The Best Bike Helmets for Every Type of Cyclist

Smith's Persist is the best because of its high quality at a great price.

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Best Bike Helmets

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Wearing a bike helmet should be a given. Even if you’ve never fallen — and never plan to fall — if you do, you’ll surely want something to protect your head from hitting the asphalt, car hood, or tree. Thankfully, today’s bike helmets now come with features that outweigh any potential drawbacks. They boast venting to keep you cool, wicking liners that stop sweat from getting in your eyes, quickly adjustable systems, chin straps that offer a snug fit, and foam padding for comfortable rides. And they're better than ever at protecting your head; all helmets in the United States have to match the same safety standards, but the latest models employ loads of tech to distribute the energy impacts to the helmet rather than to you.

Our overall best pick – Smith Persist – employs a Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS), which redirects the rotational effects of a fall by letting an impact-absorbing layer rotate slightly upon collision. It's the same tech that’s found in the Bontrager Velocis MIPS (Best for Road Biking), Smith Express (Most Versatile), and the Smith x Rapha Forefront 2 (Best for Mountain Biking). From those that emphasize style as much as function to those suited for cold or hot conditions, we’ve got you covered.

These are the best bike helmets of 2022:

Best Overall: Smith Persist Bicycle Helmet

Smith Persist

Amazon

Why We Love It: The Persist comes with loads of high-end features, ample breathability, and a quick-fit solution at a solid price point.

What to Consider: Those who also ride on gravel or go mountain biking might want a helmet with a bit more protection at the back.

Reasonably priced for a higher-quality helmet, the Smith Persist provides a touch of urban style and loads of protection. The road-centric lid includes Smith’s adjustable VaporFit system, which works to provide a near-custom fit via an easy-to-operate dial that adjusts the band around 270 degrees of your head; it’s simple to get a snug-but-not-tight fit. A cache of 21 vents work to channel air to keep you cool, and an AirEvac system works to help keep hot air off your sunglasses to avoid fogging, though it’s optimal when used with a pair of Smith glasses because they were designed to fit together. It also boasts the highest-level of protection on the market with its MIPS Brain Protection System, which reduces rotational forces from angled impacts.

Weight: 11 ounces | Sizes available: Small to X-large |  Number of vents: 21 | Shell material: Polycarbonate

Best Budget: Giro Quarter Adult Mountain Cycling Helmet

Giro Quarter Adult Mountain Cycling Helmet

Amazon

Why We Love It: Stylish and versatile, the lower-cost Quarter delivers the protection you need.

What to Consider: A fit-kit padding system isn’t as easy to work with when compared to more traditional dial- or sliders-style fit harnesses.

The skate-style Giro Quarter has been optimized with a polyurethane bumper to handle the rough singletrack and provides enough protection for the casual cyclist as well. The low-profile design comes with an EPS liner to help reduce impact, riveted webbing anchors for durability, and internal pads that absorb sweat, which can be swapped out to help dial the optimal fit. The ABS shell provides ample protection, compatible with US and EU standards, and nine vents help regulate the internal temps.

Weight: 16 ounces | Sizes available: Small to large |  Number of vents: 9 | Shell material: ABS

Most Versatile: Smith Express MIPS Bike Helmet

Smith Express MIPS Bike Helmet

Smith

Why We Love It: It has a clean matte finish and comes with all the necessary accessories to let you get up and go.

What to Consider: It's not available in extra-small or extra-large sizes.

Travel + Leisure commerce editor Lydia Price recommends the Express MIPS if you’re looking for a casual, minimalist design that suits a variety of uses from commuting to recreational wear. Available in sleek matte hues from merlot to cloudgrey, this helmet provides advanced MIPs protection but is lightweight enough to transport across cities and into the office. “The Express comes with an optional visor that’s super simple to attach and remove and adds another layer of sun protection for your vision without the added bulk of a built-in visor. Casual riders like myself will appreciate that this all-in-one-type package also includes a rear light and straightforward, seamless dial that lets you adjust to the perfect fit,” she says.

Weight: 11.6 ounces | Sizes available: Small to large |  Number of vents: 13 | Shell material: Polycarbonate

Smith Express Helmet

Travel + Leisure / Lydia Price

Best for Commuters: Lazer Cityzen Kineticore Bike Helmet

Lazer Cityzen Kineticore Bike Helmet

Amazon

Why We Love It: Stylish, easy on the wallet, and breathable, the Cityzen Kineticore boasts a solid safety rating capable of handling impacts with the street and vehicles.

What to Consider: It does still look like a traditional bike helmet; some may yearn for something even more stylish.

