Nutcase, Bern helmets receive “poor” impact rating from Consumer Reports

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 31st, 2012

Source: BikePortland

These models from Nutcase (L) and Bern (R) were rated “poor” by Consumer Reports.

Two helmets that are very popular on the streets of Portland have been given low scores — including a “poor” rating in impact absorption — in a recent test published by Consumer Reports.

The Street Sport 8 Ball from Portland-based Nutcase and the Brighton Thin Shell EPS fromBern came in well behind the seven other adult helmets in the test. The Nutcase model received a total score of 14 out of 100, while the Bern got a 13. These two helmets were the only ones in the test (which also looked at four youth helmets) to receive a “poor” rating in the “impact absorption” category. The Echelon model by Specialized finished on top with 73 points.

To test the helmets, Consumer Reports used, “an apparatus that drops them at about 11 or 14 mph onto differently shaped anvils.” A tester told ABC TV that, “The impact test simulates what happens when a helmet impacts different surfaces, like a flat surface like a street, a rounded triangle like a curb, and a hemispherical surface, which simulates hitting a rock.” According to their website (which is behind a paywall that I paid to get over to write this article), they also used an electronic sensor inside a dummy metal head to detect, “how much force would be transmitted to a rider’s head in an accident.”

Here’s more about their test:

“All but two models absorbed the force of impact within the limit set by the current Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standard. The two… slightly exceeded that limit in at least two out of three drops. We have judged them Poor for impact absorption in our Ratings.”

And here are all the rankings:

Nutcase Rankings Graph

Nutcase is based in southeast Portland and it’s hard to go anywhere around here without seeing one of them. We asked the company for a response to these rankings. They said the review is “concerning” and that they are “proactively evaluating” the results. To learn more, Nutcase has requested a full report of the test protocols used by Consumer Reports.

“Because we cannot verify that Consumer Reports internal lab is CPSC certified, we also cannot verify nor discount the methodologies used in the Consumer Reports testing.”
Nutcase statement

“Because we cannot verify that Consumer Reports internal lab is CPSC certified,” the statement says, “we also cannot verify nor discount the methodologies used in the Consumer Reports testing.”

Nutcase says they put their helmets through “rigorous safety checks” at various steps in the manufacturing process to ensure they meet CPSC standards (including tests by an independent, third party).

Nutcase also came under fire back in July after the Danish Consumer Council gave one of their helmets a failing grade and said, “Nutcase is putting cyclists’ safety on the line when they choose to keep their helmets on the market.” That statement was picked up by popular (and very anti-helmet) blog Copenhagenize and it caused quite a stir in Denmark. Michael Morrow, Nutcase’s founder, said at the time that he was very surprised at those findings. When he asked repeatedly to see the lab reports from the Danish Consumer Council in order to understand more about their results, Morrow says they ignored him.

This all adds up to bad publicity for Nutcase; and Morrow has reason to be concerned about these tests due to the potential impact on his valuable corporate brand. Without understanding materials science and being able to decipher the raw data and procedures behind the tests, it’s hard to fully understand why one helmet model performed poorly while others did well.

It’s also worth noting that the Nutcase and Bern are very different types of helmets than the others in the test. They are urban helmets with thick shells and relatively few vents. The top-rated Specialized, on the other hand, is more of a racing-style helmet with many vents. Was the same impact test used for both helmets? Perhaps the Specialized stands up well to high-impacts (like you’d experience in racing) and is less durable over time, while the Nutcase does better on less severe impacts (that you’re more likely to experience around town), but will last longer.

What do you think? Does this Consumer Reports test cause you concern?


Bern Brentwood (Cobalt color)

Giro Reverb (Highlite Yellow Color)

I found this article when looking for a comparison between the Bern Brentwood and the Giro Reverb. Sometime last fall I was replacing a Giro helmet that had been around for several years and discovered the Reverb model.

The one I bought was black and red in color and works quite well. Like the Bern products these sport a cloth visor insert which is something of an improvement over the standard plastic visors on most Giro helmets. You can wash it easy and it can be removed when you do not wish to have it.

As with all Giro helmets that I have tried, they fit my overlarge head. Other helmets are not quite so roomy and aside from one Bell Citi helmet all my helmets are Giro products.

My wife Connie did not particularly care for the styling on the rounder helmets. But she asked me if they were warmer and I thought about it and said yes. They have a bit less ventilation than do the road style helmets. So she went in search of a Giro and discovered that the small size was too small and the medium size too large.

So she decided to take a look at the Bern Brentwood and found it just right. But she wanted a liner for the helmet that you had to order special from an online business, so she did. When it arrived she tried it on and liked it alot.

It was decided that if I were to purchase a second urban style helmet it would also be a Bern. So we ordered one along with two of the winter inserts. When it arrived I tried on the helmet and found it a tight fit with the standard visor insert. With the winter insert it was far too tight to be ridden in comfortably.

Should I keep it? I decided to return it and get another Giro Reverb. This time however I decided that a Goretex skullcap would be in order to provide some of the same warmth benefits afforded by the Bern helmet winter insert. This was just the thing to make the Giro Reverb as warm as the Bern Brentwood with winter insert.

The big improvement here was that the Giro Reverb with Goretex skullcap let me keep the visor and gain additional warmth. The Bern Brentwood winter insert was visor-less.

So Connie rethought her Bern Brentwood purchase and went back to try on the slightly too large Giro Reverb over the same insert. Voila! We returned the Bern helmet and inserts for her and are happy.

One little point about these two helmets. The Giro Reverb is far lighter in weight than the Bern Brentwood. This is not something you can ascertain easily from a visual inspection. But when you heft the two side-by-side the Giro Reverb wins, hands down. Now it should be noted that we ride Easy Racers Tour Easy bikes and our position on these bikes is much like that when seated in our Toyota Sienna mini-van. But on an upright bicycle where the head is out front of the neck, the reduced weight of these helmets is a blessing.

Just something to think about.