Consumer Reports helmet recommendations
Summary: In 2021 Consumer Reports updated its bicycle helmet report on the website. They added 17 new models, six of them Bells, and now have 61 models listed. They give excellent (5/5) impact protection ratings to 36 of those models, with most of the remaining ones scoring Very Good. They now recommend
24 models. Of those they scored six at the top of the ratings, including two MIPS models and four without MIPS.
See our Helmet Ratings page for the short list of helmets with the highest Consumer Reports rating for impact protection and also scoring five stars on the Virginia Tech STAR concussion-related ratings.
CR now rates 61 current helmets by Bell, Bern, Bontrager, Cannondale, Coros, Electra, Garneau, Giant, Giro, Kali, Lazer, LEM, Livall, Mongoose, Nutcase, Overade, POC, Pro-Tec, Raskullz, Razor, Schwinn, Shred, Smith, Specialized, Triple Eight, Uvex Wipeout and Zefal. Their site has a total of 169 ratings, some for recalled or obsolete models.
The list of recommended helmets is long: Giro Register MIPS, Kali Alchemy, Garneau Majestic, Bell Trace MIPS, Bontrager Circuit MIPS, Bell Stratus MIPS, Giant Rev Comp MIPS, Smith Convoy MIPS, Garneau Equipe, Giro Cinder MIPS, Giro Agilis MIPS, Livall Bling BH60, Coros LINX, Bell Super Air MIPS, Bontrager Specter WaveCel, Zefal Pro 24, Lazer Compact DLX MIPS, LEM Boulevard, Bontrager Charge WaveCel, Garneau Vitesse, Bontrager Tyro, Garneau Nino, POC Pocito Omne SPIN, and Uvex Quatro Junior.
Top scorers were the Bontrager Tyro, Scott Arx Plus, Cannondale CAAD MIPS, Giro Register MIPS, Louis Garneau Majestic and Kali Alchemy.
Two of the recommended models, the Zefal and the Giro Cinder MIPS were recommended even though they did not achieve excellent impact management ratings.
Impact protection ratings
The impact ratings have been CR's biggest contribution to consumer information, and one of our key criteria for helmet choice. After testing in the lab, CR has rated 36 of them excellent: Bell Avenue MIPS LED, Bell Daily MIPS LED, Bell Disney Frozen Tiara, Bell Sidetrack ll MIPS, Bell Span, Bell Stratus MIPS, Bell Super Air MIPS, Bell Trace MIPS, Bontrager Charge WaveCel, Bontrager Circuit MIPS, Bontrager Specter WaveCel, Bontrager Tyro, Coros LINX, Electra Commute MIPS, Garneau Equipe, Garneau Majestic, Garneau Nino, Garneau Raid MIPS, Garneau Vitesse, Giant Rev Comp MIPS, Giro Agilis MIPS, Giro Register MIPS, Giro Scamp MIPS, Kali Alchemy, Lazer Compact DLX MIPS, LEM Boulevard, LEM Flow, Livall Bling BH60, POC Pocito Omne SPIN, Raskullz Mohawk, Razor V17, Smith Convoy MIPS, Specialized Align, Specialized Chamonix MIPS, Specialized Shuffle Youth SB and Uvex Quatro Junior.
Note that some that were rated Excellent for impact protection had low overall scores for other reasons. The remaining helmets were mostly rated very good (4/5), with a few only good and one "do not buy" for a buckle test failure.
We consider the impact ratings the most important consideration. You can now combine the CR impact ratings with the Virginia Tech concussion-related protection ratings to compile a very short list of helmets rated for both high impact protection and lower-level/rotational impact protection.
Fit is our second key criterion, and here CR was more discriminating. They rated excellent (5/5) only the Kali Alchemy, Bontrager Circuit MIPS, Smith Convy MIPS and Garneau Equippe. Most of the rest were very good 4/5), but the Bell Disney Frozen Tiara, Pro-Tec Classic, Pro-Tec Classic youth sizes, Overade Plixi, Raskullz Mohawk Razer V17 and Wipeout Dry Erase were rated poor. CR does not make a good distinction between a helmet with a good rear stabilizer for comfort and a helmet with good strap fit that will actually keep the helmet on your head in a crash.
Only the Giro Register MIPS, Garneau Majestic, Bell Trace MIPS, Livall Bling BH60, Specialized Chamonix MIPS and Bontrager Tyro youth rated excellent (5/5) for ventilation. Thirteen models are rated Poor.
CR has in the past discussed concussion concerns. They had tested MIPS vs Non-MIPS models and found that MIPS reduced rotational force by 43 percent. We do not know what testing protocols they used. They concluded that "The MIPS helmets in our ratings are priced $20 to $25 more than the non-MIPS versions. Even if the extra benefit isn't definitive, a MIPS helmet might be worth the extra cost." For this 2021 page they have yet to cover the Bontrager WaveCel, Kali Low Density Layer or POC SPIN technology, and did not test others that are available on the market. But we note that many of their top-rated and recommended models do not have MIPS or a similar rotational force reduction technology.
What We Missed
CR has improved their helmet selection, and their ratings are certainly worth a look if you are researching a new helmet, although the number of helmets included is still small compared to the thousands on the market this year. Most of the models are available only in bike stores or online, but there are now a few of the ones sold in discount stores. 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.
To find a helmet rated for both major impact protection and lower-level impact protection, see our Helmet Ratings page for the very short list of helmets rated excellent for impact protection by Consumer Reports and scoring five stars in the Virginia Tech STAR concussion ratings.
Here is the article in Consumer Reports. The ratings are behind the pay wall. You can find the magazine in a library, but it has only a teaser with three helmets models, and you still need web access for the ratings. You can also use this link for another CR page with 109 listings that include older helmets but has no ratings unless you are a subscriber.
Here is a link to our reviews of previous Consumer Reports articles.