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

Posted by on May 31st, 2012 at 11:49 am

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 from Bern 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 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?

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • BURR May 31, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Bern makes at least two or three different styles of helmets, with different shells and linings. It’s not completely clear which type was tested or why they didn’t test all styles.

    The Bern hardhat style has a thick outer shell and a soft foam liner, the Bern EPS style has a thin shell liner and a hard foam liner molded to the shell.

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    • BURR May 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      The ‘zip mold’ style is the third Bern style.

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      • Scott May 31, 2012 at 5:39 pm

        The thing about impact rating is that the shell’s main job is to protect the foam in an exoskeleton type of way and the foam is what decellerates and cushions against imapact. That is why “road” helmet are bulbous and dorky looking. I look terrible in most road helmets, but I respect the science of impact absorbtion that is put into them. I went head first into asphalt at 30+ mph wearing a Giro Atmos and took the entire impact with my head and shoulder. Collarbone broken in three places and a concussion that had symptoms for a whole month and not a single scratch on my bike except for a knick in the bar tape. I would be dead if not for that impact foam. The foam on “commuter” style helmets never looked thick enough to me.

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    • Jeff October 2, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      i saw a youtube video, it was the bern brighton that was tested

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  • Don May 31, 2012 at 11:56 am

    “They said the review is “concerning” and that they are “proactively evaluating” the results.”

    How do you “proactively evaluate” a review that has already happened? I’m not even trying to be pedantic here. That word choice makes no sense at all unless they have a time machine.

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    • tim May 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      For alternative usage of “proactive,” search this script: . E.g., “I know I can come off a little proactive, and for that I’m sorry.”

      When people ask me the safest helmet (and they do), I say “the one that doesn’t make you feel safer.”

      At least we know it’s the 8-Ball design to avoid, and not the dozens of other fresh looks in the Sport lineup.

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      • Jake May 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm

        dissing my helmet, bro?

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    • oskarbaanks June 1, 2012 at 1:22 pm

      Pedantic, I love that word!

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  • Reza May 31, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Ouch, my Giro Reverb helmet only scored a 38 (Fair) rating. Eh…I have never had a problem with ventilation and the Medium size fits my head nice and snug. My only drawback with it is that the holes aren’t large enough for me to lock my helmet to my bike.

    I think as long as I find a size that fits my head, fitted helmets work better for me.

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    • Spiffy May 31, 2012 at 1:31 pm

      I lock through the ear-triangle… if somebody wants to damage the helmet straps to steal it then they have a lot more time and nylon strapping than I do…

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    • are May 31, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      someone makes a cleat for that, which is what i use, but i cannot think where it came from. drop the cleat through the vent, run the u-lock through the cleat.

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      • Dave (in Colorado Springs) June 1, 2012 at 6:29 am

        You could use one of those stopper nuts the climbers use…slide that through vent, and slide the lock through the wire. The nut part locks it to helmet…like $10 or so at REI or your local climbing store

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  • John R. May 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    “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.”

    Or, perhaps he should be concerned because he is putting a potentially dangerous product out on the streets? Huge props for local biz, but this reads a bit like you’re making excuses for Nutcase.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm


      If Nutcase is indeed putting an unsafe product on the streets (a fact that isn’t proven conclusively by a Consumer Reports test), than their brand and bottom line will suffer. But yes, I agree w/ you that an unsafe product is a much bigger concern than an erosion of brand value.

      But I disagree completely with your last sentence. How is it that my story in any way is “making excuses” for Nutcase?

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      • Zac May 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm

        “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.”

        sounds like a search for an excuse. The testing was obviously done at less severe impact levels. 11 – 14 MPH does not result in what I would call “high-impacts” in the bike world. Racing speed is a few times that, and the kinetic energy carried in your head (that dissipates as deformation when it meets an anvil) increases as velocity squared.

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        • John R. May 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm

          What Zac said. And your question at the end. The test should cause concern, full stop. The fact that the Danish Safety Council also questioned the safety of the helmet should raise plenty of red flags. We can criticize Consumer Reports all we want (and much of it is fair), but it sounds like people not wanting to hear bad information about a beloved product/company.

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          • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 31, 2012 at 1:52 pm

            OK. I hear you John. I still don’t fully agree with you though.

            And you have to admit it’s sort of funny to insinuate I am part of, “People not wanting to hear bad information about a beloved product/company,” when I just published a story detailing Nutcase’s poor safety ratings in two separate tests.

            Also, you are interpreting my last sentence the way you want to. I merely wanted to know if the test caused anyone to be concerned about their helmets… It’s not aimed at concern about Consumer Reports.

