I cannot conceive of buying a helmet or shoes without trying it on first, in fact even gloves and other clothing should be tried before you buy too. There is a depressing fascination with 'getting the best deal' these days, a kind of one-upmanship in nailing the best online deal, this means nothing if the shoes/helmet you buy are uncomfortable.
I would offer the seemingly apt suggestion that you visit a 'local bike shop', like we used to do bitd, this is retrobike after all.
As someone who owns a 'local bike shop', I'd implore you to do this. Granted, you may pay a couple of pounds more than you can possibly get away with online if you search around, but with helmets and shoes it's important to find ones that fit. Helmets are not all the same size and shape (I've got a Met-shaped head but not a Bell-shaped one, apparently) and you may find a brand or model that you hadn't even realised existed, or find a great discount on a previous year's model. (We've just started selling Kask and they are incredible helmets). Likewise shoes - no offence to N/B but lots of the forumites on other sites who like fixating on one brand and hailing it the "best thing ever" love Sidi, after all they're Italian, hand-made and expensive, but if you've got anything other than medium-narrow feet you're just not going to find any Sidis comfortable in the long term. Trying shoes on is the only way to check they're right for you - even better if you try them on with someone experienced in fitting cycling shoes who can assess the fit and recommend arch supports if needed.
I'm not blindly advocating going to your LBS, I fully appreciate that if you're after the cheapest possible price then you can find someone who runs a warehouse and doesn't have to keep a nice shop open (or feed his family
) but if you want good service, good advice and sometimes a better discount or better freebies than you can get online, I'd recommend giving the LBS a try.
Oh, one more thing - please remember that for the people who go down to their LBS, spend an hour trying stuff on, and then go home and buy online there is a special level of hell reserved for them. They deserve it.
All excellent advice. I feel the need to highlight the fact at this point before we go any further, that I have indeed used all 3 of my local bikes shops in the last 4 weeks, for various advice, repairs and NOS components. Having only been in a handful of times, I have already built a good rapport with them and can see us being on first name terms in the not too distant future... Infact, I will be popping out again shortly to pick up an old specialized that has been in for a fork service - whilst I'm there I may well purchase some more grease and maybe a new crank-extractor (if in stock and at the right price).
I'd also like to note I was only using the eBay links as examples of products I had seen to get feedback on what others thought of them and if they had seen something similar/better....and I do not necessarily plan on purchasing all the items blindly, certainly helmets and shoes are a must, but also gloves for me, as I have particularly dainty skinny fingers - it should also be mentioned that I have matching feet - hence my previous purchase of Sidi's
So I think we're all on the same page that where possible we should use our LBS's, in the meantime though, I'm in the preliminary internet-based research phase so if anyone has any more suggestions on the previous 5 points, I'd love to hear them