The Best and Safest Bike Helmets in 2023 – Scientifically Tested
Cool, Stylish, Safe. The 11 best bike helmets in 2023
for commuting, road cycling, bike touring, MTB, and bikepacking Rated by Virginia Tech’s scientific study
When choosing the best bicycle helmet for your needs, you might first look at its aesthetics: is it cool and stylish or do I look like a cycling fool?
Of course, that’s not the main point, what matters the most is of course safety. In this article, we’ll describe the best helmets for road cycling, urban commuters, cycle touring, bikepacking, and MTB – not just the best according to us, but the top-rated by a scientific study.
Bicycle helmets are used to protect our heads and reduce the extent of injuries in the event of a fall, whether accidental or not.
Despite the controversy over the supposed uselessness of the helmet that rages in many countries, it is actually demonstrated by multiple authoritative studies, if any were needed, that a bicycle helmet can save your life.
Of course, a helmet will be more effective if it’s high-quality and produced by certified companies, that carry out serious and meticulous impact-resistance tests on their products.
The best cycle helmet brands, as we will see later, not only perform tests to obtain the mandatory certifications, but also additional ones to guarantee a product that is as safe as possible.
Buying a helmet at an irresistible price but which has not been subjected to these tests is not advisable, at least if your goal is to be more protected.
A few years ago Virginia Tech, together with the Swedish Road Safety Institute, tested a large number of bike helmets, 188 to be precise, in the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab laboratories, and subsequently published a study and a ranking of the best bicycle helmets available on the market, in terms of strength, safety, and quality.
In this article, you will find the list of those that have been rated among the best helmets to reduce the risk of head injury.
11 Safest Bike Helmets for Road Cycling, MTB, Commuting, and Touring
Disclosure: Some of our articles contain affiliate links. This comes at no additional cost for you and helps us keep this website up and running. (as Amazon Associates we earn commission from qualifying purchases)
How we compile our gear guides: during the almost 10 years of cycloscope.net our team personally tested dozens of similar pieces of gear. For what we can't test personally, we involve other people in the cycling community to give their feedback and opinion about gear they have used. Our decade-long experience in bicycle touring enables us to find the key cons and pros of every product we mention.
Here are our picks for 2023/2024, as usual based on our experience, people’s recommendations, and most importantly the Virginia Tech Ranking of the safest bicycle helmets for the current year.
1. Bontrager Rally MIPS
Safest MTB Cycling Helmet
The Rally MIPS features a tough and durable outer shell to shield your head from potential impacts. Inside, the helmet has a MIPS liner, which allows the helmet to rotate slightly around your head in the event of an angled impact, helping to redirect harmful rotational forces. This can be especially important in real-world crashes where impacts are rarely perfectly linear.
What sets the Rally MIPS apart is its blend of protection and comfort. It offers extended coverage at the back and sides of the head, which provides better overall protection for those aggressive trail rides. The helmet also has a convenient adjustable visor that keeps the sun out of your eyes and offers extra protection from branches and debris.
Ventilation is key when you’re pushing the limits on the trail, and the Rally MIPS doesn’t disappoint. It features a generous number of vents to keep your head cool and comfortable during intense rides. The helmet also comes with a Boa Fit System, which ensures a snug and customizable fit. The Boa dial allows you to easily adjust the tension with one hand, even while riding, so you can get the perfect fit on the fly.
Lastly, comfort is a priority with the Bontrager Rally MIPS. The helmet is equipped with moisture-wicking padding that helps keep sweat under control and minimizes discomfort during longer rides. It’s also compatible with Bontrager’s Blendr accessory mount system, so you can easily attach lights, cameras, or other accessories to your helmet.
The Lazer G1 is Lazer’s most ventilated road helmet to date, also thanks to the introduction of the new rear spoiler – ideal for cycle touring in the tropics or in extreme heat.
Despite all this air coming through, it’s still one of the safest bike helmets out there, ranking 11th on the VT list.
Safety is always a priority when designing a helmet and Lazer has identified one of the weakest points of the skull right around the temple.
That’s why the G1 cycling helmet is equipped with T-Pro technology for greater protection of the temple area. As a result, the G1 offers additional coverage on the side of the head by lowering the helmet in that area.
Without adding weight and while ensuring maximum comfort, Lazer has created an updated extra light version of the award-winning Rollsys system, called ARS or Advanced Rollsys System.
Ventilation is a priority to keep the rider comfortable, the G1 uses deep ventilation channels that draw air through the helmet, keeping the space between the head and the shell to a minimum.
