The 9 Best Bike Helmets of 2021

Keep your head protected while you ride

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Our Top Picks
Long, sweaty bike rides are no match for this pick, featuring protective technology and an advanced cooling system.
Giro's option has you covered if you prioritize breathability, while its reflective details allow for safe nighttime riding.
Though it's a bit pricey, if you frequently hit the trails, you can take advantage of its adjustable pads and ventilated design.
It promises to keep your sweat in check while preventing overheating, and its MIPS tech reduces force in case of an accident.
Best for Cold Weather:
Smith Route MIPS Helmet at Amazon
Whether you use it for leisure riding or for your daily commute, its adjustable design allows for a personalized fit.
Armed with sensors to alert your contacts in the event of a crash, this high-tech pick syncs with your phone to track your ride.
Equipped with a 360-degree dial, it can be adjusted throughout your ride, and its 21 vents work to keep you cool.
A high-coverage pick, its design protects both the back of your head and your ears from the elements and potential accidents.
Best Ponytail-Compatible:
Giro Syntax MIPS Helmet at Amazon
Your mane can stay out of your eyes with this updo-friendly pick, equipped with anti-microbial padding to manage sweat and odors.

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 .

But where can you find a solid helmet—and how can you know if the one you’re looking at is any good? Dr. Barry Miller, PhD., Director of Outreach at the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab, says a quality helmet will reduce strain on the brain by limiting two variables: linear acceleration and rotational velocity.

Put simply, a good helmet will keep your head from moving around too much when you crash. When shopping for a helmet, it's crucial to look for features that would help reduce linear acceleration and rotational velocity in the event of an accident.

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

Best Overall: Specialized Echelon II MIPS Helmet

Specialized Echelon II MIPS Helmet

The Specialized Echelon II MIPS is a well-rounded helmet. And it’s 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. And the helmet’s adjustable fit system makes it easy to get the snug, protective fit you’re looking for.

The Specialized Echelon II MIPS comes equipped with MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) technology, which helps cut down on impact and injury during accidents. It also boasts reflective details, which will help you stay visible in lower-light conditions. And it’s backed by a two-year manufacturer warranty.

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 Budget: Giro Register MIPS Cycling Helmet

The Giro Register MIPS is a reasonably-priced helmet that offers solid protection. The helmet boasts an in-mold construction, which means its hard polycarbonate shell is fused with its impact-absorbing foam liner. This design offers ample protection, as well as comfort, and it ensures the helmet is lightweight and sleek enough to remain breathable, even on long rides. Plus, its 22 vents help with airflow, and its quick-dry padded liner will wick the sweat from your face.

As the helmet’s name suggests, the Giro Register MIPS is equipped with MIPS, which makes it a particularly protective option. The helmet is also lined with reflective details, which keep it visible in lower-light conditions. It also comes with a removable visor that you can attach to shield your eyes from the sun.

The Lazer G1 MIPS is the second-highest-rated 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.

Best Breathable: Bell Formula MIPS Helmet

Bell Formula MIPS Helmet

The Bell Formula MIPS may be lightweight and breathable, but it doesn’t skimp on protection. Its fusion in-mold construction leaves the helmet feeling both sleek and sturdy. And since the helmet is equipped with MIPS technology, it promises to be protective 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.

Best for Cold Weather: Smith Route MIPS Helmet

Smith Route MIPS Helmet

Boasting a combination of high-tech foam and thoughtful ventilation, the Smith Route MIPS is both protective and comfortable. The lightweight helmet is cushioned with Smith’s signature Koroyd material, which is made up of tiny polymer tubes that have been welded together. This padding will crush on impact, giving you the protection you’re looking for. It will also offer tempered airflow, providing breathability while still keeping you warm on cold-weather rides.

Because this helmet comes in three sizes (small, medium, and large), you can reliably get the snug, protective fit you’re looking for. Easily take advantage of the helmet’s adjustable fit system to customize your fit even further. 

Best High-Tech: Specialized S-Works Prevail II + ANGi MIPS Helmet

Specialized S-Works Prevail II + ANGi MIPS Helmet

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.

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. 

Best for Commuters: Bern Union MIPS Helmet

Bern Union MIPS Helmet

The Bern Union MIPS looks a little sleeker than your average biking helmet, but it’s still protective enough to rely on every day. The helmet boasts Bern’s signature Zipmold construction, which leaves it feeling a little lighter and more comfortable than comparably protective helmets. It also comes lined with 21 different vents, which work together to keep you feeling cool and comfortable on your morning and evening commutes.

Like many quality helmets, this one comes equipped with MIPS technology, which makes it a particularly protective option. And because a snug, protective fit is key, the helmet also features a 360-degree dial you can use to adjust your fit until it’s as cozy as you want it to be.

Best for Mountain Biking: Fox Racing Dropframe Pro Helmet

Fox Racing Dropframe Pro Helmet

The Fox Racing Dropframe Pro is the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab’s best-performing helmet, 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.

Best Ponytail-Compatible: Giro Syntax MIPS Helmet

Giro Syntax MIPS Helmet

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 plus.

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for the most protective helmet you can find, consider the Fox Racing Dropframe Pro (for mountain biking) or the Lazer G1 Mips (for everything else). These helmets outperformed every other helmet 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. 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).

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. 

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. 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.)

Condition

Helmet foam tends to crush on impact. 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.

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.

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Article 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. Updated January 2019.

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

  3. 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

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