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The 5 Best Road Bike Helmets Available to Buy now

July 28, 2019

Road cycling helmets are a vital accessory that can not only reduce the risk of injury but are also compulsory for most types of racing.

Over the past few decades, helmets have been developed to reduce weight, offer greater ventilation and improve aerodynamics but all road helmets are essentially a plastic-covered foam shell that sits securely over your head and fastened via a strap under your chin.

Related: The Best Road Bikes 2019 for the Money Reviews

In the list below, we take a look at some of the best road bike helmets available to buy in 2019, look at the pros and cons of each one and provide key details.

The ​5 best road bike helmets you can buy today

1. Kask Protone

Verdict: A Grand Tour-winning, Monument-winning iconic helmet

Specifications

  • Weight: 251g (medium)
  • Rotational safety: None
  • Aero: Yes
  • Sizes available: S, M, L
  • ​Semi-aero design offers ample ventilation with speed advantages
  • No MIPS or rotational safety technology

​With its high profile appearance on the heads of some Team Sky riders just before the 2014 Tour de France, Kask's Protone immediately became both interesting and desirable. It's very rounded shape looks slippery with no protruding ridges or peaks, just subtly sculpted curves that flow between the vents.

    Highs: Fit, ventilation, and comfort
    Lows: Such quality doesn't come cheap

From the front, it looks like a conventional road helmet, while the rear resembles a road aero lid, with covered upper section and rounded tail.

Its skull-hugging compact profile is the result of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) design and wind tunnel testing, and it's certainly less bulky than some, though still has a complete Multi In Moulded polycarbonate shell covering the reinforced EPS core.

The diminutive dimensions belie its spaciousness. Our 251g medium fitted well, even with a skull cap, when we'd usually wear large. The Octo Fit retention system offers a huge adjustment range, the occipital pads moving vertically and laterally, and a rotary dial tightens a headband that doesn't foul your glasses. Achieving a perfect fit is simple, and the comfy eco-leather chinstrap keeps everything secure.

Kask Protone Limited Edition Helmet

Internally, the 5mm-thick 3D Dry multilayer open cell padding is antimicrobial treated, and perforated to reduce skin contact, with a CoolMax pad at the front. 

It all wicks sweat effectively, but even on hot days is superbly ventilated by the phenomenal airflow drawn through the eight forward-facing vents; no subtle, compromised waft, but several jets of air channeled evenly across the head to six large exit ports.

The Protone was designed to maintain aerodynamics and airflow in any common riding position, and however you move your head, it remains consistent.

We can't verify aero performance, but with many helmets, dipping or turning your head creates an obvious increase in wind noise, whereas the Protone is incredibly quiet and unobtrusive, and just feels fast.

2. Giro Aether MIPS

Verdict: Great looks, well ventilated and MIPS-equipped

Specifications

  • Weight: TBC
  • Rotational safety: MIPS
  • Aero: No
  • Sizes available: S, M, L
  • Colours available: 9
  • Excellent ventilation
  • Not as aerodynamic as other helmets

The Giro Aether MIPS offers great ventilation and keeps safety as a priority through its MIPS system. Instead of putting a MIPS lining on the inside of the helmet, as is often the case, the Giro Aether MIPS has a dual-layer EPS foam structure, which moves independently and enables protection from ‘a wide range of impact energies’.

Giro Aether MIPS Road Helmet

This design should not only improve fit but a lack of an additional MIPS lining contributes to the ventilation performance with the brand saying the helmet is two degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the popular Giro Synthe MIPS.

Coming in nine colorways from conservative black or white through to more bold fluoro options, the Giro Aether MIPS should also suit almost all aesthetic preferences.

