In 2020, The Virginia Tech Helmet Lab joined hands with the Insurance for Highway Safety and tested a bunch of road and MTB helmets. When this safest bike helmet testing project was completed, the cycling community got a list of 132 helmets and their corresponding safety ratings. In this post, I sort out the test results into 40 best bike helmets rated in terms of their bike helmet safety ratings.
Related: How to Choose a good Cycling Helmet
Because what’s the point of spending your money on a nice-looking road bike or MTB helmet if it offers no safety? Obviously, protection matters more or should matter more than looks. But how do you know whether the helmet you bought is protective enough for your riding style?
The testing entity mentioned above created a bike helmet rating system dubbed the STAR evaluation system. Unlike other tests that focus on linear impacts, the tests Virginia Tech carried out factored in rotational impacts as well.
According to this learning institution, these star ratings provide additional information regarding which helmets are the best bets as far as concussion risk reduction.
How the Rating System Works
In this rating system, a bike with a star rating of 5 is super protective. And a lid with a rating of 4 is Very Good. A rating of 3 means the helmet is Good while a rating of 2 means Adequate safety.
But a rating of 1 means you’ll get marginal protection if you choose that helmet. And of course, no helmet means no rating, and you really should wear protective headgear while cycling.
But do cycling helmets help reduce concussions? I’m not qualified to answer that technical question, but I believe that the CDC and the CPSC are credible enough. So, let’s hear what these two authorities have to say.
You should probably only use 5-star and 4-star rated biking helmets. But since Virginia Tech rates 3-star helmets as Good, why not?
What the CPSC Says About Helmeting Up
But you need to know that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission states that no helmet has been proven to be able to prevent concussions. Still, the CPSC says that wearing a certified helmet can save a cyclist from severe brain injuries and reduce the probability of skull fractures happening.
CDC Says About Wearing a Bike Helmet
It’s not just the CPSC that believes that no bike helmet is good enough to keep concussions at bay. The CDC encourages bike riders that wearing a brain bucket is a good idea. But bike helmets, says CDC, shouldn’t be seen as any kind of protection against concussion. In CDC’s own words, there is no such thing as a “concussion-proof helmet.”
But like the CPSC, the CDC also agrees that putting on a good helmet can help reduce the chances you might get a skull fracture or an extremely bad brain injury.
When Should I Replace My Bike Helmet?
By the way, when should you replace your bike helmet? Generally, one should replace a bike helmet every 3-5 years, but CPSC recommends an even longer period of up to 10 years. Weather-related elements, heat, ultraviolet rays, chemicals, salts in the atmosphere, and whatnot can and do degrade helmet materials. And this degradation can reduce a helmet’s protective abilities and usefulness.
If you look inside your helmet, you should see the product’s manufacture date. To learn more about bike helmet safety, click over to ASTM.0rg. And to learn more about helmet certifications and standards, visit the CPSC site.
List 20 Safest Bike Helmets Ever According to Virginia Tech
To help you navigate the list easier, I decided to organize the listing into cost and helmet type categories. I’ll group the safest road bike helmets together and the safety trail bike helmets together. Also, I grouped options in the same cost category together to make your shopping even easier. If you opt to leave this place without picking up a good cycling helmet, it won’t be because you have doubts.
Affiliate link: As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission on every qualifying sale at no extra cost to you). You can also check out these MIPS bike helmets on Amazon.
So, let’s roll!