Savvy bike commuters want a helmet that’ll keep them protected without looking like they’re pedaling a stage of the Tour de France. And the Cityzen Kineticore from Lazer gives you that – as well as other commuter-friendly features not found in other helmets. It’s compatible with the brand’s Universal Lazer LED light, which attaches to the back of the helmet to keep you visible on early a.m. or late evening rides, with four vents to avoid overheating and an easy-to-adjust TurSys dial fit system. It also boasts a four-star safety rating from Virginia Tech, utilizing both dual-layer Kineticore Controlled Crumple Zones that handle direct and rotational impacts to redirect the energy away from your head and a flexible ABS outer shell to handle smaller impacts.

Weight: 15 ounces | Sizes available: Small to X-large |  Number of vents: 4 | Shell material: ABS

Best for Road Biking: Bontrager Velocis MIPS Road Bike Helmet

Bontrager Velocis MIPS Road Bike Helmet

REI

Why We Love It: If you’re a serious road cyclist, the Velocis MIPS Road Bike Helmet won’t hold you back; instead it’ll keep you cool and well-protected.

What to Consider: Sizing is limited, and the price is a bit high.

Whether you’re on a casual weekend ride or clipping in for a race, the Bontrager Velocis MIPS Helmet delivers. The engineers at Bontrager used a wind tunnel to assure the helmet has the most aerodynamic design possible and layered ample ventilation throughout to keep things cool and flowing. Fit is guaranteed thanks to a dial system that uses bomber BOA laces that embrace the head without hot spots, and integrated MIPS provides the best possible protection from both angled and direct impacts.

Weight: 9 ounces | Sizes available: Small-large |  Number of vents: 10 | Shell material: Polycarbonate

Best for Mountain Biking: Smith Forefront 2 MIPS Mountain Cycling Helmet

Smith Forefront 2 MIPS Mountain Cycling Helmet

Amazon

Why We Love It: The low-profile Forefront 2 will please almost any mountain biker, with ample venting, serious protection, and an anti-odor lining.

What to Consider: Downhill riders may prefer the added protection of a full-face helmet.

Designed in partnership with haute cycling company Rapha, the Smith x Rapha Forefront 2 is Smith’s premier mountain bike helmet. It comes with all the singletrack-essential features you need, including a three-position adjustable visor and compatibility with both sunglasses and goggles. A network of 20 vents work to keep you cool and to expel hot air so that your lenses don’t get foggy (and, if you’re wearing Smith glasses, you can also slide them into storage channels at the front or back to protect your lenses when you’re not wearing them). The VaporFit dial system offers a 270-degree fit with one-handed adjustment and an antimicrobial lining helps control odors. As for protection, the Forefront 2 doubles down, with the MIPS Brain Protection System for angled impacts, Koroyd coverage to absorb energy, and an integrated skeletal structure that acts like a strong, impact-resisting roll cage.

Weight: 13.5 ounces | Sizes available: Small-large |  Number of vents: 20 | Shell material: Polycarbonate

Best for Cold Weather: Salomon MTN Lab Helmet

Salomon MTN Lab Helmet

Salomon

Why We Love It: The multisport MTN Lab helmet will keep you warm — and not overheated — when the mercury drops and includes a summer liner for when the weather starts to change.

What to Consider: Other ski-style helmets let you close/open the venting and ditch the ear pads to help you adjust the airflow and insulation on milder (or downright freezing) days.

Most bike helmet manufacturers don’t make a winter-specific helmet, largely because most cyclists who bike in cold weather just add insulation via a tight-fitting hat or a headband. But if you pride yourself on cycling in the coldest of weather, turn to the Salomon MTN Lab, a unisex helmet that meets the safety requirements of alpine, mountaineering, and biking. A removable merino wool liner helps wick sweat and amp the heat to keep you dry and warm, which works well with the built-in air channels to establish a steady, warm internal temperature, and insulated 3D-perforated ear-pads that won’t block sounds (a cycling essential). The dial system makes it easy to get the optimal fit, and the brand’s patented EPS4D tech maximizes energy absorption to protect you from oblique and vertical impacts with a lightweight PC shell that’s fused with an EPS liner to max comfort and protection. It also comes with a summer liner and a bag that can easily attach to a backpack.

Weight: 13 ounces | Sizes available: Small-large |  Number of vents: 12 | Shell material: PC fused with EPS

Best for Hot Weather: Giro Aether Spherical Helmet

Giro Aether Spherical Helmet

Amazon

Why We Love It: Aerodynamic and streamlined, the Aether Spherical Helmet was designed to keep you protected and comfortably cool in even the hottest of situations.

What to Consider: It’s pricey and sizing is somewhat limited.

