Over the last few years there has been a quite a noticeable increase in helmet use at the trails. In the early to mid 2000s it was pretty rare to see someone rocking a helmet. These days it’s the exact opposite. I don’t think head injuries were something that was on the radar of most people back then. Mike Aitken’s crash in 2007 opened a lot of people’s eyes as to the dangers of head injuries. I had just been chatting with Mike in Vegas a couple weeks beforehand and then came news that he had crashed and was fighting for his life. That was definitely a wake up call for me, and I’ve been doing my best to wear my helmet ever since. Wearing a helmet was just the first step though. The next and one I’ve been resisting for a long time was wearing a helmet that was designed to handle the types of impacts a bike crash can produce. With riding trails comes the inherent danger of a high speed crash from a significant height that could potentially result in a rider’s head impacting the ground with a shit ton of force. Even with that in the back of my head it still took another rider battling a head injury to inspire me to get my ass in gear and get a proper helmet. I knew all along that it would be a much better idea to wear a CPSC/CE certified hard foam helmet as opposed to their soft foam counterparts. Vanity always won out though over safety. The perception that I had about certified helmets was that they were bigger and nowhere near as comfortable as the classic soft foam Pro-Tec I had grown accustomed to.
Over the last several years we’ve seen quite a few new certified helmets hitting the market. They’ve definitely come a long way from the ones available back in the last decade. I decided to round up as many half shell certified helmets as I could and compare them all. I was personally curious as to the different options out there, and hopefully this guide will help you to be able to make an informed choice the next time you’re helmet shopping. While no helmet is guaranteed to protect a rider from every crash scenario, it can’t hurt to wear one that is better suited to protect you. Every one of the helmets that I tested meets the CPSC and CE’s safety requirements for bicycle helmets intended for riders age 5 and over.
Before we get started I do want to mention that this buyers guide isn’t like the majority of ones you’re used to seeing on other sites or in the magazines. To be completely honest with you, most of those are total bullshit. They’re either done to appease current advertisers or are done to try to persuade companies on the receiving end of them to advertise. That’s not a game I play. I actually wore each and every one of these helmets during various sessions over the past year. Every review on the helmets in this buyers guide is my 100% brutally honest opinion! Hit the jump button to get into them!
I’ll go ahead and start with the positives on this one. This is definitely one of the most comfortable helmets that I tested. The segmented EPS foam allows it to conform nicely to your head. As a result you don’t get any of the weird pressure points that I encountered with some of the other helmets. With the good must come the bad, and the bad points of this helmet for me mostly pertain to the aesthetics. It’s a big ass helmet! Noticeably larger than the other helmets I tested. It also has more of a spherical shape than any of the others. Several times I’ve heard it likened to a bowling ball. I’m being purely vain at this point but when I had it on I kind of felt like Toadstool from Mario Brothers. Had I thought about it, I could have thrown some red and white paint on there and had an easy Halloween costume. Now that I got that out of the way, I’ll finish on a positive note so that I don’t have to fend off Allan Cooke next time I see him. Bell does have a new helmet out called the Reflex. I checked it out at Interbike and in my opinion it looked a lot better than the Segment. It had a similar comfy fit but was quite a bit more polished in the looks department.
POC developed the Crane Pure as a cheaper alternative to their Crane helmet. The outer shell was smoothed out a bit and it utilizes removable pads of varying thicknesses to help you dial in the fit. It features a progressive core, dual density EPS liner which I’ll do my best to explain. The lower density inner layer provides ample protection for minor impacts, while the high density outer layer helps to prevent your brain from turning to mush in the event of a major impact. The two layers work in tandem to help slow down the rate of deceleration your brain experiences in one of those more serious crashes. The way that this helmet is made is more like that of a road or mountain bike helmet in that the EPS foam and the outer shell are all molded together to form one piece. The flatter back of Crane Pure gave it a bit of a different look than the other helmets that I tested. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but visually it just really didn’t do it for me. My one real gripe with this helmet were the two weird pressure points that were pressed right against my temples. I found it to be super uncomfortable after just a few minutes. Who knows, maybe I just have a weird dome and those pressure points can be attributed to the particular shape of my head.
Pryme’s V2 Lite helmet really surprised me. The first thing that I noticed when I took it out of the box was the weight (or lack there of). This is the lightest helmet out of all the ones I tested, coming in at just 10 ounces. Weight is something I never even considered when thinking about helmets until I checked this one out. It was kind of a shock putting it on for first time because it felt like it wasn’t even there. That was partially due to it being so light but also because of how well it fit. There were no pressure points or anything weird like that going on. Had the test helmet not have been bright silver, this is more than likely the helmet you would have seen me wearing most of last season. Dans has these right now for an absolute steal of just $24.99!
