Racing in my teens, I started out wearing nothing but a cycling cap. I think it was Team 7-11, if memory serves. Within a couple of years directors, organizers, insurance companies and some clubs (although not the one I belonged to, just yet) were requiring them. Particularly for competition. I never had a lot of money to spend on cycling. My dad would easily (?) drop $200 on a pair of skates or new shoulder pads (hockey in Canada, what can I tell you?) but I was on my own for my cycling needs. So a $40 helmet was pretty much out of reach. I settled for a Skid-Lid. These helmets offered little or no actual impact protection but they were inexpensive. They were touted as protection for your head while it literally slid across the tarmac. Race directors did not know what to do with this piece of equipment, so for the first year I always got a pass. Within two years of its release, it had pretty much been outlawed.
Now I had to come up with a new helmet.
After saving for quite some time, I actually ended up with what I thought was the top of the heap. I bought a Bell Stratos. These were crazy looking things, but had an supposed aerodynamic shape and a new design in its cooling system.
Both helmets eventually sold in garage sales but I wish to this day that I had them both.
Two months ago, in the Paris-to-Ancaster race, I fell hard on my head. It's already a six year old helmet, but I read somewhere that they should be replaced after a fall, and/or they should be replaced every five years, regardless.
Now I am in the market for a new helmet. Is is tougher than I thought it would be. I have been expanding my search to include whitewater helmets and snowboarding helmets. I'll let you know how this goes.