Rather than placing Giro’s proprietary Spherical Technology, which delivers the protection of MIPS,  directly against the liner, they’ve integrated it with layers of dual-density EPS foam, which drastically improves the cooling factor. The six-piece shell has a massive network of wide vents and deep internal channels to keep the air moving even in the hottest conditions, while a shatter-resistant Aura reinforcing arch works to protect the head from direct and oblongue impacts. Antimicrobial padding fends off odors, eyeglass grippers keep your sunglasses in place even when you start to sweat, and the Roc Loc three-way fit system adjusts in seconds.

Weight: 10 ounces | Sizes available: Small-large |  Number of vents: 21 | Shell material: Polycarbonate

Best Extra-large: Troy Lee Designs A3 Helmet

Troy Lee Designs A3 Helmet

Amazon

Why We Love It: With the ability to provide MIPS protection and two types of impact foams, the A3 Helmet is tailor-designed to accommodate larger heads.

What to Consider: It’s a bit expensive, and a casual rider might not need all the trail-specific features.

Troy Lee Designs is one of the only helmet-makers to offer products in XL/XXL sizes that can fit a head that’s nearly 25 inches in circumference, making them a clear winner for riders with larger heads. The mountain bike-designed A3 Helmet employs the B-Series MIPS tech for full and complete protection from off-angle and direct impacts, and strategically placed vents in the three-piece layered shell helps regulate the temp on long, punishing climbs while EVA wicking foam and a TLD Sweat Glide System help keep moisture away from your eyes. The visor can be adjusted into three positions to help cut down on glare or to clear your point of view, and the helmet strap comes with a quick-release magnetic buckle.

Weight: 14 ounces | Sizes available: X-small/small  to XL/XXL |  Number of vents: 16 | Shell material: Polycarbonate

Most Stylish: Thousand Heritage Bike and Skate Helmet

Thousand Heritage Bike and Skate Helmet

Amazon

Why We Love It: Thousand has legions of eager urban cyclist fans, and the Heritage Bike and Skate Helmet shows why: ample style, solid protection, and a smart design that hides its swath of tech features.

What to Consider: The helmet doesn’t breathe as well as those with more venting.

Available in 14 colors (we vote for speedway creme), the Heritage Bike and Skate Helmet from Thousand screams style thanks to its smooth texture, mellow lines, low-profile design, and its vegan leather straps. But it’s more than just a pretty face. The helmet has seven air vents and three cooling channels to keep you comfortable without favoring the cage-like design of a more traditional helmet. It also has a low-profile visor to help cut glare, a one-handed magnetic closer on the chin strap, and a dial fit system that’s easy to adjust. It even comes with a Secret PopLock – the part of the helmet where the logo sits can be popped out so you can thread your bike lock through the hole. Sartorialists who love a retro callback may also appreciate that the red, white, and blue racing stripes were inspired by the 1971 Steve McQueen film Le Mans.

Weight: 16 ounces | Sizes available: Small-large |  Number of vents: 7 | Shell material: ABS

Best for Kids: Bern Nino 2.0 Bike Helmet

Bern Nino 2.0 Bike Helmet

Amazon

Why We Love It: The no-hassle fit system in the Nino 2.0 assures a perfect fit, with full MIPS protection and a stylish firm fabric brim.

What to Consider: Sizing is limited.

The Nino 2.0 (and the girl-specific Nina 2.0) from Bern is a helmet that kids will actually want to wear. The no-fuss elastic EZ-fit system auto-adjust to the kid’s heads — no need to fiddle with dials or worry that the helmet is too loose. It uses MIPS’s high-end multi-directional protection to avoid damage in rotational impacts, and the firm fabric brim adds a touch of sun cover and style — as do the fun colors, which include designs with a shark’s teeth or planets, and bold colors like neon yellow and pink. The helmet can also be outfitted with winter accessories to add warmth and accommodates Bern’s Quickmount Asteroid, a USB-rechargeable bike light.

Weight: 11 ounces | Sizes available: Small-medium |  Number of vents: 13 | Shell material: Polycarbonate

Best for Toddlers: Nutcase Baby Nutty MIPS Helmet

Nutcase Baby Nutty MIPS Helmet

Amazon

Why We Love It: Playful by design and equipped with the highest-end protection, the Baby Nutty will inspire your toddler to wear the helmet even when they’re not in the saddle or mastering their balance bike.

What to Consider: More venting may be desired if you’re cycling in really hot, humid conditions.

