As we are all aware, you can get almost anything via the internet these days and helmets are no exception. While buying online can allow you to easily make a lot of different comparisons between helmet models, graphic styles and of course price there are also a few drawbacks. The following outlines some of the aspects potential helmet buyer should consider when buying online. Some of these are more common sense for buying anything online, but others are important when choosing an adequate helmet for your particular use.
Buying online gives the consumer more choices. This is generally true. Most online stores that deal in helmets have a wide selection to show their customers. There are hundreds of helmet models available, and virtually every one of them can be purchased from one site or another. In fact Snell buys quite a number of helmets from online dealers for their random testing program.
Buying helmets online allows the consumer to find the best price. I don't know if the best price is always synonymous with buying online. Internet consumers can certainly compare prices from a number of places more readily without having to drive to every shop in town.
Buying online is so much more convenient. We love buying certain things over the internet, particularly when it's either something we can't readily find locally, or if we know exactly what we need or want.
The drawbacks. Helmets are a safety device. This is really their main purpose, to help protect riders from an acute case of head trauma, or "This is your brain on asphalt". If that danger was not present, I don't believe that many riders would sport a helmet strictly for the fashion value. Choosing a proper helmet depends on other factors that become very difficult to determine online, even on a wide screen computer monitor.
First there's fit. For any helmet to be effective if needed, it needs to be suited to the wearers head. So you say you're a large. Well that may be so for that Italian made helmet, but for that other one made in Japan, you are an XL. And guess what, your head is not shaped like that Chinese made helmet, it's much more like that Korean made one. To find out if a helmet fits, so far there is only one way. Try it on. This is still not possible to do over the internet, not until they come up with a virtual sizing system.
Comfort while related to fit, is a consideration that can really only be determined by wearing the helmet. Even if a helmet fits well, it may still not be as comfortable as you prefer. You will likely be wearing your helmet for extended periods so it should not become an annoying distraction.
Then there is style. Why do we consider style as a safety aspect at all? Because of human nature. We can't tell you how many times we've purchased something thinking, "Wow, that looks great in the window", only to discover that the window wore it a lot better than we did. What we have seen is that people are more likely to wear a helmet that fits well, is comfortable and that they like.
Getting what you pay for. The internet certainly does mimic a community, and like any community you have a very diverse population of people. In general many of the online shops that sell helmets present a responsible attitude towards selling you a helmet. There are always those that do not have a clue as to what is an appropriate helmet for an individual. Some may even misrepresent their products, don't really care if it's suitable for their customer, or even lie. We see most of these issues through the private sales or bidding services. Many of the individuals selling helmets through these services are selling used helmets. Buying used helmets is a bad idea. It might be OK if you get a used one from someone you know and you are certain the helmet has not been mistreated or damaged. An unknown helmet may very well have sustained damage that is virtually unnoticeable by simple inspection, but has had its protective capabilities severely compromised. Think about it, if you are wearing a helmet because you want to protect your head, you might as well get one that you are sure of. To avoid buying a lemon of a melon protector, stick with reputable dealers. Make sure they have a liberal return policy should the helmet not fit as well as it needs to, or if it's just not the right helmet for you.
Give your local dealer a chance, perhaps the one where you bought your vehicle. Many times the sales staff is trained to show you how to find and fit a helmet suited for your head, and the activities you are participating in. Some even have web sites just so you can have that buying online feeling. Very often they can even match the price after you consider shipping and handling charges.
Most of all wear it. A helmet will not protect your seat or a shelf in the garage. It will also not protect your head if it's not there.