Helmets are an essential part of cycling; they keep you safe during rides and protect your head when falling to the ground. But they come in so many different looks, colors, and prices that usually make people confused. Here, we’ve provided a buyer’s guide for choosing the perfect cycling helmet for you to have a wise choice.
The best road cycling helmet should fit your head size and shape perfectly so that it stays in place when you fall. It should also be sturdy and offer a protective system with internal padding to absorb impacts. Plus, it has to be lightweight so that it doesn’t strain your neck.
If you’re also a cyclist and don’t know how to choose the best cycling helmet for yourself, read this guide to learn more about different types of helmets and the crucial features to look for. We also provide a list of the best cycling helmets you can consider buying.
What To Consider When Buying a Good Cycling Helmet
Several factors contribute to a good, protective cycling helmet. It’s very important to get familiar with them so that you’ll know what to look for the next time you buy a helmet. Let’s go through them.
We all have different head sizes with various shapes, so it’s crucial to find a helmet with the right size to fit properly on our heads. Otherwise, our comfort and safety would be compromised.
Cycling helmets come in small, medium, and large sizes; however, there’s no rule or standard about the helmets’ sizing, and different brands have their own sizes. So, the small or medium size of one brand may be slightly different than another one.
A well-fitted helmet should hold around your head comfortably but in a way that it remains in place if you hang upside down, without the help of the retention system. A rule of thumb is that the helmet shouldn’t move on your head when you shake it – of course, without pressure points on your head.
What should you do? If you’re going to buy a helmet online, simply measure the circumference of your head and check it with the helmet sizing to assure it’s properly fit. Use wrapping tape to measure around the widest part of your head, about 2cm (0.79in) above the brow line.
But if you buy your helmet at a physical store, you can try on different ones to find the best fit for your head size and shape. You can also ask the seller to help you with the sizing.
Another critical feature is the helmet’s shape, which also varies from brand to brand – each brand has its own conception of the shape of a human head. Some brands produce narrower helmets while others make round ones.
Generally, helmets come in oval, round, intermediate oval (the most common one), and long oval shapes. If possible, try the helmets on to see how comfortable they’re and whether they fit your head shape or not. Otherwise, you can use a mirror or even ask someone to look at your head from above and determine its shape.
However, what affects helmet shape the most, is aerodynamics. Manufacturers try to design a helmet that, besides being safe and comfortable, doesn’t block the wind flow and reduces its resistance. As a result, the round or circular-shaped cycling helmets keep the rider well-protected without lowering their speed.
Road cycling helmets are the most used type of helmets globally and designed for cycling long/short distances and racing on the road. They have an aerodynamic shape that’s light, snugly, and well-ventilated.
Moreover, the road cycling helmets designed for the time trial on the road have a slightly different shape. They’re longer and have a tail not to reduce the speed. They’re also wind-tunnel tested to allow the air to move around it and save more energy. However, they’re only functional for time trialing, not long-distance cycling.
A helmet’s protective system consists of a plastic shell (the sturdy outer part) and a liner (the inner padding and structures). The internal parts and structures are developed to prevent rotational forces that can cause brain injuries.
The padding should be of high-quality Styrofoam and preferably removable for washing. Multi-directional Impact Protection System or MIPS is also a specialized technology for redirecting rotational forces by allowing the foam liner to rotate a bit.
Additionally, some helmets come with WaveCel technology, a liner material made of honeycomb that absorbs the impact’s energy and reduces rotational forces.
Almost all cycling helmets come with straps and buckles to ensure they’re well-fitted and stay there in case of a crash. However, various brands use these straps for different purposes.
There’s usually a chin strap with a buckle that should fit under your chin in a way that you can easily slide two fingers through it. This strap gets divided near the ears by two strap dividers. There are also some buckles to tighten or loosen your helmet.
You can use the lower buckle for adjusting the chin strap and another one on the upper side to adjust the v-shaped parts near the ears. Remember not to tighten the strap too much. It should feel snugly under the chin when you open your mouth.
There’s another mechanism featured in most modern cycling helmets that makes adjusting it easier for cyclists. There’s usually a knob inside the back of helmets called headmaster; it allows you to fit the helmet to the preferred position by sliding it to the side or lowering/raising it as you wish.
Some high-end helmets have another feature instead of this knob called the BOA system. It’s really easy to use; you can tighten your helmet by rotating it to the right and loosen it by reversing the rotation to the left, only with one hand.
A real important factor to consider when you’re buying a road cycling helmet is the pressure points. If you feel any extra or uneven pressure while it’s on your head, it means that the helmet is wrong-sized or has an unsuitable shape for your head.
For example, if you feel pressure on the sides of your head, it means the oval shape of the helmet is too much for your head and you should go for a rounder one. So, it’s recommended to wear a helmet for 30 to 45 minutes before using it on your rides because some pressure points may not show up immediately but turn into painful points over time.
The human body gets warmer during activity, and your head is no exception to that. Depending on the design and function, cycling helmets come in various ventilation types. A good ventilation system allows the air to flow through it and cool down the rider’s head, and prevent moisture buildup under it – especially on hot days when you’re pedaling in direct sun.
