Best Protective BMX Helmets

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tsg classic

Shadow Classic

Classic by design, classic by name. This TSG helmet has been proven over years of use by many riders. Riders enjoy the optimized fit of this helmet and the simple but effective design.

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Cheapest

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s1 lifer bmx hat

S1 Lifer

S1 have created this helmet as a helmet perfect for children and beginners. They use the same design as cheap helmets but with an innovative new type of foam that is much more protective.

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poc mips fabio wibmer

POC Crane Fabio ED

POC create very good products. Extremely high-quality but not cheap. The experience they've gained from all other action sports is summed up in this sleek signature helmet.

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Cycling and pretty much all other wheeled sports are dangerous. Generally, the fewer wheels you have on your vehicle the more likely you are to crash and injure yourself. For example, you’re much more likely to fall off a unicycle than a car. This is why it’s important to wear a helmet, especially with BMX bikes who have two wheels.

There’s a lot of protection you can use when riding a bike. You can protect virtually your whole body with the number of products you can buy today. Helmets will always remain the most important thing you can wear on a bike.

Now we’ve established how important it is to wear a helmet when riding we can go through the best helmets you can buy and how to make sure you’re buying the right one. As the sport has expanded there’s become a large number of variations in the fit, style and comfort to choose from.

History of the BMX Helmet

historical bmx helmets early bike helmets

Bicycle helmets need to be lightweight, offer good ventilation and refrain from impeding the riders peripheral vision. Cycling can be a very strenuous sport, significantly raising your body temperature. The head needs to regulate its temperature when doing sport.

A very ineffective style of helmet that’s effectively a leather hairnet was used up until the 1970s. There was virtually no impact protection with these contraptions. The best you could hope for was scratch and scrape prevention.

During and after the 70s the bicycle boom took off in America. Many more adults took up the sport and better protection was necessary. Bell Sports and MSR were two manufacturers that took on this job. The polystyrene liners from motorcycle helmets were used as a base for these new designs.

Polycarbonate shells surrounded the polystyrene to create the first hard-shelled helmet, by Bell Sports, in 1975.

10 years later manufacturers were making quite a lot of progress. The Snell B85, B90 and B95 became the widely accepted standard. Ventilation was still virtually non-existent but at least riders had some impact protection.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that the in-mould micro shell construction technique was invented. This method quickly spread throughout the world and before long the vast majority of helmets were constructed using this method.

As in-mould micro shell construction evolved further we saw great advances in fitting systems, ventilation and padding. From there we have made great advances in various types of helmet for all riders.



Types of Helmet

Different cycling disciplines benefit from different styles of helmet. You’ll have probably seen a lot of riders with different types of helmet when out and about. In this section we’ll go through the different types of helmet BMX, mountain bike, trail and commuter riders use when out on the bike.

Skate / BMX

skate and bmx helmets

If you read above you will see that some of the first bicycle helmets had a very similar shape to the modern-day BMX helmets. Skate helmet designs are generally a super simple shape that covers the whole head with no frills and a regular amount of ventilation.

Apart from racing cyclists, most BMX riders aren’t concentrating on generating or retaining speed. For this reason, BMX helmets concentrate on harder impact protection and style instead of aerodynamics and full-face protection.

There are a lot fewer vents on a skate/BMX helmet than there are on other helmets. BMX races and skatepark trick lines are generally quite short. Some vents are still pretty essential but you can get by with far less than a long-distance cyclist or commuter.

Full Face / Mountain Bike

full face mountain bike

Full face helmets are a lot closer to motocross helmets than other cycling helmets. Some mountain bikers and most BMX racers use lightweight motocross helmets.

Although they look almost identical, you shouldn’t use these lightweight full-face mountain bike helmets on a motorbike. While they provide a lot of protection they aren’t quite up to the standard of motorbike helmets. A full-face helmet protects the whole head as normal, along with a large visor and a chin bar.

Downhill mountain bikers exclusively use these helmets as they truly offer the most protection possible when riding a mountain bike. There are so many dangerous obstacles such as trees and rocks on a downhill mountain bike track that this extensive protection is necessary.

These helmets are made with EPS foam surrounded by a plastic shell made from composite materials such as fibreglass or carbon fibre.

Full face helmets cover a much larger amount of the head and face than normal helmets. For this reason, it’s quite necessary to include extra vents to facilitate the added temperature and sweat of a helmet that covers the full head.

Commuter / Road

commuter and road bikes

Riding to work and around cities is becoming more and more common. Commuter riding hinders you with different issues to BMX riding. Peripheral visibility, the reduction of sweat and increased airflow over the head are all really important for a commuter helmet. After all who wants to get to work only to need another shower.

