Best bike helmets to protect riders

May 17, 2012 4:04:46 PM PDT
Wearing a bike helmet can be the difference between life and death -- literally. Consumer Reports just tested helmets to see which ones deliver the protection you count on.

Brent Mather learned firsthand just how important it is to wear a bike helmet.

He said, "I was hit by a car several years ago. And if it wasn't for the helmet, I'm pretty positive my injuries would have been far worse."

Consumer Reports tests bike helmets -- both adult and youth sizes -- to see how well they'll protect in an accident.

Because a helmet can't do any good if it doesn't stay in place, testers perform a test that assesses whether the chinstraps will stretch, break, or open upon impact. All 13 bike helmets passed this test.

To see how well a helmet will protect your head upon impact, Consumer Reports performs an impact test.

"The impact test simulates what happens when a helmet impacts different surfaces, like a flat surface like a street, a rounded triangle like a curb, and a hemispherical surface, which simulates hitting a rock," explained Rich Handel of Consumer Reports.

Two adult helmets did poorly -- the Nutcase Street Sport 8 Ball and the Bern Brighton Thin Shell E-P-S for women.

On the plus side, two helmets rated very good for impact resistance. They're the Specialized Echelon for adults, which costs $60, and for children, the $45 Bontrager Solstice Youth.

But a helmet can only protect when it's worn properly. Make sure it's level on your head, with no more than one or two fingers-width above the brow. The straps should form a "V" under each ear with the buckle centered under the chin. Lastly, when you open your mouth, the helmet should pull down. All this will help ensure your next ride is a safe one.

Consumer Reports says it's a good idea to try on a bike helmet before you buy it. You want it to be comfortable, and it should fit snugly. You should be able to shake your head back and forth without the helmet moving even before you strap it on.

If you have one of the helmets that did not do well in Consumer Reports' impact test, do not stop wearing it until you can replace it. That's because wearing any helmet is better than no helmet at all.


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