Local News

Consumer Reports Tests Top Bike Helmets, Protection Pads

Posted July 8, 2002 5:22 a.m. EDT

— When you wreck on your bike, the one thing you want between your head and the pavement is a helmet.

Biker Harry Lewis believes a helmet may have saved his life when he got hit by a car.

"I noticed the front of my helmet had a big dent from where I hit the ground. On the side there were two cracks, and I realized if it hadn't been for the helmet that would have been my head," Lewis said.

Consumer Reports

tested 20 bicycle helmets to see which ones protect your head best. All bike helmets must meet a government standard for impact absorption.

Consumer Reports

tested to see which helmets offer added protection, simulating impacts of up to 18 miles per hour.

Helmets were next tested for airflow in a wind tunnel. It used to be that you had to spend a lot of money to keep your head cool, but now even inexpensive helmets offer plenty of ventilation, according to

Consumer Reports


Consumer Reports

said to keep in mind that wearing a helmet correctly is critical. Many people wear helmets back on their head, exposing their forehead. A helmet should be worn level, covering that area.

When the tests were done,

Consumer Reports

found two best buys. For adults, the $40 Trek Vapor combines good protection and ventilation. For children,

Consumer Reports

rated the $30 Specialized Air Wave Mega the best.

Consumer Reports

suggested that you should always try on a helmet to get a good fit because they come in different shapes and sizes. For the best protection, get the smallest size that fits comfortably.

Sports-related injuries send more than 2.5 million kids to the emergency room every year.

In North Carolina, it is against the law for anyone younger than 16 to ride without a helmet. Wearing protective padding is another way to reduce the risk of getting hurt.

Besides your head, your knees, elbows, and wrists need protection.

Consumer Reports

tested seven different protective padding sets that cost from $18-65 with padding from 1/4 inch to an inch thick.

The first test is for shock absorption. All sets did well in a five mile per hour crash, then the drop height was increased, simulating falls at higher speeds.

"As the speeds increased, you start to see major differences in how the padding protects you," says Tom Mutchler.

Thicker padding usually offers better protection. Design is also important.

"Pads with an elastic sleeve will stay over your joint better if you have a crash," Mutchler says.

Testers found a good, complete set of gear does not have to be expensive. They say two good values are Bone Shieldz Elite and Rollerblade Bladegear LX. Both did well in tests, cost $30 each, and have thick padding that offers strong shock absorption.

Regularly used padding should be hand washed frequently and thoroughly air-dried so it stays clean and does not fall apart.

©2002 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. All rights reserved.