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What is the safest bike helmet?

Video courtesy of The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety & The Virginia Tech Helmet Lab

To determine the safety of some of the top selling helmets on the market, the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab created the first ever helmet safety rating system. This system would help to discover the best bike helmets for their safety and impact ratings.

This study was performed in conjunction with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a non profit that is financed by the insurance industry.

During the testing a bike helmet safety ratings system was developed consisting of a 5 star rating. A helmet given the 5 star rating was determined to be the safest while a 2 star rating would show a lower level of safety.

This testing and rating system was done to help cyclists determine what the best bike helmets are, and how they will protect them and keep them safe in the event of a crash.

Note: wearing any helmet is better than no helmet, but this study was focused on testing the safest bike helmets on the market

Our Best Bike Helmets By Safety Ratings

Best Road Bike Helmets For Safety

These are the best road bike helmets that we carry, all ranked as some of the safest bike helmets by the Virginia Tech helmet study.

Lazer G1 MIPS

VA Tech Star Rating: 5/5 

Perfect for: Road riders who want elite level performance and weight savings

Price: $249

Bontrager Specter WaveCel

VA Tech Star Rating: 5/5 

Perfect for: Road riders who prioritize both safety and great technical features

Price: $149

Bontrager Starvos WaveCel

VA Tech Star Rating: 5/5 

Perfect for: Road riders who want a super safe helmet at the best value

Price: $99

Best Mountain Bike Helmets For Safety

These are the best mountain bike helmets that we carry, all ranked as some of the safest bike helmets by the Virginia Tech helmet study.

Fox Dropframe Pro MIPS

VA Tech Star Rating: 5/5 

Perfect for: Mountain bikers who want elite level performance and protection

Price: $199

Bontrager Rally WaveCel

VA Tech Star Rating: 5/5 

Perfect for: Mountain bikers who prioritize both safety and great technical features

Price: $149

Bontrager Solstice MIPS

VA Tech Star Rating: 5/5 

Perfect for: Mountain bikers who want a super safe helmet at the best value

Price: $64

Best Bike Helmet Brands

There were a few brands that consistently appeared in the top of the charts. Here are the best bike helmet brands that we carry from a safety rating perspective.

WaveCel vs MIPS

MIPS and WaveCel are two different helmet liner systems that provide improved protection in the event of a crash. 

It's tough say if one technology is inherently better than the other because the manufacturer's shell also plays a big role, but it can certainly be said that helmets with MIPS or WaveCel technology are safer than those without. 

The majority of helmets that received the 5 star safety rating were equipped with MIPS or WaveCel technology. Read on to learn more about the two systems.

Video courtesy of Trek Bikes

What is MIPS?

MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) is a special liner that better protects your brain. It allows for the outer shell of the helmet to move independently of the inner shell in an impact. This action causes the twisting forces on the neck and skull to be minimized, lessening the impact to the brain.

This results in the lessening of the forces that cause concussion and whiplash symptoms. In the end you are given a safer bike helmet.

The short video we've added shows how MIPS works and its safety effects in the event of a crash or impact.

Shop Adult MIPS Helmets

Shop Youth MIPS Helmets

Video courtesy of Trek Bikes

What is WaveCel?

WaveCel is a Bontrager specific helmet liner that improves rider safety by absorbing harmful rotational forces in a crash. 

Bontrager maintains that WaveCel is more effective than MIPS at preventing injury because the liner is able to move more independently and absorb different kinds of impacts. All Wavecel helmets have received a 5 star safety rating from the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab.

Check out the video to watch how the WaveCel liner shears, twists, and crumples on impact to absorb rotational force.

Shop Adult WaveCel Helmets

Shop Youth WaveCel Helmets

Complete Bike Helmet Safety Ratings

Below you will find helmets ranked by their safety ratings based on the findings of the VT helmet lab. 

This list is subject to change based on new offerings from different brands. 

All helmets sold in the US must be CPSC-certified. This standard requires protection against catastrophic injuries in extremely severe impacts, which are rare. Several helmets are certified by additional US standards. The ratings indicate helmets that pass standards for snow sports (ASTM F2040) or skate sports (ASTM F1492).

