A good bike helmet can make all the difference if you're involved in a cycling accident, significantly reducing the odds of serious injury. Whether you ride a mountain bike or a road bike, there are dozens of helmets to choose from, many of them costing $200 or more. To identify the best bike helmets under $100, Cheapism considered new ratings from Virginia Tech and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, testing by other outlets including Popular Mechanics and Bicycling magazine, and owner reviews on retail sites such as Amazon. In addition to helmets for road cyclists, mountain bikers, and commuters, we also picked a couple of helmets designed expressly for women and for kids.
All bike helmets sold in the United States, regardless of price, must meet the same basic safety standards established by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Those rated by the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab go through more rigorous testing. Most helmets incorporate a vented plastic shell bonded to impact-absorbing foam like expandable polystyrene (EPS) to protect your head. In the past several years, a number of manufacturers have introduced helmets that use the Multi-directional Impact Protection System. These MIPS-equipped helmets have an inner suspension designed to allow the helmet to shift on impact to better protect the rider's head. Experts disagree about whether these helmets are safer than non-MIPS-equipped models, and they typically sell for a $20 or $30 premium.
Choosing the right bike helmet comes down to fit and comfort, experts say. It should feel snug on your head without being uncomfortably tight and should not shift more than an inch front to back or side to side. Make sure the helmet is level on your head, with the base no more than an inch above your eyebrows. Other features to look for include vents or ports to keep your head cool on hot days, one-hand suspension adjustment, and perhaps a sun visor. All our picks come with a one-year warranty.
Prices and availability subject to change.