Regardless of where you live, odds are strong that your child either loves or will love biking. A 2018 participation report by industry monitor PeopleForBikes found that more than half of all U.S. children rode a bike last year. It’s social, it’s exercise, and it’s adventure. But how do you help ensure your child stays safe while riding a bike alone or with friends? The answer is relatively simple: You buy him or her a great helmet that fits, and ensure he or she wears it every time.
See more: Best Balance Bikes
The American Academy of Pediatrics confirms what you already know: a helmet is effective at preventing a traumatic brain injury during a bike crash — but only if it fits correctly and is secured appropriately. Seattle Children’s Hospital offers a handy infographic, which recommends a snug fit one- or two-fingers-width’ from the eyes, with slackless Y-straps over the ears secured snugly under the chin. But a helmet’s protection is only as good as its construction, and two organizations — the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) — work to ensure helmets’ components are ready to protect. Always look for at least one, as do the options on this list. The rest is up to you and your child.
The greatest number of positive Amazon reviews is nothing to scoff at, and Schwinn’s Thrasher wins by a landslide. After a century of building bikes and components, the company has learned a few tricks.
Pros: An EPS foam core is protected by a three-piece plastic microshell for a lightweight, protective package. Thanks to a dial on its back, kids ages five to eight can dial in the perfect fit while growing with them over the coming years. We also like the fact that it comes in an adult version, so that you and your child can match. (Don’t laugh — wearing a helmet while riding with your son or daughter is an important factor in his or her use of a helmet.)
Cons: While this is a great, affordable bike helmet, it’s only available in bigger sizes, precluding it from being used for toddlers. If your child is using a balance bike, he or she needs a helmet now. For those younger riders, another option has to be found.
While flashy patterns are all well and good for younger kids, as your child approaches tween-hood, he or she may not want the flashy patterns of the early years. The Razor V-17 Youth Multi-Sport helmet comes in fun colors but ditches the cutesy patterns for fashion-conscious ages eight to 14.
Pros: As kids bike to and from the skatepark, they’ll need a helmet that can perform in both. That’s why we like the V-17, which has 17 vents to ditch heat during high-output activities. It also comes in a number of colors so that he or she can find the perfect look.
Cons: Many negative reviews complained of the helmet’s inability to be customized to fit, as others are able to do on this list. For that reason, careful attention should be taken and an accurate measurement achieved prior to purchase.
It’s the details that we think ultimately comprise a premium product. The Nutcase Little Nutty bike helmet has them — but you’ll pay for it. Made from the same EPS foam that most helmets utilize, the Little Nutty’s secondary features are where it really distinguished itself.
Pros: The bike helmet features a magnetic closure system that aids its security, and anything easier with kids usually translates into more often. Then there’s the removable bill, which is a nice addition for a sunny ride to school or to friends’. Finally, 360-degree reflectivity helps keep them visible coming and going. While the company doesn’t give age ranges, it fits a head from 18 to 20.5 inches (approximately ages two to six or seven).
Cons: A forgetful kid can cost a lot with this helmet, so if your child has a habit of leaving things around town, the risk is likely too high.
Giro may make a great kid’s helmet, but the company is legendary in the cycling world, and if you’re a bike guy, you’ll likely gravitate to a brand you know and trust. This is a safe bet.
Pros: A polycarbonate shell on this bike helmet protects an EPS liner to cushion and spread impacts. It’s also nice to have a built-in visor. Girls will especially appreciate the ponytail compatibility, as few others have this feature. Finally, it comes in a range of circumferences, and the smallest, extra small (47 to 51 centimeter circumference), will fit children in their first year.
Cons: Second only to the multisport helmets on this list, this may be the least breathable helmet here with the fewest number of cutouts. For longer trips, some kids may find it too hot.
Some kids just want to burn down the world. For them, the skull-imprinted Mongoose MG77927-2 offers a grinning death mask with which they can terrorize the suburban roads and city streets while you and your partner gasp in mock horror.
Pros: While the cavernous eye sockets on its rear are certainly noteworthy, they also allow airflow to your kid’s noggin, which is pumped in through ports on the front. We also liked the bike helmet’s plush pads inside, which were some of the most comfortable on this list. This is a multi-sport design, appropriate in both the skatepark and the approaching streets. It’s best for kids in the latter part of their first decade through the early teens.
Cons: It takes a certain type of dad to buy his son or daughter a skull helmet. If you’re not the type, there are many other less-shocking options available.
Forget all the tech specs and inflated prices; the Bell Rally is a quality helmet with simplicity and affordability. If you’re looking for quality protection without dropping a ton of money, this is it.
Pros: For kids aged five to eight, the Rally customizes its fit with each wear thanks to an internal harness system. It’s a simple and effective means of making sure the best fit is achieved without a lot of time-consuming manual adjustment. Sixteen vents offer a ton of breathability for summer days, which a pinch-proof buckle helps prevent injury.
Cons: Some complained that the myriad vents allowed longer hair to get stuck, creating a painful removal. For this reason, we’d recommend it for kids with shorter hair.
True, this may be branded for action sports, but your child may not want to look like he’s gearing up for the Tour de France. This bike helmet still meets CPSC and ASTM safety standards as a bike helmet while allowing wider use and a cooler silhouette.
Pros: EPS foam with a hard protective shell ensures your child is protected when wearing this bike helmet, while ventilation ports keep him or her cool. We also like its range of sizes (even big enough for you). The small is appropriate for ages five and up, but confirm your son or daughter’s head circumference prior to purchase.
Cons: Not all kids want to look like they’re headed to the X Games, and this style of helmet often runs hotter than the traditional bicycle helmet. As such, if your kid stays away from action sports, there are better options.
This is a stellar bike helmet for kids five and older, and is also ideal for skateboarders and roller skaters.
Pros: The only thing you really need to know about Triple 8’s Brainsaver is that it’s the helmet of choice of badass pro skateboarder Mike Vallely. For years Mike V refused to don a helmet, but now he has 2 girls, so suck it. It’s dual certified for bikes and skateboarding and also incorporates MIPS technology, which improves protection during angular impacts – not just head-on collisions.
Cons: The fit can be a little too bulky for some.
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