Peter Anzalone, senior test project leader for bike helmets at CR, in the testing lab.
Peter Anzalone, senior test project leader for bike helmets at CR, in the testing lab.
Photo: Brian Finke

Whether you’re commuting to work, hitting a rail trail, or just tooling around the neighborhood, experts agree: If you’re getting on a bike, put on a helmet first. In the event of an accident, a helmet dramatically reduces your risk of head injury and death.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, a number of people are either getting back into cycling or giving it a try for the first time, as a means of transportation or an easy way to exercise outdoors while gyms are closed. Trail and bike lane counts indicate that ridership is up, and according to survey data from industry group PeopleForBikes, 9 percent of American adults rode a bike this year for the first time in a year or longer, and 36 percent of riders with children are riding more frequently or recently took their kids out for their first bike ride.

Helmets are important for everyone, but especially for kids—in fact, wearing a helmet is the law for kids in 21 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. Some cities and towns, including Seattle, mandate helmets for adult riders, too.

All the helmets in our ratings are rigorously evaluated in the lab by our expert testers.

To test how well a helmet will absorb an impact, it is strapped onto a head form and dropped from a little more than 2 meters in the air onto a steel anvil—at a speed of about 14 mph. (This test is performed four times, to simulate what would happen if a cyclist fell and hit his or her head on the front, the side, the rear, or the crown.) 

Our testers also simulate riding around wearing each helmet to see how well it ventilates the head during real-world use, and they examine the features, versatility, and ease of use of all the buckles and adjustments.

Remember, if you’ve fallen and hit your head while wearing a helmet, it’s time to get a new one.

Below are some of our top picks for adults (separated into road/mountain style and urban/skate style) and kids, in alphabetical order.

We also note below which helmets come with Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS), Low Density Layer, Rotexx, Spin, or WaveCel, all of which are liners designed to reduce the risk of a concussion. (Additional helmets with these features are available in our full ratings.)

Best Bike Helmets for Adults (Road/Mountain)

Giro Register MIPS

    This CR Best Buy is one of the best helmets CR has ever tested. It gets top marks for impact absorption and earns an Excellent score for ventilation, which means you’ll stay cool during long rides. It also features MIPS technology.

    Kali Alchemy

      This relatively lightweight helmet is our top-rated mountain biking helmet. It’s rated Excellent for impact absorption and comes with anti-concussive technology known as Low Density Layer. There’s a dial to make it easier to adjust the fit and reflective features to improve nighttime visibility. It also comes with a detachable visor.

      Garneau Majestic

        This moderately priced helmet is rated Excellent for impact absorption, Very Good for ease of use and Excellent for ventilation. It comes with reflective features for greater visibility in low light, and Rotexx technology, designed to mitigate the effects of rotational impacts.

        Bell Trace MIPS

          This is a lightweight model—great if you’re looking for a helmet to take on the go—but it still earns an Excellent score for impact absorption, ease of use, and ventilation, with the added benefit of MIPS technology baked in. It also has a dial to help adjust how snug it is.

          Best Bike Helmets for Adults (Skate-Style/Urban)

          LEM Boulevard

            This helmet is rated Excellent for impact absorption and ease of use. It is available in three sizes and includes additional padding, a dial, and adjustable retention straps to help you find the right fit. It has surprisingly good ventilation for a helmet of this style, earning a Very Good rating. It comes with a one-year warranty.

            Bontrager Charge WaveCel

              This helmet is rated Excellent for impact absorption, and comes with WaveCel technology. Like many helmets this style, which offer more coverage, it’s a bit heavy and doesn’t have great ventilation. But it does have a one-year warranty, reflective features, a built-in visor, and a magnetic buckle designed to close easily and prevent pinching. It also has a dial to help adjust the fit, though the retention strap length is fixed.

              Best Bike Helmets for Kids

              Bontrager Tyro

                This moderately priced helmet gets top marks for impact absorption, ventilation, and ease of use. It has an easy-to-adjust strap for its retention system, a pinch prevention system, and a convenient magnetic buckle. It comes with a one-year warranty. 

                Garneau Nino

                  This helmet gets top marks for impact absorption and comes with a one-year warranty. A dial makes it easy to adjust the fit, and reflective stickers improve nighttime visibility. Plus, a bonus for parents: The padding is washable. 

                  POC Pocito Omne SPIN

                    This helmet earns an Excellent score for impact absorption, and Very Good scores for ventilation, fit adjustment, and ease of use. It has reflective features for better visibility in low light, and Spin technology to reduce the effects of rotational impacts.

                    Uvex Quatro Junior

                      This helmet gets top marks for impact absorption and comes packed with cool features: a button to release the buckle with one hand, a dial to adjust the fit, and reflective elements to increase nighttime visibility. Our testers found that the ventilation on this helmet was not as good as on other top picks, so it might not be the best choice for muggy summer days. It comes with a one-year warranty.