best road bike helmets

Best road bike helmets: a buyer’s guide to comfortable, lightweight and aero lids

If you are new to cycling then the wide range of helmets can be confusing. How do you maximise the safety and comfort a helmet can offer, and what's the best helmet for you? Read on to find out…

Cycling helmets are designed to protect riders from head injuries, but with brands constantly competing to create the best bike helmet, other factors also come in to play: comfort, aerodynamics and breathability being key opportunities for competition.

The primary function of a cycling helmet is to protect your head – and all helmets sold by reputable retailers will meet the standards set out by the authority in the country of sale.

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>>> Can an aero road helmet make you faster? 

However, if you choose to spend more, you’ll get a lid that is lighter, and more breathable. The retention system often becomes more comfortable on a more expensive cycling helmet, too.

>>> The best kids bike helmets: a buyer’s guide

For competitive cyclists, aerodynamics become a concern. More expensive helmets will be wind tunnel tested, and will often provide a watt-saving figure as to how much energy can be retained thanks to the improved aerodynamics of the helmet.

Whilst during the summer months, breathability is a major concern, this is less so the case in autumn and winter. Since you’ll likely wear the lid all year round, it still makes sense to take venting into consideration – and if you suffer from a chilly noggin, you can always slip a cycling cap underneath.

We’ve rounded up some of our favourite cycling helmets below, but you’ll find more information about specific considerations when buying a cycling helmet further down the page.

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Our pick of the best cycling helmets

With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

Weights listed are as reviewed – so may vary between sizes.

Lazer Genesis helmet

best road bike helmets

  • RRP: £170.Weight:205g (medium) 247g with aeroshell
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: light, comfortable, secure Cons: MIPS heavier/more expensive, requires aeroshell extra for benefits

A light and comfortable lid which felt secure when on. You do need to “shell” out for the additional aero layer, but it’s not a big outlay at an additional £19.99.

Read the full review here 

Buy now: Lazer Genesis at CycleStore for £169.99 

Giro Aether MIPS helmet

Giro Aether

  • RRP: £259.99.Weight: 269g
  • Review score: 10/10
  • Pros: low weight, breathable, includes MIPS Cons: none

The Aether features MIPS Spherical technology, which sits between the two shells to make the added safety feature more comfortable.

The lid itself is made up of six different pieces, attached in the middle, and there’s the ‘Aura’ arch which extends across the top of the helmet for added reinforcement.

Read our full review here 

Buy now: Giro Aether MIPS at Wiggle for £202.99 

Smith Ignite helmet

Smith Ignite Helmet

  • RRP £219 Weight 277g
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: Comfort, Safety features, aesthetics. Cons: Matt finish gets grubby quickly

Comfortable, undoubtably slippery through the air and packed to the rafters with safety features of Koroyd and MIPS.

Smith’s Ignite should certainly be a first choice helmet for those riders looking for a bit of an aero advantage without the drawbacks.

Read our full review here

Buy now: Smith Ignite helmet at Wiggle for £209.99

Met Codatronca time trial helmet

Met Codatronca time trial helmet

  • RRP: £270 Weight: 365g
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: Confortable, adjustable, versatile Cons: Visor shape

Whilst the ideal aero helmet for each rider is body shape dependant, this short tail should prove more versatile for most riders, providing aero gains without the potential sacrifices a long tail may present on sporting courses or headwind riddled race days.

It’s a very comfortable lid which provided a close fit, enough ventilation to race on hot days and a clever magnetic visor system – though the visor was quite long and took some getting used to.

Read our full review here

Buy now: Met Codatronca time trial helmet at Wiggle for £190

MET Trenta helmet

  • RRP: £265.Weight: 223g
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: Comfortable, cooling, aero, light attachment Cons: none

The MET Trenta is a good looking lid which manages to expertly combine breathability and aerodynamics with lots of vents as well as watt saving promises.

Read our review here

Buy now: Met Trenta at Wiggle from £91.99

Specialized Evade II helmet

Specialized S-Works Evade II helmet

  • RRP: £200.Weight: 235g
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: aero but still breathable Cons: straps not adjustable, this model not MIPS but MIPS now available

The Evade from Specialized has always had a stand-out aesthetic, but the newest iterations claims to be six seconds faster over 40km thanks to revised aerodynamics, and more breathable.

It’s also lighter by 12-20 grams when compared to previous versions – the small model comes in at 235g.

Read the full review here

Buy now: Specialized Evade II at Rutland for £160 or at Jenson USA for $274.99

Giro Aether MIPS helmet

Giro Aether MIPS

  • RRP: £260 Weight: 269g
  • Review Score: 10/10
  • Pros: Looks, MIPS, Cooling, Weight Cons: none!

