Testing shows not all bicycle helmets provide equal protection

Posted at 4:21 AM, Jun 26, 2018

(NBC) - The same group that released crash test ratings a few weeks ago for sport utility vehicles is back with a new test for bicycle helmets.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety teamed up with researchers at the helmet lab at Virginia Tech.

Any bike helmet for sale in the U.S. has to meet government safety standards but details on a helmet's level of protection has been lacking.

Buoyed by its lab testing on football helmets, Virginia Tech researchers, along with the IIHS, studied adult bike helmets to formulate a ratings guide.

835 bicyclists died in 2016, which was the highest number since 1991.

The testing tried to replicate varied impact scenarios for bike crashes, including helmets hitting the ground at an angle.

"To reduce the risk of concussion, you need to both reduce the linear forces acting on the head, as well as the rotational motion of the head," said David Zuby of the IIHS.

Of the 30 helmet models tested, 24 scored good or very good. Only four received the highest safety rating of five stars.

"You might assume that buying the most expensive helmet would give you a safer helmet and it isn't what we saw," said Steve Rowson of the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab.

The $200 Bontrager Ballista earned 5 stars, but so did the $75 specialized Chamonix.

 What they, and other top performing helmets, had in common was MIPS or Multi-Directional Impact Protection System.

And road style helmets also performed better than urban style helmets.

New findings to give cyclists a head start on safer riding.

Virginia Tech bicycle helmet ratings
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 (ZERO STARS).

Visit for the full list or ratings.

Courtesy NBC News Channel