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            • matt picio June 4, 2012 at 8:43 pm

              Speculation frequently comes across as partisanship. I don’t think most of your readership believes that you’re being deliberately partisan here, but it *can* be read that way, and some of your readers *will* read it that way. Casual readers of the site may not be aware of the prior stories and draw conclusions purely from the story at hand.

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        • wsbob May 31, 2012 at 3:18 pm

          I can’t figure what durability in helmet design is being referred to in the bikeportland story. Maybe certain helmet shell finishes more inclined than others to get scuffed up? Straps or buckles breaking?

          Budget and expensive ones alike, bike helmets apparently are almost all similarly ‘durable’ in terms of the foam liner they use. People crashing with one, banging their head into the liner and compressing the foam in the contacted spot in the liner…they’re supposed to replace it. Whether they do replace them or not after they’ve become crashed, old and scraggly is another question.

          Obviously though, some people love the weathered look. A super durable outer helmet shell might mean that after an impact or multiple impacts, it could be structurally and cosmetically fine while the liner is compressed and no longer capable of CPSC standards. Helmet manufacturers whose helmet shells are especially durable might have a market in simply offering replacement liners.

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      • Dude June 4, 2012 at 11:44 pm

        I will agree with Jonathan on this one, I believe his article was un-biased.

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    • Nick May 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm

      Clearly Nutcase performs testing of their own, and based on those tests, they are confident in the performance of their products. Accordingly, they would want to figure out why CR’s tests results are so different from their own. Helmet safety cannot simply be distilled down to a single number, and I think it’s premature to lambaste Nutcase based on one rating from a for-profit magazine.

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      • Mark Wheeler
        Mark Wheeler May 31, 2012 at 1:45 pm

        Actually Consumer Reports is published by a non profit.

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        • 9watts May 31, 2012 at 3:19 pm

          I’m not sure I follow your point. Consumer Reports is published by a nonprofit, but their testing going back to 1936 includes some interesting twists and turns. I do not question their much ballyhooed independence from individual corporations whose products they test, but I have discovered that they exhibit a variety of other bias and have frequently reversed themselves when it comes to product categories, technical change, user habits, target audience social class, and a long list of other subtle and not so subtle opinion.

          Their project is to sell magazines and focus their audience’s attention on increasingly minute product differences, whether those differences are meaningful (to safety, environment, usability) or not.

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          • rafe June 17, 2014 at 8:06 pm

            They are non-profit .Ralph Nader was the founder. Years ago the magazine reported that an air cleaner by Sharper Image was not healthful because of the ozone it emited. They were sued by Sharper Image and won the suit. I venture Nutcase won’t be suing.

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            • GlowBoy June 18, 2014 at 12:34 pm

              Consumer Reports had already been around for a few years when Ralph Nader was born in 1934.

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      • John Lascurettes May 31, 2012 at 7:04 pm

        Not to defend CR too much, because I unsubscribed long ago because I found their content worthless, spotty and unreliable in areas where I knew better (technology); but the tests as described in this article are far more thorough and “real world” than the tests that certify you for the safety sticker that goes on most helmets. But I agree with Nutcase too in that they should be allowed to fully examine the testing data and publish a reply.

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  • Schrauf May 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Another aspect apparently not rated is helmet shape, and the resulting increase to torsional neck injuries. All helmets generally increase injuries caused by neck twisting, compared to the bare head. Of course in general the other ways in which helmets reduce injury often more than offset how they increase injury. Racing helmets are usually the worst for torsion, given the alien shapes that “catch” on the ground even more than rounder urban helmets. But the lack of inclusion of this factor implies Consumer Reports does not know much about what they are doing.

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  • Tony May 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    I currently have a Nutcase, which I like, and was considering getting another one. I am concerned by this rating, which I saw in the print magazine yesterday. I have read that the harder shell can be better if you slide on asphalt, since it is less likely to catch and cause twisting of the neck.

    That said, I will relay an anecdote. I wrote to Nutcase many months ago about a safety question concerning my helmet. I never got a reply… take that as you will.

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  • 9watts May 31, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    “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.”

    I think this may turn out to be key. Just to offer another example (which may or may not bear on these helmet tests). Consumer Reports used to test toilets. Their test method was ridiculous, so far from anything one could have argued to be real-world it was hilarious. Then along came some clever Canadians and developed a realistic test protocol about ten years ago. Lo and behold, their rankings came out very different than Consumer Reports. As far as I know Consumer Reports never tried their silly tests on toilets again.

    Getting the test protocols right is critical. It is hard to overemphasize this.

    Here’s a link to the much improved test protocols for toilets:

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    • BURR May 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm

      I’ve read silly reports in CR about bikes, cars, appliances and all sorts of stuff; sometimes their testing procedures seem logical, but other times they seem quite absurd.

