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(The Gear Loop) - Gone are the days when keen road cyclists would venture out with nothing but a jaunty cloth cycling cap atop their heads. Today, the vast majority of riders understand the importance of a good, safe cycling helmet.

Although any CE approved lid will arguably do, road cyclists tend to look for something that’s lightweight, aerodynamically sound and boasts advanced fitting systems that allow for micro-adjustments on the move. This aids comfort for those spending long hours in the saddle.

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We’ve selected five of our favourite road cycling helmets currently on sale, all chosen for their performance features, slick design and enhanced safety attributes, whether that’s something like Lazer’s recent KinetiCore technology or built-in Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) - both of which protect the brain from rotational forces experienced in a crash.

On top of this, we’ve attempted to cater for a variety of budgets, although the absolute cutting-edge in cycling helmet safety tech doesn’t necessarily come cheap and after all, can you really put a price on your head?

The best road cycling helmets 

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Specialized S-Works Prevail II Vent

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For 

  • Fantastically light
  • Vented for great air circulation 
  • MIPS protection

Against

  • Chin straps could be better
  • It’s expensive 

Specialized’s Prevail helmet has long been worn by the pro peloton, chosen for its aerodynamic shape and massive cooling power thanks to a series of vents that cover the top of the helmet.

In fact, Specialized removed yet more foam in this second iteration, thus creating even more cooling channels but also allowing for the MIPS technology to be integrated into the padding but still allowing for 10 to 15 millimeters of rotation in every direction.

It’s also ANGi ready, which allows users to easily attach a device to the unit, which will detect an incident and alert family, loved ones or friends to the whereabouts, so help can get there faster.

In terms of adjustability, there’s a rotary dial at the back that allows for simple micro-adjustments on the move.

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Lazer Vento KinetiCore

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For

  • Clever impact protection tech
  • Highly aerodynamic
  • Keeps head cool

Against

  • It’s not cheap

Lazer has just announced its latest line of KinetiCore helmets, which is essentially the company’s take on MIPS, without the need to bolt on additional gubbins.

This has allowed Lazer to design helmet shapes around its proprietary technology, which has already received the same five-star Virginia Tech helmets safety rating as MIPS. Weight has also been greatly reduced.

The result is a highly technical helmet that has been aerodynamically tested at a 15-degree angle, the angle a sprinter adopts when fully lit-up.

A clever Venturi ventilation system draws cold air into the front of the helmet, cools the head and then expels hot air out of the rear. Lazer is one of the only helmet manufacturers to test its products on a bespoke dummy for air flow and cooling, quantifying its technology before release.

Even the fit system is clever, shunning the bulky dial on the rear for a scrolling mechanism that’s tucked high on the back of the helmet for improved aerodynamics. 

It’s a highly accomplished lid and because of this, you’ll pay premium prices.

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POC Ventral Air MIPS

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For

  • Supreme cooling
  • Innovative styling 
  • Top safety credentials

Against

  • Fit not suited to all heads
  • Style not for everyone
  • Too cool for cold days?

To our eyes at least, POC’s latest Ventral Air model looks like little else on the market and is all the more stylish for it. Firmly sitting at the premium end of the road bike helmet spectrum, it has been rigorously tested to improve air flow at peak cycling performance.

Its aerodynamic design has been carefully considered to reduce drag and turbulence too, while the entire package has been honed and refined so it is now lighter than ever.

That said, the styling won’t be to all tastes and some of the colour schemes are bold, to say the least.

Plus, we’ve found that POC road cycling helmets aren’t suited to all head shapes, despite the ease of micro-adjustments via a rotary dial on the rear of the headband. 

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Giro Synthe II

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For

  • Great value
  • Lightweight and slim
  • MIPS-enabled

Against

  • Sensitive to colour
  • Fit system not the most robust

Another high performance road helmet that places ventilation at the top of its list of priorities, the  Giro Synthe II is a great value option for those looking to obtain a high performance helmet without breaking the bank.

Giro offers an In-Mould polycarbonate shell and Thermoformed SL Roll Cage, alongside the MIPS technology, for a fantastic suite of safety features.

We’ve found the X-Static anti-microbial padding and Roc-Loc 5 Air fit system to prove very comfortable over long distances.

The only thing we’ve noticed after many months of use is that fit system feels a little flimsy when compared to more expensive rivals on this list.

Also, the white/silver combo can fade a bit with time, so perhaps best to opt for the darker colours.

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Bell Formula Road Helmet

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For

  • Fantastic price
  • MIPS technology
  • Really comfortable

Against

  • Not the most advanced helmet 

If budgets are tight, things don’t get much better value for money than this MIPS-enabled performance lid from Bell. It packs 19 vents for excellent cooling and follows similar form to its more expensive rivals, packing an aerodynamically-enhanced shape.

There’s a simple, rotary dial Float Fit system, as well as a "Sweat Guide" pad design that pulls moisture off the skin and away from your eyes or glasses. 

A durable polycarbonate shell bonded directly to an EPS shock-absorbing core sees this helmet tick off all of the safety concerns, while the addition of MIPS at this price is a bonus. Even if the helmet isn’t as feature-rich as rivals.

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What to look for in a road cycling helmet

Get the right fit

It sounds ridiculously simple, but make sure you order the right size of helmet to fit your head and be sure to measure up before ordering. Granted, there is an element of adjustability in most modern helmets, but something that is too small or too large simply won’t function properly in the event of an accident.

Similarly to the world of motorcycle helmets, you’ll find that some brands will suit your head shape better than others, so if you can get in store to try some on, that’s great. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to send a helmet back and test a different brand if it doesn’t feel right.

Find your features

Whether it’s a heavily vented helmet for excellent air circulation, an insanely aerodynamic shape or the ability to fit an ANGi crash sensor, today’s helmet manufacturers offer a number of additional features to entice customers.

For us, fit, comfort and airflow rank up there with the most important considerations, as an ill-fitting helmet can prematurely put the brakes on a ride. Similarly, sweaty heads are not enjoyable, so look for those designed to cool.

Safety first

Always look out for the EN1078 certification when buying in Europe, as this proves that the helmet has undergone a series of safety tests and complies to strict guidelines. In the United States, the CPSC certification is the one to look out for, or research the correct certification for your country.

Writing by Leon Poultney.