The Price of Motorcycle Helmets

A friend of mine mentioned to me last week that her husband was shopping for a new bike helmet. She told me that the ones he was looking at were in the $600-850 price range, which seems extremely expensive to me, not a motorcyclist.

I pick up the latest Aldi flyer yesterday and I see a full face motorcycle helmet for $80. Hmm. What is going on? Do the ten times more expensive one meet a higher safety standard? The Aldi is AS/NZS 1698 approved and SAI Global marked.

Comments

  • Comfort, weight, sound, and marketing. They all play a role in price. Have a look at yesterday’s post about Aldi motorcycle gear, there is helmet talk in there with a link to what is claimed to be a fairly good helmet that costs <$300

  • Do the ten times more expensive one meet a higher safety standard? The Aldi is AS/NZS 1698 approved and SAI Global marked.

    Yes and no. All helmets in Australia have to meet the minimum requirement. In saying that, it doesnt make all helmets equal. And it definitely doesnt make more expensive helmets safer. I am also a motorcyclist and my last helmet cost me the better part of $1000.

    From the money you are spending you are not exclusively paying for the safety aspect of the helmet, but also the creature comforts that they include. Often with helmets that are in the higher price bracket will come with better materials - making the padding inside the helmet more comfortable and using lighter materials on the outer shell such as carbon fibre. On longer journeys the lighter weight on your head can make an absolutely huge difference.

    Other things to consider are the fit of the helmet. If they dont fit correctly they wont work correctly in a crash. What I found which was hilarious was that I only fit either the cheapest helmet that was in the shop or the most expensive. My first helmet I went with the cheapest, but then when I did upgrade I chose to spend the extra and it was night and day difference to be honest. Other things that can change with more expensive helmets are sometimes having multiple / internal sun visor, better aerodynamics which reducing buffeting noise at high speeds. Some of the newer helmets also include "emergency" padding under the chin which makes it easier to remove if you ever do have a crash involving neck/spine injuries.

    • Other things to consider are the fit of the helmet.

      This. When I did my motorcycle course in Vic it was drilled into us that you worry about the fit. One of the instructors had a $300 helmet. The other a $1500 one. This is just how it works.

      Ultimately for me, all of these associated costs with riding made me not want to get into it.

  • The standard is a minimum standard, not an upper limit standard.

    That's not to say that more expensive helmets will be better (even a cheap helmet is better than an expensive one that you've dropped!) but it sometimes matters.

    Fit, comfort, material, venting, features, quality, durability, design, marketing, all affect price.

    Not an area I ever wanted to save a dollar in, except I was limited by wanting a flip lid system of which there are a lot less options.

  • Of you're riding a Vespa on nice smooth residential roads, any helmet that meets minimum standards will do.

    If you are going to use it on the track and highway, even the best is often not good enough.

    A Mazda 2 is a car and so is a Bentley Conti just as a cheap Aldi lid and so is a TotL Arai.

    • You can measure the difference in performance between a Mazda 2 and a Bentley Conti. Can you measure the difference in performance in the primary function of a helmet - safety? It appears not if they all pass the same standard.

      • As someone replied earlier, theres more to it than just a safety rating. The more expensive helmets can be a better fit, made from better materials, last longer, not let as much sound in and be lighter in weight. All of which can lead to a more enjoyable riding experience.

      • Yes. It is measurable. Both cheap and expensive helmets absorb impact but not entirely. There is far less residual force in the expensive one.

        Also fewer weak points, thicker shear surface and general fit, weight, comfort and noise tends to be readily noticeable.

  • Yeah. Go the $80 helmet. I mean, it's only your head, right? And they all perform to AS1698, so they are all the same…

    • I can't tell if this is sarcasm or not.

      • Absolute sarcasm… (I was editing my comment when you replied…:) Last time I tried to suggest against the Aldi bucket, I was shouted down "just because it costs more doesnt make it better, as they all adhere to AS1698". I tired to explain that AS1698 is the "bare minimum", but to no avail.

        EDIT: (what I was adding)

        You don't need to get a $800 Arai/Shoei, but I wouldn't be getting the "$80 bare minimum" either…

        If you go to crash.org.au they give you crash tests for different helmets, and you will find a much better bang for buck helmet by comparing their tests. (kind of like ANCAP, but for helmets)

        • Last time I tried to suggest against the Aldi bucket, I was shouted down "just because it costs more doesnt make it better, as they all adhere to AS1698". I tired to explain that AS1698 is the "bare minimum", but to no avail.

          LOL I remember one time on Imgur I found a video which showed 2 helmets getting smashed with a sledgehammer. The first (non standard) went straight through it like butter. The second (with a standard) held up. Everyone said that helmet 1 was better because it offered cushioning to slow down the impact similar to what a new car would do. I got shouted down every time I tried to argue otherwise facepalm

          • @k-rokfm: FortNine does really good breakdowns of helmets as well (albeit for the Canadian market, but similar/same helmets sold here)

            But yeah, there is a big difference between a Arai and a Wish.com helmet. AS1698 is the absolute minimum I would be looking at. There are a heap of good helmets out there that dont cost the earth that can offer better protection that some of the class leading helmets.

