Best gravel bike helmets 2024: Off-road protection and comfort

A close up shot of a woman wearing a Specialized gravel helmet and sunglasses, completely covered in mud splatters after a cyclocross race
(Image credit: Specialized)

Believe it or not, when it comes to choosing a new helmet, it's a good idea to consider what's been made specifically for your preferred cycling discipline. With so many options on the market, manufacturers are constantly innovating in an effort to come out on top, which generally means the options on the market are becoming more and more specialised.

When it comes to gravel, choosing one of the best gravel bike helmets will result in optimal off-road protection, in a lightweight, well-ventilated and aerodynamic package. You'll find many of the qualities of the best road bike helmets, alongside some well-considered details to make the helmet you choose hardy enough to handle a wider range of conditions.

Fast gravel riding is a rising trend with the increasing popularity of gravel racing, and the best gravel bikes increasingly include models geared for speed. But a gravel bike helmet also needs to continue to provide good ventilation and comfort over long time periods at lower speeds and often in weather that's either very hot, very wet or very cold. 

Many brands include a helmet in their ranges that they specifically aim at gravel riders. In general, we've included helmets here that will work just as well for road riding. But if your gravel riding is more technical, a mountain bike helmet may be a better choice: we've included a favourite in the list below.

Here's our choice of the best gravel bike helmets and below that a buyer's guide to what to look for in the best helmets for gravel riding. 

The best gravel bike helmets available today

How to choose the best gravel bike helmet

Gravel riding has risen in popularity and there is now a whole sector of the market now dedicated to gravel-specific clothing and accessories. If you prefer to adopt a more relaxed choice of kit for gravel riding then a gravel-focused or specific helmet may be of interest to you. Something perhaps that looks a little less like a performance road helmet and takes some style inspiration from the MTB world. 

That being said, safety and fit when it comes to helmet choice are paramount. A helmet's ability to keep you safe should always be your first concern when shopping for one. Working to your budget, see what helmets have certain safety features (such as MIPS) that appeal or feel right for you and if possible try a helmet on before you buy to ensure it's comfortable and fits you correctly. 

Do I need MIPS?

MIPS is a brand name, like Hoover, that has become synonymous with rotational impact protection. It stands for "Multi-directional Impact Protection System", and, like other systems of its kind, adds a liner with a small amount of movement inside the helmet shell that allows it to slide relative to the helmet and your head on impact.

This, it is claimed, reduces the rotational impact on your head, as most impacts are not linear, and basically makes the helmet safer. It's a technology that's trickling down through helmet ranges and is rapidly becoming ubiquitous, even in the best-budget cycling helmets.

Do I need a visor?

The visor is something familiar to the mountain bike crowd, but alien to roadies, so depending on your riding style this will help inform your decision. 

Mostly road or fast gravel? Then you probably don't need one. Gnarly trails and steep inclines, with very little smooth riding? Maybe a visor is the thing for you.

The visor will provide an element of protection from the sun, as well as rogue tree branches in woodland settings, but in a racy position, it'll likely obscure your vision. Gravel helmets with visors are also likely to be drawing from mountain biking designs, and will probably have better rear-side protection.

Rest assured, if you do get a helmet with a peak, most are removable, so you can always take it off.

What about aero gravel helmets?

You can, if absolute speed is your goal, wear any of the best aero road helmets for your gravel riding. However, speeds off-road are generally slower than those on smooth tarmac, and aero helmets that can struggle with ventilation are going to be even more sweaty at slower speeds on a hot day. 

As such we've not included any out-and-out aero helmets in this guide, although if you plan to try gravel bike racing, aerodynamics is as important at the pointy end as it is on the road. An aero helmet will also keep your head more comfortable in poor conditions, due to its more enclosed design.

When should I replace my helmet?

For most gravel riders you'll probably be fine with your current gravel or mountain bike helmet, but at some point, all helmets need replacing, which is when you could always come back here.

After a crash that's resulted in a bumped head, or any impact to the helmet (don't drop them!) you should replace it immediately. It's annoying and an expensive addition of insult to injury, but not doing so could risk worse the next time you end up rubber-side up.

General wear and tear and UV exposure also degrade helmets over time. Manufacturer recommendations differ, but usually suggest a replacement after around five years.

Mildred Locke

Mildred joined as Reviews Writer for Cyclingnews and BikePerfect in December 2020. She loves all forms of cycling from long-distance audax to daily errand-running by bike, and does almost everything on two wheels, including moving house, and started out her cycling career working in a bike shop. For the past five years she's volunteered at The Bristol Bike Project as a mechanic and session coordinator, and now sits on its board of directors.

Since then she's gone on to write for a multitude of cycling publications, including Bikeradar, Cycling Plus, Singletrack, Red Bull, Cycling UK and Total Women's Cycling. She's dedicated to providing more coverage of women's specific cycling tech, elevating under-represented voices in the sport, and making cycling more accessible overall. 

Height: 156cm (5'2")

Weight: 75kg

Rides: Stayer Groadinger UG, Triban RC520 Women's Disc, Genesis Flyer, Marin Larkspur, Cotic BFe 26, Clandestine custom bike