Last Updated On
Whether you’re commuting to work, running errands, heading out for a long all-day ride with the crew, or just tooling around the park, you should wear a helmet. There aren’t any laws in this country requiring cyclists to wear helmets (unless they are under a certain age) but statistics do show that the risk of serious head injury is reduced by 70% if the rider is wearing a helmet.
This particular rider has had a few spills in her time. The most recent one was in Mallorca, coming down a long descent in the rain. I wasn’t on my own bike and the one I was riding had much slicker tires than I’m used to. I wasn’t going particularly fast but, as I rounded a switchback, my back wheel slid out to the side and down I went. Hard. On my head.
My helmet cracked in a couple places and the force of my head hitting the ground caused a sharp edge inside the helmet to cut my noggin. The end result was a mild concussion and eight stitches at the Clinica Juaneda. If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, it would have been my head with the deep cracks and I likely wouldn’t be writing this today.
So, please, wear a helmet. Here’s a list of the best options for $100 or less. Our top pick is the Mavic Aksium Elite a great all-around helmet for the money.
|Top Helmets under $100||Price Range|
|Lazer Blade Road Helmet||$$$||Buy at REI|
|Kask Rapido Road Cycling Helmet||$$$||Buy on Amazon|
|Team Obsidian Road Bike Helmet||$$||Buy on Amazon|
|Bern Lenox Helmet||$||Buy on Amazon|
|Mavic Aksium Elite||$$||Buy on Amazon|
Giro Fixture Bike Helmet with MIPS
|$$$||Buy on Amazon|
|Livall BH60 Bling Helmet||$$||Buy on Amazon|
|Specialized Max Helmet||$||Buy at Specialized|
|Bell Formula LED plus MIPS||$$$||Buy on Amazon|
Some Things to Consider When Choosing a Cycling Helmet
Price vs. Safety
The most important thing to realize is that spending more or less on a helmet isn’t going to change the amount of protection it’ll give you. Most countries, the U.S. included, have very specific safety standards that every helmet must meet. So, a $30.00 helmet is just as safe as a $300.00 one.
What does determine price variations?
Comfort and Fit
Spending more money on a helmet often means it’ll have a much better fit. If your helmet doesn’t fit you correctly, it’s possible it might not do its job properly if you happen to have an accident.
Most helmets are sized S, M, L, XL. To find the correct size helmet, measure the circumference of your head with a soft tape measure then go by the manufacturers numbers inside the helmet or on their website.
Other things that effect fit and comfort are straps, internal padding, retention systems, weight, and ventilation.
You want your helmet straps to fit snugly underneath your chin and around your ears. Spending a bit more money will you get you straps made with nicer (and often more comfortable) material.
Some helmets have cushier internal padding than others. The padding in a higher quality helmet will also be moisture wicking, something you’ll appreciate during hot days.
The more money you spend, the more ventilation your helmet will have. Ventilation is important on days when you’re working hard and want to keep your head cool. In the winter or on cooler days, you can simply wear a warm cap under your helmet.
Most modern helmets have a retention system in the back of them, which allows you to get a snug, yet comfortable fit.
Retention systems usually have a dial in the center that you turn to tighten the helmet to your head. This is especially useful if you ride with and without caps underneath as your head size changes whether or not you have a hat on.
The more you spend on a helmet, the lighter it will be. At around $40-50 you’ll get a helmet that weighs roughly 320g, but at $80-100 the helmets will weigh about 240-280g.
A couple other things to consider are aerodynamics and crash replacement.
More expensive helmets will often be more aerodynamic, something to consider if you’re a racer looking for marginal gains, but not necessarily important if you’re a casual rider, mountain biker or weekend warrior.
As far as crash replacement goes, quite a few companies offer a substantial discount when replacing a helmet that’s been through a crash. Even if you don’t see any damage to your helmet, if it has received a significant impact, you should replace it. In general, a helmet should be replaced every several years anyway, as a good measure against general wear or from dropping it.
How We Selected the Top Helmets
We rounded up our list of the best helmets under $100 based on overall customer satisfaction and what we consider the best bang for the buck as far as weight, comfort and style go.
