First of all, a cheap helmet is not necessarily any less safe than an expensive helmet & an expensive helmet is not any safer than a cheap helmet. The reason being is most countries have safety standards which helmets have to meet before they can be sold. For the U.S helmets should be CPSC approved, In EU it should be CE approved, & in Australia, it should be AS or NZS approved.
So now that we established that expensive helmets aren’t necessarily safer than cheaper helmets, let’s take a look at what you get from purchasing an expensive helmet as opposed to a cheaper one:
- Better Retention Systems
- More Effective Ventilation System
- Innovative features (Such as MIPS)
- Improved Aerodynamics
- Enhanced Inner Padding
Let’s take a look at all these elements in more detail.
Cheap vs Expensive: What You Get From Paying More?
Fit and retention systems
When it comes to expensive helmets manufacturers prioritize retention systems. The reason being is for a helmet to do its job correctly it’s crucial that the helmet is correctly fitted to the rider’s head or else if to loose the helmet may move during impact therefore not effectively absorbing impact. If the helmets fitted to tightly comfort and effectiveness also suffers.
A high-end helmet will almost always have a retention system that allows for millimeter increments of adjustments which allow you to get the perfect fit for your head shape. Also, an added benefit of a good helmet retention system is it allows you to wear a cycling cap underneath while maintaining a perfect snug fit.
Expensive helmets prioritize ventilation alot more than the inexpensive helmet. A well-ventilated helmet enhances airflow through the front and dissipates heat through the back, keeping your head cool at all times. A well-ventilated helmet also reduces the overall weight of the helmet providing a more comfortable fit.
Expensive helmets typically come with innovative protection features such as MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System). Mips is a thin liner that is located inside the helmet & is used as an impact protection system, in the case of an impact the helmet will move independently therefor redirecting energy which will greatly reduce impact to the skull.
Enhanced aerodynamics is another you will notice with expensive helmets. Aerodynamics has the ability to increase your overall speed whilst producing the same amount of effort. Aerodynamics testing is a time-consuming process as wind tunnel testing is done repeatedly to optimize the aerodynamic capabilities of the helmet this is why enhanced aerodynamics is typically found in expensive helmets.
Do You Really Need An Expensive Helmet?
In most cases, an affordable helmet would do just fine, if the helmet has a perfect fit with your head shape, has the features you’re looking for, & provides comfort you should stick with that affordable helmet. So then when should you consider going for a high-end helmet?
When it comes to fit not all head shapes are the same & not all helmets fit every head shape which is why we recommend trying out the helmet before purchasing. For most people, this isn’t an issue but for some most helmets won’t feel perfectly fitted to your head even though it’s the right size, for this reason, you will probably need a helmet with a more customizable fit & provides millimeters of increment for adjustment & this is typically found in higher-end helmets.
Another reason to consider expensive helmets is if you require a particular premium feature. For example, most budget helmets don’t really provide quality aerodynamic helmets, because the testing and refining process is incredibly time-consuming as various wind tunnel tests are required as well as refining. So if you’re in the lookout for a good quality helmet enhanced with aerodynamic capabilities than an expensive helmet is the way to go.
Innovative protective features such as MIPS would be another reason to go for a expensive helmet. Although there are a few affordable helmets in the market that offer MIPS such as the Giro Isode but they may be limited in terms of other features you require, so sometimes depending on the circumstances it’s worth going for the premium option.
Different Types Of Helmets:
Different riding disciplines require different protection features as well as a more optimized geometry for that particular discipline.
Road Bike Helmet
A good road bike helmet should be quite well ventilated & lightweight for added comfort, especially on those longer rides. When it comes to road bike helmets riders tend to prioritize ventilation due to hot weather conditions, there’s nothing worse than riding for long hours with a stuffy helmet on a hot day.
Mountain Bike Helmet
Mountain bike helmets typically have more coverage on the back & sides compared to road bike helmets this is due to mountain bike conditions being unpredictable and impact can occur from any area, unlike road biking. Mountain biking helmets usually come with a visor to protect riders from glare caused by the sun. Mountain bike helmets come in two forms half shell & full face. Full face helmets offer more protection especially for a downhill rider whose chin can be vulnerable in unforeseen circumstances, a full-face helmet provides more coverage in order to protect riders who participate in more extreme riding styles.
Similarly to mountain bikes, BMX helmets come in two forms which are half shell & full face. Bmx helmets are typically heavier than your average road bike helmet they come in a slightly rounded shape with small vents, these helmets have more coverage on the back of the head as well of the sides to secure the head from different angles mainly due to ramps.
BMX full-face helmets are designed to offer full protection when doing extreme tricks or when racing BMX. They have few vents as there not really required, the main requirements of this type of helmet are durability, fit, & comfort.
Commuter helmets are designed to be more of a casual helmet that doesn’t require much ventilation nor does it require any special features as commuting doesn’t demand the same intensity as other riding disciplines would, it doesn’t require much specifications other than providing good riding protection.
Before purchasing a helmet it’s recommended that you try it on. As mentioned above different people have different head shapes and helmet brands have different head shape fittings some being narrower, some wider. Even if the helmet is the right size it might not fit well if the inner mold shape isn’t suited to your head. So it’s important that you try on the helmet before purchasing in order to get the find the right fit.
When looking for a helmet it’s important to note that expensive helmets aren’t necessarily better when it comes to safety, if both helmets meet the same safety requirement then there isn’t a real difference in terms of safety. However expensive helmets provide other additional features that budget helmets don’t. Which are a more effective retention System, better ventilation system, improved aerodynamics, enhanced inner padding. These features aren’t necessary but will definitely enhance the quality of your ride & can improve performance depending on your needs as well as the type riding discipline you participate in. So there you have it, thanks for reading & ride safe.