Flipping through the Nashbar catalog the other day, I was struck by the variety of bicycle helmets out there. Not only are there a lot of them, but some are really pricey.
Back in the early ‘90s, when we lived in Rochester, Minnesota, my wife Pat and I decided to do some bike rides on the paved bicycle trails in the area. (These were converted from abandoned rail lines. They were mostly flat, and covered between 12-25 miles, so a round trip could amount to some decent mileage.) The helmets sold then were Styrofoam, with a fabric cover. I always thought they looked pretty good.
When Pat took up biking again last year, she dug out the old helmet. But now, Styrofoam was passé. A biking friend told her she had to get a new, plastic, streamlined helmet—or they couldn’t be seen together any longer. So she did. Paid about $35 for a Bell Solar. She liked the streamlined styling, and the nifty dial-in fit system.
Not to be outdone, I figured I’d get rid of my Styrofoam lid, too. But being the tightwad I am, I headed not to the LBS, but to a local discount sporting goods store. They had several different kinds. I saw that some were by Bell, so I got the Adrenaline model, for about $18.
It didn’t have the dial-in fit system, but I was satisfied with the adjustable fitting strap in the back. And way more vent holes than the old helmet had (but not as many as Pat’s). Plus, it came with a snap-on visor. I immediately took the visor off, because I’d read somewhere that they look dorky. Then, I saw a picture of myself in the helmet. Now who’s a dork? The visor went back on the same day. (I once heard a bicycle helmet described as a birth control device. Yeah, I can see it.)
Both of us are happy with these low-end helmets. Both meet Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards, so they should be able to protect us in a crash. Given that, and the decent fit, why pay $100, $150, even over $200 for a bike helmet? You’re supposed to replace them in five years anyway.