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      • Rob May 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm

        I agree. Years ago, when I worked in a bike shop, CR did a review of mountain bikes. The bike they chose as the best (and one that our shop sold) was a real POC. On the flip side, they rated a good bike as “unacceptable” because they said the front brakes tended to lock up. It turns out the brakes were Shimano cantilevers and were on just about every other tested bike – the CR mechanic apparently just didn’t know how to adjust them correctly.

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  • Bikesalot May 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    @Schrauf: As I recall, the prior CU report on bike helmets DID discuss the shape and torsion issues. At that time, the Bell Citi helmet came out with a very good rating, partly due to the rounded shape, and is the one I have been using ever since.

    I suspect that the budget for conducting tests has a lot to do with the breadth of selection in any given report.

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  • Slammy May 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    never understood the appeal of “skate” helmets on bikes… Nutcase seems like a dodgy company. just bright designs on overseas OEM stuff? somebody please prove me wrong. Where’s the r&d? are they just like SkullCandy?

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    • BURR May 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm

      plenty of people don’t understand the appeal of ‘bike dork’ helmets to cyclists, either….

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  • Rian Murnen May 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Its worth considering that Consumer Reports has itself fallen under increased criticism in recent years due to a trend towards linkbaiting (sensationalism in search of pageviews). One recent example is their review of the new iPad (iPad 3), or prior to that the iPhone attenuation issue.

    Its interesting that the DCC was also critical of the helmets, but since they were unwilling to release their detailed methodology or data, I’m reluctant to view their report as confirmation.

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    • spare_wheel May 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm

      it seems to me that CR’s negative critiques of the iphone and ipad were evidence of integrity. especially since their findings echoed complaints of users that both apple and the corporate-owned media had largely ignored.

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      • John Lascurettes May 31, 2012 at 7:12 pm

        That corporate media largely ignored? Ha! Hardly. One could not get away from “antennagate”, an issue so blown out of proportion it was completely laughable. Still, Apple gave away free cases just to get people to shut up about it. Then they stopped giving them away. Why? Because it wasn’t really a problem, but the whiners had shut up. That CR made as big of a deal about it was absurd when it was shown that every single popular phone on the market could suffer antenna attenuation when held certain ways.

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        • Middle of What Road? June 2, 2012 at 4:07 pm

          …AND you were using AT&T ; )

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  • Zach May 31, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Jonathan –

    “. . . while the Nutcase does better on less severe impacts (that you’re more likely to experience around town), but will last longer.”

    Please tell me you’re joking. A bicycle helmet should be replaced after ANY IMPACT. They soak up crash energy (f off, physicists) by permanently crushing and deforming the foam.

    You ought to add a disclaimer or remove this sentence from the post. It’s a) not true and b) terrible safety advice.

    And as far as the “neck torque” some are talking about is concerned, show me the data. I mean, it makes intuitive sense – but, still, show me the data. Or, don’t, because we all know it does’t exist. Until it does, please express your opinions as opinions, instead of as facts. It’ll actually make you more credible.

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    • wsbob May 31, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      “…And as far as the “neck torque” …” Zach

      Related to helmet shape…round as opposed to elongated, is what you’re referring to I expect.

      The difference in potential neck torque arising from round helmet shell design compared to varying degrees of elongation used in certain helmet shell designs is probably intuitive to most people. How significant the difference might be probably depends a lot on the degree of elongation present in the helmet shell’s design.

      Helmet manufacturers designing for the mass market to capture buyer’s interest, rather than a round helmet shell, have seemed to want to go for a slightly elongated helmet shell to get some streamlining effect. Doesn’t seem like the modest elongation used in most of those type helmets would be much of a factor in neck torque. Then there’s the extremely elongated time trial helmets, which only people that race probably wear.

      At any rate, Bern and Nutcase have got the round helmet shell, so they’re o.k. on that count.

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      • Zach May 31, 2012 at 1:34 pm

        Yeah, like I said, the argument makes sense. Lots of things that make sense turn out not to be true. I’d just like to see some data.

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        • wsbob May 31, 2012 at 3:53 pm

          What data do you want and why do you need it? Are you asking for some kind of data suggesting a percentage of people who’ve been subject to neck torsional twisting due to the use of elongated helmets?

          Some group may have some kind of data like that, but it’s not likely to be nearly as useful as common sense realization that in a crash, a long helmet could limit a person’s head from turning with their body, where a round helmet wouldn’t, or would logically be much less likely to.

