Californian company Thousand’s marketing schtick relies on two pillars — first, the founder lost a friend to a cycling accident and, second, that might not have happened had they been wearing a helmet. The key problems with helmets, the company argues, are they look dorky and they’re a nuisance to carry around. Thousand aims to solve both of these issues, along with a few others. And, for the most part, it succeeds.
Dorky is in the eye of the beholder — I hate the running-shoe-on-your head look of most bicycle helmets, but I wouldn’t go so far as to claim my Thousand Heritage Collection helmet is “cool” or “high fashion.” Then again, I'd claim neither about myself either, so perhaps my style judgments aren't to be trusted. It looks like a skater helmet with a very slight visor (which is useful in both rain and sunshine for keeping either our of my eyes). It’s less dorky than most bicycle helmets, sure, but I think it’s still pretty dorky. But then, no matter what I'm wearing, so am I. So it's in good company.
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I opted for the brand’s classic dark-blue and orange-logo combination from its Heritage range, which includes a strip of rubberized, white trim that wraps around the visor / bottom edge of the helmet. My wife, meanwhile, got the all-black version that she says makes her feel like she’s about to go horseriding every time she catches a glimpse of herself in a storefront reflection. Giddy up.
Muted or loud — Thousand offers 12 to 15 color options at any time, some of which are limited edition, like a recent range of patterned ones designed in partnership with contemporary artists which were available when I bought mine, but aren’t now. While I like the subdued and classic look of what I chose and figured it would hide dirt and scratches better, my other top choice was the gold finish. After all, one of the key components of cycling safely is visibility. But so it goes.
Aesthetics aside, it’s the practical features I’ve really come to appreciate.
One of the advantages of the colored options over the plain black ones is the vegan leather straps they use (the monochrome version gets nylon ones). The faux leather is soft, pliable, and comfortable, even when I'm pouring sweat on a New York summer’s day. All straps come with a magnetic clasp that’s easy to close single-handed, and quick-release, too, without feeling like its ever going to come undone accidentally.
The shine of design — It’s the design choices that first attracted me to Thousand’s options. Aesthetics aside, it’s the practical features I’ve really come to appreciate. First, each helmet includes padded strips attached to the interior with velcro that can be removed for a better fit, or just so you can wash them. But the pièce de résistance is the plastic, magnetic medallion with the company’s logo on it and a stretch cord attaching it to the helmet. Pop it out and there’s a hole big enough for a D-lock beneath it. No more lugging your helmet around with you, hallelujah!
Guarantees I don’t want to test — In addition to the standard return policy if you decide the look or fit isn’t for you — the helmets come in small, medium, or large — Thousand guarantees its helmets against theft if they're stolen while attached to your (presumably, also-stolen) bike, via the "poplock" hole. The company also says it’ll send you a new cranium-cuddler in the event you have an accident that destroys the one you bought.
I was, blessedly, unable to test either of these assurances... and hope I never have to. But I’m encouraged about their veracity because I did have to test customer care. In addition to the pair of helmets I ordered, I ordered two of its retro-looking, brass handlebar bells. Only one arrived (my wife now mocks me by ringing hers at me whenever I deign to overtake her), and customer care told me they were out of stock, so simply refunded me immediately. I'd have preferred a bell, but a speedily resolved problem is a perfectly acceptable consolation prize.
Putting a price on safety — Yes, I’m aware of the various proponents of bare-headed riding who assert that helmets give their wearers a false sense of confidence and may make drivers less inclined to be careful around them… but I think those people are probably European. That may be true in places with better bike infrastructure and more considerate drivers… but I live in a litigious city where four-way stops are regularly treated more like commas, and there are hundreds of low-flying delivery people on e-bikes.
At $89 each, Thousand’s helmets fall somewhere in the middle-ground of the price spectrum. Fancier, more aerodynamic, or LED-illuminated options can run hundreds of dollars, while bargain-bin buckets-with-straps versions can cost half that at your local bike store. The thoughtful features, build-quality, and responsive customer service have ensured I don’t feel any buyer’s remorse (except, perhaps, for my conservative color choice). But, most importantly, I now wear a helmet every time I take to the saddle. And that’s the sort of valuable new habit that’s hard to quantify.