Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

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Consumer Reports Publishes
A Helmet Article
June, 2006 Issue

Summary: Consumer Reports tested bike helmets in 2006. 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. Other ratings are available only on the web, not in the magazine.

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, 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 originally put the article up on their website, where you could read it for free! Unfortunately, the magazine version gives only the six Quick Picks, so if you are not on the web, too bad.

Impact Test Results

First the bad news, two Trek helmets from their Anthem series flunked the impact tests. CU ratted them out to CPSC, and there was a recall on May 4th. You can read about it in our email newsletter.

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 in 1997 and 2004, 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. Because the buckle test is so severe, we do not consider their breaking some to be a major problem.

Canadian Section

For the first time in a helmet article, CU has added to the web version a section on helmets available in Canada. All were the Quick Pick Bells, however, with nothing from Louis Garneau, the best-known Canadian brand.

What We Missed

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. It is hard for a parent to have confidence in a $7.14 helmet if CU has not tested it or any of that price level in a lab. And CU did not 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.

Here is a link to our reviews of previous Consumer Reports articles. In June of 2009 CU posted a new report on kids helmets.