Cycle helmets for older kids and young teens – a group test

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Here at Cycle Sprog we have decided to do a group test of a range of bike helmets for older kids and young teenagers.

Our two teenage testers will judge the helmets on appearance, fit, adjustability, comfortability and more!

The 9 cycle helmets our teenagers will be testing are:

Abus Mount Z Junior Helmet (RRP £45)

Alpina Carapax Junior Helmet (RRP £55)

Bell Sidetrack Helmet (RRP £55)

Cube Talok Helmet (RRP £39)

Giant Compel ARX helmet (RRP £38)

Giro Tremor MIPS helmet (RRP £65)

Hornit Helmet  (RRP £35)

Kali Chakra Youth Helmet (RRP £37)

MET Eldar Youth Helmet (RRP £40)

Our two teenage cycle helmet reviewers are a 13 year old boy and 15 year old girl who have head measurements of 54cm and 55cm respectively.

This puts both of them towards the top end of the helmet sizes in this group test, and we wanted to find out which helmets appealed to that discerning teenage market.

Both are really active young people often out and about on their bikes – plus our girl tester has long hair so we could test how the helmets worked with plaits and ponytails.

No one present had any idea how much the helmets cost, so this couldn’t be a contributing factor to the discussions.

The first test was purely visual – which helmets passed the “Yeah, I’d wear that” thought process of a teenager?

It only took moments to work through the pile of nine helmets, with an equal three-way split between “No way” “Go on then” and a vague shrug of the shoulders which we take to mean "Meh"!

Bike Helmet comparison for older kids and young teenagers

It’s not really surprising that the Hornit Sloth Helmet was placed immediately in the “No Way” pile – teenagers aren’t the target demographic of this range!

The Kali didn’t stand a chance either, as the green block pattern is apparently reminiscent of Minecraft and they’re now way too cool to play that once loved game.

Finally the bright orange Bell helmet, whilst having a popular streamlined shape, was deemed to look like a traffic cone and neither would ever countenance leaving the house in it!

With all three it will be interesting to see if the nuts and bolts of the helmet get their approval, as they are all available in other colour schemes.

Hornit sloth kids bike helmet
Kali kids bike helmet in green
Bell kids bike helmet in orange

Clear first-round winners in terms of looks were the Giro, MET and Alpina, which interestingly all have a single block colour, a prominent brand logo and more rounded features.

The remaining three helmets were the Giant, Abus and Cube. These three were deemed “alright” and “OK” with our testers observing that they tended to have more angular features than their chosen favourites. Our reviewers didn’t cast them out, but they certainly weren’t enthusing about them.

Into the next round, we started by putting their three favourites up against each other.

The Alpina helmet failed at the first hurdle due to its narrow oval shape.

Our teenage boy tester could hardly get it on and said it felt like it was perched on the top of his head rather than securely in place.

The other tester managed to get it onto her head, but then immediately complained that it was far too tight and pushing uncomfortably against the sides of her skull.

A quick look at the shape of the helmet confirms it’s a very oval, egg shape compared to the other helmets.

Alpina kids helmet shown with plaits
comparing helmets for older kids and young teenagers

Given they were both under the maximum head measurement it shows how important testing helmets and getting the correct one for you is.

One of our reviewers mum has a very small head and had quickly tried all the helmets on too, and this was her favourite in terms of comfort and styling!

The rear adjuster on the Alpina was the only one of the nine that got a special mention – it’s “ice look” effect catching the teenage eye, and it sat neatly away from the ponytail.

At this point, I’m going to say all nine helmets fitted fine with two plaits, but there was considerable variation when she swapped to a ponytail.

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The Giro was an interesting experience. One of our testers has actually been wearing a slightly older, non-MIPS version of this helmet for a while.

It performed excellently during a week-long tour of the trail centres of Wales during hot sunny weather and he also uses it all the time on his shorter trips around town. He loves the ease of use of the rear adjuster and finds the clasp really easy to operate, even in gloves.

Every time he wears it I think how well fitted it looks on him with the straps fitting snugly against the side of his face.

However when our other reviewer put on the review helmet the side straps looked slightly too loose.

I went to tighten them up under her ears and discovered that this helmet lacks any way to do this!

Both reviewers gave this helmet a big thumbs up.

They liked the thickness of the padding, the fit on their head, the positioning of the visor and the colour, plus the rear design gives plenty of room above Nikki’s low ponytail.

Our teenage girl helmet tester wasn’t quite as enamoured with the fastening mechanism, but it is something that our other tester too had to get used to when he first got his. It’s very different to a traditional helmet clasp so does take a few uses to become familiar with.

Giro kids bike helmet
met kids bike helmet comparison to other helmets

With the Giro in the lead at this point, they turned their attention to the Met helmet.

Trying this straight after the Giro, the initial comment was that the padding inside the Met felt a little bit harsh against their forehead and the tightening mechanism didn’t sit quite as comfortably against the back of their head.

A closer inspection of the inside of the helmets showed that the Met has one long strip of padding all the way around the forehead, whilst the Giro’s is more tailored, with a couple of narrow cutaway pieces to prevent bunching of the fabric (and also to provide a bit of ventilation against the head).

Visually, the Met helmet looked more rounded and wider across the front of the face and the visor sat a bit more awkwardly - an addition to rather than an integrated part of - the helmet.

