cheap vs expensive helmets

  • This topic has 38 replies, 19 voices, and was last updated 8 years ago by  b r.
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  • cheap vs expensive helmets
  • SiB
    Member

    someone at work just asked me what the difference is between cheap and expensive helmets and I could only get as far as different outer shell (maybe?) and a ‘better filling’, not very scientific really but is it far from the truth? Anyone know the actual differences?

    Premier Icon Paceman
    Subscriber

    Weight, construction, number of vents, looks??

    GaryLake
    Member

    Any combination of:

    Lighter plus more vents but same strength.

    Quality of finish/visual appeal.

    Adjustment and inner cage/locking system.

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Subscriber

    Cheaper ones designed to look crap!

    Kieran
    Member

    I’ve always riden with expensive helmets and very expensive helmets.

    The very expensive ones are much lighter, better vented, better fitting, better looking, just about everything really.

    I wouldn’t save any money on anything designed to protect my head, and trust me I need protecting :mrgreen:

    Surf-Mat
    Member

    I have a £35 Giro and a £120 2D helmet – both protect as well, both feel fairly comfy.

    The 2D is a lot lighter and “ventier” but TBH that’s it really. Looks are down to opinions – all helmets look daft IMO.

    Premier Icon geoffj
    Subscriber

    But, do the lighter, more vented, nicer looking ones, work as well as the cheaper, mushroom-esque ones with more material.

    I know they all have to pass the same safety tests, but presumably, they pass by different margins?

    Fit is one of the key things – its easier to get a better fit with a helmet that comes in multiple shell sizes and a helmet that is oversize for your head with the slack taken up by straps or a cradle is not as good at protecting you.

    Outer shells make little difference unless they are low friction. I don’t know if a more expensive helmet has a better EPS liner – thats the bit that does the work.

    Comfort is probably the pother thing you really get with a more expensive helmet
    I have an expensive helmet = cos it fitted me properly. Cheap ones did not.

    Surf-Mat
    Member

    Geoff – some pass more stringent tests. I think the 2D passes a higher level of test (some US ones) than the Giro. But not totally sure.

    I would assume all offer a similar level of protection in a smash? Not got the money to actually test mine out!

    2D and cheapo one both equally comfy except the the 2D being lighter.

    Kieran
    Member

    I’ve tested a 2D – worked extremelly well, as did Specialized’s crash replacement scheme.

    Junkyard
    Member

    I thought iot was just wieight and venting as they all pass the same standard. I have a chepa one and good one. i use the good on e- vented etc in warm weather and cheapo for the rest of the year

    SiB
    Member

    so it doesnt sound like much difference between cheap and expensive when it comes to impact?

    SiB

    Some manufacturers would beilieve there is a difference – that their expensive helmet is safer and some do provide a greater area of coverage

    However there is a basic limit tho – an inch of poly can only absorb so much force. There is a slightly higher standard IIRC – snell used in the USA. However there is debate ( to oversimplyfy) about whether you need a soft foam to absorb moderate impacts well but will fail on hard impact or a hard foam which will not be as good with moderate impact but is better with hard impacts.

    No helmet is tested with oblique impacts or very hard impacts. Testing is actually not terribly rigorous.

    My view – if you have a helmet that fits well thats about as good as you are going to get. Any improvements over that are incremental.

    clubber
    Member

    No inherent difference in protection IMO (there may be some specific examples but not in general). The more expensive ones usually use more expensive methods to pass the tests (internal structures, more complex foam moulds/shape compared to cheaper helmets which tend to just use more foam, hence the mushroom head look).

    More expensive usually means fit better (more sizes and better adjustment mechanisms), better vented, and most importantly look better…

    Premier Icon brassneck
    Subscriber

    Snel rated helmets are available from Specialized from around £40. That’s about as good a test as you’ll get though as TJ says it’s only really a guideline for what has been tested, not all conditions. Close enough for me.

    Having totalled a Giro E2, I bought one and I can’t really notice a difference – I already had a peakless cheap Spec one for the road bike, and the dial adjust headband just seems to fit my head better. The top end Spec was lighter feeling, and more airy but not enough to see me part with £120 more.

    LHS
    Member

    Fit is one of the key things – its easier to get a better fit with a helmet that comes in multiple shell sizes and a helmet that is oversize for your head with the slack taken up by straps or a cradle is not as good at protecting you.

    What TJ said, fit is the most important thing. All helmets have to pass the same safety test. The difference in price will come down to the amount of design and development time a manufacturer will put in to “optimise” all the influencing factors that we demand from the product without having a detrimental effect on performance.

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Subscriber

    I am wondering if fit matters much…will it really localise the force more or absorb less of it if the fit isn’t as good? I can see why it might.

    Just a thought.

    bassspine
    Member

    in theory, all helmets have to pass CE tests to be legal to sell. I suspect some of the very cheapies may have skimped on the tests sometimes and just have the CE stickers

    LHS
    Member

    I suspect some of the very cheapies may have skimped on the tests sometimes and just have the CE stickers

    Then the makers of those helmets will be finding themselves in Court.

    Yes fit matters. It is fundamental to how the helmet works. I previously found good explanations of this but only a condensed version now.


