The best bike helmets

The best bike helmet overall

POC

The POC Octal X Spin is well ventilated, comfortable, and offers enhanced visibility and safety features that will benefit cyclists and commuters alike.

Some people like shoes, some people like bags, and some people like watches, but I like bike helmets. I will admit that it is a bit strange to have half a dozen pieces of protective headwear hanging by more door, but I like to be sure I always have the right tool for the job, and I figure there are worse ways to spend your money than protecting your brain.

What's even weirder is that I tend to pull down the same helmet every day. Whether I am riding a hundred miles on the road or five miles to the shops, the OCTAL X SPIN is the helmet I pick for 90% of my riding, and that's why it earned the title of best bike helmet overall.

POC is relatively new to the cycling game, but its focus on safety and a distinctly Scandinavian aesthetic has won the brand a loyal following. The POC brand has become associated with placing rider safety above aesthetic or aerodynamic concerns, but its recent models have proved popular with the racing crowd thanks to their support of the Cannondale pro cycling team.

POC tends to favor bright colors to make riders more visible in traffic, and this has the added benefit of making their athletes stand out from the crowd and giving the brand a strong image.

To make the Octal X SPIN, POC took its popular road cycling helmet — the Octal, and gave it a few tweaks to make it equally suitable for trail use. Along with a shell that fully covers the lining — a common feature of off-road helmets — POC added SPIN technology. SPIN, which stands for Shearing Pads Inside, is designed to protect against oblique impacts — something that many standard helmets don't do so well.

While CPSC regulations don't require protection against these impacts, POC offers SPIN technology to people who want protection above and beyond the legal minimum. The main function of a helmet is protecting your brain, so POC made this its main selling point for the Octal X SPIN.

Safety might be a good reason to pick the Octal X SPIN, but you won't be let down in terms of performance either. Reviewers love the comfy straps and 21 vents, which make the helmet disappear in use. One biker said the new helmet "seems to move air a little better" than the previous model.

The easy-to-use and highly adjustable retention system also garnered praise from experts. They appreciated the light weight of the helmet, which makes it equally appropriate for road or mountain use. Lastly, the quick adjustment saw one reviewer taking the Octal from box to bike ride in two minutes.

When I first put on the Octal X SPIN, I noted how much more of the back and sides of my head were covered compared to a conventional road helmet. This makes the Octal a safer choice, especially for riding off-road where low-speed falls and hits to different parts of the head are likely.

Despite its larger size, the Octal didn't feel heavy in use, and the scales confirm that it weighs in at a very competitive 267 grams for medium. The larger footprint didn't seem to impact ventilation, either, even on slow climbs, the helmet provided ample airflow. On evening commutes, I felt reassured by the high visibility orange shell, and found the "Eye Garage" useful for holding my sunglasses without them slipping out.

Pros: Lightweight, well ventilated, highly visible, enhanced coverage and SPIN system for better protection

Cons: Some riders may have to size up from the non-SPIN models, the appearance will not appeal to everyone, POC's crash replacement policy is not as generous as some brands, expensive

Buy the POC Octal X Spin on Amazon for $179.99-$274.95

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