Helmet Test: Bern v. Nutcase

By T.C. WORLEY

I have two young and active boys, and part of my fatherly duty is to see that they keep their stunts reasonable and safe. This spring, I was tasked to search for multi-use helmets for the boys. We wanted helmets that would not only keep their noggins protected, but would also be cool enough that they would want to wear ‘em while riding at bike races or with friends in the alley behind our house.

Our local bike shop carried two brands — Nutcase and Bern — which both offer hard-shell, multi-purpose helmets. Both also offer many choices of color, design and size. I let my boys make their own choices and they each picked a different brand.

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Nutcase and Bern helmets

My older son, Jack, beginning to think about his image and things being “cool,” chose the Bern Watts model, which sells for $60. I’ve got to agree with him, this helmet does look cool. With a built-in hard visor and edgy styling, it adds a little fashion to the function. Offered in 10 colors, plus a carbon-fiber shell, there’s a look for almost everyone.

But looks aside, the Watts offers a lot of versatility, too. EPS foam is tapered to allow the helmet to fit low but protect where most necessary. Out-of-the-box fit was great, and ratcheting adjusters in the back allow quick fine-tuning. Padding is well made and snapped in for easy, one-piece removal — nice when it’s time to wash. An optional winter liner is available with or without built-in speakers for your mp3 player. (Liners cost $25 for basic and $40 with speakers.)

Bern_01.jpg

Bern’s Watts

My only hang-up with the Bern is the poor venting. For more active summer rides, this is not an ideal design. Casual bike rides or skateboarding is fine. But for high-output sports, more vents would be best.

To sum it up, the Watts is a hit. It looks good, it’s well designed, and its multi-use nature will let Jack wear the Watts for several different sports and across all four seasons.

Boone, my younger son, picked out a Nutcase helmet in the “Superstar” motif, complete with Evel Knievel stripes, for $50. The Street/Skate model is available in a staggering 29 color/pattern choices. Nutcase helmets are definitely a statement on your head, with designs in classic, retro, cute or tough patterns.

The Nutcase was slightly lighter and offers one extra vent over the Bern. Perhaps more importantly, two of those vents are on the front, promoting more airflow through the helmet. The EPS foam’s thickness is pretty uniform, and the padding — two sets included — is basic foam shapes Velcro-ed throughout. Winter versions of the same helmets are available, but no conversions are offered for the street/skate model. The shape is more round and reminiscent of the classic Pro-Tech helmets.

Nutcase_01.jpg

Nutcase with Superstar graphics

The Nutcase isn’t a great hot weather helmet either, but with more vents it is better than the Bern. Its fit on the head is less adjustable, with only different-sized foam inserts to tailor fit. Strap material is a little too stiff and “scratchy” as my son would put it. Overall, the Nutcase is a more simple design, lacking the refined touches of the Bern.

For kids or adults, these helmets will easily meet priority No. 1 of keeping heads safe. While either the Nutcase or the Bern is a good choice, the Bern is tough to top with the extra options and a better fit. Its winter-use design really ups the bargain factor, too. For both helmets, since my sons like the looks, they actually want to wear the hard hats — a huge plus and a headache saved each time we head outside ready to play.

—T.C. Worley

Posted by Rob Brewer - 08/23/2010 12:24 PM

I got a Nutcase helmet for my daughter last year (1.5 years old at the time) and it is adjustable enough to fit this year too. We always get great comments on the design (pink stars) and she loves wearing it, whether to ride with me or on her trike. I like the fit and that it seems like it offers adequate protection.

Posted by Brigitte Chasco - 08/24/2010 10:29 AM

I got a Bern Nino for my 3 year old and he loves the bright blue with the black stripes…and I got him matching kneepads from Bern as well. I love the fact that I can snap in a winter kit and he can use it for fall biking and snowboarding with his uncle!! Best fit and value out there! The little adjuster on the back keeps the fit perfect as his head grows!!! Thanks Bern!!!!!

Posted by Dakota Dux - 08/26/2010 01:51 PM

I think the Bern’s are super stylish but always worry if you need to worry about the visor adding extra ‘neck-snappage’ if one were to fall forward on their face? I know you can’t wear visors in alpine events because they cause problems. Are these helmets with the visors any safer?

Posted by T.C. Worley - 08/27/2010 10:39 AM

I’m certainly not certified to answer that question, Dakota Dux. I will say though that Bern offers similar models with a soft visor – like a ball cap. My son just preferred the “WATTS” model.

Posted by J.M. Fisher - 10/27/2010 09:55 AM

Why would one worry about “neck-snappage”, it is after all a safety device.

Posted by Dan - 03/19/2012 12:09 AM

Dont buy a nutcase ski helmet if your head is big because the straps are to small, the helmet rides back on your head, also the helmet is hot and needs more vents. Its a kids helmet and the quality of the padding is cheep. made in China

Posted by Simon - 03/27/2013 11:52 PM

I got hit by a cab wearing a Bell Faction Multisport Helmet similar in design than the Nutcase, on impact i slid on the hood and almost entered the Cab trough the Windshield headfirst its a good thing he had laminated glass the driver was speechless and trafic was paralysed when they all saw me get back on my feet and chat with the driver i swear by the design and know that riders will survive a + 65 km hit. Buy Nutcase for you, your loved ones, new and regular commuters !

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