Bicycle Helmets for the 2004 Season
This is history!
Here is the current year
Summary: Our review of helmets being sold in 2004. Trends first, then individual models. Index to manufacturers last. See this page for more recent years.
Trends for 2004
In contrast to previous years, there are some new helmets this year that are worth looking at if you are inclined to replace yours. The comments below identify some actual advances in helmetry, and some helmets at lower price levels with improved features.
At the high end, you still find big vents and bigger prices, with no verifiable improvement in safety performance. Giro is the price king for ordinary road helmets, with Lance Armstrong's helmet at $225. Target has a model that meets the same CPSC standard at $8.99.
There are at least three new promising impact foams in this year's helmets: an improved multi-impact EPP in the Pro-Tec skate line, and a new type of foam called Tau ReUp foam to be used by Shain of Italy that encapsulates EPS beads in EPU to provide a limited level of multi-impact protection. The Shain helmet was scheduled to be available in the US market in May. A third unusual high performance foam is the "Zorbium" described below in the writeup on W Helmets. The small and medium sizes of the W Helmet have finally be certified to both the CPSC bicycle helmet standard and the multi-impact ASTM F1492 Skateboard standard. (The Large is not.)
We recommend looking for a helmet that:
1. Meets the CPSC standard. (Look for the sticker inside) If you are a skateboarder as well, be sure to find one that also meets the ASTM F1492 Skateboard standard.
We always recommend checking Consumer Reports for brand and model recommendations. They have a new helmet article in their July issue, rating 29 helmets. Unfortunately, it covers only a handful of the helmets on the market.
2. Fits you well.
3. Has a rounded, smooth exterior with no snag points.
4. Has no more vents than you need.
Since there is no comprehensive lab test data available for helmets not included in the Consumer Reports article, we do not make brand and model recommendations. We do recommend steering away from models with obvious disadvantages like snag points on the outer surface.
Most "skateboard" helmets now on the market are in fact bicycle helmets in the classic skate style. They are fine for bike riding, as long as they have a sticker inside certifying that they meet the CPSC standard. If you need a multi-impact helmet for aggressive, trick, extreme skating or skateboarding with daily crashes, look for a true multi-impact skate model that has a sticker inside saying it meets ASTM F1492. Beware of some inferior models still available in skate shops that only meet a feeble European EN standard. The CPSC regulation covers only bicycle helmets, and there is no law that says a skate helmet has to meet any standard whatsoever. Fortunately the selection of dual-standard skate/bike helmets is expanding for the 2004 season. The biggest news for skateboarders is the revamping of the Pro Tec line for 2004 with a new foam that is a vast improvement over most of the past Pro Tec designs.
Outside the US, the basic features to look for are the same. Unless there is a CPSC sticker in the helmet, you will probably find one that attests to the helmet meeting one of the numerous national standards or the European standard. In some cases that applies to even major US brands, who produce less protective models for the European market to make them thinner and lighter and be competitive there. For that reason we would always recommend buying the US version.
Bell Metro - Tailored for the commuter and in-town user, but should appeal to anyone who wants a rounder helmet that does not look like Lance Armstrong would wear it in a race. This is the rounder shape that we have been advocating since the angular helmet fashion came in, but unfortunately the design is marred by the addition of rubberized surfaces below the shell. Production models have a slight rubber lip that protrudes above the shell surface, and in addition to the lip the rubber does not seem to slide as well as plain foam. We have no lab tests to confirm that, but in scrapes across pavement we found it was painfully evident. Sliding was also impaired by the six hard plastic buttons for visor and accessory mounts, the soft plastic Bell label and the rear light mount. (Those can perhaps be removed, but we don't know what effect that would have on the helmet's integrity and would recommend asking Bell before you do that.) And finally, there is a large strip of exposed foam in the rear where the shell was left off for style reasons. The foam is recessed slightly, but the question is why a designer would spoil an attempt to make a rounder helmet with all of those defects. Our initial enthusiasm for this rounder design has been tempered by the implementation. You can read more about why we are concerned about possible snag points when you fall.
Some Interesting New Models
When we tried the Metro we were unable to lock the side pieces that adjust the straps (the "triglides"). Just putting the helmet on moved them. After one ride we could insert four fingers under the strap, even though the buckle had been tight enough to pinch skin when we put the helmet on.
The Metro comes with a visor that has a built-in flimsy mirror that folds back into the visor for storage. It has a winter kit with optional ear muffs and vent plugs, and an optional cover to foil rain and cold that has a fair amount of very hot reflective trim. Most riders have sweaty heads with a cover, but your mileage may vary. The Metro will sell for about $65 and is worth a look for its rounded shape. We just wish Bell had exercised more discipline when it came to adding stuff on the outside, and the straps need a major overhaul.
If you want something round and smooth and don't want to wait for Bell's 2005 downscale Metro called Citi (the rubber is gone but the side buckles still don't lock well) you might want to check out the old 2003 Bell Impulse Commuter Helmet. It too has a rounder smoother shape, and it has locking camlocks for the side buckles that we are told work well. It is molded in the shell and has a pinch-guard buckle. It is selling in the fall of 2004 at a discount at Kmart and Bike Nashbar, for example.
Bell Faction a new skate model out in mid year that should meet both standards, and will be made with a two-part manufacturing process to vary the foam density in the front. All of that is stretching the technology to avoid making the helmet thicker.
Bell Craze - Youth model. Upgraded to molded-in-the-shell construction for 2004. It's called the Cognito if you get a visor.
Giro Atmos - Top of the Giro line, very expensive with "pod" carrying case, including the Lone Star at $225 (Lance's helmet in the 2003 Tour de France) or the ordinary model at only $190. Uses a very sophisticated system of internal reinforcements, some of them carbon fiber. Available in March, with the Lone Star version to follow in May (Lance is using a prototype). The other new top-end Giro is the Monza, available in January, and it's only $100 retail. The vents are huge, but bear in mind that Consumer Reports found in their 2002 testing that cheap discount store helmets outperformed many of these pricy top-end models for impact protection, and most riders do not need all of those vents.
Giro Zen - New last year, shaped like a skate helmet with lots of vents Giro-style. When actually seated on your head it has less rear protection than you would assume from looking at it, and does not have as much coverage as a real skate helmet. Meets CPSC, not ASTM skateboard. This year there are many copy cats appearing.
Giro Torrent II - Also known as the Venus II for women, Transit II, Kickfire II and the Atlas II. To make it a "women's" helmet they go down one size and use pastel graphics. The Atlas version is just a larger size, going up to 25 inches/64 cm. heads. Transit has no visor. Kickfire is a youth size. This one is molded in the shell for 2004, and at $30 list for the Transit ($35 for the others with visor) it represents real value.
Lazer Revolution 2 - A new design that is rounder and smoother in the rear than Lazer's older high-end models. Their Bullet is even rounder but is not available in the US, presumably because it does not meet our CPSC standard.
Louis Garneau Oz-zy - So new it will not be available until April, $150 list. Competing with Giro at the high end. Some nice visible colors and a full plastic shell rather than the exposed foam strips Garneau has been using lately.
Louis Garneau Zen - New. $45. More rounded shape and looks like a good value. In fact, Consumer Reports rated it a Best Buy for 2004, awarding it a Very Good rating for impact protection.
Pro-Tec - B2 or Ace skate helmets. Both will be made for 2004 with Pro-Tec's new EPP foam to make them multi-impact. Pro-Tec is certifying them to both the CPSC bicycle standard and ASTM F-1492 skateboard standard. This is an exciting advance, since Pro-Tec is the classic skateboard helmet company and is now issuing new models that actually meet the ASTM skateboard standard. They still make helmets that do not, so look carefully inside for the stickers before you buy.
Serfas Curva - A true women's helmet with the last surviving pony tail port.
Specialized Telluride - New in 2003, mountain helmet, $70, designed to vent more heat out of the top while you are moving slowly.
Specialized Chamonix - A newer, rounder shape at $40.
Specialized Air Force - New, molded in the shell at $35, a good value. Uses the ring band fit that may not work for everyone andr may have to be too tight to hold the helmet securely on your head.
Schwinn/Mongoose/PTI - This line is now in discount stores mostly, but the Schwinn brand is for bike stores too. Among their better ones are the Atlas, molded in the shell. Under the Mongoose/PTI brand they have a kids' full face helmet that you may find in discount stores for $20 or less with a full wrap-around EPS foam-protected chin bar. It's not for every kid, since the chin bar may be too short and end up too close to the mouth, but it has a lot of protection for the money and more foam in front of the chin than any other bike helmet we have seen.
Shain has several models coming with the new foam mentioned above, but we don't know how widely they will be available in the US this year, since the company is just launching in the US market.
Trek Anthem - Top of the Trek line at $100. Featured in Bicycling Magazine's October 2003 issue. Very wide vents.
Trek Vapor II - Not new at all, but one of Trek's bread-and-butter models for dealers at $40. Taped-on shell, but large vents. It was a Best Buy in the Consumer Reports 2002 article, but the lower cost molded-in-the-shell models from Giro and Specialized may have eclipsed it.
Uvex Cartoon - One of the few molded in the shell toddler helmets ever produced.
What We Did Not Find Yet This Year
There has been almost no effort to apply emerging electronic and wireless technologies to bicycle helmets. You should be able to find a helmet with a rear-facing camera and a heads-up display to replace your old mirror, but you can not. You should be able to find one with a Bluetooth wireless headset that you could use with an intercom system or your Bluetooth telephone, but you can not, although the German company Vemar is selling a motorcycle helmet equipped that way. The built-in light efforts to date have been pathetic, although there are a few helmets with LED flashers built into the rear and you can always add a flasher with a hook-and-loop mount. Bell even sells a saddle with a powerful built in 5 LED flasher, but nothing for its helmets. It looks like we will be waiting at least until 2005 for those things to develop.
Asian sourcing has become the rule for nearly all helmet companies except the Italians and Germans for at least part of their lines. Many of the familiar US brands are made by a handful of companies in China and Taiwan. A few are still made in the US, some in Italy, and the Uvex line is made in Germany.
Designs for Women are still mostly a sham. Hold up the "woman's" model and the men's of the same size beside it and you will readily see that they came from the same mold, and the only difference is in colors and graphics. The Serfas Curva is the last remaining helmet with a pony tail port, and designers do not seem to have found anything else to do for women but cosmetics.
Prices are about the same as last year, with older models usually slipping down ten to twenty percent as the design ages. Prices in discount stores begin at about $8.99 (Target) but are mostly in the $15 to $35 range.
Availability looks good, since there is adequate supply and demand remains tepid.
Here is an index to our reports for other years.
The typical helmet listed below is made of EPS foam with a thin plastic shell taped or glued onto the foam. It has a least some vents, nylon straps, a plastic buckle, no reflective trim and squishy foam fitting pads inside. If no contrary information is in the writeup for each model, those features are assumed. Many have a rear stabilizer wrapping around the back of the head, which we note only if it has some unusual feature like a dial fit. We also note the largest and smallest sizes available where relevant, and any bright colors. Prices are Manufacturers Suggested Retail Prices, what you might pay at your local bike shop with fitting services included. You may find hefty discounts available on the high end models. Internet pricing is lower (no fitting help over the wire!), particularly on prior years' models. If you are searching for a model and don't find it here, use our search function to check our writeups for previous years to see if it has been discontinued.
Abus is a German company also known as a manufacturer of high-security padlocks. They have a unique ratcheting strap fastener with a toothed tab sliding into a slot. It would have to be adjusted carefully to be sure it does not bear against the line of the jaw. Their rear stabilizers are also adjusted by a ratchet device. Visors mount with pins. Some models may have bug-proof mesh for the front vents. Abus' bicycle helmets include helmets for toddlers, youth and adults. All of the models on their Web site are certified only to European standards and will not be sold in the US. Sizes run from 46 to 62 cm. Some of their models appear to be reasonably well rounded, but we have not seen them in person for more than two years, so it is difficult to comment based on the photos on the Web. Abus models on the Web site include:
- Smile Klick: for toddlers. Fits down to 46 cm. Ring fit system.
- Star Quicktec: for toddlers. Has a less rounded design with molded in visor. The Piccolino Quicksafe appears to be the same helmet with different graphics. The Janosch Quicksafe version has "Jaonsch" character graphics.
- Galaxis Zoom 2: for toddlers and youth. One size fits from 48 to 59 cm.
- Airmaxx Zoom: Appears to be a youth version of the Airstream Zoom. Ring fit system, visor.
- Extreme Qicksafe: Adult model with ring fit system and visor.
- Airstream Zoom: Adult model with ring fit system and visor.
- Airflow Zoom 2: For adults. This was once introduced as a US model, but now is listed as meeting only Euro standards.
- Ramp Quicksafe: adult economy model with visor.
- Ambition Zoom: Well-rounded adult helmet.
The Hard Head line of helmets is produced for Action Bicycle by Strategic Sports in Hong Kong. Their models include the Acclaim, an otherwise standard adult helmet with visor and rear stabilizer that has an internal headband for size adjustment and retails for $35. Other models include a full face BMX helmet for $80, a child helmet at $20, and a skateboard helmet that retails for $36, or $40 in full chrome.
See Fox below.
Most of Zone's helmets are designed to meet European standards, but they have one that is for the US market. All are made in China by Fang Master and feature a ring fit system. The line includes:
AJ Industries / Zone
- XZ Cool Series: classic skate shape, EPS liner, certified to CPSC for US sale. Some very nice bright colors including white and yellow that are unusual in the skate style. Retail is $22 for the classic round vent model or $32 for the model with one ridge around the crown and elongated vents.
- XZ Youth Series: designed for European standards, with limited vents and bug mesh in the front ones. Also comes as the XZ Junior with more colorful graphics.
- XZ Pro Series: European models with more vents, more overhang in the rear and a full wrap under shell. Mesh in front vents. Retail is about $35 to $45.
See THH below.
Alpha helmets are found under two brands. Some are made by
Mien Yow Industries Ltd. in Taiwan. They have a line of well-rounded models led by the complex-looking Vortex and including one model with a flashing LED taillight built in. For 2002 they added the C-Tec, with squared-off ribs but a rounded shape overall. This year they have introduced some models that are molded in the shell, notably their G4 model, although most are taped on. The manufacturer says their retail prices run in the $35 range. Their MF-II model appears on Snell's B-95 list . Alpha also makes skating, hockey ski and batting helmets. Their skate helmet is certified to the CPSC and Snell B-95 bicycle helmet standards and retails for $34. The other brand known as Alpha Helmets is made by Strategic Sports and distributed in the US by J & B Importers below. We think it is a separate line, but can't be too sure!