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    • Spiffy May 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      Zachplease express your opinions as opinions, instead of as facts. It’ll actually make you more credible.

      perhaps you missed the word “Perhaps” at the beginning of his sentence which qualifies it as on opinion much in the same way I started this sentence…

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  • GlowBoy May 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    CR does occasionally come up with whacky test protocols and nonsensical ratings. If it were only CR that had given Nutcase a poor rating, I might dismiss it. But given that they also got a low rating in a different test in Europe, I think I’ll stick with the Bell Citi helmets I’ve been using for years.

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  • Dave May 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    I’d also be curious to know, what does a score of 73 mean? What would a score of 100 mean? Does it mean that the Specialized helmet absorbed 73 percent of the shock from the collision? Or is it just a kind of arbitrary scale?

    It does make sense that helmets marketed and suited to racing would be better helmets overall, since the risks of head injury while racing are considerably higher than while going to the grocery store.

    Still, we should have a good expectation of what we’re to expect from a helmet when/if we get one, as realistic expectations are important for all-around safety.

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    • Mindful Cyclist May 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      No, they rate them on the five different things if you look at it with a soild red circle being best and solid black circle being worst and you have half circles and an empty circle which means above to below average. The top helmet scored “best” rating with weight and ease of use. It scored “above average” in the other catagories.

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      • Dave May 31, 2012 at 1:33 pm

        Which still leaves me wondering, what does above average mean? I’d be much more interested in something like “this helmet can be trusted to absorb about 80% of the impact from a collision of 15mph or less” – something that actually tells me what to expect from the helmet, not just “it’s pretty good,” and especially not just “it’s above average.” Then it’s suddenly relative to a gazillion other helmets for which you don’t know the specs 🙂

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        • Mindful Cyclist May 31, 2012 at 2:06 pm

          Forgot to mention, if you click on the “i” underneath the rating, a box will open with (usually) how they measured it. I used to subscribe to CR online, but no longer. If someone does, and can see what is in the pop-up, let us know.

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    • GlowBoy May 31, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      Consumer Reports rates all of the products that it tests on a point scale of 0 to 100. The number is not meant to be an actual numeric measurement of anything, just a relative indication of a product’s overall quality (based on whatever testing methodology, criteria and weightings CR decided to use) compared with products in the test. 73 is better than 70, not as good as 80. Don’t read anything more than that into the number.

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  • Chris May 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Consumer Reports has to keep the “drama” going, otherwise nobody would by their cheezy magazine. 🙂

    For example, while the Nutcase helmet performed poorly across the 9 helmets sampled, it could perform in the top 10% of 100 helmets. Just like Nutcase has stated, without knowing the testing procedures and actual results there is no way to analyze their concerns.

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  • Peter May 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Are most of the cyclists out there that Nutcase is marketing to really going to care? I mean, if you don’t even have brakes on your bike, who cares if you helmet is sub-par?
    I’m expecting lots of criticism of Consumer Reports here on BikePortland. If you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger.

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    • LoneHeckler May 31, 2012 at 5:34 pm

      Whoa, are you implying Nutcase-wearing folks are brakeless fixie stereotypes? My wife wears a Nutcase and has front and rear brakes, which she uses to stop appropriately. At 43, she would laugh at any sort of “hipster” tag you’d want to hang on her. She loves her comfortable helmet.

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  • wsbob May 31, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    First of all, on the screen shot of the Consumer Reports test results posted to this story, it’s not possible to make out all the data listed there.

    Consumer Reports finds through its test that selected Bern and Nutcase helmets didn’t perform within acceptable specs set by the CPSC. Consumer Reports scores aside, one of the things I’d want know if I was interested in either of those two helmet brands’ models, is rather than a pass/fail, what level of force absorption, expressed in some number form used for the test, the helmets provided. I would have thought the Consumer Reports story would probably have published that data.

    By the way, the general description of the testing method Consumer reports used, which maus posted in his story: “an apparatus that drops them at about 11 or 14 mph onto differently shaped anvils.”, seems to be the similar to the procedure describes here:

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  • Ian May 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    If Nutcase thinks the reviews are flawed, it would be great publicity for them to publish their own testing methodology and results. I think we’d all be interested in seeing them.

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  • Peter May 31, 2012 at 1:13 pm

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

    No bias here…

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  • John Landolfe May 31, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    The implication is that Nutcase is putting people at risk because consumers would otherwise being wearing *effective* helmets–but the nuance of the quote is lost on the shrill Copenhagenize clique. It’s tangential to the issue at hand, but I always have fun pointing out when Copenhagenize reveal themselves as rabid dimwits.

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  • Tom M May 31, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    What’s next? A decent review for the old skid lid which was one step up from the old leather hair nets?

