Types of Bike Helmets

Some people may not realize that there are many different types of bike helmets, for the different types of bikes and/or biking activities. Choosing the right type of bike helmet is the same as choosing the right tool for the job.

At a glance, all bike helmets may look similar. However, certain features set one bike helmet apart from the others. These features typically vary based on the type of riding the bike helmet is intended for.

This guide will help you decide which cycling helmet is suitable for the type of riding activity you plan to do.

* There are different types of bicycle helmet for different types of riding/activity.
* Different bike helmet certification applies to different types of cycling helmets.
* One helmet may have several different certifications.

A salesman in a shop showing the different types of bike helmets.

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Types of Certification for Bike Helmets

The primary goal of a bike helmet is to offer head and brain protection. But, how can you know that a particular helmet can do this in case of an accident?

Before being sold, bike helmets are tested for safety and performance to ensure that they can deliver head and brain protection. When it meets safety standards, it should bear the code that represents the type of standards the helmet was tested for.

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Below are some examples of riding activities and the applicable safety standard/s:

  • Bicycling/Bike riding – CPSC 1203 (US); CE EN-1078 and EN-1080 (Europe); AS/NZS 2063 (Australia)
  • Downhill MTB and BMX – ASTM F1952
  • BMX Cycling – ASTM F2032
  • E-bike riding – NTA 8776
  • Skateboarding and biking (Dual-certified bike/skate helmets) – ASTM F1492

It’s also quite common for a helmet to carry more than one type of certification. For example, many BMX bike helmets will be certified for BMX (ASTM F2032), Downhilll (ASTM F1952), as well a general cycling certification (CPSC, EN, or AS/NZ).

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Types of Bike Helmets

With different types of bike helmets out there, choosing one that suits your needs may seem confusing. To make your decision easier, you can always go for the cycling helmet that matches the type of bike you have. The following are the most common types of bike helmets.

Regular Bike Helmets

Regular bike helmets are typically worn when you’re cycling on the road, whether you’re commuting or having a leisurely ride around the neighborhood. You can also wear regular bike helmets for exercising and road racing. Regular bike helmets are lightweight and built with multiple vents because speed and comfort while riding are essential in some of these types of activities.

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Recreational Bike Helmets

If you’re looking for the best bike helmet for casual riding, consider wearing a recreational bike helmet. Recreational bike helmets typically range from low to mid-level in terms of pricing because they don’t have the additional features that bulky cycling helmets for extreme sports or activities have. But still, a recreational bike helmet offers decent impact protection and has lots of ventilation to keep you cool.

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Several recreational bike helmets are sold under $100, like the Lazer Blade+ cycling helmet. This bike helmet may look simple on the outside, but it comes with safety features like MIPS which provides impact protection against rotational forces. The strategically positioned air vents ensure optimal airflow, helping make long, daytime rides more comfortable.

LAZER Helmet Blade+ MIPS, Flash Yellow, SmallLazer Blade+ MIPS
From Amazon.com

Giro Trinity Adult Recreational Cycling Helmet - Universal Adult (54-61 cm), Matte Titanium/WhiteGiro Trinity Helmet
From Amazon.com

If you’re looking for a bike helmet under $50, the Giro Trinity recreational cycling helmet fits the bill. It is built with an in-mold polycarbonate shell for impact protection and an adjustable Roc Loc sport fit system that lets you find the most comfortable fit even with just one hand.

Road Bike Helmets

Just like recreational bike helmets, road bike helmets are ideal for both casual riders and road racers. Road bike helmets are also lightweight like recreational bike helmets, but they are built to be more aerodynamic and have bigger air vents for improved ventilation. For these reasons, some road bike helmets will retail slightly higher than most recreational bike helmets.

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When choosing a road bike helmet you should also look for features like adjustable retention systems, Y-shape chin straps, removable inner pads, and an in-mold type outer shell. While these features improve the riding experience, keep in mind that they may also affect the price of the bike helmet.

Some road bike helmets cost as little as $50, but high-end ones can go as high as a few hundred dollars. Just under $100 is the Smith Signal MIPS. It is a versatile bike helmet that you can wear cycling or for your daily commute, offering reliable head protection thanks to its in-mold polycarbonate shell with EPS padding and MIPS protection.

Smith Signal MIPS Bike HelmetSmith Signal MIPS
From Smith Optics

Giro Aether Spherical Adult Road Bike Helmet - Matte Ano Green/Highlight Yellow (2021) - Small (51-55 cm)Giro Aether MIPS SP
From Amazon.com

However, if you want to splurge on your headgear, you can go for the Giro Aether road bike helmet. This helmet features a lightweight and airy design with 21 tunnel vents that deliver a secure but comfortable fit and generous ventilation, as well as MIPS Spherical which is an improved MIPS system built by Bell/Giro.