Answer Racing has two BMX racing helmets, the carbon fiber ACF and the fiberglass R-1. Visors are unfortunately bolted on.
Armor Pro is a brand imported by San Diego Speed, located in Pomona, California. They have classic skate-style helmets in chrome, yellow and black, retailing for about $30.
Atlas is a Swedish manufacturer. We have not seen them in the US. Their Web site says their helmets meet the European CE standard. They have an extensive line, including:
- Hardtop Mini: A toddler helmet that fits heads
as small as 45 cm (17.8 inches) in diameter that they say is for 6 months up to 2 years. (The six months is not recommended!--see this page). Colors include a nice visible yellow.
- Hardtop: Another toddler helmet for 2 to 7 years.
- Twinky: One size larger helmet for 2 to 7 years in adult shape, with ring fit system and molded in visor.
- Dolphin: Another 2 to 7 years helmet in elongated adult shape, molded in the shell.
- Rockskipper: Youth helmet in elongated adult shape, molded in the shell.
- Drago: Unique shape -- wish we knew Swedish -- fits 45 to 57 cm.
- Hotshot: Basic adult helmet, should be cheap.
- Hotshot Inmold: Molded in the shell version, nicer colors, visor, rear snag point.
- Sport: Elongated vents, visor, somewhat protected rear snag point.
- Marlin: Nicely rounded, visor, fits up to 61 cm.
- Stingray: Standard adult helmet.
- X-treme Sport: Skate style on top with scooped in rear to avoid a round shape.
The Avenir brand is back in the US market, distributed by Raleigh and made by Strategic. They have a variety of molded in the shell and taped-on models, mostly with moderate rear snag points, rear stabilizers, pinned-on visors, and prices ranging from about $40 to about $60. Models include:
S9-C: Molded in the shell, with a pronounced rear snag point and recessed strap anchors. Retail $50.
TX1: Taped-on shell, with the largest area of reflective trim in the rear of any helmet we have seen this year.
R-17: Rounded shape, $40 retail.
K-8: Toddler helmet with vents, rear stabilizer, retailing for about $30.
Sonic Jr.: Toddler helmet with ring fit.
Azonic/O'Neal USA has hard shell, no-vent full face helmets for BMX. They have removable inner liners for cleaning and large, sturdy, bolted-on visors, a potential snagging hazard. Their BMX helmets are made by KBC in Korea or THH in Taiwan, and are said to all be certified to the Snell M-2000 motorcycle helmet standard, therefore exceeding by a wide margin the DOT motorcycle helmet standard, and by an even wider margin any bicycle helmet standard in the world. (We are not able to identify the models on the Snell lists, but look for the Snell sticker inside the helmet to be sure.)
- AZX: A classic motorcycle-style BMX helmet with fiberglass shell retailing for $150. The AZX has its heavy ABS visor bolted on with two bolts, a potential snagging hazard. Said to meet Snell's M-2000 motorcycle helmet standard.
- ASX: Similar to the AZX, but with a single bolt visor and retailing for $90.
- Apex: Polycarbonate hard shell BMX helmets retailing for $110. There is a kids version at $100.
- World Force: For "bicycle riding, skate boarding, scooter riding and inline skating ." It has an ABS hard shell, well-rounded skate shape and is certified to the CPSC and Snell bicycle helmet standards. It retails for $30.
Bell is still the largest company in the bicycle helmet market. They also own Giro, although the two have separate helmet models. Bell has some genuine improvements and innovations in the 2004 lineup. They have been making bicycle helmets since 1975. Their new Metro is a rounder design, they have extended the use of molded in the shell construction to most of their less expensive models, and their newest skateboard design uses a dual density foam liner. Bell has 18 models in this year's lineup, but some are the same model without a visor. Some are usually just renamed from last year but we don't try to track that. Some models have Bell's no-pinch buckle, a nice design with a tab behind it that keeps the skin from getting in while you push the two pieces together.
At the top of Bell's line are their molded-in-the-shell models, called the Fusion Series. For the 2004 year all are hyper-ventilated and all have rear stabilizers. Among them:
- Metro: The Metro has a unique rounded exterior. It is pitched for the commuter market. It comes with plenty of vents and a visor, and can be outfitted with a whole range of accessories: a flimsy $15 mirror that folds back into the visor for storage, an innovative $25 winterizing kit with ear muffs and vent plugs, and a $15 rain cover with hot reflective trim. It even has a rubber strip in the back to clip on your flasher. White is the only really visible color. Retail is about $80, and in early 2004 we found it for that same price on the Internet, labeled as a discount. If you buy helmet at $80 retail and all accessories at full retail it will come to a tidy $135. This one is worth a look for its rounded exterior, but see our comments above on its defects.
- Ghisallo: Bell's top of the line for 2002 was this design named for an Italian saint. Somewhat better rounded than some of Bell's earlier top models, but still features a rear snag point. It has fewer but very large vents, and there is a nicely visible yellow as well as white. Retail price is $100, or $125 for the special "50th Anniversary" variation, while the Internet price runs about $100 for the 2004 model and $70 for the 2003.
- Furio: Bell's latest road model with more rounded lines than some but still sporting a snag point in the tail. No visor. Retail is $75.
- X-Ray: This model was Bell's top of the line for 2001. It features a top and bottom outer shell. It is a hyper-ventilated model with long vents and a rear overhang with points that present a potential snag hazard. It has Bell's rear stabilizer that tightens by turning a small geared wheel. It also has a snap in visor. Two-tone colors, but they have dropped the nice bright orange. Retail and Internet price are both $100, less for prior year models from 2002 and 2003. If you insist on spending more, there is a special X-Ray 50th Anniversary model for $125.
A Mountain bike helmet with visor and a pronounced rear overhang to snag on. What appears to be the same helmet is available in the Euro market as the Alchera, or with visor as the Delirium. Internet discounters in the US market have the Alchera for $43 and up, while the 2004 Influx retails for $60. Models from prior years are heavily discounted. Not all of Bell's Euro models are certified to the CPSC standard, but those sold in the US must be.
- Aquila: This 2001 design was redone for 2002 to upgrade the construction to molded in the shell. Has three points in the rear, a sliding fastener wide-range retention system and a snap in visor. Reasonable vents. Comes in silver, red, blue and black. Retail is $45, down $10 from last year despite the upgraded construction.
- Arc FS: Bell's 2002 design for its "entry level" helmet, upgraded for 2004 to molded in the shell construction. Also known as the Ukon when it has a visor, and the Bella with feminine graphics. Better rounded shape than most of Bell's line. Has a one-size-fits-all to adjust from 20.75 to 24 inches (54 to 61 cm). It is quicker to fit but the headband will interfere with using a separate sweatband or earband and the system will not give a stable fit for all riders. Despite the upgrade to molded in the shell, retail is still $30 for the Arc and $35 for the Ukon (down $5 from 2003) or the Bella with visor. The same design is also available as a "youth" helmet as the Cognito with multi-color graphic designs and a visor, retailing for $35 or as the Craze without visor for $30. This is the least expensive molded in the shell Bell model for adults and youth.
- Amigo: A new design in 2000, upgraded for 2004 to molded in the shell construction. The Amigo is a helmet for kids that is built like the one their parents use. The very nicely rounded exterior is smoother than Bell's adult helmets. Has a rear stabilizer and a visor. Nice selection of graphics including one orange model. Retail is $30 despite the construction upgrade.
- Kinghead: This $30 helmet has a beautifully rounded exterior. It is highly recommended for those who fit it, but it is made only in Extra Large for riders with head sizes up to 8 1/4 (25.9 inches around). It is still the only bicycle helmet made expressly for those with very large heads. We had asked numerous manufacturers to make this helmet, but only Bell stepped up to the plate. This is Bell's contribution to consumer safety, not corporate profits, since the helmet will fit only a very small number of riders, and is never expected to make the company any money. If you need a very large helmet, you can contact a Bell dealer, or check out mail order outlets on the Internet, since we have yet to see any Bell publicity for the Kinghead. (It is not in their catalog, but appears on the Web site and in their price list.) If you have a head that large, check out our page on helmets for large heads. Note that this is an older design with a taped-on shell rather than molded in the shell, but it's impact performance meets the same CPSC standard.
- L'il Bell Shell: a toddler helmet with vents, previously known as the Half Pint and not related to the L'il Bell Shell of the 1980's and 90's. Has such a well-rounded shape that even we have no complaints. The June, 1999 article in Consumer Reports said the Half Pint Pro was "the clear choice" for toddler helmets at that time, but that was long ago. Retail is still $30.
- Boomerang: A 2000 model, somewhat like an Amigo, but made for toddlers, with the additional rear coverage required by the CPSC toddler helmet standard. Looks much more like an adult helmet than the L'il Bell Shell, and is almost as well-rounded on the exterior. Cartoon graphics with a bright yellow soft foam visor. No-pinch buckle. Retail is $30.
- Tension: Bell's BMX/downhill racing model, new for 2004. It has a fiberglass shell, vents and the well-rounded shape that is traditional in BMX helmets. In an advance over the older Bellistic, it has EVA foam padding in the chinbar. Unfortunately it also has a bolted-on visor, always a potential snag point. It has a full chinguard and resembles a motorcycle helmet with vents, weighing just under two pounds. Retail is $100.
- Bellistic: Bell's older BMX/downhill racing model is still in the lineup for 2004. It has a fiberglass shell, vents and the well-rounded shape that is traditional in BMX helmets. Unfortunately it also has a bolted-on visor, always a potential snag point. It has a full chinguard but there is no padding in it. It resembles a motorcycle helmet with vents, weighing a full pound. Some Bellistics were recalled in 1999 for strap problems, but there have been no further recalls. Made for Bell in China by Zhuhai Safety. The retail price this year is $80.
- Faction: Bell's "skate-inspired" model due out in the middle of 2004 is a new hard shell design with a dual-density foam liner. In the previous designs by LT back in 1991 this technique was used to take the sting out of lesser bumps with the softer layer, but backed up by a harder layer that could still perform on the big hits. In the Faction the technique is used to provide a different liner density in the front to meet the CPSC standard while avoiding a thicker helmet. The Faction has the admirably round, smooth exterior similar to the classic Pro-Tec skate helmet design, with small rectangular vents on top, front and rear. There is a nice selection of graphics. Certification is only to the CPSC bicycle helmet standard, not the ASTM skateboard standard. The Faction retails for $30.
- Scuffle: Bell's "multisport" helmet is certified to both the CPSC bicycle helmet standard and the ASTM skateboard standard. Last year it was known as the Wicked but did not have dual certification stickers inside. ABS hard shell, some oval vents. There is a very nice visible yellow available, in addition to white and the usual dull blacks. Retail price is $25.
Bell has helmets made to the CEN European standard that according to Bicycle Retailer and Industry News will not pass the US CPSC standard and cannot be sold in the US market. Foremost among them is the Bell Meteor II time trial helmet. This is one you may have seen in Tour de France time trials. If you want a time trial helmet that is certified to the much tougher CPSC standard, check out the Louis Garneau Prologue.
2005 Season Bells
Bell has begun releasing info on its 2005 line. The apparent top of the line will be the Sweep, a helmet that evidently borrows much from the Giro connection and has multiple snag points on the rear.
Bell has another entire line of low-priced helmets sold at discount stores and mass-merchant outlets. (More than one fourth of the company's sales are through Wal-Mart alone.) They are occasionally discontinued models from the bike store line, but never the molded in the shell models (except for the Bell Next, a model sold only at Wal-Mart last year and probably one of the best bargains in the helmet market at that time). They generally have low-end graphics, chintzy fit pads and cheaper packaging. Most do not have rear stabilizers. But they are designed to the same CPSC standard as any other helmet on today's US market, so they provide fine impact protection. The rounded profiles we consider optimum will persist in this line for years to come, since they are cheaper to produce, and the thicker foam may actually provide better impact protection than some of the sexier, thinner, more expensive Pro models. This line sells for low prices: $10 to $30. They are available to non-profits through Safe Kids USA for even less. Because of Bell's name recognition, they are among the best sellers in the low end market. (Check our page on inexpensive helmets for further info on sources of low-cost helmets from various manufacturers.) Bell also produces toddler, skate and child bike helmets for the Fisher-Price brand, and you may see them as X-Games, Barbie, or Hot Wheels brands.
For Bell's current crash replacement policy it is best to call 1-800-BELL or search their Web site. We found it in the helmet manuals, in .pdf format. As of mid-2004 you send back the damaged helmet with a letter describing your crash "in as much detail as possible," a dated cash register receipt (you did save your receipt, and you can find it, right?) with a check for:
- For Fusion series helmets: $35
- For cheaper models: $20.
We really don't understand the need for the cash register receipt. The helmet is identifiably a Bell, and has their name on it.
Bell is the only helmet manufacturer who has joined the Consumer Product Safety Commission's Product Safety Circle. We are not sure how much that actually means to the consumer, but they have pledged to follow ten safety principles, designate a corporate safety officer and publicize their successes in implementing the principles.
Briko is an Italian company who began breaking into the U.S. market in 1998 but has not sold many helmets here. All of their helmets are made in Italy. They have an innovative "twin cap" construction technique bonding two separate liners to leave air channels. They use reflective trim on their US models., and all of their models for the US market are molded in the shell.
- Solo: New for 2003, the Solo is a slick looking design with a two piece cover molded in the shell. It has a ring fit and a medium snag point on the back. It retails for $140.
- Meltemi: Another new model, also molded in the shell, with noticeable exterior strap anchors, usually avoided in top of the line helmets.
- Twinner: One of Briko's older designs with three very large vents in the front set this helmet apart from any current US design, but the vents narrow considerably as they pass into the double layer liner. There is a rear shelf but it is rounded. For 2002 Briko added a full lower wrap-around plastic shell. Graphics accent the unusual features. Retail is $120, down $40 from last year, and $100 on the Internet.
- Spark: A slightly more conventional design with twin layers, multiple vents and sharp ribs, with a pronounced snag point in the rear. Has a unique visor mount with hollow fittings that go in the front vents. For 2004 it has reflective trim. Retail in the US is $120.
- Hurricane: Reflective trim for 2004. Retail in the US is $60.
