Consumer Reports Publishes
A helmet article on the Web
Summary: Consumer Reports tested bike helmets in 2012 and rated 13 models. Only two rated above average in impact protection: Specialized Echelon and the Bontrager Solstice Youth from Trek. In addition to those two, CU checkrated the Bontrager Circuit, Louis Garneau Baristo and Bell Array. Two of the tested helmets were rated Poor for impact: Nutcase Streetsport 8 Ball and Bern Brighton. The full report including ventilation ratings and more is available to Web subscribers , and in the July edition of the print magazine.
Consumer Reports published a report on bicycle helmets on their Web page in May, 2012. The models rated include 9 adult helmets, three youth helmets and one toddler model. Although that is a tiny sample of the hundreds of models on the market, their ratings are the only independent lab test data publicly available.
You must be a Consumer Reports Web site subscriber to see the ratings on their Web page. You can also find the report in the July print edition, available at libraries or newsstands.
Impact Test Results
Once again, none of the helmets rated Excellent for impact protection. The Bontrager Solstice Youth and Specialized Echelon rated Very Good, with most others rated as Good: Bontrager Circuit, Louis Garneau Baristo, Bell Array, Giro Indicator, Bell Muni, Giro Reverb, Bell Strata Youth, Schwinn Thrasher Youth and Bern Nino. Two were rated Poor: Nutcase Street Sport 8 Ball and Bern Brighton. both are skate-style bike helmets. Those two did not meet the impact testing at the level of the CPSC standard.
We focus on the impact tests as CU's biggest contribution to consumer information, and our key criterion for helmet choice. But we recognize that almost all helmets regardless of price are designed to the same impact standard, and not to exceed it by very much. We do not think the difference between CU's Good and Very Good rating is that significant. But the Poor impact test rating is definitely cause for concern, and makes the helmet unacceptable.
The Louis Garneau Baristo rated Excellent, and rated a Best Buy. Most others rated Good.
Only the Bontrager models rated Excellent for strap adjustments. They are sold at Trek bike stores.
What We Missed
This article is worth a look if you are researching a new helmet, although the number of helmets included was very small. Most of the models are available only in bike stores, leaving out the millions of helmets sold in discount stores. There were no Bell True Fit models tested, the only major advance in helmet fitting in the past decade. 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 for impact performance, limiting its usefulness.
The Consumer Reports test lab
The Consumer Reports test lab is highlighted in this video on their Web site. It does not cover all of the testing, but gives you an idea of how it is done. The equipment in the video is typical of many helmet test labs.
Here is a link to our reviews of previous Consumer Reports articles.
This page was updated or partially revised on: March 7, 2015.