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Expensive road bike helmets, a marketing scam?

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Expensive road bike helmets, a marketing scam?

Old 10-13-14, 12:10 AM
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mustang1
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Expensive road bike helmets, a marketing scam?

Not a debate about whether helmets are safe or not (wow, seems like always need this disclaimer when discussing helmets, or is it just me?)

Anyway.... expensive helmets are expensive because they're lighter, and they also have more air vents, which means they have less material, which means they are lighter, which seems pretty obvious to me.

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?
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Old 10-13-14, 05:38 AM
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The helmet manufacturer's biggest expense is product liability insurance.
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Old 10-13-14, 06:06 AM
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I don't know if I would call it a scam, but, like any other area, actual consumer price can be based on brand, style, and size of helmet. Final sales price is usually determined by the retailer, not the manufacturer. Once I went to an LBS to buy a helmet, and found a nice Bell that was my size (large) but they wanted too much for it. It was substantially more expensive than the same model in smaller sizes. They justified the extra cost because of the size. I walked in to a Big 5 Sporting Goods store 2 doors down in the same strip mall and found he same helmet for about half the price in their inline skate department. It was priced about the same as the other sized helmets.

After I bought it at Big 5, I walked back to the LBS and showed them the helmet and receipt, and told them they were overpricing items. They didn't seem to care, but they went out of business a short time later anyway.
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Old 10-13-14, 07:40 AM
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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?
Yes.
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Old 10-13-14, 08:25 AM
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Helmets are like most anything else. Since there are Fed rules, there is little difference in them. Some have name and hype going for them, and they are the ones that have obscene prices. A fool and his money are soon parted.
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Old 10-13-14, 08:34 AM
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It's kinda like designer anything. People will pay a heck of a lot for a little cachet. High end models of a given product virtually always have a much higher profit margin than moderate priced items. The lowest end models often have very little margin. A common marketing ploy is to get you in the door with a loss leader then talk you up.
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Old 10-13-14, 09:20 AM
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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?
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?
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Old 10-13-14, 10:54 AM
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Its all about the bling factor. Roadies want the newest, hottest. I remember a few years ago when a couple of guys in the group I rode with got Catlike helmets, which weren't sold in the US at the time. Everyone drooled.
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Old 10-13-14, 11:02 AM
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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.
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Old 10-13-14, 12:20 PM
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I wouldn't use the word shame. Marketing ploy in some cases? Definitely! However, you can find an aerodynamic and well vented head protector if you know where to look.

I'm shocked this topic is still up and civil in tone.
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Old 10-13-14, 12:50 PM
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I have found one little difference between many expensive helmets and their same-brand cheaper mates. The cheaper ones often have the plastic shell wrap around the foam in such a way that it can dig into the forehead. The more expensive ones rarely have this problem.
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Old 10-13-14, 01:40 PM
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Bike helmets are largely commodity items. Margins are going to be relatively low, unless you have an innovative design or distinctive and attractive styling. Manufacturers will always be looking to find a way to get people to pay a premium price that gives higher margins. It just means that if you care about style, you're going to pay.
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Old 10-13-14, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by walrus1 View Post
I wouldn't use the word shame. Marketing ploy in some cases? Definitely! However, you can find an aerodynamic and well vented head protector if you know where to look.

I'm shocked this topic is still up and civil in tone.
I'm watching . . . .
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Old 10-13-14, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
Helmets are like most anything else. Since there are Fed rules, there is little difference in them. Some have name and hype going for them, and they are the ones that have obscene prices. A fool and his money are soon parted.
This pretty much sums it up. I'm still wearing the same Bell Variant I bought in 2008, which cost me about 75 bones (on a big sale) and haven't decided on what style I want for an upgrade. Is it wrong to blow nearly 300 bucks on a helmet when your bike is worth 400 bucks?
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Old 10-13-14, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by mustang1 View Post
Anyway.... expensive helmets are expensive because they're lighter, and they also have more air vents, which means they have less material, which means they are lighter, which seems pretty obvious to me.
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.
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Old 10-13-14, 04:15 PM
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i have a cheap relatively-unventilated helmet for riding in the winter. and i have two feather-light helmets with ginormous wind-tunnel vents that i use in the spring-fall-summer. in my opinion, the comfort difference between these two helmet types is effing enormous. so i personally don't think expensive road helmets are a scam at all. (that being said i buy 2-4 year old expensive road helmets at large discounts so they don't really qualify as expensive.)