An aerodynamic, slightly elongated shape with an abundance of vents are the go-to style for these helmets. Having become the most popular cycling helmets in the world it’s no surprise they’ve evolved a lot since their inception.

Road riding will present a lot of different elements than mountain biking and manufacturers have used this to their advantage. You will often see commuter helmets with small mirrors, front/rear lights and sometimes even indicators.

TSG Dawn Helmet

TSG Dawn Helmet

Technical Safety Gear (TSG) makes protective gear for most action sports. Owned and run by experienced snowboarders, freeskiers, skaters, BMXers and mountain bikers, the team knows exactly what needs testing on every product they make.

In 1988 there wasn’t a wide range of options for every cycling product we benefit from today. TSG noticed this and decided to use their vast knowledge to design, build and field-test the next generation of protective products.

An inspiring aspect of the company is the dedication to make the best products for individual sports. You may have a larger target audience when targeting various sports with a single product but you can’t develop features specific to the needs of the sport when doing this.

The Dawn helmet is a very niche design in the world of BMX. A classic full-cut design with integrated ear protection is taken from the old halcyon days of skateboarding.

TSG’s successful hardshell construction is used to create the helmet using a single mould. Everyone knows a helmet's padding is just as important as the protection it provides. If you aren’t comfortable after hours of hard use then you’re less likely to use the helmet in the future. For this helmet, shock-absorbing EPS foam padding has been fitted in conjunction with an airflow channel system created by the 14 air vents.

Personally, I wouldn’t ride with this style of helmet but I appreciate the great design and development that has gone into this product. The first full cut skate helmet that is fully certified, meeting CE EN 1078 and CPSC safety standards.

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Bern Watts

Bern Watts BMX

Similar to a lot of companies on this list, Bern creates protective equipment for the streets, slopes, trails and water.

For over 15 years the company have designed creative, slightly odd-shaped helmets for all types of riders, perfect for any season in any climate.

The Watts helmet has been designated as a ‘blue-collar’ special for the everyday bike rider. A very unique baseball-style helmet has been used with a hard visor on the front. Coupled with the weird-looking vents this style quickly reminds me of a typical snowboarding helmet.

Rotational motion acquired through cycling accidents can cause further brain injuries after the initial impact. Integrated MIPS systems are becoming more and more common with high-quality helmets, the Bern Watts helmet is no different. When you take a tumble wearing this helmet the outer shell can move up to 15mm in any direction. While it’s not a crazy amount of movement, this is a great way to reduce rotational injuries when falling.

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Shadow Classic Helmet

the shadow conspiracy classic

You’ve probably heard of Shadow Conspiracy when reading my post about the best BMX chains[]. Barely anyone making BMX chains come close to the strength offered by Shadow.

Chains aren’t the only product made by the company, they’re just something that shows you the quality possible. Except for full bikes and frames, virtually every BMX part, tool, piece of protection and clothing is produced and offered. These parts are also ridden by some of the best BMX riders in the world.

This is called the classic helmet for that very reason. The design is simple, original and low profile. 10 professionally shaped vents are used in strategic positions to provide effective airflow while retaining strength and durability.

Shadow’s Classic helmet reminds me of a professional version of those original kids helmets. The liner and helmet shape of those kids helmets were always terrible.

High Impact ABS and a light EPS core liner will work alongside the dual sets of foam pads to ensure even distribution of impact force and a cushioned custom fit for every rider. You’d never get that with those pesky kids helmets.

After seeing the quality of the Shadow Interlock chains it’s no surprise this helmet has been extensively laboratory tested. EN and CPSC safety rating standards have been surpassed easily.

The Shadow Conspiracy - Classic Helmet Line

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S1 Lifer Helmet

s1 lifer bike helmet

Similar to a lot of helmet manufacturers, S1 was inspired by a lack of protection afforded to riders, more precisely traditional soft foam skate helmets. S1 tested these helmets extensively and determined any impact energy transfers straight through the outer shell and onto the riders skull. Instead of being dispersed as it should be.

A Lifer helmet was constructed to eliminate this problem. EPS Fusion Foam, claiming to be up to 5x more protective than regular foam, has been used. Unlike most other soft foam helmets, the lifer has passed the ASTM multiple impact test and the CPSC high impact test.

Children and beginners should consider purchasing this helmet. It’s not as customizable or attractive as some of the other helmets but the price compared to protection value is insane.

As I mentioned above, the construction is very similar to very basic BMX helmets with the same vents and padding. The important fact is that the foam is infinitely better than any kids or beginner BMX helmet.

