Cheap cycling helmets: eight of the best bargain lids to protect your head
Road cycling helmets that also protect your bank balance
While the law doesn’t require any UK rider to wear a cycling helmet - it’s just recommended in the Highway Code - most riders choose to, us included. Luckily, there's plenty of choose out there, for all budgets, tastes and riding styles.
Regardless of how much you have to spend, all helmets must conform to the same safety standards, so as the price rises, you’re not necessarily choosing more protection, but lower weight, improved ventilation, a more adjustable fit, slicker aerodynamics and so on.
Better still, you can still get plenty of high-end features without breaking the bank, with no shortage of top road cycling helmets available for less than £100. Whether you're looking for a lid with MIPS, are looking to improve aerodynamics, or just want a solid all-rounder, there's something out there.
With that in mind, we’ve picked out eight of the best feature-packed but affordable road cycling helmets available right now.
Bontrager Starvos MIPS (RRP £69.99)
The Bontrager Starvos is the cheapest road-specific helmet in Bontrager's line-up which still comes equipped with the MIPS protection system. If you're not familiar with MIPS, it's a slip-plane technology inside the helmet, said to reduce the impact of rotational forces.
Airflow is achieved thanks to internal, recessed channels and plenty of external vents, while a Boa closure system keeps things secure and allows easy on-the-fly adjustment. And if you want to make the price even more affordable, and are not so bothered about MIPS, there's a 'standard' version too with a £49.99 RRP.
MET Strale (RRP £80.00)
An RCUK 100 inductee for 2017, the MET Strale is an aero lid for the everyday rider, with a shell design that smooths airflow over the top, while you'll also find internal channels to aid cooling.
There are still 14 external vents, too - strategically placed to improve ventilation without unduly affecting aerodynamics, according to MET. Considering the affordable price, the 255g claimed weight for a size medium is also impressive.
Lazer Blade (RRP £59.99)
The Lazer Blade has been one of our favourite affordable helmets in recent years. In fact, we inducted the Blade into the RCUK 100 2016 with the simple summary: "Mid-range price-tag, top-end performance." Two years on, we see no reason to alter that view.
With 22 vents, the helmet offers plenty of ventilation and the sleek design also appeals to us - it's a low-bulk lid, achieved by keeping the helmet as close to the head as possible. Lazer's Rollsys retention system continues to impress, too. Without MIPS it comes with a value-packed price-tag of £59.99, while you can add £20 if you do want MIPS
B'Twin 500 Road Helmet (RRP £29.99)
B'Twin - the cycling brand from Decathlon - loves a number-based moniker, and the B'Twin 500 could refer to anything from the shoes of the same name to the mega-retailer's winter cycling gloves. In the helmet range, however, the 500 is B'Twin's fuss-free, super-affordable road cycling helmet.
It's got no bells and whistles but you do get 17 vents, low weight (for its price at 270g in a size M) and good looks. You can't go wrong with for that for £29.99.
Giro Savant MIPS (RRP £104.99)
From the fuss-free B'Twin 500, we move to the other end of the scale with the Giro Savant MIPS. Ok, we hold our hands up, the Savant MIPS' RRP is over £100, but you can find it much cheaper if you shop around (see below) which is why we've seen fit to include it here.
So, what do you get for your money? Giro says the helmet offers 'authentic race-inspired style and performance with a plush, comfortable fit that's ready to go the distance'. That equates to a slim design, 25 vents, an adjustable fit using Giro's Roc Loc 5 system and low weight. There's MIPS, too, but if you want to save yourself 20 quid there's also a non-MIPS version.
Specialized Echelon II (RRP £60.00)
Sleek looks, excellent cooling and Specialized's micro-adjustable fit system help the Echelon II helmet stand out in a crowded mid-range helmet market.
The cooling system is perhaps the most advanced feature of this lid. Extra-large vents ensure air flow is excellent but, thanks to the helmet's internal reinforcement, that ventilation doesn't compromise stability.
Kask Rapido (RRP £69.00)
Though marketed as entry-level, the Italian-made Kask Rapido road helmet offers great performance for its price. Ventilation is taken care of by 24 large air vents to make it an ideal lid for summer cycling, and Kask says the vents are also arranged to optimise aerodynamics (though of course you'll need to shop further up the range for a true aero lid).
A pivoting retention system and removable padding ensure you can optimise the fit to your liking, while still getting plenty of change on a £100 budget.
Bell Stratus MIPS (RRP £109.99)
Like the Giro Savant above, the Bell Stratus technically sits just outside our 'under £100' bracket, but you can grab it for half its RRP if you look around. Borrowing tech from Bell's pro-tested Zephyr lid, the brand claims the helmet combines lightweight aero efficiency with cutting-edge comfort tech.
Sleek-looking, MIPS-equipped, a competitive 295g weight and much more affordable than the top-end Zephyr - you can easily see the appeal of the Stratus against its more expensive siblings further up the Bell range.