The Best Bike Helmets Under $100

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group of people wearing bike helmets while sitting in the grass with their bikes, mountains in background
Photo credit: Saro17/istockphoto

SAFETY FIRST

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.

Giro Savant
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

GIRO SAVANT

Best Mountain Bike Helmet
Est. Price: $70 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:
- Roc Loc interior suspension is easy to adjust with one hand for a snug fit, reviewers say.
- 4-star (very good) safety rating in impact testing.
- Weighs just over 9 ounces; relatively lightweight for a mountain bike helmet.
- Available in 5 sizes.

Cons:
- Straps are unwieldy and uncomfortable, some owners say in online reviews.
- Scattered complaints of components breaking or cracking after a few months of use.

Takeaway: Serious mountain bikers can spend $200 or more on a helmet, but reviewers say the Giro Savant is a good, relatively cheap alternative. Although this particular model lacks the MIPS liner found on some helmets, it earned 4 out of 5 stars in impact tests conducted by Virginia Tech in collaboration with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (a MIPS-equipped version, which sells for about $95, earns slightly lower ratings in consumer reviews). Most reviewers say the Savant is fairly comfortable, light, and easy to adjust, although some people say the straps are too wide and tend to get in the way. With 25 air holes, this helmet stays fairly cool, although some reviewers say the ventilation could be better.

Giro Hex
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

GIRO HEX

Good Mountain Bike Helmet
Est. Price: $60 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:
- 21 vents keep the head cool on hot days, reviewers say.
- Sun visor is adjustable and removable.
- Available in 4 sizes.

Cons:
- Sizes run large, some owners say.
- Straps and suspension are difficult to adjust for some cyclists.
- Scattered complaints about durability.

Takeaway: The Giro Hex helmet has been an expert and consumer favorite for years. Most owners say the helmet feels lightweight (it weighs 10.7 ounces) and comfortable, and several praise the Roc Loc inner suspension. But others complain that they couldn't adjust the helmet to find a truly comfortable fit. A few people also say the plastic exterior fades over time. Unlike other Giro bike helmets, the Hex is not available with MIPS.

Giro Foray MIPS
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

GIRO FORAY MIPS

Best Road Bike Helmet
Est. Price: $85 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:
- 4-star (very good) safety rating in impact testing.
- Weighs 10 ounces; relatively lightweight.
- Suspension dial is very easy to adjust for a snug fit, reviewers say.
- 21 vents keep the head cool in warm weather.
- Available in 3 sizes.

Cons:
- Some owners say they wish the padding were thicker for a more comfortable fit.
- Relatively high price.

Takeaway: Like its Giro sibling the Savant, the Foray is one of the few helmets to earn a 4-star safety rating in tests by the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab — and one of the few MIPS-equipped helmets we reviewed. Owners say the helmet is comfortable and easy to adjust. Truly negative reviews are rare, although we did find a handful of complaints from cyclists who say the padding is a bit on the skimpy side.

Schwinn Thrasher
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

SCHWINN THRASHER

Good Road Bike Helmet
Est. Price: $18 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:
- Very low price.
- Snap-on visor.
- Rear LED safety light for added nighttime visibility.

Cons:
- Users with larger heads say this 1-size helmet is too small to fit comfortably.
- Some users complain that this helmet is unattractive, or makes their head look big.
- Scattered complaints of durability issues.

Takeaway: Owners say the Schwinn Thrasher is proof that you don't need to spend a lot of money for a comfortable bike helmet. It's easy to adjust and relatively comfortable, and it stays cool on long, hot rides, according to customer feedback on retail sites. Despite the largely positive reviews, we read a number of complaints that the plastic exterior components, which are attached with adhesive, either crack or come loose over time. Although serious cyclists will probably want a more substantial helmet, the Thrasher is a good pick for beginners, reviewers say.

Nutcase Street Collection
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

NUTCASE STREET COLLECTION

Bonus: Commuter Bike Helmet
Est. Price: $70 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:
- Very comfortable to wear, most owners say.
- Available in 3 sizes and 36 patterns and colors.
- Also certified for skateboarding.

Cons:
- Design is too bulky for some cyclists.
- Scattered complaints that the removable sun visor falls off easily.

Takeaway: Commuter bike helmets, which resemble baseball or skateboarding helmets, have become very popular in the past few years with cyclists who love the bold colors and funky graphics. These helmets offer the same protection as traditional helmets without making you look like you're ready for the Tour de France, reviewers say. It's difficult to find negative comments about the comfort and fit of this helmet, but it's the design that attracts most buyers, and a number of owners say they get compliments on their choice of headgear (something rarely said about bike helmets).

Razor V-17
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

RAZOR V-17

Bonus: Kids' Bike Helmet
Est. Price: $15 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:
- Very low price.
- Easy for kids to adjust the straps and buckles, parents say in reviews.
- Available in 9 bright colors.

Cons:
- Available in only 1 size.
- Some kids struggle to find a good fit.
- Not very well ventilated, reviewers say.

Takeaway: Parents give this Razor bike helmet high marks in reviews on retail sites, saying it's comfortable for their kids to wear and easy for them to adjust. Kids love the array of colors, reviewers say, and this helmet can be used for skateboarding as well as biking. The manufacturer says the helmet is designed for children ages 5 to 8, but some reviewers say that range isn't always a reliable guide for finding a snug fit. Bottom line: Try before you buy.

Bern Summer Lenox
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

BERN SUMMER LENOX

Bonus: Women's Bike Helmet
Est. Price: $60 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:
- Liner is removable and washable, and can be swapped with an optional insulated liner for cold-weather cycling.
- Also certified for skiing and snowboarding.
- Easy to adjust with one hand, reviewers say.
- Available in 2 sizes.

Cons:
- Some owners say the sizes tend to run small.
- The finish scratches easily, reviewers say.
- Weighs just over 1 pound, slightly more than other helmets.

Takeaway: Experts say female cyclists don't need to buy a gender-specific bike helmet to find one that fits well. But some women, especially those with smaller heads, say this helmet fits better than unisex models they've tried. Most owners love the fact that the Bern Lenox looks more like a baseball or skateboarding helmet than the typical bike helmet, although a few say it makes their heads look big. Aesthetic concerns aside, most owners have only positive things to say about the fit, comfort, and durability.

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