Commuter/Urban Bike Helmets

Many commuter/urban bike helmets are dual certified, meaning they meet both the CPSC and ASTM F1492 standards. Hence, dual-certified helmets are suitable for bike riding, skateboarding, longboarding, and trick roller skating. Besides head protection against impact, commuter bike helmets come with features that allow better airflow and convenient fit adjustment. Commuter bike helmets have a broad range of color options and some are built with additional safety features such as LED lighting to increase visibility, especially at night.

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Urban bike helmets can retail for less than $50, but other models cost more than a hundred dollars. The Thousand Heritage commuter helmet is a budget-friendly helmet, costing a little over $80. This urban bike helmet is built with an ABS outer shell and EPS inner foam. It is a versatile helmet that is certified for cycling, skateboarding and roller skating.

Thousand Heritage commuter helmetThousand Heritage
From Thousand Helmets

Giro Camden MIPS Adult Urban Cycling Helmet - Large (59-63 cm), Matte Titanium (2021)Giro Camden MIPS
From Amazon.com

High-end urban bike helmets like the Giro Camden cost around $140 and comes with features such as MIPS protection, hybrid outer shell, and adjustable ventilation, while looking great on your daily commute. It is also certified as an e-bike helmet too if that’s your choice of transport.

Off-Road Bike Helmets

As the name suggests, off-road bike helmets are meant for trail riding. Unlike most regular bike helmets, off-road helmets have a built-in visor that protects the eyes and face from dust, dirt, and sunlight. Several models of off-road bike helmets provide additional coverage on the temples as well as the nape to deliver better protection against head and brain injury.

SIMILAR: Mountain Bike Helmet Vs Road Bike Helmet

Mountain Bike Helmets

Mountain Bike or MTB helmets should pass CPSC helmet standards. If an MTB helmet is safe for downhill rides, it should have ASTM F1952 certification for downhill.

MTB helmets may be either full face or open face. Full-face MTB helmets are ideal for serious mountain bikers who prefer to ride downhill or through difficult trails. The outer shell of a full-face MTB helmet not only offers head protection but also covers the chin and mouth.

The Fox Proframe MTB helmet is an ideal choice for both trail and downhill riding. It is a lightweight helmet designed with a fixed visor and 24 vents for optimal face protection and ventilation. The Fox Proframe is also MIPS-equipped. Full-face MTB helmets are generally more expensive than open-face ones because of the extra coverage with some models costing over $400.

Fox Racing Proframe Helmet Matte Black, LFox Proframe MIPS
From Amazon.com

Giro Chronicle MIPS Adult Mountain Cycling Helmet - Small (51-55 cm), Matte Citron (2020)Giro Chronicle MIPS
From Amazon.com

Open-face MTB helmets are suitable for beginners, casual riders, or cyclists who prefer going through easy trails. They are also ideal if you live in an area with a warm climate. The Giro Chronicle open-face MTB helmet, which costs between $75 to $110 is an affordable option. It is equipped with MIPS technology for increased protection against angled impacts. This MTB helmet also comes with a POV visor that you can flip up or down with one hand.

Downhill MTB Helmets

Downhill MTB helmets, as mentioned above, meet ASTM F1952 helmet standards. Because riding downhill at fast speeds poses many risks, most downhill MTB riders prefer wearing full-face bike helmets. Downhill MTB helmets typically retail above $100 with some helmet models costing almost $500.

RECOMMENDED: Downhill Mountain Bike Helmets

One of the most popular Downhill MTB helmets is the Troy Lee Designs Stage full-face helmet which comes with 11 intake and 14 outflow vents. The lightweight shell and generous ventilation of the Stage enduro helmet allows air to circulate and prevent goggles from fogging.

Troy Lee Designs Adult Full Face | Enduro | Downhill | All Mountain | Mountain Biking Stage Stealth Helmet with MIPS (Medium/Large, Midnight)Troy Lee Designs Stage
From Amazon.com

BMX Bike Helmets

Like MTB helmets, BMX bike helmets can either be full face or open face. Full-face BMX bike helmets meet CPSC, ASTM F2032, and ASTM F1952 safety standards, while open-face BMX bike helmets comply with CPSC and ASTM F1492 requirements. The price of BMX bike helmets can range between $25 to $500 with full-face helmets being more expensive than open face.

Full-face helmets, like the Troy Lee Designs D4 Carbon BMX bicycle helmet, are recommended for serious riders or competitive racing. It is an extremely solid but lightweight carbon fiber outer shell that ensures your head and chin receives optimal protection on impact. It is fully lined with inner EPS foam padding which may seem to make it stuffy but the total of 24 vents provide adequate ventilation.

Troy Lee Designs D4 Carbon Full Face Mountain Bike Helmet for Max Ventilation Lightweight MIPS EPP EPS Racing Downhill DH BMX MTB - Adult Men Women (Gold, X-Small)Troy Lee Designs D4
From Amazon.com

BELL Segment Adult Bike Helmet, Matte Midnight Demo - SmallBell Segment
From Amazon.com

Meanwhile, open-face BMX bike helmets are a great option for beginner or intermediate riders. The Bell Segment is an economical choice because not only is it stylish, but it also comes with essential features, like the Bell’s Formfit technology, multiple air vents, and reinforced frame.