    The illustration above is designed to demonstrate the effect of a helmet which does not fit correctly. On the left, the helmet is not a snug correct fit to the head. On the right, the helmet fits snugly and touches the head at all points. The red areas denote the effective crumple zone in each case. As you can see, the area covered when the helmet is the correct size is quite noticeably larger than that in the helmet which does not fit. This in turn means that there is less material which can be crushed leading to less energy absorption.

    http://www.whycycle.co.uk/safety_and_security/cycling_helmets/

    b r
    Member

    Fit is the key.

    And if you are going to break them, look for someone who does a crash-replacement policy.

    Premier Icon geoffj
    Subscriber

    All helmets have to pass the same safety test.

    Well yes, but that is a bar to get over. Presumably some helmets offer better protection than others. It would be interesting to know if a lightweight xc whippet helmet with less material and more venting offered the same protection as (say) a cheaper heavier helmet with few holes and more material.

    rustler
    Member

    I had a Giro Xen & a £28 Giro Encinal.
    Never liked the Xen, was too hot.
    Still have the Encinal 8yrs on, as CRC still sell the pads. Its still my lid of choice. Xen is better made though, nice finish etc.

    Geoff – a dodgy thing to assume as there is a limit to the amount of energy that an inch of poly can absorb.

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Subscriber

    Aye I get that TJ I just wonder if there are other factors – if the helmet is only slightly too small (mine is, best fit I can get) then the helmet will crack? (as presumably the tight fitting on in your pic would too).

    That model explains it well but no helmet will ever be a perfect fit

    *patents custom-molded helmets and earns fortune*

    uplink
    Member

    Wayyyyyyyyyyyy back, Bell used to run an advert in the States [for motorbike helmets]

    “If you have a $10 head, buy a $10 hat”

    poppa
    Member

    FWIW I had a ‘moderately priced’ helmet that was lighter than my mates expensive one.

    The reason is that my cheap helmet had bare polystyrene (or whatever it is), whilst my mates more expensive one had a harshell type coat to make it look nice, which unfortunately made it heavier.

    So there you go. Now you know. Whoop.

    Surf-Mat
    Member

    I don’t think pricier helmets are any safer though.

    I bought an expensive one because of the extra ventilation and lightness – not because I thought it was safer.

    TBH I wanted a “nice” lid too and I suspect many buy pricey ones mainly for vanity.

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Subscriber

    I suspect many buy pricey ones mainly for vanity.

    Loving the unserstatement 😎

    I wonder if that applies to bikes adn components as well?

    Premier Icon geoffj
    Subscriber

    Geoff – a dodgy thing to assume as there is a limit to the amount of energy that an inch of poly can absorb.

    I’m not assuming owt, I’m trying to find out if there is any information on it.

    You can get NCAP ratings for cars, it would seem to make sense to have a similar sliding scale for helmets. Instead, we get a single standard which they all have to conform to.

    At the very least, the manufacturers are missing out on a marketing opportunity.

    poppa
    Member

    I suspect many buy pricey ones mainly for vanity.

    I think that applies to almost anything you can buy.

    Surf-Mat
    Member

    I wonder if that applies to bikes adn components as well?

    Main reason for me getting XT SPDs? They are black and match the bike 😉 😆

    poppa
    Member

    I thought the test they had to pass was something reasonably tame like falling of a bike at 10mph.

    If you are hitting your head hard enough to shatter your helmet and for the object you strike to reach your head, you are probably going to seriously injure your neck/other bits of you anyway I would have thought.

    geoff – there is a snell standard which is higher. there is a higher again standard for ff helmets but its voluntary and the company administering it will not divulge any data about their test methods.
    Given the limitation of the materials it will be hard to get a significantly better performance. All helmets are relying on crushing an inch of EPS

    Increasing weight and increasing diameter might improve performance in one aspect but decrease it in another. What is “better performance”?

    Premier Icon matthewmountain
    Subscriber

    I’m a fan of Specialized helmets. Yes I parted with £100+ however for me I wear it every time I’m out on my bike. When I’m working hard pedaling up hill in the summer I’ve never regretted spending that extra £50 or so.

    Also, Specialized have been making helmets almost as long as the likes of Giro, so I feel the they have the technology to protect my head. But as already said here, I liked the fit of the Spesh. It replaced a Giro E2 which I thought was good, however the Spesh is in a different league.

    Also Specialized have an excellent crash replacement policy, in theory at least. So my main question, has anyone ever claimed for a new lid under the Spesh, or any other manufacturers scheme?

    Thanks

    MM

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Subscriber

    Giro – yes, worked OK, Madison tried to charge me more than their price list but I told them where to go.

    SBC also a couple of times years ago – fine.

    If you are asking this question then you should buy the cheaper one 😉

    SiB
    Member

    peakmonster

    I dont wear a helmet but taking in all the above I would buy a mid priced one that fitted well if I was going to. Problem started when I measured my head..XL! XL helmets aren’t pleasing on the eye, but yes, better looking than a head wound.

    Thanks for all the input.

    b r
    Member

    Wayyyyyyyyyyyy back, Bell used to run an advert in the States [for motorbike helmets]

    “If you have a $10 head, buy a $10 hat”

    Agree, but the problem with buying an expensive helmet is that people often don’t replace them after either a (minor-ish) crash or when worn out – esp. with £4-500 m/c helmets.

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