Whether you hop on the bike for your daily commute to work, as part of a Saturday morning peloton or for some single-track riding, a helmet is an essential piece of kit. There is no law in this country requiring cyclists to wear one on the roads, but statistics show that the risk of a serious head injury is reduced by 70 per cent if the rider is wearing a helmet.
If you research cycle helmets, you’ll see a lot of the term MIPS (Multi-directional Impact System). It’s a way of designing helmets so as to reduce the damaging forces of a collision, therefore minimising the risk of injury as much as possible. They do this by ensuring multiple layers of protection, which absorb the different forces (rotational and linear) of a crash. More and more helmets use this technology, and a number of the models on our list do exactly that.
All of these helmets – most of which are unisex, with one specifically designed for women – are adjustable to an extent, but it’s important to measure your head above your ears and just above your eyebrows, matching these to the manufacturer’s measurements – and double check before you buy.
Broadly, the cycle helmets on our list can be split into two camps: those for road cycling and those for mountain biking. Road helmets tend to have better ventilation with wider vents, and are shaped more aerodynamically than their off-road counterparts. The total head coverage on mountain bike helmets is greater, due to the smaller vents, and they often also come with a visor to guard against sunlight.
Smart helmets are the new wave of cycle safety. They’re often equipped with Bluetooth features and left/right indicator LEDs on the rear, as well as the ability to communicate hands-free on your phone. Some even have an SOS feature, which will detect a crash and then alert others via a text message.
Weights mostly vary between 200g and 500g. Of course, in the winter months, you can wear a cap beneath the helmet, especially ones which have a large number of vents.
1. Lazer Helium Helmet with MIPS: £64.99, Pro Bike Kit
Used by many pro road teams, the Lazer Helium with MIPS gives top of the range protection. Its USP is the adjustable dial, which is conveniently placed on the top of the helmet, allowing easy alternations of the helmet’s fit. There are 19 cooling vents and, as Lazer points out, the lack of a retention system at the back of the helmet means it is the “perfect solution for people with a ponytail”.
2. Specialized Echelon II Helmet: £59.99, Cycle Store
This reasonably priced unisex helmet, built for use on the road, is a streamlined version of the US brand’s mountain helmet, designed with more airflow – you’ll see it has a lot of vents. The 2017 update has a snug fit and it’s easily adjustable even wearing gloves, while the straps don’t get twisted or irritate. Available in small, medium and large, it comes in five colours. At 307g, it’s not as light as pricier models but is a solid buy.
3. Kask Mojito 16 Road Cycling Helmet: From £88, Wiggle
Team Sky, including three time Tour de France winner Chris Froome, wear Kask helmets and for a time the team was kitted out in the Mojito. It’s still a very popular mid-range road biking helmet. With 26 vents, it will keep the air flowing and the internal padding wicks away sweat. At 220g, it’s one of the lightest on the list and the up-down adjustment system means you can get a more secure fit than with many lids. The faux leather chinstrap is more comfortable than many nylon ones and there are stickers on the back to keep you visible on the road, whether that’s in the peloton or your daily commute. Comes in four sizes and a number of colours.
4. Giro Synthe (MIPS): From £124.74, Wiggle
Another road helmet, this time from performance gear specialist Giro. The futuristic-looking Synthe model is lightweight at 254g (size medium) and super-comfortable, allowing lots of air to flow. With 26 vents, aero mesh panels and an aerodynamic design, this is a streamlined option featuring a MIPS design for the latest safety benefits. The adjustment system, easily operated with one hand, holds the helmet just away from the head, upping the ventilation factor. Though it’s at the top of the price range, we think it’s worth the investment. Available in three sizes and a number of colours.
5. Bern Lenox: £43.99, Surfdome
The circular design from Bern, the head protection specialist for the likes of bikers, skaters and boarders, is suitable for both mountain and road bikers. Built with women in mind, it sits low on the head and is close-fitting. Though it doesn’t have such an emphasis on ventilation as others, it has high-impact EPS foam on the interior – making it not only comfy but giving more head coverage than the specialist road helmets (though there are some vents for airflow). Available in two sizes, this one will double-up for other sports – you can add a warm lining for the snow season, for example. It’s one of the heaviest on our list, at 481g.
6. Livall BH60 Bling Helmet: £112.99, Amazon
Our only “smart” cycle helmet, this one allows you to take hands-free calls while on the move with its Bluetooth speakers and microphone inside the helmet (allowing you to listen to music, too). It has LED turning-signals from a clip-on handlebar remote and an SOS alert – which detects a fall and texts an alert to a contact. Also allowing you to take photos and collect data of your cycle journey when used with the Bling Jet 100 clip-on control (bought separately), this is a simply awesome choice. Available in red, blue, white and yellow. Compatible with smartphones using Bluetooth only.
7. Giro Atmos II Helmet 2016: From £79.99, Wheelies
If you’re a fan of Giro’s well-ventilated, lightweight lids, this one is a more affordable choice than the Synthe. It’s as easy to adjust on-the-go, and with 26 vents, will keep your head cool on your ride. At 270g in size medium, it’s not as light as some on the list but is still a quality bit of kit. Comes in six colours and three sizes.
8. Specialized Max XL: £35, Evans Cycles
At its wallet-friendly price, this helmet from Specialized is designed for those with a larger head (56-64cm). This model has been on the market for a few years, but it remains a good buy. With a micro-adjustable dial to make it a good fit, this comes in black, white and hi-viz yellow. There’s a clip on visor, too, for any sunny, off-road rides.
9. Met Forte Helmet 2017: £62.99, Chain Reaction Cycles
From Italian brand Met, the Forte is another sleek and aerodynamic-looking lid. It has both vertical and horizontal adjustment and you can clip an LED on the back for extra visibility too. Its comfort is up there with the best, but it’s more affordable than some on the list. There are two size options (fewer than other brands, admittedly) and it comes in seven colours for 2017.
10. 7iDP M2 Helmet 2017: £64.99, Chain Reaction Cycles
This is one of four helmets from 7Protection, a brand that specialises in protective gear for off-road biking. This is the only model on our list to provide an in-built insect net, while its Cone Head technology means the back of the head is more protected than rival models. It has 19 vents so gives good ventilation, making it suitable for use either on- or off-road.
Without a doubt, the Livall BH60 Bling Smart helmet has the juiciest features with Bluetooth and signalling options. For something more traditional, the Bern Lenox has extensive head coverage and has an effortlessly cool style, while the Giro Synthe is one for the professional riders and the Lazer Helium is a sharp looking, feature-full choice.
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