The Lazer G1 is one of the best road bike helmets available and it’s actually on sale on BackCountry
The Specialized Tactic 4 helmet is a remarkable choice that has earned its esteemed position as the 3rd safest bike helmet on the Virginia Tech list. This recognition underscores Specialized unwavering commitment to rider safety and this helmet’s impressive protective capabilities.
Constructed to cater to a wide range of cycling disciplines, from demanding mountain biking to speedy road cycling, the Specialized Tactic 4 showcases its versatility and adaptability in various scenarios.
One of its standout features is its advanced construction, which masterfully combines In-Mold and Hardshell techniques. This fusion results in an exceptionally sturdy outer shell that not only effectively disperses impact forces but also maintains an aerodynamic profile for streamlined riding.
Ventilation is a crucial factor in ensuring rider comfort, especially during long rides. The Tactic 4 excels in this aspect with strategically positioned vents that facilitate optimal airflow. This ventilation system helps regulate temperature and prevents overheating, enabling riders to stay cool and focused on their journey.
Achieving a perfect fit is paramount for a helmet’s effectiveness, and the Tactic 4 addresses this with its 360-degree adjustable fit system. This mechanism allows riders to fine-tune the helmet’s fit using a dial-adjustable system, ensuring a snug and secure feel that remains comfortable even during extended rides.
The inclusion of the signature removable visor adds another layer of practicality to the helmet. This visor not only shields against sun glare but also guards against debris, enhancing overall visibility and safety while riding.
Furthermore, the Specialized Tactic 4 extends its protective coverage to the back of the head, providing additional security during falls or impacts. Available in various sizes, it caters to a diverse range of head sizes, ensuring that riders of all proportions can find a comfortable fit.
The helmet’s design is not just functional; it’s also stylish. With a sleek and modern aesthetic (ok, maybe not for everyone’s taste…), the Tactic 4 is available in a variety of colors.
Specialized Tactic 4 Technical details
3rd safest bike helmet on Virginia Tech Safety Ranking
In-Mold and Hardshell fusion
Strategically positioned vents for optimal airflow
360-degree adjustable fit mechanism
Removable visor for sun protection and debris deflection
Extended Coverage Protection to the back of the head
4. Sweet Protection Trailblazer MIPS – New Entry 2023!
Safest MTB helmet for cycle touring
Ranking 5th on the VT list and first among the MTB helmets, the Sweet Protection Trailblazer is a top-tier helmet perfectly suited for cycle touring and bikepacking.
Designed with a clear focus on the challenges encountered during cycle touring and bikepacking, the Trailblazer offers advanced protection through the incorporation of MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) technology.
Crafted from premium materials, the Trailblazer strikes a harmonious balance between lightweight construction and exceptional durability. This equilibrium is of utmost importance during extended journeys where comfort and the ability to withstand varying conditions play vital roles.
The helmet’s coverage is thoughtfully extended to safeguard more vulnerable areas of the head, especially at the back and sides. This aspect becomes invaluable when navigating through rugged terrains commonly encountered during bikepacking adventures.
Ventilation and comfort are key considerations, and the Trailblazer’s ventilation system adeptly regulates temperature and airflow.
A personalized fit is achieved through the Occigrip turn-dial fit system, ensuring that the helmet remains snug and accommodating for different head shapes, eliminating discomfort during extended wear.
The Trailblazer also seamlessly integrates practical features like an adjustable visor to shield against the sun and elements, as well as compatibility with goggles, an essential asset.
Beyond functionality, the Trailblazer boasts an appealing design that effectively combines style with purpose, catering to those who prioritize both aesthetics and performance.
Backed by safety certifications, the Trailblazer offers the assurance of meeting stringent standards, lending peace of mind when embarking on remote bikepacking endeavors.
Technical details of the Bern Union helmet Weight:
MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System)
Optimized Ventilation with 16 Vents
Occigrip Turn-Dial Fit System
Adjustable Visor with Goggle Compatibility
Certifications: CE EN 1078, CPSC 1203, AS/NZS2063-2008
The Bern Union helmet is designed for urban adventures through the streets of your city. Equipped with 21 vents, a 360-degree Boa retention system, a removable tear-off visor, and a very modern aesthetic style.
Designed specifically for those urban cyclists who want their equipment to look beautiful as well as functional.
The Bern Union has obtained 5 stars in the ranking of the safest helmets on the Virginia Tech test, making it top-rated among the commuter helmets (find the link to the complete ranking at the bottom of the article).
