WHILE not compulsory, wearing a cycling helmet is recommended by the Highways Code, and thanks to potentially life-saving features, it could be one of the most important bits of kit you ever buy.
Not all bike helmets are made equal though, so picking the best cycle helmet for you can depend on a number of factors.
It’s worth noting that all helmets sold in the UK will have met a required standard and will display the standard – EN1078 – somewhere on it.
Some see this requirement as a minimum though and employ even more techniques and technologies to keep you and your head safe – including MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) or SPIN (Shearing Pad Inside), which reduces the rotational force of an accident.
From there, helmets can vary a lot depending on discipline, with there road cycling lids that focus on being as aerodynamic as possible, others offering full-face protection similar to those seen on a motorbike helmet, while some even include features such as lights that indicate if you’re turning.
Still not sure what you’re after? We’ve picked out some of the best cycling helmets on the market depending on what you’re using it for.
1. Best commuting helmet
- Giro Caden MIPS helmet, £71.99 from Wiggle – buy here
If riding to work by commuter bike or folding bike, you might be after a compact helmet that can sit on your desk or in a locker without taking up too much space.
Enter the Caden MIPS helmet by the renowned accessories brand Giro.
Its 12 ‘wind tunnel’ vents will help keep your head cool on the way to work, while its integrated MIPS increases protection without affecting comfort.
The removable visor will help keep the sun (or worse, rain) out of your eyes when riding, while a universal light attachment point at the front and reflective detailing will help you stay seen after dark.
2. Best trail mountain bike helmet
- Smith Forefront 2 Mountain Bike helmet, £99.99 from Tweeks Cycles – buy here
The American sunglasses and goggles specialist Smith is also known for offering a range of sensibly priced helmets across an array of disciplines in the worlds of both cycling a snow sports.
Its Forefront 2 helmet is its top-of-the-range all-terrain mountain bike helmet, although can currently be snapped up for a fraction of its RRP. It includes all the features you’d expect of a mountain bike helmet designed with versatility in mind; MIPS technology, an adjustable visor, sunglasses and goggle integration and mounting points for lights or an action camera.
Where it stands out though is its combination of ventilation and additional protection. The lid manages to pack 20 strategically placed vents to ensure your head remains cool even on the hottest summer days. Beneath some of these vents lies Smith’s ‘Koroyd’ technology – a hexagon-shaped material that improves impact absorption without affecting airflow.
Add in some performance lining, and this is a helmet that performs in all conditions.
3. Best enduro mountain bike helmet
- Oakley DRT5 enduro mountain bike helmet, £103 from Wiggle – buy here
While it might look similar to your standard mountain bike helmet, an enduro helmet needs to be solid enough to handle any hard spills that can come with fast, technical downhill descents while also offering lots of ventilation for those gruelling uphill climbs.
The DRT5 from Oakley is the best of the bunch, and can handle whatever you throw at it.
Outside of the likes of a protection-boosting MIPS liner, standout features include the addition of hooks to clip your sunglasses to when not in use, a silicone sweatband to keep water from dripping in your eyes when things hot up and a BOA fit system to keep the helmet secured snuggly without causing any discomfort.
4. Best full-face mountain bike helmet
- Fox Racing Proframe Full Face mountain bike helmet, £230 from Wiggle – buy here
While the thought of wearing a helmet similar to those worn while riding a motorbike might seem excessive for some, those who enjoy downhill mountain biking – and dodging obstacles such as trees and clearing mammoth jumps – require all the protection they can get.
At £230, the Proframe from Fox Racing is the most expensive on our list, but considering the level of coverage you get, it’s more than worth it.
A chin bar, MIPS system and dual-density EPS liner provide all the protection you could need, while a Fidlock buckle makes putting on and removing a doddle.
You might think that more protection equals a heavier helmet, but Fox has managed to keep the Proframe at a very respectable 750g.
In addition, 15 vents and nine exhausts at the rear keep the air flowing and your head comfortable and cool.
5. Best road bike helmet
- Bell Stratus MIPS Road Helmet, £99 from Tredz – buy here
When looking for the best road bike helmet, important features include the ability to wick away sweat and provide comfort over long durations.
The Stratus MIPS by Bell ticks both of those boxes thanks to a smart ventilation design that draws air in at the front above the eyebrows and the integrated fit system that can be adjusted on the go with one hand.
Throw in the MIPS safety system, and you’re getting a whole lot of helmet for a fraction of the price that competitors charge.
6. Best aerodynamic road bike helmet
- POC Ventral Spin Road Helmet, £174.99 from Tredz – buy here
Although a slightly niche type of road bike helmet, aerodynamic headgear is worth highlighting on its own because it can be used as a standard road bike or commuter helmet too.