- Mistral: a single layer road helmet with conventional lines and conventional vents. Retail is $40.
- Toronado: Single layer, conventional venting. Reflective trim for 2004. Retail is $60.
- Taku: A child's helmet in the adult style, with a medium snag point on the rear, a dial fit system and a pinned-on visor. Retail is $25.
Briko has a number of other helmets for the European market that will not be available in the US in 2002. These include:
- Crono: Briko's entry in the time trial/pursuit aerodynamic helmet market. These helmets are for aerodynamics, not crash protection. Has a clear plastic face shield, and comes in three graphics combinations.
- Racing Junior: conventional vents, comes in a nice yellow.
When we last checked, Briko's Web site had 2003 "preview" information.
See Limar below. Bianchi has Limar's F105 and F107 helmets in colors to match their bicycles.
Carrera is an Italian line that may come to the US market for the first time in 2004. Their helmets have the Italian stylishness, moderate to large rear snag points, large vents, and some reflective trim. External strap anchors stick up, and one of their models even has a spoiler.
Catlike is a Spanish company named for its founder, whose bicycle racing nickname was "the cat." Their line for 2004 includes eight models. We don't know which of them meet what standards or will be available in which markets, so check the Web site if you are interested.
- Whisper: New for 2004, the Whisper has a unique nubby outer shape and many vents. We would reject it for the external shape, but if you want something unique you will not see many of these on the road. Molded in the shell. Some very visible colors including orange. Retail is $180.
- Kompact 2: Large oval vents, full shell wrapping around the bottom. Molded in the shell. Has pronounced rear snag points as well as external strap anchors sticking up. Nylon visors with push-point attachments. Many graphic combinations including solid and multi colors, some highly visible. Reflective trim. Promoted on European racers including Jan Ulrich. Retails for $130.
- Shield: Large vents for a skate-shaped helmet, "ducktail" effect in the rear, with what Cateye claims is additional lower rear protection. Molded in the shell.
- Evolution: Modest vents, moderate rear snag point, molded in the shell. Available in a nice bright yellow.
- Airlock 2: Smoother shape except for a pronounced rear snag point. Taped on shell. Available in orange.
- Kid Tiger: Toddler helmet with vents and child graphics. Has a molded in visor.
- Kid Basic: Toddler helmet with vents. Very nicely rounded shape. Available in nicely visible orange and yellow.
- Chrono-Aero: Chrono aerodynamic helmet, probably for aerodynamics only and without impact protection.
- Chrono-Lobster: Chrono helmet, probably with no impact protection. Tail is hinged to drop down onto the rider's back and enhance the aero effect, particularly if the rider is looking down and the tail is up in the air!
- Viper: Full-coverage motorcycle style helmet with face bar and vents. Visor fastened with two unfortunate bolts to make it a snag hazard. There are both fiberglass and carbon fiber versions.
This German company with an Italian name has an extensive line but fewer models for the U.S. market. This is our writeup from 2002, since we have been unable to update it in person. Some models have a suspension system called the Head Ring with an adjustable head band to fit all sizes. Some models have a "soft shock" liner, but the verbiage in the catalog and on the Web site fail to explain what that is all about. Cratoni's child models fit heads as small as 18.5 inches/47 cm and their largest adult models fit up to 23.5 inches/62 cm. Their one-size-fits all models cover from 20.5" to 23.5"/52 or 53 cm to 60 cm. Cratoni's retail prices seem higher than most, but dealers may adjust that.
- Maniac: A hyper-vented helmet with sharp shell lines and the usual rear
shelf projection. Molded in the shell, with a lower shell and an inner shell as well. It comes in different trim as the Competition or Shark Skin, with a very short road visor or a longer mountain bike visor. Has the Soft Shock liner. Protection in the rear comes down low enough to require an arch cutout for neck clearance. The Competition model has some nice bright colors. Retail is about $150.
- Twister: A much better rounded helmet with fewer vents than the Maniac. Molded in the shell, comes with a snap-on visor. Has external strap anchor buttons, somewhat surprising in a model in this price range, marring the otherwise reasonable outer shell line with a potential friction point. Some nice bright colors in the Competition model. Retails for just under $100.
- Xenon: A somewhat better-rounded helmet with many large vents. Molded in the shell, with the Head Ring adjustable headband to fit heads 53 to 60 cm. Retails for about $75.
- Mountain Champ: Next down in Cratoni's lineup looks a lot like the Xenon with fewer and smaller vents, required because it is not molded in the shell. Has the "Soft Shock" liner. Has a visor, comes in part-black, with the other part either red, yellow or blue. has mesh protecting the front vents from insects. Retails for $60. Available without visor as the Champ, billed as a starter helmet.
- Tourismo: Has smoothly elongated lines and a modest rear projection. Has the Head Ring adjustable headband.
- Evolution: We agree on the name, but to some it will appear to be a throwback. A very well-rounded smooth-shelled helmet with the Head Ring adjustable internal sizing ring. Would be well suited for a spare "guest" helmet. Has mesh protecting the front vents. Probably will not be available in the US market. Retail is "affordable."
- Heli: A "junior" helmet molded in the shell with visor, reasonably rounded lines and modest vents. Has the Head Ring adjustable headband, fitting sizes 53 to 60 cm. Retails for $60.
- Fox: A child helmet with reasonable vents and the adjustable Head Ring one-size-fits-all suspension. Rounded shape but has a molded in visor.
Has mesh protecting the front vents. Fits heads as small as 18.5 inches/47 cm. Retails for about $30.
- L'il Pilot (Pilota): Another child model similar to the Fox. Has mesh protecting the front vents. According to the catalog it "meets all European Standards and even the higher standards of the US CPSC." Retail is about $38.
- Interceptor: Cratoni's downhill racing model, with
full chinbar, a fiberglass/carbon fiber shell and a visor bolted on. It comes in flashy graphics or solid colors and has mesh protecting the front vents. It retails for $400 or an eye-watering $600 for the special Nicolas Vouilloz model. We do not know which standards the Interceptor meets.
- Mach 1: Cratoni's time trial and pursuit event teardrop-shaped model. Not available in the US because it "has only an aerodynamic function and is sold on special request, offers no crash protection values and has no CPSC certification."
Cratoni will replace a helmet crashed within three years of purchase for 50 per cent of the recommended retail price.
Cycle Express has a girl's pink Hearts and Flowers model that was the subject of a recall during 2000. There is more detail on our recalls page.
Diamondback has a full line of bicycles and has accessories for bike dealers. We have not seen their 2004 helmet line, and do not find it on their Web site.
Dreamer is a producer of the three-wheel strollers that runners use to take the kids along. They have a helmet that comes in toddler or youth sizes. Has 3M reflective trim. Retail is $25. The Web site does not mention CPSC, but says these helmets are Snell B-90 approved. (We could not find the Dreamer name on Snell's October 2001 list. It may appear under a manufacturer's name.) These helmets are not required to meet the CPSC standard, since they are not sold as bicycle helmets.
Ecko has been around since the early 1980's, first in California, then Idaho, now Arizona. Although they don't have a Web site and we have not seen their current catalog, Ecko has usually produced BMX racing and skateboard helmets. The BMX shells are fiberglass, with both open and chinbar models. Visors are snap on, and are designed to pop off in an impact to avoid a snagging hazard, a very desirably safety feature. Sizing is U.S. 6 to 7 3/4. Ecko also distributes the RAD, billed as a multisport helmet. It has very small vents and a very well-rounded exterior surface, but we don't know what standards it might meet. We have not seen their 2002 line yet, but their helmets are available from some suppliers, with advertised retail prices for their BMX models ranging from $65 to $230.
Esco Sport Product Corp. is a Chinese company producing electric and gas scooters, bicycles and carts. Their helmets are certified to CE standards, not CPSC, so they are not available in the US market. Their Web site was not up the last time we checked.
El Sol is a trading company importing two models of skate-style helmets, both in the same classic skate style with little vents in the top only. They are distinguished by either an EPS foam liner or an EVA liner (squishy foam). There are three sizes. They offer some very visible colors, including white and orange. Retail is $30 and up.
Epsira Oy is the Finnish manufacturer of Knock helmets, advertised as CE approved (European standard) and in one case as meeting a Swedish standard. They are supplied to such organizations as the Finnish postal service (in very visible yellow). Their designs appear to have nicely rounded contours. They have four models: the H3, Knock, Inmotion and Champion. Some of their Knock child helmets have large team logos and cartoon characters called Moomins. One previous model had reflective straps, a feature we have not seen before or since. Epsira Oy has other EPS products and some info up on EPS. We are not aware of a U.S. distributor for their products, or if they meet our CPSC standard. Sizes run 48 to 62 cm.
Etto is a Norwegian company (Hans Torgersen and Sonn - HTS) making helmets since 1982. Although we do not see them in the US market, they have an extensive line certified to the European standard, with 17 models broken down into Extreme, Girls, Classic and Kid models.
Etto has some interesting features, but we have never seen their helmets in person. The only other company advertising Annsmann interiors is Funcenter, who coincidently seem to have some of the same model names with very similar appearances, sourced in China. But Etto's Web site says that all of their products are made in Norway.
- Typhoon: Molded in the shell with an inner shell made of Annsmann, a new material to us. Hyperventilated, with one very pronounced snag point on the rear that looks as if it were added to spoil the helmet.
- On Edge: Molded in the shell with large vents that appear to get a lot smaller as the get to the inside, a five-piece shell and snag points in the rear.
- Mack 1: a nicely-rounded design with moderate vents. Glued-on shell. Not to be confused with the other Mack 1 on the Etto Web site, described as an entry-level mountain bike helmet, with a rear snag point.
- Esperito: another rounded design, again with moderate vents. This one is now molded in the shell and has insect net in the vents. Said to be "Scandinavia`s most sold bicycle helmet name."
- Mosquito: a youth and child helmet built like an adult helmet and molded in the shell. Fits down to a 50 cm. head.
- Freesbee: a child model built like an adult helmet.
- Circus: a child model with a front shelf that Etto says will protect the face better than an adult helmet will.
- Cars and Bugs: a model for young children, very nicely rounded.
- Disney: Another nicely rounded child helmet, with Disney character graphics.
- Downhill: A downhill racing helmet with chinbar, small vents and an ABS shell.
First Team sells mostly ice skates, inline skates and street hockey equipment through mass merchant channels such as Wal-Mart. The Web site has one "Ultra Wheels" adult model, and says it is Snell certified, but does not specify the Snell standard. First Team had to recall their Guardian Junior helmet during 2000. See our recalls page for more information. Their March 2004 Web site says it has info on the full 2003 line, and no helmet info at all that we could find.
Fit Bike Co
Fit has a Protec helmet with their brand to match their bicycles and accessories. When we saw it in late 2003 it was the Classic Skate model, but Protec has dropped that one from their own lineup, so there may be a change. If not, it is worth consideration as a skate helmet that meets both the CPSC bike helmet standard and the ASTM F1492 skate helmet standard.
Flash is a Taiwanese brand for a line of inexpensive child and adult helmets. We have no further information on them this year.
Fly Racing has a line of motorcycle BMX racing equipment, including full face helmets. All have bolted on visors, but at least the screws are plastic rather than metal. If you want another snag point, Fly will sell you a rear fin to add to your helmet. It mounts without screws or glue, so hopefully would pop off in a crash. Fly is one of the few brands whose catalog has replacement parts for their helmets, including mouthpieces, visors, screws and pads. Sizing runs from 52cm/6 1/2 up to 66cm/8 1/4, a very wide range indeed.
Fox Racing has two BMX models in sizes from 18 3/8" to 25 3/4":
- FL606 III: retails for $90, and meets both the DOT and Snell 2000 motorcycle helmet standards. It has a snap-out liner and comes in six outer adult shell sizes and three youth sizes.
- FL-303: Fiberglass shell, retails for $70 in painted colors or $80 in chrome.
- Gmax GMX-36X: New for 2004, with polycarbonate shell, retailing for $70.
- Gmax GM-36Y Youth: Polycarbonate shell, smaller and lighter youth size. $70 retail.
- Gmax GMX-26X: Polycarbonate shell, comes in nine sizes from XXS to XXXX. Retails for $90.
- FL-39: BMX and downhill racing model with fiberglass shell retailing for $70.
- Lite III model is made with carbon fiber/kevlar, weighing in at 2.75 pounds for the large size, and is advertised as meeting the Snell Motorcycle standard M-2000. Snap out liner. Retails for $200 or $240 for the "replica" models styled for Fly racing team members.
- Tracer: a standard BMX helmet with a chin bar for face protection and a bolted on visor. It has a polycarbonate shell and small vents under the visor. It retails for $140 depending on finish and graphics, with a kids version running $100. It appears on Snell's M-2000 motorcycle helmet certification list and of course is certified to the less demanding US DOT motorcycle helmet standard as well.
- Pro Pilot: another standard BMX helmet with a chin bar for face protection and a bolted on visor. Shell is made with fiberglass. Six sizes. Retail is $300.
Fox Racing helmets are made by AGV, an Italian company that has made motorcycle helmets since 1949.
Free Agent has one model, a very well-rounded skateboard helmet that comes in one shell size with three different sizes of liner. It is certified to meet the CPSC standard for bike helmets. It retails for $25 to $30 in standard colors or $5 more with a chrome finish, and can be found on the Internet for as little as $20 plus shipping.
Funcenter Industrial is a Taiwanese company supplying the European market with a wide variety of sporting goods from skates to pogo sticks. Their top of the line is a 2004 model called the HE-Coolhead. It is a hyperventilated model with reasonably rounded lines, molded in the shell with an interior of Annsmann and a ring fit system. It is certified to the European standard. Their other models include the HE-Classic, HE-Totem, HE-BlueDog, HE-Blue, HE-Musauito (musquito?), HE-Esperito, HE-YellowDog, HE-Dino and HE-Junior Pro. The Musauito/Esperito and Classic/Totem are certified to the CPSC standard. The Web site says that they produce for other brand names, so we do not know where to find their helmets at retail. All of the Funcenter models ship from Yantian, China.
See Headstart below.
Geartec (handled by KHS in the US) has four models:
- Stuntman: a classic skate style helmet certified to the CPSC bicycle helmet standard and the ASTM F1492 skateboard standard.
- DK: A skate style helmet with elongated vents, meeting only the CPSC bicycle helmet standard.
- Diki: an elongated bicycle-style helmet for kids with elongated vents and a moderate snag point in the rear.
