The best bike helmets you can buy

The best bike helmets you can buy

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The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase. Lumos Wearing a bike helmet is incredibly important for a cyclist’s safety, so we’ve rounded up the best bike helmets you can buy.The POC Octal X SPIN is the best bike helmet we’ve tested with its great ventilation, protective design, enhanced visibility, and other great safety features. Bike helmets have moved a long way from the polystyrene buckets that many of us grew up with. So specialized have they become that I have a shelf by my door that is just for bike helmets. It’s a little embarrassing how many of them I own, and I’m considering passing my collection off as a conceptual art piece next time my mother comes to visit so I won’t have to explain why anyone needs half-a-dozen pieces of safety headwear. Cycling helmets can be aerodynamic, lightweight, high visibility and super protective. That’s why the helmet I reach for to ride home from work in the dark is different from the one I pull down if I’m off for a Sunday session on the local trails. In general, cycling helmets are designed to prevent a traumatic brain injury in the event of an impact. All helmets sold in the US have passed a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) test, which means they satisfy certain criteria that the CPSC determines will help reduce the risk of brain injury. In recent years, systems such as MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) and SPIN (Shearing Pads Inside) have been included in helmets to help prevent brain injuries when there are multiple impacts or oblique collisions. These technologies go beyond CPSC requirements but can be helpful if a specific type of collision happens. Obviously, the most important element of a helmet is its protection against brain injury, and this isn’t something we could test. But the safest helmet is the one you always wear, and so we tested the fit, ventilation, weight, and practicality of dozens of helmets to determine which ones are the best you can buy. Here are the best bike helmets you can buy: Best bike helmet overall: POC Octal X SPINBest budget bike helmet: Bern FL1 TrailBest high-end bike helmet: Giro Aether MIPSBest portable bike helmet for bikeshare: Priority Bicycles StackBest bike helmet for commuters: Lumos Kickstart Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks

The best bike helmet overall

POC

Why you’ll love it: The POC Octal X Spin is well ventilated, comfortable, and offers enhanced visibility and safety features that will benefit cyclists and commuters alike. Some people like shoes, some people like bags, and some people like watches, but I like bike helmets. I will admit that it is a bit strange to have half a dozen pieces of protective headwear hanging by more door, but I like to be sure I always have the right tool for the job, and I figure there are worse ways to spend your money than protecting your brain. What’s even weirder is that I tend to pull down the same helmet every day. Whether I am riding a hundred miles on the road or five miles to the shops, the OCTAL X SPIN is the helmet I pick for 90% of my riding, and that’s why it earned the title of best bike helmet overall. POC is relatively new to the cycling game, but its focus on safety and a distinctly Scandinavian aesthetic has won the brand a loyal following. The POC brand has become associated with placing rider safety above aesthetic or aerodynamic concerns, but its recent models have proved popular with the racing crowd thanks to their support of the Cannondale pro cycling team. POC tends to favor bright colors to make riders more visible in traffic, and this has the added benefit of making their athletes stand out from the crowd and giving the brand a strong image. To make the Octal X SPIN, POC took its popular road cycling helmet — the Octal, and gave it a few tweaks to make it equally suitable for trail use. Along with a shell that fully covers the lining — a common feature of off-road helmets — POC added SPIN technology. SPIN, which stands for Shearing Pads Inside, is designed to protect against oblique impacts — something that many standard helmets don’t do so well. While CPSC regulations don’t require protection against these impacts, POC offers SPIN technology to people who want protection above and beyond the legal minimum. The main function of a helmet is protecting your brain, so POC made this its main selling point for the Octal X SPIN. Safety might be a good reason to pick the Octal X SPIN, but you won’t be let down in terms of performance either. Reviewers love the comfy straps and 21 vents, which make the helmet disappear in use. One biker said the new helmet “seems to move air a little better” than the previous model. The easy-to-use and highly adjustable retention system also garnered praise from experts. They appreciated the light weight of the helmet, which makes it equally appropriate for road or mountain use. Lastly, the quick adjustment saw one reviewer taking the Octal from box to bike ride in two minutes. When I first put on the Octal X SPIN, I noted how much more of the back and sides of my head were covered compared to a conventional road helmet. This makes the Octal a safer choice, especially for riding off-road where low-speed falls and hits to different parts of the head are likely. Despite its larger size, the Octal didn’t feel heavy in use, and the scales confirm that it weighs in at a very competitive 267 grams for medium. The larger footprint didn’t seem to impact ventilation, either, even on slow climbs, the helmet provided ample airflow. On evening commutes, I felt reassured by the high visibility orange shell, and found the “Eye Garage” useful for holding my sunglasses without them slipping out. Pros: Lightweight, well ventilated, highly visible, enhanced coverage and SPIN system for better protection Cons: Some riders may have to size up from the non-SPIN models, the appearance will not appeal to everyone, POC’s crash replacement policy is not as generous as some brands, expensive Buy the POC Octal X Spin on Amazon for $250-$275

