Good news: All bike helmets sold in the U.S. already meet the safety standard set forth by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, so whatever you buy, you’re covered — at least in terms of safety. But there are a still plenty of choices to be made. For example, road cyclists who care about speed will want something light, aerodynamic, and well-ventilated. City commuters (once we have open offices to go back to), however, might prefer options that fold for easier storage. And a mountain bike rider would be smart to get a helmet with a visor to protect them from flying rocks and debris. (If you’re looking for a helmet for kids, we’ve got you covered there, too.)
According to John Watson, from the cycling blog The Radavist, one thing all riders should consider is a helmet with MIPS technology, a lining inside the helmet that helps protect against brain injury if you fall. “I don’t see ever wanting to own a non-MIPS helmet,” Watson says. “It’s your life you’re talking about.” The other big decision, which is maybe a tiny bit less important (even if it doesn’t always feel that way), is how the helmet looks. “I’ve found over the years that if a helmet is not bulbous on the head and is a bit more pleasing to the eye, people will wear it more,” says Kyle Kelley of Golden Saddle Cyclery in Los Angeles.
When you’ve found your helmet, make sure it fits well. The front should cover most of your forehead and not tilt back when you move your head, and the chin strap should fasten tightly. And then — and this is key — wear it. “The helmet you wear is the best helmet,” says Charles McCorkell of Bicycle Habitat. To help you find a helmet that you’ll want to wear (and look good while doing so), we consulted an array of bike sellers, cycling style bloggers, and riders. Here are their favorites.
Best bike helmet
The Giro Cinder represents “the latest and greatest helmet design,” says Kelley. It’s light, (234 grams), has MIPS technology, and the same Roc Loc 5 Fit System found on their more expensive helmets — all for nearly $120 less. It’s a great option for everything from commuting through the city to serious road riding.
Best (less expensive) bike helmets
Both Kelley and Watson love the Register as an inexpensive, lightweight, entry-level helmet with MIPS. Great air flow, good venting, and mini visor make it a great all-around helmet for city, dirt, or road riding.
Watson loves this helmet, which has MIPS and comes at a great price without sacrificing features or being heavy. It also features Smith’s VaporFit adjustable-fit system for great fit and comfort.
This style combines the comfort of a commuter helmet with the ventilation you’d want for more intense biking. Unlike some “fashion-based” helmets, which are inspired by skateboard and snowboard versions, this one offers ample air vents for keeping your head cool whether you’re biking to work, road cycling, or traversing bumpier routes. It has a “static yoke below the ear so the straps don’t tangle when you hang it on your handlebar when not riding, and it never needs adjustment after the first fitting,” McCorkell says. The static yoke is also great because, while most helmets need readjustment, this one doesn’t — the yoke keeps the strap in place. “This is my favorite helmet feature, as the helmet is always ready to go when you are.”
Best commuter bike helmets
Christina Torres, founder of City Girl Rides, says she has been “obsessing over Thousand bike helmets for their retro look, functionality, and sustainability practices.” Sitting pretty at the intersection of form and function, the brand unsurprisingly was mentioned by several of the experts we spoke to. “While the design is clean and simple, the helmets have innovative features that include vegan-friendly straps, a creative pop lock to help leave your helmet with your bike, and a simple-to-use, pinch-free magnetic clasp,” says Lauren Jones, manager of marketing and product development at Brilliant Bicycle Co. Kelly agrees that a lot of customers are really liking this helmet for the city.
A classic city helmet from a German company known for making everything from bike helmets to home security systems, the Abus “has the equestrian look a lot of people are looking for,” says Kelley. Ryan Zagata, president of Brooklyn Bicycle Co., praises its durability, lightness, and utility, citing its multiple vents and integrated LED rear light for improved visibility. And the removable visor lets you modify the helmet according to the weather.
Zagata calls this helmet “stylish yet incredibly functional,” adding that it offers “an abundance of ventilation to keep your head cool while riding.” It also has a removable visor to shield your eyes from the sun. The combination of these features, Zagata says, makes this one “a top-notch city helmet.”