- Espy: Molded in the shell bicycle-style helmet, adjusts to fit heads from 52 to 62 cm.
- Vitro: (no info)
Giant supplies a full line of bikes and accessories to bike shops. Their helmets are made by Strategic, including:
- Argus: Top of the line, with a two piece shell wrapping around the bottom. Molded in the shell, with nice internal strap anchors. Retail is $75.
- Talos: Similar to the Argus, but without the wrap-around lower shell. $55.
- Eos: Molded in the shell with a moderate rear snag point.
- Youth: Molded in the shell, moderate snag point, visor for $35.
- Skeeter/Jewel: Youth model, one-size-fits-some ring fit system, with taped-on shell and a very small snag point in the rear. Retail is $25.
- Melon: Skate style, comes in matte, colors and chrome for $25.
- Pup: toddler model, retails for $25.
In its sixth year as a subsidiary of Bell, Giro's production facilities and testing have been integrated with Bell's, but Giro designs still seem to have retained some independence, and their helmets still have a unique fit. Giro has been a trend leader for both style and construction techniques, and sometimes has a radical new model at the top of their line. For 2004 their major innovation is the extension of molded in the shell construction to all helmets in their line, not just the most expensive. Giro's line has been gradually evolving toward a more rounded profile over the past several years, but for 2004 they have new models with more pronounced snagging points. Some of their models have reflective surfaces on the rear stabilizers, an ideal place for those who ride in the bent-over position. Visors are mounted with plugs that snap into the helmet shell and have an adjustable angle. Our unscientific hand test showed them to pop out easily on impact. Consumer Reports found Giro's cheaper models more protective than the top of the line in their 2002 article. Some of Giro's models are produced for the European market, and will meet the CEN standard but may not be certified to meet the tougher US CPSC standard.
- Atmos: The top of Giro's 2004 line, selling at a steep $190 retail or $225 for Lance Armstrong's Lone Star version. The Atmos has interior "roll cage" reinforcing, exterior carbon fiber reinforcing and a three-piece shell molded on. All that is primarily to permit opening up bigger vents while still meeting the standard, not necessarily improving the impact performance above prior levels. In addition to a moderate snag point on the rear, Giro has blessed this one with forward facing points in the middle. We would avoid this one for that feature if no other, since it contributes nothing at all to the function of the helmet. But if you want Lance's helmet, this is it. Comes with a carrying case.
- Monza: Another new 2004 design, the Monza manages to be pointy both coming and going. Although the snag points are moderate, they contribute nothing to the function of the helmet and in our opinion should be avoided. Retail is $100.
- Pneumo: Introduced in 2001, this model continued Giro's tradition for new extremes. The oversize vents, channels and graphics combine to make it appear to have less material than any other helmet we have seen certified to the CPSC standard. It has external strap anchors, a cheap construction technique that we always find surprising in a high-cost helmet, but since the shell is not round and smooth anyway it probably does not make much difference in sliding resistance. There is a pronounced pointy rear overhang to possibly snag in a crash. Upper and lower shells are molded in. Comes with a visor. Retail is only down $20 to $140. For better impact protection, you have to pay less, according to Consumer Reports.
- Eclipse: A 2000 design, this one has a rounded exterior that unfortunately ends in a severely pointed shelf projection in the rear. Molded in the shell, with recessed strap anchors. Giro says it is their "most compact and streamlined" model. At only $80, this is Giro's least expensive road helmet for 2004.
- Xen: We thought of this as a skate-style helmet when we first saw it in the 2003 lineup, but when mounted on a head and positioned for best coverage in front, the apparent extra rear coverage turns out to be mostly an illusion. But that should not deter you, since this helmet has good features if you ignore the advertising. Now billed as a "mountain" helmet, the Xen (pronounced zen) has a nicely rounded shape far superior to most Giro models, but retains the huge Giro vents and the huge Giro price at $175 retail with carrying case. The shell is a full wrap-around. Worth a look for the shape if you are a Giro fan. If you really want additional rear coverage in a Giro, see the Semi MX below.
- E2: The top of Giro's "mountain" line in 2000. The E2 has squared off lines and huge vents. The lines were somewhat more rounded than Giro's 1999 models, but they used one very pronounced rear "shelf" projection that almost looks as if it were designed to hook something in a fall. The price is down to only $125 retail, but if you want to pay more there is an optional SE model with carrying case. It comes in very visible orange and white or in darker patterns.
- Havoc: The Havoc was Giro's roundest, smoothest high-end model in prior years. It is still in the 2004 lineup. The rear snag point has been almost eliminated in this model. The Havoc unfortunately has external strap anchors, surprising in a helmet at this price, marring that otherwise improved outer shell line with a potential friction point. Very large vents, molded-in upper and lower shell. Retails for $70, a lot less than when it was first introduced.
- Animas: The Animas has the usual rear snag point and a two piece molded shell. It retails for $100.
- Semi MX: The Semi is an innovative design and the roundest helmet in Giro's line. Originally introduced for "crossover" users involved in dirt jumping, MTN-X, Slalom and Freeride. Has a hint of the retro style favored by the skate breed, but with considerable updating of lines. Very smooth and round. It even has recessed strap anchors. The vents are reasonable but look small compared to other Giros. The design is marred only by a screw on visor added in 2002 rather than the pinned visors on other Giros, and you have to take it on faith that it will pop off without jerking your neck if you catch it on a tree limb. We would recommend using it without the visor, since there are no tests for visor performance in the CPSC standard. Without the visor this would be a high-quality vented skate helmet, and worth a look for that use or for bicycling. Retails for $60, down $10 from its former price with visor.
- Encinal: Giro's model for "everyday" riders, with a more nicely rounded shape than other Giro road models and well-recessed strap anchors. Plenty of vents. Retails for $45. Received Bicycling Magazine's award as Best Helmet Under $50 in their July, 2004 issue.
- Torrent II: Redesigned with the universal ring fit system for 2002, then for 2004 it and its siblings are molded in the shell, so it is really a new helmet. It has fewer but larger vents and a more rounded profile, but now has really awful external strap anchors because they can't be tucked under the shell during the molding process. Retails for $35. Also available as the Kickfire II, a youth helmet with visor for $35. Or as the Transit II without a visor and retailing for $29, which strikes us as a real bargain Giro, strap anchors and all. In large size it is the Atlas II, fitting 60cm to 64cm heads. And finally it comes as the Venus II designed for female riders, with the universal fit system sized for women's heads (whatever that means, mostly just smaller) and a rear stabilizer that is ponytail compatible in lovely pastels and a visible white. Retail is $40.
- Rodeo: A "youth" helmet for kids who are old enough to pedal. Nicely rounded except for a front overhang providing a rigid visor. Has the universal ring fit system, which may make good sense for child helmets where parents want a quick fit and worry about head growth. Retails for $30.
- Me2: A toddler helmet, but vented, looking very much like a small version of the Rodeo with more oval vents and without the universal fit system. Nicely rounded except for a front overhang providing a rigid visor. Said to have a low profile in the rear to permit a more natural seating position in trailers, where thicker helmets can push a kid's head forward unless they have a pad behind their back. Still retails for $30.
- Mad Max II: A downhill racing helmet with a motorcycle-style full fiberglass shell that in prior years had a carbon fiber layer on its chinbar. It has a nicely rounded exterior, marred only by the bolt-on visor, and is well vented for this type of helmet. Weighs 2.7 pounds, retails for $100, down $25 from prior years.
- Switchblade: Giro's lighter weight (1.4 lb.) helmet for downhill racing with an optional chinbar lets you use it without the face protection. It has larger vents than other downhill helmets, and an in-mold shell rather than fiberglass. The rear is squared off but does not have a "shelf" projection. It still retails for $180. Some race officials are reportedly not permitting the use of a helmet with a detachable chinbar when a helmet with a chinbar is required for the race, so check that if you intend to race in this one.
Giro has a time trial helmet that according to Bicycle Retailer and Industry News will not be sold to consumers. Lance Armstrong and the Posties used the Giro Advantage and Rev VI time trial helmets in the 2004 Tour de France time trials. The Advantage may some day be available to consumers, but the Rev VI was designed only for Lance. We don't know what if any impact standards they may meet. If you want a time trial helmet that is certified to the CPSC standard, check out the Louis Garneau Prologue.
This year Giro helmets fit heads from 18.5" (51 cm) to 24.75" (63 cm). They used to claim that the universal ring fit system on some of their helmets will work for 88 per cent of the adult population, presumably leaving one in eight to look for some other brand or model. We think ring fit systems probably do not work well for riders who use separate sweatbands and earbands, but Giro and other manufacturers have other models with traditional fit pads for them.
Giro will sell you a uniquely-shaped case called a "pod" or another called the Tour Bag that is to keep that expensive helmet pristine, but don't put your helmet in there after a summer ride before it dries! Their team racing jersey is also available, but probably sells for more than some of their helmets.
Giro's recommends replacing their helmets after 3 years. Their crash warranty is a discount off of retail prices for the first three years. They also offer a credit toward the purchase of a larger Giro helmet for parents whose children outgrow a child model.
See Fly Racing below.
Golex (Zhuhai Golex)
Golex is a Chinese producer of bicycle, skateboard, BMX, motorcycle and other types of helmets. There are at least 24 models in their catalog. Two appear on the Snell B-95 certification list, the N6 and the V10. They should be available in mass merchant channels, and some may find their way into bike stores.
GPR makes helmets in China under other brands and branded as Fang. The are a large manufacturer for the European market, and are looking to bring their lines to the US in 2004. You can see at least one of their interesting new designs in this patent.
GT has a helmet line again, and for this year it includes:
- Taleous: has a moderate rear snag point, internal strap anchors and a glued on shell but without tape around it for trim.
- Trax: a toddler design with vents and taped on shell.
- XR-20: glued shell, minimal rear snag point, internal strap anchors.
- Ollie: a classic skate-style helmet with ABS shell, made by Strategic Sports in China. Billed as a "multisport" helmet, but it has a one-crash EPS liner and may not be certified to any other standard but the CPSC bike helmet standard. (check the labels inside).
- Rampage: Another skate-style helmet, with small vents.
- BMX: Fiberglass shell BMX style helmet with vents, no energy management padding in the chinbar, and no rear snag point, but an unfortunate bolted-on visor.
We do not have GT's price points for this year.
This Taiwanese manufacturer has a slick looking line of Expanded PolyUrethane (EPU) helmets. All are fully molded in the shell models, including the D2, G5, 168-PRO, Vivid, Beetle. They are near the $40 retail level. Adding a rear stabilizer or 3M reflective tape adds about a dollar and a half each. The EPU makes the helmet a little heavier than an EPS helmet, but some consumers like the solid feel of the molded in the shell models. Happy Way sells mostly in Europe, but here they sell to importers and OEM's with their own brands, and are usually looking for distributors in the US. Their sizing fits 47 to 62 cm. heads. Although the Web page only lists European standards and Snell B-90, not CPSC, their sales reps say that all their models meet the CPSC standard. We can not find them on the Snell list any more.
Once one of at least three helmet companies called Headstart. This one had at least nine adult models under the Gear brand name. They have disappeared from Snell's list, and we can't find them on the Web.
This Headstart is located in Malaysia, and should not be confused with the Canadian manufacturer called Headstart Technologies or the Australian company above. Malaysia's Headstart is represented by Damar in New York. We are not familiar with their helmets.
This formerly Canadian manufacturer has moved to the US and changed its line, supplying helmets imported from China with the usual EPS liners. We have not seen their new line.
This unique West Coast distributor of bicycle products has taken on the Zhuhai Safety lines labeled T-Star and Celuk to sell to dealers or non-profits at very low prices. They will fill small orders. Their models start at about $5 each, with skateboard helmets at $6.50 and downhill mountain bike helmets that look identical to major brands for just $30. See the writeup below on Zhuhai Safety for descriptions. They are mostly certified to Snell's tough B-95 standard. They have rear stabilizers and full cover shells, features almost never seen in this price range. Sizes range from 19.3 inches to 24.5 inches (49 to 62 cm)
Helmets R Us (formerly Century Cycles)
This company -- unrelated to the one above -- has a line of "novelty helmets" that look like the skimpy helmets you see some motorcyclists wearing as a protest against motorcycle helmet laws. Some of their models are labeled as DOT certified and some are labeled as Not DOT Certified, and not to be used on motorized vehicles or as safety equipment. Ouch.
This Taiwanese firm makes a line of five helmets in Expanded PolyUrethane (EPU). They had been making EPU car parts for years before expanding into helmets. Colors are mostly drab, but there is a white or stars-and-stripes model available for most models. The profiles are nicely rounded, and prices are down in the under-$10 range FOB Taiwan. We don't see their helmets on the Web any more, so they may not be still producing them.
HKS has five helmets on Snell's B-90 list, including the M3, M5 V-01 and two models they had made for Schwinn. They manufacture for a number of other US brands as well, some of them well known.
Hong Kong Sports
Hopus is a Taiwanese company with an extensive line of helmets featuring the only hard shell bicycle-style helmets we are aware of for 2004. They say their hard shells are all made with industrial grade ABS for best impact performance. Some of them have a layer of resilient APE foam for multi-impact performance, a feature they call SIS. Hopus also has thin-shell models, some molded in the shell. Their Web site currently shows photos of 17 models, but here we cover the 14 listed in their 2004 catalog. Most of their models will be sold with other brands on them. Their models include:
- A-2, E-2 and A-8
Three road-style helmets, all molded in the shell, all new for 2004. The E-2 has a lower shell and comes with a visor. They have a nicely rounded shape with minimal rear snag points.
- MF-5, MF-6, MF-7, MF-8, MF-9 all skate style models new for 2004, with similar hard shells but variations in the vents. The are molded in the shell with ABS hard shells, a unique combination. they have the well-rounded shape of skate helmets. The MF-5 and MF-6 have the extra layer of resilient foam of the Hopus SIS technology, and are certified to both the CPSC bicycle helmet standard and the ASTM F-1492 skateboard standard.
- A-1 and A-1 Plus a hard shell bike helmet with an ABS shell and EPS foam liner. Modest rear overhang, reasonable vents. Certified for 2002 to meet the CPSC standard and now available in the US market. Target should have them for around $20 with the PTI brand.
- A-3 and A-3 Plus another hard shell bike helmet with an ABS shell and EPS foam liner. Has more vents than the A-1, a different fit system and a visor. Retail should be about $25.