We called the Giro Aether MIPS a game changer due to it’s unrivalled all round performance. It was the first helmet to deliver in terms of safety for an impressively low weight.

It’s design not only provides exceptional safety in terms of onboard MIPS, but it also provides great ventilation and all in a great looking package.

Read the full review here  

Buy now: Giro Aether MIPS at Wiggle for £155

Bell Formula helmet

Bell Formula Helmet

  • RRP: £69 Weight: 235g
  • Review Score: 9/10
  • Pros: Good fit, good protection, Plenty of vents Cons: not much

Made via Bell’s Fusion In-Mould process, the Formula has a polycarbonate shell that is bonded to the EPS foam, which should, according to the brand, makes for a sturdier build. This particular model doesn’t come with MIPs, but for £15 extra you can get a Formula that does, should you want a little extra protection.

The Bell Formula helmet offers a good, head hugging fit, extending down the back of the head for an extra secure feeling. It’s also available in plenty of colours which is a plus.

Read the full review here

Buy now: Bell Formula helmet at leisure lakes Bikes for £39.99

Abus AirBreaker helmet

Abus AirBreaker

  • RRP: £230 Weight: 230g
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: Lightweight, great ventilation, aero design Cons: No MIPS

A top notch vented helmet with aero credentials, the Abus AirBreaker has a quality feel, good fit and ventilation and is lightweight, although there’s no MIPS option available.

At 230g for a size large, the Abus AirBreaker is amongst lightest helmets on the market, although it’s partly down to an absence of a MIPS option, which typically adds around 20 to 30g to a helmet’s weight.

Read the full review here

Buy now: Abus AirBreaker helmet at BikeINN for £159.49

Giro Synthe helmet

Giro Synthe helmet

  • RRP: £249 Weight: 240g
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: ventilation and aerodynamics, comfort Cons: hard to fault!

The ventilation in the Synthe is a highlight, and even through trips abroad climbing in 30ºC+ heat, the Synthe has never let us down.

The fit is also excellent, with the rear dial offering plenty of room for manoeuvre to make sure the helmet sits securely, and just as importantly it looks good too, sitting close to the sides of your head.

Read the full Giro Synthe review here

Buy now: Giro Synthe MIPS at Wiggle for £100

Abus Viantor helmet

Abus Viantor

  • RRP: £80 Weight:274g
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: Comfort, looks, colour options Cons: no MIPS

The Viantor sits a little lower on the head compared to many other helmets and this extra coverage offers a little more reassurance. It’s also a very comfortable environment to place your head, the single piece pad preventing any unwanted pressure and is easy to remove for cleaning.

Light, comfortable and good looking, the Abus Viantor is a very good mid priced helmet although the lack of MIPS or other additional safety features might push people towards other helmets

Read the full Albus Viantor helmet review here

Buy now: Abus Viantor helmet at Tweeks Cycles for £63.33 

What are the key features you should look for in a bike helmet?

Bike helmet safety 

Always look to see if a helmet has a European CE EN 1078 sticker. The EN 1078 standard ensures the helmet has passed a number of tests that look at the following: helmet construction, field of vision, shock absorbing properties, retention system properties, chin strap and fastening devices.  In order to cycle in certain events such as races, sportives and triathlons it is often a requirement to have a helmet that adheres to this standard or an international equivalent.

Best road bike helmets

Lizzie Armitstead wearing a correctly fitting bike helmet

Bike helmets and MIPS: what is MIPS and do I need it?

In recent years, we’ve seen more and more bike helmet brands adopt MIPS. MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System; MIPS is actually a brand in itself, and helmet providers using them build the layer into their own helmets.

The MIPS liner is designed to reduce rotational forces on the brain that can occur in the event of a crash, by adding an extra layer of friction and thus spreading the impact.

Helmets with MIPS layers often cost a little more – but there is evidence to suggest the layer is effective in reducing injury in certain types of crashes.

Bike helmet fit

If a helmet doesn’t fit properly then it will not do the job it is designed for. Helmets are often available in different sizes relating to the circumference of your head, and while you could measure your head with a tape measure and buy online, we strongly advise going to a bike shop and trying a helmet on before you buy it.

>>> Can an aero road helmet make you faster?

You are going to be wearing the helmet a lot, potentially for over five hours at a time, so it’s imperative that it is comfortable. It is also advisable to try on a variety of makes and models to see which is most comfortable and the best bike helmet for you, as they are often different shapes internally.

