best road bike helmets

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

How do you maximise safety and comfort? Balance aero and weight? Work out the best road bike helmet for you with our helpful buyers guide.

Designed to protect riders from head injuries, brands are constantly competing to create the best road bike helmets. Factors like comfort, aerodynamics and breathability are key opportunities for competition.

But how do you find the best road bike helmet for you?

Our guide will to help you understand all the important aspects of buying the most suitable road bike helmet for you, including what to look for when purchasing and how to ensure you are getting the perfect road bike helmet in terms of fit, form, and comfort.

But first here’s our our top pick of the best road bike helmet for several different categories. If you want to see more from on the same theme, we’ve included a handy ‘jump link’ which will take you too that section on the page to save you endlessly scrolling.

<<Please note the jump link feature is currently out of action – we’re working on this and hope to have it working asap>>

Our pick of the best road bike helmets

For all cyclists, aerodynamics Vs weight and breathability will need to be balanced according to your priorities.

With each product is a ‘See more’ 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.

The ultimate road bike helmet

If you buy one road bike helmet, buy this. Here at Cycling Weekly we get to test lots of different helmets across lots of different categories, but if we had to pick just one, this would be our absolute favourite road bike helmet.

Giro Aether MIPS helmet

Best road bike helmet for all round riding.

Giro Aether MIPS helmet

Pros: Weight, breathable, looks, cooling | Cons: None

Safety features: MIPS | Sizes: S/M/L |Colours: 13

Weight: 269g (small) |Review score: 10/10

An absolute favourite road bike helmet for us is the Giro Aether MIPS. On test we called it a game-changer of a road bike helmet due to its unrivalled all-around performance; it’s exceptional ventilation ability, cutting edge safety features and all at an impressively low weight.

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.

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

Read more: Giro Aether road helmet review

Best of the rest road bike helmets

There are several different categories for road bike helmets, here’s our top spot road bike helmets for each type of road cycling discipline, with handy links to swiftly navigate to see all our favourite helmets in each category.

Best aero road bike helmet

POC Ventral Spin helmet

Watt saving without compromise

POC Ventral Spin helmet

Pros: aerodynamic, lightweight, breathable  | Cons: Price

Safety features: SPIN | Sizes: S/M/L |Colours: 12

The POC Ventral SPIN could probably sit in a few of the best road bike helmet categories due to it’s crossover credentials.

Featuring large airports, the Ventral SPIN doesn’t take the usual guise of a aero helmet, which tend to have a more solid appearance.

POC say that the unique design uses unique optimised CFD (computational fluid dynamic) testing which enhances aerodynamics performance by reducing drag and minimalizing air turbulence.

The aero lid uses POC’s own SPIN (Shearing Pad INside) safety feature, a Design and Innovation Award winning protection which combines silicone bladders and pads for helping to dissipate rotation impact.

The fully wrapped EPS lid includes a handy eyewear garage, comes in a huge variety of twelve colours, including more conservative blacks and whites, and in three sizes which should fit heads measuring between 50cm – 62cm.

Use this helpful best aero cycling helmets link to see more of our favourite watt saving head gear.

Best lightweight road bike helmet

Kask Protone helmet

Super Lightweight and cooling

Kask Protone 

Pros: Uber light, breathable, aerodynamic | Cons: Colours

Safety features: WG11 Passed| Sizes: S/M/L |Colours: 11

Weighing just an incredibly claimed 215g for a size medium, Kask say it’s Protone has the lowest drag and fastest heat dissipation coefficients compared to other ventilated helmets on the market.

According to Kask, the design combination of several ventilation holes and a thick padding allows heat and moisture to be not only reduced, but swiftly wicked away for supreme comfort.

The Protone partners these lightweight and breathable credentials with a reinforced internal plastic sub-structure, which has been certified in passing the WG11 standard, a European testing standard on rotational impact, which is considered to have one of the most robust testing protocol standards.

