Moto-Myth #4: An $800 head?

[Brad Pitt on his Ducati Monster]

The saying goes something like this:

“You should only buy a cheapo $100 helmet if you have a $100 head.”

The implication being: Always buy the most expensive helmet on the market. Not surprisingly, many of the people who push for more expensive helmets are people who work at bike shops who benefit from the higher markups.

What they don’t tell you is that an $85 Snell (the premium US rating agency) rated helmet (like the HJC CL-15) will protect your head just as well as a $700 one. The same applies to ECE rated helmets (the European standard). That’s the purpose of these rating systems… Shockingly there is even evidence that “cheapo” DOT-only (the minimum US requirement) helmets can actually offer better protection in the majority of crashes (on the street), by transferring fewer g-forces on impact, than more expensive Snell and ECE rated helmets (read the article here). And of course, you know that when you pick you price point, you need to keep in mind that you will need to replace your helmet every few years, or if you happen to drop it …

But what about comfort? Aren’t the more expensive brands more comfortable? …For instance Arai has several different types of helmets to fit your head size…

Of course a helmet is no good if it’s uncomfortable and distracting to wear. And Arai makes good helmets… but you’d have to be a total biker princess to insist that only a $700 lid is comfortable enough. Some pricier models (cough AGV cough cough – some Shoei models) really aren’t known for being particularly comfortable…that’s not to say they are uncomfortable…they just don’t feel much different from some good lower-end helmets. I have a feeling that if HJC were an Italian brand, Rossi might wear an AC-12 (their race helmet) instead of a AGV Ti-Tech…

Now I have nothing against the premium brands – and they have nice helmets around the more affordable $200-$300 range, which I think can be reasonable depending on what that gets you. And I totally understand that some people might want to pay extra for other features… There’s more to a helmet than safety, you might like the style or the features, a limited edition paint job – or super light carbon fiber shell – or you just want the brand name that you see on celebrities or racers… And these things may be WORTH paying the premium prices for – but it’s NOT a safety issue.

Bottom line, if you get a helmet that is at least DOT, but maybe also SNELL or ECE certified – and that fits correctly – then you’re good as far as safety goes. It’s up to you how much you want to spend on other looks and features. Just because your head is worth a million bucks doesn’t mean you have to spend that much on a helmet.


3 responses to “Moto-Myth #4: An $800 head?

  1. Haha great article. I wouldn’t spend more than a MAX of $150 on any of the current helmets. I ride like a nut sometimes and do some really crazy shit off-road, so I tend to take a tumble now and again and find my self replacing my helmets quite frequently. That said, I am a poor college student, so I couldn’t justify spending loads of dollars every 6 months on a new helm. I had a concussion in one of the lower priced HJC helmets. While I’ve had two fairly significant crashes(one on street one off road) with Ocelot helmets, and I was fine. But that could just be luck. Anyway I heard that some guy in Australia just came up with a helmet that has some weird rubber/silicon layer system or something like that, which is supposed to offer superior protection. He sold it to some European company I guess. Look it up…could be worth considering in the future.

  2. Hello,

    You may find this interesting then:

    It’s a new testing scheme designed to offer the UK bikers a more educated decision based on price vs safety.

    It’s actually really surprising and echo’s your sentiments that some of the cheaper helmets are actually safer than the top end Arai’s/Shoeis.

    I have 3 helmets and my very first helmet was a Shark S800, a £130 helmet. This has a 4 star rating. My next was a Shoei XR-1000, a £250 helmet and is a 3 star…just goes to show. However the Shoei fits my head and the Shark doesn’t, hence the upgrade.

    I now have an AGV GP-Tech, which I didn’t pay for but costs £379. It is the pinnacle of comfort and is far plusher inside than the Shoei. However the ratings haven’t been released for it yet. I will be geniunly gutted if it gets anything less than 4 stars.The build quality of the Shoei is also significantly better than the AGV as well which was really surprising.

    Anyway, Check out the link, it’s pretty interesting.

  3. Yes – very cool – thanks for the link!

    I’m looking forward to more ratings…

    For US folks, the model numbers might be different – for instance the HJC AC-12 Carbon is the HQ-1 in UK (I think!)… But I’m looking forward to more ratings…

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