You may have read elsewhere in this post that it’s recommended to get a new helmet every time you take a tumble and bump your helmet. S1 have achieved a rare ‘multi-impact’ certification, meaning they don’t recommend replacing your helmet even after an impact. This is a huge achievement for a company making affordable bike helmets.

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Fox Flight Sport Helmet

fox MTB flight sport

A majority of Fox helmets and protection have been designed for engine powered action sports. These sports create a need for a crazy amount of protection not necessary when riding BMX and mountain bikes. One of the few simpler helmets in the Fox collection is the Flight Sport helmet.

Designed specifically for dirt jump and BMX riding, the overall shape of this helmet is not too dissimilar to most helmets on this list. Ventilation is the main difference with this helmet. There are 8 vents, two at the front, two at the back and 4 on the top pointing towards the centre with angled plastic directing air onto the head. This outer shell is made from ABS hard plastic, very preferable for a lot of riders.

Inside the outer shell is a single density EPS liner isn’t amazing quality but it keeps the helmet costs low. High-quality padding is velcroed to the liner.

Many aspects of this helmet remind me of many ski helmets, obviously without the ear padding. I like this helmet as a cheap option for beginners but the popular branding takes away from the lack of impressive style you find on a lot of other Fox helmets.

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POC Crane MIPS Fabio ED

poc crane fabio wibmer

I LOVE POC sports. In a lot of ways, they’re the Apple of action sports protective equipment. Very minimalistic designs that pack a huge punch. Great designs that are super high quality and look great.

Similar to TSG, POC sports are a leading manufacturer of helmets, eyewear, body armour, apparel and accessories for nearly any action sports athlete. ‘Protect lives and reduce the consequences of accidents for athletes and anyone inspired to be one’ is a great motto followed by the company since their inception in Sweden, 2005. I love this message as they aren’t aiming to eliminate accidents and injury. They know it’s going to happen and their aim is simply to lessen the impact of said injuries.

Quality and development are super important for a company like POC. To support their research, development and quality assurance they established the POC Lab and WATTS Lab. These two scientific forums house some super-smart researches who put their talents toward medicine and safety.

Fabio Wibmer, the rider behind this signature helmet, is a top Austrian trials rider. After an ambitious career in motocross, Wibmer, like a lot of young trials riders, got hooked on the trials bug thanks to the GOAT, Danny MacAskill. It didn’t take long before Wibmer was skilled enough to join the Drop and Roll tour with Danny in 2014.

Viral YouTube videos aren’t the only thing in Fabio’s award cabinet, the prestigious GoPro of the World - Best Line contest was awarded to Fabio in 2015. It’s obvious trials riding isn’t the only discipline Fabio is dominating.

While he may be sporting a Red Bull livery these days, the underlayer is the MIPS approved Crane helmet. The durable dent-resistant shell surrounds an inventive new liner, combining multiple densities.

A stiffer outer layer deals with tougher impacts while the inner layer interfaces with your head and protects you from lower energy impacts. These two layers work together to progressively dissipate a force over the full helmet instead of an immediate shock.

Fit and comfort are very important. POC has used a unique size adjustment system to create a fit as perfect as most mountain bike helmets.

10 large vents increasing airflow, the inventive size adjustment feature, a super clean design and MIPS technology put this helmet right at the top of my list.

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Bell Local Helmet

bell local helmet

Roy Richter created Bell, one of the original cycling protection companies, in the 1950s. He built the company to meet the unmet needs of speed-hungry riders. It’s not surprising that these OG riders weren’t convinced of the capabilities of protective equipment and were very reluctant to try them out.

Richter helped all these adrenaline junkies out by building them cars and when people started realising the grim realities of going super fast and not protecting yourself they came straight to him.

Aesthetics are secondary when it comes to Bell. As a company, they know the products work well and that’s what they concentrate on. A product that works well is much more important than one that looks great.

The Local helmet is one of these products concentrating on needs before looks. A classic skate style has been married with modern comfort and technology. This new shape fits the riders head much better than previously, with the padded ratchet strap that refines the fit even further.

I am very fond of the ventilation used on this product. Simple rectangular slits have been used. Two on the front and back with a table of 6 on the top. This style is simple yet effective at keeping the rider cool and adequately protected.

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Giro Quarter MIPS Helmet

Giro Quarter MIPS

Jim Genets, created Giro in 1985, making it a relatively old company in this area. Genets established the brand with a focus on design solutions that enhance experience and performance. The original Giro logo, “tour or circuit”, intended to embody the ultimate feeling of riding a bike.