            An $80 Aldi helmet is not one of them.

        • Absolute sarcasm…

          Nein nein nein.

          Never point out sarcasm. It degrades us all.

  • Give your body the best chances of survival after a crash. Spend a little more and get a more reputable brand. There's also jackets, pants and shoes too.

  • Is there no higher standard than the bare minimum standard that everything has passed? Seems odd. LIke a Ferrari saleman saying that they've only ever tested their cars to 160kph.

    Ah, here we go - the Snell Standard. I remember it from way back when.

    • Is there no higher standard than the bare minimum standard that everything has passed?

      Check out snell rated helmets. It's suppose to be the gold standard for helmets, but everyone has their own opinion.

      I recently upgraded to a Shoei (my model isn't snell rated), but the ventilation and other features make it so much nicer than my last helmet.

      Also worth noting that EU helmets are legal in some states now.

      edit: missed reading your line about the snell standard before posting my comment

    • The European ECE 22.05 standard is much stricter than ours with more rigorous testing requirements.

    • In addition to Snell, there's also now a new FIM standard. The governing body for international motorcycle sports. Their new standard is a massive step up from DOT (ancient and pathetic) and AS1698/ECE/Snell (More modern, but still lacking comparatively).

      So far, only a handful of high-end helmets meet the standard. https://www.frhp.org/circuit%20helmets/homologated-helmets

      Like everything moto, there's a FortNine video that talks about it - https://youtu.be/uLj9WfoWPSQ?t=400

      • I don't believe you will see FIM certification for most helmets. Pretty sure to reach that standard you will have to pass two different levels. I think its more likely most manufacturers will start adopting the ECE 22.06 standard which surpasses the previous, and is/has been required for helmets in the European market.

        • I expect we'll see it on the higher-end consumer models before too long. Certainly the $90 ALDI jobs never will, but someone looking for the cheapest "legal" helmet likely isn't caring about safety, just not getting a ticket.

  • well

    why do you buy a thousand dollar samsung, apple, pixel mobile phone?

    why not just get $150 kogan smart phone?

    • brand name / looks
    • quality
    • features
    • longevity

    I spent $900 on my shoei gt air.
    Is $80 worth of protection all my brain deserves?? NO

    You want to find something that is fit for purpose and you are going to wear.

    How often you see cyclists with that cheap $10 kmart helmet hanging off the handle bars?

    • Just retired my gt air for a gt air 2, apparently they weigh about the same but it feels a whole bunch lighter…

  • Manufacutrer recomendations:

    You need to replace your helmet if it has been involved in a crash. If it's been properly taken care of and hasn't been involved in a crash or another impact, it should be replaced approximately once every five years, or every three years if used regularly.

  • With my first road bike I bought a $200 one at Peter Stephens, the air vent tabs broke within a month

  • My simple rule.

    How much you spent on the helmet depends on how much you value your own head.

    That is where the price differences come in.

    It is not necessary the more expensive the better. But if you search through youtube for some stupid helmet testing video you may see why.

    Cheers,

    • Exactly. The saying that was going around when Bell introduced the first full-face helmets was “How much is YOUR brain worth”.
      I remembered that when I got back onto a two-wheeler after many decades and opted for a $300 Brain bucket. Wasn’t prepared to fork out $750 or so, but definitely better than an $80 gee-wiz unit.
      3 years on, pushed out of lane, ended up a heap in gutter. 7 months rehab for TBI.
      I wonder what the outcome would have been under an $80 skid-lid?

  • Shoei helmets are hand made in Japan , Sponsor Markez and many riders for millions of dollars so you’ll pay a Premium .

    I was hit from behind while stationary making a right hand turn 30 years ago , his admitted speed was 100kms.

    Helmet only received a minor scratch but my body a whole different story. Double level spinal fusion at 24 for starters.

    Anyway Goodluck with your choice and keep checking your mirrors there’s more idiots out there today….

  • An $80 helmet would probably be OK for casual use, but I wouldn't imagine it would stand up to every day use for very long, personally I wouldn't take it anywhere near a track.

    It all depends on what sort of riding you're doing and how often but as the saying goes - 2 dollar helmet 2 dollar head.

    • You can get swiped by a (profanity) outside your own house. An $80 bucket would probably be best if you were doing Sporting Trials events at near zero speed

  • $80 head = $80 helmet.

  • But how often do you actually make use the safety features of your helmet? Same goes for airbags. (It's a Seinfeld bit)

  • Currently on my second aldi helmet (the fit is good), but both within a year could no longer support the visor in the up position while riding.(preferred position 80% time). Wind noise is terrible compared to a higher end model. Is comparable with the the budget hjc, rxt helmets.