The best budget bike helmet

Bern

Why you’ll love it: The Bern FL1 Trail combines the styling of helmets five times its price with great venting and an adjustable fit for a performance that belies its incredible value. Two-hundred-and-fifty bucks can seem like a lot to spend on something that is designed to break. While it is true that you only get one brain, and it is worth protecting, starting cycling can be expensive enough as it is. Luckily, all helmets approved for use in the US have to pass the same tests, meaning that while cheaper helmets might weigh more or offer less venting, they’ll protect you just as much as their higher-end brethren. With the FL1 Trail, the compromises are pretty minimal. Bern uses the same in-mold 18 vent construction as its top of the line helmets, but save money by using a non-brand-name adjustment dial on the rear closure mechanism. The helmet offers a visor, to protect from rain, sun, and trailside vegetation. It doesn’t feel that much different in use to more expensive helmets thanks to its light weight of just 271 grams and plenty of venting. Bicycling magazine loved the F1 trail with its four-level height adjustment for fit and snug-fitting chin strap and color options to suit every rider. The helmet did seem to sit rather high on the head of reviewers at Bike Rumor, which might be a concern for low-speed impacts. The helmet does not offer MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System), either, but BERN offers an FL1 model with MIPS for $30 more. Some reviewers found the sizing ran a little small, but Amazon users note that Bern has great customer service if size is an issue. Pros: Great value, highly vented and adjustable, looks and weight on par with top brands Cons: Sits a little high on the head, non-MIPS, visor is not adjustable Buy the FL1 Trail Helmet on Amazon for $69.99

The best high-end bike helmet

Giro

Why you’ll love it: Giro’s Aether is a slimline helmet that doesn’t compromise on breathability, aerodynamics, or safety, making it a great choice for the racer who wants to go fast uphill and down. Giro has long been a name associated with the highest level of performance in bike racing. Its helmets have won bike races in just about every category, and the brand has innovated not only in performance but also safety. Two of the biggest trends in cycle helmets recently have been aerodynamics and multiple impact protection (MIPS). Both have been driven by Giro but, until recently, both required compromises resulting in racers often owning several helmets. Aerodynamic helmets, such as Giro’s first generation air attack, were fast on the flat but tended to be heavy and poorly vented and thus a poor choice for hilly days. Giro Pioneered Multiple Impact Protection Systems in bicycle helmets in 2015, but in its previous generation of MIPS helmets, sometimes sizing was a little off and the MIPS liner tended to squeak annoyingly and catch on sunglasses or long hair. The Aether is a no-compromises racing helmet. Instead of placing the MIPS layer by the riders’ head, Giro has sandwiched in between EPS foam layers, resulting in a more comfortable and aerodynamic helmet. Eleven huge vents make the helmet virtually disappear on climbs. Expert reviewers said that the Aether was “among the coolest and best ventilated helmets, at high and low speed, we have ever ridden.” Of course, the big benefit of the Aether is one that nobody wants to test. Impact protection with the MIPS spherical system is better than ever before, and now the helmet’s fit and ventilation are uncompromised meaning that, should the worst happen you’ll always be the best protected. Gone is the yellow MIPS liner of previous models. Instead, the new Spherical MIPS system is built into the helmet and provides more impact protection and less inconvenience. The adjustable Roc-Loc 5 fit system means that the helmet will retain the fit, which one expert described as “exceptionally comfortable, for all shapes and sizes of head. Giro also claims that the helmet is slightly more aerodynamic than its current Synthe model, and weight is about the same. One biker did note that this integration of the MIPS system meant they had to size up from a medium to a large, and this has been my own experience as well. Giro provide a handy sizing guide that should help you pick the right helmet size for your head. Pros: One of the safest helmet son the market, lightweight and aerodynamic, comes in a variety of colors to match your bike or kit Cons: The Aether is expensive, but you only get one brain, this is more of a road style helmet and off-road riders will have to wait for mountain bike appropriate model Buy the Giro Aether MIPS on Amazon for $325

