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Ride a bike? These helmets protect your head better than others

Dramatic difference in bike helmet protection
Dramatic difference in bike helmet protection 01:40

Commuting on two wheels has lots of health benefits, including a lowered risk of heart disease and cancer.  But sharing the road with cars, trucks and buses can be risky, with a growing number of bicyclists dying each year in crashes with motor vehicles, and many of those riders going without helmets.

More than half of the 835 cyclists killed in crashes in 2016 were not wearing a helmet, which cuts the odds of a head injury by half, experts say. That said, not all helmets offer equal protection from the brain jostling that can occur in accidents involving bike riders and motorists.

"Better helmet design is one of the tools that can be used to address the increasing number of cycling injuries," David Zuby, chief research officer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and frequent bike commuter, said in a recent release.

Bike helmets are required by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to pass limited tests. But those test fall short in not reflecting what really occurs in bicycle crashes, according to researchers at Virginia Tech and the IIHS, which collaborated on recently released safety ratings. 

New tests show some bike helmets protect heads better than others by IIHS on YouTube

Building on a system developed during years of evaluating sports headgear for football, hockey and soccer, the first 30 helmets tested -- all popular adult-size models and ranging in price from $75 to $200 -- showed a range of performance. Cost proved to be a poor indicator of what would off the best protection. 

"It's a safety product and if you're paying more money, you would expect that helmet to do better. That's not what we saw," Steve Rowson, director of the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab and a professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics, told CBS News.

Of the helmets tested, four rated as the best available, two were deemed adequate and the remaining 24 listed in between. Here's the rundown, with helmets listed from best to worst within rating categories.

Best Available

  • Bontrager Ballista MIPS
  • Garneau Raid MIPS
  • Bell Stratus MIPS
  • Specialized Chamonix MIPS

Very Good

  • Scott ARX Plus MIPS
  • Bontrager Quantum MIPS
  • Specialized Prevail II
  • Smith Overtake
  • Giro Savant
  • Bell Draft MIPS
  • POC Octal
  • Giro Foray MIPS
  • Giro Synthe
  • Giro Sutton MIPS
  • Specialized Evade II
  • Garneau Le Tour II


  • Triple 8 Dual Certified MIPS
  • Bell Reflex
  • Bontrager Solstice
  • Bern Brentwood
  • Bell Division
  • Schwinn Thrasher
  • Giro Revel
  • Schwinn Flash
  • Kali City
  • Nutcase Street
  • Specialized Centro
  • Bontrager Electra


  • Lazer Genesis
  • Bern Watts

No helmets were rated Marginal or Not Recommended.

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