Cyclists know that helmets can sometimes make or break the outcome of crashes. While many still choose not to wear them, those who do enjoy a peace of mind that they’re less likely to endure a traumatic brain injury or die on the road if there is an accident. After all, studies show that severe or fatal injuries are drastically reduced when cyclists do wear them.

For some helmet-wearing cyclists, however, it’s worth it to take a few steps back and reconsider whether the helmet can actually withstand the impact of a crash, especially one involving hitting your head on the curb or pavement at a high velocity. This is a legitimate worry, based on observations of counterfeit helmets that are increasingly being sold online.

Counterfeits can kill

One popular cycling company tested a series of fake knockoff versions of its own brand of helmets for their durability under extreme duress. Researchers found some horrifying results.

In experiments involving high-impact and heavy weight applied to the brand name and counterfeit helmets, the difference in the two was glaring. Testing included maneuvers to try and rip the helmets off of a test dummy’s head to check how snug and centered it stayed. They also included dropping anvils and forcefully crushing them with feet. Those tests showed over and over that while the brand name helmet stood up to the test and remained secure and intact, the knockoff was completely destroyed, not only falling off the dummy but splitting in two and crumbling.

A person wearing the counterfeit helmet would likely have died in an actual collision, or received severe head trauma.

The difference stems mainly from the construction of the two helmets. The name brand contains an internal cage structure called a reinforcement roll cage, which keeps the helmet pieced together during impact. The foam padding was also less thick in the counterfeit tested, and other construction elements were negated as well.

Look before you buy

Never trust an unofficial online vendor claiming to sell a name brand piece of safety gear for a lower price. The likelihood of it being a counterfeit is high.

While it requires more of an investment thanks to higher-end pricing, purchasing a quality helmet is worth the money if it means saving your life.