Portland, Oregon-based Nutcase was one of the first brands to embrace the notion that a cycling helmet can be fun as well as functional, and the Baby Nutty delivers both in spades. Designed specifically for toddlers, the variety of graphics — from cartoon dinosaurs to swimming sharks to a giraffe print — will inspire your young one to want to wear the helmet. Child-specific EPS protective foam works with MIPS to disperse any force or impact, and the lightweight polycarbonate outer was built with a baby’s neck in mind. The three-piece pad set and the Grow Flex Fit System extends the life of the helmet as the young one starts to mature, while the snap-into-place magnetic buckle system assures that the chin strap is secure, and 11 vents will make sure they don’t get heated and ruin your ride.

Weight: 10 ounces | Sizes available: One size |  Number of vents: 11 | Shell material: Polycarbonate

Tips for Buying a Bike Helmet

Look for a dial and adjustable straps to ensure a good fit

Jake Dixon, Global Product Line Manager of Helmets at Smith, highlights that the rear dial (or other sliding fit systems) allows you to make final adjustments. “Use the adjustment dial at the back of the helmet to fine-tune the fit of your helmet. Your helmet should feel snug but not tight, and should stay put if you shake your head up and down and back and forth,” he says. The chin strap should also be adjusted so that when you open your mouth wide, the helmet presses slightly into the top of your head. You should generally “be able to fit two fingers between the buckled helmet chin strap and your chin.”

Choose features based on your intended use

Helmet categories break out into three general types based on riding style: road, mountain, and recreational or commuter. Road helmets are typically ultra-light to shave down the ounces, and often have elaborate networks of vents and air channels to help keep you cool, along with a more aerodynamic profile. Mountain bike helmets, meanwhile, add a bit of extra protection to the back of the head to account for off-center and back-of-the-head falls typical to the sport. They also boast solid venting, sweat-wicking removable liners, and other nice-to-haves like adjustable visors. A recreational or commuter-style helmet still provides plenty of protection, but are often less expensive, come with fewer vents, and typically focus just as much on style as functionality. That said, you can wear any style helmet with any style of riding.

Look for helmets that have undergone independent safety testing (such as by Virginia Tech)

Dixon notes that “all helmets are required to be certified by a third-party testing vendor, which runs impact/chemical testing against all bike helmet standards, with the testing protocols defined by government bodies.” Any helmet on the market will meet those standards, but some brands work with additional third-party resources like Virginia Tech, who provides unbiased helmet ratings on a five-star system, focusing on the degree to which a helmet’s construction reduces risk of concussion. They encourage athletes to consider only those helmets with a four- or five-star rating.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How long do bike helmets last?

    All bike helmets are built to absorb a single impact – so if you’re in any type of accident involving your helmet, replace it immediately. The experts at REI also suggest replacing your helmet every five years as the impacts from pollution, UV light, weather exposure, and continuous use can weaken the helmet over time.

  • How are bike helmets supposed to fit?

    To measure the circumference of your head, use a cloth measuring tape (or, as REI experts recommend, use a piece of string and measure that), wrapping the device around the widest part of your head. Then you can reference the helmet manufacturer’s sizing chart to find the one that fits. Sizing is broken out in ranges, from extra-small up to extra-large, though some brands only offer helmets in small, medium, and large. And a few brands provide a one-size-fits-all approach, particularly for toddlers and kids, and use a flexible dial or an elastic fit system to assure a custom-like fit. And a few helmets provide foam pads of different thickness, which you adjust to get the perfect fit.  When stuck between sizes, REI recommends that you go with the smaller size. And if you plan on cold-weather cycling, be sure that the helmet can adjust to the thickness of extra layering (skull caps, headbands, etc). Dixon says that “your helmet should feel snug but not tight, and should stay put if you shake your head up and down and back and forth.” And you should be able to fit two fingers between the buckled chin strap and your chin.

  • What is an MIPS?

    “MIPS stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System,” explains Dixon. “It’s found inside the helmet, generally between the comfort padding and the EPS, a high-quality foam used to reduce energy.” The core of this is a low-friction layer that lets the head move 10 to 15 millimeters relative to the helmet in all directions, reducing rotational motion to the brain. “It also helps reduce the rotational forces caused by angled impacts to the brain.” Helmets don’t need MIPS to pass the safety certification process, but the tech has demonstrated remarkable efficiency in injury-prevention, which may justify the higher price tag.

Why Trust Travel+Leisure

Nathan Borchelt has been testing, rating, and reviewing outdoor and travel products for decades — and has been an adamant cyclist his entire life. He’s commuted on his single-speed for years and had the good fortune to bike in some of the best environments in the world, from the singletrack of Scotland to arduous road cycling over the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Tetons, so he knows what makes a bike helmet good. Each helmet was evaluated based on cost, fit, protective qualities, number of venting and cooling factors, comfort, and durability, with a special attention paid to features that cater to specific types or riding, including commuter-friendly features and those for the trail or the open road.

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