Most aerodynamic helmets focus on performance in a wind tunnel over practicability, but Swedish brand POC’s Ventral Spin will help you cut through the air quickly without looking ridiculous or overheating while doing it.
The Ventral employs POC’s own version of MIPS, called SPIN, ensuring maximum safety while out on the road.
Its breathability makes it perfect even in the height of summer and at only 220g, you might even forget you’ve got it on.
7. Best time trial and triathlon helmet
- Kask Mistral triathlon helmet, £219.00 from Wiggle – buy here
If you’re competing in a time trial or triathlon and are serious about marginal gains, you’re going to want to invest in some kit that helps you cut through the air and reduce drag even more than the aerodynamic-focused offering above.
Enter the Mistral by Italian helmet specialist Kask.
The choice of Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome’s Team Ineos (formerly Team Sky), the helmet has been designed with only one thing in mind – going fast.
Six small vents at the front of the helmet are the only incisions in an otherwise completely smooth construction, while two exhausts at the rear help keep things comfortable inside and the air flowing over your head.
If you’re after something to wear when out for a spin around the local lanes you’re better off buying one of the helmets listed above, but if you’re looking to squeeze the most out of your capabilities at a time trial then the Mistral is tough to beat.
8. Best kids bike helmet
- Bern Bandito EPS helmet, £29.99 from eBay – buy here
Bern’s distinctive helmet designs aren’t just for adults and its child-focused Bandito EPS will not only protect your little one’s head, but its good looks should ensure they’re happy to wear it at all times too.
It’s remarkably adaptable and can be easily converted to a snow helmet.
In fact, we like it so much, we’ve even included it in our round-up of best kids bike helmets.
9. Best BMX helmet
- TSG Evolution BMX helmet, £22.50 from Winstanleys Bikes – buy here
A BMX helmet is generally the same as those used by skateboarders, and has a distinctive shape that’s designed to keep your head safe during any falls at a skatepark or on dirt trails.
TSG is an iconic brand in the field, and its Evolution line offers amazing protection in the form of a durable outer hardshell that extends down to the top of the neck.
It also comes in an extremely wide range of colours, meaning you can match it to your BMX’s paint job.
10. Best smart bike helmet
- Livall BH60SE Bluetooth Enabled Smart Helmet, £99 from Halfords – buy here
There’s a growing area of helmets that look to do more than protect your head.
Smart helmets can vary in features, but most include LED lights that increase the user’s visibility when on the road.
Although not the most memorable name, the BH60SE from Livall is packed full of smart features that will certainly leave a lasting impression.
The highlights (literally) are indicators on the rear of the helmet that show traffic behind you if you’re turning.
The lights are controlled wirelessly by a remote control that can be attached to the handlebars.
Other notable attributes include two built-in Bluetooth speakers and a hands-free microphone, allowing you to listen to music or answer calls while on the go, and an SOS alert safety sensor that is programmed to notify an emergency contact in the event of an accident.
How often should I replace my cycling helmet?
If you're talking about general wear and tear, some manufacturers, such as POC, recommend replacing your helmet every three years or so. However, if you keep your lid in good condition, you won't need to do it anywhere near that often. If you have a crash and your helmet takes a knock, you should replace it immediately in case its structure has been compromised. Several manufacturers, including Bern and Lazer, have damage replacement schemes that allow you to re-buy your helmet at a reduced rate if you're involved in an accident.
What is the best cycling helmet?
Deciding on the best cycling helmet will all depend on what you’re intending to use it for. An aerodynamically-focused time trial helmet, for example, has a number of different features to a full face mountain bike one. But outside of specialist lids, the best all-rounders are the Giro Caden MIPS (commuting), Bell Stratus MIPS (road cycling) and Smith Forefront 2 (mountain biking).
What helmets do professional cyclists wear?
Professional cyclists will wear a number of different helmets depending on their discipline. Road cyclists and XC (cross country) mountain bikers will veer towards those that have been designed with aerodynamics and great ventilation in mind, while downhill and enduro mountain bikers will seek out those with the most protection.
What is the safest cycle helmet?
All cycling helmets sold in the UK have to pass the EN1078 regulation, but there are those that include additional technology, such as MIPS, that increase their level of protection. The safest cycle helmet in terms of protection in our list is the Fox Racing Proframe full face, but any that include MIPS or SPIN technology offer up an additional level of safety.
What is the best MIPS helmet?
If ranked on all-round practicality, the Giro Caden is the best MIPS helmet featured in our round-up. Not only can it be used for commuting, but it wouldn’t look out of place on a road or hybrid bike too.
If you're in the market for a new bike, we've rounded up the best mountain bikes and the best road bikes.
We've even picked out wheels, tyres and bike locks if you're looking to soup up your ride.
Check out Sun Selects for more of our top recommendations.
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