Best road-biking helmets
Watson likes this MIPS helmet whose top-of-the-line looks and styling are on par with the pro peloton but at a fraction of the price. It’s a nice weight (270 grams for the medium), has good ventilation, and features the same BOA fit system favored by top cycling brands and manufacturers.
As a comfortable choice for road biking, Albert Cabbad of R&A Cycles suggests the Kask Mojito, which comes at a great price point for an “amazing” helmet and is “light, vented, and minimalist on the head.”
On days when the heat and humidity reach record highs, a helmet with lots of airflow works to keep you cool. “In hotter temperatures, I will usually opt for a lightweight ventilated road-cycling helmet, such as the Specialized Airnet, because of the ventilation technology,” says Torres. “While it is aerodynamic, it’s a bit more stylish than an average road-cycling helmet.”
For a higher-end road-biking helmet, Caddad suggests the Kask Protone, which he says is “absolutely gorgeous on the head” and “superlight” with “amazing ventilation.” It comes in lots of colors and has “fine-leather straps and a great closure system.”
This high-quality road helmet features Smith’s VaporFit adjustable-fit system, making it extremely comfortable. It’s also reasonably priced for a high-performance road helmet. Plus, some helmets “tend to sit really high on the head, giving you somewhat of a Marge Simpson vibe,” Kelley says. But not this one.
Best mountain-biking helmets
Several experts we spoke to recommend helmets from Giro, and Caddad singles out the Montaro model as a good choice for mountain biking. He says it offers “concussion prevention” and is available at “a great price point.”
Watson likes the Giro Fixture, which has a lot of the same features found in the Giro Montano but at a much lower price.
Watson also likes the Bontrager Quantum, which is a very nice, inexpensive mountain-biking helmet with MIPS technology. It has excellent ventilation as well as Bontrager’s Crash Replacement Guarantee.
Kelley loves the Smith Session, which is similar to the Giro Register but geared more toward mountain biking. It’s light and has MIPS and great ventilation features. Though slightly heavier than the Register, it also costs less without any loss of quality or features.
If you’re riding anywhere near cars, it’s a good idea to make yourself super-visible. Joseph Nocella, owner of 718 Cyclery, says he uses the Giro Cormick helmet and likes that it comes in a shade of “high-visibility yellow so the [most] people can see me as possible.” Nocella notes that it’s a “nice hybrid of the roadie style and the bowling ball/skater style,” meaning it “looks nice and sleek but has ventilation.”
Best bike helmet with earflaps
This supercomfortable, well-ventilated helmet has “added ear coverage, if someone is looking for that,” Kelley says.
Best folding helmets
Crooks recommends this helmet for its “ingenious design and portability.” It also comes with a convenient carrying bag. Kelley calls it the only folding helmet he really likes.
The Plixi helmet folds down to three times smaller than its full size and features lockable dividers for a customized fit. Jones says it’s “awesome because it folds up small enough to fit into a backpack or tote without sacrificing style or breathability.”
Best smart helmets
If you want something more high-tech, you might want to look into the Specialized with ANGi, which is a sensor that can detect when you crash. “If you fall, it will have your emergency contact called with your location,” McCorkell says. All you need to do is sync the helmet with an app that sends out the notification. McCorkell adds that, of the helmets with this technology, the Specialized Propero has been the most popular, possibly because it’s the lowest-priced helmet with the feature.
You should already have lights on your bike — it’s illegal to ride in NYC at night without a white headlight and red taillight (this USB-rechargeable set is a good pick) — and if you regularly commute before sunrise or after sunset, a light-up helmet ensures that cars on the road won’t miss you. Reynolds says Lumos helmets are popular among commuters: “These are essentially smart helmets with lighting integration, including automatic braking and indicating lights on some models, which work in tandem with their app as well as other apps like Strava.”
Additional reporting by Hilary Reid.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.