Best All-around Budget Helmet: Mavic Aksium Elite
The ultimate budget helmet offers safety and protection while looking great and having a few key features of more expensive lids. The Mavic Aksium Elite tics all these boxes and then some. Available in six separate colors in both mens and womens, the Aksium features 23 vents, which not only keep you cool, but reduce the weight to 245 grams. It also boasts trickle-down technology from Mavic’s pricier models including the Ergo Hold SL retention system, Elite Fit cushioning pads and mosquito mesh.
Best Lightest, Italian Style Helmet: Kask Rapido Road Cycling Helmet
Kask’s helmets have been protecting Team Sky since their first grand tour.
The Rapido is an excellent value option from a well known, respected company. It’s got the signature Kask Italian styling and comfortable fit.
The Rapido has Kask’s ‘Up N Down’ cradle system, which can pivot vertically and horizontally, molding to the rider’s head shape and making the helmet highly customizable.
The Rapido weighs only 224g, which is exceptionally light for a helmet in this price range.
Best Budget Aero Option: Team Obsidian Road Bike Helmet
The Obsidian claims to have a cutting edge intelligent design that looks and feels great. For its price, it is indeed an exceptionally stylish and lightweight option.
It sports a decidedly oval shape and has a fit system that adjusts vertically and horizontally. It’s also quite aero for its price point.
Best Multi-sport helmet: Bern Lenox Helmet
Bern is the head protection specialist for bikers, skaters and boarders. The Lenox helmet is suitable for both mountain and road bikers. Built with women in mind, it sits low on the head and is close-fitting.
Though it doesn’t have as much ventilation as other helmets, it does have high-impact EPS foam on the interior, making it bit more comfy than many other road helmets.
You can also use your Bern Lenox for other sports if you wish. You can even add a warm lining for the snow season.
It is, though, one of the heaviest on the list, at 481g.
Best MTB helmet under $100: Giro Fixture Bike Helmet with MIPS
The Giro Fixture uses cone head technology which means the back of the head is more protected than in most other models. Additional protection comes from In-Mold Polycarbonate with an EPS Liner and MIPS. Don’t let the price fool you, this helmet keeps its cool with 18 vents and several cool colors to choose from. Easy to fit with a universal sizing thanks to Giro’s famous Roc Loc Sport fit system.
Best “Smart” helmet to keep you connected on all your rides: Livall BH60 Bling Helmet
The Livall Bling Helmet is a smart helmet, meaning with its Bluetooth speakers and microphone, you can take all your calls while on the move. (You can listen to music too).
It also has LED turn signals from a clip-on handlebar remote and an SOS alert – which detects a fall and texts an alert to a contact.
And if that’s not enough, you can even take photos and collect data of your cycle journeys with the Bling Jet 100 clip-on control.
Best for Riding with Ponytails: Lazer Blade Road Helmet
The Lazer Blade has excellent venting, good looks, and an innovative cradle system that makes it one of the best value helmets available.
Lazer’s top-mounted Advanced Rollsys System adjusts at the crown of the helmet rather than the back like most all other models. The system is a one-fingered operated roller that tightens or loosens the helmet’s cradle by moving along a length of threaded plastic.
The Blade is not a women’s specific design, but by placing the retention system at the top of the helmet, the back is almost entirely clear, meaning its kind of perfect for riders with ponytails.
Best if you have a large head: Specialized Max Helmet
This very affordable helmet from Specialized is designed for those with a larger head (56-64cm). It has a micro-adjustable dial to insure a good fit and comes in black, white and hi-viz yellow.
There’s also a clip on visor (something I personally find essential).
Best Bike Helmet for Commuting: Bell Formula LED MIPS
This is one of the safest budget helmets we could find. Providing both rotational safety (MIPS) and a 20 lumen, LED, this budget lid covers all the bases. It’s also very comfortable. We consider any helmet under $100 with MIPS to be a great find, but the bonus LED adds to the value. A rubber-coated rotational dial offers quick, yet precise adjustments on the go and the detailing and styling offers a nod to much pricier helmets.
All of the options on this list are great choices for protecting your precious head. I, personally, like to keep a spare around, in case of a crash and not being able to get a replacement instantly, ensuring that I’ll never be helmet-less. I have a commuting helmet – which is bright green and consequently more visible in traffic – as well as a black, super light weight more aero one for long rides and races.
There are helmets to fit every style and personality so pick one you like and wear it.