Best Cheap Bike Helmets
Published on By Maralyn Edid
Razor V-17 Review
From $17 Best
Youth Bike Helmet. There's no shortage of quality youth helmets on the market but the best may be the Razor V-17. It has 17 vents and is appropriate for multi-sport use. While stylish, its best feature is its ability to protect users; at least one parent claims this helmet helped her son survive a serious accident.
When it comes to bicycle helmets, the biggest battle facing parents is getting their children to wear one. But Razor V-17 Youth Bicycle Helmet reviews indicate that isn’t a problem with this cheap kids’ bike helmet. Although bicycle helmets hardly scream trendiness, parents writing Razor V-17 reviews on sites like Amazon and Walmart say kids genuinely seem to enjoy wearing these helmets, largely because they like the look and comfortable fit; it even seems “cool” to older kids. What parents really like, though, is the safety factor. Reviews note that the Razor V-17 covers more of a child’s head -- particularly the lower back of the head -- than other models. It’s this extra margin of protection that gets frequent mention in bicycle reviews reviews.
The Razor V-17 (starting at $17, Amazon) is targeted to kids aged 8 to 14, with head sizes 21.5-23 inches around. It comes with extra pads to adjust the fit (they can be removed for cleaning), a quick-release side buckle, and 17 vents strategically located throughout. The thick outer shell is lined with expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, and it meets all Consumer Product Safety Commission Standards. And as an added bonus for frugal parents with physically active children, the Razor V-17 is a multi-sport helmet; it works for cycling, scooters, skateboards, and the like.
In short, the Razor V-17 offers the safety and style parents (and grandparents) are looking for, at a very cheap and affordable price. Oh yes, there’s a pink version for girls and a black version for boys.
Giro Transfer Review
From $26 Best
Adult Bike Helmet. You can't go wrong with the Giro Transfer: it has an ideal blend of ventilation, comfort, design, and price. Readers and experts agree this cheap helmet is well worth its price and some prefer it over more expensive models.
The Giro Transfer Bicycle Helmet claims legions of fans. Users have a hard time finding problems with it, according to Giro Transfer reviews, as it seems to satisfy every constituency. In reviews on Buzzillions, one user brags about how his sunglasses fit snugly in the front holes, another reports the cheap helmet lasted through 10,000 miles and lots of inclement weather, and a third simply says the Giro Transfer is the right choice for frugal cyclists insistent on high quality gear. Several other riders note in bicycle helmet reviews that the helmet ably performs its primary function; that is, it protects their heads in the event of an accident. Users of this cheap helmet posting reviews on Amazon extol the virtues of its light weight and comfort.
The Giro Transfer (starting at $26, Amazon) features an industry standard in-mold technology that fuses a plastic outer microshell with an expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam liner. A Giro Transfer review by experts at Road.cc explains that this build process strengthens the helmet and allows for more vents. Indeed, the Giro Transfer has 20 vents that ensure lots of air circulation; a nice touch here is the mesh covering on the vents that keep pesky bugs from getting inside. A lightweight 255 grams and a universal size that fits heads measuring 54-61 centimeters around, the unisex Giro Transfer also features a proprietary strap system that makes for convenient single-handed adjustment and a snug, safe fit.
The only thing separating the Transfer from its sibling, the Giro Indicator (starting at $29, Amazon), is the presence of a visor on the latter, which ups the cost by a few dollars. But we still think the Giro Transfer is a best cheap bicycle helmet. It’s designed to fit most adults, it sits comfortably on your head, it keeps you cool and safe, and it enjoys widespread market acceptance.
Where to buy
Bell Venture Review
From $29 Good
Adult Bike Helmet. The Bell Venture has the attributes of a high-end helmet at a fraction of the price. Users like its easy adjustability, ventilation, and light weight.
