The safest, lightest, and smartest on- and off-road protection.
BEST FOR: SpeedPOC backs up the Octal’s ($270) radical looks with outrageous ventilation and a best-in-class sub-200-gram weight. A pair of rubberized pads let you securely stow your sunglasses when you’re not wearing them, and it’s compatible with the ICEdot emergency sensor (sold separately). 6.6 oz
BEST FOR: Stealth PerformanceDon’t be fooled by the Aspect’s ($175) street smarts: it’s a full-featured race helmet. In spite of their diminutive appearance, the 19 vents were plenty airy in sweltering desert heat. Nice touch: the low-profile fabric visor is removable and washable. 9.4 oz
Specialized Propero II
BEST FOR: Getting a Good DealThe Propero II ($110) has most of the features of Specialized’s top-of-the-line S-Works helmet at less than half the cost. The gaping front intake vent channels plenty of air, and the reflective paint, which looks silver by day but bounces approaching headlights after dark, is just plain smart. 8.3 oz
BEST FOR: All-Terrain RidingLike many new mountain helmets, the Quatro ($160) increases coverage around the ears and the back of the head for added protection in side and rear impacts. The push-button chin strap takes some getting used to; otherwise, it’s luxury-auto precision at econobox pricing. 11.2 oz
BEST FOR: Affordable StokeThe pared-down Stoker ($70) is a bit lighter and just as ventilated as Bell’s more expensive lids. The speed dial is sturdy and easy to use, and the adjustable visor accommodates sunglasses (or goggles), on or off. 11.2 oz
BEST FOR: Lightweight ProtectionThis cross-country helmet ($220) is lined with a honey-comb polymer called Koroyd, which Smith claims absorbs 30 percent more impact than EPS foam. The lightweight material also adds airflow, and we felt the difference on scorching days, when sweat literally evaporated out the top. 11.2 oz