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Expensive road bike helmets, a marketing scam?

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Expensive road bike helmets, a marketing scam?

Old 10-20-14, 09:45 AM
  #76  
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
Easy solution to the simplistic economic construct, lower the sale price of the helmets until it approaches the price of the inexpensive helmets = more sales.

More sales, more helmets manufactured. More helmets manufactured, lower unit costs for both manufacturing and marketing along every step of the manufacturing to consumer trail.
At even the same number of helmets manufactured, high-end vs. lower cost helmets, the material cost alone will be more, marketing specific models vs. an entire line will cost more, and R&D/new launch for higher end gear will always be on a tighter cycle than the lower end stuff.

The helmet companies know their market, so I trust that they have a pretty good handle on the supply/demand/price curves for their product. At some point, they could sell more at a lower price, but the profit wouldn't be as large as selling fewer at a higher price.
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Old 10-20-14, 09:51 AM
  #77  
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This needs to be said. It's been all downhill after the Bell Biker was introduced,

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Old 10-20-14, 10:10 AM
  #78  
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Interesting videos on how helmets are made. First one looks old-school and makes your basic model, and the second video is a piece from KASK on how their manufacturing process happens. The KASK video is in Italian, but there are subtitles.


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Old 10-20-14, 01:20 PM
  #79  
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Originally Posted by mconlonx View Post
At even the same number of helmets manufactured, high-end vs. lower cost helmets, the material cost alone will be more, marketing specific models vs. an entire line will cost more, and R&D/new launch for higher end gear will always be on a tighter cycle than the lower end stuff.

The helmet companies know their market, so I trust that they have a pretty good handle on the supply/demand/price curves for their product. At some point, they could sell more at a lower price, but the profit wouldn't be as large as selling fewer at a higher price.
I'm sure the helmet marketeers have figured out that there is a certain segment of their customers who wouldn't touch a bargain product, specifically because of its low price regardless of its other features. Think perfume priced at 79¢/quart.
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Old 10-20-14, 04:13 PM
  #80  
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Couldn't this entire argument be boiled down to "High Priced X - Is it a scam, and what kind of fools pay that kind of money, anyhow?"
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Old 10-22-14, 12:46 AM
  #81  
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Originally Posted by mconlonx View Post
Yes. What's the problem? All kinds of companies do the same thing with all kinds of products. Higher end helmets have better and more venting (or less...), are lighter, made with different/better materials, better retention strap hardware, come with stuff like helmet bags or replacement padding, tend to be more finished, better looking, etc.

They have the same or more R&D involved as any other helmet they manufacture, have to pay for the same standards testing, fixed manufacturing costs, higher materials manufacturing costs, the same shipping costs, higher marketing costs, same overhead as cheaper helmets, but because the are more expensive, they will sell less of them than the less expensive models. So the unit cost is higher than an entry level model because more go into them and fixed cost per helmet is greater because less are made, resulting in higher retail price.

Are companies making more off us by encouraging us to buy performace-based sport cars but charging us more for it?
I get what you're saying. For example, a larger car doesn't cost much more to make than a smaller car, yet manufacturer can charge a lot more for it.

But with helmets, I'm not sure you're getting more when you spend more. The more expensive helmets have more holes in them, so they're bound to be lighter (just seems obvious to me). So you're paying more money for a helmet with less material in it. Maybe it costs more money to make more holes in the helmet.
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Old 10-22-14, 06:56 AM
  #82  
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Originally Posted by mustang1 View Post
I get what you're saying. For example, a larger car doesn't cost much more to make than a smaller car, yet manufacturer can charge a lot more for it.

But with helmets, I'm not sure you're getting more when you spend more. The more expensive helmets have more holes in them, so they're bound to be lighter (just seems obvious to me). So you're paying more money for a helmet with less material in it. Maybe it costs more money to make more holes in the helmet.
Then, no, you don't get what I'm saying.
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Old 10-22-14, 12:20 PM
  #83  
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No i think the expensive helmets not only because it's have more holes than the cheap one but also because of the material of the hel mets that make it's lighter and tougher than the cheap one

Last edited by Henry14896; 10-24-14 at 10:45 AM. Reason: because i think the rest make no sense
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Old 10-22-14, 12:36 PM
  #84  
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Originally Posted by bbbean View Post
Couldn't this entire argument be boiled down to "High Priced X - Is it a scam, and what kind of fools pay that kind of money, anyhow?"
Pretty much.
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Old 10-22-14, 09:28 PM
  #85  
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I didn't read all of the replies in the thread to see if this has been said, but here's the opinion of a guy that worked in a shop that sold $300-400 helmets fairly regularly:

I can't really say much on safety. They all meet the same safety standards. Lazer has their suspension system that reminds me (in a bad way) of wearing a hard hat but may give some of the same benefits. Some helmets have textures or shapes that the manufacturers claim reduce the chance of your head getting twisted against the ground. Whatever.