The Bell Venture (starting at $29, Amazon) bicycle helmet has the features and performance attributes of a high-cost helmet but actually sells at a relatively cheap price. Based on Bell Venture reviews, we’ve concluded that this is a well-regarded bicycle helmet. Cyclists appreciate the chin strap that’s adjustable with one hand and a padding system that minimizes both friction and irritation, according to bicycle helmet reviews on Wiggle.co.uk. Another user posting a Bell Venture helmet review on the same site likes the color choices (e.g., black, red and white, silver and pink, silver and titanium) and its ease of use while wearing gloves. The fit, adjustability, ventilation, build quality, and price appeal to cyclists posting reviews on Amazon, including several who are first-time helmet buyers. One review on Epinions observes that the wavy air vents give the helmet a decidedly futuristic look.
As in other recommended cheap bicycle helmets, the plastic outer shell is fused with the expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam liner, which makes for a stronger and more durable helmet. The Bell Venture weighs a light 260 grams, and sports 23 air vents and a snap-on visor. A proprietary fit system relies on a bush button and a dial for a quick, one-handed adjustment of strap and helmet, respectively. This is a unisex and uni-size bike helmet that should fit heads measuring 54-62 centimeters around. Not surprisingly, the sizing works for some riders but not for others; one cyclist comments in a Bell Venture helmet review on Amazon that it suits his oval head quite well, but another user notes on the Eastern Mountain Sports website that the Bell Venture can’t accommodate his larger-than-average head.
Casual cyclists should appreciate the Bell Venture for its solid virtues – good value, minimal glitz, comfort, and structural integrity. This is a good choice for a cheap bike helmet.
Where to buy
Bell Faction Review
From $30 Good
Youth Bike Helmet. Parents fret about finding a helmet that fits their growing children, which often leads them to the Bell Faction. This affordable helmet comes in small, medium, and large and suits children's varied head sizes; it's also marketed to adults for downhill and mountain biking.
Bell offers several youth bicycle helmets, some with lower price tags, but in terms of form and function, the Bell Faction stands out. The full head coverage, including the forehead, and suitability as both a bicycle and skateboarding helmet, are strong draws for parents, according to Bell Faction reviews on Amazon. Ditto for the washable pads that stick on with Velcro and ensure a snug fit, add other reviews. And while the Bell Faction won’t win any design contests, kids seem to think it passes the “cool” test. They also like the matte finish, which invites stickers of favorite sports team or cartoon characters, and mercifully don’t complain about wearing the helmet, note parents in helmet reviews on Amazon. The Bell Faction is certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for bicycling and meets ASTM 1492 skateboard standards.
The Bell Faction (starting at $25, Amazon) (not to be confused with the Bell Fraction) is rounder in shape than the adult models but still has the same dual-density expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam lining; the shell is a rigid plastic that is impact-resistant. The chinstrap is more prominent than in other Bell youth helmets, but Bell Faction reviews say it adjusts easily. As in many youth helmets, ventilation is sacrificed for the sake of durability, so the Bell Fraction has only 12 vents. The total package weighs a sturdy 426 grams, and comes in three sizes (51-56 centimeters, 54-59 centimeters, and 58-63 centimeters); adults may find the larger size fits them just fine.
This is an all-around helmet that appeals to kids and their parents, as well as adults who are into downhill and mountain biking. For a cheap price, you get safety and comfort. It’s hard to go wrong with that combination.
Where to buy
Giro Sedona Review
From $16 Think Twice
Adult Bike Helmet. The Giro Sedona has the same weight and components as other helmets in the lower end of the Giro line, and the Sedona comes in at a lower price. Most users appreciate its value, but some are unhappy with its fit, saying it felt odd or a tad too small.
Where to buy
Bell Aero Review
From $17 Think Twice
Youth Bike Helmet. The Bell Aero is among the cheapest of Bell's helmets, is well-ventilated, and comes in an array of colors. However, it lacks the ErgoDial technology that allows Bell helmets to be adjusted on the fly.
