About 10% of our body heat is lost through our heads, so it makes sense to cover our heads when heading out into icy cold conditions.
But there are additional requirements for helmets when riding during winter. The helmet must have decent rear coverage in case the rider comes off on a hard-icy surface and hits the rear of their head. Having a deeper coverage will prevent severe injury from a knock to the back of the head. Another requirement is MIPS or an alternative anti-rotational system, which will reduce the energy from angular crashes, reducing the chances of brain injury and concussions.
In this article, we have found some of the best helmets for keeping you warm and well protected in cold conditions!
- Best Winter Helmets for when it is Slightly Cold
- Best Winter Helmets for when it is VERY Cold
- Best Winter Helmets for Commuting
- Can I wear a hat under my helmet instead?
- Can I wear my ski helmet for biking? Or vice versa?
Best Winter Helmets for when it is Slightly Cold
If we are going by our definition of ‘very cold’ over here in New Zealand, we are probably looking at 0-10 degrees Celsius (32-50 degrees Fahrenheit), but that’s not actually all that cold! So, you are probably looking at something that will keep a bit of warmth in, but nothing particularly intense.
Here we have some of the helmets that run a little warmer than a typical trail lid, so you are not losing too much heat while out on your ride.
Note that these helmets aren’t specifically made for winter riding but are helmets we recommend for cooler months with superior protection.
Troy Lee Designs A1 MIPS Review
An incredibly comfortable lid, which looks good and manages to be safe all at the same time. Runs a little hot around the rear of the head, but that’s not an issue while you’re shredding the downhills!
- Very Comfortable
- Great Looks
- Good Head Coverage
- Not Goggle Compatible
The Troy Lee Designs A1 is a helmet I have ridden with for well over a year and can honestly say it is one of the most comfortable helmets I have ever had. It has very good coverage around the head, and soft, durable padding, so your head certainly feels very cushioned and well protected while out riding.
It is constructed in-mold, which effectively means the outer shell is molded to the inner EPS foam layer, creating a lighter, more durable helmet. The outer polycarbonate shell wraps right around the outside of the helmet too, really adding to the durability.
It also has MIPS, which is so so important while riding out in less than favorable conditions. If you come off on a hard, icy surface, MIPS will work to prevent brain injury from an angled crash.
Giro Chronicle MIPS Review
- Very Comfortable
- Good Head Coverage
- Not as Durable
The Giro Chronicle is still one of the best value helmets I have come across. For its very reasonable price, you get a professional helmet, designed with very deep rear coverage and MIPS. Both of which are essential protection for winter riding. The rear coverage prevents hard hits to the back of the head from harming your skull, while the MIPS slip-plane reduces energy transferred to your head in an angular crash.
The Chronicle is also incredibly comfortable. From the moment you place the helmet on your head, you can feel the plush cushioning cradle your head, and the Roc Loc fitting system ensures a perfect fit and prevents any movement of the helmet on your head. The ventilation of the A1 is a little limited, so it is ideal for retaining a little extra heat while riding, keeping your head just a bit warmer.
The advantage of the Troy Lee Designs A1 over the Giro Chronicle is that the Chronicle does not have the outer polycarbonate shell layer fully wrap around the outside of the EPS foam layer. This leaves the base of the helmet that isn’t covered exposed to the elements, which decreases the durability of the helmet. Because of this, the Chronicle is generally a little less expensive than the A1.
Smith Forefront 2 Reveiw
The ideal helmet for a safety-conscious rider, wanting to ride in style, comfort, and with peace of mind that their head will be protected in any impact.
- Koroyd Aerocore
- Deep Coverage
- Goggle Compatible
- Adjustable Visor
- Excellent Fitting System
- Reasonably expensive
The Smith Forefront 2 is a well-designed helmet. As Smith’s top-of-the-line half-shell, you get plenty of very good features. It is goggle compatible, with an adjustable visor and an excellent fitting system. Personally, I did not rate the comfort of the helmet very highly. I found there was very minimal padding and did not sit comfortably on the head. However, despite my own high expectations of helmet comfort, it is a very good helmet.
It features Koroyd technology, which works by reducing the energy transferred from linear and angled crashes to the head. You can see the Koroyd technology in the helmet- it looks like hundreds of tiny green straws, which isn’t actually far from the truth. The little straws crumple on impact and twist with angular impacts. A very simple but clever design, as it is effective at doing its job as well as being exceptionally lightweight.
The Koroyd technology actually covers the vents of the helmet, which means that warmth within the helmet is retained quite well. The helmet sits quite low on the head and wraps around the rear of the head too, which gives good coverage if you were to crash.
Giro Tyrant MIPS Review
With additional coverage comes additional protection. Made for the trail rider who feels they could do with a little extra protection while out on the trails!
