The fateful time had come. I had to buy a new helmet. It seemed that after five or six years, the trusty Giro Exodus had reached the end of its life. I was also feeling a little funny about the amount of UV the thing had absorbed over the years, foam does get brittle with time ya know.
So the search began. Timidly at first, sticking my head into a shop if I went by one to see what they had; try one on here, try one on there, no mad rush. This went on for a while, then one day I decided that I was going to finally buy one and it was time to look in earnest. As I do with everything, I decided to see what was on offer from the main players on the net. All this resolved was that many of the new models available OS were not available here, something about not meeting our ‘special’ Australian Standards that are soooo much better than those overseas. The end result of this policy was that the model selections here were all short a few models, usually the upper end of the spectrum. Add to this the mystery of models that did meet the AS all seemed strangely thicker and less vented than their OS counterparts.
In deciding to buy a new helmet I had a criteria that I wanted to aim for: light, airy and the ability to not make me look like a gumby – I can do that well enough with out additional help. Most of all, I wanted a helmet that once on my head ‘vanished’ – I did not want to know I was wearing one. My Exodus was like that, so how hard could it be to find a helmet, almost six years on, with the same qualities?
So the search began.
I toured various shops in Sydney to try and find the right helmet. As my search progressed one thing started to become apparent, how little choice is available in most shops. In general, the selection seems to be aimed at the middle of the road sub $200 helmets from the same two players – Bell and Giro. Exceptions to this were ‘The Brookvale Bike Factory’ that had a good selection of brands and sizes and ‘Chain Reaction’ that had a solid selection including Specialized. What became more depressing was the fact that almost none of the helmets sat on my head all that well.
For the most part the helmets that I tried on were too short from front to back and too loose side to side. In short I ended up with very uncomfortable pressure points on my forehead and as we all know pressure points can cause headaches very quickly. Of the few that did fit, I could see them becoming ovens in summer or they did not have a visor of any shape or form. Even more disturbing was that the few helmets that did fit my specifics were road helmets (if there is such a thing these days) and they were all well above the $200 mark.
This is where it struck me.
After trying on all of the Specialized helmets on offer (the last on the list of brands to try), I was faced with a choice. I buy the helmet that fitted well, but was an oven though in the sub two hundred mark, or a buy a helmet that fitted equally well, was airy and well over the two hundred mark. As most will agree, we all seem to have a problem when it comes to parting with cash for a new helmet. We’ll buy $200 worth of tyres without batting an eyelid but when it comes to buying a helmet, we want the most cost effective option available. I know I did and the thought of forking over a large wad of cash for a bit of plastic covered foam that saves one’s nut seemed offensive.
So what price is your head worth? I ended up buying a Giro Pnuemo, for a larger wad of cash than I had ever intended. I can hear some of you out there calling me a fool. But am I? I now have a helmet that fits very well, is very light (thanks to Giro, which avoids the AS issue by placing a label that says “this helmet is intended for racing only” on it. The Snell Standard is good enough for me thank you very much), and is extremely comfy to wear. An added bonus is that it does not make me look like a gumby. Basically this helmet fitted all my criteria. What if I had bought a cheaper helmet? Well I couldn’t. I would have preferred not to spend the cash I did on the helmet but that is what it took to get something that worked for me. If I could have found the same qualities in a cheaper unit I would have gone for that, believe me. You see, I realised at the end of the day when it comes to your head it’s not the cash that should be an issue, it’s the fit.
One can be a tight arse and buy a helmet that does not fit well just because it’s cheap. You will end up hating it. It might make you hot, sore, give you headaches or even worse, not do its job properly. Inversely you could be a poser and buy an expensive helmet just because it’s a faux team jobbie and suffer the same problems. One should buy a helmet that fits well and does what your specific needs are, regardless of the cost. If it’s expensive so be it and if it’s no so expensive, great. At the end of the day though you have to wear a helmet so you might as well wear one that works very well for you. I hope that it will never have to be used, but if it does, a helmet that fits well stands a much better chance of doing what it should with the added bonus of keeping you comfy up until that point.