The Best Bike Helmets to Keep Your Little Cyclist Safe

The Specialized Echelon II MIPS Helmet is lightweight and provides visibility

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products. Healthcare professionals review articles for medical accuracy. Learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

No outdoor cycling workout is complete without a helmet. While cycling accidents may seem infrequent, they do happen, and it's best to be prepared. Wearing a proper helmet can reduce your risk of sustaining a head injury by up to 85 percent. The best helmets have adequate padding and ventilation, are properly fitted, and should be in a rather new condition.

Reviewed & Approved

Our top pick is the Specialized Echelon II MIPS Helmet because it's lightweight, provides visibility, and is equipped with all the safety features you need in a helmet. If you're looking to splurge on a durable, lightweight, and breathable helmet, you can't go wrong with the Lazer G1 MIPS Helmet.

When shopping for a helmet, look for something that’s CPSC-certified. According to Dr. Barry Miller, PhD, director of outreach at the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab, this should be a signal that the helmet is high-quality and protective. And keep an eye out for protective features, like MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System). We researched various options with these features in mind.

Here are the best bike helmets on the market to keep your head protected while you ride.

Best Overall: Specialized Echelon II MIPS Helmet

4.8
Specialized Echelon II MIPS Helmet

Courtesy of Specialized

Pros
  • Adjustable fit

  • Ventilated

  • Reflective details improve visibility

Cons
  • 12.2 rating on Virginia Tech Helmet Lab (not as protective as helmets with a lower score)

Who else recommends it? The Strategist also picked the Specialized Echelon II MIPS Helmet.

The Specialized Echelon II MIPS is a well-rounded and reliable helmet, and that's why it is our top pick. It's also one of the most reasonably priced in the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab’s five-star category. The helmet is both sleek and cozy. Its lightweight design and advanced ventilation system will keep your head cool, even on long bike rides. It comes in three sizes, S, M, and L, and the helmet’s adjustable fit system makes it easy to get the snug, protective fit you’re looking for. It also comes in various colors, including bright red and green and muted purple and blue.

The Specialized Echelon II MIPS comes equipped with MIPS technology, which can help cut down on impact and injury during accidents. It is also CPSC-certified and boasts reflective details, which will help you stay visible in lower-light conditions. As a bonus, it’s backed by a two-year manufacturer warranty.

Price at time of publication: $100

MIPS: Yes | CPSC-Certified: Yes | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Rating: 5 stars | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Score: 12.2

Good to Know

The Virginia Tech Helmet Lab has reviewed a number of helmets for safety, and they’ve assigned each helmet a score reflecting how it holds up during their crash tests and how likely it is to prevent a concussion upon impact. Every helmet that we recommend here has received at least a four-star rating from the organization.

Best Splurge: Lazer G1 MIPS Helmet

Lazer G1 MIPS Helmet

Courtesy of Lazer

Pros
  • Adjustable fit

  • Adjustable padding

  • Ventilated

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Padding may not wick much moisture

The Lazer G1 MIPS is the third-highest-rated road biking helmet on the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab’s list, making it a worthwhile investment. (The highest-rated helmet is designed for mountain biking, so it’s not quite as approachable for day-to-day wear.) The Lazer G1 MIPS comes equipped with MIPS technology, which makes it solidly protective. But with 22 large vents and an incredibly sleek profile, the helmet still feels lightweight, aerodynamic, and breathable.  

On top of the helmet, you’ll find an adjustable fit dial, which makes it easy to get the cozy fit you’re looking for. And the customization doesn’t stop there. The helmet also comes with two sets of pads—a thinner “race” set and a thicker “comfort” set—so you can choose the exact amount of cushioning for your helmet, based on your preference. 

This helmet is compatible with Lazer’s Aeroshell add-on, which you can pair with the helmet for added weather protection. The helmet is also backed by a one-year manufacturer warranty and comes in various colors.