- MF-3 Avenger is billed as a multi-sport helmet and available in as a "snow series" model with ear flaps and a goggle retainer in back although it is advertised as meeting only the CPSC and CE bicycle helmet standards. Has a very round smooth skate-style shape, and the ABS hard shell, with more vents than the MF-2 below. Has a very visible metallic yellow model. Retails for $20 to $40.
- MF-2 Classic is a round, smooth skate-style helmet with minimal vents. Has a snow series model for winter sport use with ear flaps and a goggle retainer in the rear. Certified to the ASTM F2040 snow sport standard as well as the CPSC and CEN bike standards. Can be had with very visible flame graphics and a nice metallic orange.
- AG-2 Argo is a round, smooth skate-style helmet with minimal vents. Has a snow series model for winter sport use with ear flaps and a goggle retainer in the rear. The catalog calls this a "multi-function helmet" although it is certified only to the CPSC and European bicycle standards.
- MI-4 Mission is a skate-style helmet with angular vents and a mostly round and smooth outer shape. Has the same inflatable airbag rear pads as the AG-3. Certified to the CPSC and European bike helmet standards.
- D-1 Diki a rare toddler helmet with ABS hard shell. Has vents and an overhang in front to provide a partial visor. The XS fits heads as small as 50 cm.
- P-2 Primacy a ski helmet that meets the ASTM F2040 snow sport standard and the European EN-1077 ski standard as well. Has extended coverage similar to a motorcycle helmet, the ABS hard shell, vents and a goggle retainer. The shape is round and smooth, with one ridge around for style. Retail will be around $50.
Hopus has sizes in most models to fit 54 to 62 cm heads, but some models only go to 60 cm. This company is your best bet if you are looking for a bike-style helmet with a hard shell. You can contact them through their Web site to ask who sells their helmets in your market.
J&B is an old established bicycle wholesaler with warehouses all over the US. Their products are sold in bike stores. Their Alpha line for 2004 has models beginning at about $15 retail to $40 tops. One has a full lower shell at $15, unusual at that price point. Most of the profiles are the well-rounded ones we favor. Their skate model has the unfortunate old-time name of Skidlid. Colors are solid, with some metallic finishes, including a skateboard helmet in full chrome for only $16. One toddler model goes for $16 with rear stabilizer, and another has a full lower shell for $15. J&B has an active program for schools and non-profits either through a local shop or direct. Their helmets are made in China by Strategic.
JT calls its models X-Lidz. They are skate-style helmets, with what the manufacturer calls "HD2 foam lining for multiple impact protection," although they are only certified to the CPSC single-impact standard, leaving the consumer to wonder. The Classic Grinder has a "rubberized" exterior with a velvety feel that probably adds to sliding resistance for $20, while the Neo with textured ABS shell is $30.
KBC has two models on the Snell B-95A list, the AZX and the Fox Flite. We do not know if the Fox Flite is the same model listed above under AGV or not, but we have found references on the Web to AGV KBC helmets. We have never seen either model, but the KBC helmets available from dealers on the Web are full-face motorcycle-style helmets for BMX selling for about $200. The Flite comes in XXL, but we don't know how large a head it can accommodate. If you have the KBC Midnight Flame, Classic Cruiser or TK-9 model, check here for the DOT report of failure to meet the DOT motorcycle helmet standard, dated October of 2003. That standard is much more severe than bicycle helmet standards, but if a manufacturer labels a helmet as DOT-compliant and it is not, we consider it serious. Note that unlike CPSC, DOT makes its reports public.
Kent is a supplier of low-cost helmets to toy and discount stores. They have toddler and child models at retail price points of $10 to $15 (with vents), and a child helmet called the V9 for $10 that also comes as the V9 Pro with a lower shell and nicer graphics for $15. Their youth helmets are mostly in the $10 to $20 range. Some are nicely rounded while others have longer overhangs in the rear. Kent has an "Aggressive Series" skate style helmet with a hard shell in the classic skate shape and a multi-impact EPP liner for $15. If it meets the CPSC standard it would be a good bike/skateboard helmet, but we have not seen one and don't know what standards it meets.
Knucklebone sells accessories and clothing for BMX. Their fiberglass-shell Holeshot BMX model is a 2001 design with a full chinbar, no vents and a price tag around $100. It has the requisite bolted-on BMX visor, and the catalog says it meets the CPSC and CEN bicycle helmet standards. It has mesh-lined vents and sliding covers for the forehead vents. We have seen it discounted as low as $70 on the Internet, but that may be the HS-1 variation with simpler graphics. Their Jumper model is the familiar skateboarders profile, very smooth and round, with an EPS foam liner. It has a painted and clear-coated shell that includes a chrome model and a very visible orange. It also is certified to meet the CPSC bicycle helmet standard. It retails for $40.
Krusher has a line of BMX and trick cycling gear, including a helmet in the basic smooth, round skateboard style, certified to the CPSC standard. It retails for $18 and comes in red, blue or black. Their Web site has minimal information, but we found their helmet pictured with a description saying it has "multi-density foam inserts."
Lazer is produced by a Belgian company, Cross HM S.A., with an extensive line of bike helmets seldom seen here in the US. Their helmets are interesting, and appear to be well designed. The high end models have recessed strap anchors. The catalog says they meet the relevant standards of each market: Europe, the US and Australia
, so some models will not be available in some markets.
- Blade: new for 2004, the Blade has a five-part shell that comes all the way down the rear, many vents, and a hard nylon piece in the rear to keep the snag point from getting dull. It sells for $150.
- X3M Molded in the shell, with a rear snag point. Retails for $55. Without visor it becomes the O2 for $50. With visor in smaller sizes it is the Cyclone youth model at $45 or the Kalima "women's or youth model at $50 with reflective trim from 3M.
- Revolution 2 is a 2004 update of a 2000 design, with angular lines and large vents, but a minimal snag point in the rear. It is molded in the shell with shell pieces wrapping all the way down. Retail is $100.
- Fugitive: Another molded in the shell design with the large vents of a molded in the shell helmet, but the upper and lower shells are glued on instead, cutting production costs. Moderate snag point, large vents and Lazer's external strap anchors. Not for the US market. Without the visor it is the Bullet.
- Fireball a nicely rounded, molded in the shell design with more than adequate venting for $45. Without visor it is the Tempo, and $5 cheaper. Has a rear stabilizer with twist adjustment. There are no really bright colors, but this is probably the best value in the Lazer line.
- Max Deluxe is a toddler helmet with nice graphics, some reflective, and an insect mesh in the vents. The Max Shark model has a fin on the rear, a potential snag point that is really unnecessary in a helmet that already has a rigid visor molded in. It retails for $30.
- Factory Rider: a vented BMX or downhill helmet with full chinbar and carbon fiber shell. It has an unfortunate fin on the top adding style and a snag point to a helmet that already has a bolted on visor you can snag. They actually refer to the fin as a "stabilizer." Retail is a steep $300.
- Excalibur is similar to the Factory Rider but a nicely rounded exterior with no fin and a fiberglass shell. It sells for $250.
- MX6 Xpro Chromium is another downhill/BMX helmet, this time with an injection molded plastic shell instead of a laminate. That adds about 25 per cent to the weight. Has the unfortunate fin and bolted on visor. Retail is $275.
- One a classic skate helmet with EPS liner meeting the CPSC standard. Retail is $30.
- Chrono III: No vents, not designed for impact protection, just a swoopy aero shell for pursuit and time trail pros. Top is dimpled like a golf ball. Can't be sold in the US, of course. The Web site says candidly: "You do not need to use it for its protective qualities. It does not correspond to any single safety norm."
Lazer has been around a long time in Belgium and has an extensive line of interesting helmets.
Limar is an Italian brand marketed in the US by Trialtir. Their models usually have some bright color choices and nice graphics. Some of them are not available in the US market. For 2004 all the model designations changed from prior years.
- 911: the top of Limar's line for 2004, molded in the shell with a full wrap-under shell. Although it has angular lines, it is reasonably well-rounded and the rear has almost no snag point. Many narrow longitudinal vents, some very small, give it a stylish look. Retail is $180.
- 909: The 909 is molded in the shell with very large vents including a heart-shaped one in the front. It has external strap anchors and pronounced rear snag points. Retail is $150.
- 707: molded in the shell including a lower shell. Long narrow vents in the front. Pronounced rear snag point and large external strap anchors. Retail should be about $120.
- 705: fewer but very large front vents, molded in the shell with wrap under shell piece. Rear snag point and external strap anchors. This one retails for $100.
- 520: At $100 msrp this is Limar's least expensive model for the US this year. It strikes us as overpriced, but they say it "offers an unbeatable value for the money." Angular lines and moderate rear snag point. Visor that the catalog says "gives the 520 a subtly aggressive look."
- Approved Chrono: Limar's aerodynamic pursuit and time trial helmet with CPSC certification. Two triangular vents in front and one rectangular one in the rear. Retails for $120.
- Chrono Fairing: Limar's aerodynamic pursuit and time trial helmet, not designed for impact protection. Has a "flexible shell" and no straps. We don't think this one can be sold in the US, even if they call it a fairing and not a helmet. Retail is $150.
Louis Garneau is a Canadian designer and manufacturer whose helmet line has grown over the years to a very impressive collection, with the exception of some of the newer models. Some of their helmets are molded in the shell. On others they use polypropylene lower sections, and some have a lower shell to protect the foam from nicks (reducing sliding resistance as well). Visors are mounted with hook-and-loop fasteners to facilitate flipping off easily in impacts.
In recent years Louis Garneau has added some new models with only partial shells, leaving EPS foam exposed. Bell pioneered the design some years back with its Evo Pro and have since dropped it. We have always believed it is an inferior design technique, given the evidence that plastic slides much better on pavement in an impact than foam. (Check this link for more on that) We would recommend steering away from those models. In fairness, Louis points out that he has kept the foam sections slightly lower than the plastic shell-covered parts and wrapping the shell over the ribs reinforces them against impact. And the newest Envoy model has lesser areas of foam exposed. If that reassures you, you can ignore our advice, but we think the foam will still hit the road if you hit hard enough, and there is no reason to risk that when there are lots of all-plastic shells out there, including some nice ones from Louis Garneau.
For the European market Garneau has insect mesh in the vents of some models.
The top of the Louis Garneau line for 2004, introduced in the Spring for a retail price of $150. For that you get a helmet molded in the shell with large front vents, curlicue shaped top vents, a wrap under shell, nicely recessed strap anchors and a moderate rear snag point. It comes in visible white and orange, and the front label is reflective. A carrying bag is included.
- Envoy: Another new LG design for 2004, the Envoy has the partially exposed foam that we advise against. Large rear overhang, with vents smaller than they look because of that foam. Retail price is $110 with a carrying bag.
- Aki and T-Bone: Both of these models have big areas of foam not covered by plastic shell (see comment above). Molded in the (partial) shell. The Aki at $95 has a full wrap under shell, but the T-Bone for $80 does not.
- Energy: another new design in 2004, the Energy has a little less rear overhang than some others in the line, but has the exposed foam. It retails for $75, or $80 with visor.
- Rev: the Rev's exposed foam is well recessed, but at $50 with visor it marks the level in the Garneau line when the helmets are no longer molded in the shell. It's shape is a lot rounder and smoother than the upscale models, with almost no rear snag point at all. This is Garneau's largest helmet, fitting up to size 24 7/8 - 63cm. Also comes as the Zen without visor for $45, but not in the XL size.
- Legend: Another taped-on shell design, this one with a pronounced rear snag point. Without visor it is the Myo at $35.
- Oregon: the least expensive adult Garneau, with taped on shell and fewer vents, but only a modest snag point in the rear and some nice bright colors. Retail is $30, or $5 more for the visor model.
- Grunge 2-V: introduced in 2001 for the juvenile crowd aged 6 to 15, this one has some angular lines and a rear overhang, with a glued-on shell and a visor. Wild graphics, some very bright. Retails for $40.
- Baby Boomer: Toddler helmet for the 5 and under crowd, round and smooth, with a few vents and cute graphics, including the black and white Felix graphic that is styled after Louis' own Dalmatian, as well as Felix-the-fireman and several for the feminine side. The smallest model is size 6, for a 48cm (18 7/8 inch) head. Retail is $30.
- Terrible: Toddler helmet whose name echoes the French phrase "l'enfant terrible." Has a built-in visor and glued-on shell. Graphics include Felix again in firefighter garb. Designed for kids 5 to 10. This one has a dial-fit rear stabilizer. The retail price is still $35.
- Street: A 2002 model for skateboards with a hard shell and the beautifully rounded traditional skateboard profile. The vents are skimpy for hot weather, and the colors are drab or black, but if you are crashing at high speed this is the profile you want. Has CPSC bicycle helmet certification, but is not certified to a skateboard standard. Retails for $30.
- Buzz 2: A 2001 update of Garneau's unique Buzz downhill helmet. Molded in the shell with vents covered with mesh to keep the bees out. It has a full face guard with vents and mesh of its own. Unfortunately the hook-and-loop visor attachment has been replaced with bolts, so if you catch your visor on a limb, look out! The retail price is $200.
- Prologue: The most exciting thing in the 2002 Louis Garneau lineup was the world's first chrono model with CPSC impact protection. It still may be the only thing you can buy for the US market that meets the CPSC standard. Designed for time trialing. Round and smooth in front, with a long aero tail. Glued on shell, polycarbonate face shield. A genuine innovation. Retail is $100 without visor and $120 with.
- Windscreen: Not a helmet, but an accessory, this is a polycarbonate lens that wraps around a helmet--almost any helmet--and is held on by hook and loop. The edges are unprotected, and you could probably slice meat with them, even if it did not shatter in a crash. We would favor something with protected edges, like a pair of glasses or goggles. Not offered in the US market.
Louis Garneau still has a free replacement guarantee for the first year.
MET is an Italian manufacturer whose helmet line we have not seen, but they have a fine Web site in four languages. They have models for road and offroad biking, a BMX model, youth and toddler models and a chrono shaped time trial racing helmet. Almost all of them have snag points in the rear and the elongated shapes that we do not consider optimal. MET says their road and off-road helmets differ in the placement of the vents to optimize them for the type of riding, in addition to adding a visor for off road use. Most of their helmets are molded in the shell, and some have lower wrap around shells as well. The top of the line models are radically different in appearance. One of those models is described as "The helmet choice of most of the best road cyclists in the world," a laughable statement. They no longer have any statements on the Web site about what standards their helmets meet. Among others on the Web site, the Bad Boy and Drop Off models seemed to have very nicely rounded contours. Met's helmets are all made in Italy.