I feel Pro-Tec’s Classic non-certified helmet is the shape and fit that all skate style helmets are measured against. Their Classic Certified takes the helmet we’ve grown to love and updates it with EPS foam to meet CPSC/CE certified standards. I think they had to increase the size of the shell slightly to do so though, as it was a tad larger than the shell of the old non-certified Pro-Tec that I had laying around. I unfortunately have to say that I was a bit let down as far as comfort went with this one. It honestly reminded me of all the reasons why people have been resistant to make the switch to certified helmets. It’s super stiff, puts uncomfortable pressure on several parts of your head, and doesn’t sit as low as what we’ve come to expect from the non-certified version of Pro-Tec’s Classic helmet. On a positive note, the one they sent me to test does glow in the dark.
S1’s Lifer helmet ticks all the boxes that a good helmet should. It looks good, fits well, and has anti-microbial moisture wicking pads to help keep your sweat under control. It fits low on the head which is reminiscent of how non-certified helmets fit. While I did like the low fit, I do feel they could have made the cuts for the ears come up a little higher. I found my ears getting squished down a bit while wearing the Lifer. Not really a big deal but definitely worth mentioning.
Initially I really liked Triple Eight’s Brainsaver Dual Certified Helmet. It had it going on in both the looks and fit departments, and really what more can you ask for? After wearing it a few times I started to notice that I was wearing it improperly. I’d put it on like any other helmet but that would result in the front sitting too high up on my forehead. It almost seems to me like they need bring the front of the Brainsaver down a bit so that it will cover more of your forehead. I also noticed that Triple Eight had placed a sticker on the inside of the helmet showing the correct and incorrect way to wear the helmet. The correct being low on the forehead. Maybe they felt the need to add that after noticing the natural way people tend to wear this helmet causes it to be worn in an improper fashion that doesn’t offer the protection that it should.
Nothing really stood out as particularly great or terrible with TSG’s Evolution helmet. It’s kind of just middle of the road among the group of helmets that I looked at. It’s just ok in the looks department. It is kind of on the bigger side but not so big that it’s a turn off. I’ll compare it to a girl who’s just in the beginning stages of letting herself go. It could be a bit slimmer, but it’s not too big to be seen out in public with. It’s also kind of middle of the road as far as the fit. It’s not that it’s uncomfortable but it’s definitely not as comfy as some of the other helmets I tested. One cool (pun intended) feature that it has are TSG’s Air Flow Channels that help keep your head cool by allowing air to pass in through the helmet’s front vents and exit through the ones on the top and in the rear.
TSG’s Kraken helmet utilizes a series of EPS foam segments held together with a reinforcing skeleton that is very similar to what is found in the Bell Segment. Don’t quote me on this but I think that TSG may have actually been the first to come out with this system. According to their site they introduced it in 2010, which I do believe is a bit before Bell came out with the Segment. None of that really matters to me or you though. What does matter is how it looks and fits. I think with the segmented foam system comes the need for a helmet with a larger shell because the Kraken is also big like the Bell. It doesn’t have the bowling ball shape though as TSG elongated it from front to back a bit more. Technically it’s bigger than the Bell but visually it doesn’t look to be. It also shares a fit that is very much like that of the Bell. The segmented foam lets it comfortably contour around you head eliminating any pressure points. The Kraken was by far the heaviest helmet I tested, with a weight of 18 ounces. The weight was pretty noticeable after wearing some of the other helmets. I mean it’s literally half a pound heavier than the two lightweights of the group. Pretty crazy when you think about it!
Wrapping things up is the Superlight by TSG. As the name suggest, this thing is super light, coming in at just 10.1 ounces. It features an in-mold construction that helps keep the weight down by fusing an outer polycarbonate shell with the helmet’s impact absorbing foam layer. This ended up being my favorite helmet out of all the ones I tested. I appreciate that TSG didn’t try to do anything weird with the shape of the shell. It has the classic skate-style helmet look that we’ve grown accustomed to. It fits snug and evenly with no pressure points. That combined with how light weight it is makes it a helmet that’s easy to forget that you have on. It has the same Air Flow Channels found in TSG’s Evolution helmet that really help to to keep your head cool. They were definitely appreciated on some of those hot days back in August. Like I said, this ended up being my favorite helmet out of the bunch. It didn’t take long for the Superlight to transition from a test helmet into the one that I wore every day. A crash on the final session of the year put it out of commission, but it did its job and I was able to walk away relatively unscathed after landing on my head. I’ll definitely be ordering up another one here pretty soon to replace it.