Best Kid’s Bike Helmets: From Bike Park to School Commute to Downhill MTB
Whether your one-year-old is just getting used to riding in your bike trailer or your six-year-old is showing you up on the trails, finding a good children’s bike helmet is important.
As a parent, you want to let them shred on their balance bikes and grow into their first pedal bikes, but, you know, safely. Choosing a kid’s bike helmet that fits well and, let’s be honest, looks and feels good enough that they’re willing to keep it on even when you’re not looking, is critically important. Here, our test crew at Bikerumor is sharing the helmets that our kiddos wear as they come along on our adventures.
BEST OVERALL: Kali Chakra Child/Youth Helmets
We love the Chakra Child and Youth helmets from Kali for a few reasons, but we’ll get the basic one out of the way first: They just look cool. Not only are there plenty of colors available, but Kali also does limited-run artist collaborations, so you can get an incredibly unique helmet that helps your kid stand out in a crowd.
From a safety standpoint, Kali’s hard to beat, and these take age and size into consideration with the features. The Child versions have an integrated visor, and the XS uses an easier elastic retention strap. The Youth helmets upgrade to an adjustable dial-fit that allows us to ensure a properly fitting helmet, with a breakaway visor. The extended rear coverage on all sizes is not only great for protection on the trails, it’s also more comfortable for kiddos who are stuck sitting in the trailer while we get our miles in.
We also appreciate that the Youth helmet goes a bit bigger than most helmets for kids, offering an option for kids six and up who might still need a smaller helmet. And there’s a Plus model that uses some of Kali’s more advanced protective materials for more aggressive little riders.
- Size: Kali Chakra Child: XS 46-48 CM, S 48-54 CM / Youth: One Size 52-57 CM
- Material: Composite Fusion in-mold construction
- Weight: 245 grams for XS
- Color: Kali Chakra Child: 8 options plus limited run artist series options / Youth: 5 options plus limited run artist series options
- MSRP: Kali Chakra Child $40 / Youth $50 / Youth Plus $60
PROS: Great price for such a feature-rich helmet, tons of colors
CONS: None, really.
RUNNER UP: Giro Youth Scamp MIPS Bike Helmet
The Giro Scamp is one of very few kids’ helmets to use MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) technology, yet it still comes in at a reasonable price point. It has a ton of adjustability in the fit, and cool color options earn the kids’ approval. The helmet mimics Giro’s Montaro MIPS helmet that’s been a favorite since 2015, and the Roc Loc Jr. fit system allows you to tweak the helmet’s fit as your kiddo’s head grows.
Bikerumor testers aged five and under were impressed with how lightweight this helmet is, despite all of its safety features and a built-in visor. The X-Small is rated for children from 1 to 4, while the Small is for 5+ kiddos.
- Size: XS (45 – 49 cm) and S (49 – 53 cm)
- Weight: 260 grams (S)
- Material: Polycarbonate, in-mold construction
- Color: 10 options
- MSRP: $60
PROS: Lightweight MIPS protection at a great price point
CONS: Not a lot of vents
BEST FOR BMX/SKATER KIDS: Bontrager Jet WaveCel Youth Bike Helmet
If you have a kiddo who thinks bike helmets are kind of silly looking but digs a skater style, this helmet from Bontrager presents the best of both worlds: The aesthetic of a skate park casual helmet, but the safety of a standard cycling helmet. While it looks simple, inside, you’ll find that it’s lined with Bontrager’s WaveCel technology, the brand’s alternative to MIPS.
Unlike other casual helmets like it, it’s rated to ASTM standards in addition to CPSC, the minimum required for helmets (see the FAQs below for more about helmet ratings). It also has a dial to tighten or loosen the fit as needed, and comfortable pads that are easy to clean so it’s less smelly. It also comes with Bontrager’s Crash Replacement Guarantee…and stickers!