3. LAZER Helmet Bullet 2.0

Verdict: WorldTour-level aero lid designed with speed in mind

Specifications

  • Weight: 315g (small, claimed)
  • Rotational safety: MIPS
  • Aero: Yes
  • Sizes available: S, M, L
  • Colours available: 3
  • All-out aero design, plus plenty of additional features
  • Limited ventilation

The second iteration of this all-out aero design from Lazer retains the unique ‘Airslide’ feature, enabling you to easily open up a central slider for improved ventilation and close again when speed is the priority.

The Lazer Bullet MIPS also comes with a Zeiss visor, which is attached by magnetic clips and can be stored to the rear of the helmet when not in use.

LAZER Helmet Bullet 2.0, Red, MD

Alongside MIPS, Lazer also has the option of an integrated rear light, “LifeBeam’ technology – which measures heart rate without the need for a chest strap – and a laser inclination sensor to keep you in the most aero position possible while riding.

Related: 15 Best Men’s and Women’s Cycling Shoes You Can Buy Right now

4. POC Ventral SPIN

Verdict: Well ventilated aero-specific helmet with divisive aesthetics

Specifications

  • Weight: 248g (medium, claimed)
  • Rotational safety: SPIN
  • Aero: Yes
  • Sizes available: S, M, L
  • Colours available: 9
  • Very comfortable, aero performance and well ventilated
  • Bulkier than it needs to be

​​Highs: Superb ventilation, high-quality feel, and construction
Lows: Unique aesthetics and large form factor can swallow some heads
Buy if: You love POC's style and want a breezy aero lid

The POC Ventral Spin is a comfy helmet with heaps of airflow, but boy is it expensive. And the looks are, well, decidedly POC.

While POC, almost refreshingly, doesn’t boast any wattage savings or CdA figures, the Swedish company does claim that the design aggressively directs air through the helmet instead of around it. Also, POC claims the Ventral Spin is faster than its previous aero road helmet, the Octal Aero.

POC Ventral Air Spin (CPSC) Helmet & Cap Bundle

​In lieu of MIPS, POC employs its own SPIN padding that has rotational impact protection capabilities. It would appear that SPIN pads are lighter and don’t block ventilation the way a MIPS liner can.

Putting it on is best done with the dial mechanism opened up all the way. Because the Ventral’s fit system uses a loop that surrounds the head, the brow pad, mounted on the interior of the loop, has a tendency to move up inside the helmet. Opening up the helmet before you put it on avoids that.

Under-ear adjustment of the straps takes a little elbow grease, but it also doesn’t slip around during use like some looser arrangements. It is a bit close on my ears, but POC is making a running change and will lower the under-ear junction in the future.

The POC has one of the nicest excess helmet strap management designs on the market. A small sleeve of elastic fabric is a welcome upgrade to the typical glorified rubber band used to keep things looking tidy. It’s soft to the touch and does a good job.

POC-Ventral-Spin-Helmet

POC includes a well-designed sunglasses “garage” using super tacky surfaces inside the outermost front vents. They really grab onto sunglasses and keep them in place, even over bumpy roads.

While POC’s website says the Ventral Spin runs small, I beg to differ. I needed to cinch the dial mechanism quite a bit to tighten up the helmet on my head. The Ventral, compared to other size medium helmets I’ve tested, is larger than most.

That larger size and its increased coverage may produce a safer helmet, but unfortunately, on me, it also meant that the brow of the Ventral SPIN interfered with several pairs of sunglasses that I used during testing.

I like many of the technologies that POC develops and brings to cycling, I’ve never seen one of its helmets that had me swooning.
While the Ventral Spin delivers many niceties, little items, such as the need to open up its dial mechanism every time you put it on, knock it down in my estimation. For a different cyclist though, perhaps a fan of POC, the Ventral may represent a step forward.

POC-Ventral-Air-Spin-Helmet

For any rider, it certainly stands as a very nicely-ventilated aero road helmet and that’s a departure that I’m keen to see the rest of the helmet world embrace.

