A helmet will always be a personal choice when it comes to pricing, aesthetics and ventilation vs aero needs.
The most important factors to consider, however, will always be fit and safety. The best road bike helmets will often have additional features that are claimed to add to safety and they'll often have been independently tested by Virginia Tech or other bodies. The best known system is MIPS, but brands are increasingly developing their own safety enhancements, as we describe below.
How do I find the most comfortable road bike helmet?
No helmet is going to be effective if it doesn't fit well, so getting the right size helmet and one that's easy to adjust is paramount. Fortunately most helmets have plenty of adjustability built in, with a rear cradle that can be moved up and down to fit well over the rear of your head and usually with a dial adjuster to fine tune the helmet to the circumference of your head, although there are alternative systems like Lazer's Rollsys.
Usually there are three helmet sizes to choose from, so you can zero in on the one that is likely to fit you based on the circumference of your head. Some helmets only come in two sizes though, while others have four which may include an Asian fit.
Different helmet manufacturers make different shaped helmets, so some designs may fit you better front to back and side to side than others. There's no substitute for trying a helmet on, so be prepared to send back a helmet if you buy online and find that it doesn't work for you.
Ensuring your helmet offers a secure fit should be the priority, and while there's no substitute for try-before-you-buy, it can be possible by using manufacturers' size guides and a fabric measuring tape to check the size of your head.
It's also worth checking the padding, how much there is and where it's placed, although even minimal padding may be adequate and too much padding may restrict airflow through the shell.
What type of helmet is best for me?
There are various types of road bike helmet. For example, some prioritise ventilation while others put aerodynamics at the top of the priority list.
The answer to this question will very much depend on what sort of riding you do and what you consider to be most important. If you primarily ride in hot conditions and don't care much for your average speed, then a highly ventilated helmet will be best, so look for something with plenty of large vents up front.
If you want to go fast more than anything, or you live in an area where overheating is a rarity, then the benefits of an aero helmet will outweigh the costs of reduced ventilation. If this is you, look at helmets with a more closed-off front and a sleeker more aerodynamic shape.
Of course, safety will be a priority to all of us, but some will hold it in a higher regard than others. For each helmet in this guide, we've outlined whether or not its design includes a consideration of rotational impact protection, which we've explained in more detail a little further below.
Are all road bike helmets safe?
Thankfully, the days of the practically useless leather 'hairnet’ style helmets are gone, and most modern helmets are constructed from EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) foam that can compress on impact to provide an effective crumple zone, with a polymer outer shell bonded to the foam adding further protection.
All modern cycling helmets will have passed the rigorous industry standards of safety testing, which are different for North America, Europe and Australasia. All of the helmets we feature on Cyclingnews will be from reputable brands that ensure these criteria are met, but it's always worth ensuring the helmet you are purchasing has passed the required tests for your region.
Beyond the set criteria, it's likely that some helmets are safer than others, and there are a select few independent testing facilities - Virginia Tech is the most prominent - that strive to provide a fair rating system. However, you can stack the odds in your favour with added safety technology such as rotational impact planes, as we'll explain below.