What is one thing smart cyclists all have in common? They wear helmets! Whether you’re enjoying a casual weekend cruise or fighting at the front of a World Tour race, every rider needs to keep their noggin safe. That’s why a good helmet should be your first purchase after (or even before) a new bike.
Good road riding helmets are lightweight, well-ventilated, comfortable, and best of all, they look good! They also protect your head using MIPS or similar technology to reduce the force of rotational impacts and prevent concussions. If you’re picking out your first road helmet, or looking for the perfect upgrade, here are some of our favorites.
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Best affordable road helmets
New riders can get by with bargain-basement entry-level helmets, but once you start putting in serious mileage, it's worth upgrading to something more refined. Fortunately, affordable mid-range helmets are better than ever. They share many features with high-end helmets and will provide protection, comfort, and years of service without breaking the bank.
POC Omne Air MIPS
The POC Omne Air helmet takes design cues from the Swedish brand’s award-winning Octal and Ventral helmets. It’s built with thicker “core protection zones” to provide POC’s class-leading levels of protection at a more affordable price.
Lazer Strada KinetiCore
The versatile Lazer Strada offers extensive protection thanks to KinetiCore, Lazer’s fully Integrated Rotational Impact Protection technology which is built right into the helmet rather than added afterward (like MIPS) to create an overall sleeker design.
Giro Cinder MIPS
The Giro Cinder is based on Giro’s former flagship model, the Synthe, so it provides a solid balance of aerodynamics and ventilation with classic road helmet aesthetics. It’s lightweight and a great pick for serious road riders on a budget.
Best aero road helmets
Air resistance is the greatest natural force cyclists battle in the quest for speed. Many top-of-the-line road helmets are designed using CFD and wind tunnel testing to make them as aerodynamically efficient as possible. This means sacrificing some ventilation, but helmet designers are getting better and better at making fast helmets that can breathe. For racers and competitive riders, the watt savings you get from a good aero helmet are worth the price tag.
Specialized Evade 3
Since its introduction 10 years ago, the Specialized Evade has been the benchmark for aero road helmets. The third-generation Evade 3 has been heavily reshaped to provide the same class-leading aerodynamics as the Evade 2 but with 10% more ventilation.
POC Ventral MIPS
The POC Ventral takes inspiration from the Venturi effect, with airflow zones that encourage breeze to pass through the helmet with greater efficiency. By leading air through, rather than around, the helmet, drag is reduced and ventilation is enhanced.
Lazer Vento KinetiCore
The Lazer Vento is engineered to be fastest in the sprint position, where aero gains matter most. It also uses KinetiCore technology which is built directly into the helmet shell to make it sleeker and more ventilated than a MIPS helmet without sacrificing rotational impact protection.
The Oakley ARO5 is tuned for speed, but Oakley also put plenty of thought into how it fits with sunglasses. An integrated eyewear dock allows you to securely stow your shades while the BOA fit system cinches down the helmet with low-profile laces that don’t interfere with any sunglass arms.
Giro Eclipse Spherical
The Eclipse is the fastest road helmet Giro has ever made, besting many competitors as well as its previous flagship Vanquish model in its own testing. It uses Spherical Technology, a “ball and socket” design developed with MIPS to provide rotational impact protection without using a MIPS liner.
Best ventilated road helmets
Aero isn't everything, because sometimes, keeping your head cool is more valuable than reducing drag. That’s why helmet manufacturers offer a ventilated option alongside their range-topping aero helmets. These lightweight and airy helmets are perfect for hot days or rides that feature enough climbing to negate the benefits of wearing an aero helmet. Some riders might also prefer the more traditional look.
POC Ventral Air MIPS
The POC Ventral Air shares the Ventral’s efficient shape but adds more ventilation ports and internal channels to control air intake and release at both low and high speeds. Aero efficiency is slightly reduced but it provides much more effective cooling over the whole head.
Lazer G1 MIPS
At 235 grams, the G1 is the lightest helmet Lazer has ever made and with 22 vents it claims to provide 8% more airflow than wearing no helmet. Despite being super light and airy, it doesn't skimp on protection, earning the same 5-Star safety rating as the other top helmets on this list.
Oakley’s ARO3 eye-catching front vents don’t just give it a unique look. They are arranged to optimize ventilation. Like the aero ARO5, it’s extremely eyewear friendly with an integrated eyewear dock and a BOA fit system with low profile laces that don’t interfere with sunglass arms.
Specialized Prevail 3
The third-generation Specialized Prevail 3 had eliminated the traditional foam “bridges” from the center of the helmet to create massive, unblocked air channels that increase ventilation by 24.5% compared to Prevail 2. It's the most ventilated helmet Specialized has ever made.
Giro Aether Spherical
Thanks to Giro’s proprietary Spherical Technology, the Aether is built with large vents and deep internal channels to provide more airflow. The “ball and socket” design was developed with MIPS to provide rotational impact protection without adding a liner that could block airflow.
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You don’t need the most expensive helmet to enjoy riding. The most important thing is to make sure that your helmet fits and is a pleasure to wear. You can’t go wrong with any of the above helmet choices, but if you shop elsewhere, I recommend everyone from beginner to experienced road cyclists to expect to spend around $80-150 for a high-quality helmet. In this price range, you will get a helmet that should last for several seasons with all the features and protection you need.