It’s on par price wise with the POC Ventral SPIN, and on paper looks to have a healthy colourway chart, but in practice this includes matt or gloss finishes and similar tones, so realistically reducing choice to more like eight.

Use this helpful Best lightweight cycling helmets link to see more of our favourite lightweight lids.

Best Time Trial road bike helmet

Giro Aerohead MIPS helmet

Speed without limitations.

best cycling helmets

Giro Aerohead MIPS helmet

Pros: Very fast, field of view, comfortable | Cons: Venting

Safety features: MIPs| Sizes: S/M/L |Colours: 6

Weight:480g (Medium) | Review score: 9/10

The wind-cheating silhouette of Giro’s Aerohead will maximise your performance with its excellent aerodynamic design which also boosts plenty of ventilation with its four Wind Tunnel vents.

On test we fount the Aerohead to be one of the best road bike helmets in the time trial category which offered impressive field of view is possible thanks to the wrap around eye shield made by ZEISS Optics. The shield is kept secure with a magnetic anchor attachment and it can also be stored in a flipped up position.

Read more: Giro Aerohead MIPS helmet

Use this helpful Best time trial cycling helmets link to see more of our favourite time trial headwear.

Best Commuter road bike helmet

Livall BH60SE Smart Helmet

A commuter helmet crammed with functionality

 

Livall BH60SE Helmet

Livall BH60SE Smart Helmet

Pros: Weight, SoS systemlights, handsfree connectivity, ventilation | Cons: One size, Phone battery/ signal demand

Safety features: CE and EN1078  | Sizes: One | Colours: 1

 Weight: 278g | Review score: 9/10

The Livall BH60SE Smart Helmet is mind-blowingly impressive.

From the interactive integrated lights to the automatic ICE calling system, it’s actually so good that it’s hard to place in just one category.

It somehow managing to cram everything from the SOS message system to playing your ultimate riding playlist, to super visibility in to one reasonably lightweight, good looking helmet for an impressive price.

Ideally it would have a MIPS crash protection and more sizes available. The only other to note is the impact on your phone battery, so not great for long distance riding.

Read more: Livall BH60SE Smart Helmet review 

Use this helpful Best commuter cycling helmets link to see more of our favourite commuting lids.

Best women’s specific helmet

Giro Seyen MIPS helmet

Incorporating form and function

best cycling helmets

Giro Seyen MIPS

Pros: low profile, venting, fit | Cons: Colours and sizing

Safety features: MIPS | Sizes: S-M| Colours: 4

The slimline helmet has been specifically designed to appeal to women’s with it’s  specifically stylised decals and colour choices.

Giro says this is because there are no anatomic differences between women’s and men’s heads except for the average diameter,  meaning the Seyen MIPS does not feature a unique women’s fit.

The  lightweight women’s helmet uses Giro’s Wind Tunnel ventilation system, which combines a total of 25 active vents and exhaust channels to thrust cool air over the head and force the hot air out.

If you’re after something a bit different, or wanting a more size subtle option this could be a winning road bike helmet for you. However, if you have anything bigger than a size 59cm head, and / or are after a more classic colour way, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Use this helpful Best women’s specific cycling helmets link to see more of our favourite headgear designed for women.

Check out the rest of our personal picks of the best road bike helmets for each cycling category below:

Best road bike helmets: Aero

Aero 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.

Our favourite aerodynamic lids you can buy right now.

Abus Gamechanger helmet

Abus Gamechanger helmet

Pros: Comfortable, aero, aesthetics Cons: Retention system, straps

Safety features: ABUS Multishell | Sizes: S,M,L| Colours: 13

 Weight: 265g (small)| Review score: 8/10

On test we were impressed by how competitive the ABUS Gamechanger helmet was compared to other Aero specific helmets.

It’s not the lightest lid by any means, but weighing in at just 21g heavier than the nearly double the price Specialized Evade II (which also didn’t feature MIPS) that’s not bad going.

