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Consumer Reports pans three helmets as unsafe: from Bontrager, Morpher and Woom

Published July 2, 2019
UPDATED with statement from Woom founder.

YONKERS, N.Y. (BRAIN) — Consumer Reports has rated three helmets as unsafe in its latest helmet test editorial package. For varying reasons, the independent, nonprofit member organization said helmets from Bontrager, Morpher and Woom failed its tests and are rated as "Don't Buy-Safety Risk."

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CR was able to break the buckle on two samples of the Bontrager Ballista MIPS model in its tests. The CR test applies a weight to the helmet straps to tug on the buckle. 

Without an intact buckle, "there’s nothing to keep a helmet on your head," CR's Peter Anzalone says in the article. Anzalone is senior test project leader for bicycle helmets at CR. “If that happens in a crash, the helmet can become displaced or come off so that if there is any subsequent impact, you’re not protected.”

A video, below, shows how CR tests helmets.

Trek spokesman Eric Bjorling said the company was unable to replicate the CR test results and "categorically disagrees" with CR's findings.

Bjorling told BRAIN the $199 helmet model has been on the market for two years, passed multiple certification and independent laboratory tests without a single buckle failure. The helmet also was rated the safest helmet in a Virginia Tech test last year. 

"We have reached out to CR to sit down and help them to refine their testing and hope to meet with them in the near future," Bjorling said. 

In a statement sent to CR and shared with BRAIN, Bjorling said:

"Independent lab testing conducted after Consumer Reports’ notified Trek has been unable to replicate Consumer Reports’ findings. The Bontrager Ballista MIPS has been on the market in the United States for over two years with over 6,000 sold without a single consumer claim of buckle failure and was the #1 tested helmet by Virginia Tech University in their 2018 bicycle helmet ratings. All Bontrager helmets are rigorously tested at certified test facilities and pass all domestic and foreign federal safety requirements. As certified laboratories have been unable to replicate Consumer Reports’ findings, we believe that they are not indicative of the performance or safety or the Ballista MIPS helmet. Regardless, we have reported Consumer Reports’ findings to the CPSC and will work with them on anything further they require. Though we categorically disagree with their findings, we appreciate Consumer Reports reaching out to us."

The Morpher Flat Folding helmet and the Woom Kids helmet failed CR's impact absorption tests, which CR said it had not seen since 2006. Both helmets have passed all required U.S. safety tests.

Woom told CR it had decided to stop sales of the helmet in the U.S. and Canada because of the CR tests. Woom is an Austrian youth bike brand that opened a U.S. office in Austin, Texas, in 2014.

"The test results were just published yesterday and I take any safety related issues very seriously," Mathias Ihlenfeld, the owner and CEO of Woom USA said in a statement to BRAIN. "I am very surprised about the test findings since all helmets had passed all regulatory safety tests at an accredited independent test lab in 2018 very successfully before we launched them in the U.S. We have had no incidents with or complaints about the helmet. Based on the test results of the publication, I have temporarily stopped selling the full-size range of helmets in the U.S. I am working with our team to gather more facts and information about the reviews and the potential issues. 

The happiness and safety of children are at the heart of our mission, and we are devoted to earning the trust of all parents, friends and relatives in the extended Woom family.” 
 
Morpher's founder Jeff Woolf told BRAIN that he considers the CR report "fake news" and questioned whether the publication's in-house testing should be given more weight than the multiple national standards that his helmets have been certified to pass.

Morpher is a UK brand that is in the process of setting up U.S. distribution. Its helmet, featured in BRAIN's New Product area this spring, folds for compact storage. 

BRAIN interviewed CR's lab engineer and head of testing on Wednesday and will publish an updated article soon with more of Woolf's concerns and CR's response. 

More here: consumerreports.org/bike-helmets/three-bike-helmets-fail-consumer-reports-safety-tests.

Consumer Reports also published an article about uncertified helmets available in the U.S.

It said it was able to purchase 13 helmet models recently, from Amazon.com, Sears.com, Aliexpress.com and LightInTheBox.com. All the helmets lacked labels indicating they had passed U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission certification, although some of them had labels indicating they passed European standards. CR said all retailers agreed to remove the helmets from sale after CR brought them to their attention.

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