Best aero road helmets review 2015
Funny-looking helmets have long been part of triathlon. From the sport’s earliest days, carefully shaped lids have been worn on the bike in the hope of eking out performance advantages on the bike leg, as well as protecting the riders’ heads should they crash.
But although elongated tails and built-in visors are effective against the clock, they aren’t always the easiest to wear. Their increased weight and reduced ventilation compared to more conventional helmets simply made them too uncomfortable for many people to use, especially in hot conditions.
Which is why so many athletes taking on the most challenging events, such as Ironman Hawaii or Lanzarote, would forego the performance advantage such helmets offered. They’d take the performance penalty, knowing that they’d at least finish the bike leg without boiling their brains or being unable to hold their heads up.
It’s for reasons of comfort and convenience that normal road helmets still have a place in triathlons of every distance (along with the fact that you get fewer funny looks when you’re just out on a training ride). But recently manufacturers have begun to bring the distinct advantages of road helmets and aero helmets together, in an effort to create protective headwear that enjoys both aero and comfort advantages.
Aero road helmets are a relatively new category but one that’s being very heavily promoted. This grouptest aims to find out if they are as good as the marketing would have us believe…
Price: £199 from www.madison.co.uk
Lazer has taken the simple approach to constructing an aero lid by making a shell to fit over the top of its 280g Z1 helmet. On hot days, or days when you’re not watching the clock, you just pop the shell off and you have a normal road helmet.
Without the shell, it’s a lightly padded but well fitting and secure lid; with the shell, all that changes is the air passes easier and your head gets a little warmer. It’s a simple solution but it seems to work – the 52km test route was completed in 1:48:00 while wearing the Z1 (the fastest time of the test).
But it’s not without niggles. The first is that it needs more padding. The second is that when it’s upturned after a ride, all your sweat pools in the shell and then drips out down your leg when you next pick it up.
Verdict: A well-fitting, secure lid for fast days that can be easily adapted for hot days, 89%
Price: £160 from www.specialized.com
You’d be forgiven for thinking the Evade was actually a prop that came from the set of one of the Alien movies, but its shape says ‘aero’ more overtly than any of the other lids here.
It’s a big helmet, though – the large size weighs in at 316g and extends so far forward and backward that it feels as if you’re wearing a canoe on your head.
All that size makes for a fit that feels less secure than others here. Even with the retaining system dialled down as tight as it’ll go, more of the Evade creeps into your field of vision than any other lid on test.
Still, that elongated shape means it’s fast, right? Well, not as fast as you might think. It managed a 1:49:28 performance on the 52km test route. By no means the slowest but didn’t perform as you’d expect. It’s pretty damn hot, too.
Verdict: Big, wobbly, hot, and big with slightly suspect sci-fi styling, 69%
Price: £199 from www.zyro.co.uk
Although expensive, the Synthe has a lot going for it. At 223g it’s the lightest on test; it has a ludicrously adjustable chinstrap; and Giro’s Roc Loc Air retaining system that holds your head with enough security to make the chinstrap almost redundant.
There’s barely any padding but since the retaining system suspends the helmet just above your head, there doesn’t need to be. The 19 big vents keep your head cool – cooler than any of the others here – and it also has ports for holding your glasses when you’re not wearing them.
But perhaps the best thing the Synthe has going for it is that it looks about a hundred times better than Giro’s other aero road lid, the Air Attack. For the test, it was just off the pace of its aero rivals with a 1:49:55.
Verdict: A fantastically well-fitting, comfortable and cool aero helmet, but pricey, 78%
We continue our guide to ten of 2015’s best aero road helmets…
Price: £119 from www.windwave.co.uk
The Icarus is one of the few helmets here that makes no aero claims. It’s 278g of ‘traditional’ road helmet and none the worse for it. It has 30 vents, plenty of padding, easily adjustable chinstraps and a dial-operated retaining system to hold it on your head. I
t lacks some of the refinement of the pricier examples here (the retaining system, for instance, feels clunky compared to its nine rivals) but it’s nothing you can’t live with given the money you’re saving over the big-name models. Fit is fine and gives your head plenty of room, and thanks to the vents you get all the breeze you need to stay cool.
So a basic, non-aero lid that ticks all the boxes. But here’s where it gets interesting: wearing the Icarus on the test route produced a 1:48:55 ride, making it the third-fastest lid.
Verdict: A basic, apparently non-aero lid that’s well-vented and quick, 83%
Louis Garneau Course
Price: £129 from www.evanscycles.com
The 298g Course doesn’t look like a typical aero helmet. It’s designed to keep air flowing smoothly and swiftly over your head, while providing protection.
Louis Garneau’s designers have focused on letting air pass through the Course more easily here; an unorthodox approach, but their thinking is that given enough space, air can pass through just as quickly as it can flow over, which also keeps your head cooler.
As such, the Course seems to be mostly vents rather than shell, but it’s great at keeping your head from baking. And by clocking 1:49:05 it was also fairly rapid on the test route. Where it falls down, however, is fit. Even with the retaining system loosened right off, your head feels like it’s being pinched between a giant forefinger and thumb.
Verdict: Priced well, cools well and performs well, but doesn’t fit well, 71%
Met Stradivarius HES
Price: £129 from www.met-helmets.com
There’s no getting around it, the Stradivarius has an odd fit. Around the sides it’s okay but the medium-sized lid on test is tight at the front and back, even before the retaining system is wound on. It’s so short that it didn’t come all the way down to make contact with the top of our head.