- Ear Coverage
- Slightly Odd Look
The Giro Tyrant may look a little different from your standard trail helmet, but that is due to the extra protection you receive from the over-ear coverage. That extra coverage will likely keep you a fair bit warmer too!
The Tyrant features MIPS technology to protect your head against angular impacts, and the additional coverage around the helmet helps the rider feel secure and significantly more protected while riding. The helmet is constructed in-mold, which forms the outer polycarbonate hardbody to the inner EPS foam for increased safety and durability.
The only issue with the Tyrant is the added weight you get with the additional coverage. Weighing in at around 620g, it is almost twice the weight of the Smith Forefront 2! Despite this, the weight is distributed right around the head, so it is not just a giant weight sitting up on the top of the head, causing inconvenience to your riding!
In all, the Giro Tyrant is a really good helmet, made for the trail rider who wants just a little more protection while out riding, particularly in the wilder winter conditions!
Best Winter Helmets for when it is VERY Cold
If you are looking for something for when it is properly cold, you will want something that has a bit of padding and a fair bit more coverage. There actually isn’t all that many helmets out there made for very intensely cold conditions, as generally, you wouldn’t be riding the park during the coldest months. However, mountain biker generally likes to push the limits, so here we have listed some of the best helmets designed for mountain biking in the cold!
Giro Timberwolf Review
- Removable Ear Pads
- Adjustable Vents
- Fleece Liner
- Compatible with lights
- No anti-rotational system
The Giro Timberwolf is specifically made for cold-weather riding. The design is taken from a ski helmet with a similar shape and comfort. There is no need for a beanie underneath the helmet, as the fleece liner will keep you nice and toasty.
The vents, which you can open and close as you need, mean you have more control over your ventilation, but it also stops rain from entering on those drizzly days. The earpads are also removable, just in case you start to warm up or decide they are a bit unnecessary.
The in-mold construction, where the outer polycarbonate shell is bonded to the inner EPS foam layer, means you get a more durable, lighter helmet. It is very comfortable, is made for being worn on long rides.
There is an attachment on the rear of the helmet for lights in case you are riding in the dark or conditions of poor visibility. The only issue we have with the Timberwolf is the lack of MIPS or any other anti-rotational technology. The technology is essential in winter due to the conditions making surfaces slipperier and trails requiring a little more attention.
It is a well-designed helmet, and if you are looking for a snug-fitting helmet that is sure to keep you warm during the ride while also sufficiently ventilated, this is certainly one of the best options you could get.
Bern Winter Watts MIPS Review
- Meets safety standards for snow and bike
- Over-ear audio pads
- MIPS technology
- Rechargeable light comes as extra
- Does not have a visor
The Bern Winter Watts has a number of very cool features which makes it a worthwhile option to consider for your next winter purchase.
Firstly, it has a MIPS, which, as mentioned earlier, reduces the possibility of brain injury following a collision.
Secondly, you can purchase a rechargeable bike light that is made to fit on the rear of the helmet. It attaches very easily and could easily save your life while out riding in dim light conditions or while commuting on the roads.
Additionally, the Winter Watts has a premium fitting system, drop-in audio ready ear pads, and 11 vents in the front and rear.
What really makes the helmet is its versatility. If you purchase the Winter helmet, you get with it the padding and everything you need for the cold months, but you can get the summer liner separately if you wish.
The helmet meets the standard for bike helmet safety as well as ski/snowboard safety, which is incredibly cool!
The only concern we have with the helmet is the lack of a visor, which could be important depending on the type of terrain you are riding on in winter. The low sun may mean a visor could prevent sun-strike or falling snow or rain could be prevented from getting in the rider’s eyes by using a visor, but not by the small peak that is found on the Watts.
Nevertheless, this is certainly a great helmet, will keep riders warm and safe for any terrain!
Bern Winter Macon 2.0 Review
- MIPS Technology
- Rechargeable light available
- No visor
- No sizing system
The Macon 2.0, brought out in 2020, is a sleek, comfortable, light helmet designed to keep you warm and safe while riding out in the winter months.
It comes with MIPS and has the option of purchasing the rechargeable light, which fits easily onto the rear of the helmet. It is slightly cheaper than the Watts helmet due to the lack of over-ear audio, lack of a peak, and it does not have a boa sizing retention system but rather an elastic fitting system.
Similar to the Bern Winter Watts, the helmet can be transformed into a summer helmet if the additional liner is purchased.
The Macon is another viable option if you are wanting something simple and will ensure you are warm and safe while out riding.
Best Winter Helmets for Commuting
Thousand Chapter Helmet Review
- U-Lock or chain lock compatible
- Magnetic buckle
- Good fitting system
- Many colors
- No anti-rotational system
- Very short visor
The Thousand brand is named after the company goal of saving a thousand lives by providing helmets people actually want to wear, reducing the number of deaths from people not wearing a helmet. And they are doing a good job of encouraging people to wear the helmet.
