11 best road cycling helmets
Keep your head cool and protected with one of these lovely lids
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Even the most experienced rider can take a tumble now and again, but the right helmet could save you from serious harm.
While wearing one is entirely your choice, studies claim they can reduce the risk of a fatal head injury by 65 per cent.
We’ve put our heads together to find some of the best current offerings for road riders. Some include Mips (Multidirectional Impact Protection System) which offers additional protection by reducing rotational forces in an impact.
Others incorporate Koroyd – closely packed tubes which crush down in a crash to absorb energy and protect your skull.
The best models are lightweight and will keep you cool in hot weather – making it more likely you will actually choose to wear them on your rides.
Don’t forget to measure around your head to find the right size. Most of our models are suitable for both sexes, but it’s always worth trying out a few styles before you buy as fit can be quite personal.
Lazer Z1: £149.99, Tredz
Our Best Buy is a great all-rounder from the world’s oldest cycling helmet maker. It’s light and airy enough to keep you comfortable on long climbs and hot summer days, but the clear, clip-on “Aeroshell” cover will also see you through rainy weather and the chilly winter months.
There’s an unusual roller adjuster mounted behind the spoiler on top of the helmet to allow you to find the perfect fit, while the pads and straps proved comfortable and easy to fine tune. Despite weighing just 228g it felt sturdy enough to take a bashing.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to put that to the test! To cap it all off, the matte titanium finish of our review model looked really stylish.
Specialized S-Works Evade II: £200, Evans Cycles
You’ll see this one worn by the likes of Peter Sagan and Julian Alaphilippe in cycling’s top level World Tour races. It has some great features including a magnetic clasp on the straps which makes it super-easy to remove with one hand.
The “HairPort” vent at the back means you can wear it with a pony tail, and there’s a simple click-wheel adjuster to help you find the perfect fit. Airflow is excellent even though there are only 10 forward-facing vents, and we stayed cool even on long climbs on hot days.
If speed is your thing, Specialized claims it is six seconds faster than the original version of the Evade over 40km (25 miles). In a medium size it weighed in at 248g on our scales and it comes with a carrying bag and spare pads.
Oakley ARO 3: £149, Sigma Sports
Not content with ruling the roost in sports sunglasses, Oakley is muscling in on the helmet market too. The ARO 3 is the cheapest in its three-model range and the one offering the best ventilation.
It’s got Mips for extra safety, plus a BOA cord and dial – as found on fancier cycling shoes – to make sure the helmet is adjusted evenly around your head. We liked the addition of moulded channels to hold the arms of your glasses if you need to stow them out of the way.
On the road, cooling was good and the ARO 3 felt really comfortable. It’s available in a range of colours including white, black and red, and comes with a carrying bag and spare pads.
ABUS Aventor: £112, Sigma Sports
Here’s a neat little number that’s being put through its paces by Spain’s top-flight Movistar racing team during the 2018 season. It’s a well-ventilated model that doesn’t look too obtrusive thanks to the compact design.
We soon found a comfortable fit thanks to the simple strap adjustment, and the click-wheel adjuster made tightening a doddle. We counted a whopping 27 vents dotted around the structure, so summer overheating should not be a problem, and there was enough room to slip a cap underneath it on cooler days.
It weighed in at 267g on our scales. German firm ABUS is best known for its security products, but this bit of kit should certainly keep your head safe.
Smith Network Mips Helmet: £139.99, Wiggle
Smith has gone for a belt and braces approach to safety – incorporating both Mips and Koroyd into this fine, mid-range helmet. Twenty air vents keep your head cool, while fit adjustment is by a click wheel at the rear.
We liked the simple yet stylish design, and the bright green Koroyd areas at the sides added a nice splash of colour to the matte black model we had on test. A nice added feature was the visor which fits behind the brow pad to keep the sun out of your eyes.
It’s a great all-rounder that will look at home on a high-speed Sunday training ride or when pottering down to the shops for a paper. At 317g with the peak in place it was the heaviest in our trial but never felt uncomfortable.
There’s a nice range of colours and you also get a drawstring storage bag.
MET Trenta 3K Carbon: £238.50, Tredz
If you’ve spent a fortune shaving grams off your bike you’ll want an equally pared-down helmet to top things off. This lightest version of MET’s Trenta – released to mark the Italian firm’s 30th anniversary – is built around a carbon fibre cage.
That maintains structural strength while keeping the weight down to a skinny 222g for a medium size. It’s a beautiful looking lid with the white outer sections of our test example contrasting with the raw carbon shell.
