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The 7 best bike helmets of 2023 for commuting, road and mountain biking

Experts share what to look for, and we share our favorites.
Woman and man biking on the beach, wearing helmets. Shop the best bike helmets of 2021 and learn how to choose the best bike helmet for you. See bike helmets from Schwinn, Cannondale, Giro, ABUS and more.
Bike helmets can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Be sure your next helmet is right for your kind of biking.Getty Images

Whether you’re riding a beat up old bicycle or a brand new electric scooter, you should be wearing a helmet. Bike helmets can help prevent injury in minor and serious bike crashes. In fact, a “bike helmet is a cyclist’s best line of defense, reducing risk of head injury by more than 50 percent,” according to the National Safety Council, a nonprofit safety advocacy group. That data comes from research by the National Transportation Safety Board, a government agency that conducts accident investigations across all modes of transportation.

“Think of a helmet as you would a seatbelt in your car,” says Alison Dewey, education director at the League of American Bicyclists. “You never want to have it come in handy, but when you need it, you’ll be glad you’re wearing it.”

LEARN MORE How to shop for a bike helmet

Our top picks

How we picked the best bike helmets

To pick the best bike helmets, we relied on expert guidance, personal experience and consumer reviews to pick a wide variety of helmets fit for different types of riding. While there is a lot to consider with any helmet, we focused on three factors:

  • Size availability and adjustability: We only selected helmets that come in multiple sizes and have a retention system with a rear dial to adjust interior fit.
  • Protection: We only included helmets certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) with a Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS). Helmets with MIPS usually have a thin layer of plastic inside that provides enhanced protection against certain types of impact, according to the brand. While MIPS drives up price, we believe it is a worthwhile safety feature to have.
  • Price: We included a wide range of helmets across different price points.

The best bike helmets in 2023

Our picks for the best bike helmets trended towards larger brands like Smith, Giro and Specialized.

Best overall: Smith Signal

What we like: Very versatile design

The Smith Signal is a top-rated, multi-purpose bike helmet that has great features at an affordable price. What makes it our top pick is its versatility: it isn’t specially made for one type of activity, meaning you can comfortably use it for commuting, road biking, whatever. It has 21 vents for airflow, and comes in several different colors.

Intended use: Multi-purpose | MIPS Included: Yes | Weight: 300g | Sizes available: S, M, L

Best commuter helmet: Thousand Chapter

What we like: Useful, unique features for commuters

Thousand makes very stylish commuter helmets that have unique extra features. This Chapter bike helmet has a built-in mini-visor to reduce glare, a discreet cavity that allows you to place a lock through your bike helmet and a magnetic light that attaches to the rear of the helmet.

Thousand’s more popular Heritage bike helmet is equally stylish, but it does not feature MIPS.

Intended use: Commuting | MIPS Included: Yes | Weight: 370g | Sizes available: S, M, L

Best mountain biking helmet: POC Tectal Race MIPS

What we like: Designed specifically for mountain and trail riding

Helmets for mountain biking can be very different from those for road riding or everyday commuting. They typically feature more air vents and more coverage, as mountain bikers are more likely to fall backwards in a crash than commuters. One of the reasons we selected POC’s Tectal Race MIPS helmet is for that very reason: it offers wider coverage than most road or commuter helmets, covering much more of the back and sides of the head. It has a RECCO Reflector, a type of two-way communicator used by some rescue groups to help with location during search and rescue operations, built-in. It’s highly adjustable and has a clip at the back of the helmet to store goggles, according to the brand.

Intended use: Mountain biking | MIPS Included: Yes | Weight: 365g | Sizes available: S, M, L

Best road helmet: Smith Trace

What we like: Lightweight, aerodynamic design

As recommended in our gift guide for cyclists, this is the helmet I wear when I want to go on a long 25+ mile ride. It’s lightweight, airy and its shape helps make it more aerodynamic than bulkier alternatives. It not only features MIPS but also Koroyd, another, newer impact protection system. And it's comfortable, with very adjustable straps and retention.

Intended use: Road riding | MIPS Included: Yes | Weight: 285g | Sizes available: S, M, L

Best budget commuter helmet: Giro Register

What we like: MIPS, but more affordable

Helmets with an adjustable fit, multiple sizes and MIPS included tend to be more expensive than other options. Giro’s Register helmet, which retails for about $70, is an exception. It’s lightweight, has 22 air vents and comes with a removable mini visor built in, according to the brand. It only comes in two sizes, however, and the extra large size only comes in black.

Intended use: Multi-purpose | MIPS Included: Yes | Weight: 285g | Sizes available: Universal, XL

Best budget road helmet: Specialized Echelon II

What we like: Aerodynamic and affordable

Road cycling gear can get very expensive, but Specialized’s Echelon II helmet typically retails for under $100. It has 31 air vents, much more than most helmets, leading to a very open design. It also has Specialized’s ANGi crash sensor built in, which can be set up to pair with your phone and send emergency messages if a crash is detected and you do not respond, according to the brand.

Intended use: Road riding | MIPS Included: Yes | Weight: 340g | Sizes available: S, M, L

High-tech, with built-in lights: Lumos Ultra MIPS

What we like: Smart lights built-in

The Lumos Ultra is a commuter helmet with front and rear lights built in. Whenever I expect to be riding in low-light conditions, I use this helmet for added visibility. It can pair with an Apple Watch or Lumos Remote (sold separately) to enable additional light features like turn and brake signals. It is a bit heavier than other helmets, however.

Intended use: Commuting | MIPS Included: Yes | Weight: 370g | Sizes available: S, M, L

How to shop for a bike helmet

Whether you are shopping online or heading to your local bike shop, our experts say to keep the following in mind:

Fit is crucial

“Every good helmet should have some sort of retention system,” says Dewey. While different helmets may have different names for their retention system (VaporFit, BOA Fit, etc.), almost all take the form of a rotary dial on the back of the head that loosens and tightens interior bands in the helmet, leading to a more proper fit.

Ventilation and aerodynamics can be pricey

In other words: you get what you paid for. “A higher priced helmet is often better ventilated and more aerodynamic,” says Dewey. “If it’s a hot day, a better ventilated helmet is going to help you feel less hot and sweaty.” For road riding or racing, an aerodynamic helmet with rounded shape and fewer air vents can reduce resistance and potentially make riding easier.

If damaged, replace immediately

While you might not think it, helmets wear down overtime. Dewey recommends replacing an undamaged helmet once every five to six years. Both Dewey and Ash Lovell, electric bike policy and campaign director at PeopleForBikes, recommend replacing your helmet immediately if you are in a crash or even a fall where it is impacted. Even if it looks fine, your helmet could have a hairline crack, which can compromise its structural integrity, making it less safe in a future crash.

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Alison Dewey is the director of education at the League of American Bicyclists, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to creating safer roads and stronger communities for bikers in America.
  • Ash Lovell, Ph.D., is the electric bicycle policy and campaign director at PeopleForBikes, a Colorado non-profit that represents over 320 different bicycle supplier members.

Why trust Select?

Harry Rabinowitz is a reporter at Select. For this piece, he tried many different bike helmets while riding around New York City. To better understand the helmets he could not try, he spoke with biking industry experts like Alison Dewey and Ash Lovell to learn more about helmet types, nuances and best practices.

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