Michelin, best known for tires, has promised a new line of helmets for 2005. They are introducing Racing, Road, MTB, City, Women Junior and Infant models. An advertising photo of the MX Pro Race Racing model shows it as an elongated, hypervented helmet with rear snag points. The photo of the women's model appears to be the same helmet in different trim. The City model appears to have more rounded lines. Michelin has a network to distribute tires, lubricants and other accessories to bicycle stores, so adding helmets will help to round out their product line. Since known brands sell more helmets, they may be hoping that the well-known brand name will help, and their Web site indicates that they are seeking to capitalize on the brand name across different accessory lines. We like their slogan for dealer advertising: "Keep your customers coming back by keeping them alive." We will have more info on the line after Interbike in October of 2004.
Mongoose is a supplier of a full line of bicycles and accessories. For 2004 their line includes:
We do not have Mongoose's retail pricing for this year, but their products are normally priced in the lower to middle range.
- All Terrain: although listed as an ABS hardshell helmet, this one has a very thin shell. It has the elongated bicycle helmet shape with a modest snag point in the rear. Made in China by HKS.
- BMX child's helmet: This is the full face model from PTI that is the only child's full face model on the market. It may have vision obstruction problems for the wearer, so be sure to take the rider to the store. Sold in Toys R Us and other discount stores for under $20, this one has a full wrap around chinbar with full thickness EPS padding. PTI has these made in China.
- Extreme Gear Youth: an ABS hardshell skate-style helmet that meets the CPSC bicycle helmet standard but is not certified to a skateboard standard. The lines are more angular than the classic Pro Tec style, but there is no snag point in the rear. Has small elongated vents.
- Extreme Gear Child: an ABS hardshell skate-style helmet with small vents for kids that meets the CPSC bicycle helmet standard but is not certified to a skateboard standard.
- BMX: a hard shell BMX-style helmet with an unfortunate bolted-on visor.
NHS sells TSG helmets through mass merchant channels. They had to recall one of their helmets during 2000. See our recalls page for more information.
Odyssey is a BMX products company. Their BMX helmet for 2004 is the Apache 3, with a fiberglass shell, full chin bar, some vents, and (unfortunately) a bolted-on visor. The helmet is made in Hong Kong by Strategic Sports, and suggested retail this year is $100 in normal finish or $130 in full chrome.
See Qranc below.
Oktos helmets are made by Strategic Sports. They have five models, mostly with minimal rear snag points.
Pioneer mostly produces OEM helmets with store or other brands. They have 30 models, including skate models with CPSC certification. Their helmets have taped shells, mostly with minimal rear snag points, and sell at lower price points.
Podium is a new brand introduced late in 2002 by Todson, better known for its Topeak accessories. They are made in Italy, and are targeted for "the medium to high end helmet market." Models include:
Roma: molded in the shell with many narrow vents in a circular pattern and a pronounced rear snag point (about $75).
Athens molded in the shell with three rear snag points for about $55.
Sonic molded in the shell with a full wraparound bottom shell and exterior strap anchors disguised as logos.
Montreal: taped-on shell, with less pronounced rear snag point at under $45.
Atlanta: another taped on shell design at about $30.
Sydney: toddler helmet with vents, a pinch-resistant buckle and adult styling for under $25.
When we saw them at Interbike in late 1999, this Portuguese company had one basic helmet shape sold in four different levels of graphics, visors and trim for $15 to $36 retail. They all had well-rounded contours but a rear bump in the shell for a fitting that holds the strap. The models we saw had CE (European) certification but had not yet been tested against the more stringent CPSC standard. Polisport has not been at Interbike since, and their Web page is just a minimal place marker without product info, so we don't know their current line.
Polybid is an Israeli company. They produce a unique folding helmet we reviewed in prior years under the Motorika brand name. Their other helmet designs are all round and smooth, and all feature glued-on shells. The Web site does not mention the CPSC standard at all, so they may not be available in the US market, but most of them are certified to the CEN standard for the European market and also mention the old US ANSI standard that was withdrawn a decade ago. Such helmets are be avoided as long as a helmet meeting the CPSC standard is available. The models include:
- Safe Rider Folding: a unique hard-shell helmet made in two crescent-shaped sections. One section folds inside the other for stowing in a belt pack.
- Pro2: Head ring fit system, visor, dark colors.
- PolySpeed: Upper and lower shell, dark colors.
- PolyAir: Upper and lower shell, dark colors.
- PolyAir PM: Youth model with a nice bright red as well as the darker colors.
- Pro Kid: Toddler model with vents and a molded in visor. Ring fit system.
- PolyKid: Toddler model with vents, fitting sizes as small as 44 cm (17.7 inches). Made with GECET EPS foam.
- New Kid: Toddler model with vents, fitting sizes as small as 44 cm (17.7 inches). Advertised as a lighter helmet, but the weight of the smallest size is advertised as 200 grams, the same as the Poly Kid.
Seattle Bicycle Supply distributes the Potenza line in the US market, made by one of the helmet manufacturers in Zhuhai, China. The shells are glued, and the prices are probably reasonable. They include:
- Teramo: sharp ridges, rear overhang, comes in a bright red as well as white.
- Pave: Very round smooth profile, reasonable vents.
- Piccolo: toddlers helmet with vents, retailing for $29.
ProRider is a supplier of BMX and bicycle helmets from China and is also the home of the CNS (Children - N - Safety) National Helmet Program, selling directly to schools and non-profit organizations. Their helmets are Snell-certified in addition to meeting the CPSC standard, and have the rounder, smoother shapes that are best for crashing. Pro Rider is one of only two companies with a helmet on the Snell N-94 multisport list, their "7-Vent" model. Prices are very low, in the under $10 range when purchasing in quantities for a helmet program.
Pro Supergo is apparently not affiliated with the Supergo bike shops in California or with the former Supergo helmets we remember from the 1970's. The helmets are produced in Taiwan by Prowell. (See below)
Pro-Tec was the original skate helmet company in the 1970's. It has been sold a couple of times since then, and for 2004 the company has an almost completely revamped line, much improved from earlier years. For skateboard helmets this is the biggest news of the year! Pro Tec has a new foam for 2004 that replaces the lower grade protection of prior years with full performance liners that can meet both the CPSC bicycle helmet standard and ASTM F1492 Skateboard requirements. The SXP foam is a different formulation of EPP, allowing Pro-Tec to upgrade their protection while still meeting multiple impact testing without making the helmets thicker. The helmets look exactly the same as older Pro Tec models, and Pro Tec continues to sell the older designs through skate shops, so you will have to examine them in the store for the standards sticker inside or be very careful about the model you buy.
We were encouraged by the changes at Pro Tec. They supply so many helmets to the skateboard community that the long overdue improvements in their line represent significant progress.
- B2: has the new foam, with two small vents in the front and a few on the top. There is a visible yellow version as well as the usual black.
Ace Signature: another of the new foam models, this time with four elliptical front vents. The red choice is slightly more visible than the black and matte black options. Not to be confused with the old Ace Skate, with the old foam liners that meet only the much less demanding European whitewater standard, that are still sold in skate shops.
Classic: round and smooth, with small round vents and good coverage, the classic Pro Tec design but updated with the new EXP foam. Comes in visible white and yellow as well as the standard dark colors. Retails for $40.
- Ace Freestyle: An updated skateboard style helmet with larger oval vents and minor reshaping of the shell lines. It still has a round and smooth shape. Again, for bicycle riding you must get the Ace Freestyle, not the outwardly similar Ace Skate, which is sold for skating rather than bicycling and is not certified to the CPSC standard. Add a big bolted on visor to the Ace Freestyle and you have the Dig. Add a chinbar and you get the Ace Full Face. Make that with a laminated carbon fiber shell, and you get the Ace Full Fact Pro Carbon. Retail goes up as you add.
- Full Face Elite BMX: a BMX helmet with a full face chinbar, vents and a large "motocross style" visor that is unfortunately bolted on. Laminated (fiberglass) shell.
Prowell is a Taiwanese company producing a line of helmets in EPU foam. Several of their models are molded in the shell, some with lower shells as well. They generally have a high quality appearance, seeming solid (if a bit heavy) in the hand, including the F-22 introduced in 2000. It has moderate vents, but a substantial lip projecting out in the rear. Most of Prowell's models should retail for about $20. The company manufactures helmets for other brands, notably Vigor.
(Not to be confused with Pryme, the next manufacturer)
Primal Wear has helmets with wild graphics to go with their similarly designed clothing line. They have five helmet models for 2004:
- Epok: elongated shape with rear snag point, retailing for $50.
- Vision: another elongated model, but with a much smoother rear and larger front vents. Retail is $40.
- Evolution: Smaller vents, rear snag point, retailing for $30.
- Scream: a classic skate-style helmet with small round vents. Unlike most skate helmet models, they have a very visible yellow/black color scheme. Retail is $25.
- Discovery: toddler and child helmet with an adult shape and vents. Retail price is $20. Should not be used on a child in a trailer without adding a cushion behind the child's back to prevent the elongated shape from pushing the child's head forward.
The Pryme line is for bicycling and BMX, with CPSC certification. Most of their models have catchy names.
- Pryme Evil Carbon: New for 2004, a full face model for BMX and downhill racing. Hard shell, minimal vents, bolted on visor. Retails for a steep $240.
- Pryme Evil: the fiberglass version is only $110.
- Pryme US: New for 2004, a full face model for BMX and downhill racing. Hard shell, vents, bolted on visor and a cool skull medallion on the chinbar. Retails for $90.
- Pryme Al: Another full face model, with mesh-protected vents, fiberglass shell, bolted on visor. Retail is $100.
- Pryme FF: Full face model with a fiberglass shell, vents and a bolted on visor, retailing for $85 in either the adult version or the Pryme Child FF for smaller riders.
- Pryme 8 Skate-style helmet similar in shape to the classic Pro-Tec. Has small vents, EPS liner, meets the CPSC standard rather than the ASTM skate standard. Retails for $30, or maybe a little less, with the chrome and "high fiber" finishes more expensive.
- Pryme Mortal: Skate-style helmet similar in shape to the Pryme 8 but with a skull logo replacing the vents in the front and only four small ones in the top. Retail is $40. CPSC certified.
Pryme's line is made in China by Zhuhai Safety, and distributed in the US by Seattle Bicycle Supply.
Originally known as Protective Technologies International, PTI Sports is one of the largest and perhaps least known helmet producers in the US. Their products are marketed through discount stores such as Target, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and Toys `R Us, usually at prices in the $10 to $30 range. They have used the Zacko brand name in addition to PTI. In 2001 they announced a new line of helmets and other accessories promoted with cyclist Greg Lemond's name. We have not seen much of that line. PTI's annual report for 1999 showed that they sold $51.6 million worth of helmets and bicycle accessories in that year. That probably puts them in second place among the US helmet producers. In mid-2002 PTI licensed the Schwinn brand from its current owner, Pacific Cycle USA, and have been marketing Schwinn-branded helmets. For their 2004 helmets, see Schwinn below.
Qranc seems to have disappeared, at least from the US market. Their US phones have been disconnected, and the Web link has been dead since December of 2000. A search on OGK turns up only stale motorcycle helmet pages. We list them here only because people keep asking us where they are.
A round smooth skate-style helmet. Certified to CPSC, with no indication that it meets the ASTM skateboard standard even though it has a skateboard on the box. This one's main feature is twin speakers molded into the helmet liner, with a jack at the rear to plug in your mp3, CD player or skateman. We found the music sound quality abysmal, worse than the little stuffed bears with voices inside. Fit pads cover the speakers if you are not careful. Might work ok for voice intercoms or news, and it's better than riding with your ears plugged up with earphones. Retails for $39. Rage is produced by Gen-X Sports of Canada, a Huffy subsidiary since 2002 that in 2004 sold the Gen-X name and will produce products under the Huffy brand.
Rage with Solo Sound System
Rand sells through mass merchant channels like Kmart and Rose's. Their helmet feature Barbie and Sesame Street characters among others. They had to recall their L.A. Crusin' helmet during 2000. See our recalls page for more information or this CPSC link.
Reevu has a helmet with a built in rear view mirror in a housing that begins at the front lip of the helmet and curves back over the center to provide a wide angle mirror. If the photos of the mirror image on the Web are an accurate indication, it will be the best rear view mirror we have seen for a bicycle, but we would want to ride with one before judging anything. Despite this press release, we have not seen it for sale in the US yet, possibly meaning that it does not meet our CPSC standard. In other countries they will send you a dealer name, but the Web site mentions only the UK and Ireland. Pricing for the two models is 55 to 65 UK pounds, but the press release says $75 to &110 for the US market. The design raises some snag hazard questions if the housing is rigidly attached. An interesting development but so far the only info available to us is on the Reevu Web site, where we found only one statement about crash performance and standards: "Reevu cycle helmets’ designs have been tested to destruction. It has been designed to conform to all relevant international impact standards for protective cycle helmets."
This European manufacturer was new to the US helmet market for the 2000 season, although they have been doing sunglasses and sporting attire under founder Rudy Barbazza since 1985. We are not sure which models you may find in which markets, since some of their racing helmets do not meet the CPSC standard and would not be legal here, and their Web site does not discuss standards. In general their models have flowing, graceful lines in the rounded contours we favor. Most have no extreme shelf effects in the rear, although some do. As you move toward the lower end of the line the shapes improve to rounder, smoother, safer designs. Some are molded in the shell. Visors are attached with hook-and-loop. Rudy Project has some interesting innovations, and perhaps they will find wider US distribution at some point. You may have seen their helmets on Tour de France riders in 2003. We have one complaint from a rider who experiences strap creep with his Rudy Project helmet and suggests you look carefully at the strap locking mechanism before buying.
REM is an Italian brand with a line of molded in the shell helmets. We don't see them in the US market. Some of their models have vent "pipes" and some have double layer liners.
S&M is a California supplier of components for BMX and extreme bikes. They have two skate style, vented, hard shell helmet models, the Screaming Eagle with a matte finish and eagle graphic, and the Shield with a shiny finish and a graphic that says S&M Bicycles made in USA. Both models come from TSG.