As with any specific aero claims, they are tricky to prove out on the open road, but we can vouch for it’s cooling system. The only negatives were the rough retention system and straps.

Read more: ABUS Gamechanger review 

Lazer Century MIPS road helmet

Lazer Century MIPS road helmet

Pros: Added features Cons: Rear light function, weight

Safety features: MIPS | Sizes: S,M,L | Colours: 5

 Weight: 342g (large)| Review score: 8/10

The Lazer Century MIP helmet is the ideal road bike helmet for multitasking. It can swap between a both aero and vented camps, making it a two in one option, thanks to a removable magnetic panel at the front.

Although we don’t have an exact wattage saving when the panel is in place, it’s removal is said to increase airflow by 11 percent.

The built in rear light, with continuous or flashing modes is USB rechargeable, but a little fiddly to use and function do to the switch and charge port locations.

With MIPS on board, the Lazer Century MIP helmet provides peace as well as additional safety for your (and loved ones) minds, although there is a non-MIPS version available if you’d prefer.

Read more: Lazer Century MIPS road helmet review 

Kask Utopia road bike helmet

best cycling helmets aero

Kask Utopia

Pros: Cooling, lightweight, low profile, aerodynamic, adjustability | Cons: Minimal padding

Safety features: MIPS | Sizes: S,M,L| Colours: 8

 Weight: 266g (Medium)| Review score: 9/10

As see on Team Ineos, the Italian outfits latest aero lid is slippery in the wind tunnel yet won’t leave you a sweaty mess making it the perfect road bike helmet for hard workers prone to perspiration.

Despite its closed off silhouette, the deep channelling and vents under the brow keep your noggin cool and your sunglasses free of sunscreen infused sweat. It’s not the lightest helmet out there, but at 266 grams it disappears on your head once you’ve strapped in on.

Read more: Kask Utopia road helmet review 

Bell z20 Aero MIPS helmet

Bell z20 Aero MIPS helmet

Pros: Comfortable, cooling, breathableCons: glasses port, coarse straps 

Safety features: MIPS | Sizes: S,M,L| Colours: 7

 Weight: 252g (Small)| Review score: 8/10

Bell make the Z20 in a few guises – the standard Z20, Z20 Ghost and the Aero model. As you’d expect, this one is meant to cut through the air with minimal drag making it one of the first choice road bike helmet for anyone wanting to shave a few seconds off their sprint.

On test we found it a comfortable helmet with a well integrated MIPS layer. There’s plenty of breathability, and the brow pad sweat catching system is a good idea. The only let downs were the material on the straps and the slightly temperamental glasses port.

Read more: Bell z20 Aero MIPS helmet review 

Smith Ignite helmet

best cycling helmets

Smith Ignite

 

Pros: Comfort, safety features, aesthetics| Cons: tricky to keep clean

Safety features: Koryd & MIPS | Sizes: S,M,L| Colours: 5

 Weight: 277g (Medium)| Review score: 9/10

Comfortable, undoubtedly slippery through the air and packed to the rafters with the safety features of Koroyd and MIPS. It has Smith’s VaporFit retention system which can be adjusted vertically and horizontally to allow for a snuggly fit for all head shapes.

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

Read more: Smith Ignite review 

Giro Vanquish MIPS

best cycling helmets

Giro Vanquish

Pros: Fit, airflow, visor optics, safety Cons: Looks

Safety features: MIPS | Sizes: S,M,L| Colours: 5

 Weight: 300g (Medium – without visor)| Review score: 8/10

Giro created the Vanquish to find the perfect balance between a road specific and a wind-cheating TT aero lid making it the first pick road bike helmet for riders looking for a do all option. The front of the shell features what the brand calls TransforAir which uses a small step to trick air into behaving as if the helmet had a full teardrop. If you’re lining up for a TT or triathlon (gasp), an optional magnetic visor improves its wind-cheating prowess.