10 Safest Mountain Bike Helmets With MIPS Under $100
1. LAZER Helmet Chiru MIPS
2.Liv Path MIPS
3.Giro Chronicle MIPS
4. Giro Fixture MIPS 4*
5. LAZER Coyote MIPS 4*
6.Giro Fixture MIPS 4*
7.Smith Forefront 4*
8. Cannondale Ryker AM (MIPS) 4*
9.Troy Lee Designs A1 Drone 3*
10. Giro Hex 3*
10. Safest Mountain Bike Between $100-$200
1.Sweet Protection Trailblazer MIPS
2.Bontrager Rally MIPS
3.Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS Decoy
4. Giant Rail SX MIPS
5. Giro Tyrant Spherical
6.Troy Lee Designs A1 Classic MIPS
7.Giant Roost MIPS
8.Bontrager Rally WaveCel
9.SCOTT Vivo PLUS (MIPS) 4*
10 Safest Road Cycling Helmets Under $100
1.Nutcase Street MIPS skate-style road helmet
2.Liv Relay MIPS
3.Giant Relay MIPS
4.Specialized Echelon II MIPS
5.Bell Formula MIPS
6.Lazer Tonic MIPS
7. Giant Rev Comp MIPS
8. Bontrager Circuit MIPS 4*
9.Giro Caden MIPS urban bike helmet 4*
10. Lazer Cameleon MIPS 4*
10. Safest Road Bike Helmets Between $100 and $200
1.Lazer Sphere MIPS
2.Lazer Century MIPS
3.Bontrager Specter WaveCel
4. Bontrager Starvos WaveCel Asia Fit
5.Bontrager Starvos WaveCel Round Fit
6.Bontrager Starvos WaveCel
7.Lazer BLADE+ MIPS
8.Louis Garneau Raid MIPS
9.SCOTT Stego Plus (MIPS)
10.Bell Stratus MIPS
List Of Cycling Helmets with a 5-Star Safety Rating
1.Sweet Protection Trailblazer MIPS
2.Fox Dropframe Pro MIPS
3.Giant Rev Comp MIPS
4.Lazer G1 MIPS
5.Bontrager Rally MIPS
6.Specialized Align II MIPS
7.Lazer Tonic MIPS
8.Troy Lee Designs A2 Decoy MIPS
9.Lazer Century MIPS
10.SCOTT Centric Plus MIPS
11.Giant Rev Pro (MIPS)
12.Liv Rev Pro (MIPS)
13.Lazer Sphere MIPS
14.Lazer Cyclone MIPS
15.POC Octal X SPIN
16.SCOTT ARX PLUS MIPS 2020
17.Bontrager Specter WaveCel
18.Fox Speedframe Pro MIPS
19.Bontrager Ballista MIPS
20.Lazer Anverz NTA MIPS
21.Troy Lee Designs A3 MIPS
22.Bontrager Starvos WaveCel Asia-fit
23.Bontrager Starvos WaveCel Round-fit
24.Giant Rail SX MIPS
25.Lazer Jackal MIPS
26.Bontrager Starvos WaveCel
27.Giro Tyrant Spherical
28.Bell Z20 MIPS
29.Specialized Prevail 2 Vent MIPS
30.Bontrager Solstice MIPS
31.Troy Lee Designs A1 Classic MIPS
32.POC Tectal Race SPIN
33.Bontrager XXX WaveCel Road
34.Bell Formula MIPS Road
35.Giant Roost MIPS MTB
36.Bontrager Rally WaveCel MTB
37.Lazer Z1 MIPS Road
38.Giro Manifest Spherical MTB
39.Specialized Echelon II MIPS Road
40.Bontrager Velocis MIPS Road
41.Rudy Project Racemaster MIPS Road
42.Lazer BLADE+ MIPS Road
43.Louis Garneau Raid MIPS MTB
44.Bell Z20 Aero MIPS Road
45.Giant Path MIPS MTB
46.Giant Relay MIPS Road
47.Liv Path MIPS MTB
48.Liv Relay MIPS Road
49.Giro Aether Spherical Road
50.Bern Union MIPS Urban
51.Specialized S-Works Prevail II MIPS Road
52.Bell Stratus MIPS Road
53.Giro Synthe MIPS Road
54.Lazer Chiru MIPS MTB
55.Specialized Chamonix MIPS Multi-sport
56.Bontrager Blaze WaveCel MTB
57.SCOTT Stego Plus MIPS MTB
58.Giro Syntax MIPS Road
59.Lazer Urbanize NTA MIPS Urban
60.Nutcase Street MIPS Urban
61.Bontrager Charge WaveCel Urban
62.Giro Chronicle MIPS MTB
63.Lazer Impala MIPS MTB
64.Specialized Ambush MIPS MTB
65.Smith Route MIPS Road
66.Lazer Compact DLX MIPS Multisport
Here’s the entire list of 132 helmets Tested By Virginia Tech.
All these helmets fully meet the safety standards and guidelines set out by the CPSC. That means each of them can legally be used in the United States. But while being protective is important, having a good helmet fit is even more important.
A helmet that protects like a pro but floats on your head or crushes your head or causes pressure points wouldn’t be a good choice. Here’s how a helmet should fit.
