What’s The Difference Between a Hard Shell and a Soft Shell Bike Helmet?

You may think not wearing a bike helmet makes you cool. You could not be more wrong! Accidents and injuries are no joke.

Ever seen Olympic cyclists and other professional cyclists not wearing a proper helmet?

I doubt it. You always see professionals putting their safety first. And because of the speed they travel in, a helmet should be their top priority.

Bike helmets are one of the essential bike accessories that no one should forget about. They are specially designed to save your skull from horrendous accidents and injuries.

Statistics show that wearing a bike helmet reduces the risk of head injuries by up to 70%. On the contrary, 54% of bicycle casualties and fatalities are because of not wearing a helmet.

Dr. John Black, the medical director of South Central Ambulance Service, United Kingdom, believes that wearing bike helmets would significantly reduce road accidents and deaths in the UK.

Bike helmets are built out of EPS, short for expanded polystyrene.

EPS is a thick foam that absorbs and eliminates the energy transferred to the head in a crash.

Typically speaking, a bike helmet consists of two main parts: a hard outer shell and a soft inner layer.

The hard shell in bike helmets is meant to spread the force of impact broader, so the skull is less prone to injury.

At the same time, the soft inner layer functions to absorb the energy of the effects, so it does not affect your head.

Professional Cyclists wearing Bike Helmets (Source: Pixabay.com)

Now that we have a basic understanding of bike helmets and their importance, let us talk about the shells of bike helmets.

Typically, bike helmets have a hard shell and a soft shell. Though their built is different, they both serve the same purpose: safety.

I am here today to unravel the difference between a hard shell helmet and a soft shell helmet for you.

The difference between a hard shell bike helmet and a soft shell bike helmet are:

  • Aesthetics
  • Weight
  • Safety and Durability
  • Comfort
  • Injuries

I do not use bike helmets for my everyday commute at all.

But hearing some news about recent bike accidents, I am thinking of getting one.

If you put your safety first, just like me, let us go on this journey together. I am going to share my findings with you.

Differences between Hard Shell and Soft Shell Helmets

Before I begin with the differences, you should know that both the hard shell and soft shell helmets meet CPSC (short for Consumer Product Safety Commission) standards.

Any helmet meeting the CPSC standards are a good choice.

Now, let us not waste any more time and get right into the differences between the two.


Hard shell helmets, as the name suggests, are made out of the hard outer shell. Underneath the outer shell lies foam that absorbs the energy from the impact.

Soft shell helmets, on the other hand, are made entirely out of foam. The outer layer consists of thick foam with an inner layer of foam as well.


The thick outer foam of the soft shell helmets makes the helmets considerably lightweight.

And as I have experienced it myself, lightweight helmets mean more effortless and quick maneuver.

The hard outer shell of the hard shell helmets is not relatively lightweight. It packs quite a bit of weight comparatively.

Safety and Durability

Hard shell helmets are quite sturdier than soft shell helmets given their significant weight. The former helmets are highly resistant to penetrations from objects, preventing any catastrophic injuries.

As I have seen, soft shell helmets are more prone to physical damages on impacts compared to hard ones because of their built material.

But the other merit of soft shell helmets is lesser force impacts.

Soft shell helmets absorb the lesser impact preventing any abrupt stops. Whereas with hard shell helmets, any minor forced impacts cause a sudden halt which might cause a concussion.

Another notable significance of soft shell helmets over hard shell helmets is their advanced technology.

Soft shell helmets feature a unique technology designed to absorb shock and redistribute the impact on contact.

Such advanced technology reduces the chance of severe head injury. This remarkable technology makes soft shell helmets exceptionally protective.


Hard shell helmets, given their nature, are hard and can add up a bit of weight.

If you are not used to wearing helmets, switching to hard shell helmets can take a bit of getting used to because of the weight.

On the contrary, soft shell helmets are entirely made out of foam.

The use of lightweight foam and already mentioned advanced technology makes the soft shell helmets more comfortable to wear.


The ANSI, short for American National Standards Institute, tested the two bicycle helmets and found some interesting results.

The hard shell helmets tend to slide on concrete. Such, in fact, potentially increases the risk of any facial injury in an accident.

On the contrary, soft shell helmets do not slip or slide on concrete surfaces. Such risks the cyclist of potential neck injuries as the head decelerates faster than the body.

What is Hard Shell Helmet?

A hard shell helmet has a hard outer shell made out of plastic or fiberglass. It shields against penetration by sharp objects.

