Cannondale Teramo Helmet

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Take a moment to look at the object above. Really look at it. If you weren’t already a dedicated cyclist, what would you guess that was? I can say that I would guess that it was a souvenir replica of some sort of head gear from a first-person-shooter video game. It would be right at home on an alien in Halo. Falling back on my trained experience as a cyclist, I’d conclude from its sharp lines, balanced proportions and deliberate symmetry that it was an established helmet maker’s new top-of-the-line model.

Neither of those guesses would be right, of course.

It is neither from a manufacturer known for a history in helmets, nor is it their top model. Cannondale has a history in helmets like I’ve got a history in beer: I’ve consumed a lot of it, but no one is waiting for my opinion, or for me to make one. But make one—scratch that, six—they have.

Helmets have been a topic of discussion at every industry event I’ve been to recently, largely due to Giro’s new offering. People are struggling with it because the look is such a departure. Function aside, it looks like a skateboard helmet people say. It doesn’t look like a proper cycling helmet people say. There’s no denying that. But that’s because the average cycling helmet doesn’t look like anything else on earth.

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The evolution of the bicycle helmet has been a long and surprising journey. The only time I wore my first helmet was when I entered a race. The first helmet I wore on regular training rides was my Giro LeMond Air Attack. That was the first helmet that had a look I was able to define as cool, rather than laughable. The evolution since then has been into progressively more vents and shapes that looked organic—ribs with connective tissue or framework with panels. The most successful design aesthetically don’t usually look like putty with holes poked in it. Consider the Catlike.

Significant in this is that most helmet manufacturer’s second- and third-tier designs seem like watered-down ideas, like all the truly rakish lines were softened, lest a less enthusiastic cyclist be frightened away. They usually smack of design by committee, which is about the lowest thing you can say about a piece of industrial design work. It’s like saying the Ferrari Daytona is a ripoff of a Datsun 240z. Oof.

If I hadn’t seen the Cannondale Cypher, the company’s $200 head protector, I’d have concluded that the Teramo was the primo model. Even though I knew it wasn’t the top model, my jaw dropped when I found out this baby retails for $119.99. Finally, a reasonably affordable helmet that doesn’t look like a design studio’s sloppy seconds.

Now, even if a helmet looks okay, the fit can still be a complete fail. I’ve tried helmets that fit like a five-gallon bucket, covering my eyes after every bump in the road, and others that were essentially styrofoam yarmulkes, devices that failed to shield my temples from all but top-side blows. I don’t know how else to put it: The Terramo fit like a bike helmet.

Feature-wise, this thing gives nothing up on the pricier Cypher. Most notable in my mind is that the Terramo uses dual-density EPS to better cushion your noggin in the event of an extreme deceleration event—you know, from 30 to zero in now. The softer density EPS takes that first portion of the hit, giving your head a softer start to the stop, while the denser EPS makes sure that your head gets stopped as well as possible under the circumstances. The thing about that softer density EPS is that it is by its very nature fragile and many companies have avoided it for durability reasons. Cannondale uses an internal framework (they call it a chassis) to provide improved structural integrity in the event of a crash. This is a technology that’s been around a while, but it is especially necessary in helmets that use two different foams so that the helmet doesn’t go watermelon-through-a-cooler if you fall.

Also helping to keep the helmet together is an alloy reinforced polycarbonate outer shell. Again, this is technology we’ve seen before, but Cannondale uses it effectively to create a durable helmet with big vents. I’ve not bothered to count the vents; there are plenty of them to do what you expect a bike helmet to do.

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My one knock against this helmet is the Ergo-Fit occipital pad. While it’s plenty comfortable, the fact that it’s covered with rubber (okay, perforated rubber) means there’s a lot of surface contact at the back of your head. While I didn’t ever overheat while wearing the helmet, I noticed I was pretty sweaty back there when I took the helmet off, and the warmest ride I ever did with it didn’t reach 80 degrees. It’s a small issue in the grand scheme.