In the first few years, the company released both scientifically researched solutions and lightweight products. Prolight was the first lightweight helmet Genets produced and demoed at the Long Beach bike show. He came home with $100k in orders.

The Quarter helmet is amazingly advanced compared to those original designs. Unlike the usual ratchet strap or foam fit, the Quarter helmet uses 180 degrees of padding to create a super comfortable, almost perfect fit. Products like these are still quite rare but if you try one on they’re actually incredibly comfortable.

Since there’s such a large amount of padding on pad-fit helmets front and rear vents are highly restricted. You will notice that Giro has only used thin slits for the front and rear vents. In my view, this is one of the only downsides to a helmet like this.

Another interesting point is the way the MIPS technology is integrated with the 180-degree padding. The head is effectively floating comfortably within the helmet, providing a light fit.

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Fox Head Transition

fox head transition bmx

FOX is a true kingpin in the action sports world. They dominate the motocross and mountain bike suspension, gear and clothing markets. You can see on our dirt jump forks page[] that FOX suspension is admired by mountain bikers and motocross riders alike.

The Transition hardshell helmet has taken the experience FOX gained in the world of mountain bike helmets and transferred it over to a rare BMX product. From looking at the images above you can see this is a pretty unique bike helmet design.

Increased coverage and aerodynamic venting were intended to split this helmet apart from the rest. A lot of riders don’t quite see some aspects of this helmet as advantages.

‘The Heat Stroke’ is a name suggested by one rider. Instead of increasing airflow, the Transitions vents seem to retain a lot of heat. Increased head coverage and lightness while retaining durability are two great points in favour of this helmet. Bad quality padding and a lack of adjustability prevent this helmet from being higher on this list.

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What to look for in a BMX helmet?

Build and Protection Quality

This is a category that engulfs almost everything physical about a helmet. From the outer shell, foam and padding to the ratchet system and chin strap, it’s all-important when choosing a new product.

When testing out a helmet make sure to test out how easy it is to put on, how easy it is to tighten and loosen the straps and how well it stays on your head when you move abruptly.

In the UK and some other countries, there is no requirement to comply with any safety standards so it’s paramount that you do your own research. Ensure your target helmet has a high-quality outer shell (probably ABS), sweat-resistant padding and the latest quality EPS foam.

The fact that manufacturers can take no notice of safety standards makes it all the more worthwhile when you find a helmet that has passed all of your criteria. The UK’s British Standards Institute adopted Europe’s General Product Safety Regulations in 2005, with the GPSR standard being EN 1078. The standard for the BSI is BS EN 1078.

These standards are relatively basic and most British helmets meet these regulations. American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) F1952-15 places alongside the Snell Memorial Foundation as the most sought after accreditation.

An ASTM accreditation is sought after by most full-face downhill mountain bike helmets as the testing is more rigorous than European and even Snell safety standards.

MIPS has been mentioned at the end of this article. It is a relatively new feature used on some high-quality helmets. To put it simply, this technology is placed between the padding and foam, which moves up to 15mm in all directions with the intention of reducing rotational injuries to the brain.

Fit

Since you’re already looking into the best BMX helmet to buy you may as well make sure you get it right. Riders often guess at their size and then complain when it completely doesn’t fit. Granted some companies aren’t great at sizing their products correctly but I think it’s even rarer for people to take correct head measurements.

When measuring your head you need to measure the circumference of your head just above your eyebrows. A 52cm - 55cm circumference is generally a small, 56cm - 60cm are medium and 60cm - 64cm are large.

These sizes aren’t a hard and fast rule but if you aren’t able to physically try on the helmet these sizes work quite well.

Comfort

Fit and comfort are quite closely related. Getting the right size is important but it’s just as necessary to try on a helmet and ensure it’s comfortable enough to wear for extended periods.

Foam and padding are the parts that make a helmet comfortable. EPS foam is generally the most comfortable foam integrated into a helmet. Attached to the foam is the padding. Normally designed by the helmets manufacturer and varying a lot between helmets.

When looking at the padding of a product you should check the placement of this padding on the head, the quality and the feel. You will produce a lot of sweat when riding and any padding that disintegrates as soon as it gets wet a few times won’t be useful after a few months.

Don’t fixate too much on the amount of padding. As long as there is enough to stop the front, back and top of your head from touching the foam you won’t notice anything extra.

Ventilation

I have mentioned ventilation a lot in this article. It’s more important than people think and it’s one of the aspects of a helmet that can be significantly different between two helmets.

Most BMX helmets have around 8 vents spread evenly over the centre of the shell. Years ago the majority of vents were mainly circular and didn’t have any targeted ventilation. It wasn’t long before innovative cycling companies changed up the direction, shape and number of vents on a helmet.