The Bell Aero (starting at $17, Amazon) is priced to compete with many of the lower-end youth helmets. But it doesn’t find fervent fans among parents, as indicated by the few Bell Aero Youth Bicycle Helmet reviews that we were able to find. Bell Aero reviews on Amazon complain that it’s hard to fit properly given that it lacks the dial adjustment found on many other Bell helmets; the single-adjustment-point fit system doesn’t seem to be as user friendly. One parent posting a review on Walmart is satisfied with the fit for her child, but another reviewer gives it a mediocre assessment.
Unlike the Bell Faction, which covers almost the entire head, the Bell Aero looks more like a traditional adult bicycle helmet. Some parents may be deterred by this, although the Bell Aero does sport a few features that grown-ups and kids might find appealing. On the safety front, the Bell Aero has reflectors, padding, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission seal of approval. Kids might appreciate the dynamic shape and graphics and the 13 vents, as well as a no-pinch buckle and a visor to ward off the sun’s glare. The Bell Aero is targeted to kids aged 8 to 13, and it fits heads measuring 53-57 centimeters around.
We’re not wild about the Bell Aero. It’s a decent youth bicycle helmet but for the money you can find a more functional helmet that your children won’t resist wearing.
For every type of cycling activity -- mountain, road, commuter, sport -- and every type of cyclist -- male, female, youth -- there's a helmet marketed to meet the need. At their core, all helmets perform the same function: They are meant to keep the cyclist safe and comfortable. There's no reason for the casual rider to buy a $200 helmet optimized for speed and style when the best cheap helmets are designed to keep the wearer equally safe.
Cheap Helmets Buying Guide
Regardless which category you fall into, the seal of approval from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) should be your top requirement. After that, you'll probably want to consider the price. Right away you'll notice that the range is extremely wide. At the low end, you can find cheap helmets for $20, while at the top end a helmet might sell for $200. Cheaper helmets are found in big-box department; larger and more expensive selections are usually available in sporting goods stores. The priciest helmets of all, unsurprisingly, are sold in cycling or outdoor shops.
What makes one helmet cost more than another? Experienced cyclists know the answer: Cycling is an image-conscious sport. Some cyclists shave their legs for no reason other than to show fellow cyclists how committed they are to shaving tenths of a second off their times. So it should come as no surprise that a rider's choice of gear would have the same effect. Cyclists tend to be brand loyal, whether to Giro, Trek, SixSixOne, Bell, or any of the other producers.
Bicycle Helmet Construction.All bicycle helmets are composed of a durable plastic shell and expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) that is meant to protect the cyclist in the event of a crash. New technology molds together these two components, making helmets lighter than they had been in the past; the most expensive and the cheap helmets are identical in this regard. (A note on the EPS foam: it, rather than your head, absorbs the impact in a crash. But once you've been through a crash, the foam loses its protective properties and it's time to buy a new one.) The CPSC has approved this construction and manufacturers have adopted it in all lines. Youth helmets have a little more foam than adult models but they still should be replaced in the event of a crash.
Bike Helmet Weight.There are plenty of cheap helmets that weigh between 255 and 310 grams (including all those referenced in this review), which is only about 10 ounces. Youth helmets usually weigh slightly more because they have extra padding; a good example of this is the Bell Faction (starting at $25), which weights 426 grams. While it might seem obvious that helmets with more vents are lighter, this, too, is not necessarily true. Some of the better-ventilated helmets, like the Trek Vapor (starting at $50), retain their density by distributing weight in the perimeter.
When shopping for children, parents should ask the child how the helmet feels on his or her head. It may take some trial and error to find the right blend of protection, comfort, and cheap price. Among youth helmets, the Razor V-17 (starting at $17) strikes this balance better than the rest.
Bicycle Helmet Design.A casual cyclist would have difficulty distinguishing a commuter bike helmet from a road bike helmet, or a Bell helmet from a Giro helmet. Maybe that's because Bell actually owns Giro, but in reality a lot of helmets look the same, especially at first glance. Some models are distinctive, however. Razor models tend to be rounder and are price competitive with Bell and Giro. SixSixOne models tend to have more elaborate artwork, such as flames or detailed graphics, but users pay a higher price for these aesthetic flourishes. Cheap helmets for youth come in a wider array of colors and markings than cheap adult helmets, which tend to be aesthetically spare.