With decent-sized front vents and deep internal channels plenty of air is sucked through the helmet to prevent a sweaty head, Giro has opted to use the Roc Loc retention system you know and love.

Read more: Giro Vanquish review 

Best road bike helmets: Lightweight

Lightweight helmets will save obviously save weight, and often mean breathability, something that will have more appeal in summer.

Giro Helios Spherical

Giro Helios Spherical

Pros: Lightweight, comfortable, aerodynamics, aesthetics | Cons: no eyewear doc

Safety features: MIPS | Sizes: S,M,L| Colours: 5

 Weight: 260g (Medium)| Review score: 10/10

The Giro Helios Spherical is a superb lid that does it all and, like the more expensive Giro Aether, integrates the latest safety tech without compromising comfort or weight.

There are loads of colours to choose from in the low-volume lid, in this MIPS-powered helmet, which integrates the sliding layer to present one of the best road bike helmets we’ve ever ridden.

It’s technically aimed at the gravel and adventure riders, but more than happy on a tarmac-faring cyclists making it one of our favourite road bike helmets.

Read more: Giro Helios Spherical helmet review 

Lazer Blade+ MIPS Helmet

Pros: Lightweight, fit, ventilated | Cons: Retention system,

Safety features: MIPS| Sizes: S,M,L| Colours: 6

 Weight: TBC | Review score: 9/10 (non MIPS version)

We highly rated the Lazer Blade helmet when we saw the non  MIPS version, so this new safety feature update is music to our ears.

While it does push the price up a little, this is still a really great price for head protection with what is considered the gold standard of standards.

Good enough looks wise to compete with helmets much higher up the food chain, as well a providing great ventilation.

Read more: Lazer Blade helmet review 

Oakley ARO3 helmet

Oakley ARO3 helmet

Oakley ARO3 helmet

Pros: Comfortable, breathable, aesthetics | Cons: Retention system, lack of hair space

Safety features: MIPS | Sizes: S,M,L| Colours: 7

 Weight: 254g (Small)| Review score: 8/10

Despite it’s aero looks, the Oakley ARO3 helmet is in fact designed to be a lightweight helmet with plenty of ventilation.

At 254g in a size small, this helmet is reasonable, but not as light as competitors, but probably the lightest entry level option.

On test we found it a comfortable helmet that offers plenty of breathability for hot days in the saddle. The Boa dial retention system wasn’t a winner for us, but it did its job as required and we’d recommend this helmet for those seeking a cool head under the hot summer’s sun.

Read more: Oakley ARO3 helmet review

HJC Atara helmet

best cycling helmet lightweight

HJC Atara

Pros: great value, lightweight, breathable | Cons: Sizing, safety tech

Safety features: EPS| Sizes: S,M,L| Colours: 5

 Weight: 204g (Small)| Review score: 8/10

At just 204g and around the $100/ £100 mark, the Atara is impressively lightweight and low price making it an excellent road bike helmet at an entry level.  There are a host of features you’d expect in a much higher end model making it great value for money, although there is no MIPS or similar additional safety technology

This helmet from HJC features eight vents plus a rear exhaust system, and we found the front vents to be really useful for holding a pair of cycling glasses.

We’d suggest trying before you buy as the recommendations on the size chart did not seem to match the fit – in our case, the small was too big.

Read more: HJC Atara helmet review 

Lazer G1 Genesis helmet

best cycling helmets lightweight

Lazer Genesis helmet

Pros: Light, comfortable, secure | Cons: requires aeroshell 

Safety features: MIPS| Sizes: S,M,L| Colours: 6

 Weight: 205g (Medium) 247g (+aeroshell)| Review score: 9/10

A featherlight and comfortable lid which felt secure when on and boasts a simple, stylish look. To fine-tune the fit to your individual head shape the rear retention cradle has a large amount of vertical adjustment.

You do need to “shell” out for the additional aero layer, but it’s not a big outlay at an additional £19.99 / $22.99 and the helmet still remains lightweight compared to aero specific options.