The importance of ventilation is for keeping the rider's head cool. Directing the stream of air into various parts of the helmet to cover the head will reduce heat and sweat.

It’s much more important to use effective ventilation on a full face or race helmet. Full face helmets cover the whole head and thus need to reduce heat even more than normal. Racing bike riders exert tremendous amounts of energy for long periods. Keeping themselves cool places quite high up on the list of importance.

BMX riders on the other hand concentrate on short stints of exertion and need more force protection when performing tricks. Manufacturers see less of a necessity to remove much-needed strength on these helmets and so only use around 8 vents in a pretty standard pattern.



Is a cheap helmet as safe as an expensive one?

More expensive helmets will generally be better in a lot of aspects, although impact resistance won’t be altered a massive amount. You will be adequately protected with a cheaper helmet.

MIPS technology is relatively new and commonly only implemented in more expensive bike helmets. If you can afford it, a helmet with MIPS will add extra protection in some circumstances. Added comfort, customizability and extra features will benefit a more expensive helmet but these aren’t essential on a cycling helmet.

Where can I find a helmet for my XXL head?

Riders with larger heads don’t have to worry about being left out. While you may not be able to fit into any helmet, many companies are looking out for you.

While most headwear is created one size fits all, most cycling companies make helmets in a couple of different sizes. This takes care of most head sizes from the offset.

It’s also becoming more common for BMX helmets to have the rear adjustment for the back of your head. This feature is much better than the simple helmet shape you had to fit into previously. You’re able to move this band up and down so when a hat needs to sit higher on a riders head you can still tighten the band enough to be comfortable.

What if I have a bald head?

Having a bald head doesn’t affect which helmet you should pick in a safety sense. You should seriously concentrate on the comfort and fit of any helmet you’re looking to buy. Without any hair to provide padding between you and your helmet the quality of the padding is all the more important.

How do I decrease the amount I sweat when wearing a helmet?

Sweating is an obvious part of any exercise. The amount of sweat can be controlled though. For anyone riding their bike to work or to a social gathering the last thing you want to have to deal with is soaking wet, smelly hair from your helmet.

The most obvious way to reduce sweat is by buying a helmet with loads of ventilation. Take a look at some generic road racing or commuter helmets and you’ll see more vents than shell. As well as keeping weight down this will also direct a lot of air over your hair.

Some helmets can be purchased with a removable lining. This won’t do much for the amount of sweat you produce but being able to wash the lining will prevent any long term odours.

How Often Should You Replace a Bike Helmet?

There are several reasons and time limits to replace a bike helmet. Firstly, if you take a bad fall it’s highly recommended that you replace your helmet. Most riders don’t have the funds to follow this extreme advice so my recommendation would be to concentrate on the times you actively hit your head when you fall.

Secondly, if you notice a crack or damage on the shell or padded inner of your helmet you should get it replaced. Cracks are much less protective than regular plastic and will worsen very unpredictably when they take a secondary impact.

Finally, if you don’t run into any of the reasons above, most companies and research institutions recommend a life cycle of 5 to 10 years. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) agrees with the above timeframe. On the other hand, The Snell Memorial Foundation, who certify helmets for safety, state a firm 5 years.



What is a MIPS Helmet?

what is mips?

A Multi-directional Impact Protection System[] is a Brain Protection System (BPS) that is integrated inside some newer high-quality bike helmets. The system is placed between the comfort padding and EPS foam. MIPS is used to reduce forces from impacting the skull when taking a tough fall.

Nearly every time a rider falls from their bike they hit their head at an angle, exerting forces in various, unnatural directions. A human brain really dislikes rotational forces and while any helmet will reduce impact injuries it will rarely reduce any rotational forces.

To combat this issue MIPS technology allows the outer layers of the helmet to rotate up to 15mm in all directions. When a helmet comes into contact with the ground it will use up this 15mm before rotating the riders head. It may not seem like much but after conducting over 31k tests it’s been statistically proven this technology helps riders.

Read more about MIPS technology here

mips helmet technology

Bicycle Helmet Laws

Laws surrounding bicycle helmets and protection are still hotly debated. Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Iceland, New Zealand, Sweden, the USA and others all have some form of mandatory helmet law in place.

Several other countries have had forms of laws and other rules before abolishing them. The UK parliament was presented with a bill that proposed making wearing a helmet compulsory. Unanimously every major cycling organisation and magazine came out against the bill and it was quickly rejected. I think it’s very important to wear a helmet when riding a bike but the law shouldn’t force this.




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