If you ride enough, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll fall off at some point. Hopefully, it’s a simple case of getting up and dusting yourself down, or dealing with a little road rash. Yet serious crashes do happen, and with most brain injuries in cyclists occurring from head impacts, we think wearing a helmet is a no brainer.
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Long gone are the days of heavy, ugly and sweaty brain buckets. Now helmets are so light you barely notice you’re wearing one. On warm rides, inner channel airflow systems are so good that you’re kept cooler by wearing a helmet than not. That improved venting is possible because some helmets use an inner skeleton to increase the strength of the inner EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) shell that takes the impact in a crash.
A more recent safety measure is MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact System). This helps with rotational impacts by allowing the outer EPS shell to move up to 15mm over the inner liner. This reduces energy transfer that can cause concussion or more serious brain injuries.
Helmet choice often comes down to budget and here we have kept this at £80 and under. Many of those tested see the inclusion of top-end features thanks to trickle-down tech. Not all helmets fit the same, and we all have different shaped heads, so try before you buy.
Helmet jargon buster
MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact System) is an impact-reduction feature found in some helmets. This technology is becoming widespread but does add extra weight.
All helmets here use an in-moulded shell, which is where the thin robust outer shell is bonded to the inner EPS shell. This inner absorbs the impact of a crash and may well break to save your head, which is why it’s important to replace after a crash.
How we tested
Thankfully we weren’t expected to crash in these helmets to test their impact protection as all helmets pass the European safety standards. The testing for each involved testing the effectiveness of the retention systems (from dials to push and slide systems) for achieving the perfect fit. Each was worn in British summertime conditions to assess the effectiveness of the ventilation and internal airflow systems. We also looked at features such as the straps and buckles, trickle-down tech from top-end lids, as well as the visuals and value for money.
The Blade takes its styling and many features from Lazer’s top-end Z1 and uses the same ARS Advanced Rollsys retention system with the adjuster barrel on the top of the helmet. It feels odd at first but is easy to use once you get used to it. Height is also adjustable. The adjustable side straps don’t have locking cams but we never had any issues with them. The Blade also has a similar-shaped shell to the Z1 featuring 22 large vents with internal channelling to keep you cool on the hottest days. A classy yet lightweight (235g) road lid offering superb value and seven colour schemes.
Verdict: good looking, lean and racy. A winner 93%
Buy from www.tredz.co.uk
Most helmets under £30 look awful or are best avoided, but B’Twin has changed that with their RoadR. It has modern racy looks and the 17 vents help keep you cool on hot days. The outer shell is in-moulded, even at the rear and around the bottom surface, which makes it robust in day-to-day life but it does take the weight to 320g. The rear ratchet retention system is crude, clunky and isn’t vertically adjustable, but locks in place without any issues. When combined with the easy-to-adjust straps, which don’t lock down, the helmet sits nicely in place. Overall, an amazing value lid. decathlon.co.uk
Verdict: A visually striking helmet that scores for the price 79%
Buy from www.decathlon.co.uk
The lightweight Rapido has distinctive sleek Kask looks made famous by Team Sky in its top-end lids. This Italian-made race-style helmet has 24 vents, which are positioned to optimise aerodynamics for a fast ride, and graces the scales at 230g. The hinged rear retention system that slides up and down the rear straps looks cumbersome, but in use it performs well and is easily adjusted with the large twist dial. The side straps are adjustable with lock-down buckles but the webbing isn’t as soft as some. There’s also thoroughbred race styling that’ll work for a range of head sizes. And it comes in six colours. kask.com
Verdict: a svelte racer that performs when the pace picks up 82%
Buy from www.chainreactioncycles.com
Continue reading our guide to the best budget helmets (2/3)