Here we have featured some of the best helmets for when you are on a budget. But in saying this, these helmets are by no means cheap. By this, I mean they aren’t skimping on your safety nor your comfort. All helmets meet the US and global safety standards and feature anti-rotational systems, which we believe should be made mandatory in helmets these days.
Considering helmets will save your life in the event of a collision, they are already very inexpensive and paying an extra few dollars to extend your life is probably very worth it.
Essentials For a Helmet
The more expensive helmets have had more time put into the design, optimizing the safety to ventilation ratio, and the additional features such as goggle or camera compatibility. But if you aren’t needing a specialized, customized lid that the professionals are riding with, something a little more basic will still protect your head in the case of a collision.
So, what do you need to look for in a mountain bike helmet? You want a hard shell (the visible plastic on the outside) that won’t separate from the foam layer (typically made of ‘EPS’ foam), that has some coverage at the rear of the head to stop any injury from a hit to the back of the head. You will also want a visor that shields your eyes from the sun, an adjustable fitting system to ensure a snug fit every time, and an anti-rotational system. The anti-rotational system varies between brands but has the intent to reduce the impact to the brain during an angled or rotational crash, hence reducing the chances of brain injury.
These are so important that we genuinely believe that it should become mandatory in international helmet safety standards. Pretty much a helmet without one of these systems will only protect your brain if you happened to be lifted into the air and dropped on your head at a right angle to the ground. Any sort of angle in that, and it will no longer be protecting your brain from injury. And coming from experience crashes where you fall directly on the top of your head doesn’t actually ever happen.
The most common anti-rotational system is called MIPS (Multi-directional Impact System) and features in most of the helmets we have listed here. Others include SPIN, 360 Turbine, Wavecel, and Koroyd, which all act in similar ways preventing the brain from damaging during a collision.
Top 7 Budget Helmets
Here we have listed the best helmets under $110. Prices vary between $60 to $110, but all helmets have an anti-rotational system, meet the current helmet safety standards, and we would happily ride with them ourselves.
Giro Fixture MIPS Review
For the rider who wants to look like they spent more, doesn’t mind a fixed visor, but still wants all the other features that come with a more expensive lid.
The Giro Fixture MIPS is an incredible bargain, featuring excellent safety features (including anti-rotational system- MIPS), a reliable adjustable fit system (Giro Roc Loc), and a comfortable fit.
The only issue we could find with this helmet was that the visor was not adjustable, but if you aren’t too fussy about that, then it really isn’t an issue (or you can choose to remove it entirely). The visor is positioned to funnel airflow into the helmet, so it is not an unnecessary accessory.
The Fixture displays excellent ventilation, keeping you cool on those hot rides and climbs, and decent coverage around the rear of the head. All in all, a very good helmet, particularly so for its price. Not to mention the large variety of colors and sleek looking design.
Giro Chronicle MIPS Review
A simpler style helmet, which ticks the boxes on all the features you need and some more, while keeping the cost low and the value high.
The Giro Chronicle is a good solid helmet with a nice snug fit. It has a deeper rear coverage, which protects the back of the head slightly more than the Fixture. It has a very good retention system (Giro Roc Loc 5), so you can rest assured it will always fit like a glove.
There is a couple of minor issues with the Chronicle. Due to the increase in rear coverage, it has less ventilation, making it less breathable and hence a bit warmer for climbs and longer rides. The other issue is in order to save costs, the hard shell does not quite cover all of the EPS foam layer. This leaves the lower rim of the helmet exposed, which reduces the long-term durability of the helmet.
It does, however, feature Coolmax pads, which are thicker pads, which can hold a greater amount of sweat to stop it dripping into your eyes, and they are removable, which helps with cleaning. It is also goggle compatible (has a space to hold your goggles beneath the visor), has an adjustable visor, and features the ever so important MIPS technology.
The Chronicle pretty much has all the same features as a helmet twice its price, so if you don’t mind sacrificing being cool during long climbs, the Chronicle is a pretty incredible option.
For a more in-depth look at the Chronicle check out the comparison with the Bell 4Forty.
