An illustration of people wearing bike helmets while riding their bicycles.
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.

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.) In our latest round of testing, two helmets did not pass this test.

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 (LDL), 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)

Cannondale CAAD MIPS

    This full-featured helmet gets top marks for impact absorption, and it comes with bells and whistles: reflective features to make nighttime riding safer, a dial to quickly adjust the fit, and MIPS technology.

    Giro Register MIPS

      This helmet comes with a one-year warranty and is part of a one-year damage replacement program. It has a dial to help adjust the fit, and it earns an Excellent score for ventilation, which means you’ll stay cool during long rides. It also includes MIPS technology.

      Kali Alchemy

        This relatively lightweight helmet is rated Excellent for impact absorption and comes with anti-concussive technology known as Low Density Layer (LDL). 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.

        Scott Arx Plus

          This model is the most lightweight of our top picks—great if you’re looking for a helmet to take on the go—but it still earns an Excellent score on impact absorption, with the added benefit of MIPS technology baked in. It also has a dial to help adjust how snug it is, and it’s easy and intuitive to get a good fit for your head.

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

          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.

            Garneau Vitesse

              This helmet is rated Excellent for impact absorption, and comes with MIPS technology. It is available in three sizes and includes additional padding, a dial, and adjustable retention straps to help you find the right fit. Like many helmets this style, which offer more coverage, it doesn't have great ventilation. It comes with a one-year warranty.

              Best Bike Helmets for Kids

              Bell Sidetrack MIPS

                This full-featured helmet comes in array of bright colors and patterns, with a snap-on visor, buckles designed to prevent pinching, and a dial to help adjust the fit. It also gets top marks for impact absorption, has MIPS technology built in, and 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. 

                  Lazer Nut'Z

                    This helmet earns a Very Good score for impact absorption, and while it comes in only one size—like our other best-rated kids’ helmets—it’s easy to make fit adjustments. The buckles are designed to prevent pinching. Among our kids’ picks, this is the heaviest helmet. It also comes in a MIPS version, which is not included in our ratings.

                    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.