- Size: 48-52cm and 50-55cm
- Weight: 460 grams
- Material: ABS polymer outer, EPS inner
- Color: 4 options
- MSRP: $90
PROS: WaveCel protection in a casual style
CONS: Pricey, and heavy
BEST FOR NIGHT RIDES: Specialized Shuffle Child SB helmet
We love the Shuffle Child SB helmet for safety and visibility – an integrated LED backlight and reflective accents mean your child never leaves for a ride without some type of light attached. It’s also equipped with a MIPS lining, and Specialized’s Headset SX fit system, which uses child-oriented sizing. It comes with a clip-on visor, and
- Size: 50-55 CM
- Weight: 342 grams
- Material: In-mold shell, EPS inner
- Color: 4 color options
- MSRP: $55
PROS: Integrated tail light at a great price
CONS: Limited colorways, a little heavier than our top picks
BEST FOR ASPIRING ROADIES: Bontrager Starvos
For older kids who love to road ride with you, the Bontrager Starvos is a great choice. Unlike most kid’s helmets, it’s not flashy or cute, this helmet is all business. In fact, we like it because your kiddo can continuously size up while staying in the Starvos since the youth sizing is just the XS of the adult helmet. The Starvos is Bontrager’s inexpensive WaveCel option for riders, and at $105, it might seem pricey for a youth helmet, but the price stays the same as you go up into adult sizes. The XS is for youth riders, but for 50-55cm head diameters, which generally will equate to ages five to eight.
- Size: XS 50-55cm
- Weight: 335 grams (Medium)
- Material: Outer shell, EPS inner
- Color: 3 (black, white, high viz)
- MSRP: $105
PROS: Looks just like mom’s and dad’s road helmet!
CONS: Pricey compared to the rest
BEST TRAIL HELMET: Cratoni Maxster Pro
At €55, the Cratoni Maxster Pro is a great lightweight performance MTB helmet for kiddos who just love to jump into the races or get a little send-y on pump tracks in the woods. We appreciate the deep rear occipital coverage, as well as small-but-meaningful additions like a mesh over the front vents to keep bugs out, a neat little blinkie rear light, and a really small size for tiny shredders. But even in a small size, the helmets are equipped with an adult-level retention system to dial in a 360-degree level of fit. This is the helmet of choice for our Bikerumor staffer with a two-and-a-half-year-old who just loves to shred, and you can read our full review here.
- Size: XS-S (46-51 cm), S-M (51-56 cm)
- Weight: 220 grams
- Material: EPS foamed into the polycarbonate shell
- Color: 18 color options!
- MSRP: € 54.95
PROS: Great coverage, tons of color options, proper ventilation
CONS: A little overkill for neighborhood riding
BEST ECO-FRIENDLY KIDS HELMET: Urge Nimbus
The Urge Nimbus helmet is quite similar to Cratoni’s Maxster Pro in terms of great rear protection and impressive fit adjustment. But it also uses recycled ABS for its visor, recycled EPS foam to create the outer shell, and recycled PET bottles to make the straps. (Don’t worry if recycled helmets sound a little weird: The crash protection foam in the helmet is new EPS material.) Urge’s eco-friendly and wallet-friendly helmets are among our favorites: we’ve loved other low-cost Urge helmets in the past as well. The one thing we don’t like is the goofy graphics, so your kid is going need to sticker bomb this one as soon as they get it.
- Size: 51-55cm
- Weight: 235 grams
- Material: New and Recycled EPS, Recycled PET for straps
- Color: 4 color options
- MSRP: €59
PROS: Eco-friendly at a great price
CONS: Let’s be honest, the graphics are silly
BEST FULL-FACE MTB HELMET: Leatt MTB Gravity 1.0 Junior
The $99 Leatt MTB Gravity 1.0 Junior offers quite small adult sizes, plus two extra Junior-specific XXS & XS sizes that will fit most kids. At under $100, it’s a hard-to-beat value for protecting your kid’s head in the bike park. The helmet even includes Leatt’s 360° Turbine rotational impact protection system, their excellent alternative to MIPS. The weight is a hefty 960 grams, but it is a lot of helmet, so that’s actually quite a reasonable weight. We appreciate that the inner liner can be removed and is machine-washable, and we love that if you are planning a more extreme day on the trails, this helmet is compatible with a neck brace for more protection.