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  • Rol May 31, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    It’s getting to the point where to protect their heads adequately, people might actually have to avoid crashing.

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    • oskarbaanks June 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm


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  • Spiffy May 31, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Consumer Reports gives us free advice, and we all know how free advice is…

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  • Dan May 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    I love my Echelon. Yay.

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    • Matthew June 1, 2012 at 8:12 am

      Me too 🙂

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  • Spiffy May 31, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    judging by the existence of the “ventilation” and “weight” categories neither of those helmets should have been in their tests… they’re not meant for people that ride hard enough to sweat or care about how many grams their equipment weighs… taking out those categories would have improved their score…

    it’s like comparing a Corvette to a Camry… the Camry will get worse marks for acceleration and handling, things that its users don’t care about…

    they may as well have put full face MTX helmets in the test…

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    • Rough Rider June 1, 2012 at 3:38 am

      That’s a fair point Spiffy. I didn’t think of that. It doesn’t seem quite right given the shape is a traditional skate lid up against some racer helmets. Bizarre choice by CR now that I think about it.

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      • oskarbaanks June 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm

        I would think, and have perhaps unwittingly professed to consumers that the base level standards for safety of all helmets, no matter their individual designs, have to be met to be marketable. If in fact a manufacture is marketing helmets that do not meet the basic test standards, there is either a break in the supply/manufacturing chain post production, or they are cheating and keeping it under wraps. A Nutshell helmet at 448g should be as safe as a Catlike at 307g. It seems to me the high cost of lightweight helmets is in the R&D to make them super strong.

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  • Bjorn May 31, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    It seems very odd that there would be such a wide variety of scores in helmets that all pass the CPSC standard. Here is a link to an explanation about a number of different standards that have existed:

    One thing that I would say about various helmets is that the only one that I have every really really needed (when I was hit by a car at highway speed) what saved me was that the helmet came down low in the back. A lightweight race helmet might have been pushed up out of the way and not given me any protection.

    Overall my feeling is that if a helmet passes the government safety tests then it is probably good enough for riding around town.

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  • Boldaddy May 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    As a parent this is tough. I feel (could be wrong) that the Nutcase is gives my kids’ heads more coverage (forehead to back of head) than the more conventional bike helmets.

    Also, kids are rough on stuff, through non-crash use, the hard shell of the nutcase stands up better.

    All that said, I’m now worried that the brain movement measured by CR negates those other benefits.

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    • Randall S. June 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      If it makes you feel better, most brain damage is caused by rotational damage which causes DAI,which bicycle helmets don’t protect against anyway.

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  • velvetackbar May 31, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Back in January, i asked @nutcase about the bad helmet test in Holland, they replied with the following:

    “Helmet exchange for April 2010 batch was announced to dealers. More testing confirms Gen2 passed TUV again + SP/Sweden. 1/2
    2/2 Danish Transport Authority was satisfied with new tests and helmet exchange for affected batch. Thanks for your enquiry.”

    “Yes, only April 2010 Denmark CE batch was affected. If you’re in the US, all CPSC standards were and always have passed.”

    I was happy with this result and didn’t question it. Now I wonder…

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    • velvetackbar May 31, 2012 at 4:13 pm

      Oh, and I should note that I kinda cut and pasted but didn’t alter the tweet contents themselves. Twitter doesn’t lend itself to indepth conversation.

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    • Rough Rider June 1, 2012 at 3:36 am

      I think the point is, the Denmark test was for Europe standards and cold weather issues because those folks ride in the snow and may leave helmets in -20 degrees outside ..unlike normal people 🙂

      It doesn’t relate to US standards and the CR test does not seem to be conducted in a controlled environment like the CPSC requires. Or at least they haven’t stated that was tested for CPSC. I can’t see why they would. Independent labs do that test already and they pass.

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  • velvetackbar May 31, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    and I was multitasking: Denmark, not Holland. sorry.

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  • DavidM May 31, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Interesting that all the top scoring helmets are products of companies with, I assume, more marketing dollars and revenue. Curious…..

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    • John Lascurettes May 31, 2012 at 8:51 pm

      And therefore probably more R&D budget too. So what’s your point?

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    • Slammy June 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      if there is one outlet left that is not bought and sold, it’s CR, sorry. they are airtight.

      what you mean to say is R&D budget…

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      • 9watts June 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm

        if there is one outlet left that is not bought and sold, it’s CR, sorry. they are airtight.


        are you suggesting that the only problem you can imagine with Consumer Reports is if they were in the pocket of manufacturers whose products they test? And since you know they’re not everything’s hunky dory?

