Ensuring you choose the best road bike helmet will vastly transform your cycling experience. First of all, there are various helmet types that are tailored to different types of ride. Some are designed for hot climates with maximal ventilation, others are designed for maximum aerodynamics, and some offer integrated technology to increase safety.
Next, it’s imperative to get the right size when choosing the best road bike helmet for your head. An ill-fitting helmet will undoubtedly reduce comfort, may negate the proper function of the ventilation and aerodynamic performance of the helmet, and will likely reduce the safety of the helmet in the event of a crash.
Of course, in many countries, helmets are not a legal necessity, but there’s no denying they can prove a vital accessory that can significantly reduce the risk of injury, and are compulsory for most types of racing.
In the most simple form, road bike helmets are essentially a plastic-covered foam shell that sits securely on your head, fastened in place via a strap under your chin and an adjustable ratchet. However, over the past few decades, helmets have been developed to reduce weight, offer greater ventilation, improve aerodynamics, and most importantly, increase rider safety.
In the list below, we take a look at some of the best road bike helmets available today, look at the pros and cons of each one, and provide key details.
We also go through some key points to look out for when it comes to buying your next road bike helmet.
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Alternatively, if you prioritise aerodynamics, we have a separate guide to the best aero helmets.
Best road bike helmets
The Giro Aether MIPS offers great ventilation and keeps safety as a priority through its MIPS system. Instead of putting a MIPS lining on the inside of the helmet, as is often the case, the Giro Aether MIPS has a dual-layer EPS foam structure, which moves independently and enables protection from ‘a wide range of impact energies’.
This design should not only improve fit but a lack of an additional MIPS lining contributes to the ventilation performance with the brand saying the helmet is two degrees Fahrenheit cooler than other Giro road bike helmets, such as the Synthe MIPS.
Coming in 11 colourways from conservative black or white through to more bold fluoro options, the Giro Aether MIPS should also suit almost all aesthetic preferences.
Giro Aether Mips helmet review
POC’s helmets have always divided opinions in terms of looks but when it comes to comfort, ventilation and a focus on safety, the brand has often been industry-leading.
The POC Ventral was the first to implement the brand’s SPIN technology. The helmet lining pads are constructed from a material which can roll and shear to reduce rotational impacts.
Like other aero helmets, POC uses the Venturi design theory to improve airflow and ventilation over and inside the helmet, respectively. A fore and aft sliding spar, combined with a rotating dial also ensure an excellent fit.
The brand also sticks to its AVIP (attention, visibility, interaction, protection) mantra by offering the helmet in an array of eye-catching colours.
POC Ventral SPIN review
The Lazer Century MIPS has bragging rights when it comes to safety. The industry’s best-known independent testing facility, Virginia Tech, previously rated this helmet the safest road helmet, and since it’s test has only been bettered by Lazer’s G1 helmet. To quote Virginia Tech, the testing “evaluates a helmet’s ability to reduce linear acceleration and rotational velocity of the head resulting from a range of impacts a cyclist might experience.”
In addition, this well-ventilated road bike helmet offers Twistcap, a removable cover that allows a switch between greater aero efficiency and increased ventilation, though this is still by no means an aero helmet the ease of switching makes the Twistcapp very usable for fine-tuning ventilation mid-ride.
Launched over five years ago and worn by Team Sky to victory in the biggest races in the sport, the fact that the same design is still being worn by the now named Team Ineos without a design update speaks volumes for this helmet.
One of the first ‘semi-aero’ road bike helmets available, the Kask Protone offers decent ventilation in all but the hottest conditions while claiming to retain the benefits of an aero helmet.
At 251g for a size medium, the Kask Protone is fairly competitive in the weight stakes too and the rotating tension dial to the rear should offer a secure fit for a variety of head shapes and sizes.
Specialized developed its second iteration of the highly-ventilated Prevail with direct feedback from pro riders, which at the time included the likes of Alberto Contador who knows a thing or two about racing in hot mountain stages.
Although the Prevail is by no means an aero helmet, a lower-sitting design improved aerodynamics over its predecessor, plus the additional safety features of MIPS and ANGi are welcomed.
Like the S-Works Evade, there is a limited colour choice compared to other helmets on the market but with frequently added limited edition designs, there should be something out there for most.
Using carbon fibre in the construction of the Trenta 3K Carbon, MET says it was able to reduce the amount of EPS without ‘affecting the capacity of the helmet to absorb energy’. The reduction in size also contributes to a low profile when worn and is a key aspect in the aerodynamic performance of the helmet.
