Helmets - How Much Should I Spend?

Other than a bike, there’s only really one other thing you need to (legally) wear, to take part in the sport we love, and that’s a helmet. Whether you’re rolling around the neighbourhood or tearing down trails, helmets are arguably the most important thing for keeping you safe on the bike.

There are hundreds of helmets available across a huge range of prices, so searching for one to keep you safe can be a little daunting. The first thing you should know is that all the helmets sold in New Zealand are required to meet a government approved safety standard, so you can rest assured knowing regardless of how much you spend, you will be safe if you purchase from a reputable retailer.

“Why should I buy a $250 helmet when I can buy a $60 helmet, then?” I hear you ask. Let me tell you about what you get as you spend more on a helmet.

As helmets increase in price, you’re typically gaining more ventilation and losing weight. Often times you’re also getting a safer helmet that exceeds minimum safety standards by a higher margin. Nearly all helmets are made with EPS foam that is covered with a hard plastic protective shell. The plastic shell doesn’t make a difference when it comes to your safety, but cheaper helmets will typically feature a heavier shell with less vents that is glued to the EPS liner, verses a more expensive helmet that features a shell that’s made within the mould of the helmet. Because the shell is moulded specifically to the helmet, it gives the ability to include more vents and to use a thinner plastic, making the helmet lighter and keeping you cooler. As price increases manufacturers also use stronger and lighter EPS foam. This improves safety and reduces weight.

Whilst all helmets sold in New Zealand must adhere to a minimum safety standard, some disciplines of mountain biking such as enduro or downhill have their own safety standards that helmets must adhere to for a rider to be allowed to compete. This is because the high speeds, technical terrain, and jumps increases the likelihood of big crashes. More expensive helmets are engineered to meet these standards, and it’s something you should bear in mind should you want to compete in these disciplines.

Stronger foam and better construction aren’t the only ways more expensive helmets increase protection. Traditional helmets only protected against blunt force trauma, but studies have shown that rotational impacts increase the likelihood of concussion and other head injuries. Systems such as MIPS and Kali’s Low Density Layer are designed to lessen these rotational impacts by allowing the helmet to rotate around your head and are common place in more expensive helmets. It goes without saying that these systems benefit all riders, as even the smallest crash can lead to concussion if you get unlucky.

Finally, we get to comfort. While most helmets feature adjustable fit systems via a dial located at the rear of the helmet, higher end helmets will typically feature more adjustment that allow you to adjust not only how snug the helmet fits, but where on your head it sits. Correct fit not only makes the helmet safer, but it also increases comfort.

It goes without saying that there’s nothing more valuable than your head and protecting it should never be a compromise. Our advice is to get the most expensive helmet you can justify. You’re much better off having all the safety features under the sun and never utilizing any of them, over buying a cheap helmet and wishing you’d gotten something safer. If you’re after helmet advice, our team is always ready to assist! Otherwise, you can view our full range of helmets here.

Some of our recommended helmet brands include Giro, Bell, Nutcase, Fox, Leatt, TSG, Scott and Kali.