protect yourself from cuts, bruises, and broken bones in case you fall off your bike. You should also wear eye goggles to protect your eyes from flying road debris.
- If you are cycling on a busy road, switch on your front and rear lamp and use recognized hand signals to communicate that you want to stop or turn.
- You should dress in a reflector vest and brightly-colored clothes to make yourself visible to other drivers and avoid a collision.
- Pay attention to potential hazards on the road brought on by changes in weather or other road conditions. Slippery, uneven, or rugged surfaces may cause you to lose balance and crash.
- Do not wear earphones while riding. You need to maintain maximum situational awareness to avoid collisions.
Q: Does a bike helmet help prevent a broken jaw?
A: You can get a full helmet that covers the head and jaw area, which will also protect your teeth in case of an impact. If your helmet covers only the head area, you may still break your jaw if you fall on it. However, in other instances, the helmet will absorb the impact of the fall, and protect both your skull and jaw.
Q: How often should you replace a helmet?
A: Replace your helmet if the foam padding starts to thin, when the helmet feels uncomfortable, or when the straps get broken or loose. You should also replace the helmet after a crash even if you don’t notice any visible cracks, as its integrity may still have been compromised.
Q: What is strap creep?
A: Strap creep happens when the straps loosen and the helmet slips to the back of your head, exposing your forehead. You can use little rubber bands or make a few stitches to fasten the straps. If it gets too uncomfortable, consider buying a new helmet.
Our top pick is the Giro Register Bike Helmet. It’s well-ventilated and its aerodynamic design is great for road cycling or racing.
If you’re looking for a cheap bike helmet with an aerodynamic design, consider the Schwinn Thrasher Bicycle Helmet.