We take a look at some of the top helmets you can buy to protect your head on a budget
It almost goes without saying that cycling is one of the best things you can do. It is much faster than walking and, when compared to driving, is cheaper, helps you lost weight and is much better for the environment to boot. No wonder the NHS is trying to make us all cycle to work! That being said, you do have to be careful when going out on your bike. We’ve already told you about the safest bike lights you can get when cycling in the dark, now we have found three helmets which will protect your head without breaking the bank.
Why Buy a Bike Helmet?
So, you just bought a bike, it might even be an electric bike, you’re excited and want to try it out right away. You grab your phone, your keys and your bike lock then you hop on, cycling happily to the local coffee shop for a quick cappuccino before heading back. This is something people do all the time without incident. Sometimes, however, accidents happen; Maybe you go again the next day and when you’re halfway to the coffee shop a bus gets a bit too close. You swerve to avoid it and fall off your bike, hitting your head on the tarmac. The purpose of a bike helmet is to protect your head in the case of collisions or incidents such as these, studies have shown that wearing bike helmets can reduce the chances of serious head injury by almost 70%. Although it is not a legal requirement to use a helmet when cycling in the UK, it is highly suggested that you do so in the highway code and wearing the right helmet at the right time may one day save your life. So if you want to protect your head but don’t know where to start, we have you covered.
What to Look For In Bike Helmets?
The best helmets are ones you don’t even notice you’re wearing that also provide good protection. When deciding which helmet to buy, there are many factors you need to take into consideration. The main things you need to look out for are:
- Protection – Any helmet is safer than no helmet but some are safer than others. Helmets can vary massively in design and material types, with ABS plastic covering EPS foam being the most common materials used. Carbon-Kevlar composites are sometimes used instead of ABS in more expensive options for slightly better protection. All helmets in this list are EN1078 certified, meaning they meet or exceed the minimum requirements for field of vision, restraints and shock absorption in the Europe.
- Comfort – You want your helmet to be comfortable when you wear it. The main way to make sure it is comfortable is by having the right fit (which we’ll talk about later) but you should also consider the amount of padding that is provided. Padding helps cushion your head from the hard outer shell of the helmet, it also helps wick sweat from your head. Sometimes padding can be removed to be washed or replaced when it wears. Weight is another key aspect for comfort, lighter helmets produce less strain on your neck and can even help you cycle faster if you feel like entering a competition or are in a rush.
- Style – You may think that this isn’t an important issue after protection and comfort but who ever said that safe can’t also be sexy? There are a load of helmets on the market, all of which have different designs. This one is really just a matter of personal preference so choose a shape you like and if you can find one in your favourite colour then that can be a big plus when deciding between similar models.
- Ventilation – Nobody wants a sweaty head when going for long rides in the Summer, ventilation helps keep your head cool on your journey and can reduce the weight of the helmet considerably. Generally speaking, more vents means better ventilation, although the size and location of the vents can be important as well.
Types of Bike Helmet
There are a few types of helmet on the market which are designed to provide the best protection for different situations. Some important types of helmets are these:
- Commuting helmets – These helmets are the kind we are mainly going to focus on. They are practical and comfortable, with good ventilation and a somewhat rounded shape. Commuter helmets occasionally contain features helpful for use with other road users such as lights. They may even have stowable waterproof covers.
- Performance bike helmets – Performance bike helmets are mostly worn by professionals (and the really enthusiastic!). They are made to be as light as possible to help shave off precious seconds in races. These helmets are well vented like commuting/leisure helmets and but can be less practical, dropping advanced features to save weight.
- Time Trial bike helmets – They are designed to be worn in time trials (TT’s) or on the track, being highly aerodynamic, often containing full or half-face visors and having distinctive teardrop shapes. Time trial helmets helmets may forgo venting altogether as vents can contribute to drag, heating up your head and making them unsuitable for everyday use.
- Mountain biking helmets – The last type of helmet we are looking at is the mountain biking (MTB) helmet. These tend to have a bit more coverage and smaller vents than commuting or performance helmets. A short visor is usually included to protect against sun or rain yet, due to the upright riding position of mountain biking, the visors do not tend to obstruct vision.
If you are curious about the many other types of helmets available, you can look here.
