When it comes to health and safety, we are often reminded not to skimp for the sake of a few dollars. But, does this concept hold true when it comes to bicycle helmets? Will a few more dollars buy us a safer helmet?
If so, that would then imply that buying a cheaper helmet is like gambling with your life. What gives here? Are expensive bike helmets worth it, and what do we really get from one?
A bike helmet is the most important piece of gear that you should be wearing when riding a bike. Its main purpose is to protect your head in the event of an accident, so when buying one can we be sure we’re getting the proper head protection despite the price.
- All bike helmets, regardless of price, must be CPSC certified.
- Expensive bike helmets may utilize better quality materials.
- Expensive bike helmets may be lighter and have improved ventilation.
- Expensive bike helmets usually have additional features.
- Expensive bike helmets may be more stylish.
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Are Expensive Bike Helmets Worth It?
Helmet safety certification is exactly the same for all bike helmets regardless of price. However, the expensive helmet will most likely be made from better quality materials, may weigh less, have better ventilation, have additional features, and look more appealing than its cheaper counterpart.
It would make sense that an expensive bike helmet could be the better choice when buying one, but do you really need all those bells, whistles and flashing lights. Maybe a cheaper, basic helmet will be adequate.
We’re going to address the questions you may have regarding cheap and expensive helmets so that by the end of this article you will be able to choose the helmet that better suits your needs and you can adjust your budget accordingly.
Cheap Vs Expensive Bike Helmet
The main difference between cheap vs expensive helmets is that cheap helmets are simply a basic, no frills helmet while expensive helmets have additional features and made from better quality materials.
However, from a safety perspective, there’s no difference as all helmets, no matter their production costs and final price, have to conform to the safety standards that have been approved by the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), so no matter which helmet you’re buying, it must have passed the CPSC safety standard as required by the law.
The mandatory testing that all helmets are subject to is to assess their construction quality, energy absorption ability in moments of impact, and retention system effectiveness to make sure all helmets meet the buyers’ requirement of high-level protection.
These standards and certifications assure the consumer that their helmet is safe and that they are investing in something useful. So, there’s not really any difference between a 30 dollar helmet and a 300 dollar one in terms of safety in order for them to be legally sold.
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So, if we can be assured that all helmets are certified to keep us safe, then what is it that makes an expensive helmet worth more?
The main added value that comes with a more expensive helmet is in its comfort, weight, ventilation properties and sometimes even in the finish and fashion trends. These all can change and vary depending on the helmet type that you need and the materials that it’s made from.
We’re going to look in more detail at these helmet properties and how they can make a difference in pricing so that you can decide for yourself if it’s worth investing a little more on looks and comfort or to stay with the basics.
Materials, weight and ventilation
One of the main price differentiators in a helmet is the material with which it is made and the total weight of the final product. Lighter helmets provide riders with more comfort when riding long distances.
Most helmet outer shells are made of polycarbonate, but to reduce the weight some are made of carbon fiber which also provides better durability but at a higher price.
Protection and quality
Most cheaper helmets use glue to join the outer shell with the inner foam padding, while more expensive ones use an in-mold technology whereby the EPS foam is injected into the polycarbonate shell during the shell construction. The in-mold process creates a lighter, more durable helmet.
A cheaper helmet is going to be built with cheaper materials than a more expensive one for obvious reasons. If you opt for a cheaper one it won’t always look pristine for as long as a more expensive one, but don’t worry, they will both provide you with head protection during your rides.
Fit and comfort
To have greater comfort when wearing a helmet, the right fit is essential. Sometimes a cheaper helmet won’t have features like more than one tightening mechanism making it more difficult for the customer to find the perfect fit. To have a better fit, helmet shape is also an important factor to consider.
Cheaper helmets may have basic shapes but sometimes you feel more comfortable in a narrower helmet that costs a bit extra.
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Some helmets have removable padding or extra inner pads to vary the thickness of the helmet and to easily achieve the perfect fit for everyone. Usually, these tend to be the most expensive helmets but you can find basic ones like this one that has an LED light (link to Amazon) to give you more comfort at a lower price, but, of course, the quality of the pads may reduce with the price.
Just like the inner helmet shell has its padding, the chin retention system uses similar pads to offer comfort, there are even some expensive options that opt for leather chin straps.
Helmets can have all sorts of added features. They can range from simple ones to more specific features that need the latest technologies. These are some of the features that can influence the price of the helmets:
- Lighting (LED).
- Removable parts (chin bars, visors, padding).
- Adjustable fitting systems.
- Internal ventilation channels.
- Inbuilt electronics to measure heart rate or head position.
- Integrated cameras or mount points.
- Integrated Bluetooth or Mesh communications.
- Optimized aerodynamics.
- MIPS technology (brain protection system).
To answer the question ‘are expensive bike helmets worth it’, the answer would be ‘yes’ in terms of features. However, you’d be best advised to shop around for those features and buy a bike helmet that suits your budget and provides the features that you want/need.
On the other hand, if you just want a basic bike helmet that will protect you in an accident without breaking the bank, then a cheaper helmet should be fine provided it has the certification label inside. Just because the vendor says it’s certified, it is always wise to check to see the label inside the helmet.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a cheap or an expensive helmet because most of them are classified as single impact and will no longer survive another collision or protect in the same way as they did the first time, so either way, you will need to replace it.