How to Choose a Bike Helmet: A Buyer's Guide to the Best Bike Helmets
Are you looking to get a bike helmet and daunted by the number of options available? If so, we created this guide to help you find the perfect bike helmet for your needs. There are three key areas you’ll need to consider with a new helmet:
The helmet type that suits your riding needs
Level of performance, safety standards, and costs
Determining the right bike helmet size
Let’s dig deeper into these things you should consider for choosing a bike helmet.
What Others Say About Our Bike Helmets
We have the highest ratings from Virginia Tech’s Bike Helmet Safety Impact Tests
Bicycling.com rated our helmets with the Best Bike Crash Sensor Technology, Best Value, and Best Performance.
Bike Perfect rated our bike helmets as having the best ventilation systems.
Outdoor Gear Labs rated us as having the best Ventilation, Price, and Quality in bicycle helmets.
Bike Radar rated our helmets as the most Aerodynamic and put us on the list of Best Road Bike Helmets.
Cycling News says our helmets are the best for keeping you cool, “all-out safety,” and performance.
NY Magazine rated our helmets as the Best Road Bike Helmets.
Forbes listed us as the Best Overall Road Bike Helmets.
Cycling Weekly named us the Best Aerodynamic Helmet on the market.
Click Here To Check Out Our Bike Helmets
Choosing the Right Bike Helmet
Choosing a bike helmet requires you to consider a few things. While a casual cyclist can use a simpler helmet, someone who plans on using their bike for commuting or competitive cycling requires cycling helmets that are a bit more complex.
For instance, road cyclists will need a different kind of bike helmet for competitive cycling compared to downhill mountain bikers.
So, perhaps the two most crucial factors influencing your choosing the right helmet are:
the type of riding you want to do
the kind of protection you need
You can find a biking helmet for every discipline of cycling. Here are a few more things to consider when choosing a new bicycle helmet:
Your bike helmet’s size and fit are crucial aspects of choosing a helmet. Pick a helmet that fits you comfortably.
A simple, entry-level bike helmet should be enough if you buy a new bike for casual cycling.
Planning on using a bike for commuting? If you ride a regular or an electric commuter bike, you will need more coverage since biking on roads can be dangerous. Commuter helmets offer more protection for your head, which you will need if you face a road accident.
Different types of mountain bike helmets are available, depending on your style of riding and the kind of trail you ride. The level of coverage you will get depends on how dangerous the trail is.
Road biking helmets need to be light and aero, especially if you plan on participating in competitive cycling.
Bike helmets are available in a variety of price ranges. The price will vary according to purpose, quality, and technology. The more advanced the technology, the more expensive the bike helmet might be.
Bike Helmets Features and Technology
Gone are the days when bike helmets were just makeshift head covers made of plastic and foam.
The quality helmets available these days are sophisticated pieces of technology specially designed to serve different purposes to maximize the protection you will get while cycling.
If you are looking for the perfect helmet, these features and technology can help you decide which one will be right for you.
Helmet Safety Standards Certifications
One of the first things to look for in a bike helmet is whether it has helmet safety certification. There are a few helmet certifications worldwide, mostly regionally accepted. All helmet brands are required to meet these bicycle helmet safety standards.
The CPSC, Consumer Product Safety Commission, is the most commonly applied certification in the USA. (Check out the article we were featured in Consumer Reports on bike helmet safety.)
Another certification body is ASTM or the American Society for Testing and Materials. They have a specific testing process for downhill mountain bikes; for instance, the helmet has to survive vertical drops on anvils to pass the test and acquire the certification.
The European Cycling Standard by the European Committee for Standardization is the most commonly accepted standard in Europe. The certification label you should look for is either En-1078 or CE EN 1078.
The British Standards Institution adopted this regulation, and their certification is BS EN 1078. BSI also has one for kids' bike helmets called BS EN 1080.
Bike Helmet Fit
While buying a new helmet, you have to ensure that your helmet fits comfortably on your head. No matter what technology it is made with, a bad bike helmet fit won’t give you full protection.
The right helmet will fit your head size and stay in place to prevent head injuries. Every quality helmet has a retention system that is designed to keep your helmet in place on top of your head.
