These days, you can pick up a Chinese imported helmet for as little as £20! Our first piece of advice is DO NOT purchase one of these….. ever! (Unless your intending on using it as a plant pot!). In order to obtain these low prices, they cut corners, lots of them, and the general build quality of the helmet is so substandard, that it is unlikely to perform as intended in the event of an accident.
Generally, motorcycle helmets cost anywhere between £50 and £650. In the middle of this gap – roughly between £200 and £450 – there’s a “quality hump.” In these middle-prices, you’ll find comfortable, quiet, well-ventilated and reasonably light helmets. In other words, the “quality hump” has the best value for your money. Below £200, you’ll find that entry-level helmets are noticeably lacking a decent balance of these features. On the other hand, there are no giant leaps in quality past the £450 mark. If you hand over your firstborn for a premium helmet, you’ll be paying for high-tech extras and a few shaved grams.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Some entry-level helmets are of shockingly high quality. Similarly, some premium helmets are really worth the colossal price tag.
An important thing to note is that there is no direct relation between helmet price and helmet safety. Plenty of £100 lids are just as protective as the £450 ones. It isn’t difficult to make a protective helmet; wrapping your head in a million pounds of foam and plastic will make you a very safe bobblehead. Achieving the same safety standards with less weight and volume is where expensive materials come in. You’ll notice and appreciate the difference that a premium helmet makes while riding, but generally not while crashing.
Depending on helmet type, you can expect the price range to slide a bit. Open face and half helmets tend to be cheaper, simply because you’re buying less material. Off-road helmets are slightly cheaper than their on-road equivalents. Similarly, full faces are slightly cheaper than comparable modular helmets. That’s just because the flip-up design is inherently more complex to manufacture.
The single biggest impact on the cost of your lid will be what the outer shell is made of;
Thermoplastic is exactly what it sounds like – hot plastic. That means it can be poured into a mold and cooled into a solid shell. The plastic is usually some form of polycarbonate, which isn’t the hardest material out there. So, these helmets require more internal foam padding to meet safety standards. For this reason, thermoplastic helmets are larger and heavier than more advanced lids. However, they are also cheap and easy to make. This is therefore the cheapest option.
Fibreglass shells are more expensive than plastic, mainly because they’re a pain in the butt to make. You have to place fibre cloth inside a mold, add a resin, and then heat everything to a billion degrees. Then, you repeat this process over and over to achieve a weave pattern.
At the end of all this, you have a shell that is harder and more lightweight than plastic. It also has a good impact flexibility, which spreads the force across a wider area of EPS foam. Fibreglass is quite brittle and prone to cracking. So, you’ll have to be extra careful not to drop one of these helmets. However, a crackling helmet is great in a crash, because the shell will absorb much of the force before the foam layer even comes into play. So fibreglass helmets don’t require as much foam padding, making them smaller and lighter than plastic lids.
Kevlar and Carbon Composite Shells
Even if you don’t plan on getting shot in the head, a Kevlar shell has some distinct benefits. The process is the same as with fibreglass but, instead of using fibre cloth or Aramid, manufacturers use Kevlar. And since Kevlar is hella strong, you don’t need to use as many fibres to achieve the same result. So, Kevlar composite shells can be about 20% lighter than fibreglass shells.
Notice the word composite? It’s there because Kevlar – which has an awesome tensile strength – kind of blows in terms of compression strength. So, helmets always combine Kevlar with some other material to make up for its shortcomings. Most often, you’ll see carbon fibre filling this role. Carbon fibre is super strong and lightweight. It’s also very expensive, but since Kevlar isn’t cheap to begin with, who cares? The result is a top-of-the-line shell, which achieves the safety standards of fibreglass and plastic helmets with much less size and weight.
So the verdict..
The important thing to remember is that advanced materials do not imply advanced safety; a plastic lid can be just as safe as some space-aged helmet. The difference is that the plastic model uses more volume and weight to achieve the same results. If you’re going down, there won’t be much difference between the two. When you’re riding, however, your neck will thank you for a lighter helmet.
We have partnered up with the 2 largest Clothing & Accessories retailers in the UK. Between them you can buy pretty much any road legal helmet you like! Check them out at the links below. This will take you straight to their Helmet Ranges;