Smith Convoy MIPS Review
A well ventilated and comfortable helmet for the trail rider who doesn’t hit the technical lines in the park, but just wants protection for the day-to-day trail riding.
The Smith Convoy MIPS is a good competitor for the Giro Fixture (above), with similar rear coverage and non-adjustable visors, lightweight designs, and very good-looking designs. The Convoy just tops the Fixture in that it has a slightly more comfortable fit and easier to use the adjustable fitting system, but keeping in mind that the Fixture is a little cheaper, they are both very competitive options.
Consider checking out our comparison between the Convoy and the Giro Fixture if you are interested.
The Convoy is Smith’s more basic option, but in saying this, you still get a high-quality helmet with MIPS, good ventilation and lightweight design. You don’t get the premium Smith soft touch and highly absorbent padding, but if you don’t need the frills, this is an excellent helmet.
Troy Lee Design A1 MIPS Review
Rated one of the most comfortable helmets on the market, the A1 is a budget-friendly helmet that also meets safety requirements. It features MIPS, an adjustable visor, thick liner padding, and an incredible size adjustment system to make it barely noticeable on your head.
Unfortunately, this is only until you begin a long steep climb, where you notice the comfort of the helmet gets in the way of breathability, making it a slightly warmer helmet than most. In all honesty, having ridden with the helmet for several years, the lack of ventilation isn’t particularly noticeable unless you are specifically going out to compare the helmet with other models.
So if you aren’t too bothered by the additional limited ventilation of the A1, you will be hard-pressed to find reasons not to purchase this helmet!
Bell Nomad MIPS Review
This is a great value helmet which will suit the casual rider with plenty of rear coverage and a MIPS liner. Lightweight and comfortable helmet for those longer rides.
Despite being one of the lower-priced options we have presented here, this helmet sacrifices little in terms of durability, comfort, and safety. The Nomad is Bell’s less advanced model, following the highly successful Sixer, 4Fourty, and Spark in the MIPS range.
The Nomad still features MIPS, plenty of rear coverage, an in-mold polycarbonate shell (increases durability), and an Ergo-Fit adjustment system. It does have the fixed visor, which we are seen on many of the base model helmets, but often really isn’t an issue for most riders.
This helmet is good for the casual riders who don’t want anything too serious but still want their helmet to be comfortable and lightweight for a good day out on the trails.
Fox Speedframe MIPS Review
One of the better-looking helmets on the market and ticks the box on all the essential features. In our opinion the best budget helmet on the market for trail and enduro riders.
The Speedframe helmet by Fox is a very cool design, developed with input from Fox sponsored riders. It is well ventilated, features a MIPS liner, and has a removable, washable liner. It has plenty of adjustment to allow you to get the right fit, an adjustable visor which has room to store your goggles if you wish and comes in several very nice colors.
The Speedframe has a very light and sleek looking design and no real complaints from us. The Speedframe does without the frills of the fully-featured model, the Speedframe Pro, which has dual-density EPS, an anti-bacterial liner, and a Fidlock snap buckle, which gives it a more attractive price point.
Made for the trail rider as well as the enduro rider, this is a do it all kind of helmet that keeps your head safe while shredding the trails.
Lazer Coyote MIPS Review
The Lazer Coyote is the no-frills, trail, and enduro focused helmet that is great value for money. For the low price, you get the MIPS system, a high level of coverage around the rear of the head, and a large adjustable fit system allowing you to get perfect sizing.
The Coyote is similar to the Giro Fixture in that it features a fixed visor, which for some may be a deal-breaker, but we have no real complaints about having a fixed visor ourselves, especially given the visor is quite large, making it very effective at keeping out the sun and pesky long hanging branches. It has great ventilation and is very comfortable. It is ideal for the rider wanting an all-around decent helmet!
You don’t necessarily need to spend a heap of money in order to get a well-performing, stylish, and safe helmet. The few things when selecting a helmet you need to look out for is the MIPS system or similar, the fit (a built-in retention system helps), and the durability of the helmet as we don’t want it peeling away after being left in the sunlight for a few hours.
If you want more information on how to choose a helmet, see the following articles