Read more: Lazer Genesis helmet review

MET Trenta helmet

MET Trenta

Pros: Comfortable, cool, aero, light fitting| Cons: Not much 

Safety features: MIPS| Sizes: S,M,L| Colours: 5

 Weight: 223g (Medium) | Review score: 9/10

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.

At 223g it very light, despite being marketed in the aero category,  making it on of the best road bike helmets for all round use. Made of carbon means that any self-respecting roadie will automatically love it.

Read more: Met Trenta helmet review

Specialized Evade II helmet

Specialized Evade II helmet

Pros: Aero, breathable, crash sensor ANGi| Cons: Straps

Safety features: MIPS| Sizes: S,M,L| Colours: 5

 Weight: 235g (small) | Review score: 9/10

Specialized’s Evade aero helmet has always had a stand-out aesthetic, but the newest iterations claim to be six seconds faster over 40km thanks to revised aerodynamics. It’s also more breathable and lighter by 12-20 grams when compared to previous versions – the small model comes in at only 235g which could easily earn it a place in the best lightweight helmet category.

Best road bike helmets: Time trial

Time trial cycling helmets are similar to aero helmets in that they will be wind tunnel tested and have significant watt-saving data. Typically they will have a longer ‘tail’ than an aero helmet, and will focus solely on function.

Bear in mind that these are all about out and out speed from A to B so might not be suitable/ UCI or other governing body legal for anything other than time trailing events.

Met Codatronca helmet

best cycling helmets

Met Codatronca

Pros: Comfortable, adjustable, versatile| Cons: Visor

Safety features: CE; AS/NZS| Sizes: S,M,L| Colours: 2

 Weight: 265g (small) | Review score: 9/10

The Codatronca has a short tail which makes it a more versatile time trial helmet for most riders. Riders will still get significant aero gains but without having to worry that you are always in a perfect optimum “turtle” position – this is particularly relevant when faced with sporting courses.

We found it was a very comfortable lid, which provided a close fit with Met’s ‘Safe-T Orbital’ fit system with retention dial. It also had sufficient ventilation thanks to its three small vents on the front and further two ‘exhaust’ holes at the rear – included to channel air out the back. It has a clever magnetic visor system, but bear in mind the visor is quite long and therefore may take some time to get used to.

Read more: Met Codatronca time trial helmet review

>>> Best time trial and triathlon bikes

In our testing we found the Giro Aerohead to be around 17 watts faster at 40kph than the standard Giro aero helmet, the Synthe.

Read more: Giro Aerohead MIPS helmet review

Lazer Wasp Air helmet

best cycling helmets

Lazer Wasp Air

Pros: Two tail lengthsmulti-lens position, additional features| Cons: None road race/ event standard

Safety features: CPSC | Sizes: S,M,L| Colours: 1

A honeycomb front ventilation panel is used on this time trial helmet to limit overheating and Lazer’s advanced Turnfit retention system ensures this helmet has a comfy fit that won’t distract you from any efforts.

A spring loaded cover allows you to directly squirt water into the helmet on hot days, while optional ventilation systems allows the rider to choose between optimal ventilation Vs optimal aerodynamics.

This model has a short tail but there are long tail conversion kits available, although it’s not considered road bike event standard.

Best women’s road bike helmets

With no destiguishable differences between male and female heads, most helmet manufacturers offer a unisex helmet shapes. Where there is a women’s specific option, this is mostly down to colour ways to match the brand’s kit/ bikes or just offer alternatives, mostly in the form of more elaborate decals.

Liv Extima MIPS helmet

best cycling helmets women

Liv Extima Aero helmet

Pros: Aero, vented, Low profile| Cons: Colour

Safety features: EPS| Sizes: S,M,L| Colours: 1

The Extima is Team Sunweb’s helmet of choice as it superbly balances aerodynamics with being lightweight and well ventilated making it one of the best women’s road bike helmet for all round racing. An environmentally safe and effective material by X-odour – that neutralises the smell of sweat after a taxing ride – is used in the padding of this helmet.

It is also good to know that the helmet is protected for 12 months under Liv’s helmet crash replacement service.

It ‘s proving tricky to track down in the States at the moment, but as soon as it come’s available we’ll let you know.

Best commuter cycling helmets

Commuter helmets are all about the practicalities of riding a bike for transport. Coming in a huge range of styles, with a huge range of functions – it’s just a matter of picking one that meets your needs.

Looking cool on your daily commute does not have to be at the sacrifice of safety by not wearing a helmet at all. By all means, if you’re already a rider. just wear you existing lid, but if you’re new and looking for top tips for commuting by bike to work , and on the look out for something specific, we’ve found the best road bike helmets to match with the best commuter bikes that also combine looks with safety features.

Bern Watts 2.0 MIPS Helmet

The all-new Watts 2.0 focuses on added comfort and protection, while keeping Bern’s iconic low-profile and brim-style design. It is lighter in weight with improvements made to the EPS (inner foam) structure, boasts 11 vents with enhanced airflow throughout the helmet, and features Bern’s compass fit system so you can ‘dial-in’ on your perfect fit.

Overade Plixi Fit helmet

Best bike helmets

Foldable helmet Plixi Fit

The volume of this helmet from Overade is divided by three when it is folded, which brings the size down to 21 x 11 x 16 cm – and so it’s much easier to pack away once you arrive at your destination.

With 14 vents and adjustable straps for chin protection the Plixi helmet is not just practical, it will also provide a comfortable fit with enough airflow across your head so you don’t overheat and turn into a sweaty mess. Ride in style in the city with this helmet that complies with US CPSC and the European EN1078 safety standards for helmets.

Giro Cormick MIPS Urban Cycling Helmet

Best bike helmets

Giro Cormick MIPS Urban Cycling Helmet

With a high degree of ventilation, this is a commuter helmet perfect for those with hot heads, while an integrated peak helps to deflect spray away from your eyes – should the weather take a turn for the worse.

Adjusting the fit is as simple as turning a dial, allowing you to make on the fly adjustments. Coming with MIPS built in, the Cormick boosts its safety credentials by reducing the rotational forces imparted to the head in the event of a crash making it one of the best road bike helmets for commuting in.

Endura PissPot Urban Helmet

Best bike helmets

Endura PissPot Urban Helmet

Designed in collaboration with stunt cyclists Danny MacAskill and Kriss Kyle, this smart looking helmet also boasts high performance. It’s lightweight so as to cause less of a distraction, the adjustment system functions in micro increments for a perfect fit and the padding is fast wicking, antibacterial, as well as being removable for washing.

Two sizes and a range of colours make finding the perfect one a significantly easier task.

Lazer Next+ MIPS LED Urban Helmet

Best bike helmets

Lazer Next+ MIPS LED Urban Helmet

Lazer have hit the important points with their commuting offering, featuring a small brim to keep sun and rain out of your eyes, vents that allow for enough cooling but also don’t let too much rain in, and top rated protection, with the MIPS system built in. making it another contender for the safest road bike helmet in the commuter category.

This allows the helmet to rotate and thus absorb some of the energy in the event of a crash, meaning less force is transmitted into the wear’s head.

What is the safest road bike helmet?

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 safety authority in the country of sale.

If you choose to spend more, the helmet won’t necessarily be safer but instead may be lighter, and more breathable. The retention system often becomes more comfortable and adjustable on a more expensive helmet.

A safety system called MIPS, Multi-directional Impact Protection System,  will often be referred too when discussing the level of protection. It’s considered the industry gold standard of helmet protection and you can read all about it in our guide below.

If you’re looking specifically to save some money then you might want to check out our guide on the Best cheap and budget friendly bike helmets to get the best without breaking the bank.

If you have a budding bike rider in your life then our guide to the Best kids bike helmets will give you all the important information for how to help you keep their heads safe when riding.

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

Bike helmet safety 

Always check that the helmet you are buying is tested to the standard relevant to where you live: CPSC for the US, EN 1078 sticker for the UK, and Europe. This means that the helmet has passed a number of tests that look at helmet’s construction, field of vision, impact absorption, retention system, chin strap and buckle. In order to ride in races, gran fondos and triathlons it is often a requirement to have a helmet that adheres to the relevant local standard.

Correct fit is vital to helmet safety (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Road 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 it build the layer into their own helmets. Some brands like Bontrager have their own similar systems.

The MIPS liner is designed to reduce rotational forces on the brain that can occur in the event of a crash, creates a slip plane to mimic the brain’s own protection system to minimize force transmission to the brain.

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

Road 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.

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 road bike helmet for you, as they are often different shapes internally.

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

best helmets

A gap at the rear of the helmet is useful for a ponytail

Bike helmet adjustment/retention system

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

best cycling helmets

Even in an aero helmet, the rear cradle should allow lots of adjustability

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 bill 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.

A cap will keep you warmer on cold rides (Sunada)


Which is faster? 


Bike helmet comfort and padding

Padding makes a helmet more comfortable but also helps to wick sweat away from your head. An ideal road bike helmet design will feature padding that can be removed for washing and replacement.

cycling helmets

Strategically placed padding will add comfort without stopping airflow

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 usually considerably warmer, though the latest crop of aero lids has shown the value of well designed internal channelling. 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  when hot weather cycling , it becomes invaluable.

cycling helmet

Helmet designs need to balance airflow and aerodynamics

Bike helmet weight

As is common with cycling kit, as weight decreases price tends to increase. The best road bike helmets will be lightest in their given category, making them the most comfortable option because they don’t place less strain on your neck. If you’re a competing cyclist the other advantage of 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 road bike bike helmet

Leisure/commuting bike helmets

These kinds of helmets typically range from $50 / £40  to $100/ £80 and are ideal for those getting into cycling, or those who aren’t troubled by and extra 50-100g of weight. They tend to be just as comfortable in terms of padding as more expensive helmets, but with a slightly heavier weight.

cycling helmets

A good example is the Smith Optics Signal ($75/£65 ), pictured above. The Specialized Echelon II ($90/ £50 is another great road bike helmet option, although there are many more.

Performance road bike helmets

These are the best road bike helmets for all round performance and are among the lightest and most breathable options available, used by professionals during races. As an aside, helmet vents can be useful for stowing glasses, when not being worn and offer plenty of angles to get at an itch on your head.

Pro-level helmets will balance comfort, ventilation and light weight with aerodynamics (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Time Trial bike helmets

Time trial (TT) helmets are designed to be worn during time trials and are not permitted in standard UCI road races, but are permitted in UCI TT’s if they carry the necessary safety credentials. They are also a popular option for triathletes and track riders as they are the best road bike helmet for minimising drag.

These helmets often feature elongated or teardrop shapes to maximize aerodynamics, but venting is minimal, as vents create drag and visors are common.

Can an aero road helmet make you faster? Ultimately yes, just don’t show up to a sportive or Sunday ride in a time trial helmet, unless you enjoy being ridiculed.

Time trial helmets are deeper and less vented than road helmets, for an aero boost (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Aero road bike helmets

A helmet type that has become increasingly popular in the last few years, an aero road helmet is a cross between a traditional road helmet and a TT helmet.

They are designed to be more aerodynamic than a standard helmet, but this means they sometimes try to reduce drag by featuring less venting, generally making them slightly heavier and warmer, although in the best aero road bike helmets it will negligible. This  breathability / weight trade-off is worth it for breakaway riders and sprinters. The Specialized Evade and Smith Ignite are good examples.

An aero road helmet might give you a few seconds’ advantage (Photo: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Road bike helmet top tips

Some best road bike helmet 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.