Other brands often focus on out-and-out aerodynamics or maximum ventilation and rarely strike the balance between the two well. MET achieves this through a semi-aero helmet that is as at home in a bunch sprint as it is in the high mountains.
The MET Trenta 3K Carbon also fits brilliantly but is let down by the lack of a MIPS option in an era where most pro-level road bike helmets include the technology as standard.
Scott says the Cadence Plus is one of the fastest and aerodynamic helmets in its class. Combine this with MIPS, a great fit and the additional option of blocking the front vents with bungs if the temperatures are cold, and you’ve got a top-level aero lid.
X-Static pads lining the helmet feature anti-microbial and anti-odour technology to keep things fresh on the inside but the Cadence Plus is let down slightly by its weight and a limited colour choice.
Mitchelton-Scott’s Simon Yates also used the helmet last season during his Vuelta a España victory.
Bontrager launched its WaveCel range of helmets in early 2019 with a bang, claiming the ‘most advanced helmet technology ever designed’ and the biggest change to cycling in years.
WaveCel looks to reduce the impact of rotational forces experienced in certain crash scenarios as per MIPS and SPIN technology. The WaveCel cell walls crumple, glide and tear and work in conjunction with a reduced amount of EPS foam and the outer shell. It is said to offer 48x more protection against concussion.
Independent lab tests from Virginia Tech don’t quite come up with the same results, but the Bontrager WaveCel is still one of the safest on the market, without compromising on aerodynamics or comfort.
The aero-specific Bontrager XXX WaveCel tops the brand’s WaveCel range and has been worn by Trek-Segafredo’s riders this season.
We’re unable to verify aero claims, so we’ll have to trust Specialized when it says it’s the fastest road helmet they’ve ever tested, and while ventilation can come at a cost to other aero-specific helmets, the Evade feels like you’re wearing a regular road bike helmet.
Alongside aero and ventilation performance, the S-Works Evade offers extra safety features, too. A new MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) liner adds additional safety without restricting ventilation, and Specialized’s proprietary ANGi (Angular and G-Force Indicator) system sends an alert to a pre-programmed phone number to notify of an impact and location in the case of lost consciousness.
And if you needed any more persuasion, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) has worn an S-Works Evade during two of his World Championship wins, his Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix victories and countless other victories and podiums.
Developed in conjunction with Movistar Team and worn by Alejandro Valverde to his world championships road race victory, the Abus Airbreaker is a lightweight, well-ventilated helmet, offered in 10 different colour options.
The padding system is kept in place through two plastic screws, enabling the pads to be removed for cleaning, plus the absence of multiple velcro pads likely contributes to the low weight.
The Airbreaker is a completely different design to the aero-specific Abus Gamechanger, but there are a few cues, alongside the obvious quality in construction shared between the two helmets. It’s just a shame Abus didn’t integrate MIPS into the helmet.
Abus Airbreaker helmet review
How to choose the best road bike helmet
A helmet will always be a personal choice when it comes to pricing, aesthetics, ventilation and aero needs. The most important factors to consider, however, will always be fit and safety. Ensuring your helmet offers a secure fit should be the priority, and while there’s no substitute for try-before-you-buy, it can be possible by using manufacturers’ size guides. Most helmets come in multiple sizes, often supported by a hat size or head circumference guide.
Thankfully, the days of the practically useless leather ‘hairnet’ style helmets are gone and the majority of most modern cycling helmets will have passed the rigorous industry standards of safety testing, which are different for North America, Europe and Australasia. Ensuring the helmet you are purchasing has passed these tests for your region is worth adhering to.
Most modern helmets are constructed from EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) foam that can compress on impact to provide an effective crumple zone, with a polymer outer shell bonded to the foam adding further protection.
Added safety measures
In recent years, scientific research and independent laboratory tests have shown helmets that also reduce the rotational forces experienced in a crash can, in turn, reduce the risk of brain injuries or concussions.
With independent testing facilities taking it upon themselves to quantify safety and verify manufacturers’ claims, the safety of the helmet is no longer a given. Brands are now putting additional resource into the research and development of helmet safety, rather than just the ventilation, aerodynamics and weight.
‘MIPS’, ‘SPIN’ and ‘WaveCel’ technologies all aim to reduce rotational forces. While SPIN and WaveCel are proprietary for POC and Bontrager helmets, respectively, MIPS is used in an array of brands’ helmets and all of the helmets featured in this list are marked as to whether they feature this technology.
Best road bike helmet deals
If none of the above helmets have taken your fancy or you’re looking to save some money on your next purchase, head over to our guide to the best cheap bike helmets, which will help you find the latest deals on cycling helmets.