It’s also one of the cheapest helmets on this list at less than 50$. A real bang for the buck and a stylish urban cycling street helmet.
Technical details of the Bern Union helmet Weight:
Certifications: CPSC, EN1078 21 vents.
Patented Boa system.
Tested with MIPS security system.
Multi-Directional Impact Protection System.
Fits bicycle lights in collaboration with Portland Design Works (PDW).
The Stratus cycling helmet by Bell combines aerodynamic efficiency and lightness with cutting-edge comfort technologies. The shape has been refined for all-around road performance, ideal for long climbs, but also for speed on flat terrain.
The integrated Float Fit system offers comfort and safety with a streamlined fit and an oversize dial that is easy to adjust with one hand. The Overbrow ventilation system expels cold air through the front and pushes it through a matrix of air channels to reduce overheating.
And thanks to the adjustable Tri-Glide No-Twists, the belts remain flat and positioned correctly, regardless of speed and road conditions. This model also includes MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) for greater protection in some types of impacts.
The Lazer Impala stands out as an exceptional choice within the realm of top-tier bike helmets, boasting a coveted 5-star safety rating. This helmet not only prioritizes safeguarding cyclists but also encapsulates style and comfort, making it an ideal companion for a range of biking activities like commuting, urban cycling, and touring.
What truly makes the Lazer Impala a standout in the market is its unparalleled versatility and cost-effectiveness, which has propelled it to become a best-selling cycling helmet by Lazer. Its construction features a seamless one-piece In-Mold body, intelligently integrated with 22 strategically positioned air intakes. This design not only guarantees enhanced protection but also ensures optimal airflow for a cool and pleasant ride.
Adding to its allure is the innovative ATS (Advanced TurnFit) system by Lazer, which allows for easy and precise adjustments to achieve a secure and comfortable fit. All these attributes combined make the Lazer Impala a go-to choice for cyclists who prioritize safety, style, and adaptability in their biking gear.
Great budget all-mountain helmet for trail bikepacking
After years of research and development, the Troy Lee Designs team is proud to present its creation: the A2 helmet. This helmet was designed with MTB in mind but can also be used by urban commuters, cycle tourists, and single-track-loving bikepackers.
This fully encapsulated and lightweight all-mountain helmet uses maximum coverage and size to keep you safe and protected in all riding conditions. Whether you’re riding a single track, a dirt road, or a well-paved road.
Another incredibly cheap 5-star bike helmet with a stunning safety-to-price ratio. It ranks 18th among the safest cycling helmets in the world according to Virginia Tech.
Technical details of the MTB Troy Lee Designs helmet
Sizes from XS to XXL
Polycarbonate shell, EPS coating.
CPSC, CE, AS / NZS certification
Weight: 344 grams (M/L)
Available colors: black, honey, raven, silver-green gray, smokey blue
Of course we had to list the winner! The Giro Aries Spherical does indeed lead the Virginia Tech ranking in 2023 and can boast the title of the safest cycling helmet!
The Aries Spherical is a cutting-edge cycling helmet that seamlessly blends advanced safety technology with comfort and performance. Engineered with Giro’s proprietary Spherical technology, this helmet features a unique ball-and-socket design that helps mitigate rotational forces during impacts, enhancing overall safety.
The helmet’s construction employs a dual-density EPS foam liner for optimal impact absorption, ensuring reliable protection in various riding conditions. The Aether Spherical also incorporates MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) technology, adding an additional layer of defense against rotational forces.
Beyond its safety features, the Giro Aries Spherical is designed for superior comfort and ventilation. It features a total of 24 large vents with internal channels, promoting efficient airflow to keep your head cool during intense rides.
The Roc Loc 5+ Air fit system allows for precise adjustments to achieve a secure and comfortable fit.
With its aerodynamic shape and sleek aesthetics, the Giro Aries Spherical not only meets the highest safety standards but also delivers a premium cycling experience – and premium doesn’t come cheap: this is one of the most expensive helmets on this list at around $300.
It’s a road bike helmet but perfectly suited for cycle touring and bikepacking.
Equipped with an ultra-light Aerocore™ In-Mold construction with Koroyd® technology, the Smith Route helmet features a ventilated protection system in areas of greatest impact, for the top of protection where and when it is needed.
Designed for the road, the Route helmet is equipped with an optimized AirEvac ventilation system with 18 holes and ventilation channels, ensuring maximum airflow and heat expulsion on any asphalt road.