The Heritage helmet is stylish, comfortable, and designed with safety in mind, featuring MIPS technology.
The Heritage actually has many features a good mountain bike helmet would have, such as a great size retention system, a magnetic buckle, and a strap stay which pulls the straps away from your ears, so they sit flat and comfortably.
One of the coolest features is the ‘secret trap door’ through the helmet, which allows you to put a U-Lock or chain through to ensure your helmet is never stolen while it is locked to your bike. And if the helmet is stolen, Thousand has claimed it will replace the helmet for you!
While not overly ventilated, it will keep your head warm in winter but also won’t lead to a build-up of sweat in the warmth.
Giro Camden MIPS Review
The ultimate commuter’s helmet, which is first and foremost safe, but also comfortable and stylish.
- MIPS technology
- Good coverage around the head
- Roc Loc fitting system
- Integrated rear light
- A bit pricey
If you are wanting a helmet with all the features, the Giro Camden is the way to go. You get comfort, style, and warmth all in one helmet, with no hindrance to the safety of the helmet.
The helmet was designed with safety first and foremost. The MIPS technology is integrated to prevent brain injury of the rider following an awkwardly angled crash on the pavement. It also has very good rear coverage, which not only increases the warmth of the helmet but also protects the back of the skull in a crash.
The features on the helmet are also exceptional. With an integrated rear light, Roc Loc fitting system (very good at ensuring you get the perfect fit every time), and padding in all of the important contact areas between the head and the helmet.
Safety is paramount, and for the small price you pay for a helmet keeping you safe, paying that bit extra may just save your life!
Bern Hudson MIPS Review
- MIPS system
- Integrated rechargeable light
- Fitting retention system
- Very small visor
The Bern Hudson is an ideal commuter helmet for the colder winter months. It has sufficient ventilation to prevent sweat build-up but also has much less ventilation than many other helmets, so your head is kept warm and comfortable.
The Hudson comes with a small visor, which is helpful in preventing rain or snow from stinging the eyes. It has a decent fitting system that allows the rider to get a close and comfortable fit every time.
The Hudson also has a MIPS liner, which is incredibly important for riding on slippery wet roads where angular crashes may be likely.
The helmet looks stylish, comes in bright colors, and has an integrated LED light on the rear to ensure you are seen on the road. The Hudson is a great helmet designed for keeping a commuter comfortable and safe during winter rides.
Can I wear a hat under my helmet instead?
The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute does not recommend wearing a hat or visor underneath the helmet as it forces the helmet to sit higher on your head than what it is designed for. Additionally, having a visor on your hat can get in the way in a crash, causing your head to be bent at awkward angles. A visor on a helmet is generally designed to break off when it comes under pressure (such as in a crash), so your neck or head is not affected.
Personally, before I learned it was not recommended, I’d wear a thin beanie (no visor) under my helmet when it’s cold out on the trails. Given I have a fair bit of hair on my head, I don’t see the beanie affecting the performance of my helmet more than what my hair would do. However, I do see how the beanie would affect the anti-rotational technology- as the inner slip plane is meant to stay close to my head while the outer foam layer rotates, reducing the energy transferred to the skull. The performance of the anti-rotational technology may be compromised if the inner layer moves due to the beanie, not my head.
In all, the advice from the Bicycle Helmet Safety institute should be followed, given they have put significant amounts of research and time into this topic! A warmer helmet for winter months is likely a better option, given it will be much warmer than a thin beanie can provide, and it doesn’t compromise your safety in any way!
Can I wear my ski helmet for biking? Or vice versa?
Not normally- but some helmets, such as the Bern Winter Watts, have been designed and certified to be used for both biking and snow sports. If you use the helmet for a purpose it is not intended for, you are putting yourself at unnecessary risk.
You will be far better off, safety and comfort-wise, using the right helmet for the right purposes. Look at the manufacturer’s website if you cannot find anything on the box, and it will mention the safety certifications the helmet will have.
Having a separate helmet for winter riding may initially seem excessive, but when considering the helmet will last twice as long (as you’re only using it for part of the year) and you get to be comfortable all year round, the value increases significantly.
The sole purpose of a helmet is to keep you safe. There is little point in wearing a helmet which is not going to serve its purpose, so you need to ensure the helmet you decide on is suitable for your style of riding.
If you are riding on trails or anywhere of having a reasonable chance of coming off, you need to have anti-rotational technology to prevent damage occurring to your brain.
If you are riding on roads in dim light conditions, you need a light to remain visible to approaching cars. A helmet is only a small cost relative to your bike and other gear, but easily the most important in terms of your safety. Make sure you invest in your safety and purchase a helmet which is fit for purpose!
If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below, and if you are still stuck on how to find a helmet check out these articles