Specialized bike helmets also come with a fit system situated at the back of the helmet. This ratchet or dial helps you get a snug fit.
When picking a new helmet, reference the sizing guides on our helmet pages, measure your head, and choose the right fit. If you’d like to try on a new bike helmet, head to a local bike shop.
Steps for Getting the Right Bicycle Helmet Fit
Every helmet has a sticker label inside that states the bike helmet size, which can help you find the one that will best fit your head. Follow these steps to find your right fit.
Before going out to buy a bike helmet, get the measurement of the circumference of your head. Tape measure from roughly one inch above your eyebrows.
Determine if you have a “Classic Headroom” or a “Round Fit Headroom.” Match your head circumference with the appropriate bike helmet size on the helmet size charts that we have on the product pages.
It’s best to buy a bike helmet where your head circumference is in the middle of the sizing range. For example, let’s say that a Small is 20” to 22”, a Medium is 21.75” to 23.25”, and your head circumference is 22”. You’ll want to go with the Medium because it’s a snug fit without creating pressure points from being too tight.
When wearing your helmet, you should be able to insert only two fingers between the chin strap and your chin so that your bike helmet fit is not too tight or too loose.
Most bike helmets have holes in them called vents. Ventilation is a crucial aspect of bike helmets.
When you bike, you are physically active. The effort your body puts in increases its temperature. The hotter you get, the more energy is used up just to help you maintain the same level of effort.
You must wear a helmet for cycling, but using one can overheat your head, which is why you need vents.
Properly designed helmets will have vents that enable airflow through the helmet, cooling your head. It will also help the wind carry off the moisture accumulating on the top of your head due to hard bike riding.
While helmet cooling may seem complex, the strategically placed vents can ensure airflow that keeps your head cool and dry.
While ventilation might be necessary for bike helmets, this can be a problem for competitive cycling. The vents are strategically added to helmets to let the wind cool and dry your head. However, that very wind creates drag and can be the reason why bikers can't go as fast.
Wind drag is the killer of speed. When you are trying to accelerate on your road bike, the wind will become the wall that pushes you back. Thus, an overly ventilated helmet can make the situation worse.
We are the only bike company designing their helmets in a wind tunnel. This optimizes aerodynamics when airflow and reduction of wind drag matter.
Just as there are aero bikes, there are aero accessories like aero helmets that can make cutting through the air easier by reducing drag.
Aero helmet designs make the airflow over its smooth surface, lessening the aerodynamic resistance. Highly aero helmets are necessary for competitive disciplines like Time Trail or Triathlon races.
Time trail bike helmets are designed to maximize aerodynamics and speed, giving you that winning edge.
Aero With Vents
Aero helmets often don't give you enough ventilation to keep your head cool. But why suffer when you can have an aero helmet that also keeps your head cool?
Specialized has developed a technology that combines ventilation and aerodynamics so that you don't have to compromise.
With S-Works Evade, they have added a rear diffuser that minimizes drag while giving you proper ventilation that keeps your head cool and sweat-free.
MIPS technology or multi-directional impact protection system is a helmet technology that can reduce the severity of impact during an accident. This life-saving tech can prevent your head from severe injuries. Not all bike helmet brands have MIPS technology. You need to look for the MIPS sticker on the back of the helmet.
MIPS is not the same as removable pads made of EPS foam that is commonly found in bike helmets to add an extra layer of protection.
Inspired by the human brain's natural protection system, top scientists and brain surgeons developed this technology. The system helps reduce the rotational forces of an angled impact on the head, helping prevent brain injuries.
How Does MIPS Work?
When the outer shell of the helmet experiences the impact, the MIP system's inner shell clings to your head. By creating crucial circular movements, the inner shell of a MIPS helmet reduces the impact's rotational energy that gets transferred to the brain.
MIPS layer is in the internal liner of your bike helmet's inner shell. This internal liner, made of yellow polycarbonate plastic, stays between your head and the expanded polystyrene foam liner.
All our helmets have MIPS now, with the lightest, most ventilated models using MIPS SL. This lightweight technology was co-created by our R&D team and MIPS scientists.