A good helmet should have a DOT symbol on the outside rear part, which means it’s undergone the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218. All helmets should go through a series of tests before entering the market and they get a safety label that indicates they can protect riders from potential risks of falling.
On this label, you should see the following:
- The name of the manufacturer/brand.
- The model information.
- DOT, FMVSS No. 218, and CERTIFIED.
However, helmets made before 2013 may only have the DOT on their labels.
It’s equally important to stay away from unsafe helmets. They’re usually heavy (1lbs/450g or less), thinner than 1 inch (2.5cm), and don’t have stiff foam. They may also have plastic buckles that can easily break in a crash and lack sturdy chin straps.
The weight of the cycling helmet is another crucial factor to consider. While modern cycling helmets are lighter than ever now, the slightest weight difference can heavily influence your performance – especially in the long rides. So, choosing a lightweight – but safe – helmet is essential to reduce the pressure on your neck.
Generally, the larger the helmet, the heavier it gets. So, small bike helmets weigh around 0.55lbs (250g), while medium ones weigh about 0.61lbs (276g). Large-sized ones with a weight of about 0.66lbs (300g) are the heaviest. Remember that these are the actual weights of helmets, while they may feel different after you wear them for a long time.
Many women cyclists and some men have long hair they wear in a ponytail. So, having a hair port at the rear of the helmet is a necessity for them. As a result, they can slide their hair through the hair port without facing any problem with the helmet’s fit or compromising its safety.
Lots of cyclists wear regular glasses or sunglasses while pedaling on the road. So, they need to ensure the helmet they wear allows wearing eyewear and fits with it. This feature is normally ignored in most cases.
That’s why you should take your glasses with you when buying a helmet. Just ensure that the frame or arms of your glasses aren’t in contact with the shell or its tightening mechanism.
The Best Helmets for Road Cycling
Here are 6 helmets we consider the best road cycling helmets that provide most or all of the features mentioned above. All products are available on Amazon.com.
Giro is one of the well-known brands with lots of helmet variations. The Giro Syntax MIPS Adult Road Bike Helmet is another lab-tested masterpiece with 25 vents, easy-to-adjust with the Roc Loc fit system, and very lightweight (9.6 Ounces). It also features the MIPS for extra protection.
It’s also budget-friendly, comfortable for small heads, and with great foam intensity and internal padding.
Kask Mojito Cubed is a popular helmet that only weighs 8.11 ounces (230g medium size) and and 17 vents. The Mojito Cubed passes the KASK WG11 test and surpasses European safety standards by 48%, providing a significant improvement in front, rear and top impacts. Premium Blue Tech helmet padding for comfort and sweat-wicking. The Mojito Cubed uses a new Octo Fit retention system, which helps dial in the fit around the entirety of the helmet, rather than only horizontally at the back.
This helmet is light (300g for M size) but features a sturdy polycarbonate shell bonded to the EPS foam liner. It’s also equipped with MIPS technology and a minimal adjustment system, which is super easy to use.
The Bell Stratus has 18 vents but is still well-ventilated. Its Sweat Guide pad ensures the sweat doesn’t get into your eyes and offers full-head ventilation using overbrow ventilation.
Omne Air Spin helmet is a sleek multi-purpose helmet that you can use for road cycling, daily commute, or just weekend rides. Its EPS liner with silicone pad technology and SPIN (Shearing Pad Inside) system makes it a super protective helmet.
The POC Omne Air Spin helmet is also very light, well-ventilated, and adjustable with a one-handed dial on its back (in addition to the inside adjustment system). This helmet is extremely comfortable on longer rides and only weighs 10.05 ounces (284.9g).
However, it’s more expensive than others, and some buyers complain that it’s not suitable for the round oval or intermediate oval head shapes.
The PHZ. helmet meets both the US and EU safety standards. It has a thick foam padding and a quality PC shell, joined by in-molded technology. A great advantage of this helmet is the detachable USB light for more safety at night. 23 vents, 2 removable visors, detachable padding, and a package bag make it a great purchase.
Considering what we mentioned about all the helmets, this is the perfect road cycling helmet for everyone. It’s low-priced despite the great features offered like USB light, good ventilation, and high protection. It has an extra visor and a pouch, which makes it great for gifting.
This helmet boasts a very lightweight (only 275g or 9.7oz) build and comes with excellent foam material. With 25 vents, it’s also well-ventilated, and the inner padding is removable for cleaning. The great thing about the MOON cycling helmet is its removable visor that allows you to switch between road or mountain style easily.
Aerodynamic design and easy adjustment are other advantages making this one of the best helmets out there.
To get the best helmet for yourself, consider your purpose, head size, shape, and most importantly, the helmet’s safety and protective mechanisms. Don’t buy helmets just for their aesthetic features, and put your health a priority.
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- Trek Bikes: Parts of a bike helmet
- The MTB Lab: Boa Technology and MIPS Partner for Improved Helmet Fit and Protection
- Consumer Reports: Best Bike Helmet Buying Guide
- NHTSA: Choose the Right Motorcycle Helmet
- Wow Travel: 13 Best Lightest Bike Helmets 2021
- Wiggle: How to choose your perfect cycling helmet
- Heads Don’t Bounce: Are Bicycle Helmets DOT Approved?