It’s always heartening to see the first daffodil blooms lighting up the verges and to know that spring cannot be too far away. Whether it’s those deep rims you’ve been secretly coveting all winter or (yet) another addition to your cycling wardrobe, now is the time to make those all-important upgrades for the warmer months ahead, to ensure that both you and your bike are looking sharp!
It’s common knowledge that one should always replace a helmet that has been involved in a crash, even if there appears to be little damage, but many advocate renewing your helmet every 4-5 years, due to degradation in the plastics, which may impact on how effectively the helmet will protect you in the even of an accident.
There are a wealth of helmet options on the market, to suit all budgets and tastes, so it makes sense to garner advice and opinions from bike shop staff and your cycling mates. Below is a round-up of some of the latest offerings on the market, though we would strongly recommend that you opt for a helmet which provides a secure and comfortable fit. You can save money on your upgrades elsewhere, but when it comes to protecting your head don’t make any compromises and always ensure the helmet you purchase complies with all necessary safety standards for your geographical region.
dhb Aeron Road Helmet
Designed in conjunction with the Italian helmet specialists, Kask, who supply the helmets that protect the bonces of the Team Sky squad, the Aeron Helmet from Wiggle’s in-house line, dhb, is a stylish, but competitively priced helmet.
Unveiled last year, the Aeron helmet features a polished and sleek polycarbonate shell and, despite the price, a good level of detailing and venting. The racers will nod approvingly at the aerodynamic lines and clean look, which perfectly complements dhb's more race orientated Aeron clothing range.
There are few compromises, which is especially impressive given the £50 price tag. OK, the edging where the polycarbonate meets the polystyrene body (see image below) could be sharper, but does not overly detract unless inspected at close quarters.
What one cannot fault is the comfort and level of adjustment, both vertically via the rear cradle and the easy to use mechanism to loosen and tighten the straps. dhb have also provided plenty of padding and a removable chin guard to reduce the danger of chaffing.
The lack of colours is our only gripe – at present there is only a black and white on offer - but hopefully this is something that dhb will look to address in the future, especially for those who like to ensure that their accessories match their bike and/or clothing!
The dbh Aeron helmet is available to buy exclusively on Wiggle.
With its distinctive, retro look – both the name and the design are a nod to the ‘Hairnet’ helmets favoured by the lies of Eddy Merckx in the early70’s - the Airnet Helmet from US brand, Specialized, occupies the mid-market price bracket, but that is where any comparison with other helmets in the same price range end.
Specialized place the Airnet Helmet in what they call their ‘Adventure’ category, which pitches it at the cyclist more concerned about performance and comfort, rather than those looking to sneak a few aero advantages over their cycling mates. It’s a bit of an all-rounder – equally home when riding on the road or off and its retro cool will appeal to the urban cyclist too.
It’s somewhat surprising, therefore to learn that the Airnet provides excellent aerodynamics, second only in the Specialized stable to their S-Words Evade helmet. The fact that much of the R&D of the Airnet took place in a wind tunnel may explain its impressive aero qualities and as this helmet is so streamlined, it produces little noise, even when flying down a descent.
Comparisons with more expensive helmets in the Specialized range does not stop there: the Airnet features the same ‘Mindset’ micro-dial retention system found in the Evade and Prevail helmets, and it provides a secure grip around the circumference of your head, without any undue pressure, plus good vertical adjustment in the rear cradle.
Ventilation is excellent. The longitudinal vents direct the airflow effectively around the head and having worn this helmet in humid, 40 degree heat I can vouch the effectiveness when it comes to alleviating the discomfort of oppressive heat.
In response to riders requests for a quick and convenient place to store sunglasses, the Airnet features Optigrip plastic grippers on the inside of the two most outer vents, at both the front and back, making it easy to pop your shades into the aperture when riding, confident they will remain there!
In profile, the Airnet is noticeably longer in comparison to many on the market, though this is somewhat accentuated by long vents, which project to the back of the head. There rear of the helmet is also quite substantial, which provides a reassuring protection for the rear cranium.
The lightweight straps are not adjustable below the ear, though sit comfortably enough and flat to the skin. This lack of adjustment could impact on how securely the helmet fits some head shapes, so I would suggest trying this helmet for fit before buying.
The merino wool pads are luxuriantly soft, but also have the inherent anti-bacterial and wicking properties of this natural fibre. That’s a nice touch and though I initially thought they would wear quickly, they seem remarkably robust to fraying or disintegration.
There is no denying the Airnet is unique and not everyone will like the retro look. The front profile is also a little odd and suggests the the polycarbonate shell is split into an upper and lower section, but the general consensus in the Wheelsuckers’ office was that this is a clean and unique design that will make the wearer stand out a little more from the crowd!
The Specialized Airnet retails at £115 and is widely available to buy online or via Specialized stockists, including Evans Cycles.
Brooks Harrier Helmet
Looking for something completely different from an unexpected corner? Brooks, that venerable British brand synonymous with leather saddles and accessories for the gentlemen cyclist of yesteryear, have been making inroads into the contemporary arena in recent years. Marrying classic good looks with modern production techniques and materials, they have introduced saddles and now helmets that continue the tradition of innovation that has always been the hallmark of the company.
