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10 best cycling helmets: Stay safe on the road whether you’re commuting or racing

We’ve tried and tested the best protective models that are perfect for any riding occasion  

Aaron Roe
Friday 16 July 2021 16:50
<p>Our testers rode in hot weather and chilly downpours, while zipping around both town and country</p>

Our testers rode in hot weather and chilly downpours, while zipping around both town and country

There’s no legal requirement to wear a helmet when you’re cycling or e-scootering, but if you take a spill you might be very glad you were wearing one, especially if moving at speed. Research shows using head protection can reduce the risk of serious injury by almost 70 per cent.

We put a range of models through their paces, so whether you’re after something to wear on the commute to work, or need one for fast training rides at the weekend, we’ve got you covered.

Our testers rode in hot weather and chilly downpours, while zipping around both town and country to put them to the test.

We looked at them in terms of comfort and ventilation, ease of use and downright desirability to give you a good cross-section of what’s available right now. And we tracked down lids at a range of prices too – not everyone needs a super-light racing helmet for that commute to work!

Some models feature additional safety features such as built-in lights or a multi-directional impact system (Mips) which allows the helmet to move slightly during an impact. It reduces the rotational forces acting on your head, hopefully helping you to avoid serious injury.

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Not everyone’s head is the same shape, so finding one that best suits you can be a bit hit and miss. Talk to friends about what works for them, and if you can’t try on a helmet before buying make sure you measure your head circumference and buy the size recommended by the manufacturer.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.​

The best bike helmets for 2021 are:

Giro agilis

Best: Overall

Our best buy is a great all-rounder that you can use on the commute or the Sunday run with your cycling club pals. We found it really comfortable, with plenty of padding and more than 30 vents to keep cool air flowing. It weighed in at just 298g in a medium, and it’s got a sturdy feel that will appeal to commuters. We also like the fact that along with having Mips it offers a bit more rear head protection than many rivals. It’s a neat design, with no trailing fins or spikes in the design, so looks nice and compact – something that might appeal to riders who are blessed with slightly bigger heads. Available in a range of colours including the smart slate blue, white and red version we tested, it’s definitely one to consider if you’re looking out for an excellent lid offering superb protection that won’t break the bank.

Dhb R2.0

Best: Budget option

This one’s a lot better than the £50 price tag might suggest. It’s a no-frills design – there’s no Mips and you can only adjust the fit via a wheel at the back – but is still great value. We ditched the included chin strap pad and tinkered with the positioning of the pads to find a setup we were happy with. It’s ideal as a cheap winter helmet so you can save a more expensive one for the summer months. The 21 vents keep you comfortable in the heat and, as with every helmet in our round-up, it conforms to the EN 1078 safety standard. It’s now available in a decent range of colours, but we reckon it looks best in some of the darker shades.

Bern Hudson

Best: For e-bikers

Big and bold, the Hudson is a great choice for urban commuters. It’s actually designed with e-bike riders in mind and is certified to a Dutch standard that demands it can cope with impacts up to 28mph. We wouldn’t want to put that claim to the test but it certainly feels tough enough to take a heavy impact. It’s not a helmet you would want to wear on a training ride through the hills, but the 12 vents do a good job of keeping your head cool on warm days. There’s a removable peak to keep the sun out of your eyes, plus an LED unit at the rear which you can pop out to recharge via USB. A clever feature is the reinforced vents towards the back which allow you to attach it to a bike U-lock so you don’t have to lug it around all day.

HJC Furion 2.0

Best: For no-fuss fitting

There’s no adjustment wheel at the rear of this one as the inner cradle uses an elasticated system called "selfit" that stretches to accommodate your head – you pull it apart with your thumbs before slipping the helmet on. You can also move the cradle forwards or backwards by shifting the ends between holes in the main body until you find your perfect position. It’s pretty light (205g in size medium) but being an aero design has only a limited number of vents and uses the Venturi effect to draw cooling air through it. There’s just one area of padding – across the brow – but in the box you’ll find a tiny extra patch which you can stick to the "coolpath" structure that lifts the helmet off your crown and keeps air flowing.