PS: catlike helmets are really pretty and i want one.
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Old 10-13-14, 04:19 PM
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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,
while the more aero helmets have made some inroads they certainly have not made the ginormous vent helmets obsolete.

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Old 10-13-14, 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by spare_wheel View Post
while the more aero helmets have made some inroads they certainly have not made the ginormous vent helmets obsolete.
The original question was about high end helmets (that you buy, not which are being worn at races), most of the top end are now aero, like the Giro Synthe or Kask Infinity (2nd gen) Giro Air Attack (1st gen) then the hi-tech Graphene Catlike Mixino, or just plain expensive cause the can, the Poc Octal
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Old 10-13-14, 08:05 PM
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Helmets, like most products, are priced as much or more based on what people will pay as design, manufacturing, and business costs. What people will pay, particularly in the U.S., is based largely on marketing and our heightened sense of vanity.
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Old 10-13-14, 08:38 PM
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The more expensive helmets are less bulky, lighter, more aero, ventilated better, and usually better looking in my opinion. I just replaced my $100 Louis Garneau helmet that I bought for $50, with a $250 Giro helmet that I bought for $125. The Giro is definitely nicer to ride with and looks better. Do the higher end helmets cost that much more to manufacture, probably not. But manufacturing cost is only loosely related to selling price. These guys are probably selling the low to middle range products at low margins and making good margin on their higher end products. A product mix that keeps them in business. Is a lot of it hype behind the higher end stuff, yes, but there's an element of better functionality as well.
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Old 10-13-14, 09:26 PM
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It seems to be the same with most things, the premium item will have some artificial inflation built into the price, but it will also have the latest innovations, with better materials and workmanship. The opposite can be true on bottom end price point items, and the best overall value is usually somewhere in the middle.

That said, I wear a nice Giro I got on clearance for $10.
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Old 10-13-14, 09:33 PM
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It seems crazy, the premiums placed on ultra-light gear of any sort for bicyles. A guy I know rode from Seattle to NYC in 1956 at age 14 on a Raleigh 3 speed and no helmet. I have witnessed bikes used for all sorts of utility around the world, bikes you would swear were made of plumbing pipe... we Yanks seem a bit pre-occupied with the tech and forget the other reasons you ride: health, social, pleasure. You COULD do that on a Raleigh 3 speed and NO helmet if we allowed ourselves.
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Old 10-13-14, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by jgadamski View Post
It seems crazy, the premiums placed on ultra-light gear of any sort for bicyles. A guy I know rode from Seattle to NYC in 1956 at age 14 on a Raleigh 3 speed and no helmet. I have witnessed bikes used for all sorts of utility around the world, bikes you would swear were made of plumbing pipe... we Yanks seem a bit pre-occupied with the tech and forget the other reasons you ride: health, social, pleasure. You COULD do that on a Raleigh 3 speed and NO helmet if we allowed ourselves.
I would suck on all the Strava segments between Seattle and NYC on a Raleigh 3 speed. Although not having a helmet would save some weight.
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Old 10-13-14, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by jgadamski View Post
It seems crazy, the premiums placed on ultra-light gear of any sort for bicyles. A guy I know rode from Seattle to NYC in 1956 at age 14 on a Raleigh 3 speed and no helmet. I have witnessed bikes used for all sorts of utility around the world, bikes you would swear were made of plumbing pipe... we Yanks seem a bit pre-occupied with the tech and forget the other reasons you ride: health, social, pleasure. You COULD do that on a Raleigh 3 speed and NO helmet if we allowed ourselves.
joe, i gain a heck of alot of pleasure from riding my carbon fiber utility bikes....fast. moreover, i switched to carbon due to environmental concerns and extreme dissatisfaction with the durability of mass produced metal frames. a mass-produced metal frame that i trash in a few years is not a better value for me than a carbon frame that lasts me a decade or longer. in fact, i'm already eyeing my next frame for the inevitable moment when i wear out of of my current crop of frames. probably a calfee...i love the idea of their crash resistant lugged overbuilt frames.
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Old 10-13-14, 11:04 PM
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They should sell bikes by the pound too. A lighter bike should cost less.
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