The Schwinn brand is now the property of Pacific Cycle USA. In mid-2002 PTI licensed the Schwinn brand from Pacific, and is now marketing Schwinn-branded helmets. Most of their adult models also have a "youth" size. We usually see them in big box stores or on the Internet at retailers like Amazon. The line for 2004 includes:
- Thrasher: reasonably rounded except for a small snag point in the rear, with strap anchors below the shell. It is not molded in the shell, but apparently uses only glue to attach the shell and boasts of "tapeless technology."
- Rocket: taped on shell with faired-in strap anchors, moderate rear snag point, sells for about $30 on the Web.
- Atlas: a molded in the shell design with a moderate rear snag point and a two-piece shell with many vents. It has external strap anchors but they are faired in reasonably well.
- Titan another "not-taped-on" design with moderate rear snag points that is included with other accessories in a package selling for about $25.
- Kids Toddler - Playschool: Taped shell with a small visor effect in the front. Also comes in a package with other accessories. Has vents and the appearance of an adult helmet. In a larger size it is the Kids Child model.
- Missing Link: a vented "multisport" design, but certified only to the CPSC bicycle helmet standard. Well rounded, with some edges showing but no rear snag point. ABS hard shell.
Despite the Euro-sounding name, Serfas is a US-based company, known for grips and saddles, where there are actual differences between men's and women's models. All Serfas helmets have a "universal size" ring fit system that accommodates sizes from 52 to 63cm. Their helmets are made in China by Fang Master. This year's lineup includes:
Serfas has a one year crash replacement policy, through the dealer.
- Karv: molded in the shell with large vents and a two piece shell that wraps under. Has a pronounced rear snag point. Retail is $80.
- Vault: promoted as their "mountain bike-specific" design, but we don't know why. Less pronounced rear snag point, but it's still there.
- Cosmos: the roundest, smoothest helmet in the Serfas line is also the least expensive at $35. It has no snag point. It is also a taped-on shell at this price point. Also known as the Flea in youth size. The same design base is used for the Curva. I has a notched area in back that may the last surviving pony tail port, proving that Serfas did learn something from their saddle heritage and are marketing a model actually designed for women. (And for men with pony tails, of course.)
- Rookie: a well-vented toddler helmet with an elongated but well-rounded shape and taped on shell. Retails for $30.
Seven 20 is a skate brand. They have one skate-style helmet made for Mosa Sports (Pro Tec) in China. The ones we have seen are certified only to a European standard, EN 1385. Retail is about $25, but we have seen them at Sports Authority and Modell's for $15.
Pro-Zone Metallic Helmet: a new model for 2002, with what appears to be a reasonably well-rounded contour except for a rear shelf effect. Many vents, metallic or graphic finish.
Phoenix Multi-Sport: An apparently well-rounded design recommended for "cycling, inline skating, skateboarding and more." But listed as meeting only the CPSC standard.
Pro-Zone Multi-Sport: An apparently well-rounded design said to be for "cycling, inline skating and more" but listed as meeting only the CPSC and Canadian CSA standards. Bright graphics including a maple leaf design. Has a visor.
The Pro-Star Multi-Sport appears to be similar but with dark colors. Has a visor. It is recommended for "cycling, inline skating, and more" but listed as meeting only the CPSC and Canadian CSA standards.
Alpha: A new design for 2002, apparently well-rounded. Has a visor.
Bike Tec: a well-rounded design with reasonable vents. Listed as meeting the CPSC and Canadian CSA standards.
Bike Tec Toddler: a well-rounded toddler design with vents. Listed as meeting the CPSC and ASTM standards.
Bike Gear Multi-Sport: a well-rounded design with reasonable vents. Recommended only for bicycling and in-line skating, and listed as certified to the Canadian CSA standard and CPSC.
Pro-Star Toddler Helmet: a toddler design with a built-in visor ledge in front. Small vents. Comes in one size for ages 1 to 4. Kid graphics. The similar Crown toddler model comes in solid colors.
Royal Toddler: another toddler design with built-in visor ledge in front and a lower shell for full plastic cover. Small vents.
Flash Tec Toddler: toddler helmet with rounded shape, vents and kid graphics.
T-7: classic skate shape and round vents. No multi-sport recommendation in the catalog, and listed only as CPSC approved.
Hawk X-Treme and similar Star Multi-Sport X-Treme:
ABS hard shell, large vents, shaped like a bicycle helmet with the extended rear coverage of a skate helmet. The Star is listed as meeting only the CPSC standard, while the Hawk includes EN and ASTM as well as CPSC.
Phoenix ABS: ABS hard shell, rounded shape, more angular vents than the T-7. Listed as CPSC approved, although the Web page says it offers "bicycle helmet's style plus skate helmet's protection."
Phoenix X-Treme: ABS hard shell, rounded shape, larger top vents and no front vents. "Anodized" colors including silver. Listed as CPSC approved.
Pro-Zone X-treme Multi-Sport: ABS hard shell, rounded shape with some ridges for style and angular vents, including vents in the rear lower shell. Recommended for "in-line skating, skateboarding and more" but listed only as CPSC approved.
Millennium Winter Sports: ABS hard shell, classic rounded skate helmet shape and vents. Goggle retainer in the rear. Listed as certified to ASTM and CPSC standards, but there is no indication of which ASTM standard (bicycle or ski).
Pro-Zone Ski: ABS hard shell, rounded shape with some angular lines, small vents including one at the ear, goggle retainer in the rear. Listed as certified only to the CPSC bicycle standard.
Tornado X-Treme Multi-Sport: PVC composite shell, ski helmet lines with two raised rear vents in the rear. Goggle retainer. Listed as certified only to the CPSC bicycle standard, although it appears more like a ski helmet.
Seven Star also has street hockey and equestrian helmets. In each case the Seven Star Web page and catalog do not specify whether the ASTM listing is for the ASTM bicycle, skateboard or equestrian standard. Warranties are "one year limited" with no crash replacement policy specified.
Seven Star has a program to sell to non-profits at low prices. Contact them for details.
Shain (pronounced "shine") is an established Italian brand that is new to the US this year. they have some European features like bug mesh in the forward vents on some models. All are molded in the shell except the toddler helmet. They also have reflective logos, a feature we appreciate even though the logos are too small to add much to the cyclist's visibility at night. Shain has an extensive line, but not all are available in the US. The line includes:
- BK 100 Gara: this is the top of Shain's road line, a molded in the shell model, with plenty of vents and plenty of snag points both in the rear and projecting up from the front surface. We would be surprised if the front projection meets the CPSC limit on surface projections. The shell wraps under for full coverage. The strap anchors stick up entirely above the shell. It would seem to us that the designer of this helmet cared nothing about sliding resistance. As with other brands, you have to move down the line and pay less to get a smoother exterior! Shain promises a BK 100 R model with Tau's new Re-Up foam (a combination of EPU and EPS) providing multi-impact protection "in the future."
- BK 90 Stratos: another high end molded in the shell design with a pointy rear snag point and external strap anchors. This one at least has no front point sticking up. Retail is $110.
- BK 80 Airone: a much better-rounded helmet than the Gara or Stratos, this one has only one objectionable bump on top that is done for pure style. Molded in the shell in both a full wrap under version for $92 and a single shell that does not wrap fully under for $72. Available in the US market in 2004.
- BK 71 Olney: much less rounded than the Airone, this one has the same price but lots of ridges and a rear snag point. It comes in a very pretty Lady version.
- BK 40 Amigo: rounded exterior except for a modest rear snag point and a molded in visor lip. Molded in the shell. Retails for $64.50. Comes in a "Lady" version, which is available in the US market.
- Downhill: a carbon/kevlar shell with BMX full face lines, vents and bolted on visor. There is bug mesh in all the vents. Retails for $99.
- Chrono: Shain is working on a new chrono model. The old one, the CR60-1, carries a warning that it is not a protective helmet, but is only useful for aerodynamics.
- BK 11 Jonny: Toddler helmet with vents. Taped on shell. Retail is $34 with graphics (available in the US market), or $26 in solid colors.
A Chinese manufacturer located in mainland Shenzhen. We have not seen their line, but they have informed us that they produce 15 models, including some BMX style with fiberglass shells and some rated as bicycle/skate helmets. They say they already export to 20 countries, including the US.
Shenzhen Hezhen Bicycle Inc.
Although we have not seen their 2004 line, this Taiwanese manufacturer makes both EPS and EPU helmets. Their EPU helmets are molded in the shell, and they attempt to assuage the environmental concerns about EPU on their site. The styles are well-rounded, but vents look small. They have a fiberglass BMX model. We don't have current pricing. You may see their helmets with other brands on them.
Shenzhen Qukang Industry Development
Shih Kwang makes a helmet with a reading light molded into the front foam, fitting flush with the front lip of the helmet, and a rear LED flasher embedded the same way. It retails for $40. We do not know if they are currently being marketed or not.
Shih Kwang International
SixSixOne is primarily a BMX and skate equipment company. They have models for BMX/Downhill and skate, and for 2004 have one bicycle model as well.
- Full Comp downhill model is vented, with a polycarbonate shell and bolted on visor, retailing for $80
- Full Bravo 2: downhill model is vented, with a fiberglass shell and bolted on visor, retailing for $120.
- Full Bravo Carbon: a full-face BMX model with vents, with carbon fiber in the shell, retailing for $180.
- Bravo XC bicycle model with rear snag points and lots of vents, made by Strategic Sports. Retail is $70.
- Comp XC bicycle model, molded in the shell with pronounced rear snag points.
- Dirt Lid skate helmet is the classic round, smooth design with round vents and ABS hard shell, retailing for $20. It meets only bicycle helmet standards, not skateboard. Also comes as the Dirtlid Carbon, retailing for $80, "made from genuine carbon fiber."
- Mullet: another skate model with larger vents at $30.
Certified only to the CPSC bicycle helmet standard, not to a skateboard standard. Comes in visible white.
Smith is a supplier of skateboard protectors and other gear. Their skateboard helmet is a classic Pro-Tec style with the small round front vents, and squishy EVA foam. It is not certified to the CPSC standard, and not recommended for bicycling. Carries the Scabs brand, a name that may resonate with 'boarders. It retails for $30. We don't know what standard it may meet.
Scabs also has the Ricks Thorne Signature Pro Model, which is certified to the CPSC standard for bicycling and promoted as a BMX helmet. The two are similar, so check for the CPSC label if you want a helmet for bicycling. If you need a skateboard helmet, look for one that meets the ASTM F-1492 standard instead.
Smith Safety Gear - Scabs
This Swedish manufacturer has helmets under their Solid brand with reflective outer shells in silver, yellow, red, blue and black. The silver and yellow would probably be a lot more reflective than the blue and black, but they say all of their helmets meet the Swedish standard for reflectivity, even after ageing. The site mentions only European standards. Shell designs are well-rounded, with minimal rear snag points.
Specialized is one of the major U.S. helmet manufacturers and a supplier of a wide range of bicycles and components.
You will have to call them at 408-779-6229 to find out what Specialized's current replacement policy is.
- S1: introduced in 2002 and pitched to "road race" use. Has a full lower shell, very large vents, air channels inside and four sharply pointy rear projections providing potential snag points. Molded in the shell, the only way you could have those huge vents. Strap anchors are all recessed as you would expect in a top of the line helmet. Retail is lower this year at $120, or if that's not enough you can pay $170 for the same helmet in Mario Cipollini's colors. Bicycling Magazine awarded the S1 only three chainwheels out of five in the June, 2002, issue, saying it was light, cool and good looking, but overpriced and did not have a very secure fit.
- Telluride: Specialized's top mountain bike helmet has very large top vents to let air rise out of the helmet when the rider has very low forward speed while riding off road. This is perhaps the only adaptation we have seen to date that is actually specific to mountain biking, but we don't know if it works or not. Molded in the shell, with lots of ridges and some rear snag points. Retail is $70.
- M1: another design from 2002, molded in the shell with somewhat smaller vents than the S1 and a far better rear design that minimizes the snag points. For these improvements you pay much less than the S1, at $80 retail. Rated coolest by Consumer Reports in their 2002 article. Comes in a women's model, distinguished only by its blue color, fitting in with the other women's clothing in Specialized's line.
- Chamonix: another molded in the shell model, with some shelf effect in the rear but a somewhat rounded snag point. Comes in a women's specific color and retails for $40.
- 04 Air Wave: A 2001 redesign with a glued-on shell, moderate vents and much better-rounded rear profile than the high-end Specialized models. Still on Snell's B-90 standard list. There is a youth version, the Airwave Mega. Retail is now $30 with visor. The Airwave achieved the highest impact protection rating given by Consumer Reports in their 2002 article.
- New Air Force: Specialized's lowest-cost molded in the shell design retails for $35. It has a ring-band fit with two sizes, visor and many colors.
- Kid Cobra: Even the classic round, smooth toddler helmet has been given slightly squarer lines, but not to an extreme. Glued-on shell, decent vents, cute graphics. Comes in toddler and child sizes for $30.
- Hucker: A BMX helmet with full face protection and no vents. The retail price is $90.
- Deuce: a skate-style helmet for BMX. CPSC and Snell B-90 certification, retailing for $30.
Spiuk is a Spanish supplier of a wide range of bicycles, components and clothing. Their helmets have not yet made it to the US market. For 2004 they have one adult model, the Atom, molded in the shell with a full wrap-under shell that has two rear snag points. There is cotton bug net in the front vents. They also have a child model and the Chronos, a time trialing shell. Colors include a highly visible yellow.
We do not know anything about what standards the Spiuk products might meet.
Sportcraft (formerly Sportscope) has one basic model, introduced in mid-year 1999, but it is radically different from any other helmet in this review. Constructed of segments of foam closely connected by an inner mesh, the Sportscope helmet can conform to your head, perhaps solving some tricky fit problems. We had some initial doubts about a flexible helmet, but we have seen the test results from reputable independent labs proving that it meets the ASTM, CPSC, Canadian, Australian and European standards with no difficulty, and showing that the toddler size also meets the impact requirements for the Canadian child helmet standard, which has a lower permissible g level than U.S. standards do, requiring a "softer landing." The helmet also meets the Australian standard requirements for point loading, so the edges of the foam segments apparently do not dig into your head in an impact. We don't particularly like the ridges on the surface of the helmet between foam pieces, preferring a smoother shape for better sliding on pavement. (See Rounder, Smoother, Safer above.) And one of our testers found that the Sportscope helmet he tried seemed comfy for about 20 minutes, then began giving him a headache, evidently from pressure where the edge of one of the segments was contacting his egg-shaped head. So this one may not be for everybody, but if you have a particularly difficult-to-fit head it may be worth a try. In particular, those with a round Asian-style head who find most US-made helmets fell like they have corners inside may find that the flex of the Sportscope's segments will accommodate better to their head shape. Sportscope is one manufacturer who sews all buckles in, preventing them from coming off and sending you looking for our page on how to rethread a buckle. During 2003 the Sportscope brand was apparently sold to Sportcraft, a different company entirely despite the similarity in names. You can find the helmets on the Sportcraft Web site. There is at least one new model with "fun" battery-operated lights, but we have not seen it.