Aero-Style Bike Helmets

Aero-style cycling helmets are designed with fewer vents compared to regular bike helmets. This design allows aero-style bike helmets to recrease wind resistance.

Aero Bike Helmets

Aero bike helmets combine the essential features of a road bike helmet and a time trial helmet. It doesn’t have the elongated rear of a TT helmet, but it is aerodynamically designed to eliminate drag. Like road bike helmets, aero bike helmets have multiple vents that deliver optimal air circulation. Because of their versatility, aero bike helmets are a great option for both casual riders and serious racers.

Aero bike helmets can cost less than $100 but there are some models that go for over $250. The Giro Vanquish is a top pick among experienced riders and action sports competitors. The Vanquish features integrated TransformAir Technology for efficient wind resistance and MIPS Technology for angled impact protection.

Giro Vanquish MIPS Adult Road Bike Helmet - Matte White/Portaro Grey/Red (2021) - Small (51-55 cm)Giro Vanquish MIPS
From Amazon.com

Time Trial Bike Helmets

Time trial (TT) or triathlon helmets are ideal for solo speed racing and not for group rides. The most recognizable feature of a TT helmet is the elongated rear. The long tail design reduces drag which enables riders to go faster and take seconds off their all-time personal record.

Smith Jetstream MIPS
From Smith Optics

There are TT bike helmets that cost below $50, but those that experience riders recommend typically cost between $100 and $500. The Smith Optics Jetstream is a mid-priced TT helmet with MIPS technology. It comes with five strategically placed vents that keep the interior cool while decreasing drag.

Recent Additions

Helmet manufacturers continue to introduce new helmet technologies to meet the evolving needs of bike riders. The following are some of the emerging trends in bike helmets.

Collapsible and Foldable Bike Helmets

If you ride a bike when commuting to and from your workplace, you know how cumbersome it is to carry around or store your bicycle helmet. Foldable and collapsible bike helmets are one of the niftiest inventions in bike gear and equipment, increasing the portability of bike helmets. These types of bike helmets cost from less than $50 up to over $100.

The FEND bike helmet which sports a durable ABS shell is an example of a foldable helmet. The sides of the helmet fold towards the center of the helmet to a size that’s small enough to fit into a backpack.

FEND One Foldable Bike Helmet - Adult Mens and Womens Bike Helmet - Safety Certified for Bicycle Road Bike Scooter Cycling Commuter HelmetFEND helmet
From Amazon.com

Closca Helmet Loop. Foldable Bike Helmet for Adults. Bicycle and Electric Scooter/Urban Commuter Unisex Helmet. Women and Men. (Black/Orange, M)Closca Loop
From Amazon.com

Meanwhile, this collapsible helmet from Closca is composed of three rings of different sizes. The rings fit into each other, resulting in a volume reduction of 45%.

Electric Bike Helmets

Regular road bike helmets that meet CPSC standards may be used as e-bike helmets. However, if your e-bike runs over 20 mph, consider wearing an NTA-8776 compliant bike helmet. E-bike helmets cost between $100 to $300.

The Pedelec 2.0 designed by ABUS, one of the first manufacturers of e-bike helmets, is built with a polycarbonate shell. It is a high-vis helmet with LED taillights, making it ideal for city and night riding.

ABUS Pedelec 2.0 Cycling Helmet (White - M)Pedelec 2.0
From Amazon.com

Smart Bike Helmets

Smart bike helmets incorporate convenient elements along with the typical safety features of regular road bike helmets. Because of the added technologies, this type of helmet comes with a higher price tag, most of which cost above $100. Some of the innovative features of smart bike helmets are:

  • Bluetooth connectivity that allows GPS navigation, listening to audiobooks, music, or podcasts
  • Speakers for hands-free voice calls
  • Turn Indicators to let motorists and pedestrians know which way you’re turning
  • Built-in LED lights for increased visibility when riding at night or low-lit areas

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Sena R2 Road Cycling Helmet (Matte White, Medium)Sena R2
From Amazon.com

The Sena R2 smart helmet, which is suitable for recreational cycling or commuting, comes with the features mentioned above together with a charging cable and wireless remote.


So, which bike helmet is the best for you?

With the above information at hand, it is easier to decide which type of bike helmet to go for. Always remember that bike helmets are designed for your safety and protection. But to make your purchase worthwhile, consider the type of bicycle you have, the riding activity you engage in, and of course, your budget.

Every time you go for a ride, the risk of getting involved in a road accident is always present. This is why wearing a bike helmet is a must whether state laws require it or not. A bike helmet protects you from head and brain injuries in case you hit your head during a crash or collision.

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