The 10 Best Bike Helmets
We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Protect the most important part of your body -- your head -- and stay safe when out cycling on the roads or over difficult terrain with one of these stylish and affordable bike helmets. We've included both traditional and MIPS-equipped models, as well as units that are suitable for skateboarding, snowboarding, and skiing in addition to their place atop a cyclist. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best bike helmet on Amazon.
Proper Skull Insurance
With different liner densities, soft layers can absorb moderate impacts, while the hard layers can bear the brunt of more intense impacts with vehicles or sharp objects.
The liner is considered the most important part of the helmet, as it represents the internal layer where the energy from the impact of a potential crash is managed.
Just as a construction crew avoids working around dangerous machinery without the use of hard hats, a bicyclist should likewise never go for a ride in traffic or among the elements without wearing a bicycle helmet to protect their head from life-threatening injuries and impacts. While the bicycle helmet is designed to absorb impacts, it also minimizes interference with a rider's peripheral vision. At the same time, the helmet is not designed to be a heavy object. As a person's body temperature rises during strenuous physical activity, the helmet must allow one's head to regulate its temperature without overheating or burdening the rider with excess weight.
A typical bike helmet has three major components, including the liner, shell, and strap (with buckle). The liner is considered the most important part of the helmet, as it represents the internal layer where the energy from the impact of a potential crash is managed. For that reason, liner material is both lightweight and strong. Most helmet liners are molded in expanded polystyrene foam. This type of foam offers several advantages that include its strength and ability to be molded with multiple layers in varying densities.
With different liner densities, soft layers can absorb moderate impacts, while the hard layers can bear the brunt of more intense impacts with vehicles or sharp objects. This allows manufacturers to fine tune a helmet's impact management system. Other types of foams can also be used, which include expanded polypropylene and expanded polyurethane, each with different manufacturing techniques.
The best helmet shells are full-cover, vented hard shells constructed from materials like fiberglass, lexan, or ABS plastic. The most expensive shells are often integrated into a helmet's molding for the liner, while less expensive models may include shells taped or glued around their edges.
Most helmet straps are made from either nylon or polypropylene and are fashioned after the helmet comes out of its molding with an anchor that sits atop the helmet's shell. Some straps can also be riveted and attached to the shell directly. The buckle is typically the last accessory to be added after the straps. Helmet buckles are made from plastic or nylon with side-pinch release mechanisms that make it easy for the rider to fasten quickly. Some helmets use a motorcycle-style D-ring buckle requiring riders to thread the straps through two D-shaped metal rings in order to fasten the helmet around their heads.
Choosing The Best Helmet
When it comes to protecting your skull and brain, it's worth spending a bit extra to ensure you have the best quality helmet that meets the most current safety standards with the most durable materials possible. The chosen helmet should be lightweight, offer the proper fit, be well ventilated, and feature easy adjustments of its straps and buckle without interfering with one's line of sight.
Some helmets also incorporate an additional, fold-down visor that can provide extra protection from sun glare when riding in the late mornings or early afternoons.
The straps should also be sturdy and snug to prevent the need for adjusting them in the middle of a bike ride, which could prove both inconvenient and dangerous. Some helmets also incorporate an additional, fold-down visor that can provide extra protection from sun glare when riding in the late mornings or early afternoons. Some of the most cutting-edge bike helmets boast antibacterial padding, which comes in particularly handy if you tend to sweat a lot.
Once you've got safety and convenience checked off the list, then you can start thinking about style. The more aerodynamically-designed the helmet is, the faster you'll be able to ride, especially downhill. The helmet should be considered more of a supportive and encouraging force in this regard instead of a hindrance to your speed and agility. If the helmet also happens to look sleek, then that's an extra bonus.
Finally, consider the times of day that you'll be riding. Many helmets are designed with bright colors and can easily accommodate reflective strips for riding at night.
A Brief History Of The Bike Helmet
The earliest bike helmets were made from pith and were used as early as the 1880s as the popularity for riding clubs grew and more people recognized the problems caused by head injuries. By the beginning of the twentieth century, racing cyclists began using helmets made from strips of leather-covered padding with a ring of leather around the head surrounded by an outer ring made from wool.
In 1984, the American National Standards Institute released the ANSI Z80.4, which was considered the first workable bike helmet standard for the United States.
This ring of leather was then supplemented by strips of leather arranged longitudinally over a rider's head, which offered somewhat better protection than pith helmets, but not enough to withstand heavy impacts. Hard helmet exteriors with foam liners began development over the coming decades.
By 1970 at the beginning of the bicycle popularity boom, the Snell Memorial Foundation instituted one of the first bicycle helmet standards in the United States. In 1975, American helmet manufacturer Bell Sports developed the first practical, commercially-successful, and purpose-designed bike helmet called the Bell Biker, which was constructed with a polystyrene-lined hard shell.
In 1984, the American National Standards Institute released the ANSI Z80.4, which was considered the first workable bike helmet standard for the United States. This standard had a major function to rid the helmet market of ineffective products while increasing the quality of the accepted models. By the early 1990s, a thin hard shell was added to the polystyrene foam helmet for extra durability.
By the beginning of the twenty-first century, helmets began to incorporate more advanced retention and fitting systems that included cradles designed to adjust precisely to a rider's head. Today's helmets are designed to be as light as possible with multiple vents to keep a rider's head cool. Also, many states have made wearing helmets mandatory.
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