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Buyer's guide to cheap bike helmets

By Cycling Plus | Monday, February 10, 2014 9.00am

Bought a new bike recently? There's a fair chance you'll also be looking to buy a new helmet to protect your bonce – and we've rounded up some of the best and cheapest lids on the market.

It's essential to get a helmet that fits properly – there’s little point in wearing one that doesn’t. It should follow your head’s shape, and be comfortable but snug. Helmets aren’t all the same shape internally, and some manufacturers have a distinct shape to their helmets – rounder, or more oval – so you should be able to find one that suits your head.

We've collected together a range of helmets that can all be found for below £50 if you search around (we also include links for the best prices we found online), despite some of their recommended prices being much higher. Bear in mind that fit is a personal thing, so we’d always recommend trying before buying if you can.

Rest assured, all the helmets that we’ve tested here have passed the EN1078 European standard, and some have also passed American CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) certification.

GT Corsa

RRP £29.99

Four stars:

 Buy now from:

Amazon

The gt corsa:

Despite being the cheapest helmet in this round-up, the Corsa performs incredibly well, and at 270g, its weight is competitive. The 22 vents work well, sucking air into the internal channels and doing a good job of keeping us cool, even in warmer weather. The retention system is a simple ratchet; it lacks padding but its shape keeps it comfortable. It’d be nice to see it drop down a little lower to offer slightly more security. There’s more exposed EPS (expanded polystyrene; used as a shock absorber) here than on some of the other helmets – this is a way of cutting costs, but it makes the helmet slightly less bump resistant. Good performance, good price, but the retention system (the way the helmet stays in place during a crash) is basic.

  • Weight: 270g (S/M)
  • Vents: 22

Uvex i-vo

RRP £44.99

Four stars:

 Buy now from:

Amazon

The uvex i-vo:

Cheaper helmets are often big, heavy lumps, but not the i-vo. Ours tipped the scales at 205g while offering a high degree of adjustability and decent venting. The tongue-and-groove clasp does take a bit of getting used to though.

  • Weight: 205g
  • Vents: 24

Spiuk Zirion

RRP £49.99

Three stars:

 Buy now from:

Wiggle

The spiuk zirion:

Although the Zirion has more vents than most of the other helmets on test, with relatively little internal channelling, ventilation isn’t quite up with the best. Where the Zirion does gain points though, is in its fit and build quality. The Compactfix retention system is a relatively basic affair, but the unpadded cradle drops low, hugging the base of your skull and providing a very secure fit. The front of the helmet sits low on the forehead but doesn’t obstruct vision. The Zirion is fully in-moulded, which adds strength, helps reduce weight and reduces the risk of bumps and chips if you drop it.

  • Weight: 244g (M/L)
  • Vents: 29

Specialized Echelon II

RRP £50

Three stars:

 Buy now from:

Leisure Lakes Bikes

The specialized echelon ii:

The Echelon II doesn't have full in-moulding (where the outer shell and protective inner material are moulded together), so it misses out on some of the ventilation offered by pricier Specialized helmets. The inclusion of its Mouthport over the forehead offers some cooling though, so long as the pads don’t shift in front of it. The fit is excellent – it’s a comfortable lid and very secure. The cradle is unpadded, but its large surface area spreads pressure well, our only complaint being that the poppers used for vertical adjustment had filled with EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam, making it difficult to adjust. The Tri-Fiz straps are shaped well and sit close to the face, reducing buzzing. The top of the lid has more exposed EPS than others.

  • Weight: 308g (M)
  • Vents: 31

Giro Feature

RRP £59.99

Four stars:

 Buy now from:

Cyclestore

The giro feature:

The new Giro Feature has the weight, comfort and looks of a much more expensive lid. Coverage is very good – it wraps around your head, rather than perching on top – and it’s very secure. There are also lots of colour options to choose from.

  • Weight: 300g
  • Vents: 12

Bell Muni

RRP £59.99

Five stars:

 Buy now from:

Wiggle

The bell muni:

Safely commuting by bicycle is as much a matter of making sure motorists know you’re there as being aware of your surroundings, and Bell’s Muni urban helmet is designed to help with both. As with Bell’s previous Citi and Metro urban helmets, the Muni – and the smaller but similarly styled Arella women’s version – sports built-in loops to accommodate add-on rear flashers. However, this model goes one step further by cleanly integrating a pair of LED lights in the retention system. Up front, the removable visor also doubles as a mount for the surprisingly bright Flea LED light from sister company Blackburn.

  • Weight: 290g
  • Vents: 21

Limar 777

RRP £69.99

Two stars:

 Buy now from:

Halfords

The limar 777:

The 777 is very light, which helps long-ride comfort, but the main vents at the front feature bug netting and this affects ventilation noticeably, the non-netted side vents cooling your head more. It also suffers from a relatively poor retention system, with a small cradle attached to a plastic head band that wasn’t pliable enough to form to our tester’s head shape. The cradle is on an articulated section though, which means it can hug the base of your skull. We were also disappointed with the finish of the 777 – there was excess glue holding the head band in place and in the join between the EPS and the bug netting.

  • Weight: 236g (L)
  • Vents: 22

Lazer 02

RRP £69.99

Four stars:

 Buy now from:

Wiggle

The lazer o2:

Lazer's 02 has one of the biggest cradles in the test, with a sculpted shape that drops it below the base of the skull. The Roll-Sys retention system uses a turn wheel on top of the helmet to provide non-stepped size adjustment, so it can be tweaked to just the right diameter. The helmet is a little wider than some, and suits a rounder head. The vents covering the front of the helmet are a generous size, and internal air channels keep air moving over the head, though the long brow padding gets a touch sweaty. Our only quibble comes from the straps; if they started lower in the front of the helmet it would make adjustment easier.

  • Weight: 275g (uni)
  • Vents: 24

Catlike Vacuum

RRP £79.99

Four stars:

 Buy now from:

Wiggle

The catlike vacuum:

The Catlike Vacuum certainly has a distinctive look about it, and although the vent count might be quite low, this doesn’t mean that it’s a hot lid. The inwardly-pointing vents along the sides and the main front vent suck air in, and this is then pumped out along the top and out the back, resulting in one of the coolest lids here. Unusually, the front straps are mounted to the bottom of the rim, and as more of the strap is held away from the head they get less sweaty. The MPS Evo retention system is the only downside – it could do with being sturdier, although the pliable cradle is comfortable.

  • Weight: 278g (Uni)
  • Vents: 19

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