Best Available : 5 Stars

Very Good : 4 Stars

  • Scott ARX Plus MIPS
  • Bontrager Quantum MIPS
  • Specialized Prevail II
  • Bontrager Circuit MIPS
  • Smith Optics Overtake
  • Cannondale Ryker AM MIPS
  • Giro Savant
  • Kali Therapy
  • Bell Draft MIPS
  • POC Octal
  • Giro Foray MIPS
  • Giro Synthe
  • Giro Sutton MIPS
  • Specialized Evade II MIPS
  • Garneau Le Tour II
  • Bell Annex MIPS
  • Lazer Coyote MIPS
  • Specialzized Centro MIPS
  • Scott Vivo Plus MIPS
  • Catlike Whisper
  • Bell Sixer MIPS
  • Cannondale Ryker AM MIPS
  • Specialized Ambush
  • POC Tectal
  • Garneau Course
  • Schwinn Intercept
  • Giro Register
  • Scott Cadence Plus MIPS
  • 6D ATB -1T EVO
  • Leatt DBX 3.0 All-MountainV19.2
  • Specialzed S-Works Evade II
  • Smith Optics Forefront
  • Bell Adrenaline

Good : 3 Stars

  • Triple 8 Dual Certified MIPS
  • Kali Interceptor 
  • Bell Reflex
  • Bontrager Solstice
  • Bern Brentwood
  • Bell Division 
  • Schwinn Thrasher
  • Nutcase Street
  • Schwinn Flash
  • Kali City
  • Giro Revel
  • Specialized Centro
  • Electra Helmet
  • Garneau Eagle
  • Lazer Blade
  • Troy Lee Designs A1 Drone
  • Schwinn Excursion
  • Bern Allston
  • Kask Valegro
  • Kali Tava
  • Schwinn Chic

Adequate : 2 Stars

  • Lazer Genesis
  • Bern Watts
  • Cannondale Quick
  • Specialized Echelon II (non MIPS)
the four safest bike helmets in 2018

The four top rated helmets for safety by the VT Helmet Lab.

139 popular helmets in adult sizes were tested to determine their overall safety and given a rating using the new helmet safety rating system.

Of the 139 helmets tested, about 70 helmets were given the 5 star rating.  35 helmets were given ratings in the 4 stars, 25 were given 3 stars and only 5 received a 2 star rating.

The numbers of stars given determine the overall safety of the helmet and its ability to protect the rider in the event of an impact.

Price did not guarantee a safer helmet, several more affordable models rated higher than some more expensive options.

We've added a list of the safest helmets below, ranked from most safe to least by the VT Helmet Lab. 

Bike Helmet FAQs

When should you replace your bike helmet?

Bike helmets should be replaced every 3-5 years due to their loss of ability to absorb impact. Materials break down with time due to sweat, UV rays and heat. To see when your helmet was made, look inside the shell for a manufactured date. More on helmet safety can be found on the ASTM website

What is a MIPS helmet?

A MIPS helmet is a helmet that is fitted with the MIPS safety system, making for a safer helmet in the event of an impact.

What is MIPS?

MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. MIPS BPS (Brain Protection System) is a safety technology for helmets. In the event of an angled impact MIPS can reduce harmful rotational forces, which may be transmitted to the brain, by allowing the helmet to slide relative to the head. These rotational forces can cause concussions or even worse brain damage. MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. (from Wikepedia)

How to choose a bike helmet?

We like to think that there are several factors that go into picking the right helmet for yourself.

  1. First would be fit, you must have a good fit for your helmet to function properly.
  2. Second would be impact safety, your new helmet needs to protect your noggin in a crash or fall.
  3. Third would be styling and looks. Feel like going with a crazy bright color? Go for it!

In terms of sizing, you'll want to get a proper head circumference measurement by wrapping a tape measure or string around the head above the ears and around the forehead.

Fit is paramount, a bad fit means much less protection when you need it most.

In the end, you'll want to choose a helmet that is safe, fits properly and matches your style.

How should my bicycle helmet fit?

  1. Once you've taken a proper head circumference measurement and you have picked the size helmet needed for your size head you'll want to put the helmet on your noggin.
  2. The helmet should settle onto your head and end up level, roughly one to two fingers width above your eyebrows.
  3. If the helmet feels loose on your head tighten up the retention system that is included. On many models this will be some type of a dial or click system on the rear of the helmet. If the helmet is able to jiggle around on your head after doing this it may be too big.
  4. If you feel uncomfortable pressure over the ears or anywhere else you may want to go to the next size up, if it's uncomfortable at first it will only get worse as you ride. You don't want your head to feel like it's in a vise, very light pressure is ok.
  5. The chin strap should be tightened up so as to be snug but still allow for proper breathing and neck movement. If you can get two fingers in under the strap while tightened without discomfort you are good to go.
  6. Be sure to dip your dip your chin to your chest with the buckle tightened as well, if you get a choking sensation here back off on the chin strap a bit.