Pricier Bike Helmets Aren’t Always Better
There’s one thing that I learned from the Virginia Tech bike helmet safety ratings report. It’s that while more expensive cycling helmets tend to be really good in terms of protection, they’re not always better than cheaper ones. In fact, some of the safest bike helmets on the market today cost under 100 dollars.
Look at the list above and see extremely protective road bike helmets and MTB helmets in the $50-$100 range. Virginia Tech didn’t do this project so they could start promoting cycling helmets. They conducted the research because they care about rider safety out on the road and trails. That means you can rely on the rating information above with worries.
MIPS and WaveCel-Equipped Helmets Ranked High
Bike helmets with MIPS and similar helmet technologies such as WaveCel and SPIN have become quite popular in the cycling community. The strange thing is that there’s no definite proof that these modern protection technologies actually make helmets more protective. Lids that offer certified head protection should suffice as far as road safety out road cycling or trail biking.
So, why is the world and their brother suddenly interested in MIPS and WaveCel and SPIN? Why are folks willing to pay more for a brain bucket that offers these safety-boosting technologies?
It’s because riders appreciate the peace-of-mind that comes from the thought that MIPS and whatnot offer more protection than a basic helmet. And an ever-growing stack of anecdotal evidence from the MTB and road cycling communities seems to suggest that these extra features can save lives.
Maybe You Should Switch Over to MIPS Bike Helmets
One interesting finding from the bike helmet testing project Virginia Tech did is that MIPS and WaveCel-equipped helmets ranked pretty high on the safety rating scale. Maybe that was purely a coincidence, or it could be that MIPS and WaveCel helmets actually offer greater protection than non-MIPS and non-WaveCel helmets.
I don’t always use MIPS helmets, and I can’t say that any particular helmet that had MIPS protected me better in a spill. But I can’t also say that MIPS helmets performed worse in a crash.
That said, a growing number of cyclists of all riding abilities are willing to shell out for these extra protective specs. And if the 5-star ratings MIPS helmets won in the Virginia Tech testing process are anything to go by, we all should start insisting on MIPS.
What Makes MIPS, WaveCel, and SPIN Special?
What do MIPS, WaveCel, and SPIN all have in common? All three helmet technologies are designed to protect the head against angular forces/rotational impacts. Not all crash energies are linear, some are oblique, and you need a helmet that’s equipped to handle such impacts.
MIPS (Multi-directional Protection System
MIPS supposedly causes the outer shell of a helmet to make small rotational movements independently of the inner EPS foam liner. Now, this movement focuses on counteracting and reducing the rotational, twisty forces going for your skull and neck. In the end, only a fraction of the angular impacts reaches your skull and neck. But there’s no guarantee you won’t get whiplash signs or even the dreaded concussion.
I have always loved Triple 8 bike and skate helmets. But I was surprised to see that Triple 8 helmets, even T8 helmets with MIPS, weren’t the safest.
WaveCel counts on a cellular construction that collapses when you hit your head, forming a crumple zone that diminishes angular forces. Bontrager developed WaveCel to improve their lids, and some of the safest cycling helmets out there are from this brand. What’s interesting is that WaveCel also tackles linear forces and has been touted as being significantly better than MIPS.
So, is WaveCel better than MIPS? As per the results that poured in from the tests at Virginia Tech’s Helmet Lab, MIPS helmets trumped WaveCel helmets. The vast majority of the tested helmets with a 5-star safety rating had MIPS rather than WaveCel or SPIN.
SPIN (Shearing Pad Inside)
Similar to MIPS, SPIN is a proprietary helmet technology owned by POC, a well-known helmet brand. You sure have seen POC helmets at Olympic cycling competitions, haven’t you? POC uses this tech in lots of their road helmets as well as in some of the MTB helmets. The company claims that SPIN works the same as MIPS, if not better. Maybe that’s because testing of SPIN happened in the exact same Swedish test lab that created MIPS.
During a crash, special pads shear or move in different directions to absorb and minimize rotational crash energies. Many riders who have used SPIN-equipped helmets claim that the pads inside are comfier than other pads.
The pads contain lots of silicon. Could that explain why these pads feel more comfortable? Perhaps, probably because silicon is a less toxic material than most. Plus, it has water-repellent properties. Also, silicon has lower chemical reactivity and thermal stability at low and high temperatures.