Price at time of publication: $260

MIPS: Yes | CPSC-Certified: Yes | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Rating: 5 stars | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Score: 9.2

Most Breathable: BELL Formula MIPS Adult Road Bike Helmet

 BELL Formula MIPS Adult Road Bike Helmet

Curtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Adjustable fit

  • Ventilated

  • Reflective details improve visibility

  • Lined with moisture-wicking padding

Cons
  • 11.9 rating on Virginia Tech Helmet Lab (not as protective as helmets with a lower score)

The Bell Formula MIPS may be lightweight and breathable, but it doesn’t skimp on protection. Its fusion in-mold construction helps the helmet feel both sleek and sturdy. And since the helmet is equipped with MIPS technology, it promises to help protect in cases of impact and injury.

If you’re biking on a hot day, this pick is a great helmet to have on your head. Its 19 vents will keep the air flowing, and its moisture-wicking padding will keep sweat from collecting on your brow. The result is a helmet that’s sleek, comfortable, and protective.

Price at time of publication: $95

MIPS: Yes | CPSC-Certified: Yes | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Rating: 5 stars | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Score: 11.9

Best for Cold Weather: Lazer Urbanize NTA MIPS Helmet

Lazer Urbanize NTA MIPS Helmet

Backcountry

Pros
  • Adjustable fit

  • Minimal vents for cold-weather coverage

  • Visor to shield eyes from debris

  • LED light for visibility

Cons
  • 13.5 rating on Virginia Tech Helmet Lab (not as protective as helmets with a lower score)

Many helmets are lined with vents, designed to maximize airflow and keep you cool on hot days. But if you’re cycling in cold weather, you probably need something with a little more coverage. Enter the Lazer Urbanize NTA MIPS Helmet. 

The protective helmet is lined with a handful of small vents, which should offer just enough airflow to keep you cool and comfortable. And since these vents run along the rim of the helmet—rather than across the top—the helmet should provide plenty of protection from the elements. 

To make matters even better, the helmet boasts a built-in visor, designed to protect your eyes from wind, snow, and debris. And it comes equipped with an LED light, which should improve your visibility in low-light conditions.

The helmet also comes lined with plush EPS foam and is equipped with MIPS, so you can expect it to feel both comfortable and protective.

Price at time of publication: $160

MIPS: Yes | CPSC-Certified: Yes | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Rating: 5 stars | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Score: 13.5

Best High-Tech: Specialized S-Works Prevail II Vent with ANGi

S-Works Prevail II Vent with ANGi

Curtesy of Backcountry

Pros
  • Adjustable fit

  • Equipped with lightweight MIPS SL

  • Ventilated

  • Sweat-wicking brow pad

  • ANGi sensor alerts emergency contacts in case of crash

Cons
  • Expensive

  • 12.7 rating on Virginia Tech Helmet Lab (not as protective as helmets with a lower score)

The Specialized S-Works Prevail II + ANGi MIPS is a protective helmet that’s loaded with useful features. For starters, it isn’t just equipped with standard MIPS technology. Instead, it comes with MIPS SL, a version of MIPS that promises to feel lighter and more comfortable than standard MIPS, despite being as protective. 

Another impressive high-tech feature is the helmet's micro-adjustable fit system, which allows you to be even more precise when customizing your fit. The helmet’s brow pad is designed to channel sweat away from your eyes, keeping your brow clear and comfortable as you bike for added safety.

Perhaps most impressively, the helmet comes with a built-in ANGi sensor, which will alert your emergency contacts in the event of a crash—giving you even more peace of mind on your rides. 

MIPS: Yes | CPSC-Certified: Yes | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Rating: 5 stars | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Score: 12.7

Best for Commuters: Specialized Mode MIPS Helmet CPSC

Specialized Mode Helmet CPSC

Competitive Cyclist

Pros
  • Adjustable fit

  • Hidden vents offer airflow

  • Reflective details improve visibility

Cons
  • Limited color range

If you’re an avid commuter, you need a helmet that offers all-weather coverage and ample protection. And the Specialized Mode MIPS Helmet checks both boxes. Whereas many helmets come lined with ventilation holes, the Mode MIPS Helmet boasts a series of hidden vents. These vents offer airflow when it’s hot while keeping your head covered when it’s cool or rainy.

Equipped with MIPS, the helmet is also incredibly protective. (It earned 5 stars from the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab, and is currently the most protective road helmet on the Helmet Lab’s list.)

