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Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

The Helmet Update by Email

Volume 20, #4 - June 6, 2002

All issues index

Consumer Reports Publishes Helmet Article

The July issue of Consumer Reports has their promised helmet article. This is their first article on helmets since 1999, so it is particularly welcome.

The ratings cover impact performance as measured in the Consumers Union test labs, the only independent test data available to the public. The only model rated excellent for impact is a youth helmet, the Specialized Air Wave, a $35 model rated as a Best Buy. All of the others tested were rated very good or good, meaning that they all meet the same CPSC standard, but do not go far beyond it. CU apparently did not test for the "softest landing" helmet as they did in 1994, instead testing for the models that could take the hardest impact.

The top adult models were all rated very good for impact protection, and included the Giro Gila, Trek Vapor (at $40 rated as a Best Buy), Giro Torrent and Specialized Enduro Comp. Others were rated good, including the Specialized M1, Bell Aquila, Giro Pneumo and Bell X-Ray. Price was not an indicator of impact protection, since the top models were mostly much cheaper than the lower rated ones. In CU's opinion the lower rated adult models were all still good helmets.

For ventilation, most of the adult models rated were very good or good, with the Specialized M1 the only helmet offering excellent vents. It was recommended as the choice for those needing maximum ventilation despite being in the third rank for impact protection. The three skate-style models tested were all rated fair for ventilation, as were all three of the toddler models tested.

CU tested visors to make sure they would detach easily in a crash. They said three did not: Bell Aquila, Bell Cognito and the Giro Semi MX skate-style helmet.

A sidebar on skate helmets notes that although bike helmets must meet the CPSC standard, skate-style helmets are not required by law to meet ASTM 1492 for skateboarding. It says the Pro-tec Ace Freestyle was the only skate model they tested that meets both standards, so we assume that means that the Specialized P3, Bell Trailrider and Giro Semi MX should be considered bike helmets only, despite their "skate" shape. All three rated only good in impact protection.

We are impressed with this well-researched and well-written article, but would have welcomed test results on more helmets. The very narrow helmet selection may represent what affluent Consumer Reports readers are likely to see when they go to a bike shop to buy, but covers mostly Bell/Giro and Specialized. It should really be titled Bike Shop Helmets, since it does not cover the discount retail market where other people buy millions of helmets. CU considers a $40 helmet cheap, but most people are paying $25 or less. The article ignores the cheaper lines, but in fact we believe that some of the most protective helmets are out there in the discount stores at prices from ten to twenty dollars. At least the message was clear that higher prices do not mean more protection.

You can find the July issue of Consumer Reports on your newsstand or at your library now, or at the Consumer Reports website as soon as they put up the July issue that we subscribers received today in the mail. The cover of the paper version does not mention bicycles or helmets, but the table of contents does.

See this link for reviews of Consumer Reports articles in subsequent years.

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