Bicycle Helmet Performance
Bicycle Helmet Fit and Comfort.The fit and comfort of a bicycle helmet are critical; if it's not comfortable, you'll be tempted not to wear it. But follow this rule of thumb: the helmet should be snug.
Once you've fit the helmet to your head, you might think you won't have to adjust it again. But the density of the interior padding changes depending on the temperature and how much moisture it takes on. So, you'll need to make chin strap adjustments from time to time, and bicycle helmet reviews on Bestcovery.com indicate that users find few helmets as easy to adjust as the Bell Venture (starting at $29).
Although having lots of interior padding (in conjunction with the EPS foam) might seem like a good idea, too much padding can make a helmet very hot to wear. Bicycle helmet reviews at Mtbr praise the three levels of padding in the Bell Faction (starting at $25) (used by some adults as well as young riders) but have mixed opinions about its ability to keep riders cool. This critique may have less to do with the padding than the fact that the Bell Faction has fewer vents than some other highly-rated helmets.
One of the better-ventilated helmets, and among the most comfortable (but just beyond the Cheapism price range), is the Trek Vapor (starting at $50). This bike helmet receives nothing but five-stars in bike helmet reviews on Nscycles.com, due in large part to its sturdy but well-ventilated fit. Having lots of vents is always nice when they let cool air replace the warm air swirling around your head. What's not so nice is when these vents also let in insects that land in your hair. Some helmets, like the Giro Transfer (starting at $26), have started putting mesh inside the vents -- a feature that a user posting a bicycle helmet review on Road.cc particularly appreciates.
When assessing comfort and fit, don't forget about cleanliness. The interior padding gets very wet from perspiration, so you want a helmet with easy-to-remove pads that can be cleaned. An expert bicycle helmet review on Mountain Bike Rider says the Giro Indicator sports one of the easiest padding systems to clean. (Remove the padding and soak it in soapy water or put it in the washer; the pads should not shrink.)
Bicycle Helmet Safety.If a helmet does not have a tag or sticker from the CPSC, don't buy it. Manufacturers have their helmets tested by the CPSC as a matter of course nowadays, so the absence of the agency's stamp of approval should be an immediate red flag. It's also an aberration, because experts estimate at least 85% of the helmets available for retail sale have the endorsement of the CPSC.
Every cheap helmet has its share of detractors regarding style or comfort. Criticism about safety failures is comparatively minor. When searching for information about the safety of a specific helmet, you'll have a hard time finding a report about someone who suffered serious head injury while wearing a helmet. Although this has no doubt occurred, it there are many more reports of riders being spared thanks to a helmet. One cyclist writes in a bicycle helmet review on Mtbr about landing full force on his head and walking away without much harm thanks to the Giro Indicator. A review on Pedalpushersonline.com recounts a crash that damaged much of the cyclist's body, except for his head; he was wearing a Trek Vapor helmet. And one parent posting a youth bike helmet review on Kaylilys.com is grateful that her son was wearing the Razor V-17 (starting at $17) when he had a serious accident.
Our final word: The bicycle helmet is first and foremost a safety device. Cyclists are not required to wear helmets but it is rare that you see someone without a helmet nowadays. As long as safety remains your top priority, you should have no trouble finding a helmet to meet your budget.