X-Static Performance Liner internal antimicrobial lining with Reactive Cooling, Ultra-Light Single Layer Webbing, and VaporFit™ adjustment system.
Smith helmets are designed to efficiently absorb direct impacts, and an optional internal lining with a multi-directional MIPS® impact protection system (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) is provided.
One of the most well-known cycling brands in the world, the Italian Rudy Project also makes it in the list with its Rudy Project Racemaster bicycle helmet – the only Rudy Project in there, which means the safest of their gamma.
Built for extreme performance and unparalleled protection, the Racemaster combines aggressive design and superior comfort. Equipped with state-of-the-art safety technology, such as Hexocrush and MIPS®, the Racemaster sets a new bar in the helmet protection level.
As for the Rudy Project tradition, this stylish helmet is also one of the most expensive on this list. Suited for pro and semi-pro racers or bikepacking endurance ultracyclists.
How to choose a bike helmet: the certifications/standard
As for bicycle helmets sold in the European Union, you should know that there is a European safety regulation, EN 1078, which certifies the products that reflect the established criteria. If you are interested and want to learn more, you can read the entire regulationhere. To be certified, the product must bear the code EN 1078 on the label.
As we know, counterfeit products are found every day so we advise you to buy products from companies you know or that, like those in the list below, have been tested and certified by a body in charge of obtaining the CE marking.
The test required by the law provides, among other things, shock absorption tests that are performed at a speed of 5.42 m/s and 4.57 m/s. Additional tests are made on the restraint system (strap), which serves to verify that the helmet is kept in an adequate position during an accident.
CSI, a company of the IMQ group, is one of the most authoritative accredited bodies for the verification of the safety of helmets and their certification, which can also carry out additional tests to those required for CE marking, as stated by the president “the objective is to raise the safety bar and contribute to elevating standards for personal safety devices “.
For American products, on the other hand, “all helmets sold in the United States must be CPSC certified. This standard requires protection from catastrophic injuries in the case of extremely serious impacts, which are rare. Several helmets are certified by additional US standards. The evaluations indicate helmets exceeding the standards for snow sports (ASTM F2040) or skate (ASTM F1492)”.
Resistance test on bike helmets, how is it done?
There are different types of tests that are carried out in different countries, or geographical areas, to test the validity of a helmet but all follow more or less the same line. In the case of the study carried out by Virginia Tech, the technicians proceeded very simply, using the Mips technology, developed by some scientists at the Karolinska Hospital and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.
After wearing a helmet on a fake head, they dropped it on a tilted anvil covered with sandpaper. When the helmet hit the anvil, some sensors measured its acceleration and rotation, two parameters associated with head injuries. The same test was carried out 6 times on each bike helmet model analyzed.
At this point, the helmets were evaluated by assigning a score from 1 to 5 stars based on the helmet’s ability to protect the head. The study that led to this ranking of the best helmets was funded by a non-profit association that deals with road safety and is therefore objective and without conflicts of interest.
“Our goal with these assessments is to provide cyclists with an evidence-based tool for making informed decisions on how to reduce the risk of injury,” said Steve Rowson, director of the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab.
Some tips for choosing the right helmet
According to a study conducted by the UPI, the Accident Prevention Office, wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injuries by 40% and greatly reduce their severity. For the helmet to do its job it is necessary, first of all, that it is the right size and that it is worn correctly.
If you want to buy a used helmet, make sure it doesn’t have any kind of wear and dent, it would still be advised to buy a new helmet. Indeed, it would be advisable to replace the helmet every 5 years.
“Statistics show that while the overall number of bicycle accidents in the country is declining, the number of fatal bike accidents is on the rise. In 2015, there were 45,000 reported bicycle accidents in the United States, down from 50,000 reported accidents in the prior year. However, the number of fatal accidents increased by more than 12 percent during this same time […] more than 70% of these accidents happen in urban environments.” – Source: peoplepoweredmovement.org
To begin with, purchase a helmet that is built in-mold and equipped with the MIPS safety system:
Construction of the In-Mold cycling helmet
With the in-mold construction, the sturdy polycarbonate outer shell is glued during the expansion of the EPS inner shell that absorbs shocks in one go. The helmet becomes harder without any additional weight. This production process also allows the creation of much better ventilation systems and air intakes. In-Mold helmets are lighter than traditional helmets and have more effective ventilation systems.
MIPS security system
MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) MIPS is a helical level system inside the helmet designed to slow down or prevent the amount of energy transmitted to the head or away from the head.