Star Helmets (formerly Zhuhai H.N.Z. Star Safety Helmets), located in Zhuhai, China, produces a number of models under the Star brand. Some are certified to the tough Snell B-95 standard, but we are unable to match the model numbers, so check the Snell list for details. Most should sell in the $10 to $20 range in the US market, with the BMX models around $65 and ski models probably in the same range.
Strategic Sports produces helmets for a number of U.S. companies with the U.S. company's brand, and have informed us that they rank among the world's largest helmet producers, with annual sales in the millions of helmets. For 2004 several of their helmets appear on Snell's list. We have comments on some models under the Action Bicycle and Odyssey brands above.
THH sends its line to the U.S. through Trans National Trading Company of Vernon, California. In China they are known as Shanghai Tung Kuang, or in Taiwan as Tung Kuang Light Industry, appearing on the Snell certification list as Tung Kuang I. Their EPS models are probably all made in China, while the EPP models would come from Taiwan. Most of their designs feature the round, smooth shapes that we prefer. Their 2004 models include:
THH (Tong Ho Hsing)
THH also produces helmets for other uses, including military, baseball, motorcycle, equestrian, skate and snow sports. They have five skate helmets on their Web site, but their classic skate helmet did not have a standards sticker in the sample we saw, so check to be sure it meets CPSC if you want to use it for bicycle riding.
- T-91: Introduced in 2003, a newer style elongated bicycle helmet. molded in the shell with an unfortunate rear snag point and external strap anchors. EPS liner. Bright colors.
- T-92: Another molded in the shell 2003 design, but with a much better-rounded rear treatment and a full wrap-under shell. External strap anchors. Unusual chunky style in both vents and visor.
- T-93: EPU foam design with some rear overhang.
- T-95: EPU foam design with a well-rounded shape.
- T-38: a nicely rounded design with moderate vents and visor. Dark colors and white. Snell B-95 certified. Retail should be about $16.
- T-37: a generally rounded but somewhat elongated design with moderate vents. Dark colors and white. Snell B-95 certified. Retail should be about $16.
- T-36: a nicely rounded design with smaller vents and visor. Dark colors and white. Snell B-95 certified. Retail should be about $12.
- T-35: a nicely rounded design with smaller vents. Dark colors and white. Snell B-95 certified. Retail should be about $12.
- T-29: toddler helmet with small vents, very round and smooth. Available in white. Snell B-95 certified. Comes in XXXXS size, fitting as small as 46 cm head. Should retail for about $10.
- T-22: Smaller vents than the T-23, single colors including white. EPU foam, visor, dial fit system. Molded in the shell. Retail about $13.
- T-21: Smaller vents, two color shells, visor. Molded in the shell. Retail should be about $12.
- T-39: BMX-style helmet with chinbar. ABS shell, bolted on visor, retail around $65.
- T-10: BMX-style helmet with chinbar that actually has EPS impact padding in it. ABS shell, bolted on visor, some nice bright red, yellow and white colors. Available in XXS to XXL. Retail is $140.
Trek supplies a wide line of bikes and accessories to dealers, and their helmet graphics are designed to complement your Trek bike. Some models have reflective panels. Their line for 2004 includes molded in the shell models made here and taped-on shell designs made for them in China.
Trek also sells a Giro! It is a Giro E2 in a team helmet graphic called the Giro E2 Trek/VW Team Helmet.
- Speed Shell Elite: A 2002 model updated this year with a molded in the shell design with moderately squared-off lines and reasonably rounded rear with a minimal snag point. It has a lower shell as well. One variation comes in a nice visible yellow. The visor is high density polyethylene. Retail is $70. Also available as the Super Fly Elite with a full wrap-under shell and presumably a higher retail.
- Interval: molded in the shell with recessed strap anchors at $60. Also available in a Woman Specific Design, meaning a pastel color and somewhat smaller size. Consumer Reports gave it a Very Good impact rating.
- Vapor II: Squared-off lines, some rear shelf projection, reflective panel and a visor for $35 retail. Available with labels: Police, Sheriff, EMT and Fire. Also available in a Woman Specific version. Retail is $40.
- Scout II: A youth helmet based on the Vapor, with the addition of anti-pinch chin pads, selling for $40.
- Little Dipper: Infant-toddler model with a taped-on shell updated in 2000 with more vents, better graphics, a soft rubber visor, an anti-pinch chin pad and a $30 price tag.
Trek has a one year free replacement policy for crashed helmets.
Troxel is a long-time producer of bicycle components that still markets some bicycle helmets under other brands, formerly producing for GT, and now known as SafeTech. We have not seen their line for 2004, but they have four models on the Web site, including toddler, youth, skate and adult models. Troxel is better known for their equestrian helmets.
Troy Lee has a BMX line known for rad graphics. Their top of the line $375 D2 Carbon model has exposed carbon fiber mesh in a sunken rear section, a style quirk that we would avoid. The $295 D2 Sprocket has a fiberglass shell with kevlar and carbon fiber reinforcements. Or if you don't want graphics you can have the D2 Tank for the same price in a plain matte. Their 2004 line features a redesigned "Orbit" visor. Troy Lee pioneered the bolted-on BMX visor, claiming that the plastic mounts pull out when the visor is snagged. Unfortunately there is no standard for testing that, and nobody will do it for you at the bike shop or bike show, either, so we regard the visors as potential snag points. The D2 fits heads from 53 to 62 cm (21 to 24.5 inches).
This German company sells a TSG skate helmet in the US similar in shape to the round and smooth classic Pro-Tec. It is advertised as certified to CPSC. It comes in 38 colors and graphics schemes, including very visible fluorescent yellow, white or orange. TSG had to recall one of their models during 2000. See our recalls page for details. Note that the company has a snowboard helmet that is very similar in appearance but has a rear goggle strap, but we don't know what standard it may be certified to, so for bicycle use be sure a TSG has a label inside that says it complies with the CPSC standard.
TSG has a matched set that includes a helmet and protective pads for skate park rental programs. To deter theft, the helmet and pads are the same unusual blue. The helmet has "Rental" woven into the strap and on a prominent decal. The pads have "rental" on them as well, and are supplied in a "super durable/washable" material. We don't see it in their current catalog, but it still appears on the Web site. We do not understand why this idea has not been developed by a bicycle helmet manufacturer, preferably with an easy-to-clean interior to prevent passing lice to the next wearer. It is possible that renters don't want a helmet that says "Rental" on it, or possible that some would steal it for the same reason!
TSG has a free crash replacement policy. Their helmets are made in Taiwan by Kar Cen.
See THH above.
Tung I Hsing
Uvex is best known for its optical products. They introduced their helmet line in the US market in late 2002. The helmets are designed and made in Germany, and all of them feature molded in the shell construction, reflective logos, nicely recessed strap anchors and front vent mesh for insect protection. For 2004 the line includes:
- Wing RS: top of the line, with a full wrap under shell, many vents and two rear snag points. The same helmet without visor but with a helmet bag is the Wing RS Phonak. Retail for either is $109.
- Supersonic RS: a more rounded design with much larger vents, advertised as "the lowest average temperature." Retails for $99.
- Boss Compact RS: a youth model with pronounced rear overhang and full wrap under shell retailing for $79.
- Cobra RS: well rounded, with a single shell that does not wrap under, selling for $59. The same helmet without visor is the Explorer 2 for $49. It comes in a visible pearl white.
- Speedy: a child helmet with molded in visor. Like all of the UVEX line, it is molded in the shell. Retail is $39.
- Cartoon: a toddler helmet, and the only one we can remember seeing this year that is molded in the shell. Fits 49 to 53 cm. heads and retails for $39.
Variflex is an importer of helmets selling mostly skate equipment, scooters and accessories through mass merchant channels such as Sears, Target, and Toys R Us. For 2004 they have a line of skate, bike and toddler helmets. We have not seen them and do not have their retail pricing. Variflex had to recall their X-Games Aggressive and some of their TSG models during 2000. See our recalls page for more information, and see TSG above.
Vigor Sports (Hong Jin Cycle Corp.) is a Korean company with a large and varied line of helmets, some made for them by other companies. They have some EPU foam helmets as well as more conventional EPS. Their models that are not molded in the shell have 3M reflective tape around the shell edge, a nice feature seldom seen in this price range. The black tape is not 3M's most reflective product, but it represents a substantial additional cost and an effort to make the helmets safer that we wish more manufacturers would adopt. See our cautionary note below about their skate helmets.
- Lightning: made of EPU foam, but the shell is taped for style anyway. Rear snag point. Retail is $40.
- X3: another EPU design, a rounded shape with some ripples but no rear snag point and elongated vents retailing for $35.
- B01: $35
- FX2: $40
Once Vigor's top of the line, made of EPU foam and molded in the shell. Has an upper and lower shell, large vents and an unfaired rear shelf. The ribs are reasonably rounded. Has external strap anchors, but they are tucked in among the ribs. Retails for $40.
- Jr. Nox / Avenger has four fewer vents than the NOX and an elongated front visor molded in, but the same rear treatment for $25. The Jr. comes in XXS, but with its elongated rear it would not be suitable for a child in a trailer unless you put a pad behind the child's back to prevent the helmet tail from pushing the child's head forward and down.
- Sequel: New in 2001, this is another EPU model, also molded in the shell, with upper and lower shell. It resembles the NOX, but has fewer vents and retails for $35.
- Tecfire: a 2002 design with very large vents and a reasonably rounded profile spoiled only by the shelf effect for the rear snag point. Molded in the shell. Has a dial fit system for the rear stabilizer. Comes in a nice bright yellow. Retail is $35.
- Viper: another 2002 design, this one has a unique 8mm curved aluminum rod running lengthwise with the ends buried in the foam but visible through the vents in the middle. We regard this as a gimmick. Otherwise it is a typical hyper-ventilated design with rear snag points, a second shell covering the lower part of the helmet and a dial fit system. Available as the mountain version with a visor or the road version without. Retails for $80 without visor and $90 with visor.
- Tyke: A toddler helmet, of course, with a very nicely rounded profile, vents, a pinch proof buckle, 3M reflective tape and an adjustable sizing ring. Comes only in xxs for 50 to 52 cm heads and retails for $25.
- Vamoose II: A downhill racing design redone in 2001 with a shell made with "Kevlar, Spectra and F.R.P." It has some vents, but they are smaller than last year's Vamoose, and has a Troy Lee-style lump in the center rear, spoiling the rounded profile. Retail is $105.
- X5: a downhill/BMX model with a fiberglass shell with vents and a bolted on visor. Retail is $85.
- Ten-Eighty (1080): A skating helmet design with the classic smooth, round exterior, round vents, polyethylene shell and an EPS liner. It is listed as a bike, snow or skate helmet, but certified only to the CPSC bicycle helmet standard. It retails for $25.
Vigor's crash replacement policy provides a replacement of the same helmet or another current one at 30 per cent off of retail cost for the lifetime of the helmet.
W Helmets (sometimes still referred to as Team Wendy) has one unique BMX/skate helmet for 2004, the Ripper 2. It has the classic smooth skate shape and small round vents. It is recommended for bicycling, skateboarding, rollerblading, skiing, mountain biking and snowboarding--but only if you buy the small or medium size. It has a hard polycarbonate shell, a round, smooth shape and minimal vents with mesh protectors. There is a model with optional vent covers for winter use. The helmet is made with a foam liner they call Zorbium, designed to flex in lighter impacts to cushion more, but stiffen up in heavy impacts to avoid bottoming out. The technical term for that is "rate sensitive foam." The foam produces a true multi-impact helmet. The W Helmets Web site says their helmets are certified to the CPSC adult and child standards as well as the ASTM F2040 standard for snow sports and the ASTM F1492 skateboard standard. But when we ordered on in size large it came with a letter saying that the large size meets only the ASTM 1492 Skateboard standard, so it does not meet the CPSC bicycle helmet standard. Worse yet, the one we received had no standards sticker of any kind inside, which to us means that it is not certified to any standard. Beware if you wear size large, but otherwise, if the heat and weight do not bother you, this is probably a versatile helmet. The four sizes are made to fit 52 cm to 60 cm (6 1/2 to 7 1/2 US size) heads. There is a dial fit system. Weight is supposed to be 500 to 550 grams (heavy for a bicycle helmet) but our large sample actually weighed 670 grams, or about a pound and a half. Retail price is $79 for the adult model and $69 for the youth model, about half of the original introductory price. Available on the W Helmets Web site, although the letter we received said it was a discontinued model.
World Industries is a skateboard company with a line of skateboard helmets that are certified to the CPSC bicycle helmet standard. Models include the
Skullbo, Rockstar, Battle Helmet, Black Metal Helmet and Heavy Metal Helmet. The helmets they sold from October, 2000 to May 2001 were recalled. We have a page up with the details.
See Golex above.
This Chinese manufacturer (Zhuhai Hindun Safety Helmets, also Zhu Hai Safety Helmet Manufacture Co. Ltd and Zhuhai USA Safety) has an extensive line of bicycle and BMX helmets. Most are sold by others as house brands, including some of the best-known in the US, with others labeled with the Caluk or T-Star brand. Their numerous adult, youth and toddler models feature both nicely-rounded and sharply-edged shells. Some are molded in the shell, and some have lower shells. Their Series 08 model is on Snell's B-95 bicycle helmet standard list. One of their helmets made for Bell was recalled for a strap anchor problem in 1995, but there have been no further recalls of their products. Sizing runs from 49cm/19.3 inches for the smallest to 64cm/25.2 inches for the large. Zhuhai Safety helmets are provided at low prices for helmet promotion programs through Helmets R Us (above).
See Star Helmets above.
Zhuhai Star Safety
This article is frequently updated during the model year.
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