Artwork is how manufacturers try to separate their helmets from the crowd. Many helmets, particularly those intended for the youth market, come with the logo of a favorite college or pro sports team, or showcase pop culture characters like Hanna Montana. Such touches come at a price: a plain black youth helmet from Bell might cost $25, but the same helmet with an Oakland Raiders logo might cost $29. A parent posting on Walmart.com likes the Bell Aero (starting at $17) but her daughter prefers a few more flowers on the side. Another parent commenting on Amazon was thrilled to find the Razor V-17 because her son thinks it's cool enough to wear.
The number and placement of the vents also affect the overall look of a cheap helmet. Note, however, that all air vents are not created equal. Some are little more than round holes that should let air circulate. Others are teardrop-shaped, oblong, oval, or egg-shaped, and some have a shape for which no name exists. Some vents are less than an inch wide; others are larger than two inches. The best cheap helmets, like the Bell Venture (starting at $29), sport an array of different vents that give a sleeker, more aerodynamic look.
Vent shapes on youth helmets are less varied. They're either round or oblong, as in the case of the Bell Faction.
Locking Size Adjuster.Many pricier helmets come in fitted sizes,which increases the comfort level. Cheap helmets, on the other hand, come in small, medium, large, and extra large. You can then tweak the fit by adjusting the band. The most common adjusting mechanism is a dial; the two leading brands, Bell and Giro, use their own patented system, the ErgoDial for Bell and the AcuDial for Giro. User reviews of these helmets express no preference for one system over the other. Any good cheap helmet, including the best and good models on our list, let the cyclist adjust the strap while wearing the helmet.
Parents should teach their children how to adjust a helmet by themselves. Given the importance of wearing a helmet, let children practice adjusting their cheap bike helmet in the driveway or on the sidewalk before taking off. Note that the Bell Aero does not have the ErgoDial system, which means the child will have to stop riding and remove the helmet to make any needed adjustments.
Bicycle Helmet Extras.Among the most popular (and useful) accessories are a visor and an adjustable rear view mirror that clicks on to the front of the helmet. The Giro Transfer (starting at $26), for example, doesn't come with a visor, but the slightly more expensive Giro Indicator (starting at $29) does. (That's the only difference between the two, so if you can find a visor for less than three dollars consider yourself ahead of the game.) Cheap helmets (including those mentioned in this buying guide) are open-faced, meaning they have a chin strap but do not protect your face in a crash. Alternatively, you can buy a helmet with a chin bar, but there's a commensurate uptick in price. Competitive cyclists don't protect their faces with a chin bar, so it's not a necessity, although it does sometimes appeal to mountain bikers. The SixSixOne brand offers a chin bar in many models, but the cheapest, the 06 Launch, starts at about $70.
Bike Helmet Reviews
Bicycle Helmet Fit and Comfort.The fit and comfort of a bicycle helmet are critical; if it's not comfortable, you'll be tempted not to wear it. But follow this rule of thumb: the helmet should be snug. In other words, after you've clicked the chin strap into place and locked the size adjuster, the helmet should not move more than an inch in any direction. This is true for all types of helmets, irrespective of the rider's age and/or expertise. Some cyclists are willing to trade safety and style for fit. The Giro Sedona (starting at $16) seems to be an example of this. The vast majority of users posting bike helmet reviews on SierraTradingPost.com grumble about the awkward fit even as they favorably comment on its style and safety features.
Once you're fit the helmet to your head, you might think you won't have to adjust it again. But the density of the interior padding changes depending on the temperature and how much moisture it takes on. So, you'll need to make chin strap adjustments from time to time, and bicycle helmet reviews on Bestcovery.com indicate that users find few helmets as easy to adjust as the Bell Venture (starting at $29).