How your Bike Helmet Should Fit
Some bike helmets are one size fits all, others come in multiple sizes. Ensuring your helmet fits well maximises both the efficacy and the comfort of your helmet. To make sure you find the right fit, first you need to measure the circumference of your head at its widest, or just above your eyebrows. Once you have this measurement you can tell if you are a small, medium or large, depending on each manufacturers’ guidelines. Additionally, most helmets have a chinstrap and some other ways of adjusting fit further, such as a sizing wheel. When fully adjusted, the helmet should be level with your head and feel snug. There should be a gap of a finger between your chin and the chinstrap (or you should feel the helmet press against your head if you open your mouth when it is clasped).
Best Bike Helmet overall
LIVALL BH60S PLUS
High-end helmet filled with a lot of tech for a reasonable price
This is our top choice. Not only does the helmet look great but it is absolutely packed with all the features you could think of (and many you didn’t know you needed). Far from being a simple piece of plastic you put on your head, this helmet has built-in GPS tracking, smart LED lighting, speakers, a microphone and it allows for smartphone integration. All for under £100! This truly is one of the best pieces of safety gear you can get on the market. Key features of this helmet include:
- Fall Detection and SOS Alert – Uses a built-in accelerometer to detect impacts and alerts a chosen emergency contact if no movement is felt 30 seconds after an accident, then it sends your GPS location for faster recovery.
- Handlebar Controls and Smart LED’s – Has a separate remote and integrated helmet LEDs to allow you to indicate to other road users where you intend to go. Remote also allows for control of music playlists and your phone camera.
- LIVALL App – Uses GPS to record the mileage, time, and speed of your journey. Statistics are all available on the app or can be synced with Strava, iHealth & Siri. Compatible with both Android and iOS.
- 2×0.5W Stereo Speakers and Microphone – Allows you to listen to audiobooks, music or make calls through the helmet via a Bluetooth connection with your phone. This does not block ambient noise so you are always aware of what is around you while on the road.
- 24 Vents – The helmet provides superb ventilation at all times.
- Great sounding speakers
- SOS system
- Extremely well ventilated
- Integrated rear lights
- Comfortable fit
- Can drain your phone’s battery as it requires a Bluetooth connection
- Microphone struggles to pick up voice at high speeds
Best Bike Helmet for the City
Stylish and breathable helmet for riding in the city
If you are after a simple helmet designed for everyday use and commuting in the city, you can’t go wrong with the ABUS Hyban. This highly practical helmet was built to do the basics well, with ventilation and safety firmly in mind. Its styling is smart and suited for use with everyday clothes when commuting. Some important features are:
- Variety of sizes and colours – The helmet is available in a range of sizes, including youth sizes, allowing a perfect fit for anyone. A variety of colours are also available.
- Zoom Evo Easy adjustment – Fine adjustment available with a compact, non-slip adjusting wheel and soft touch straps.
- Optimum ventilation – Contains 13 air inlets and 5 outlets to ensure superior ventilation.
- Removable padding – washable and replaceable padding for clean, long lasting protection and comfort.
- Integrated LED – Large, highly mounted LED taillight with 180° visibility for safer night time riding.
- Highly adjustable
- Inbuilt rear light
- Available in a variety of sizes and colours
- Good ventilation
- Removable padding
- Netted to block insects
- At 380g it is not the lightest helmet, which may be felt on particularly long rides
- A bit larger than other options on the market
Best Bike Helmet for Mountain Biking
Great value option for mountain biking and trails
Last but not least, we have the cheapest option in our roundup. The Giro Fixture is aimed primarily for people looking to bike off-road on the cheap with its included visor and compact design. Despite its low price, it does not skimp on safety and even contains modern features often not found on much more expensive options. Key specifications of this helmet include:
- MIPS protection – MIPS (or Multi-directional Impact Protection System) is a special liner that is increasingly being found in some newer helmets, it aims to reduce harmful forces of certain impacts on the brain by allowing some rotation of the head inside the helmet.
- Universal fit sizing – Sculpted to fit the widest range of heads possible out of the box, with the acclaimed Roc Loc Sport fit system to allow fast and easy adjustment.
- Quick dry padding – Padding dries quickly to ensure an always comfortable experience.
- Adjustable visor – Protects eyes from the sun and stops rain from hitting glasses or goggles on mountain roads. The visor can be removed when not required for added flexibility.
- Has MIPS protection
- Wide choice of colours available
- Removable visor
- Good venting
- Compact design
- Great value proposition
- Only comes in one size
- Minimal internal padding