Best budget bike helmets reviewed 2021

The best budget bike helmets for cycling will be safe and often include many of the features of pricier cycling helmets

best budget bike helmets

The best budget bike helmets for road cycling 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, usually riding with them for weeks in a variety of condtions. Plenty are priced over £200 /$250, so we know what to look for and can spot a well-made helmet with good features that won’t break the bank. Here’s our pick of the best budget 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, or our guide to the best kids' bike helmets.

Best budget bike helmets for road cycling: our picks

best budget cycling helmets cheap

Specifications
Weight: 235g (size M)
Vents: 19
MIPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Good fit+Good protection from optional MIPS+Plenty of vents+Lots of colour options
Reasons to avoid
-Weight is mid-range

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, although that's been added since we tested.

You can read our full review of the Bell Formula helmet for more detail.

Best budget cycling helmet cheap

Specifications
Weight: 290g (claimed)
Vents: 18
MIPS: No
Reasons to buy
+High levels of comfort+Looks smarter than its price+Wide range of colour options
Reasons to avoid
-Lack of MIPS might put some people off

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.

You can read more in our full review of the Abus Viantor cycling helmet.

best budget cycling helmet cheap

Specifications
Weight: Not measured
Vents: 31
MIPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable+Stylish looks+Quality features
Reasons to avoid
-Heavier than some

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, which has six height positions and 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.

best budget cycling helmet cheap

Specifications
Weight: 260g (claimed)
Vents: 22
MIPS: No
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Fit is surrounding, not perched+Cool and well vented
Reasons to avoid
-Retention system not as refined as others

Lazer’s high-end helmets grace the heads of a cluster of pro teams. The high-end ventilation and feathery weights permeate down to the Blade+, with 22 vents and Lazer’s luxurious Rollsys retention system, that sets the adjustment dial into the top of the helmet, rather than the rear of the cradle.

The helmet sits around the head well and you can add an aeroshell to close off the vents and make you more streamlined and weatherproof.

Read the full review of the Lazer Blade+ to learn more.

best budget bike helmets cheap

(Image credit: Livall)

Specifications
Weight: 278g
Vents: 24
MIPS: No
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+SOS system+High visibility+Hands free phone connectivity
Reasons to avoid
-One size (55cm-61cm)-Big demand on phone battery-Uses phone internet access so can incur costs/signal limitations.

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, plus all that functionality quickly drains your phone's battery.

Read our ride impressions of the Livall BH60SE.

best budget cycling helmet cheap

(Image credit: MichelleArthursBrennan)

Specifications
Weight: 204g
Vents: 8
MIPS: No
Reasons to buy
+Great value+Lightweight+Breathable
Reasons to avoid
-Sizing is on the small side-No MIPS or similar additional safety technology

HJC has been making motorcycle helmets for many years and applied its expertise in protection, design and aerodynamics into its bike lids, now worn at WorldTour pro level.

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.

You can read our full review of the HJC Atara here.

Best budget bike helmets cheap

Specifications
Weight: 300g (claimed)
Vents: 21
MIPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Safety features+Low price+Crossover styling
Reasons to avoid
-Basic looks

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.

Take a look at our full review of the Smith Signal MIPS for more.

Best budget bike helmets cheap

Specifications
Weight: 278g
Vents: 8
MIPS: No
Reasons to buy
+Good fit+Two adjustable straps+Low priced
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky shape-Vertical retention system very sticky

Another option from the German brand, Abus’s entry-level Macator comes with a removable visor and a head-hugging shape. Its 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 colours on offer mean that there are plenty of options to choose from though, as you can read in our full review of the Abus Macator helmet.

Best budget road bike helmets cheap

Specifications
Weight: Not disclosed
Vents: 16
MIPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Comfort is high+Quality retention system
Reasons to avoid
-Sizing (we recommend sizing up)-Glasses port

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 channelling.

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, as described in our full review of the MET Vinci MIPS.

Giro Agilis helmet

Specifications
Weight: 271g
Vents: 32
MIPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Extra safety for off-road rides+Rounded front end profile+Quality straps and fittings for the price
Reasons to avoid
-Not very breathable

With 32-vents, a MIPS liner, and Giro's Roc Loc 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 channelling, the helmet does run a bit hot.

Read the full review of the Giro Agilis MIPS.

Bontrager Starvos

Bontrager Starvos MIPS

Specifications
Weight: 335g (claimed)
Vents: 12
MIPS: Yes

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 Koroyd, 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.

We've more in our full review of the Bontrager Starvos MIPS cycling helmet.

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

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.

Vents

Air circulation is important for riding comfort, particularly on a hot day. More vents tend to be better for cooling, although internal channelling 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. This piece looks at the aero benefits of an aero helmet.

So it’s worth considering how important aerodynamics and fast riding are for you. If you’re just after the best cooling 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.

MIPS

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.

Adjustability

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 on top 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.

Weight

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.

Crash replacement

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.