The best bike helmet for commuters

Lumos

Why you’ll love it: The Lumos Kickstart fits and feels like a regular helmet, but its host of high-tech features make it a great pick for anyone who rides at night in the dark. For half of the year, I ride home from work in the pitch black. I make every effort to light myself up like a Christmas tree with both flashing and steady rear and front lights as well as reflective clothing and even hi-viz socks. But it wasn’t until I tried the Lumos Kickstart that I realized that drivers knowing where I was is only part of the safety equation. To be really safe, I also needed to let them know where I was going. When it’s too dark for drivers to see hand signals indicating a change in direction, the Lumos Kickstart uses an automatic rear warning light to signal braking and a handlebar mounted signal to indicate changes in direction. Just like a car, the Lumos gives you red brake lights and orange turn signals. The Kickstart also includes white LED lights on the front and red LEDs on the rear, meaning that you are visible even when not braking or turning. When combined with a sensible outfit and bike lights, the Lumos really does feel like the safest way to get home in the dark and several drivers at stop lights have asked me where I got the helmet, I guess that means it achieved the goal of getting their attention. The helmet is set up via a smartphone app, which Amazon reviewers found to be “easy” to use. It is charged using a proprietary magnetic charging cord. The charging system works well, as the above review confirms, but it does mean making sure you always have the right cable and we would love to see a more standard Micro USB charging standard — this reviewer shared our opinions. Luckily, Lumos sell extra cables so you can keep one at home and one at work. The Lumos, isn’t just a light system though. It also works as a helmet. One reviewer said it was “the most comfortable helmet I’ve owned” and an expert tester noted that it was “surprisingly comfortable” despite weighing much more than a standard helmet thanks to the lights and battery. While the Kickstart might lack the adjustability of truly high-end road helmets, it’s designed more with commutes in mind and isn’t likely to see much use in 100-mile road races. Overall, the Kickstart is not a replacement for lights, it is a great addition to the safety toolkit of any cycle commuter. If you’re riding home in the dark, this helmet really stands out as a great choice for safety and visibility and even if you keep another helmet for fun weekend rides this will soon become your daily driver. Pros: Highly visible and noticeable to drivers, wireless controls let you signal turns without taking your hands off the bars, easy set up and good fit Cons: Proprietary charger, heavier than a standard helmet, lacks the adjustability of high end helmets Buy the Lumos Kickstart helmet at REI for $180

Check out our other bike gear guides

Thule

The best bike racks for your car High-quality bike racks install easily, make loading your bike an effortless task, and they keep your bike securely attached to your car. While researching the best bike racks, we examined hundreds of expert and buyer reviews and ratings of dozens of brands. Our guide features racks that are user-friendly, can fit an array of bike types, and they keep your car from getting scratched up. Here are the best bike racks you can buy:Best bike rack overall: Thule T2 Pro XT 2 Bike RackBest roof bike rack: Yakima HighRoad Top Car Bike RackBest trunk bike rack: Saris Bones 2-Bike Trunk RackBest lightweight hitch bike rack: Kuat Racks Sherpa 2.0 Bike RackBest bike rack under $100: Allen Sports Premier Trunk Mounted Bike RackThe best bike light you can buy High-quality bike lights are bright enough to guide the way wherever you may roam, will last you for hours of riding, and you can easily release the light to take it with you. While researching the best bike lights, we examined thousands of expert and buyer reviews and ratings of dozens of models. Our guide features lights that have demonstrated their durability, user-friendliness, and usefulness in a variety of situations. Here are our picks for the best bike lights you can buy:Best bike light overall: Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL Bike Light Combo SetBest affordable bike light: TeamObsidian Bike Light SetBest strap-mounted bike light: Knog Blinder Mob USB Rechargeable LightBest high-end bike light: NiteRider Pro 1800 Race LightBest bike light featuring side lights: Light and Motion Urban 500 Headlight The best bike fenders you can buy High-quality bike fenders are easy to install, protect against all sorts of debris your tires may kick up, and don’t rattle much while you’re riding. While researching the best bike fenders, we read through countless reviews and ratings from experts and buyers. Our guide features mudguards that will protect you and your bike frame from the elements, have an attractive appearance, and fit several types of bikes. Here are the best bike fenders you can buy:Best bike fenders overall: Planet Bike Cascadia Bike FendersBest rear mudguard: SKS X-Tra Dry Rear MudguardBest affordable bike fender: Fifty-Fifty Mountain Bike FenderBest fender for road bikes: SKS Raceblade Long Bicycle Fender SetBest front bike fender: Topeak DeFender M1 Mountain Bike Fender

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