If you’re riding a bike, you need a helmet. Period. But that doesn’t mean you have to wear the same lid you’ve had for the past decade. Whether you’re looking for something to cruise around town in (like the Thousand Heritage) or something for your next race (go for the Bell Z20), you’ll find it here in our picks of the best cycling helmets of the year.
These cycling helmets are the best you can buy, and they run the gamut from affordable to very expensive.
Best Cycling Helmets 2019
You won’t find a cooler vintage-looking helmet than the Heritage Collection from Thousand. These cycling helmets are inspired by 50s and 60s moto racers, but they pack modern technology for convenience, comfort, and safety.
For example, the Thousand PopLock makes it easy to secure your helmet to your bike. The magnetic fastener can be fastened with one hand. And the built-in low-profile visor keeps just enough sun out of your eyes.
You won’t get a whole lot of vents on the Thousand Heritage Helmet Or MIPS protection. But you do get a super stylin’ helmet that stands out from everything else around. And at a phenomenal price, too. (Oh, in case you’re wondering, those straps aren’t leather—they’re a more environmentally friendly vegan faux leather.)
This is one of Bontrager’s middle-of-the-line road cycling helmets, and it’s a phenomenal value. It includes numerous external vents as well as internal channels that move air through the helmet to keep you cool. Bontrager’s internal padding is great for improving comfort without sacrificing protection, too.
The Starvos includes MIPS tech, which helps reduce rotational forces on your brain if you’re in a crash (which is what usually causes concussions). Bontrager’s one-year crash replacement guarantee means if you crash wearing this helmet within the first year of owning it, they’ll replace it for free. That’s a great deal.
The Bontrager Stravos MIPS Bike Helmet is a solid choice for anyone who doesn’t have tons of extra cash for a helmet.
For classic styling like Thousand’s Heritage collection but with a few extra safety features, look no further than the Giro Sutton Helmet. It maintains the minimal vintage look but adds a few important extras.
First and foremost, it packs MIPS protection for decreased chances of a concussion. Always good. The Giro Sutton Mips also has a light clip in the back so you can get your rear bike light higher off the ground, improving visibility.
But it also comes with some convenience features, too. The soft visor on the Giro Sutton Helmet keeps the sun out of your eyes. A reinforced vent doubles as a lock port for securing your Giro cycling helmet. And its eight vents provide just a bit more flow than the Thousand.
Smith’s signature Koroyd crumple zones are on full display in this helmet (that’s the bright green layer under the shell). This technology absorbs more kinetic energy than other helmet types without sacrificing breathability.
That crash protection plus the 20 vents makes the Smith Route Helmet a great value. Much like the Starvos, it combines technology from higher-end helmets with a price tag that more road cyclists can handle. One of the best value road cycling helmets on this list.
The Route also packs something most other helmets don’t: an antibacterial lining. Helmets can start to smell pretty terrible after a few rides, and that should help.
The Stratus has long been one of the more popular Bell cycling helmets, and for good reason. It’s lightweight, has 18 big vents, and a little bit of aerodynamic shaping. Those vents do a great job of channeling air through the Bell Stratus Mips Helmet to keep you from overheating.
Bell updated the Stratus Helmet to include MIPS for better protection and kept their signature outer-shell-to-inner-foam bonding process to create a solid helmet that won’t fail in a big crash.
The Bell Stratus Helmet comes with proprietary rear dial and no-twist side straps that won’t annoy you in the middle of a ride, either. And that’s way more valuable than you might imagine.
Want lots of aerodynamic performance without a huge, unwieldy, and—frankly—ugly aero helmet? The Ballista’s got you covered.
Bontrager took this aero road helmet to the wind tunnel to make it as aerodynamic as possible without a giant rear fin. The result is the Bontrager Ballista Mips Helmet that looks as fast as it rides. You’ll notice right away that there aren’t many vents on the Ballista; that’s because vents slow you down. The Bontrager Ballista Helmet is all about going fast.
So if you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of comfort for some extra speed, you can’t go wrong with the Ballista. Don’t worry, though; you’re not sacrificing safety. Bontrager’s polycarbonate shell and MIPS tech keep you safe.
The Lazer Z1 Mips Helmet is almost more vent than shell. This thing has 31 vents. That’s some serious cooling power. But Lazer didn’t skimp on protective features to keep the Z1 light (though it is extremely light at 190 grams).
The four-piece outer shell is bonded to an EPS foam liner as you’ll find in just about every other helmet. But the Lazer Z1 Helmet now packs MIPS, which you won’t find in some other ultralight cycling helmets. And they extended the coverage over the temple for added protection.
You can even add Lazer’s aeroshell over the Z1 to make it a more aerodynamic option for time trials or triathlons. Or, you know, to keep the cold wind out of those big vents in the winter. Lazer knows how to make cycling helmets, you can’t go wrong with the brand.
Bell’s flagship helmet draws on a lot of great helmets before it (including the venerable Zephyr). 18 huge vents maximize airflow, while MIPS keeps your dome safe in a crash.
The fit system in the Bell Z20 Helmet is integrated with the MIPS tech in the helmet for a great fit. That system is highly adjustable and will have the helmet fitting perfectly no matter how weird your head is shaped.
Bell’s quick-drying pads are lined with silver fibers, giving the Bell Z20 Mips Helmet a slight antimicrobial effect, helping keep this helmet smelling fresh. Well, maybe not fresh. But not as terrible as it could.
Kask has a long-standing reputation for high-quality helmets, and the Mojito X continues that legacy. This helmet has some serious Italian style, from the little flip at the back of the hlmet right down to the hypoallergenic faux leather chinstrap.
Safetywise, the Mojito X is up there with the best. Kask uses in-mold construction to bond the shell with the liner, creating what feels like a single-piece helmet. And although it’s one of the high-end helmets that doesn’t pack MIPS, you can be confident in its level of protection.
Kask’s fit system is an especially nice feature. The Up-N-Down ratchet lets the helmet sit in the right place for optimum comfort. The sanitized lining stays clean, which boosts comfort even more.
There’s something about the Octal that says “serious road rider.” POC designed this helmet to be extra cool with massive vents, but also included extra safety features like more coverage around the temples and the back of the head. The inner foam is thicker to better protect to more exposed parts of your dome.
POC wrapped all of that into a helmet that’s remarkably light because of the unibody shell and lightweight sizing system.
Plus you get extra features that make life better with an Octal. The straps are molded into the internal foam for a less annoying fit. The “eye garage” keeps your sunglasses in place when you put them on your helmet. And top-of-the-line padding found on the POC Octal Raceday Helmet is cooler than cheaper options.
Now that we got your helmet dialed and head protected, how about upgrading your road bike shoes? Take a look at our picks for the best cycling shoes of the year.