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        • Tony June 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm

          I don’t think that is what he is saying at all… I think he’s simply trying to negate the previous comment’s insinuation that the higher ratings of the other helmets were paid for and that Nutcase simply didn’t pay the extortion money…

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  • tim May 31, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    bike safety factors in my perspective as a middle-aged lifelong car-free biker:

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    • Middle of What Road? June 2, 2012 at 4:21 pm


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  • Sunny May 31, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Hard shell skater and bmx style helmets are proven in those respective worlds. If traditional micro shell bicycle “race” helmets were used, skaters and bmx’ers would have to replace their helmets many times each skate or bmx session, as they’re constantly slammed on the ground. Micro shell helmets are a misnomer as the thin film plastic “shell” is more of a cover for paint and graphics than for impact. One time impact versus multiple smaller impacts seems to differentiate the durability of these helmets as the hard shell Bern and Nutcase style does not present damage as a micro shell. A lot of cyclists go rather slow wearing racy helmets where a skater style helmet would possibly better protect over the entire head.

    Specialized helmets are Snell certified, which is one of the highest standards where helmets are randomly bought off store shelves and tested. Snell certification was initially developed for auto a motorcycle racing helmets. I don’t know of other bike helmets that certify under Snell.

    Want full head and jaw protection? Hockey or downhill helmet.

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    • wsbob June 1, 2012 at 12:46 am

      For use riding bikes, rather than the shell’s resistance to wear and tear, the shock absorbency of the helmet’s liner as protection to the wearer’s head would is more likely the issue of concern to wearers. If the hard shell of skate and bmx helmets designed for activities that take place away from traveling in traffic somehow counters the shock absorbency protection the helmet liner is used to provide, people probably would want to know this.

      Better ability over that of liner foam to slide across the ground is part of what the thin plastic outer skin of bike helmets is there for.

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  • Brad Hawkins June 1, 2012 at 12:18 am

    I’ve heard complaints about Nutcase helmets for years concerning lack of R&D, hard Styrofoam, and also have misgivings about them from an impact perspective. The fact that they are not SNELL certified does make me balk, but when I watch my kids turn their helmets over and put them on their feet like ice skates, or pull them off and throw them on the sidewalk, I’m glad for the hard shell even if it might not be as safe as a helmet designed for impact. To a certain extent, my family wears helmets in accordance with the law first and for safety second, but the design and pattern visibility is a plus while the lack of safety certification is a severe minus. I do wish that Nutcase would address these issues but the answer might lie in getting rid of the hard shell in favor of more shock absorption, which seems to be at the heart of the low score. Jonathan’s off hand remark kind of hits at the point that you can scrape and mis-use the hard shell helmets more but they might not provide the same overall safety.

    I’m torn. My own experience with many regular helmets and and three Nutcases is that the foam doesn’t crack as soon but that impacts tend to hit a little harder and feel more pronounced on my head than with regular helmets. The weight of the hard shell is not insubstantial but the art department at Nutcase is very well organized.

    Tough questions. How do motorcycle helmets get away with a hard shell? Do they have to be rated at a higher impact speed than the 11mph bicycle helmet standard?

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    • dwainedibbly June 1, 2012 at 4:56 am

      Motorcycle helmets are tested to completely different standards.

      My understanding (and I could be wrong) is that the 11mph bike standard is related to the speed at which a falling rider’s head hits the pavement.

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      • Randall S. June 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm

        You’re more or less correct. Motorcycle helmets are designed and tested at motor vehicle impact speeds. Bicycle helmets are designed and tested at bicycle speeds (despite nearly all cyclist fatalities being motor vehicle caused).

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  • Rough Rider June 1, 2012 at 3:31 am

    Well, not sure what Brad is talking about but all the helmets tested have the same EPS don’t they peoples?! Hard styrofoam is just not used. “Expanded Polystyrene” is the standard inner for helmets that absorbs impact and after that it just comes down to thicknesses and all that… depending on the country’s standards.

    As for the CR tests, well, I like some of the helmets they rate highly, so they are probably obvious choices in terms of more venting. I might take a look at them.

    But as for impact tests, I am SUPER sceptical of any findings by folks that don’t have the control environments of professional test labs that have to be used for the CPSC tests. I guess that is why people on this discussion would be rightly asking to see what and how they tested.

    It’s so easy to get technical stuff wrong. This article DOES NOT even show the right picture of Nutcase. OOOPS. Just spotted that. It is showing a Little Nutty version I think. The helmet CR tested was a Small-Medium Street from what I could read!!!! Duhhhh

    As for Danish. Well, apart from Danish bloggers with to much air time, the magazine that did those tests is yes – a magazine. A lot of readers don’t understand this, much less bloggers. I got the report from my cousin. They’re not exactly a lab…at all! And being an anti-helmet kind of country, well…I’m not sure anyone should worry about that test. They barely have any credibility with that sort of prejudice even before a test is done IMHO.