Brooks have been producing a range of foldable helmets aimed more at the commuter/city cyclist for a few years, but last year they quietly unveiled their Harrier Helmet, which is aimed primarily at the roadie market, though it could look equally at home off-road or on your commute. Good ventilation is provided by the four large vents and three rear vents that ensure a good flow of air. The dial retention system and fixed strap dividers provide the necessary adjustment to ensure the fit is secure and comfortable.
Its minimalist design lends it an aero look, but Brooks will not be making any lofty claims about the exceptional aerodynamic benefits of the Harrier. No, this is more about simple, classic features that will appeal to those who shy away from the more ‘pro’ looking helmets on the market and its distinctive looks give it a timeless appeal.
The Brooks Harrier Helmet is available in four colours: black, white and blue/teal and maroon/pink. It retails at £149 and can be bought directly from Brooks England or via their stockists.
Rapha have slowly, but steadily expanded their range of accessories and linked up with the leading Californian manufacture, Giro, to produce their helmet, which they unveiled in the latter months of last year. Rapha have made no secret of the fact that the design is clearly based on the Giro Synthe helmet (the Giro logo is even reproduced on the rear adjustment module), but Rapha have made a few tweaks, including some aerodynamic additions on the side vents and some reflective detailing on the straps. The rear vent is also completely open, another slight deviation from the Synthe, which ensures efficient airflow.
So what do you get with this helmet? Well, an injection of Rapha design flair, for sure. It’s a sleek and unfussy helmet, and the single colour schemes enhance the paired down look. Even the Rapha logo is discreet, confined to the top of the helmet – no screaming out to be seen (though this might be a terrible disappointment to some!)
The real beauty of this helmet, however, lies beneath the polycarbonate shell. The Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) helps to reduce the severity of impact in the event of an accident, as the inner lining can move in relation to the outer shell by up to 5mm. It sounds like a small measurement, but when applied to the delicate neurology of the human brain, the benefits of MIPS cannot be underestimated.
This helmet obviously occupies the higher price spectrum – MIPS technology does not currently come cheap – and for the price tag it does have to provide optimum safety and also superlative comfort. No two heads are alike, but there is plenty of room for manoeuvre in the straps (and Rapha helpfully provide a booklet that instructions on how to get the fit absolutely perfect) and the Roc-Loc ‘Air Fit’ system provides a reassuringly tight fit that is very comfortable, without being constrictive.
The comfort it affords would suggest that the helmet is well padded, but in fact there is very little – just a thin strip around the forehead and a small patch on the rear. Perfectly positioned for optimum comfort, the padding is also anti-bacterial, which effectively stops the cushioning becoming smelly after continued use!
Seventeen vents provide optimum airflow, but at time of writing, we have not been able to test the helmet in hot conditions, though the flow of air around the head, especially noticeable on a cold morning, suggests that ventilation is going to be effective. And last, but by no means least, two smaller vents on the side provide a secure place to insert your shades.
The Rapha helmet is currently available in black, white and their hi-viz Chartreuse option, though they also have a Rapha CC version available for members. The helmet costs £250 and is available exclusively from rapha.cc
Bell Zephyr MIPS Helmet
American helmet Specialist, Bell, claim that their new Zephyr Helmet, which they unveiled last autumn, is the most innovative road cycling helmet they have ever created. In fact, their marketing suggests they believe it to be THE most ground breaking helmet EVER!
Why such bold claims? Well, the main reason is the dual foam system they have developed or, as they call it, the Progressive Layering technology. In short, the Zephyr is constructed out of not one, but two EPS (Expanded Polystyrene foam) segments, bonded together to produce a helmet which they claim will improve protection in the event of impact. The Zephyr also comes with the MIPS integrated system. Put the two together and Bell claim this is one of the most protective helmets currently on the market.
An added bonus of the two layer system is that it has allowed Bell to have some fun with the colour combinations, with juxtaposing colours for the outer and inner EPS layers, as clearly seen in the black/red version above. There is no getting away from the fact that the Zephyr is one very, very cool looking helmet, which will appeal hugely to the safety conscious cycling fashionistas out there!
The Zephyr also features Bell’s new Float Fit Race retention system, which provides height and width-adjustable cradles and an easy-to-turn dial, which ensure the helmet (assuming you have the right size of course) fits snugly and securely.
They’ve also been clever with the padding too – the anti-bacterial inserts provide comfort, but are also laid out in such a way that the sweat from your head is channelled to the very front of the helmet so that it drips off the very front and not down into your eyes or over your shades. Whether that claim stands up to scrutiny in oppressively hot conditions on a prolonged climb is another matter, though the 18 vents will also help to ensure ventilation is optimised!
If you love the look of the Zephyr, but the £200 price tag is pushing your budget, then Bell have also introduced the Stratus, which borrows the same design elements from its costlier sibling, but at half the price. What’s not to like?
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