Plus, its fit system is more adjustable than most. In addition to coming in three standard sizes, the helmet is available in two “headforms” (or fits). Combined with the helmet’s adjustable fit system, these features make it even easier to find a Mode MIPS Helmet that fits you snugly, comfortably, and protectively.

Price at time of publication: $120

MIPS: Yes | CPSC-Certified: Yes | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Rating: 5 stars | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Score: 8.8

Best for Mountain Biking: Fox Racing Dropframe Pro Helmet

Fox Racing Dropframe Pro Helmet

Courtesy of Backcountry

Pros
  • Adjustable fit

  • Ventilated

  • Protective fixed visor

  • Lined with dual-density foam

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Limited color range

The Fox Racing Dropframe Pro is one of the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab’s best-performing helmets, and it’s not hard to see why. In addition to boasting a lightweight but durable polycarbonate outer shell, the helmet is lined with two different kinds of foam. This dual-density foam design keeps it feeling comfortable, and it also promises to cut down on the stress of an impact.

Like many mountain biking helmets, this one is an open-face helmet with added protection around the ears and along the back of the head. The visor on the front is fixed, so you don’t have to worry about the sun getting in your eyes. And the helmet’s ventilation system promises to keep air comfortably circulating as you ride.

Price at time of publication: $210 in black

MIPS: Yes | CPSC-Certified: Yes | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Rating: 5 stars | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Score: 8.9

Best Ponytail-Compatible: Giro Syntax MIPS Helmet

Giro Syntax MIPS Helmet

Courtesy of Backcountry

Pros
  • Adjustable fit

  • Ventilated

  • Lined with anti-odor, sweat-wicking padding

  • Ponytail-friendly back vent

Cons
  • 13.4 rating on Virginia Tech Helmet Lab (not as protective as helmets with a lower score)

If you’re a cyclist with long hair, you know how annoying it can be to wear a helmet over a ponytail. Thankfully, some helmets—like the Giro Syntax MIPS—were designed with ponytails in mind, giving you a comfortable place to tuck your strands away while you ride.

Of course, ponytail compatibility isn’t the only thing the Giro Syntax MIPS has going for it. The helmet’s in-mold design keeps it feeling both lightweight and durable. Its ample ventilation will keep you cool, even on hot days, and its antimicrobial padding will keep you sweat- and odor-free while you ride. Plus, the integrated MIPS technology offers the protection you’re looking for.

It’s a solid, well-rounded helmet—the ponytail-friendly shell is just a bonus.

Price at time of publication: $130 for medium (55-59 cm) in matte black

MIPS: Yes | CPSC-Certified: Yes | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Rating: 5 stars | Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Score: 13.4

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for the most protective helmet you can find, consider the Fox Racing Dropframe Pro (view at Backcountry) for mountain biking or the Specialized Mode MIPS (view at Backcountry) for everything else. These helmets outperformed most other helmets in the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab’s impact tests, making them the best of the best, as far as protection goes.

If you’d prefer a more affordable—but still protective—helmet, consider the Specialized Echelon II MIPS (view at Backcountry). It offers quality protection at an affordable price point, and it’s versatile enough to meet a variety of needs.

What to Look For in a Bike Helmet

Padding

Padding can make a helmet both more comfortable and more protective. Be sure to pay attention to what a helmet feels like when you try it on (you want it to fit snugly and comfortably), and do research to make sure the padding is adequately protective (the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab is a great resource). As Dr. Miller says, you’re unlikely to wear a helmet if it’s uncomfortable—and a helmet isn’t worth much if you’re not willing to wear it.

Ventilation

Helmets can make your head hot, especially if you’re biking on a warm day. Pay attention to a helmet’s ventilation system (the number of vents, and the size of those vents) to get a sense of how breathable it will be. And if you plan to bike in cool weather—as well as hot weather—look for helmets that balance breathability with coverage. (Hidden vents or thoughtfully placed vents can go a long way here.)

MIPS

MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) technology can reduce rotational motion during impact, helping to protect your head and your brain during accidents. Helmets equipped with MIPS tend to outperform those without MIPS in the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab’s impact tests.

Nearly every helmet in the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab’s four- and five-star categories is equipped with MIPS. Those that aren’t are equipped with WaveCel, a different technology that also helps to reduce concussion risk.

