Tests reveal some bike helmets protect better than others

Virginia Tech Helmet Lab works with IIHS to offer rating system for consumers

SAN ANTONIO – Some bicycle helmets protect from concussions and head injuries better than others -- and price is not a predictor of effectiveness, researchers at Virginia Tech's Helmet Lab found.

The same folks who tested football helmets partnered with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to put adult helmets through a battery of tests and formulate a ratings system.

"We thought it was very important for consumers to have an idea of which helmet is safer when they make their purchasing decision," said Virginia Tech doctoral student Megan Bland.

Wearing a helmet while cycling has been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by more than half.

Helmets already have to pass government tests and meet regulations, but the Helmet Lab's tests were more extensive and designed to be more realistic.

"We simulated real world head impact conditions -- the most common scenarios a cyclist might see when they hit their head," said Steven Rowson, of Virginia Tech Helmet Lab.

The tests simulated various crash scenarios, including helmets hitting the ground at an angle. 

Of the 30 helmets tested, 24 scored good or very good.

The following four helmets received the highest five-star rating:

Bontrager Ballista MIPS
Garneau Raid MIPS
Bell Stratus MIPS
Specialized Chamonix MIPS

All of the top-rated helmets are equipped with MIPS, or multi-directional impact protection system. They range in price from $75 to $200.

Researchers found price was not a predictor of effective protection.

"This was particularly interesting," Rowson said. "Consumers might think buying the most expensive helmet would give you more protection, and that was not the case."

Virginia Tech's Helmet Lab will continue testing helmets and updating ratings.

Complete ratings list:

Virginia Tech bicycle helmet ratings

The helmets are listed from best to worst within rating categories.

Best available (5 stars)

  • Bontrager Ballista MIPS
  • Garneau Raid MIPS
  • Bell Stratus MIPS
  • Specialized Chamonix MIPS 

Very good (4 stars)

  • Scott ARX Plus MIPS
  • Bontrager Quantum MIPS
  • Specialized Prevail II
  • Smith Overtake
  • Giro Savant
  • Bell Draft MIPS
  • POC Octal
  • Giro Foray MIPS
  • Giro Synthe
  • Giro Sutton MIPS
  • Specialized Evade II
  • Garneau Le Tour II 

Good (3 stars)

  • Triple 8 Dual Certified MIPS
  • Bell Reflex
  • Bontrager Solstice
  • Bern Brentwood
  • Bell Division
  • Schwinn Thrasher
  • Giro Revel
  • Schwinn Flash
  • Kali City
  • Nutcase Street
  • Specialized Centro
  • Bontrager Electra 

Adequate (2 stars)

  • Lazer Genesis
  • Bern Watts

No helmets were rated marginal (1 star) or not recommended (0 stars).

For the full list of ratings, click here.


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