The Terramo comes in six color schemes, two of them sufficiently neutral to go with any cycling kit you might own, and all of them attractive enough to avoid geek-side embarrassment. The helmet also comes in two sizes. Regular readers of RKP will recall that Zippy (the pinhead) is my first cousin. I wore the small/medium. I bring up that point to establish the following: I was able to perch eyewear from SPY, Shimano, Smith, Oakley and Giro in the vents and not have them immediately drop out when I looked down. Pretty good record, though I will say getting the Radars in took a bit of flexing.

I’m not going to lie to you and say that I prefer this to the Giro Aeon or the Specialized Prevail. There’s no point. However, I can say that for friends of mine who think spending $200 on a helmet is out of their league, I’d wholeheartedly recommend the Terramo. It’s one of the best helmet values I’ve seen.

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7 comments

  1. ScottyCycles

    I have that helmet and love it. I previously wore a Giro Atmos. I prefer the softer strap material on the Cannondale. So far it hasn’t stiffened up from sweat.I have a large head so many helmets look really big on my noggin’ but the Teramo looks like it fits like a cap. I highly recommend it.
    -Scott

  2. Mike

    Halo’s Covenant Elite would only wear this if it came in purple. But I digress; let’s get to the point. Does this come in neon? Them’s the colors de jure. Neon green is the new white is the new black. C’mon Cannondale. Even pink would suffice.

  3. Khal Spencer

    Padraig, you should in this one case refer readers to the June issue of Bicycling Magazine. I’m at times not a great fan of “Buycycling’s” promotion of all things unobtainable by mere working stiffs, but the June issue has a really excellent discussion of helmets, helmet research, and helmet standards. “Senseless” starts on pg. 57 and goes on nearly forever. It discusses the Teramo in terms of new and improved designs, not just more marketing hype.

    More importantly to the present discussion, the dual density foam in the Teramo, including a softer layer of EPS, is, according to the Bicycling article, designed to protect by attenuating moderate impacts that shock the brain without significantly damaging the harder EPS foam we all know and love. As the article mentions, no one uses the word “concussion” for fear of lawsuits, but bicycle helmets have been stuck in the regulatory dark ages for some time now and protect only against a rather old fashioned idea of the model drop test onto Mr. Anvil. The Teramo may be a step in the right direction, along with new designs that protect against shear damage from rotational accelerations, i.e., the MIPS designs.

    Due to the lack of an update in helmet standards, we see little impetus to improve designs beyond those blessed by ANSI et al. My suspicion is the risks of a lawsuit is too big. Cannondale is taking a step in the right direction.

    Anyway, I’m not a helmet expert, nor to I play one on TV. But given the constant barrage of helmet war stuff on the Internet and the very real question of why helmet use doesn’t clearly correlate with a reduction in brain injury, its a topic that needs a lot more air time from those who are not highly opinionated on this topic. Thanks for the article.

  4. Wsquared

    The article in Bicycling is worth reading. One thing that gets me about helmet marketing. They virtually all pass the well known safety standards, but beyond that, what’s the difference? Helmet “x” may be 50 grams lighter than helmet “y” and cost $50 more, but will it do any better protecting my noggin? A really light helmet may passes the standards tests, but maybe a heavier helmet might provides better protection (or not.) I find it very hard to believe that there is no significant difference between brands and models in impact protection just because they all pass the minimum standards.

    I know manufacturers are loath to make claims about protection for fear of being sued when somebody gets injured, so they are intentionally vague, concentrating instead on style, ventilation, aerodynamics and weight, but the only reason I wear a helmet is to protect myself. They have saved my life at least once, but I wish there were objective tests to determine which ones do a better job of that.

  5. Les Borean

    I read the Bicycling article too, it’s a real eye-opener.
    I took my first ride with my Teramo today, which I bought right after reading the article.
    The MIPS technology makes this bucket the next generation of head protection.

  6. Patrick O'Brien

    Still lacking in coverage and rounder profile. Also, EPS is exposed at the edge allowing it to crack off on an edge impact. The dual density foam is an innovation, but the rest is lacking. I will stick to my POC Trabec, on and off the road.

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