Big differences- weight, fit/shape, padding, ventilation, bells and whistles.

Pick up a $40 (talking MSRP) helmet and a $100 helmet of the same intended use If you can't tell the difference, then this discussion is not for you. It's nice to have a helmet on your head that you can't feel- you might not agree for the 30 seconds you spend with one on your head in the bike shop, but you notice it at hours 2 or 3 on the bike.

Ventilation is not just 'more holes', it's better designed airflow. It turns those simple holes into jets of air. Again, no good at 0mph in thre shop, but wonderful at 20mph+.

The padding on a nicer helmet will be cushier, last longer before deteriorating, and will be resistant to your sweat/smell less funky.

Fit- Sure, a $40 helmet will sit on your head and protect you, but a nicer helmet actually FITS your head. Every brand has a different shape that may or may not agree with the shape of your head- you may often need to totally ignore certain brands because of the shapes they lean toward (some are very round, some are long and narrow, some are egg shaped; some are deeper or shallower, some have a slope to the top. You'll need to try on a lot of helmets until you find THAT ONE HELMET that seems like it was made just for you.

After that, there are the cool little bonuses. adjustable visors, adjustable vents, nice chin strap materials, etc. Plus style points if you think they're there.

Not saying anyone NEEDS a $400 helmet. The sweet spot for weight/comfort and economy is usually right around $100, IMO. I wear a $200 helmet after being a helmet cheapskate for many years.

Oh yeah, profit margins- when it comes to most of those major brands, if you are buying a <$100 helmet, the shop probably paid something like 50% of the MSRP. People usually won't do a lot of hardcore comparison shopping on something like that, it's not worth the time, and the price is fair anyway. Now if you're looking at a $400 MSRP helmet... well, almost nobody pays MSRP on something of that price, the market is too soft for a bike shop to leave something like that rotting on a shelf. For that expensive gear with desirable brand names, the manufacturer/distributor typically gets a premium from the shop for their product, often 60% of MSRP. Then the shop chops off 10-20% to get a customer to buy it, and they're left with a pretty narrow margin, albeit on a pricey item.

Last edited by Raiden; 10-22-14 at 09:45 PM.
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Old 10-22-14, 09:52 PM
  #86  
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Originally Posted by mustang1 View Post
So are companies making more money off us by encouraging us to buy the virtues of a well vented helmet which is lighter (duh, obviously, more holes!) but charging us more for it?
Like bicycles, electronics, and bikinis...the less you get the more you pay.
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Old 10-23-14, 06:54 AM
  #87  
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bikemig +1

Also after the Bell Biker, I had a Bell Tourlite that had a Lexan shell. I still feel it was far more protective than any of todays helmets no matter what price they are.
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Old 10-23-14, 07:56 AM
  #88  
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I think that since the marginal cost of production of an expensive helmet is little if any more than that of a cheap one, the higher price tag is simply a matter of what the market will bear. I'd be willing to bet that these have a very high income elasticity of demand - a person with higher income is more likely to purchase it (demand increased with income) - placing it in the realm of luxury good pricing. And likely, at the highest end, these are "Veblen goods" where demand changes contrary to price. Seekers of Veblen goods will choose to purchase the luxury item at the higher price even when a lower priced equivalent item is available.

According to a wikipedia article there are related effects to the Veblen effect, and these may have some part in the pricing of cycling helmets:
  • The snob effect: expressed preference for goods because they are different from those commonly preferred; in other words, for consumers who want to use exclusive products, price is quality.[SUP][3][/SUP]
  • The bandwagon effect: preference for a good increases as the number of people buying them increases (a psychological effect).
  • ...
  • The common law of business balance: low price of a good indicates that the producer may have compromised quality, that is, "you get what you pay for".
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Old 10-23-14, 09:29 AM
  #89  
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
No one's putting a sidearm to your head, or claiming that spending more gets you more protection. So consider it a fashion and preference issue.

If you wany a lighter or trendier helmet, you're free to pay for that. If you only care about protection, there are plenty of less pricey choices out there.