  • I haven't bought a helmet for ages (I stopped riding a while back) but the more expensive helmets are usually:
    lighter
    more aerodynamic
    more features (ventilation, lift-up fronts).

    It could also be argued that some helmets are made to meet the standard and some far exceed the standard.

    The main feature when buying a helmet is the fit & comfort. A poorly fitting helmet might be OK if you are doing quick commutes to the shops but they can turn a 2+ hour ride into a misery.

    The last helmet I bought (20 years back) I went into The Helmet Warehouse in Yagoona for a $90 special and it fitted really badly. I think I spent $400 on a HJC and it was a great fit and felt good on long rides.

  • If you get the BEST helmet, and the BEST jacket and the BEST boots and the BEST pants etc,etc,etc. The cost of riding soon becomes unpalatable. Get A helmet, A jacket, A pair of boots, pants, etc. If you're on a budget getting ALL the gear of some quality will likely serve better than getting the BEST helmet and not affording all the other gear. If you're in the kind of accident that can kill you, your choice of helmet makes (profanity) all difference to your survivability IMHO. Once you're kitted out fully, then you can decide if losing a few grams on your head is worth another $600 next time you replace your lid. You'd want to be doing some pretty massive hours on the saddle if that is the case.

    My last upgrade was a back protector insert for my jacket. $90.

    Next up will be some new pants I think, my knock-off dragons don't fill me with much confidence.

  • As everyone else is saying. For a basic helmet for maybe a bit of commute here and there its fine. But if you want something with nicer quality finishes, better comfort and more features you pay more.

    For example in an expensive helmet you get:
    -better quality mechanisms such as visor action and vents
    -features like pin locks and integrated tinted visors
    -better sealing, so quieter
    -better materials such as the shell and linings
    -better safety over the minimum like quick release linings.

  • My motorcycle helmet also cost the better part of $1000. My boots - $400, my leathers $1200, my gloves - $350. I probably have more expensive gear than what some would spend on a motorbike.

    Why? because I've only got one body, and having been T-Boned by a drunk driver about 5 years ago and coming within inches of my life, I'm glad I spent the difference.

    I walked away with a pretty messed up little finger that required plastic surgery, 20 stitches, two pins which practically fused my finger and 3 months of physio, due to my hand being crushed between the handlebar and the boot of the car, from an impact of at least 50km/h. The force ripped my leather glove off my fingers and up to my palm, a $350 glove made with leather, kevlar and metal on the knuckles made for racing on a track at GP speeds. The rest of me went flying over the boot, thrown onto the road and I skidded for about 15 metres before coming to a stop. I stood up and walked away with only minor bruising elsewhere besides the hand.

    The leathers had impact protection on my back, shoulders, arms and knees, my helmet was pretty scuffed but stayed intact very well, had I not have been wearing the quality gloves I was (dainese RS gloves), I am certain I would have lost my hand. Had I not been wearing full leather boots, my ankles would have been scuffed to bone.

    Just because they have the same AS design standard, does not mean they were made equally.

  • Cheap helmet, cheap head

  • Just want to add some historical context to the pricing question.

    In the 70s and 80s, helmets used fibreglass shells. As of ~1985, a Bell would cost you $200-300 depending on model.
    Then a brand called Lazer lobbed in, significantly cheaper. They were using polycarbonate shells, and this made them lighter than fibreglass. However, the buzz was they were inferior when it came to protection. On reflection, not sure if that was industry spin or what, as many today are some form of plastic.

    If someone were budgeting 600-800 on a lid today, it's likely to be a long-established brand like AGV, Bell, Arai or Shoei. And for those brands, many people consider it worth the spend for peace of mind. Modest too, many carbon-fibre and composites of same are easily double that.

  • Hahahahahahaha…. are you serious?

    What next, a child's bicycle helmet?

    The helmets your intelligent husband is researching are designed for proper motorcycle usage.

    The safety spec are far beyond your Kmart bicycle helmet.

    I suppose you think thongs are better than proper bike boots too.

  • If you have an $80 head get an $80 helmet.

    • If you value your head all that much do you ride a motorcycle?

      "The NHTSA reports that 13 cars out of every 100,000 are involved in a fatal accident, but motorcycles have a fatality rate of 72 per 100,000. Motorcyclists are also at a greater risk of a fatal accident per mile traveled. For every mile traveled, motorcyclists have a risk of a fatal accident that is 35 times higher than a car driver."

      https://www.askadamskutner.com/motorcycle-accident/how-do-ca...

  • In addition to comments above on weight, comfort, features, ventilation, graphic design, materials, optics of visors, ability to add tear offs or anti fog inserts, availability of variable thickness padding, chin curtains, nose deflectors etc…

    More expensive helmets have also been tested in wind tunnels…

    Non aero designed (usually cheaper helmets) have a tendency to ‘lift’ at higher speeds…

    This is more relevant on track days but can occur at freeway speeds too.

    So yes, a more expensive helmet is measurably better.