The best bike helmets in 2024

Colorful bike helmets stacked on a table.
(Image credit: John Quain/Future)

So, you just got a shiny new bike. Before taking off on your first spin, it's a good idea to consider how you'll keep your head protected. After all, wearing one of the best bike helmets could save your life. 

We're not being hyperbolic. In 2021, sixty-one percent of bicyclists killed were not wearing helmets, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Previous studies in New York City found that almost all bicyclists who died (97%) were not wearing a helmet.

Finding the best bike helmet for you can be difficult, not just for the fit but also depending on the type of biking you plan to do. What's more, some bike helmets are downright expensive. That's why we tested a dozen of the best bike helmets over hundreds of miles, ranging in price from about $50 to $300. We only selected MIPS helmets, which offer much better protection than other models. 

So, before you get on one of the best electric bikes or best electric scooters to go to work or school — or to have fun — be sure to strap on one of the best bike helmets in 2024 first. Don't forget to pick up one of the best bike locks, too — after all, you need to protect more than your head. 

The best bicycle helmets you can buy today

How to choose the best bike helmet for you

Shock absorption technology: There is still some debate about the most effective helmet technology for protecting your head. However, most researchers agree that it's the rotational forces that tend to cause the most damage, including concussions. The most popular technology today to address these types of crashes is the multi-directional impact protection system or MIPS technology. It is designed to reduce the rotational force on one's cranium in an accident by allowing the outer shell of the helmet to slide slightly on impact. Many helmet makers offer MIPS models, and there are a couple of competing designs, including POC's SPIN pads and Bontrager's Wavecel liner that compresses to reduce rotational forces.

Fit Matters: Helmets need to fit snugly in order to protect your pate in an impact. Most models now feature a cage-like design that can loosen or tighten an interior set of straps to fit around your head. Over time, chin straps can stretch and loosen, so don't forget to snug them up on occasion. Also, make sure you don't push the helmet back; they're designed to sit slightly forward over your brow to protect your forehead.

Use case: Bikes are used in a variety of ways, from commuting to mountain biking, and bike helmet manufacturers make helmets tailored for those scenarios. While it's perfectly acceptable to wear a mountain bike helmet when cycling to work, it may have extra features, such as a visor or a chin guard, that you don't necessarily need or want to pay extra for. Look for a helmet that will best match how you plan to use your bike. 

How we tested the best bike helmets

best bike helmets

(Image credit: John Quain/Future)

One of the criteria in selecting the best bike helmets to test was if they had MIPS protection or the equivalent. MIPS, which in this use stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, includes a layer that allows the helmet to slide relative to the head, thus reducing rotational forces that can cause concussions or other brain injuries.  

We then wore the helmets on a number of bike rides, evaluating their fit, adjustability, and comfort. If a helmet had other features — such as built-in lights — we also tested their ease of use.

Bike helmet safety ratings

Of course, we could not test the helmets under actual crash conditions, so we consulted several test reports that conducted extensive lab-based impact analysis. Those included Virginia Tech and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's evaluation of 162 bike helmets and a 2021 study of 27 helmets tested in oblique impacts published in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering. We also considered the results of a 2020 study conducted by a Swedish insurance company as part of our evaluation. 

Below is a chart with the Virginia Tech ratings of the helmets we reviewed; the lower the number, the better.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
HelmetVa. Tech rating (lower is better)
Giro Register MIPS17.06
Thousand Chapter MIPS Helmet12.91
Lazer Blade + MIPS12.32
Specialized S-Works Prevail II12.65
Bontrager Specter WaveCel10.79
Scott Vivo Plus15.38
Lumos Ultra17.19

Since fit and comfort are two of the most important features of bicycle helmets, we then head-tested every model, riding many miles in different circumstances (off-road, dirt roads, highways and city streets) to see how they held up under real-world use. 

Frequently asked questions

What size bike helmet do I need?

In order to be effective, a bike helmet must be properly sized to your head. Most helmets come in multiple sizes and will also have some sort of adjustment mechanism so they will fit snugly on your head.

In order to find your head size, take a tape measure or a piece of string and wrap it around the widest part of your head, about an inch above your eyebrows. Most bike helmet manufacturers will have a sizing chart so you know the appropriate model for your noggin. 

Do bicycle helmets have a lifespan?

Any time you have an impact or even a tumble that doesn't result in injury, your helmet should be replaced—even if there is no visible damage. Any impact can reduce its ability to protect your noggin. (The same goes for ski and motorcycle helmets.)

While there’s no hard and fast rule, the general consensus is that bike helmets should be replaced every five years or so, depending on use. If you rarely use your helmet, it could last longer, but with normal wear and tear, five years is a good benchmark.

Do you have to wear a helmet if you're riding on a cycling path or pavement?

We recommend you wear a bike helmet no matter where you ride your bike. Accidents can occur anywhere, at any time. While there's no law in the U.S. that requires adult riders to wear a helmet while riding, why take the risk of serious injury?

What is a MIPS bicycle helmet?

MIPS is an acronym for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. It's a protective layer inside a helmet that allows the helmet to rotate or slide when it hits something. This helps lessen the impact on your brain, which can reduce the severity of an injury, such as a concussion. 

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Mike Prospero
U.S. Editor-in-Chief, Tom's Guide

Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.