I don't see anything by way of a scam here. Certainly no worse than bringing out newer, pricier bikes every year.
Gotchya. Less is more.
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Old 10-23-14, 09:33 AM
  #90  
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Originally Posted by jimc101 View Post
You really are behind the times for helmet designs, for the high end which you see as a scam, being light and full of vents went out the window a few years ago, it's all aero now, go back 2 years, and there were very few vents, now you have movable vents for when you need venting. Add to that the increased use of exotic materials like graphine & carbon fiber and the introduction of new features like MIPS (a bit like a HANS device for your brain) that's the reason why high end helmets cost more. All this does trickle down to the more mid range helmets, some of it very quickly.
I think you might be right. I haven't kept up with helmet design, just the other day I saw a helmet like the one you describe about the opening/closing air vent.
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Old 10-23-14, 03:42 PM
  #91  
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Originally Posted by Raiden View Post
I didn't read all of the replies in the thread to see if this has been said, but here's the opinion of a guy that worked in a shop that sold $300-400 helmets fairly regularly:

I can't really say much on safety. They all meet the same safety standards. Lazer has their suspension system that reminds me (in a bad way) of wearing a hard hat but may give some of the same benefits. Some helmets have textures or shapes that the manufacturers claim reduce the chance of your head getting twisted against the ground. Whatever.

Big differences- weight, fit/shape, padding, ventilation, bells and whistles.

Pick up a $40 (talking MSRP) helmet and a $100 helmet of the same intended use If you can't tell the difference, then this discussion is not for you. It's nice to have a helmet on your head that you can't feel- you might not agree for the 30 seconds you spend with one on your head in the bike shop, but you notice it at hours 2 or 3 on the bike.

Ventilation is not just 'more holes', it's better designed airflow. It turns those simple holes into jets of air. Again, no good at 0mph in thre shop, but wonderful at 20mph+.

The padding on a nicer helmet will be cushier, last longer before deteriorating, and will be resistant to your sweat/smell less funky.

Fit- Sure, a $40 helmet will sit on your head and protect you, but a nicer helmet actually FITS your head. Every brand has a different shape that may or may not agree with the shape of your head- you may often need to totally ignore certain brands because of the shapes they lean toward (some are very round, some are long and narrow, some are egg shaped; some are deeper or shallower, some have a slope to the top. You'll need to try on a lot of helmets until you find THAT ONE HELMET that seems like it was made just for you.

After that, there are the cool little bonuses. adjustable visors, adjustable vents, nice chin strap materials, etc. Plus style points if you think they're there.

Not saying anyone NEEDS a $400 helmet. The sweet spot for weight/comfort and economy is usually right around $100, IMO. I wear a $200 helmet after being a helmet cheapskate for many years.

Oh yeah, profit margins- when it comes to most of those major brands, if you are buying a <$100 helmet, the shop probably paid something like 50% of the MSRP. People usually won't do a lot of hardcore comparison shopping on something like that, it's not worth the time, and the price is fair anyway. Now if you're looking at a $400 MSRP helmet... well, almost nobody pays MSRP on something of that price, the market is too soft for a bike shop to leave something like that rotting on a shelf. For that expensive gear with desirable brand names, the manufacturer/distributor typically gets a premium from the shop for their product, often 60% of MSRP. Then the shop chops off 10-20% to get a customer to buy it, and they're left with a pretty narrow margin, albeit on a pricey item.
Hi raiden. Thanks for taking the time to post this, very informative.

Someone told me that spesh helmets perform one additional (and useful) safety test thatmother companies don't, so I'm kinda thinking illmget another spesh.mthe model I usually buy is an echelon (circa £50 or $80 USD). I might try one of their helmets from the next model up, I can tell just by holding them that the dearer one is lighter. I didn't pay much attention to chin strap comfort but was only bothered about the interior cushioning. Anyway, once again, thanks.
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Old 10-23-14, 03:48 PM
  #92  
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Originally Posted by bbbean View Post
I pay more for shoes that are light and fit well too. More for clothes that fit the way I want them to and are built better. I pay more for knives that with ergonomic handles, well designed blades, and good balance. I paid more for a high end ****** that fit my hand, was more accurate, and was more reliable. I pay more for a car that suits my particular needs and preferences. Why should a helmet be any different? If you don't care about fit, cooling, aerodynamics, or engineering, there's no reason not to go with the cheapest helmet you can keep on your head. But if those thinsg mean anything to you, there's no reason to pay an appropriate premium for the characteristics you want.
All good points and well received. My gripe was only about number of holes versus lightness. To me it seems obvious that a helmet with more holes would be lighter. Here is some pizza. You can have a full slice at a cheap price, or one that has many bites in it, for a higher price.
But of course the one with the holes might have far better ingredients, and if that's true,nthen I'm all for buying the more expensive pizza even though it has holes.
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Old 10-23-14, 05:51 PM
  #93  
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Originally Posted by mustang1 View Post
But of course the one with the holes might have far better ingredients, and if that's true,nthen I'm all for buying the more expensive pizza even though it has holes.
Nobody has demonstrated that the "different ingredients" of the expensive road bike helmets cost the manufacturer or marketeers any more to purchase, manufacture or assemble than the ingredients of low priced helmets. It only has been demonstrated that the ingredients are different, some posters/cyclists are willing to pay more for those differences and the manufacturers/marketeers/retailers are happy to price the helmets accordingly.

