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Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

The Helmet Update

Volume 37, #3, July 3, 2019

All issues index

Consumer Reports flunks three helmets

Consumer Reports has published an article on their web page announcing that three helmets have failed their testing:
  • Bontrager Ballista MIPS
  • Morpher Flat Folding
  • Woom Kids
CR's tests are essentially the same as the testing for the US CPSC standard. In the case of the Morpher and Woom helmets the failure to pass impact standards probably means both are marginal for impact performance and would possibly pass in some labs but not others. We would avoid both, since most manufacturers build enough margin into their designs to accommodate both quality control issues and lab variations.

The Bontrager buckle failure follows a number of similar failures over the years in CR labs in 1997, 2006 and 2014, and is of less concern. The CPSC buckle test is a severe test, and the buckles Trek uses on their Bontrager models are standard ones that seldom fail in other labs. On occasion a manufacturer uses a slightly stiffer chin strap or the geometry of the strap system results in less stretch during the peak force of the test, stressing the buckle more. Trek says that "independent lab testing conducted after Consumer Reports' notified Trek has been unable to replicate Consumer Reports' findings." Trek has no reports of any Bontragers failing in the field. That has been the case in the past when CR reported buckle failures on other models, as we reported most recently here in 2014.

CR has also published an article about helmets they have been able to buy online from Amazon, Sears and Chinese sites that do not meet US standards. We have been pointing that out for years and noting that the cheapest deals from Chinese sellers--even on US branded helmets--can be knockoffs that lack the internal reinforcing and quality of construction that make the real version available from US retailers able to pass standards.

CR also announced again that they are working on a welcome update of their 2016 helmet ratings.

Note added August 2020: CPSC announced a recall of the Morpher and Woom helmets in August of 2020, more than a year later. Bontrager had sent helmet samples to CPSC and Trek's Eric Bojorling said "They could not identify or replicate the concerns that Consumer Reports outlined and closed the file. As of right now, we are not aware of any issues with the Ballista that would lead us to need to recall the helmet."
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This page was revised on: October 20, 2020. BHSI logo