Are Cheap Bike Helmets Safe? (Cheap Vs. Expensive Bike Helmet)


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As a matter of safety, you cannot ignore the rules for wearing bike helmets even if you are out for a quick ride.

Thousands of bikers have to battle with injuries or even their lives due to cycling accidents. And about one-third of the injuries involve the face and head. 

While we know that wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of injury, the question arises of which helmet one should select. With a price range of $20 to $200, one may wish to select the cheapest option possible.

But are cheap bike helmets safe or not? Let’s find out.

Are Cheap Bike Helmets Safe?

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute is a consumer-funded organization that has compared the efficiency of cheaper bike helmets versus costlier ones. Six helmet models were submitted to a leading US-based testing lab, out of which three cost $150 or more, while the other three cost $20. And all of these helmets were tested for impact and performance.

Surprisingly, the results showed that the cheap and expensive helmets handled impact pretty much the same. Yes, there were some performance differences, but the cheaper helmets were not drastically worse than costlier ones. In the end, neither the lab nor BHSI could find great differences that would allow one to prefer a brand or model from the other. 

What Safety Information Should I Look For When Purchasing A Bike Helmet?

Essentially, you should look for a CPSC sticker on the inside of the helmet. A CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Committee) sticker or label indicates that the helmet in question provides effective protection against impact. 

By law, all helmets manufactured after 1999 are required to bear the CPSC label to meet the highest standards for safety. Apart from this sticker, you may find some alternate labels like ANSI, ASTM, or Snell, which are equivalent to CPSC. 

Cheap Vs. Expensive Bike Helmet- What’s The Difference?

Photo: Smith

When it comes to road biking helmets, the most crucial factor to consider is the safety standards set by the US government. No matter the cost of the helmet, as long as it meets the safety requirements, it is pretty safe to use. 

That being said, each helmet brand is unique, and some models are definitely better than others. If you are looking to purchase a new helmet, check for the weight, comfort, fit, ventilation, and MIPS Safety technology. These aspects should help you find the perfect helmet for biking.


No biker wants to ride with a lot of weight, especially during competitive races. So, every gram counts when it comes to selecting biking gear. A heavy helmet can strain the neck and slow you down, making it unsuitable for long rides. Note that better quality models (which are also more expensive) will consider the weight factor and make lighter helmets. 

However, this may not always be the case since there are some costlier biking helmets that are much heavier than their budget-friendly counterparts. This can happen when the company uses polycarbonate shell material for durability, which ends up increasing the helmet weight.


As a biker, you will know the importance of finding comfort in all your biking gear. And helmets are no exception, especially because some trips or races have no breaks for hours. The perfect helmet for you is one that you forget about while biking. Of course, what is comfortable to a biker is subjective, but some features are inherently useful, no matter who wears the helmet. 

First of all, decent padding around the head, especially in the forehead and temple areas, is always better. This is because once you tighten the headbands, the forehead presses against the front of the helmet. Apart from padding density, internal headband systems determine how comfortable you feel while wearing a helmet. 

Well-designed headbands loop around the head and allow the helmet to fit heads of various shapes and sizes.

The final aspect that makes the helmet comfortable is the chin strap design. And medium-sized straps with a Y-shaped buckle are the most popular styles among bikers. 


A helmet that does not fit most shapes of heads is quite limited, and only a few bikers will find it comfortable. Ideally, it should stay firmly on your head without moving or feeling too tight. It’s better if the brand provides the option to change headband tightness, chin strap tension, and helmet positioning. 

Basically, models with an adjustable Y-shaped chin strap are preferred because they give the user a better fit than non-adjustable ones. Additionally, some helmets have an adjustable dial on the back of the head for adjusting the tightness of the head strap up to 4 to 6 cm. Better quality models have 360-degree adjustability dials that work with gloved fingers too. 


Biking with a helmet can increase the head and core temperature, but well-ventilated helmets will not contribute to this issue. Ventilation keeps the temperature down and improves comfort and biking performance. Hence, prominent brands try to achieve the combination of a well-ventilated helmet with aerodynamic features. 

Incidentally, the number of vents in a helmet does not guarantee the best ventilation. Instead, they have to be designed appropriately for increased airflow.

MIPS Safety Technology

MIPS Safety Technology refers to the slip-plane technology designed to reduce rotational forces upon impact. Developed by brain surgeons and scientists, you will find this feature in every good helmet since it reduces the risk of injury upon impact.

Essentially, the technology mimics the protective structure of the skull, and this layer in the helmet slows down the energy transferred to the head. A helmet with a MIPS layer looks just like any other helmet, only it has a thin yellow liner in the padding. 

Final Thoughts 

Ultimately, there are several factors that make a good helmet for biking. And while other aspects like design and style are important, the primary function of a helmet is to keep you safe in case of accidents. 

The thing is, all helmets provide the basic level of protection while the expensive ones offer extra features like adjustable straps or MIPS liners. But, from studies conducted by BHSI and others, we can conclude that cheap bike helmets are effective and safe.

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Matt Scofield
Matt Scofield

Hi! I’m Matt, an adventure freak who lives and breathes the great outdoors. Spending time under the open sky always appealed to me, even as a kid. Perhaps that’s why I liked camping with my dad so much. The days spent hiking and the nights around the campfire are times I’ll cherish forever.

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