Guilty of overlooking your bike helmet as an essential piece of kit? Let’s put an end to that!
More than brain protection, the right bike helmet can have surprising effects on performance and can actually help you go faster.
But, for many cyclists (TT riders excluded), choosing a helmet is usually pretty low on the priority list.
Major considerations when choosing a helmet
Comfort & Fit – An ill-fitting helmet in a long race can be a major nuisance and distraction, not to mention plain dangerous in a crash situation.
Cooling – With so many races taking place in mid-summer, it’s important that a helmet helps prevent overheating.
Weight – With so many other things to think about for the weight weenies among us, it’s easy to forget how much difference a lightweight helmet can make. It can be far more cost-effective to invest in a lighter helmet over carbon pedals.
Aerodynamics – There’s a growing body of research that suggests on anything less than a moderate climb, aerodynamics is more important than weight. It’s important to consider how much your current helmet might be holding you back.
Aesthetics – Given the variety of shapes of helmets, finding a “look” that’s right for you will make you feel better.
Taking these factors into account, let’s take a look at 4 great options for cyclists who mean business.
Weight: 215g (medium)
Best For: A winning combo or lightness and comfort
The Kask Protone, developed alongside Britain’s Team Sky, is supremely breathable and superlight, while retaining comfort. No mean feat, considering the weight that extra padding can add.
36 vents provide a cool ride and minimal pad to head contact; a helmet that barely touches your head can hardly make you overheat. The huge numbers of vents means that the helmet allows excellent airflow.
If the temperature dips, it’s good to know that you can fit a cycling cap on underneath for extra warmth. The Protone doesn’t disappoint here, and actually outperforms most helmets in this respect.
With minimal padding, one could be forgiven for dismissing the Protone as an uncomfortable helmet. This isn’t the case, however, offset by its featherweight design. The smooth and comfortable leather chin strap is also a welcome addition.
With the medium weighing in at 215g, the Protone is definitely one of the lightest helmets around. When putting it on, there is a noticeable difference from heavier helmets and it’s easy to forget you’re even wearing a helmet.
With the absence of a windtunnel, it’s impossible to say how aerodynamic a helmet is. Kask do claim that all their helmets are designed and refined by their engineers, with a wind tunnel, to achieve excellent aerodynamics. It’s hard to verify this claim, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it catches the wind.
A super light-weight offering from Kask. Weighing in at 215g, it’s without doubt one of the lightest helmets on the market.
Weight: 279g (medium)
Best For: Your wallet
Coming in at the other end of the price spectrum is the Bell Stratus. It won’t break the bank but is still a great all-around helmet. Weighing in at 279g, it might not appeal to the more weight-conscious among us but is a good choice for serious cyclists without a huge budget.
With only half the vents of the pricier Protone, you might think that the Stratus is lacking in cooling properties. It could be argued, however, that 36 vents is excessive and 18 is adequate.
Indeed, the Bell Stratus doesn’t underperform. You might not feel the wind in your hair quite as much as Kask’s offering, but you won’t overheat in this helmet in anything but extreme weather.
Bell claim to have created an aerodynamic helmet which, again, is difficult to prove or disprove. It has taken design cues from Bell’s pro-level Zephyr helmet, so you can rest assured that it’s at least similar to a helmet used in the pro-peloton.
This model also includes MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) for added protection in certain types of impacts.
The Stratus is a very comfortable helmet, and fit is adjustable with a retention dial on the back. This isn’t quite as fancy as more expensive helmets, but there’s always a slight compromise somewhere.
A well performing bike helmet for an excellent price. It’s a bit weighty compared to some other performance helmets, which will put off some. It will appeal to those looking for a good helmet on a budget.
Weight: 175g (medium)
Best For: Lightness
As you’d expect from any product with ‘ultralight’ in its name, this offering from Limar is pretty damn light. It weighs in at a very impressive 175g, making it the lightest helmet in test. At around the same price point as the Kask Protone, this may give it the edge for weight-weenies.
Although unconfirmed at the time of writing, Limar claim the Ultralight to be the lightest bike helmet in the world. A bold claim indeed.
For ventilation, it has 22 air vents. This, coupled with the super low weight means it’s sure to keep you cool even on tough summer climbs.
The helmet fits well, despite feeling a little high up on the head. This isn’t much of an issue and feels normal after a couple of rides.
Like the Protone, it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing a helmet at all due to the low weight. The rear dial allows easy adjustment on the fly and feels very well made. The padding inside is antibacterial. Unconfirmed, but they do an excellent job of wiping the sweat from your brow.
Due to the low weight of the Ultralight, some may bring into question its ability to keep your brains intact in the event of a crash (not that this is high on the list of requirements for many racers). This is not the case, however, and the helmet has passed all the necessary testing safety testing procedures.
Does exactly what it says on the package. It is ultralight. It’s also comfortable, cool, and does a good job of wicking moisture from your head. The Ultralight will appeal to those concerned with weight but is on the expensive side.
Weight: 204g (medium)
Best For: Looks and protection.
Dividing opinion within the cycling community is the POC Octal. Its design is definitely distinctive. Some say it’s the best-looking lid on the market, whilst others think it’s hideous. Despite the polarizing looks, it’s widely considered to be one of the best helmets out there.
POC have designed the 21 vents to be larger than usual. This means that the total surface area of vents is probably around the same as the Protone with 36 vents; there might even be more hole than helmet in this one.
Plenty of room for cooling airflow, and you won’t overheat in the Octal. This makes it particularly useful if you’re planning on racing in extreme heat this season.
The Octal allows a large degree of adjustment, including in height rather than simply tightness as is often standard. After proper adjustment, the helmet feels firm and comfortable against the head with minimal movement.
The build quality is astounding, but the Octal’s crowning achievement is its compatibility with the ICEdot crash sensor. This fits into the rear vent of the helmet, and comes with an ICEtag to provide information to first-responders; something which isn’t nice to think about, but does give added peace of mind to significant others who like to worry.
Designed to be the safest lid on the road, the Octal sits lower on the head than many other helmets; this means more of the head is covered, giving excellent crash protection.
A well-designed and well-built bike helmet. Many will be put off by its distinctive looks, but equally as many will be drawn to it for the same reason. It’s a pricier option, but may be worth it for its excellent build quality and low weight.