How to choose the best road cycling helmet for you

Cycling helmets use a lightweight, shock-absorbing polystyrene with a hard outer shell to protect riders’ heads from relatively low-speed impacts. They’re not compulsory on UK roads but if you’re racing in a British Cycling or UCi event you have to wear one, you also have to wear one as a condition of entry to most sportives and other mass participation rides.

While all the bike helmets in our range meet the same European safety standard, they can be quite different in their weight, level of ventilation, retention system, aerodynamics and of course style. The one you choose will also depend on the type of cycling you’re doing. For example, the Giro Air Attack aero helmet with its integrated visor would be perfect for a lone breakaway in a road race, but you might prefer the more practical, better-vented Van Rysel RoadR 500 for the daily commute – unless you were keen to arrive at work really early!

Here’s our guide to choosing the right helmet for your type of cycling.

Protection

All Decathlon helmets meet or exceed the EN 1078 European safety standard. This covers helmet construction including field of vision, shock absorbing properties, retention system properties plus labelling information. The impact test is based on a speed of just over 12mph – so a road cycling helmet will offer a degree of protection for a fall but its lightweight EPS foam construction is not designed for collisions with motor vehicles.

Look out for

A helmet should always be replaced after a crash if you hit your head, because EPS foam protection is for one-time use. Also be careful not to drop your helmet – if you crack the foam it needs to be replaced.

Ventilation

Modern helmets have vents which are more than just holes in the shell: they are channels designed to create airflow over your head with corresponding ‘exhaust’ ports at the rear. The Giro cycle helmet has 21 vents to ensure you don’t overheat during warmer weather or tougher workouts.

Look out for

For summer riding more vents means a cooler head; for winter a more enclosed style will supply extra insulation.

Aerodynamics

Your head plays an important part in the aerodynamics of your riding setup. The faster you go, the increasingly important aerodynamics becomes. Better aerodynamics generally means fewer vents, directing the airflow smoothly over your helmet rather than into it, so the Giro Air Attack has only six vents. If you’re riding up long climbs in the Alps in summer, for example, it might not be your first choice, but if you’re looking to save watts when going at higher speeds, Giro wind tunnel tested it to be 17 seconds faster over 40km at 40kph than a fully vented helmet.

The Van Rysel Aerofit 900 has been designed to offer an ideal compromise between ventilation and aerodynamics: with 16 vents and a rear extractor port it will keep your head cool but, like the Giro Air Attack, it has been wind tunnel tested to minimise its drag coefficient.

Look out for

If you’re combining triathlon or time trialing with road riding, look for an aerodynamic helmet with fewer vents.

Retention systems

Van Rysel helmets use a new turn-ring system at the rear that allows you to achieve a comfortable and secure fit quickly and easily. Giro’s Roc Loc 5 works in a similar way so that you can adjust the helmet to your exactly to the size and shape of your head.

Clips under the chin are adjustable so that you can tighten the helmet down securely.

Look out for

Although helmet retention systems have a range of adjustability it’s always a good idea to measure the circumference of your head to ensure you get a helmet that fits correctly.

Weight

In terms of comfort the lighter the helmet the better – particularly for longer rides. Even the entry-level Van Rysel RoadR100 is competitively light, with the medium size weighing just 240g.

Look out for

You won’t notice you’re wearing a sub-300g helmet. Vented helmets will be lighter as a rule of thumb, but even the Giro Air Attack with its minimal venting comes in at 275g without the visor.

Conclusion

It’s up to you whether you decide to wear a road cycling helmet or not, but with attractive designs, lower weights and better technical specifications, why not make a helmet part of your cycling kit?