How Much Should You Pay for a Bike Helmet?

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Helmets are a no-brainer when it comes to riding a bicycle. Not just for safety but also its performance and features. If you are reading this article then you are already convinced to give your head some helmet protection. The first question that comes into any buyer’s mind at this point is:

➥ Have a look at our selection, if you’re specifically looking to buy helmets for cyclocross

How much should I pay for a bike helmet?

Whether you are a beginner or a casual commuter, bicycle helmets provide nothing more than an added, but required, a layer of safety. So, spending around $50 will land you a decent helmet for everyday use.

But following your passion in a specialized biking discipline can be more expensive. You may see yourself spending around or more than $100 on your helmet.

Not to say anything about premium helmets, packed with features and unprecedented layers of safety and comfort, which will see you dive deep in your pockets for that $200.

 

helmet

Bike helmets come in all shapes and sizes | Source: bikeradar.com

Whether you are just getting into cycling or are pursuing it as a profession, you must first keep certain factors cycling in mind as you are buying your helmet, such as

  • There are a lot of features that determine the design and performance of the helmet. More expensive helmets will have more features like adjustable fitting, better aerodynamics, or lighter weight.
  • There are different types of helmets for different biking disciplines. Helmets made for racing and triathlons will generally be more expensive than helmets used for commuting.

This article dives into these talking points and hopes to help you as you are trying to decide how much you are going to pay for your own helmet.

Design & Features: What to look out for in a Bike Helmet?

There are a few key features that you may need to look out for if you are considering buying a quality bike helmet for yourself.

  • Adjustable Fit: A snug fit not only provides comfort while riding but provides an extra layer of protection. Adjustable straps that fit well around your ears along with a helmet’s internal shape fitting comfortably on your head will help provide that.
  • Ventilation: These are open pockets or chambers in your helmet that allow airflow, cooling the riders’ heads.
  • Aerodynamics: The smooth streamlined design of the helmet helps reduce air drag. With less ventilation, you get a more aerodynamic helmet.
  • Weight: A lighter helmet will enable you to go faster. Heavier helmets may be sturdier but might make the rider feel uncomfortable in prolonged riding sessions. Weight may not be a concern for casual cyclists or commuters.
  • Shielding: Some helmets provide visors and eye shielding to protect yourself from the elements. Full face shielding may be found in BMX or mountain bike helmets. Speed sports like Time Trial and Triathlon will have no shielding at all.
  • Safety: Many safety technologies are inlaid on the inner surface of the helmet. The most popular is the Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS). Others include WaveCel or Shearing Pads Inside (SPIN).
  • Lights: Helmets, especially for those who are commuting, will have built-in LED lights either for signaling or visibility.
  • Color: Stylish or sporty, the color of the helmet is mostly preferential. But brighter colors are suggested for commuting or highway travel.
  • Mounts: Some helmets might feature mounts to hold cameras or lights.

Understanding the features of bike helmets serves to increase your appreciation for their sophistication and cost.

helmet design

A lot of effort goes into designing a helmet | Source: popularmechanics.com

What Form Of Riding are You/Plan on Doing?

Putting all the features together we have different kinds of helmets that are recommended for every type of riding category, packed with their own unique features and designs to fully support the rider’s specific needs.

Let us look at helmets of each category in a bit more detail:

Road Bike Helmets:

When you think about road cycling it is usually about going fast but safe enough to avoid accidents. They are usually customizable with adjustable fits and light enough so they don’t feel cumbersome. The venting available on this helmet usually depends on the speed the rider is trying to achieve: for higher speed you have less venting and vice versa. The premium versions of these helmets would have a carbon fiber outer shell and be as light as 200g. Our team has reviewed some road bike helmets for women in this article.

Time Trial (TT) Bike Helmet:

In a TT or Triathlon, the designated track almost always has no sharp bends. The target of the rider is to go fast but steady. So their helmets are designed to reduce drag and maximize speed. A unique feature of these helmets is the “tails” at the backside. This provides a more streamlined profile for the helmet making them more aerodynamic and helps the cyclist attain higher speeds. Vents are almost non-existent in this type of helmet as they would only increase drag. Some may feature an eye-shield but no visor. Most of the helmets of this category are of the premium status made with the best materials.

