Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
The Helmet Update by Email
Consumer Reports Article on Helmets
June, 2006 Issue
Summary: Consumer Reports has been testing bike helmets. They found two that flunked and prompted Trek to recall them. They rated four superior for impact performance and two of those, the Bell Citi and the Bell Slant, got the Best Buy tag. The Bell Boomerang retained its crown as best toddler model, and the Schwinn Intercept youth helmet got a Best Buy.
Consumer Reports has an article on helmets in their June issue. The article rates 14 adult helmets, seven youth models and three toddler helmets. It also rates four skate style helmets.
Although that is a very small cross-section of the hundreds of models on the market, but it represents the only independent lab test data publicly available, so it is a major event in the helmet field. Even better, for the first time, CU has put the article up on their web page, where you can read it for free!
Impact Test Results
First the bad news, two Trek Anthem series helmets flunked the impact tests. CU ratted them out to CPSC, and there was a recall on May 4th. We sent out an email newsletter on that yesterday. Note that some Anthem models are ok, but others are not.
And the good news: among the adult helmets, Consumers Union picked the $45 Bell Citi (a round, smooth design that we have always liked) and the $50 Bell Slant as Best Buys. They awarded them both Very Good ratings for impact protection. Only one other adult helmet achieved the Very Good impact rating, the $100 Specialized Aurora.
All other adult helmets tested were Good, including the Bell X-ray, Giro Atmos, Giro Havoc, Specialized Air-8, Trek Interval Sport, Trek Vapor 3 Sport, Serfas Cosmo Plus, Louis Garneau Equinox, Bell Metropolis and Louis Garneau Chrono. This is not too surprising, as most helmets are basically designed to meet the same CPSC standard.
All the youth helmets tested were also rated good for impact protection, with the $17 Schwinn Intercept rated as a Best Buy. The Bell Trigger Alibi, at $30 had better ventilation, however. In toddler sizes, the Bell Boomerang was once again rated Very Good for impact and recommended.
CU tested some skate-style helmets and found them all good in impact protection, including the Bell Faction, Giro Makai and Mongoose BMX Hardshell MG-119. They downgraded the Pro-Tec Classic for buckle breakage.
CU rated only six adult helmets Excellent in ventilation: Bell Citi, Bell Slant, Bell X-ray, Giro Atmos, Giro Havoc and Specialized Air-8.
Retention Test Results
Most of the helmets tested scored Excellent in retention effectiveness. But remember that in the lab the helmets are adjusted carefully by experts, and there is no test for loosening over time by "strap creep."
Buckle breakage: One more time
The Consumer Reports lab continues to break buckles as they did in testing for previous articles, when both they and the helmet manufacturers don't seem to know why, since the same buckles pass on other models. We have much more on the buckle question on our page reviewing the 1997 article.
What We Were Hoping For
This article is a must-read if you are researching a new helmet, but as always we were disappointed that the range of helmets included was so small. We would have welcomed particularly test results on the lower-priced models found at Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us and other discounters, where most parents buy child helmets. We suspect there would be some superior impact ratings among those helmets. And they don't report this time on testing the skate-style helmets to the ASTM skateboard standard. But testing is expensive, and no single lab, including the US Government, can afford to test every helmet on the market. Our own listing of Helmets for this season is much more comprehensive, but has no lab test results, severely limiting its usefulness.
And the best news: you can read the article on the CU website. This is the first time CU has put the article up for free, and we applaud them for it even though it may not last.