Closer inspection shows that whilst there is roughly the same (very narrow) amount of helmet showing beneath both visors, Giro have cleverly used colour with a narrow grey strip around the base of the helmet which I think is more flattering. The Met block of colour extends all the way to the skin, making it look like more helmet is on display under the visor.

The Met helmet is fitted with MIPS for additional protection, but with longer hair we got reports that the fixing points caused her hair to get stuck.

When you’ve spent ages plaiting your hair you certainly don’t want it looking dishevelled the moment you put your helmet on!

When I later checked inside both helmets I could see that the Giro has covered each of the MIPS fixing points with padding, whilst they are exposed on the Met.

Initially, the clasp on the Met was not very popular as it’s was very tight and everyone present struggled to undo it.

Over time it loosened and became slightly easier to use, but the clasp mechanism is very small.

This might be great for kids fingers but if you’re still at the stage of undoing your child’s helmet for them you might want to know that I found this difficult to operate with my larger adult fingers and think it would be almost impossible in gloves.

The rear adjuster was super easy to use, even in gloves, and there was plenty of room for a ponytail. In my “parent safety mode” I liked the rear reflective material making this a good all year round choice.

kids bike helmet girl with ponytail

By the end of this round, it had become very clear that you can’t pick a helmet on looks alone.

The Giro was their clear favourite, with just the slight niggle over the lack of adjustability under the ears causing me concern.

However, we reflected that the simplicity of the design meant there was less confusion around the straps and this meant the Giro is just great for just putting on and riding straight away.

Next up we looked at the “They’re alright” helmets.

The Giant was reasonably comfy on the head but the straps were quite fiddly to get right.

The back of the Giant helmet is a bit higher than the others they’d tried and both our reviewers commented that they felt the back of their head was a bit exposed.

The margins are very small in terms of measurements, but it’s interesting how the perception of safety is important, as at this age kids are more than aware as to why they’re wearing a helmet.

When it came to the ponytail test, the Giant was the only one that had plenty of room for a ponytail above AND below the adjustment mechanism.

The Cube was the only helmet with the integral visor, and this wasn’t as popular as I thought it might be, as they felt it raised the helmet up on their foreheads a bit.

The tightening rachet on the rear of the helmet was different to the other helmets – not bad different but just different, so needed a bit of getting used to.

The main gripe about the Cube was the strap – the end is treated to prevent fraying and the way the strap is designed means the rough edge rubs against the skin.

The Cube helmet worked with a low ponytail, but there wasn’t much room for it creeping any higher.

The Abus looked good on both reviewers, but neither were particularly impressed with the fit.

Neither teen could get it tightened well enough to stop it feeling “a bit loose” and there were mutterings of it digging in slightly a bit at the back.

On the plus side, they liked the reflective strip, and it did look good on.

The adjuster was one of the lowest of all the helmets and was positioned just above a low ponytail.

The conclusion was that all of the “alright” helmets were still in that middle category, although the Giant does get an extra mention for being great for ponytails.

If the straps weren’t quite so fiddly then this may have been a contender to move up.

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Abus kids bike helmet comparison

Finally we moved onto the “No way” helmets.

First up, our intrepid teenage cycle helmet reviewers were in for a real surprise!

The bright orange bell helmet they'd rejected at the start turned out to be REALLY comfortable.

The extra-thick padding was praised, as was the easy to use clasp.

“I feel very comfortable and protected” is everything you want from a cycle helmet!

The design of the helmet was commented on, as the shell runs in continual strips with the air vents in between.

This results in a more streamlined/race look. This styling got compliments both with and without the visor (it looks like a track helmet when you take the visor off).

The slightly higher back also gave plenty of room for a ponytail.

There was all around agreement that the Bell would move from the “No way” list up into the top group, just not in the orange colour.

Thankfully the helmet is also available in all black and a blue/green combination!

Next up was the “Minecraft” Kali, which also comes in a range of different colours.

The adjustment wasn’t as subtle as other helmets and they felt it went from too loose to too tight, plus it makes a weird grating sound which made our reviewer think she’d broken it.

Design-wise, they feel there’s a light or reflector missing from the circular piece on the rear, which sat too low down for an already low ponytail.

Finally, we had the Hornit Sloth helmet. Both our reviewers really liked the rear light, with its different flashing options – a real safety boon if you’re riding in the winter.

Long hair snagged a bit on the Velcro but the Hornit helmet worked OK with her low ponytail.

Both our reviewers felt the helmet was “a bit loose” and didn’t particularly like the feeling around their ears, which were quite exposed in comparison to the other helmets they’d been testing.

This type of “skate” helmet design is a real matter of preference – some people love them and others loathe them.

Our teenage boy tester looked terrible in it, as it seemed to perch on top of his long narrow face, but our female testers rounder face really suited it.

The sloths weren’t popular and it didn’t help at all when I told them they could get unicorns, puppies, icecreams, flamingos, sharks or spiders instead. Oh how quickly they grow up!

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Hornit sloth helmet review

With all nine cycle helmets reviewed by our teenagers, we had three favourites emerge.

The Giro was both reviewers outright favourite. They loved the simplicity of use, the colour, the styling, and the comfortable fit.

Our teenage girl reviewer had the Bell in a close second – I’m not sure if we’d been sent a more subtle colour whether she’d have been swayed into giving this first place, as this had slightly more room for the ponytail.

The teenage  boy reviewer is more into mountain biking so opted to put the Met slightly ahead of the Bell, down to the off-road styling of the helmet.

Also, he didn’t have the problem with long hair getting caught on the MIPS mounting points.

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