Summary: Sources of low cost helmets for promotion campaigns. Near the bottom of the page is a possible source of free helmets for individual children, not programs.
Good news for consumers!
If you need helmets for a campaign, or perhaps just for a large family, you will find sources below for helmets certified to the CPSC standard beginning at $3 to $5. For local purchase, Target and Wal-Mart have them starting at $10, and Wal-Mart has Bell's easier to fit True Fit system models starting at about $20. Toys 'R' Us and other retailers have them every day for $8 to $25. Even bicycle stores, with their higher level of service and valuable help in fitting, usually have helmets around $35. Some local bike shops will shave their prices for a campaign to encourage more walk-in business. So you may find good helmets for your program at a local discounter or bike shop.
Our research shows that cheap helmets provide the same level of impact protection as the most expensive ones do. In the past the less expensive models have actually scored better in Consumer Reports testing. The helmets below are mostly made in China, except for the Bells, made in USA of US and Chinese components.
There are also good deals from mail order suppliers with ads in bicycle magazines or on the Internet. Since the CPSC standard became law in 1999, any helmets you buy from a US retailer will have the sticker inside certifying to it. Sellers outside the US may have non-CPSC-certified helmets.
Bear in mind that helmets are a piece of wearing apparel. Some of the super cheap models look it. If you choose those, that seriously degrades the cool factor. So the helmet chosen is an important part of your campaign, constrained by what you can afford. We gave some moderately expensive helmets to a local youth program and the kids, who had been using the cheapest available dorky models when required for rides, started wearing the nicer ones around the shop.
If you are seeking bids for a large order, or do not have local sources of cheap helmets, there are many choices:
Safe Kids Worldwide has arranged with one of their sponsors, Bell Sports, to provide helmets made by Bell to their local chapters at prices around $7.50 each, the price through December, 2004. Bell also provides multisport and snow sport helmets at a discount, and makes the program available through Safe Kids to other non-profits. Unfortunately, the cheaper Bell models do not fit very well, with a tendency to "strap creep." You can contact your local Safe Kids chapter or their national headquarters at 202-662-0600. You can also call Kathy Hoffmann at Bell Sports at 800-494-4543 ext 260, or send her a fax to 217-892-2662, or email her at email@example.com The postal mailing address is
1924 County Road, 3000 N
Rantoul, IL 61866
She will provide interested organizations with current ordering information and a SafeKids contact in their area. She can also tell you about a direct program for police and EMS bike officers including helmets and other stuff. Riders and parents may appreciate the Bell name recognition factor for a low-priced helmet, although the fit in cheaper Bells leaves a lot to be desired.
HeadStart Technologies has a line of Canadian-made EPP helmets selling for $7 to non-profits. EPP is a multi-impact foam, so you don't have to trash the helmet after every impact. They say the models for the U.S. are all ASTM certified. They also have toddler helmets made for either U.S. or Canadian (CSA standard) specs. The Canadian standard differs considerably from the US standard for toddler helmets, and is probably better. Contact Headstart Technologies, 558 Massey Road, Unit 6, Guelph, ONT N1K-1B4, Canada. tel. 800-423-3409 or 519-836-6646.
Helmets R Us has a line of TopGear helmets starting at about $4.45. They also sell retail to individuals. They have sizing info for retail sales and a How to Fit video for programs that costs $15. Virginia Tech testing identified one of their helmets as a 5 Star (see below).
JBI Bike (formerly J & B Importers) has a line of helmets at about $7 to $15. They are certified to the CPSC standard. Contact them through the website or by phone at 800-666-5000. J & B is a well-known wholesaler to the bicycle industry of all kinds of bicycle parts and accessories. They established this program to deal with non-profits.
Prevention Alternatives Inc has helmets from Vigor Sports at $6 for 12-vent helmets with black foam and $8.50 for skate-style models, plus shipping if ordering less than 100 units. Discounts available on large orders. Prevention Alternatives, Inc, PO Box 16, Haslett MI 48840, 517-927-7731.
ProRider (Children-N-Safety or CNS) has "economy" bike helmets starting at $6 each. They have other models in the under-$10 range, some certified to Snell B-95, a slightly more demanding standard than CPSC. Their skate-style helmets are certified only to the CPSC bicycle helmet standard, as are most skate-style helmets in this price range. Contact ProRider, 18370 Olympic Avenue South, Tukwila, WA 98188, tel. 800-642-3123, fax 425-251-5985, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free HelmetsSee our Free Helmets page.
ManufacturersIn addition to the above, most major US helmet manufacturers have on rare occasion donated helmets for a local campaign of some kind. Usually the request has to hit just right, when they have some leftover (but good) helmets of a particular model, or it fits somehow with their current marketing strategy. They don't announce those donations because their full-price dealers would be upset and they would be inundated with requests. We don't have any more info than that, but you can check out our Links page for the websites of the manufacturers.
Inexpensive helmets rated by Virginia TechTwo of the VA Tech STAR system's principal developers, Megan Bland and Steven Rowson, published a paper in Traffic Injury Prevention in 2021 titled A price-performance analysis of the protective capabilities of wholesale bicycle helmets. The authors tested nine helmet models sold in bulk for helmet promotion programs at $3.65-$12.95 using the STAR protocol. The helmets came from Helmets R Us. Results: "Large ranges in kinematic results led to large variations in concussion risks between helmets, and in turn, large variations in STAR values (13.5-26.2). Wholesale helmet price was not significantly associated with STAR, although incorporating 30 previous bicycle helmet STAR results produced a weak negative correlation between price and STAR overall. Nonetheless, the best-performing wholesale helmet produced one of the lowest overall STAR values for a price of $6.45. Helmet style was instead a superior predictor of STAR, with multi-sport style helmets producing significantly higher linear accelerations and resulting STAR values than bike style helmets." (In this case, multi-sport refers to skate-style helmets.) The authors also said that "Increasing wholesale helmet price was associated with increasing STAR value, albeit not significantly" The $6.45 Model 9 helmet earned a score of 13.5, putting it in the range of 5-star helmets. The helmets are not on the current STAR listing. The Model 38 earned a 26.2 score that would be at the very bottom of the models VA Tech has listed, with one or at most two stars. The Model 9 ranked with 5-star (best) helmets, while the Model 38 ranked lowest. The 30 helmets already in the STAR ranking cost from $14-$250, and the top performers were all over $75. The authors concluded that "the present results showed that a helmet priced at $6.45 can afford the same level of protection." The authors recommend buying road helmets rather than skate-style models, since the skate helmet liners are too stiff for the lower velocity impacts most riders experience. Keep in mind that the VA Tech testing is focussed on concussion-level impacts, not the most severe impacts.
This page was revised on: June 21, 2021.