Poster wphamilton had it right in msg#88 https://www.bikeforums.net/advocacy-s...l#post17242224
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Old 10-23-14, 11:55 PM
  #94  
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Originally Posted by Feldman View Post
To pick on someone in a positive way, Giro has for their whole existence spent a ****ing fortune on research and development regarding strength, fit, and air circulation. An ultralight racer helmet has some practical application outside of elite competitive sport, too. My wife has a nerve and muscle condition affecting her neck and a featherweight helmet is a major enhancement to her ability to enjoy cycling. She alternates between a Giro Ionos and a Specialized S-Works, and is eagerly awaiting the new Giro Psyche (?). Her ANSI-Snell approved microshell helmets weigh less than any leather hairnet I used forty years ago. Light weight and good ventilation are expensive and diffucult to engineer while maintaining impact standards. If you think they're a marketing scam you are seriously ignorant.
Thanks to this thread I am learning more about helmets so I will take into consideration then more expensive models. I have nothing against expensive stuff or choice but I just didn't want to buy something more expensive than I needed to. Thanks for your input!
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Old 10-24-14, 09:04 AM
  #95  
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Originally Posted by mustang1 View Post
So are companies making more money off us by encouraging us to buy the virtues of a well vented helmet which is lighter (duh, obviously, more holes!) but charging us more for it?
Of course they are making money. Isn't that the point of producing just about anything?

Several years ago I was doing some computer/consulting work full time for a local bike shop. On busy days I might get sucked into the sales floor abyss and after a while it happened so regularly (and I am good at it) that the store owner sent me to the Specialized Bicycle Component University for a week of classes and Kool-Aid drinking (and very expensive bike riding) at the Specialized Bicycle facility in S. Cal.

One of the Kool-Aid flavors was helmet design, testing, and marketing. I got to go behind the scenes deep in the bowels of engineering, testing, and design of Specialized helmets. So let me start out by saying that these people are REALLY TRYING to make the best stuff out there. They are REALLY TRYING to make the helmets WORK. The amount of knowledge of physics, materials, dynamics, chemistry, and whatnot in that one big room was amazing.

As you may know (I say "may" because over in the Helmet Thread some do not know this) folks that make helmets are REALLY TRYING to protect heads. The amount of high tech testing equipment they have to simulate a head hitting curbs, bumpers, concrete, lamp poles, etc., is staggering. Do they succeed? I have no clue. But this is some of what you are paying for:

- A team of designers. They work 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year and get paid for their services by YOU.
- A team of artists for helmet graphics. They work 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year and get paid for their services by YOU.
- A team of engineers. They work 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year and get paid for their services by YOU.
- A beautiful, high tech, modern, state of the art science testing lab paid for by YOU.
- Raw materials and all of the equipment that turns goop and plastic junk into helmets. Yep, if you purchase a helmet - you pay for the raw materials and the machines, molds, mold release agents, straps, Velcro, yada yada plus all of the above.
- A marketing team. They design the packaging and p!mp the helmets to most of the world. They have a HUGE advertizing budget. And they work 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year and get paid for their services by YOU.
- A legal team. Someone crashes and dies from a head injury while wearing a proper helmet that got smashed to bits - there will be a lawsuit. The legal team may not work full time but that stuff costs REAL MONEY.