Aero Road Bike Helmet:

A unique entry, the aero road bike helmet takes features from both the traditional road helmet and the TT helmet and molds it into a fascinating hybrid. It has good ventilation, but less than a road bike, and gets rid of the “tail” of the TT from the backend. This makes it highly aerodynamic and comfortable.

Commuter/Recreational Helmets:

These are a lot like the road bike helmets, but with added safety in mind. Stylish over being sporty, these helmets are targeted at beginners or casual riders. Strap adjustment and retention are simple. The outer shell may be made of polycarbonate or a composite hard-shell with a visor for coverage. They are heavier and less aerodynamic, and for added safety can also feature LED lights on both the front and back.

Mountain Bike Helmets:

Maximum safety and ventilation are the primary targets of the mountain bike helmet. The vents may be fewer in some, but definitely larger. More EPS cushioning is inlaid in the composite hard-shell of the helmet. Mountain bike helmets are of three variants with their unique features and designs. The cross country helmets are usually much lighter and better ventilated. The trail helmets have more coverage on both sides and back of the skull and come with smaller vents. The downhill riding helmets offer full face protection, including chin bumpers. All of these helmets come with a visor as a protection from the elements. Can also feature safety LED lights and mounts for cameras.

➥ Check this out, if you’re in a dilemma when it comes to differentiating between road and mountain bike helmets 

No matter which type of riding you are into or are planning on doing, there is a specially designed helmet for you. As a new or casual cyclist, you need not look further than a commuting helmet or even a road helmet. For a more sophisticated passion, there are deeply customizable options. But of course, added features come with an added price.

Mountain biking

Off-road biking

Helmets Under $70

Bike helmets in online stores are a dime a dozen. Some helmets sell at as little as $10 and some can even go beyond $300. But first let us discuss the budget options: Helmets under 70$.

These helmets are targeted towards new entries to the bike riding scenario, not to mention those looking for a casual riding experience with added safety or who don’t have deep pockets at the moment.

So what are my feature expectations from these budget helmets?

For starters, these helmets will have a pretty simple design. Enough ventilation and aerodynamics for your day-to-day use. The outer shell can be of flexible plastic or polycarbonate if you are willing to pay closer to $70. The internal surface will be lined with expanded polystyrene (EPS), which will most probably be just glued to the helmet. The EPS itself will not have any foam structure for further safety. All of this will probably come with a “one size fits all” chin strap.

If we are looking at specifically the $40 – $70 range, some of the previously mentioned features might be worked upon. The specifications will be much more streamlined with added protection and style choices. Some engineering decisions will definitely go into making helmets of this range.

Keep your expectations low if you are looking for specialized helmets for different bike disciplines at this price point. Helmets under $70 are meant for much more generalized use, they are of the do-it-all category.

Some popular choices in the market today:

NamePrice ($)Features
Bern Berkeley Helmet70A standard commuting helmet. PVC shell with visor. ZIP mold foam for protection.
Abus Hyban Urban Helmet69A standard commuting helmet. ABS hardcover with integrated rear lights.
Lazer Roller Helmet60A minimalist mountain biking helmet. 28 vents. Has LED compatibility.
bern budget

Bern Berkeley Helmet | Source: bernhelmets.com

Helmets Between $70 and $150

This mid-range level of bike helmets offers a more specialized choice to the different biking categories available, like road biking, mountain biking, and high-grade commuting. This is the most populated range of helmets.

As prices go up, the helmets see a better range of adjustability. Harnesses and straps come with a better fit and flexibility, made of materials that are comfortable on the skin that is also tear-resistant.

The shell is now made of polycarbonates or fiber-reinforced plastic. This allows manufacturers to insert more vents without diminishing the structural integrity of the expanded polystyrene (EPS). The EPS itself is now made from liquid instead of compressed beads as seen in the lower price point.