Hard shell helmets hold polystyrene together if it happens to crack in an accident.

I have listed some of the best hard shell helmets below for you:

Best Hard Shell Helmets on Amazon

Finding a good bike hard shell helmet on the internet can be a hassle.

To make it easier for you, I have come up with the five best hard shell helmets available on Amazon at the moment.

1. Giro Syntax MIPS

The outer shell of the Giro Syntax MIPS bike helmet is molded from sturdy polycarbonate and fused with EPS foam liner.

Giro’s in-mold construction process enhances the durability and ventilation of the helmet.

Giro Syntax MIPS Bike Helmet (Source: Amazon.com)

2. Triple Eight Dual Certified

The Triple Eight Dual Certified helmet results from a combination of their style, fit, and protection.

As the name suggests, this Triple Eight helmet is certified for both biking and skating.

The Dual Certified hard shell helmet complies with CPSC Safety Standard for bike helmets for age five and above.

The helmet is ideal for biking, skating, scooters, BMX bikes, roller derby, and commuting.

Triple Eight dual Certified Helmet (Source: Amazon.com)

3. JBM Multi Sports Helmet

JBM Multi Sports Helmet is another multi-purpose hard shell helmet on our list.

The JBM Multi Sports Helmet can be used for sports activities such as biking, skating, BMX biking, and roller skating.

The anti-shock function of the helmet makes it stand out from most of its competitors. Safety is the number one thing, and JBM Multi Sports Helmet delivers just that.

JBM Multi Sports Bike Helmet (Source: Amazon.com)

4. Base Camp Bike Helmet

The Base Camp Bike Helmet is made out of a highly durable high-density PC shell with EPS foam liner.

The helmet absorbs the energy from the impact in crashes and keeps your head well protected.

This helmet is great for urban commuting, recreational cycling, and scooter riding as well.

Base Camp Bike Helmet (Source: Amazon.com)

5. Outdoor Master Skateboard Cycling Helmet

The Outdoor Master Skateboard Cycling Helmet is made out of a reinforced ABS shell and thick shock-absorbing EPS core for best comfort and impact resistance.

Like other helmets in our list, this Amazon best-selling hard shell helmet is also multi-purpose.

Wearing an Outdoor Master Skateboard Cycling Helmet, you can enjoy activities like skating, cycling, BMX biking, mountain biking, etc.

Outdoor Master Skateboard Cycling Helmet
(Source: Amazon.com)

What is Soft Shell Helmet?

A soft shell helmet has no hard outer shell. Instead, it consists of an extra thick layer of polystyrene covered with a cloth cover or surface coating.

For most soft shell helmets, a cloth cover is essential.

You should remember to wear the cloth cover to keep the helmet intact if the polystyrene cracks on any collision.

Soft shell helmets are also known as no shell helmets because of their lack of outer shell.

Best Soft Shell Helmets on Amazon

Instead of the usual five, I have found the best three soft shell helmets available on Amazon at the moment. Let us get into it.

1. Danmar Full Coverage Soft Shell Helmet

The Danmar Full Coverage Soft Shell Helmet is made out of shock-absorbing foam.

The helmet is coated in vinyl, making it easy to clean. It features no hardware, so it erases the danger of face coming together with anything hard or sharp.

Danmar Full Coverage Soft Shell Helmet
(Source: Amazon.com)

2. Giro Discord Helmet

The Giro Discord Helmet is a soft shell helmet built for progressive freestyle and backcountry riders.

This soft shell helmet brings together an impact-absorbing Vinyl Nitrile (VN) liner with a flexible outer shell.

The combination of such materials results in an ultra-durable, flexible, and comfortable helmet to withstand high and low energy impacts.

While the Giro Discord Soft Shell Helmet may be a ski helmet, bike riders use it for biking as it has a better ventilation system.

Giro Discord Helmet (Source: Amazon.com)

3. Giro Combyn

The Giro Combyn Soft Shell Helmet is one of the first names that athletes and professionals take.

Similar to Giro Discord, this helmet used the same shock-absorbing dual-density Vinyl Nitrile (VN) liner with an outer shell.

Giro Combyn Bike Helmet (Source: Amazon.com)


Well, I certainly learned a thing or two about why helmets are so important.

And definitely, the difference between a hard shell helmet and a soft shell helmet.

So the next time you are looking to get a new one, keep the above things in mind.

Learn More about Best Kids' Bike Helmet.
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