If your noggin has exactly the right dimensions for the Stradivarius, then it’s probably a nice lid to wear. But if not, expect an uncomfortable experience that starts with general pressure on your brow before becoming something akin to severe brain freeze.
Besides that, it’s 249g of lid with firm gel pads and is pretty cool ventilation-wise. It doesn’t pretend to be an aero lid, although its time on the test route wasn’t the slowest at 1:49:51, beating the ‘aero’ Giro Synthe.
Verdict: Odd fit and uncomfortable. For God’s sake, try before you buy! 67%
LAS Victory Vento
Price: £115 from www.chickencycles.co.uk
Is the Victory Vento actually an aero helmet or just a normal lid with its vents covered? The vents are still there in the main polystyrene structure; they just haven’t been cut out of the shell.
No matter where you stand on the legitimate-aero head-protection/conveniently-unfinished-lid matter, this 266g LAS helmet is comfy, thanks to plenty of padding. The security is adequate but the padding may be hiding some shortcomings in the fit.
With most of its vents covered, it’s hotter than a normal road helmet but by no means a sweatbox. The magnetic buckle is an interesting addition – it’s debatable if it’s beneficial in terms of time (in T1 for example), but it’s certainly easier to undo when you’re tired. Crude as it may appear, it did clock 1:48:48 on the test route.
Verdict: A bit crude in appearance, but surprisingly effective in use, 85%
We conclude our guide to ten of 2015’s best aero road helmets…
Price: £195 from www.velobrands.co.uk
The 228g Kask is another great-fitting lid. Like the Giro, it sits just above your head rather than on it due to luxuriously thick padding rather than an elevating cradle.
It’s also very well ventilated and is second only to the Giro for keeping your cranium cool. It has a dial-operated retaining system, which can be adjusted vertically and also has independent lateral adjustment in the two rests that cup the back of your head.
There’s also a leather chinstrap, which might seem like needless ostentation but is admittedly much nicer against your skin than typical woven fabric. It is an odd-looking beast, and kind of resembles an upturned-potty, but if you can live with its looks it’s a pretty fast helmet. Wearing the Protone led to a 1:49:05 test ride.
Verdict: It may not be the prettiest, but it keeps you cool and comfortable, 88%
Bell Star Pro
Price: £199 from www.zyro.co.uk
Bell’s Star Pro lid is billed as an ‘active aero’ helmet. It’s active in the sense you can switch between ‘full aero’ and ventilated while you’re riding thanks to a slider on top that lets you open or close the vents.
It also comes with a detachable lens, held in place by a magnet. It weighs 306g with the visor and 283g without, but it sits so far from your face that it offers little or no protection from debris flung from the front wheel, so it’s best to go without it.
The fit is superb, which is a relief because its chinstraps use an odd over-and-under buckle arrangement that makes adjustment fiddly. It’s pretty hot in ‘full aero’ mode but opening the vents provides enough cooling to keep you comfortable. And as for its performance, it clocked 1:49:27 on the test route.
Verdict: Great fit (but fiddly straps) that allows you to vent/aero switch on the fly, 84%
Price: £119 from www.hotlines-uk.com
Cratoni’s 267g C-Shot lid doesn’t claim to be an aero helmet, and proved this by posting the slowest time for the 52km test route: 1:50:11. Although it may not be the fastest (at least, not in this test), it is a very nice helmet in its own right.
The C-Shot doesn’t have anything that can’t be found on the other nine lids here, but everything it does have is well made, simple and effective. It’s got plenty of fabric padding, a decent fit that doesn’t produce any pressure points, more than enough venting to keep your head from overheating and a rear retaining system that’s as solid as it is secure (even if it’s a little stiff).
If you want to save time with an aero helmet you should look elsewhere, but if you just want a decent lid that’s exactly what you get with the Cratoni.
Verdict: The C-Shot won’t disappoint, providing you’re not looking for free speed, 75%
Needless to say, this test wasn’t conducted under laboratory conditions, so as far as the helmets’ performances against the clock are concerned, there’s a fairly big margin for error. Then again, races don’t take place in a lab either so there’s something to be said for the results produced, even if it’s only a rough indication.
So what has this test shown? Firstly, that for approximately the same effort, just changing your helmet can noticeably affect your time. There was 2:11mins between the fastest and slowest helmets here. And while that may not exactly be free speed – since you have to pay for the helmet (quite a lot in the case of the Lazer Z1, the fastest) – it’s a fair old chunk of time to save by virtue of equipment choice alone.
So it should be a simple choice as far as the winner is concerned: the Z1 was the fastest therefore the Z1 wins, right? Well yes, under these conditions it was the fastest, but speed isn’t the only criteria – comfort, convenience and price have to come into the equation too, and the Z1 is comfortable, and also convenient with the Aeroshell cover. It’s also expensive, and just because its rivals from the big-name brands are similarly priced doesn’t make it any more affordable.
What’s perhaps most interesting is that the only other two helmets to get within a minute of the Lazer Z1 were from the cheaper end of the spectrum, and one of them isn’t even a true aero helmet. If price is priority, then you should definitely consider the LAS and BBB lids. They might lack some of the polish of the pricier options but they perform very well against the clock.
Head to our Gear section for lots more advice on the best triathlon kit