Although having lots of interior padding (in conjunction with the EPS foam) might seem like a good idea, too much padding can make a helmet very hot to wear. Bicycle helmet reviews at Mtbr praise the three levels of padding in the Bell Faction (starting at $25) (used by some adults as well as young riders) but have mixed opinions about its ability to keep riders cool. This critique may have less to do with the padding than the fact that the Bell Faction has fewer vents than some other highly-rated helmets.
One of the better-ventilated helmets, and among the most comfortable (but just beyond the Cheapism price range), is the Trek Vapor (starting at $50). This bike helmet receives nothing but five-stars in bike helmet reviews on Nscycles.com, due in large part to its sturdy but well-ventilated fit. Having lots of vents is always nice when they let cool air replace the warm air swirling around your head. What's not so nice is when these vents also let in insects that land in your hair. Some helmets, like the Giro Transfer (starting at $26), have started putting mesh inside the vents -- a feature that a user posting a bicycle helmet review on Road.cc particularly appreciates.
When assessing comfort and fit, don't forget about cleanliness. The interior padding gets very wet from perspiration, so you want a helmet with easy-to-remove pads that can be cleaned. An expert bicycle helmet review on Mountain Bike Rider says the Giro Indicator sports one of the easiest padding systems to clean. (Remove the padding and soak it in soapy water or put it in the washer; the pads should not shrink.)
Bicycle Helmet Safety.If a helmet does not have a tag or sticker from the CPSC, don't buy it. Manufacturers have their helmets tested by the CPSC as a matter of course nowadays, so the absence of the agency's stamp of approval should be an immediate red flag. It's also an aberration, because experts estimate at least 85% of the helmets available for retail sale have the endorsement of the CPSC.
Every cheap helmet has its share of detractors regarding style or comfort. Criticism about safety failures is comparatively minor. When searching for information about the safety of a specific helmet, you'll have a hard time finding a report about someone who suffered serious head injury while wearing a helmet. Although this has no doubt occurred, it there are many more reports of riders being spared thanks to a helmet. One cyclist writes in a bicycle helmet review on Mtbr about landing full force on his head and walking away without much harm thanks to the Giro Indicator. A review on Pedalpushersonline.com recounts a crash that damaged much of the cyclist's body, except for his head; he was wearing a Trek Vapor helmet. And one parent posting a youth bike helmet review on Kaylilys.com is grateful that her son was wearing the Razor V-17 (starting at $17) when he had a serious accident.
Our final word: The bicycle helmet is first and foremost a safety device. Cyclists are not required to wear helmets but it is rare that you see someone without a helmet nowadays. As long as safety remains your top priority, you should have no trouble finding a helmet to meet your budget.
Additional Products We Considered
Trek Vapor Bicycle Helmet Review
If your budget lets you spend beyond the Cheapism range, the Trek Vapor bicycle helmet might be the one for you. Several riders swear by this moderately-priced helmet, noting in Trek Vapor reviews on Mtbr.com that it prevented injury to their skulls after nasty accidents even though the helmet itself cracked. We have no evidence that the Trek Vapor will keep you any safer than the cheap helmets on our list, although bicycle helmet reviews suggest it keeps you at least as comfortable. Cyclists posting reviews on Nscycles.com laud its ventilation and fit, and one says it’s the best deal in terms of safety and comfort in diverse riding conditions. Helmet reviews in general praise its design, style, and solid build, although a gripe surfaced here and there about some difficulty using the knob in the back of the helmet that’s meant to adjust the fit. A Trek Vapor video review on expotv.com shows a user demonstrating how to adjust the helmet to accommodate a variety of head sizes; although it looks easy, you never know until you try.
The Trek Vapor (starting at $50) sports 24 vents, but there’s no sacrifice of structural integrity in the quest for ventilation and comfort: the weight is distributed in the perimeter of the helmet. This helmet does weigh 310 grams, however, which is a bit heavier than the cheap bicycle helmets on our list, and it’s the most expensive of the bicycle helmets we researched. Bottom line: it has style and substance, and ably meets performance expectations.