    I ride rough, sometimes I wear the lid and mostly I do by choice. It’s better than a sore head.

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    • Randall S. June 1, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      Yes, Denmark, one of the safest countries in the world to ride in as well as one of the world’s foremost and best cycling cultures, has no real credibility when it comes to cycling safety.

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      • Rough Rider June 1, 2012 at 9:57 pm

        Denmark is safe because it is a small country with low population relative to its infrastructure…, smaller than many mid size US cities. Small cities and countries are easier to plan for, traffic is slower because there tends to be less of it, and populations are easier to design and plan for. And a lot of areas biked on are flat! Such countries don’t have to “spar” with traffic like some rides in other places so it’s very easy for them to argue against helmets, seatbelts or whatever the trend is at the time…because the pressures and dangers in smaller places are simply less! Such a blessing for sure…but not to be confused with anti helmet arguments that pretend ‘Denmark is safe without helmets”. This simply ignores the bleeding obvious of their size and infrastructure!

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  • Rough Rider June 1, 2012 at 3:51 am

    Ahhhh..Wait. Are Consumer Reports getting commissions on selling these OTHER helmets listed in their “Price and Buy” page?

    Excuse me but I don’t think I could wipe my *forehead* with that report now! It is baseless if there is vested interest involved.

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    • Bacon Lover June 1, 2012 at 11:26 am

      “Consumer Reports ShopOnline makes it easy to find the right product from a variety of online retailers. Clicking “Shop” will take you to the retailer’s website to shop for this product. Please note that Consumer Reports collects a fee from for referring users. We use 100% of these fees to fund our testing programs. Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with any retailers.”

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  • David Feldman June 1, 2012 at 8:40 am

    plenty of people don’t understand the appeal of ‘bike dork’ helmets to cyclists, either….

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    “Bike Dork” helmets, clothing, etc. are DESIGNED FOR THEIR FUNCTION, NOT THEIR APPEARANCE. GROW THE HELL UP AND GET OVER YOUR VANITY. Nothing looks dumber like someone who is willing to risk their life being invisible because, when they are riding a bike, they don’t want to look like a bike rider. Been looking dorky since LBJ was president and Mick Taylor was the new guy in the Stones.

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    • oskarbaanks June 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm

      I kindly disagree. Peeps can and SHOULD ride bicycles in any manner of fashion they see fit. This includes the ability to ride with OR without a helmet if they choose to and not in cycling clothes either. Obesity is the number one killer in our country, not bicycle related head injuries. I have been racing bicycles and motorcycles since the age of 7. I am now 52. I will support and vote for the choice of the rider at every juncture. FREEDOM !!, God Bless America! Don’t let the terrorist’s win!

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    • BURR June 1, 2012 at 5:50 pm

      and nothing looks dumber than some Cat 6 wannabe on a $10,000.00 unobtainium bicycle wearing a racing kit just to go back and forth to their office everyday.

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      • Dan June 1, 2012 at 8:41 pm

        My office is 14 miles away. I ain’t gonna ride there in cargo shorts & a skater helmet, sorry.

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  • gumby June 1, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Consumer reports is not an expert in helmet safety. I wouldn’t put much credence in their ratings.

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  • Chris June 1, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Helmets are played out, just like STOP signs!

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  • esther c June 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    I’ve always taken consumer reports with a grain of salt since they reported that 50lb American bikes with ashtabula cranks were better bikes than imported French and Italian chomoly tenspeeds back in the 70s. They said the European bikes were too light weight and flimsy, wouldn’t stand up to use like the sturdy American Schwinns and Huffy’s. I think they might have dropped them off of heights for testing too.

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  • esther c June 1, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Besides, I have never landed on an anvil when I’ve crashed on bike.

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  • Nola Wilken June 1, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Any helmet is better than no helmet. One must always question whether the impact tests performed by CR bear any resemblance to the types of impacts experienced by cyclists. In the motorcycle helmet testing realm, the Snell standards were proven bogus by Motorcycle Consumer News which revealed that the test performed by Snell were not consistent with the types of impacts experienced by motorcyclists. Caveat emptor.

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  • Spencer June 4, 2012 at 3:10 am

    I crashed pretty bad about five weeks ago (like left arm broken in 5 places had to have surgery bad) my head hit the ground and the curb when I was thrown from my bike. I was wearing a nutcase at the time. The dr. So from my real world testing they get a thumbs up from me. I ordered another one for my grand return to biking in two week. ( be nice to slow girl on a light blue bike with a wrist splint k?)

