Bike Helmet Buying Guide




Whether you’re riding on the road, track or trails, head protection and rider safety is paramount. The main purpose of a bike helmet is to protect your head in the event of a collision or crash so it’s wise to invest in the best protection possible. Bike helmets (also known as bike ‘lids’) need to fit comfortably and securely while providing adequate ventilation, so you can enjoy your ride without noticing the helmet is even there. Although using a helmet is not a legal requirement in the UK, most riders do and nearly all cycling events require you to wear one to participate.





Cycling Helmets are made up of two parts; an expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam liner which is designed to compress and absorb shock on impact and a tough outer shell which protects the EPS foam liner from bumps and scratches. 


Bike helmets with an ‘in-moulded’ construction fuse the inner liner and the outer shell together which creates more strength, protects the shock-absorbing EPS core and prolongs the life of the helmet. 


Some bike helmets now also use the MIPS Brain Protection System (Multi-Impact Protection System) to separate the shell and liner with a low friction layer. This reduces rotational trauma caused by angled impacts.




The best cycling helmet for you will mostly depend on your riding style, whether it be rushing to work, sprinting up the tarmac or snaking down some gnarly singletrack. Your budget will also determine the quality of the fit, weight and overall protection level; premium bike lids are lighter, better ventilated, more comfortable and boast more high-tech features for ultimate head protection. Regardless of which style you opt for though, the bottom line is that you should invest in the best bike helmet that you can afford and make sure that it comfortably shields your head without you really noticing that it’s there.





Road cycling helmets are generally lightweight with plenty of air vents to keep you cool whilst you put in the miles. The aerodynamic performance is also important when it comes to road cycling helmets and the vents force the airflow through the helmet to the back of the head. 



Urban helmets, or ‘leisure’ helmets offer lightweight and well-ventilated head protection with a bit of extra style. More akin to a snowboarding or skateboarding helmet, these stylish lids are perfect for city commuting and casual riding. 



Mountain bike helmets, or ‘MTB’ helmets are a bit more robust and provide more head coverage than road lids and will sometimes provide protection around the neck and ears too. This does mean that there is a little less venting than on a road helmet but choosing modern designs will help keep you comfortable. MTB helmets usually have a visor to prevent mud and dirt flicking up into your face, and mesh on the air vents to prevent foliage and bugs getting caught between your head and helmet.



The ultimate head protection for Downhill and Bike Park riders, Full Face Bike Helmets provide coverage around the head, jaw, teeth and cheeks. Ventilation is minimal and they are heavier than standard cycling helmets so cycling uphill wearing one of these is not recommended - take the uplift! 



Kids’ cycling helmets come in two styles: the bike-specific design (which has the same technical features and style as adult road and MTB helmets), and the skate helmet design (for kids who enjoy skateboarding as much as cycling). Kids’ helmets come in a wide range of colours and fun designs which they will love to wear. 

Shop all Cycling Helmets >







All helmets sold at Cycle Surgery meet or exceed Europe’s EN 1078 helmet safety standard. This is a standard which assesses construction, shock absorption, retention system qualities, field of vision and chin strap quality to ensure a high level of protection. 

Most bike lids are classified as ‘single impact’ which means that your helmet will need replacing after a collision, or even a hard blow. The reason for this is that the EPS core does not regain its original strength or protective form once it has been compressed on impact. It’s also recommended that you replace your helmet at least every few years to ensure maximum safety.




Cycling helmets feature large vents, designed to keep your head cool by letting heat escape from the back of the lid while pulling cooler air through the front. Helmets with more air vents are naturally lighter and cooler, but they can also offer less protection.




Any extra weight you can lose in your helmet, the less you’ll have to lug up those hills! As with everything in cycling, weight savings mean more speed, so although you’ll pay more for a lightweight helmet, those marginal gains might mean a new PB on a time trial or a few notches up on your Strava ranking.




To make the shell of the helmet feel comfortable and snug around your head, there is a layer of padding around the inside of the helmet. These are usually removable and some models offer extra pads of varying thickness so you can achieve the right fit specifically for you. The padding also helps to wick sweat away from your head to keep you feeling fresh.




Cycling helmets should fit snugly and comfortably onto your head to provide good all round coverage. If a bike helmet is too big or too small, it won’t actually protect your head in the way that it should, so taking the time to try different styles on for size is crucial for your safety. You can also adjust the size of the helmet using a retention system which, at the turn of a dial, makes the inner fit of the helmet larger or smaller as required.


How To Find The Right Cycling Helmet Size


  1. Measure around the widest point of your head, which is about 2.5cm or 1 inch above the eyebrows. 
  2. Measure your head a few times to ensure that you have an accurate measurement.
  3. Check the measurement against a brand’s size guide to find the recommended size for their range. (Each brand cuts the shape of their bike helmets slightly differently, so some brands might fit the shape of your head better than others.)
  4. Try the helmet on.
  5. Adjust the fit by using the ‘retention system,’ which usually includes a rear dial or size adjusting mechanism to make sure the helmet fits snugly around your head. Some women’s-specific bike helmets offer more space at the rear of the retention system to comfortably poke a ponytail through for added comfort.
  6. Use different sized lining pads to further adjust the fit. The best helmet lining pads are sweat-wicking, antibacterial and removable so that they can be cleaned and dried for fresher riding.
  7. Check that the helmet does not obscure your field of vision (even full face helmets provide riders with good all-round vision).
  8. The chin strap should be firm, close-fitting and fit comfortably around your ears, but not restrictive or uncomfortable. If you can fit a couple of fingers between your chin and the strap, your helmet has the right balance of stability and comfort.
  9. Shake your head while wearing the helmet to check that it is secure.