The best cheap and budget friendly road bike helmets share a lot of the tech seen in pricier lids, as brands apply their expertise to provide similar features in more affordable products.
Here at Cycling Weekly, we test a lot of helmets for road cycling, plenty of which are priced over £200 /$250, so we can spot a well-made helmet with good features that won’t break the bank. Here’s our pick of the best budget road bike helmets that we’ve tested and carrying price tags around £100 / $100
Looking for something else? Check out our guide to the best road bike helmets across all price points, which has more detailed buying advice too.
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.
Best cheap and budget friendly road bike helmets: our picks
With 19 vents, the Bell Formula has the shape and comfortable fit of Bell’s pricier lids, along with the secure retention system and a fit that surrounds the head well. Weighing in at 235g (size M) the Formula helmet is middle of the road for a lower-priced helmet on the scale and now comes with a MIPS liner to dissipate rotational forces in a crash.
Review score 9/10
Sleek looks and quality finish make the Viantor a stand out lid among lower-priced options. The outer shell wraps around the bottom edge of the polystyrene core too, making the Viantor less prone to gouging and wear and tear.
There’s an internal roll cage, which increases the strength of the helmet, without adding mass and letting Abus provide plenty of ventilation for a comfortable hot weather ride.
Specialized Echelon II MIPS
Review score 9/10
With a whopping 31 vents and inner air channels, there’s no shortage of cooling in the Echelon II, even with the MIPS liner which provides for added crash protection. Comfort is good for a range of head shapes and there’s the Headset SL retention System has six height positions ad a micro-adjust dial.
You can also fit Specialized’s optional extra ANGi crash detection system to the Echelon II, which uses your smartphone to track your ride and alert your designated contacts in the event of an accident.
Review score 9/10
Lazer’s high-end helmets grace the heads of a cluster of pro teams, including Sunweb, Jumbo-Visma and Alpecin-Fenix. The high-end ventilation and feathery weights permeate down to the Blade+, with 22 vents and Lazer’s luxurious Rollsys retention system, that sees the adjustment dial into the top of the helmet, rather than the rear of the cradle.
Review score 9/10
Offering something different from the majority of bike helmets, the Livall BH60SE has an array of built-in LED lights, Bluetooth speakers and a windproof microphone. Gimmick? We don’t think so.
With 24 vents, it’s cool, aero and lightweight. The downside is that the Livall is one size fits all, so if you’re at either extreme of the size range, fit might be an issue.
Review score 8/10
HJC has been making motorcycle helmets for many years and applied its expertise about protection, design and aerodynamics into its bike lids, now worn by the WorldTour Lotto-Soudal team.
The Atara offers that pro-level expertise, with sleek looks and aerodynamics in a sub-£100/$NA helmet. It’s very light at just over 200g for a size small, although look out for fit if your head is on the petite end of the 51cm to 63 cm size range, covered by the S, M and L helmet options.
Smith Optics Signal MIPS
Impressively, Smith puts MIPS into its budget helmet, adding a popular safety feature found on many premium helmets. Other high-end features include the same Vaporfit retention system as on the brand’s pricier lids, although the straps are a bit coarser and the looks are quite chunky.
Review score 8/10
Another option from the German brand, Abus’s entry-level Macator comes with a removable visor and a head-hugging shape. It’s fit, retention system and venting swing well above the sticker price, although it’s on the heavy side at 278g for a size small helmet. The three sizes and six colors on offer mean that there are plenty of options to choose from though.
MET Vinci MIPS
Review score 8/10
Just hitting our £100$/NA upper price limit, the MET Vinci MIPS helmet takes design cues from the high-end Trenta. With 16 vents air circulation is good, helped by the internal channeling.
For extra road presence, you can buy a rear light that fits into the dial adjuster and the helmet comes with MIPS for extra crash protection. Look out for sizing: you may need to size up to get a good fit.
With 32-vents, a MIPS liner, and Giro’s Rock Lock 5.5 retention system, the Giro Agilis is a budget helmet that doesn’t look or feel like it’s cheap.
The helmet offers a deeper fit to protect more of your head, and the outer polycarbonate shell extends down under the bottom edge to keep the EPS foam dent and ding free. Our tester did note however, despite the number of vents and internal channeling, the helmet does run a bit hot.
Coming in at $100, the Bontrager Starvos helmet is the benefactor of plenty of trickle-down tech. The helmet is low profile with plenty of vents, but the headliner here is the WaveCell technology. Similar to Smith’s Koyroid, it’s designed to work a bit like a crumple zone, and absorb some of the forces in a crash before they reach your brain. We can’t confirm or deny the clams Trek makes about the level of energy absorption, but it has earned a 5-Star rating from Virginia Tech’s independent helmet safety testing.
Best budget road bike helmets: what to look for
Here’s a quick guide for key features that mark out the best budget road bike helmets. There’s more detail on helmet features in our guide to the best road bike helmets, so take a look there too.
Fit is the most tricky part of any helmet. Everyone’s head is a different shape, so fitting it into an object with fixed dimensions is always going to be tricky.
There’s some adjustment in all helmets for head circumference and height, while padding and hair help to cushion any tight spots. But no helmet will fit everyone perfectly, so try before you buy is the best advice to ensure comfort.
Air circulation is important for riding comfort, particularly on a hot day. More vents tend to be better for cooling, although internal channeling helps to push air over the head too. The modern trend to aero helmets works the other way though, as airflow over the helmet is usually better with a smoother profile.
So it’s worth considering how important aerodynamics and fast riding are for you. If you’re just after the best airflow, more vents are better, whereas if you want to go faster, you might want to look for a more enclosed design. The pros often swap between more and less vented helmets for mountain and flat stages.
Standing for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, MIPS was developed in Sweden. It provides a smooth inner layer that’s loosely connected to the helmet’s shell and slides between the helmet and the head in the event of a crash.
Helmets with MIPS consistently come towards the top of independent helmet impact tests, but the technology adds to the price of your helmet and ups weight by around 10 to 15 grams relative to an equivalent non-MIPS helmet. Read more about MIPS helmets here.
A helmet will come with adjustment to tighten it around the circumference of your head for a secure fit, called a retention system or fit system. That’s usually achieved via a dial adjuster at the rear of the helmet’s inner cradle or ontop of the shell.
You can also adjust the cradle up and down by sliding it in and out of the rear of the helmet. Some systems work better than others and we’ve usually noted any exceptions in the reviews of each helmet.
Straps too are adjustable for fit under the chin. Many helmets allow you to alter the position of where the two side straps meet under your ears too, although some don’t.
Helmet weight varies greatly, with some helmets much weightier than others. That’s not usually so noticeable once you’re riding, but you might find a lighter helmet more comfortable.
It’s something that is of concern to a pro, but probably not so important to leisure riders. MIPS will add a few grams to helmet weight too and cheaper helmets in general tend to be heavier than their more expensive peers.
Many helmet makers offer a crash replacement program, which lets you buy a new helmet at a reduced price if you’re involved in an accident. Terms vary by manufacturer, but it’s a bonus service worth looking for.