The Best Bike Helmets of 2023: Staff Picks

Protect your lid with our seven favorite helmet picks

Graham Averill|Updated January 31, 2023

12 reviews with an average rating of 3.7 out of 5 stars
Two people riding bikes against a wooded background

If you’re a cyclist, your bike might be your most prized possession, but your helmet is the single piece of gear you never go without. It’s a purchase you don’t want to take lightly. There are endless bike helmet options, each of them boasting the latest and greatest construction and tech. With so many helmets to choose from, how do you select the one that’s right for you? We asked REI staff and customers for their favorite protective lids. These are their picks for the best bike helmets currently available from the co-op.


Staff Picks

Find quick recommendations below or scroll down for in-depth reviews:

Don’t let this helmet’s minimalist aesthetic fool you: The Thousand Chapter Mips® is loaded with features that make it easy to tool around town, like a magnetic chin strap buckle that you can fasten with one hand. A built-in channel also allows you to secure your helmet to your bike for quick errand-hopping. Just pop out the small, round “thsd” logo and pass your cable lock through the hole to lock up your helmet while you run your errand. Beyond style, this helmet features an extra layer of protection with the integrated Mips safety system, designed to reduce the rotational motion of certain impacts that may otherwise be transferred to your head. Buy here


Bike commuters want a customizable helmet that keeps them cool when navigating pavement, gravel, trails or all the above on their way to work. It’s no wonder then that reviewers love the Smith Signal Mips with its multivented road design. Seasoned cyclists will recognize a rotary dial that easily adjusts the helmet’s fit. That entire tension system can also move up and down, or forward and backward to further personalize your lid. “The dial adjusts the fit in seconds,” wrote one customer. A plethora of vents channel air to help keep you cool and your glasses fog-free. And there’s a channel that makes it easy to store your glasses. Inside, find a low-friction layer that slides 10mm to 15mm in all directions, reducing rotational motion to the brain during impact—this is MIPS. Buy here

On the hunt for pint-size noggin protection? The popular Giro Tremor Mips boasts the safety tech of the brand’s leading adult helmets in a smaller version for your mini. Its in-mold construction marries a hard polycarbonate shell with a foam liner for impact protection that doesn’t weigh little ones down. It has an adjustable visor that can snap off, and the range of bright colors is sure to please your budding rider, too. Finally, this helmet includes an integrated Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (Mips®), which can redirect energy and provide more protection in certain impacts—an almost-inevitable part of learning to ride. “It has a ton of adjustability,” wrote one reviewer. The “tensioning mechanism is great to secure to his head. Used very frequently and has proven to be very versatile.” Buy here


Trail and cross-country riders don’t usually need full face protection if they’re riding less gnarly terrain and prefer comfort and breathability. What they do need is a protective helmet in a lightweight, breathable package. Enter the Smith Convoy, which weighs just 11 ounces thanks to its weight-shaving in-mold construction and ample vents for maximum ventilation. The beauty of bike helmets today is that those weight savings don’t come at the expense of the leading tech. The Convoy features Smith’s fit adjustment system, for example, and Mips, which reduces rotational forces caused by angled impacts to the head. Not high-tech, but a sweet bonus? The Convoy’s built-in channels that hold your sunglasses when you don’t need ’em. Buy here


The U.S. hasn’t adopted any e-bike specific helmet standards, but the Bontrager Charge WaveCel adheres to robust Dutch standards, which account for the higher speeds that some e-bikes reach. In addition to user-friendly features, like an easy, magnetic chin strap closure and Boa tension system that lets you tighten your lid with one hand, the Charge comes equipped with Bontrager’s WaveCel tech. WaveCel is a collapsible cellular structure that lines the inside of the helmet and works like a crumple zone that absorbs the force of an impact. And the Charge is covered by Bontrager’s crash replacement guarantee, so if you do find yourself in a crash during your first year of owning the helmet, the brand will send you a free replacement. Buy here


The Smith Persist 2 hits all the roadie highlights in a light, well-ventilated package. Comfort matters when you’re laying down the hammer, and reviewers rave about the Persist’s adjustability, soft lining and AirEvac ventilation system, which pulls hot air away from your brow when you’re working hard, as well as the brand’s trademark dial adjuster that allows you to customize the fit to your head. “This is the first helmet that has properly fit me,” one customer commented. “It’s snug and very comfortable for long rides.” Buy here


Full-face helmets offer maximum protection, making them a logical pick for riders who crave speed. These helmets provide added protection in the back of the head, sides and chin, and help protect your face and mouth in the event of a crash. But they can be stifling or uncomfortable due to their heavy construction, bulkiness or lack of vents, and they’re generally more expensive than an open-face helmet. The Stage Mips by Troy Lee Designs, however, is surprisingly light and breathable for its class. Credit the expansive openings in the chin bar and the 11 intake ports and 14 exhaust vents that move air through the helmet while you pedal. “It’s a very open full-face helmet that allows a lot of airflow for breathing,” says one staffer who uses for speedy descents. “It’s great for gravity-centered trail if a rider wants a little more face protection than a half shell helmet.”  Buy here.


Shop All Bike Helmets 

Buying Advice  

All helmets sold in the U.S. must meet specific safety standards for impact protection. Make sure you wear a helmet that is appropriate for the riding you do, fits properly and is also worn correctly. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for fit, use and care of your lid, including when to replace the helmet (always after an accident even if there isn’t any visible damage). (For more information on helmet design, read The Complicated Story Behind Bike Helmet Safety).  

But buying a helmet isn’t only about meeting minimum safety standards. There are a few key aspects to consider when it’s time to shop for a lid.  

Know what kind of riding you want to do.  

There’s isn’t a law that says commuters can’t wear mountain bike helmets, and roadies can’t wear commuter helmets. (Remember, any helmet is safer than no helmet.) But manufacturers do design each helmet with an intended purpose—a commuter helmet may have features you may appreciate when biking to work (built-in lights, for example) and road helmets will have features that roadies appreciate (weight savings, plenty of vents, aerodynamic shape). Narrow your search to match the helmet with your type of riding.  

Make sure the helmet fits.  

The most expensive helmet loaded with the latest safety tech won’t do much good if it doesn’t fit your head properly (or isn’t worn properly). Use a flexible tape measure to find your head circumference, wrapping it around your head one inch above your eyebrows, then match that circumference to the helmet size guidelines (learn more in our guide to How to Choose a Bike Helmet). Once you figure out your size, head to your local REI to try on a variety of helmets—most manufacturers have linings, pads and tension systems that are unique to their helmets. Sample a bunch to find the one that’s most comfortable to you. And look for features such as removable pads or a tension system that allow you to easily adjust and customize the lid’s fit. 

Consider the features that would enhance your ride.  

Helmets come with a suite of bonus features designed to make riding more comfortable, safe and enjoyable. If visibility is important, prioritize a helmet that allows you to mount bike lights to it. And know that it’s OK if aesthetics are high on your priority list. The safest helmet is the one you want to wear; if you look good in your helmet, you’re more likely to put it on.  


Our Process  

We asked our team of REI employees to share their favorite bike helmets. They reported back with their top picks for bike commuting, road cycling, downhill mountain biking and more. 

Remember: Safety is your responsibility. No internet article or video can replace proper instruction and experience—this article is intended solely as supplemental information. Be sure you’re practiced in proper techniques and safety requirements before you engage in any outdoor activity. 


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