Bern's FL-1 MIPS Helmet is the company's first foray into the road bike market. You may like the radical looks. Personally I found it too chunky for the road bike and, for a £100 lid, the strap system is poor.
Bern is an American brand with its roots in skateboarding, skiing and urban cycling, and that shows in the styling. The helmet is very round, rather 'un-roadie', and I thought this might make for a poor fit on my narrow head. However, the Boa retaining system was excellent and it was easy to achieve a secure, comfortable fit. My head size is right at the lower end of the range suggested for the large test helmet, but there was still adjustment to spare so there's no need to worry you won't be able to get it tight enough after a haircut.
As for vertical adjustment – and how it sits over the ears – this was non-existent and I found the helmet sat quite high, which meant protection to the back of the head wasn't what I had hoped for from what is a substantial-looking rear cage.
The MIPS insert is essentially a piece of plastic card, cut to fit, and with holes to match the ventilation channels. This is loosely tethered to the inside of the shell by four plastic rivets, allowing the MIPS insert to move around a little inside the helmet. The idea is that, in certain impacts, the helmet won't wrench your head around as much as a conventional lid. I experimented with how tight the helmet needed to be so that the MIPS insert would stay firm against my head, and this turned out to be not so tight that it was uncomfortable. If you are convinced by the science behind the MIPS system then this should do its job. The FL-1 is also available without the MIPS insert.
The strap system was very disappointing, about as basic as you can imagine, and I have seen much better on helmets costing £35. In particular the retainers below the ears have no proper locking system and I found they had to be readjusted every time I wore the helmet. They did generally stay in place during rides, though.
Padding was good, especially where it was wrapped around the Boa adjustment wires at the side (a nice touch), so this is a pretty comfortable lid to have on your head. It was a pity that the fabric sticky patches used to keep the padding in place soon came unstuck from the MIPS insert.
There's a good inch of polystyrene enclosed in that moulded shell – about an inch thick at the forehead, which is reassuring but tends to load the centre of gravity forward so that the helmet felt heavy on the brow. This wasn't helped by the helmet's high overall weight. Also, the front edge was in my line of vision a lot of the time, especially when riding on the drops.
There are plenty of large ventilation inlets. I got a wasp in through one of them, which emerged a few seconds later near my eye, so if there's room for him there's plenty of room for cooling airflow. You will definitely want a hat under this in the winter.
Looks-wise, my wife declared it 'OK', which is code for 'You look a prawn'. Actually, as an urban lid it's pretty cool. I would even use it on the mountain bike where its chunky qualities should be a bonus.
Solid protection, to the point of being a bit chunky for road riding. It needs a better chin strap system, too
road.cc test report
Make and model: Bern FL-1 MIPS
Size tested: Large 55-59cm
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Bern's website opines: "Bern's newest lid, the FL-1, takes the traditional Bern DNA and applies it to a fully-vented, super lightweight, In-Mold design. Boa adjustability provides a wide-range of fit and excellent comfort, while 18 large vents keep you cool. Available with and without MIPS, the FL-1 appeals to high-end commuters, road riders, and mountain bikers alike
"Our new premium in-mold construction features a poly-carbonate micro shell lined with EPS foam to create an ultra-lightweight helmet. The FL-1 Boa system is a proprietary, lightweight and breathable 360-degree adjustable fit system responsible for near perfect fit amplifying the FL-1s safety measure and incredible comfort. MIPS changes the way we think about helmet safety. Developed by brain surgeons and scientists to reduce rotational forces on the brain caused by angled impacts to the head."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Standards: CPSC, EN1078
Also in yellow, silver or white
Generally solid, all the polystyrene is moulded into the shell. Protection is chunky. The Velcro stickies used to attach the pads to the MIPS insert need to use better glue. The strap adjusters are a bit basic.
It was OK but not outstanding in use – weight distribution seemed rather forward so it felt a bit heavier than it might otherwise. A secure, comfortable fit was easy to achieve with the Boa system adjuster but there is no vertical adjustment. The front of the helmet was a bit obtrusive in use.
The general construction suggests a good degree of durability but some of the Velcro holding the pads to the MIPS liner soon detatched itself.
One of the heaviest I could find in the price range.
There is no vertical fit adjustment that I can see. Otherwise, the fit and adjustment were both very good and the helmet remained secure and comfortable.
A helmet at this price deserves a better strap system.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Comfortable, and quite well ventilated. The fit adjustment was good, sizing was accurate and seems to fit a range of different head sizes. The chunky forehead protection was noticeable in my line of vision. The strap adjustment is basic.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfortable, a good fit, solid protection.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The strap system, the looks, a bit obtrusive in the line of vision.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your score
A curate's egg of a helmet; lots of good features but others quite ill thought out. Bern says this is a helmet for road riders, commuters and mountain bikers alike, but I think there are better – and certainly lighter – road helmets for the money.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking