Words Hannah Bussey
First up, it’s worth mentioning that cycling itself isn’t an inherently dangerous activity.
There are statistics that can be interpreted any way you like to indicate one way or another when it comes to helmet use, and some clever numbers boffin could probably rightfully claim it’s more likely that you’ll be killed by a sheet of falling ice from an aircraft than on your bike. The reality is many people simply feel safer on a bike wearing a helmet.
We’re all for personal choice here at Cycling Active and among the technical test team you’ll see some of us happily wearing lids and others going 'wind in the hair' style.
Protect your head
All that aside, if you decide a brain bucket is for you, we’ve put together a test of seven safe, secure helmets all for under £50. After all, the primary reason for wearing 'personal protective equipment' is protection. When it came to the testing, we’ll be honest, we didn’t crash in all of them and see if we ended up hurt. But every one passes all the relevant EU, and many other international, tests, so safety is taken as a given.
With that bit out of the way, we concentrated on what we feel are the important bits. The pertinent details are, as ever, in the 'look out for' section, but it’s also worth noting that the best helmets aren’t as hot to wear as you might think. Internal channels between the visible holes allow air to flow in at the front and out of the rear. It’s this exhausting of air that takes the heat from your head with it. Sure, you’ll have a bit of helmet hair when you arrive, but it shouldn’t be overly sweaty, and who can’t cope with a bit of a ruffling and finger running at your destination to beautify oneself?
What to look for
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This is down to a combination of the shape of the helmet itself and the effectiveness of the retention system. Being able to adjust the height and width of the part that grips the back of the head is very important to how solid the helmets feels. After all, it’s this, not the straps, that keep the
helmet tight on your head.
Helmet manufacturers will often have a mould that fits certain head shapes better than others. While you may not know if yours is round, oval or square, trying on a few brands will allow you to feel the difference. You should never have hard parts against your head. Decent levels of (removable and
washable) padding are a must.
Adjustment and set-up
The first time you set up a helmet it's well worth taking a few minutes to get the straps set and y-buckles correctly positioned under the ears but above the jawline. From there, the strap length can be adjusted. Hopefully, this is a straightforward process. Also, we expect these settings to stay put. When you grab your lid, it should be a simple plug-and-play moment. Having to fiddle with it is a definite no-no.
Limar 635 £39.99
With eight colour options available, the Limar is definitely a lid for riders who just have to have a matching outfit. Thankfully, it’s not just about looks. Like the Cratoni, it has an insect-proof mesh on the front vents (the Italian brands do seem to like an insect mesh) and a quality pad set that allows plenty of airflow over the head while successfully keeping any of the shell away from the head. Over the sides of the skull, cool air has a bit more of a problem due to the lack of holes; and the fact that it’s available to fit only those with a 55cm head and over is a bit of a shame.
Abus Aduro £39.99
From first putting the Abus on, it felt hugely robust. That’s not to say it felt heavy or cumbersome, despite the excellent protection offered from the lower rear section. All fittings and fixtures simply felt well made. This meant that we never had any issues with straps shifting in use and everything simply stayed put once set. The built-in LED light on the rear head gripper was also a superb touch. As an everyday commuting lid there’s nothing the Aduro is lacking. Comfy, secure, good looking and a great price: full marks go to the Abus Aduro.
Spiuk Zirion £49.99
Sitting at the top of the price bracket, the Zirion’s appearance defies its sub-£50 price point: we’ve seen much more expensive helmets that don’t have its looks. It’s claimed to fit 53 to 61cm heads, but those over 58cm will need to check the shape as it’s definitely less oval than some. Its ventilation is very good, but security and ease of adjustment are where the Spiuk stands out. The Zirion was definitely a ’set and forget’ helmet and, like the best brain buckets, was simply ready to wear when we fancied a pedal. Comfortable, secure and reliable? Perfect!
10/10 TEST WINNER
Cratoni C-Blaze £49.99
With a pad under the chin buckle and Clean Tex pads, comfort is a clear priority for Cratoni. The rear retention device is also height adjustable, independently to its width so we managed to fit it to a variety of testers. It also has compatibility with Cratoni’s Rearlight system of aftermarket lights — a nice touch. Mesh moulding across the front vents will keep bugs out in the summer, and reflective tabs add an extra safety element. There are plenty of details to make the C-Blaze worthy of consideration — however, the fit isn’t great for those with a more oval head.
Lazer Neon £49.99
The standout feature on the Neon is the RollSys retention device. A roller actuator on the top of the helmet is simple to adjust and means that wearing a thin cap under the lid on colder days is a flick of the wrist away from secure comfort. Other lids offer this feature, but none do it quite as effectively or as fast. The one size helmet does mean it can look cumbersome on the smaller head and there will be a bit of excess movement, but for anyone with a 55 to 56cm head upwards, the Lazer is very, very sensible choice.
BBB Kite £34.95
Unusual at this price point is the two-size option. This means that smaller-headed riders don't have to rely on straps and cranium-cradling grippers to hold a big helmet in place. The straps and fitting don’t feel quite as nice as more expensive helmets in the test, but in their favour they didn’t move at all during testing. Despite the seemingly bulbous looks and small holes, there was excellent airflow through the helmet compared to many lids at this price.
Bell Alchera £49.99
Where the Alchera excelled in this test was with its ventilation. Bell has managed to carry the knowledge gained from its pro-level helmets and maintain the internal venting channels despite the lower price and material limits this entails compared to a £150 pro-level lid. The straps and fitting are more than acceptable and the lower edges of the helmet are well-protected compared to some thanks to the extended lower shell. There was more strap movement compared to the Spiuk, but it suited a different head shape, especially at the top end — one of the benefits of having two available sizes!
Every helmet here was pretty comfortable to wear — as long as you chose one to suit your head shape — and would protect you in a fall as well as any other. However, there are always standout performers.
For us, there were two obvious winners. The Abus helmet oozed quality and with its in-built rear light is a no-brainer choice for the sensible commuter. If you are after something a bit racier, the Zirion from Spanish Brand Spiuk makes a brilliant choice. Impeccable looks aside (there are nine colour options) the fit is great, it's very secure and reliable in its set up and just does everything a helmet should.
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