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Best gravel bike helmets: Mixed terrain protection

Woman riding a Cannondale gravel bike whilst wearing a Giro gravel bike helmet
(Image credit: Cannondale)

The best gravel bike helmets face the same issue as the best gravel bikes, best gravel bike shoes, best gravel tyres and anything else designed for mixed-terrain riding; they have to work well at speed on tarmac, but also fit the bill when the roads break up. 

For some, particularly those with a penchant for speed and well-graded trails, any of the best road bike helmets will be an adequate weapon of choice. For others, hell-bent on strategic underbiking, helmets with design cues from the world of mountain biking will be a better choice.

Which gravel helmet you go for will depend on your riding style and some other factors, so to help you in your decision-making process we've put together a guide at the bottom to help you out.

The best gravel bike helmets on the market today

Giro Aether MIPS helmet

(Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
The best gravel bike helmet for speed-focussed riders

Specifications

Colours: 14
Rotational Impact System: Yes
Weight: 280g (size Medium CPSC)- 260g (size Medium CE)
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large

Reasons to buy

+
Eyewear dock ports help keep glasses secure on bumpy roads
+
MIPS rotational impact technology without the need for a MIPS liner
+
Highly ventilated

Reasons to avoid

-
Road style might not fit in a gravel environment

Nothing out there can guarantee safety, and the field of head trauma protection is moving so fast that cutting edge one season is old news the next. One of the leaders in the marketplace is MIPS and the rotational impact protection that it provides. 

The MIPS liner isn't always the most comfortable option though, so with this in mind MIPS, Giro, and Bell worked together to create a new system with the same end result, but without needing a separate liner. The result is Giro's Spherical Technology, a ball and socket design that splits the EPS foam liner into an inner and outer shell that fits one inside the other. 

It allows for different foam densities as well as a slip plane without the need for a liner. If you prefer a road-style helmet for your gravel riding, the Giro Aether is an excellent option. 

Read our in-depth opinion in our Giro Aether Spherical review.

POC Ventral Tempus SPIN

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
The best gravel bike helmet for bad weather

Specifications

Colours: 1
Rotational Impact System: Yes
Weight: 312g in a size medium
Sizes: SML, MED, LRG

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to clean mud off
+
Highly visible
+
Good ventilation while also protecting against the elements

Reasons to avoid

-
 Limited usage

The gear you use for gravel cycling gets destroyed in a way that is completely foreign to road cycling. Ride in the rain and it's even worse. Everything you wear comes back coated in mud and grime and after a while, it becomes a permanent part of it. 

The POC Ventral Tempus SPIN exists because of a specific UCI rule but it's an excellent choice for riding far from the reach of the governing body. The glossy outer coating not only keeps you drier and warmer in bad weather but it's got less nooks and crannies for mud to accumulate.  

Read our full thoughts in our POC Ventral Tempus Spin review.

Side view of a light grey helmet with exposed grey polystyrene padding

Angular styling and ultralight weight typify the POC Ventral Lite (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
Best gravel bike helmet for weight weenies

Specifications

Colours: 5
Rotational Impact System: No
Weight: Weighing less than 200g in a size M (EN1078 safety standard)
Sizes: SML 50-56cm, MED 54-59cm, LRG 56-61cm

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Plenty of ventilation
+
Glasses retention stickers provided

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks a rotational impact protection system

Spend all day with a heavy helmet on your head, and your neck will be begging you to take it off. The POC Ventral Lite is the solution at under 200g, and it's a helmet designed every step of the way to be as light as absolutely possible. 

POC has counted every gram so meticulously that the eye glasses retention system is a sticker that you can leave off if you don't want to use it. If you are someone who regularly stores their glasses on their helmet, then place the stickers for more security. That's extreme attention to weight and that's what you get with the Ventral Lite. 

Want to know more? Read our POC Ventral Lite review.

Specialized S-Works Prevail II Vent helmet

(Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
Best gravel bike helmet for hot weather

Specifications

Colours: 4
Rotational Impact System: Yes
Weight: 228g size medium
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large

Reasons to buy

+
Includes an ANGi sensor for crash detection and notification
+
Excellent ventilation
+
Low volume
+
Lightweight

Reasons to avoid

-
Road style might not fit in a gravel environment
-
ANGi notification relies on mobile phone coverage

The focus from Specialized for the S-Works Prevail II Vent is all about heat management. The brand has worked to speed up airflow through the helmet to help keep it cool, and there's tons of ventilation plus a low weight that means less material. 

It's technically a road helmet, but one advantage for gravel cyclists is the inclusion of the ANGi crash sensor. One of the biggest reasons people enjoy gravel cycling is that it gets them away from people. The side effect of that is if something were to happen, you might be on your own for a long time. With an ANGi sensor on board, as long as you've got mobile phone coverage, you get the added advantage of an automatic notification to designated emergency contacts in the event of a crash. 