The semi-aero design cuts through the air while offering plenty of ventilation thanks to its 19 holes. The straps offer plenty of scope for adjustment and the frame holding the rear tensioning wheel can be moved up or down to find your perfect position.
It’s pricey but we found it super-comfortable and so light we hardly noticed we were wearing it. You can also buy an additional clip-on LED light which attaches to the rear and could prove a lifesaver on darker days.
Catlike Mixino 2018: £169.99, Prendas
Wonder material graphene is the magic ingredient that gives this lightweight (just 220g on our scales) lid from Spain it’s strength. With 39 vents you’re virtually guaranteed to stay cool on your ride – but you might have to slip on a cap underneath it when the weather turns chilly.
We loved the distinctive “swiss cheese” look and the neat profile. It’s the only helmet in our line-up to have been worn to victory in the tours of Italy and Spain, courtesy of Colombia’s Nairo Quintana. A click wheel at the back allows precision adjustment for the perfect fit and it comes with a carrying bag and spare pads.
The matte white finish of the model we tried would work well with any items in your cycling wardrobe. We’ve ridden in the slightly heavier, cheaper Whisper for a couple of years and been mightily impressed, so we’ve got high hopes for its more expensive brother over the months ahead.
dhb R2.0: £50, Wiggle
At just £50 this one is a real steal. Judging by the sleek styling you would never guess its bargain basement price tag. Okay, at 278g it wasn’t the lightest model we tested, but neither was it the heaviest.
The straps were a bit plasticky although a pad under the chin stopped them rubbing on rides. Just like its more expensive rivals, it’s got a click wheel at the back to get a nice tight fit, and ventilation was perfectly adequate although not exceptional.
As with the Bell Stratus below, it would make a great choice for cycling newbies or anyone who is worried a more expensive helmet might get knocked around on the work commute.
POC Ventral Spin: £220, Sigma Sports
Outrageous styling has long been a hallmark of Swedish maker POC and it doesn’t disappoint with this new addition to its range. The combination of huge air intakes and a short, stubby tail with exhaust ports certainly turns heads on the road or in the café.
It’s not all style over substance though; the designers have incorporated an aerodynamic quirk known as the Venturi effect to move warm air away from your head. It certainly seemed to work on our hot and hilly training rides.
The Spin in the title refers to POC’s alternative to Mips, in this case a system of pads which allows your head to rotate under the helmet in a crash, dissipating some of the energy. As you would expect at this price, it’s a gloriously comfortable, light lid (257g) that will make you the envy of your style-conscious cycling buddies.
Endura PRO SL: £142.49, Evans Cycles
The boldly styled PRO SL is a member of the prestigious club where the risk of a skull fracture in a crash falls to less than five per cent (the standard required for CE certification is 40 per cent). It uses a honeycomb of Koroyd tubes to offer excellent protection while also keeping weight down to a skinny 239g for our medium size.
We thought it was going to prove hot in use, but the combination of large vents and the angle of the tubes actually kept us very cool. There’s a nicely cushioned washable pad for added comfort, and the adjuster assembly at the rear can be moved up or down to find your ideal position.
Stylish riders will appreciate the glasses “garages” at the temples where you can stow your sunnies while climbing. Make sure you check the box carefully before you throw it out – there was a quality carrying sack hidden away under the cardboard in ours!
Bell Stratus Mips: £79.99, Tredz
This one was a very pleasant surprise. It might be the second cheapest helmet in our line-up, but the Bell is a good looker and offers the added protection of Mips – a huge bonus at this price point.
Adjustment is via a click wheel at the back, and there are 18 vents plus a clever over-brow ventilation notch to keep your head cool. The no-twist straps are easy to adjust and designed to stay flat in use.
Our only gripe is that the small clasp needs quite a firm squeeze to open. At under £100 you’re getting a high quality helmet which will stand up to the rough and tumble of everyday use better than some more expensive offerings.
Could be a great buy for commuters who want to keep their best helmet for weekend use.
The Verdict: road helmets
There’s something for everyone in our line-up… the head-turning POC Ventral and sleek Met Trenta 3T for the style conscious, Specialized S-Works Evade for speed demons, and the Bell Stratus and dhb for those on a budget.
Whichever helmet you choose, they’re all a world away from the hot and heavy products that cyclists endured a few years ago. Our Best Buy, the Lazer Z1, clinched it through its all-round versatility.
With its simple clip-on fairing you can transform it from light and cool head protection into a wind and drizzle-cheating aerodynamic number that could help you to shave seconds off your favourite routes.