Type of Helmets You Can Find
From expensive helmets with the latest technology to more affordable yet sturdy and affordable varieties, you can find helmets in every price range. Here are a few types of helmets you can find in the market.
Commuter Bike Helmets
Commuter bike helmets are meant for urban bikes and are meant to be worn for commuting.
Whether you ride regular commuters or commuter e-bikes, you will need more protection than a casual starter bike helmet.
Especially when you ride an electric bike, you will need more protection because e-bikes run faster than analog bikes.
Since urban bike riders go slower than competitive road bike riders, they often need less ventilation.
However, if you are commuting through highly populated urban areas, especially during summer, you would want more ventilation.
If you want to use a vented, high-performance bike helmet that also happens to be affordable, opt for Align.
With the inner liner molded into the outer shell, this helmet has received a 5-star rating from Virginia Tech's testing facility.
Similarly, riders who live in colder regions would want more coverage and fewer vents, so that they can keep their heads warm.
Many of these helmets have a thicker EPS foam structure to protect your head from injury by absorbing crash impact.
Having MIPS in your commuter bike helmet will also protect your brain from unwanted rotational acceleration.
Maximize protection and comfort with Specialized Echelon. This helmet has superior ventilation and fit, making commuting more comfortable.
Visibility is also crucial for the best commuter bike helmets. The more visible it is in the dark, the easier it would be for other vehicles to notice you.
Hence, a highly visible bike helmet can prevent accidents. So you might want to opt for bright-colored, reflective helmets.
If they have inbuilt lights, that is even better because the light in your helmet will be in a more visible position than your tail light.
If you commute more at night and need to be more visible, you can opt for Specialized Centro. This bike helmet is specially designed for commuters and has an integrated LED light that makes you more visible in the dark.
Road Bike Helmets
Road bike helmets either need to be lightweight or aero, to maximize speed, which is crucial for competitive road cycling.
If you want to fly through tarmac, you want a helmet that doesn't just keep your head protected, but also keeps it cool and ensures you cut like a bullet through the wind.
If you want to do some fast summertime road riding, you need a bike helmet that keeps your head cool. Propero was built to give you higher performance for an affordable price.
For the highest quality performance, opt for S-Works Evade 3. Its rear diffuser technology ensures your head stays cool, even without too many vents.
Made with premium quality components like MIPS Node Air Technology and a super light Mindset micro-dial fit system, this makes you ride faster and more comfortably on a road.
If you prefer gravel bikes, on the other hand, Specialized Airnet’s sophisticated ventilation, design, and fit, can keep you protected while riding on dirt roads and smoother off-road paths.
Mountain Bike Helmets
Mountain bike helmets can range from resembling road bike helmets to motorcycle helmets, depending on how hazardous the trails are.
You will need different levels of protection for different MTB disciplines. For cross-country or trail riding, you wouldn’t need as much protection as you will need for BMX or downhill mountain biking.
Most mountain bike cycling helmets come with a visor that keeps your eyes shielded from light, the occasional dirt, and small tree limbs.
Cross-country, Trail, and Enduro Bikes
If you want to try cross-country, trail, or enduro riding, you need a helmet that keeps your head cool and protected while you make technical climbs and smooth descents.
If you need an affordable bike helmet solution, you can opt for Ambush or Tactic. Both helmets give you good ventilation and come with a budget-friendly price tag. They are both a bit heavier than Ambush II, which gives you high performance and comfort for trail riding.
If you want the most premium quality trail riding solution, S-Works Prevail is the right for you. The superior ventilation system of Prevail doesn’t compromise comfort and protection.
Downhill, BMX, and Dirt Bikes
You will need full face protection if you plan on flying down technical and steep downhill trails. This is why downhill mountain bikers prefer full-face helmets.
You can opt for Specialized Gambit, which even has a vent on its chin bar, making your helmet more vented but also giving you more protection.
If you like BMX bikes or want to try dirt biking, consider using S-works Dissident. This full-face helmet resembles a motorcycle helmet and can give you more protection during short yet dangerous mountain biking.
You can also use Dissident if you use electric mountain bikes, where you can ride for higher speeds while retaining control.