Riding a bike without a helmet is like driving a car without a windshield: Not very safe. A good bike helmet is an essential piece in any rider’s kit. The first step in choosing a brain cage is deciding what you’re going to use it for. Road helmets typically prioritize ventilation, while commuter helmets are built with durability (and style) in mind. Mountain biking and downhilling helmets usually come with extra coverage, such as a chin bar and visor.
But no matter which kind of bike helmet you’re after, there’s one major consideration: added crash technology. Beyond meeting the Consumer Product Safety Commission standards, helmet manufacturers have begun updating models with technology that mitigates rotational forces on the brain in the event of a crash. MIPS—Multi-Directional Impact Protection System—is the most common technology, and it’s identified by a round yellow label. Some brands have their own proprietary safety systems; we’ve detailed a couple of them below.
Here, we’ve gathered a list of the best new and notable helmets for all types of riding. No matter if you’re commuting, downhill racing, or putting up triple-digit mileage on the pavement, don’t forget to protect your head.
Best for Commuting: Thousand Chapter MIPS Helmet
We’ve never met a more handsome helmet. The Chapter is stylish, smart, and safe: It’s built with MIPS technology, features a magnetic strap that you can fasten with one hand, and comes with a 50-lumen light that clips to the back of your helmet or onto your bike. When you need to secure it in public, pop out the logo mark to find a hole that fits a U-lock. The rounded shell and sleek interchangeable visor up the ante for cool commuting.
Best for Road Racing: Sweet Protection Falconer II Aero MIPS Helmet
When speed is the goal, consider Sweet Protection’s newest racing model. The smooth and futuristic polycarbonate exterior boosts aerodynamics without adding weight (it’s only 11.6 ounces), and cooling channels keep your dome from overheating. It also comes with two sets of interior pads in different thicknesses for customizable comfort.
Best for Everyday Road Riding: Specialized S-Works Prevail II Vent with ANGi
The ANGi technology in this helmet offers next-level safety: In the event of a crash, a sensor in the helmet sends out a text message alert to your emergency contacts. The helmet also includes an integrated version of MIPS tech that saves weight and allows for better airflow. Plus, it achieved a five-star Virginia Tech Helmet Rating, a third-party assessment of helmet safety.
Best for Mountain Biking: POC Tectal Race SPIN
SPIN—which stands for Shearing Pad Inside—is a silicone gel-like membrane combined with two other foam layers for added brain protection. The Tectal Race helmet features strong, lightweight unibody construction and a RECCO reflector that you can use to help rescuers locate you if you get injured in the wild. Despite its large proportions, it’s actually fairly lightweight: All sizes are less than a pound, according to POC.
If you really like to push the limits on your mountain bike, consider POC’s top-tier Kortal MIPS Race helmet. During our two-week test, we loved its unrivaled safety features and its comfortable feel.
Best Full Face MTB Helmet: Bell Super DH Spherical
A full-face helmet will keep your teeth intact if you blow it on a technical descent. The Super DH Spherical has a removable chinbar that you can stow away on ascents and mellower trails. At 850 grams, it’s on the heavier side, but it comes with a long list of features: MIPS, goggle and glasses compatibility, a plethora of vents, quick-dry and anti-stink padding, and brow ports that move sweat away from your eyes.
Best for Cold Weather: Specialized Centro Winter LED
While most helmets prioritize good airflow, when it’s chilly out, a breeze in your hair is exactly what you don’t want while riding. The MIPS-equipped Centro Winter LED helmet comes with an insulated liner to trap warmth and an integrated LED taillight for increased visibility in dreary conditions. The simple frame means you can wear goggles or other eyewear to keep the snow out of your eyes, and when the temps plummet, add a wool cap ($45) to keep your ears toasty.
Best Value: Bern Watts 2.0
Most helmets with MIPS come at a premium, but this one is a great pick if you’re on a tight budget. With an integrated brim, dial-based fit adjustment system, and 11 vents for optimal airflow, the Watts 2.0 is best for commuting and casual rides into town. The ThinShell construction means it weighs just over a pound, and it’s also compatible with Bern’s Quickmount Asteroid light, so cars can spot you when you’re riding in the dark.
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