Related: 5 The Best Cycling Jerseys Reviews 2019

5. Scott Cadence Plus

Verdict: Plenty of ventilation from a properly aero helmet

Specifications

  • Weight: 353g (large)
  • Rotational safety: MIPS
  • Aero: Yes
  • Sizes available: S, M, L
  • Colours available: 2
  • Large vents improve airflow in hotter temperatures, plus bungs can be inserted in cooler weather
  • Fairly heavy, very limited color choice​

Scott says the Cadence Plus is one of the fastest and aerodynamic helmets in its class, combine this with MIPS, a great fit and the additional option of blocking the front vents with bungs if the temperatures are cold and you’ve got a top-level aero lid.

Scott Cadence PLUS Bike Helmet - White/Black Medium

The Cadence Plus is Scott's aero road helmet solution. Its polycarbonate shell completely covers the vulnerable EPS core, apart from inside the vents, and its smooth, elongated shape and mostly enclosed shell look purposeful.

  • Highs: Fit, comfort, MIPS, price, versatility
  • Lows: The winter bungs aren't that portable
  • Buy if: You want an airy aero helmet with MIPS

The occipital cradle of Scott's Halo Fit System has three heights and circumference adjustment is via a rotary dial. A clever separator keeps the straps far apart so they don't clash with your ears, all helping to make the Cadence Plus one of the best fitting and most secure helmets I've tried recently. While the price for a top-flight lid with MIPS [Multi-directional Impact Protection System] additional protective technology is good.

Five generous front vents align with wide internal channels, there's another small vent above each temple and three angular exhaust ports at the rear. The MIPS cradle is extensively perforated to maximize cooling, which is important since it's in direct contact with the head.

At almost any speed and head angle, there's a remarkable throughflow of air and although I haven't ridden one on a hot mountain climb, it compares very favorably with similar helmets that I have.

To prevent brain freeze in cold weather, Scott supplies winter bungs, essentially cross-sections of the helmet. Full-thickness EPS foam segments topped with polycarbonate shell fit snugly into the five main vents, creating a smooth profile, extra warmth, and more speed. The temple vents, inner brow channels, and rear ports still provide some airflow for comfort.

Scott says in a head-on wind tunnel test at 40kph with 20-degree head tilt, the Cadence Plus performs better aerodynamically than any of its current competitors, but manufacturers rarely agree on test protocols. Tested with open vents, it's a fraction of a second quicker over 40km, rising to five seconds with the bungs fitted.

In the real world, it looks slick and feels fast, with no wind noise and a satisfyingly compact shell. Our large size weighs 353g, or 380g including the bungs, which uses as they are, aren't something you would carry just in case as they need almost a whole pocket and can only be fitted or removed with the helmet off. But so long as you decide in advance, they do extend the helmet's versatility.

How to buy the best road bike helmet for you

A helmet will always be a personal choice when it comes to pricing, aesthetics, ventilation and how aero you'd like it to be. The most important factors to consider, however, will always be fit and safety. Ensuring your helmet offers a secure fit should be the priority, and if you can, it is always worth trying on a helmet before purchase.

Thankfully, the days of the practically useless leather 'hairnet’ style helmets are gone and the majority of most modern cycling helmets will have passed the rigorous industry standards of safety testing, which are different for North America, Europe, and Australasia. Ensuring the helmet you are purchasing has passed these tests for your region is worth adhering to.

Most modern helmets are constructed from EPS foam that can compress on impact to provide an effective crumple zone, with a polymer outer shell bonded to the foam adding further protection.

In recent years, scientific research and independent laboratory tests have shown helmets that also reduce the rotational forces experienced in a crash can, in turn, reduce the risk of brain injuries or concussions.

‘MIPS’, ‘SPIN’ and ‘WaveCel’ technologies all aim to reduce rotational forces. While SPIN and WaveCel are proprietary for POC and Bontrager helmets, respectively, MIPS is used in an array of brands’ helmets and all of the helmets featured in this list are marked as to whether they feature this technology.