See how the S-Works Prevail II Vent earned its place in our review.

100% Altis Gravel Helmet

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
The best gravel bike helmet for style fiends

Specifications

Colours: Tan, Camo, White, Black, Grey
Rotational Impact System: Yes
Weight: 345g size S/M
Sizes: XS/SM, SM/MD, LG/XL

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable pads
+
Easy to adjust straps forward and backward
+
Style fits off-road riding
+
Lower in the back for better coverage
+
Rotational Impact technology

Reasons to avoid

-
No vertical adjustment of the rear cradle
-
Likely not a great hot weather helmet

What does it mean to make a gravel bike helmet? For 100% it means starting with a lightweight trail-oriented mountain bike helmet, removing the visor, and adding new colours. For the rider that means you get the additional coverage that comes from a mountain bike design paired with a style that matches gravel riding. It also helps keep high technology without bringing a high price. Helping to keep you safe the 100% Altis Gravel brings with it the proprietary Smartshock® Rotational Protective System. More than just a slip-plane system, Smartshock immediately compresses to absorb direct impact while also allowing rotation as necessary.

Our full review of the 100% Altis Gravel should answer any questions you've got.

MET Allroad Gravel Helmet

(Image credit: MET)

MET Allroad

Best gravel bike helmet for smaller budgets

Specifications

Colours: 6
Rotational Impact System: No
Weight: 271g size medium
Sizes: S,M,L

Reasons to buy

+
Inexpensive
+
Lightweight for a helmet at this price with a visor
+
Integrated rear light

Reasons to avoid

-
Flimsy visor
-
Lacks a rotational impact system

Gravel bikes make one of the best options for an everyday commuter bike. Wider tyres and an emphasis on comfort mean they can tackle the roughest pavement during the week. 

Then when the weekend comes, they have the versatility to take on a group road ride or head off-road. Finding a single helmet that can follow you through all the adventures your bike can is a challenge. The MET Allroad is specifically designed for that challenge and it's both lightweight and inexpensive to boot. 

There's an integrated rear light for added visibility on the road, and a visor that's easy to snap on and off depending on the ride you are tackling on a particular day. 

Smith Trace MIPS

(Image credit: Smith)

Smith Trace MIPS

Best gravel bike helmets for new tech fans

Specifications

Colours: 15
Rotational Impact System: Yes
Weight: 280g size medium
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large

Reasons to buy

+
Koroyd and MIPS for the best protection possible
+
Lots of colour options that are frequently changed

Reasons to avoid

-
Koroyd limits direct access to your scalp

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam is what most bike helmets use for the bulk of their construction. It's also old technology. Koroyd is a company and technology that aims to one-up the old with something new. 

Take a bunch of plastic straws in a bundle and look at the side and you'll have an idea of what Koroyd looks like. In an accident the cells crumple and absorb impact. There's more air and less material so Smith is able to create a lighter helmet with no compromise. 

It's not the lightest helmet out there but at 280 grams it's very light for an aero-optimised MIPS helmet.

Bontrager Blaze WaveCel Mountain Bike Helmet

(Image credit: bontrager)

Bontrager Blaze WaveCel Mountain Bike Helmet

Best gravel bike helmet for rougher terrain

Specifications

Colours: 7
Rotational Impact System: Yes
Weight: 392g size small
Sizes: Small 51-57cm, Medium 54-60cm, Large 59-63cm

Reasons to buy

+
Wavecel means there’s no additional MIPS system inside
+
Magnetic buckle and BOA rear adjuster
+
Blendr system makes it easy to attach a light or camera

Reasons to avoid

-
Wavecel limits direct access to your scalp

Bontrager describes WaveCel as "a collapsible cellular structure that lines the inside of the helmet." It's another replacement for the expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam and it does share some visual similarities to Koroyd, but works a little bit differently. 

While the Smith implementation of Koroyd continues to rely on a separate rotational impact system, Bontrager is able to handle rotational impact with WaveCel. That means there's less complexity on the inside of the helmet. 

Consider the Blaze WaveCel mountain bike helmet to be a representation of the technology from Bontrager. It's offered in road bike helmets as well, but if you want the higher coverage that comes with choosing a mountain bike helmet, the Blaze is for you. 

How to choose the best gravel bike helmet

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, effectively suspends the helmet shell on a moveable cradle that allows it to rotate 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. You don't need it, if you're only going by minimum safety standards, but it's a technology that's trickling down through helmet ranges and will likely become ubiquitous in time in all but the cheapest models.

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-end protection too.

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 an aero road helmet 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.

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 degrades helmets over time. Manufacturer recommendations differ, but usually suggest a replacement after five to ten years.

Josh Ross
Josh Ross

Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minutia of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer will be yes.
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 137 lb.
Rides: Orbea Orca Aero, Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Trek Checkpoint, Priority Continuum Onyx