Some helmets are women specific and even feature a special gap to allow for a pony tail, such as Specialized’s Hair Port system. However, most helmets are unisex and will fit both men and women.

Best road bike helmets

This women’s specific Specialized Aspire bike helmet features a Hair Port (a gap for a pony tail)

Bike helmet adjustment/retention system

This is used to adjust the fit of the helmet to your specific head size. These are commonly adjusted by a click wheel or some kind of ratchet system. The best ones can be operated with a single hand, which is useful for making slight adjustments on the move.

Best road bike helmets

The retention system on a Cube bike Helmet

It should be possible to loosen the retention system on a helmet to allow for a thermal skull cap or cycling cap to be worn underneath. This is done for added warmth, and the peak of a cycling cap can be useful for deflecting rain from the eyes. Because of this, caps are a common sight in the spring classics, such as Paris-Roubaix. If when you try on a helmet the retention system is on its limit, it is probably the wrong size for you.

Best road bike helmets

Tom Boonen on his way to victory in Paris Roubaix in 2008; note the cap under his bike helmet

Which is faster? 

Bike helmet comfort and padding

Padding makes a helmet more comfortable but also helps to wick sweat away from your head. Better designs feature padding that can be removed for washing and replacement.

Best road bike helmets

The padding inside a Smith Overtake bike helmet

Bike helmet venting

These are holes in the shell of the helmet. They have two functions – to reduce the weight of the helmet, and also to add ventilation. Helmets with fewer or no vents are considerably warmer. This might not be obvious when you try one on in a shop, but once you start working up a sweat climbing a big hill at the height of summer it becomes invaluable.

Best road bike helmets

The Catlike Mixino bike Helmet has lots of vents/holes to keep your head cool on long rides

Bike helmet weight

As is common with cycling kit, as weight decreases price tends to increase. Lighter helmets are more comfortable because they don’t place any strain on your neck, but the main advantage to a lighter helmet is increasing your power to weight ratio. 50g might not make much difference to most of us mortals, but to a top professional looking for any marginal gain, it becomes significant.

Different types of bike helmet

Leisure/commuting bike helmets

These kinds of helmets typically range from £40-80 and are ideal for those getting into cycling, or people who are not concerned about spending lots of money with a mind to saving 50-100g. They tend to be just as comfortable in terms of padding as more expensive helmets, but with a slightly heavier weight.

Best road bike helmets

A Giro Savant bike helmet

A good example is the Giro Savant (£59.99), pictured above. The Specialized Echelon II (£50) is another great option, although there are many more.

>>> The best kids bike helmets: a buyer’s guide

Performance road bike helmets

These helmets are among the lightest available, often seen adorning the heads of professionals during races and particularly in mountainous terrain, owing to the low weight and abundance of venting. Helmet vents can be useful for stowing glasses, when not being worn.

Best road bike helmets

Johan Van Summeren wearing the POC Octal bike helmet. A top-end, lightweight, performance lid

Time Trial bike helmets

Time trial (TT) helmets are designed to be worn during time trials and are not permitted in UCI road races. They are also a popular option for triathletes and track riders. These helmets often feature elongated or tear drop shapes to maximise aerodynamics and reduce drag. Venting is minimal, as vents create drag and visors are common. Do not turn up to a sportive or Sunday ride in a time trial helmet, unless you enjoy being ridiculed.

Best road bike helmets

Bradley Wiggins during the World Championships Time Trial. He is wearing a Kask Bambino TT helmet

Aero road bike helmets

A new development that has become increasingly popular the last few years. An aero road helmet is a cross between a traditional road helmet and a TT helmet. It is designed to be more aerodynamic than a standard helmet, but this means they often try to reduce drag by featuring less venting, making them slightly heavier and warmer. This is a trade off and this kind of helmet is often favoured by break away riders and sprinters. The Giro Air Attack and Smith Overtake are good examples.

>>> Can an aero road helmet make you faster? 

Best road bike helmets

Mark Cavendish sprinting to victory, wearing a Specialized Evade Aero Bike Helmet

A cheaper alternative can be to fit a removable cover to a standard road helmet, such as  the Lazer Z1 helmet, although these can be quite sweaty.

Top tips

Some manufacturers offer a crash replacement scheme, where you can buy a cost price replacement if your helmet is damaged within the first couple of years of the original purchase.

Most helmets are made from expanded polystyrene, with an outer polymer shell, covering this. During a big impact the polystyrene is designed to absorb energy and compress. After a crash, the outer casing can hide the compromised polystyrene underneath, and look undamaged. Always replace your helmet after a crash or impact, and check it regularly for wear and tear.