Bern Watts Polo Mod
Bern sent in a few helmets a while back, one of which is the pictured hardhat-style Watts (sans face shield, I’ll get to that) featuring multi-impact Brock Foam, similar to the liner found in hockey and baseball helmets. Not certified for bicycle use (though the identical shell is available with CPSC approved crushable EPS foam), I nonetheless have found the helmet rather ideal for hardcourt bike polo. The multiple impact foam seems a wiser choice to me in terms of protection from occasional blows from a mallet or ball, along with the low-speed tumbles that inevitably occur. So far so good, the Watts has treated me well over the past two months or so of play. The 16.5oz lightly vented helmet is certainly warmer than the usual roadie style, there is no way around it, and my choice of black shell adds to the heat during midday games. For cold-weather use, the Watts features a felt plug for the top vents and snap buttons just inside the shell to attach optional ear covers. Those snaps and the sturdy plastic brim got me thinking… Face shield?
My dad’s a dentist, and I had braces twice as a kid. I have a healthy fear of losing my teeth to a high stick during polo, let alone my eyesight if my glasses were to suffer a direct hit. Recent tournament play where a teammate caught a high stick just under his eye made me finally decide to see if I could graft a hockey face shield to the Watts shell, which proved easier than I could have imagined. I looked at some measurements online and found a $10 CCM replacement cage that seemed like it would fit – to my delight when I opened the package I found that the stock snaps of the cage even mated to the buttons of the Bern, no swapping required. All I needed to do was to drill two small holes in the helmet shell and bolt it all together, using the hardware that shipped with the cage. It could use some subtle refinements and shaping for look’s sake, but I’ve decided to play a few games before spending much time on the hardware end of things. It fits great, comes off with a few turns of a screw and brings me back to my dek-hockey days as a kid. It may look out of place with the majority of players not donning headgear of any sort, but so did the first ice hockey goaltender masks and we can all see where that debate ended. I figure that if some of the best goaltenders of the past decade haven’t been held back by cage-style head protection, I’ll be able to see the ball just fine. Look for updates as I get some more court time with the shield attached.