Age

Padding can degrade with age, meaning an old helmet will likely be less protective than a new helmet, according to Dr. Miller. If you haven’t used your helmet in a while, consider buying a new one. (This is particularly true if your helmet has been sitting somewhere hot, as heat can cause your helmet’s padding to degrade, Dr. Miller notes.)

Condition

Helmet foam tends to crush on impact, according to Dr. Miller. This is intentional—the crushing is what protects your head when you get in an accident. But it also means that once your helmet has encountered an impact, you need to toss it out and buy a new one.

Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Ratings and Scores

The Virginia Tech Helmet Lab is a best-in-class research organization that rigorously tests how helmets hold up to stress and impact. An easy way to tell how protective a helmet is? Check what rating it received from the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab. Helmets that score 5 stars are considered some of the “best available,” while helmets that score 4 stars are considered “very good.” 

When testing helmets, the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab also assigns each helmet a score. This score represents how likely you are to get a concussion if you wear that helmet during a crash. The lower the score, the more protective the helmet. (So if you want to differentiate between 5-star helmets, comparing the helmets’ scores can be a great way to do it.)

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How should a bike helmet fit?

    Your helmet should feel snug, but not uncomfortably tight. Why? If it’s too tight, you might not want to wear it. And if it’s too loose, it might shift out of place in the event of an accident and not adequately protect your head. “Your helmet needs to be secured enough so that if you were to fall off your bike, it would stay in place,” Dr. Miller said. “But it should also be comfortable enough to wear for extended periods of time.” (If you want more specific information, Dr. Miller recommends checking out this bike helmet fit guide.)

  • Is it illegal to ride a bike without a helmet?

    Bicycle helmet laws vary from state to state and from city to city. In some places, it’s illegal to ride a bike without a helmet at any age. But in most places, it’s only illegal to ride a bike without a helmet if you’re under a certain age. (That age may be 12, or it may be 21. Most of the time, it’s 15, 16, 17, or 18.)

  • How often should you replace a bike helmet?

    According to Dr. Miller, many manufacturers recommend replacing your helmet every three to five years. But depending on what your helmet has gone through, you may want to replace it sooner. 

     

    If your helmet has encountered an accident—if it has protected your head from something—you probably want to replace it immediately. “Helmets are designed to crush, crumble, or break upon impact to absorb energy,” Dr. Miller says. “Once a helmet has done that, chances are, it won’t perform to that standard again.” 

     

    Likewise, if your helmet has been sitting in your garage or basement for a while, you may want to go ahead and replace it. If the padding lining your helmet is cracking, crumbling, or falling apart, you probably need a new helmet.

  • How to clean a bike helmet

    You can clean your bike helmet using a simple mixture of mild soap and cold water. Wipe down the outside of your helmet using a towel or sponge. Then, remove the padding on the inside of the helmet and gently hand-wash it. Be sure to let your helmet air dry—heat can cause helmet padding to age and degrade. And if the padding on your helmet does start to degrade after you clean it, consider replacing it with newer, fresher padding. (After all, the padding is designed to protect you. And you want it to be able to do its job.)

Why Trust Verywell Fit

As a seasoned health and fitness writer, Lindsey Lanquist understands how vital quality product recommendations can be. She is careful to recommend products that are reliable, comfortable, and genuinely well-reviewed by those who’ve tried them.

8 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The Cleveland Clinic. Bicycle Helmet Safety.

  2. The 10 Very Best Bike Helmets. The Strategist. https://nymag.com/strategist/article/best-bike-helmets.html

  3. The Virginia Tech Helmet Lab. Bicycle Helmet Ratings.

  4. Bliven E, Rouhier A, Tsai S, et al. Evaluation of a novel bicycle helmet concept in oblique impact testingAccident Analysis & Prevention. 2019;124:58-65. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2018.12.017

  5. Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings. Bicycle helmet ratings. n.d.

  6. Bland ML, McNally C, and Rowson S. STAR methodology for bicycle helmets. Virginia Tech Helmet Lab.

  7. Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. Bicycle helmet laws. n.d.

  8. Trek. How to clean and care for your bike helmet. n.d.

Additional Reading