Pro-Tec says it will recall its City Lite bike helmet after Consumer Reports notified the company of failures found during one of CR's routine tests. Since the helmet may still be available for sale for a short time while the recall is being finalized, we’ve rated it a Don’t Buy: Safety Risk.

The company’s swift response is critical, since a functioning helmet is the best way cyclists can protect themselves from head injuries—especially potentially fatal ones. But a helmet can only provide suitable protection if it works as designed.

The Pro-Tec City Lite’s helmet retention system—the chin straps and buckle that should keep the helmet securely on your head in the event of an accident—failed to work properly in three out of the four City Lite helmets we tested. In one case, the buckle broke; in two others, a strap detached from the body of the helmet.

That kind of failure can cause the helmet to come off of your head or get pushed out of position during an accident, explains John Galeotafiore, Consumer Reports’ Associate Director of Product Testing. “If the helmet is not in the right place,” he says, “it’s not going to work.”

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has a standard to evaluate the strength and holding power of the bike helmet chin strap. Consumer Reports’ chin strap test is modeled after, but not identical to, the CPSC's standard. We use a weight to tug at the retention system, simulating what might happen during an accident.

Consumer Reports puts every helmet through the same series of tests. Of the 21 helmets we evaluated this year, the Pro-Tec City Lite helmet was the only one that failed our chin strap strength test.

“It’s not something we see often,” says Galeotafiore.

As is our practice when we discover a safety risk during product testing, we notify the appropriate agency, in this case the CPSC, along with the manufacturer. We are not aware of any injuries related to chin strap performance on the Pro-Tec City Lite helmet and have not found mentions of problems with this particular chin strap in user reviews on various websites or on the CPSC's SaferProducts.gov website

Pro-Tec Takes Action

Because of our test results and the results of the company’s additional internal testing, which confirmed the problem, Pro-Tec intends to recall the City Lite helmet. According to a statement provided to Consumer Reports, the company “will coordinate with the U.S. CPSC on a recall, and will work with them on an appropriate remedy.”

It could take up to several weeks for the recall to be finalized as Pro-Tec works with the CPSC to determine a remedy and communicate the company’s plans to retailers and customers. This is all part of a comprehensive process designed to protect consumers from potentially unsafe products.

“Providing safe products is Pro-Tec’s highest priority,” the company said in its statement.

Bottom line: Wearing a helmet when you’re riding a bike is essential. If you already own a Pro-Tec City Lite helmet, you should replace it as soon as possible and continue to use it only if you do not have access to another helmet and need to ride your bike.

At CR we believe using this helmet despite its flaws is better than riding without any helmet. Pro-Tec, however, told us that while the company implements the recall, it will advise consumers not to use the helmet at all, citing previous CPSC guidance. Consumers who own a City Lite helmet should also contact Pro-Tec at 562-484-6338, a company spokesperson told us, adding that “Pro-Tec will then get back in touch with those customers once the recall details are finalized.” 

In our latest bicycle helmet ratings, we recommend 15 helmets for adults. The two that got the highest scores are the Scott Arx Plus ($125) and the Cannondale Quick ($40). Our updated helmet ratings will be released this summer.