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  • Brice June 5, 2012 at 5:30 am

    CR did a crash rating on bike helmets about seven or eight years ago, and a couple of big named child bike helmets didn’t do so well. Later CR retracted their test findings due to improper testing methods. Buckles breaking(i.e metal piece on a mannequin(sensor?) under the helmet strap causing buckle breakage). Don’t believe everything you read. This banter back and forth about helmet safety is amusing considering most people I see riding are not wearing the helmet correctly, or their helmet is over a decade old and about to crumble to pieces anyway. I guess something is better than nothing, or is it?

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  • Michael C June 9, 2012 at 8:33 am

    I took a header off my bike about one and a half years ago with a nutcase helmet because of a hard wooden object in the bike lane. The lighting was poor and I didn’t catch the object in my helmet light. The helmet was the eight ball one. I was likely going 18-20 mph. I fell on my face and hands.

    The top portion of my head was protected by the helmet, which I still have. I managed to get away with significant trauma to my face (looked like I was a boxer who lost) and damage to my hands. I do not think I blacked out, but I admit my memory of the event is incomplete.

    I got an MRI at the ER because I was exhibiting some cognative issues. The results did not show any specific damage. I experienced headaches for weeks after that. I have experienced personality changes, which multiple people have noted, but it would be pure speculation to connect the two events. I do consider the possibility that there could have been more damage, but I’m not sure if it would be totally possible to ever know.

    Looking at the helmet post accident a few things stood out to me. The helmet did help me. Had I not had it on I would have sustained injuries to my upper head and been knocked out for sure. The abrupt lip design probably made me take more damage to my face, but i see that as being the lesser of two evils. It also gave my hands some additional microseconds to brace against the pavenment.

    I think there is a partal issue with the helmet related to how the foam absorbed the impact. Much of it is solid, with little give in it. In my crash the foam was simply dented. There were no breaks or notable fractures in the foam. I am not an engineer, but I do know that, like a car, impact and crumple areas can better absorb impacts rather than solid objects that give less during a collision. A better foam design would have probably been benefital.

    All and all I was totally happy I had the helmet. I know many people roll thier eyes at the concept of them, but there’s not much question it prevented more trama to my skull. I think it could have done a better job, but I do not think it was dangerously designed.

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  • beth June 9, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    I’m reminded of an extensive series of articles in the 1980’s magazine Bicycle Rider that examined a dozen or so bicycle helmets. They conducted in-depth testing and research, assisted by the physics department of a major research university (which had no stake in the outcome). Nearly every helmet in the study was from a maker which had paid for advertising in that magazine.

    When the results were published, they proved to be damning for at least one company: Skid-Lid closed its doors less than a full year after that report was released. (I have a 1983 Skid-Lid in my “museum” and I wouldn’t have worn one back in the day if it was my only option.

    Individuals may question the accuracy and objectivity of a testing organization, but in the end a bad review is still a bad review and it can have devastating results for a company. Testing organizations would do well to adhere to the utmost standards of due diligence and objectivity in their process, as the editors of Bicycle Rider did back in the day; and manufacturers of safety equipment must be ready to respond to all serious inquiries about their products’ integrity if they are to remain in business and be taken seriously.

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  • Sue January 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    I really won’t give a crap if a my helmet ‘lasts’ through several collisions if I’m concussed or brain damaged in the FIRST ONE.

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  • nellie July 29, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Jonathan, I’m about to buy a new helmet and would like to buy a Nutcase…do you know if there is any update to this story? Have they changed the design? Have they offered a more complete response to the Consumer Reports test? Thanks…

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  • A.Modl August 5, 2013 at 8:15 am

    On June 1 I was hit by a car the full impact according to the police report was at 50mph. There is still glass in my Nutcase Street Sport Helmet from me taking out his windshield. I have a shattered ankle and other broken bones and soon to go into my 4 surgery but absolutely no head or neck trauma.

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  • J Peter September 14, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    These helmets all pass CPSC testing which involves dropping the helmet at 11mph onto an anvil. The max allowed is 300g and better helmets get you down to 200g or 150g

    But helmets exist on a spectrum. Skate park helmets contain rubber foam which reduce the g forces at lower speeds but don’t absorb enough energy to help at higher speeds. Football helmets are even softer I believe, so they reduce the risk of concussion. But in a bike crash they’d do no good. It’s *possible* that these poorly rated helmets simply contain too much EPS foam due to the lack of vents. Hence they would transfer more energy to your brain in the lower speed crash. But that also means they may help more in a higher speed collision. That’s just speculation but the point is that you have to understand what the test is finding


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