Added to all of ^^this is the fact that whenever you try to make something smaller, lighter, more comfortable, and PUT MORE LARGER HOLES IN IT at the same time but still preserve the same protection as a heavier, less-vented helmet - that will cost money. Much more money than a basic skateboard/BMX helmet. AND, if you had beginner economics you will know that it costs a lot more money per widget to make ten thousand of them than to make ten million of them. Far fewer people are purchasing high end helmets @ $200+ than basic $40 helmets.

OH...and the professionals who "model" these high end helmets at high profile bicycle races - they get the helmets for FREE and get a PAY CHECK for wearing them. Paid for by YOU.

After all of ^^this, they need to generate a profit for the CEO and other execs.

It's not just a Wal-Mart styrene ice chest as some here profess.

You STILL get what you pay for. And a $300 helmet offers the same "protection" as a $30 helmet. If you want the lighter, smaller, better ventilated, more comfortable gear worn by your favorite bike racer, made in limited quantities...then you pay more.

Hope this helps.

Last edited by JoeyBike; 10-24-14 at 09:41 AM.
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Old 10-24-14, 09:10 AM
  #96  
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
Nobody has demonstrated that the "different ingredients" of the expensive road bike helmets cost the manufacturer or marketeers any more to purchase, manufacture or assemble than the ingredients of low priced helmets. It only has been demonstrated that the ingredients are different, some posters/cyclists are willing to pay more for those differences and the manufacturers/marketeers/retailers are happy to price the helmets accordingly.

Poster wphamilton had it right in msg#88 https://www.bikeforums.net/advocacy-s...l#post17242224
CF in the shell/different shell material construction, metal in the adjustment mechanism, different (in the case of POC Receptor higher end models) crush material, MIPS licensing and manufacturing are all more expensive than their cheaper helmet counterparts. Along with lower number product runs, higher levels of R&D, marketing efforts.

"different ingredients" = higher manufacturing prices.

This has been demonstrated: you are being willfully argumentative and oppositional in the face of manufacturing and marketing realities, like you have some kind of Helmet Thread-ish agenda or something...
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Old 10-24-14, 09:44 AM
  #97  
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Originally Posted by SBinNYC View Post
The helmet manufacturer's biggest expense is product liability insurance.
As an attorney married to an insurance professional, I guarantee you it's not.
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Old 10-24-14, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by mconlonx View Post
"different ingredients" = higher manufacturing prices.
It is often more difficult to work with exotic materials as well. So the cost jumps from both ends - materials AND construction techniques using those materials.
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Old 10-24-14, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by bikebuddha View Post
As an attorney married to an insurance professional, I guarantee you it's [product liability insurance] not.
Bell helmets were about $50 a piece retail, when they were introduced in the late 1970's. A Bell representative gave a talk at GEAR. That's what he stated regarding their helmet's biggest manufacturing cost in the Q&A.

One reason this may not longer be the case is the existence of helmet standards. The helmet manufacturers quickly adopted these standards. The original helmets implied they would protect wearers in case of a crash. They now imply only that they meet the various national standards. Bell also made a point of recalling the original helmets and exchanging them for the newer helmets with the lower performance standard.
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Old 10-24-14, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by mconlonx View Post
CF in the shell/different shell material construction, metal in the adjustment mechanism, different (in the case of POC Receptor higher end models) crush material, MIPS licensing and manufacturing are all more expensive than their cheaper helmet counterparts. Along with lower number product runs, higher levels of R&D, marketing efforts.

"different ingredients" = higher manufacturing prices.

This has been demonstrated: you are being willfully argumentative and oppositional in the face of manufacturing and marketing realities, like you have some kind of Helmet Thread-ish agenda or something...
Not necessarily, but if so the question is "how much". There isn't a lot of material involved, and all of these materials are inexpensive compared to the price of a helmet.

Fewer units produced, again not necessarily so. Granted, I've seen development costs projected into per unit production costs given production level predictions, but the actual unit cost of production isn't necessarily higher for one run than for ten. If you are rolling the R&D into per unit production, then you're double-dipping that cost when you cite it later.

Regarding the R&D costs, that's not an obvious on-the-face-of-it fact either. Even the cheap helmets have to be tested, and once you've bought the equipment how much does it cost to run a helmet through it? It's not all that involved, and it's not clear why testing an expensive helmet would cost more than testing a cheap one. Or more than one person's labor for a day, in either case.

Research, maybe but I haven't seen anything convincing enough that it's extremely expensive to research different shapes and a couple of covering materials for bicycle helmets.

I'm not being argumentative, but just pointing out that there are a lot of assumptions in your arguments, not really supported, and some of them to me are dubious.
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