The strength to weight ratio is also much better allowing engineers to design and add more protection with better fitting. Like the Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS), WaveCel, or Shearing Pads Inside (SPIN).

Some popular mid-range helmets in the market today:

NamePrice ($)Features
Bell Annex MIPS125A high-grade commuting helmet with an in-mold polycarbonate shell. Has reflective straps. MIPS protection. Has 7 vents with 8 active vents that can be opened or closed.
Lazer Revolution MIPS116An enduro (mountain bike racing) helmet. Includes MIPS protection and adjustable visor. Has a port for attaching chin guards and Safety Mounting System (SMS) for cameras and other accessories.
Giro Chronicle MIPS110MTB helmet with MIPS protection. In-mold polycarbonate construction with visor. Wind tunnel vents featuring internal channeling.
bell annex mips

Bell Annex MIPS Helmet | Source: bellhelmets.com

Helmets That Cost More Than $150

Premium standard helmets, catered to professionals and enthusiasts, can be found at this price point. As brands spend a lot of money on engineering these helmets, these are some of the lightest and the most aerodynamic available.

The EPS is shaped and structured with precision to accept the smoothest airflow in lieu of the vents. The shell is made of high-grade polycarbonates composite hard-shells of carbon fiber. The aerodynamics will most probably be also tested.

Speaking of tests, all of these premium helmets are crash tested with engineers trying to figure out and push the limits of safety. Safety technologies like MIPS and WaveCel are also added.

Most Time Trial (TT) and Triathlon bike helmets come from this range.
Some popular choices of premium helmets are:

NamePrice ($)Features
Giro Advantage 2162A racing/road bike helmet. In-molded polycarbonate body with lined EPS. Slim aerodynamic design with 5 vents.
POC OctalX240Premium road cycling helmet. Includes Coolbest padding for temperature regulation. Used by Cannondale-Garmin professional cycling teams.
Kask CPSC Bambino295Premium racing helmet. Wind-tunnel tested aerodynamic polycarbonate shell. Features a magnetic visor. Other technology includes 3D Dry, Coolmax interior and Mit technology.
poc

POC OctalX Helmet | Source: pocsports.com

Unless you are a professional, you really do not need to invest more than $200 into your bike helmet. But, putting anything between $100 to $150 into your passion will help you take it a long way. That with good budget options near $100.

If you’re in a dilemma when it comes to picking a bike helmet, we suggest you have a look at how economic and expensive bike helmets differ.

A Point to Consider:

The longevity of the helmet: Given that you haven’t crashed yet, the EPS lining of the helmet will still wear away with time. On top of that, your helmet will lose its impact integrity with every fall and bump it experiences.

Thus manufacturers will usually recommend you replace your helmet every three to five years.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Do I need an expensive bike helmet?

Ans.: No. Your passion does not have to be expensive. With anything above $70, brands will provide you with helmets made for specialized bike disciplines, safety, and comfort. With better budget deals around $40 – $70, you can get a very good generalized helmet.

Q2. Are cheap cycle helmets safe?

Ans.: Not necessarily. If you find a safe helmet at a lower price point, it usually means it has compromised other factors that might be important to you, like weight and aerodynamic design, to give precedence to safety.

Q3. How often should you buy a bike helmet?

Ans.: Depends on the manufacturing quality, from 1 to every 5 years. Unless you have crashed the helmet or are looking for a new style or design, your bike helmet will last you a very long time. Crashing the helmet might compromise the EPS or shell making it unsafe for the next crash.

Conclusion

Manufacturers agree that getting the helmet to the head is half the battle. But when they are on your head they must feel comfortable and perform their duty. But getting a bike helmet doesn’t have to burn a hole in your pocket unless your pocket runs deep or you have professional pursuits. Whether it is $20 or $200, there is a helmet made for you at every price point. So jot down the features that your riding needs and get yourself a helmet that your dome so desperately requires.

My name is Dion Lewis. I’ve been cycling since my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions. In my college life, I took a part-time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally. Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or bike gear.

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