Kask valegro

Best: Lightweight helmet

This lid was developed alongside Team INEOS with hot, hilly “grand tour” races in mind. There’s a total of 37 vents that really help keep your head nice and cool even while riding slowly on steep climbs. Getting a good fit is so simple as you can position the height of the retention system and the width of the rear cradle to fit your head. We loved the luxurious synthetic leather strap and felt really stylish in the white version we tested. It’s an extremely comfortable helmet thanks to its lightweight –a size small tipping the scales at just 180g. The breathable padding is also antimicrobial to hopefully keep odours at bay.

Hedkayse one

Best: For durability

This helmet is as tough as old boots – making it perfect for commuters. It will soak up knocks and bumps without getting damaged, unlike most others which have to be thrown away at the first sign of a dint. The most impressive feature is its ability to fold down to half its normal size, making it great for users of bike hire schemes or anyone who wants to carry a helmet in their bag. We also like the way the straps sit clear of your head – it makes it much easier to take the helmet off if you wear glasses. At more than 500g it’s heavy, but it’s available in plenty of colours and is guaranteed for two years.

Abus gamechanger

Best: For looks

If this lid is good enough for the likes of cycling superstar Mathieu van der Poel then it’s good enough for us mere mortals. It performs beautifully, with its aero design cutting through the wind without getting too hot on warmer days thanks to cleverly designed vents. At 270g in medium it’s nice and light, and despite the minimal padding it’s still super-comfortable – we were happy to wear it on long days in the saddle. It’s ponytail compatible and you can also carry your glasses by sliding the arms into the ventilation channels at the front or rear where they will be held securely while you pump the pedals.

Bell formula LED Mips

Best: For night riding

The 20 lumen LED light unit built into the rear cradle of this one could be a lifesaver, especially on dark and dreary commutes. A helmet is a great place to carry an extra light, especially in heavy traffic where it is more likely to be in a driver’s eye-line. You can have it in flashing or steady modes and it will run for up to ten hours before you have to recharge via USB. It’s sturdy enough for daily use and is finished off with a second shell around the base to protect the bottom edge of the polystyrene internal structure from everyday knocks  – it also gives the helmet a high-quality look and feel. We found it really comfy thanks to decent padding, good ventilation and lie-flat straps. Having Mips at this price point is a huge bonus.

Specialized prevail II vent

Best: For hot weather

Here’s another lid geared for hot-weather riding. Specialized has made its flagship road helmet even cooler this year as the prevail II vent has seven “aramid ropes” in place of the usual foam bridges on most other helmets. This improves airflow over the head, something we actually noticed when compared with the standard model. This helmet also comes with Mips to reduce rotational impacts in a crash and is fitted with Specialized’s ANGi sensor which can alert your contacts and transmit your location if you take a tumble. The retention system moves two ways to help get a good fit. We think the white version we tested is a good looker and a great choice if you ride often in hot weather.

Lazer bullet 2.0

Best: For aerodynamics

With an aero-profile and a magnetic removable visor, this one will appeal to time-triallists and anyone who loves going fast on the bike. At almost 395g in size medium it’s certainly not light, but it’s comfortable and it doesn’t feel heavy on the bike. For extra ventilation, there’s an “air slide’’ adjustable vent at the front which you can open or close depending on the conditions, plus a huge exhaust port at the back. Safety features include a Mips liner and a rear safety light which uses button batteries rather than being rechargeable so is probably best kept for emergencies. You won’t need to buy sunglasses to wear with this one because there’s a removable visor which is held in place by magnets. You can store it on the back of the helmet when not using it.

The verdict: Bike helmets

Our best buy from Giro wasn’t the lightest, the most aerodynamic or the toughest on test – it’s just a fantastic all-rounder that looks great and comes in at a wallet-friendly price. If you want to treat yourself to a helmet that will turn heads on the Sunday cafe run take a look at the stylish offerings from Specialized, Abus and Kask. Commuters will love the rugged looks of the Bern and the sheer toughness of the folding HedKayse.

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Need to carry your kit on your new cycle commute? Try our 10 best cycling bags for adventures (and trips to the shop)

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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