The one issue we’ve noticed is that sizing is a bit tricky compared to other Leatt helmets, so it’d actually be great to be able to try on to confirm fit. This helmet doesn’t have the dial adjustments of conventional MTB helmets, meaning finding the right size is important. It’s both CPSC and ASTM-certified, since it is a downhill helmet (more on that in the FAQ below). Read our review of the adult size right here.
- Size: XXS (51 – 52cm), XS (53 – 54cm), S (55 – 56cm)
- Material: Outer hard shell, EPS foam inner
- Color: Red or black
- MSRP: $99
PROS: Ultimate in protection for young MTBers
CONS: Not adjustable
BEST KIDS HELMET ADD-ON: Cratoni C-Safe crash sensor
If your kid rides without you, you may want to add a crash sensor to their helmet. We love the C-Safe Crash Sensor from Cratoni—for just 60€, it lets you better keep track of whether your kid is really smashing their head on the ground. It’s not just for bike helmets: You can move it from bike to ski helmets, and from the kid’s lid to your own quickly and easily. (While many Cratoni helmets make attachment super-easy with a specific holding spot for the sensor, it can easily be attached to any helmet with an adhesive pad. Read more about it here.
Buyer’s Guide For Children’s Bike Helmets
Consider usage when choosing the style. If your kiddo is already seriously into mountain biking and shreds the trails at speeds that stress you out, consider a full-face MTB helmet. But if your big rides are just down the road to school, a “normal” helmet will work just fine. It’s not just about the style though: Shape matters in some cases. The shape should have a round back that doesn’t protrude too far rearward if you’re going to be sitting them in a child trailer. Otherwise, the helmet will be pushing their head forward and down, which is uncomfortable at best.
Check your kiddo’s head size. Use a soft tape measure to get an accurate measurement of your child’s head diameter in centimeters at the widest point, and reference that against the sizing. If he or she is right between sizes, you may need to try before you buy to see which is more comfortable. (From a cost-saving perspective, obviously sizing up so your child can grow into it is great, but if that bigger size can’t be dialed in to fit properly, then it’s not a good choice.)
Look for safety ratings. Make sure the helmet has a CPSC rating from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. For downhill or BMX, also look for the ASTM F1952 safety rating. (For more on what makes a helmet safe, we have an explainer article here.)
Remember 2V1 for fit. When trying a helmet on, make sure it can be adjusted for a 2V1 fit: 2 fingers from eyebrow to the helmet, a clean V shape around the ears with the straps, and 1 finger under the chin for the strap. Some children’s helmets are so simple that they become impossible to adjust, so your child may not fit properly in the first helmet you try.
Frequently Asked Questions About Children’s Bike Helmets
Why not buy a cheap one at a big box store?
Simply put, the quality of a cheap children’s helmet is a bit dubious. Technically, all helmets sold after 1999 in the US are required to have a CPSC rating, but the construction is often lower quality than the helmets we’ve listed here. Cheap helmets may also lack both fit and the ability to adjust interior straps and dials.
Does my kid need MIPS?
It depends. We’ll say this: MIPS or any other technology like Bontrager’s WaveCel is not going to be a bad idea for your child’s helmet, though there’s not much research done on youth and technologies like MIPS. (Not sure what MIPS even does? We have a handy guide right here.)
When does my kid need to wear a helmet?
In addition to anytime your kiddo is actually riding their bike (including in the house!), they should also rock a helmet anytime you’re riding with them in a trailer or seat (even if it’s covered). Check out the official guide from Consumer Product Safety Commission for additional thoughts on this.
When can my kid graduate to adult helmets?
Most youth helmets stop at 57cm head circumference, so once your child outgrows that (check with a soft tape measure), he or she can size up to adult options.
How should a kid’s helmet fit?
The same as your helmet should fit! It should feel firmly in place and not move around at the slightest head tilt. Remember 2V1: 2 fingers between eyebrows and the helmet, a neat V-shape with your index and middle finger on the straps by the ears, and 1 finger under the chin.
When should I replace a kid’s helmet?
Like any helmet, anytime there’s a crash where the helmet takes a hit, or even if the helmet is dropped onto a cement or concrete floor in the garage, it should be replaced. Helmets aren’t designed to withstand multiple impacts.