This post contains affiliate links.
Bike helmets are an important part of your cycling kit. While some might prefer riding without one, even professional cycling bodies like the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) have made it mandatory for riders to have a good helmet for protection.
With so many bike helmets available, the question remains; is it worth buying an expensive bike helmet?
An expensive bike helmet is worth it because it will provide you with more features and often more durable materials. These helmets not only look more professional but also have more effort put into the design. On the other hand, a cheap bike helmet will only provide you with some of the basic features you need.
To understand the value of a bike helmet, we need to have a closer look at the different helmets available on the market today.
This article aims to look at the features of expensive helmets vs. the budget alternative. This should allow you to determine whether or not you need an expensive bike helmet.
If you are new to biking and want to learn about the different types of cycling, I wrote a whole article about 9 types of cycling with their benefits.
Cheap Helmet Vs. Expensive Helmet: A Comparison
The best way to give you an idea of which helmet is right for you is to compare the standard features of the top helmets vs. budget helmets.
The following section will dive into some of these features, allowing you to see which one would possibly be the ideal option for your cycling journey.
1- Visor And Sizes
One of the first places you would notice differences will be when it comes to the different visors of these helmets. The expensive helmet tends to have an adjustable visor, which can be removed or adjusted for comfort. On the cheaper helmets, we have found the visor to be fixed in one place with no movement permitted.
In terms of sizes, all brands tend to have different sizes for their helmets. However, the cheapest brands would only have a single size, suggesting that one size would fit all.
For professional athletes, the addition of numerous sizes means they can find a more ergonomic helmet in terms of comfort.
Ventilation is an important part of the life of a cyclist, and when you have optimal ventilation, you are bound to have more comfort. The cheap helmets often have ventilation ports, which are spread across the helmet and would give you the optimal level of ventilation you need to keep your head cool.
By comparison, a high-end helmet also features vents. The difference is where these vents are located and how the design works.
The high-end helmets feature brow vents and vents shaped in other forms to increase airflow. It is designed in such a manner that it does not affect the aero of the helmet and keeps you cool.
All Helmets have some form of padding inside the helmet, which would provide some form of comfort. However, cheaper helmets are more dedicated to cheap padding, which can deteriorate over time. It is not made for extreme riding and will only provide basic protection.
When looking at the Fox Speedframe Pro, you have a variety of padding options, which often include EVA padding or memory foam. These more expensive materials will offer an ergonomic feel.
Expensive helmets tend to be anti-microbial and will resist odor build-up. The idea is that you can ride much longer when using one of these helmets.
One of the main reasons that you are probably wearing a helmet is for the protective features that it offers. Cheap helmets have an exterior shell made from plastic; this seems to be the main focal point for protection. We could not find any additional safety features on the cheapest helmets.
The expensive helmets will excel at providing you with additional protection. You can rely on the helmet’s outer shell, but the interior also features anti-slip and anti-rotational technology.
This means the helmet would remain in place when you move about. Most high-end helmets also cover your head’s rear and temple area.
See also: Is Mountain Biking Dangerous? (With tips on how to avoid injuries!)
One of the main aspects you need to look for in a good cycling helmet is how it fits. The cheap helmets have a one-size-fits-all mantra, which means that if you don’t have a head shaped for the helmet, it might be uncomfortable. Unfortunately, there is no compromise to this as it would make it more expensive.
For the high-end helmets, you have a better retention system, which allows you to adjust the helmet for the perfect fit.
As mentioned, the interior padding features EVA or memory foam, allowing it to adjust to the shape of your head for maximum comfort. The adjustable positioning would give you more versatility and overall comfort.
As part of the fit, the helmet would give you adjustable straps for the more expensive option. Yes, the cheap helmet also includes adjustable straps, but this is mostly dedicated toward the chin. Having adjustable straps around the ears would allow the rider to make changes and ensure the helmet fits them much better.
6- Durability And Construction
While both helmets feature an exterior shell made from plastic, the design of the cheap helmet is not always the best. It is durable, but the coverage of the plastic might leave some of the padding exposed. Since subpar padding is used, you might often find that it wears out even faster.
For the expensive helmet, the bottom lip will be covered, which means that no padding is exposed, making it possible to have additional comfort when you are using the helmet.
The plastic might also be of better quality, meaning you will feel better protected from any issues.
From what we could see, cheap helmets often lack some accessories. The main idea is that these helmets would provide you with the optimal level of protection to keep you safe. However, they do not have any additional extras that could make your life easier.
The expensive bike helmets offer you grippers and an internal camera or light mount. You can use the helmets to store your glasses or goggles, and you can often change the visor to accommodate certain aspects of your cycling journey.
You might also enjoy reading: Are Road Bikes Worth It? (Including 8 Road Bike Pros And Cons)
Is It Worth Buying And Expensive Bike Helmet?
It will often come down to what you are doing with the helmet. For professional athletes, there will be significant value in having the best helmet. This could give them the additional confidence they might need to improve their cycling skills or journey. However, hobbyists only ride for the fun of the sport and might not need such an expensive helmet.
If you have ambitions to make it to the professional levels, we recommend you consider expensive helmets for your journey. You are bound to get plenty more value, and you can use these helmets for far longer. However, you will need to maintain the helmet, and we recommend making sure it is worth it before you buy.
Are Cheap Helmets Safe?
While you might be thinking that due to the cheapness of these helmets, they might not provide you with adequate safety features. However, this is not the case. All helmets are subject to safety standards before they can be sold on the market (Source: The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute)
This means that even if you buy the cheapest helmet on the market today, you can quickly check to see whether it meets the safety standards that would keep you protected. The only difference is in the luxury features and additional protection. The more expensive helmets have better internal features and offer a wider spectrum of coverage.
How Much Should You Pay For A Bike Helmet?
Distinguishing whether something is cheap or expensive can be daunting, and you will often need to look at a few important factors before you make this distinction. If you are an experienced rider and you ride every day, you should look to pay close to $100 for one of the best helmets on the market today. You can even find some for around $80.
For cheaper helmets, it is tricky, and we have found some cheap helmets going for under $20. However, this might raise some red flags in terms of the quality and value they bring to the table.
Hobbyists like myself often settle for a helmet that is between $40 and $80 as a reference. The Giro Fixture MIPS Mountain Bike Helmet is one of the ideal options and will offer you some great features at an affordable price.
See also: Trek Domane Vs. Emonda: Key Differences Explained.
As daunting as it may seem to buy a mountain bike helmet, we believe this guide has explained some of the basic principles of these helmets and what you need to look for.
Buying cheap is not always the answer, but buying expensive might not be either. Let us know in the comment section which bike helmets you use.
What to read next: