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Mailbag: Are cheap helmets worth the risk? | WhyBike? Motorcycle Blog

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Mailbag: Are cheap helmets worth the risk?

By James - 4/14/2007

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Steve wrote:

Are KBC helmets any good? How come they’re so much cheaper than Arai and Shoei? Should I go straight to an Arai to protect my melon? The KBC’s are tempting because of the price.

The price of a helmet is generally related to the quality of the materials and features; liners, graphics, shields, the noise levels and venting options. You get what you pay for. KBCs have a reputation of wearing out sooner than some of it’s competitors, but if you are replacing your helmet every 3-5 years the helmet should last unless you are an everyday rider.

You may be concerned about safety, but if your helmet is certified by DOT, Snell, ECE or BSI you can be certain that it will protect your head as well as any other helmet. There has been an informal trackday study from Roadracingworld that shows that Arai and Shoei helmets prevent concussions (32% and 34% of crashes resulted in a concussion, respectively) a little better than AGV and HJC (35% and 36% of crashes resulted in a concussion, respectively). KBC was not on the list.
What stuck out to me was that the difference between the “best” and “worst” is only 4% better prevention of concussions while the price can be 300+% higher. I agree that you should pay more to protect your head, but it seems that the crash standards are pretty consistent across brands, so safety is not an issue when choosing a helmet.

The single most important aspect to choosing a helmet is fit. Some people have KBC-shaped heads, some have Shoei-shaped heads and I have an HJC-shaped head. You need to go to a store that has a lot of brands and try them all on. Find what feels best and get that one. Happy riders are safer riders so get a helmet that fits, regardless of brand.

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    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve had Shoei, AGV, and Arai. Which all fitted me ok, but the Arai is the best helmet I’ve had yet. Tried a Suomy helmet once, and that didn’t fit me at all. There’s no harm in buying a cheaper helmet, if it’s approved and fits you well.

    On rare occasions dealers let you take a helmet for a spin to see how it feels to ride with, if you put down a deposit (usually the price of the helmet). But probably only with the high end models.

    Comment by
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    Jesper Bram — 4/16/2007 @ 4:19 am


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    I would NEVER buy a cheap helmet, my next will be a ti-tech from AGV

    Comment by
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    Honda CBR1000 — 4/20/2007 @ 4:30 pm


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    I want to protect my head with the safest helmet I can buy. I will not take shortcuts with my head!

    Comment by
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    James — 4/21/2007 @ 1:44 am


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    I hit a patch of oil taking a turn. The very first thing that hit - the curb of all things - was my mellon which, thankfully, was protected by a Shoei helmet.

    The helmet was cracked and had a good 90 degree dent in it but it stayed on my head until I woke up (under the front of an oncoming car…) and kept my face from injury.

    I have worn them ever since.

    Ride safe,
    gp

    Comment by
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    gp - VStar 1100 — 4/21/2007 @ 3:04 pm


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    DOT certification doesn’t mean that a helmet protects as well as any other, it just means that the helmet meets the minimum DOT standards. A helmet that exceeds the standards is a better melon protector, but the tradeoff is cost.

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    Mike — 4/28/2007 @ 9:50 am


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    Do you have any knowledge of the following helmets:

    M2R
    Simpson Rocket Motorcycle Fullface
    HJC
    EXL

    Do you have any concerns about any of these helmet manufacturers as long as the helmet is DOT and SNELL approved?

    Thank you.

    Comment by
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    ncaabbfan — 9/1/2008 @ 5:45 pm

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