Friday Group Ride #165

If you had asked me, one year ago, which topic would garner more interest from RKP’s readers, the Giro d’Italia or the new Rapha Sky Kit, I’d have laid my lira on the Giro. Rapha’s general nattiness notwithstanding, it would have been hard for me to foresee the conversation-inspiring value of a single kit, especially as compared to a Grand Tour, a GRAND TOUR people!

But this is a different time. As Padraig noted the other day, pro cycling might be stuck in a sort of purgatory after the hell of the EPO-era. Many fans, myself included, feel far less passionately about the races than we once did. These are days when dedicated cyclists are retreating a bit into the deep pleasure of their own riding, including a renewed interest in the ephemera of the cycling life, the bikes, the stuff.

So, folks who want to talk about the Giro can step back to last week’s Group Ride. Please do. This week we’re going to talk about helmets.

I am in the market for a new noggin hugger myself, and I seem to be surrounded by riders in the same market. Helmets are a funny old thing to buy really. Very few people would say their helmet is fun. And of course, the helmet is one of the few cycling products you hope never to learn how well it works. That leaves fit, form and style as the chief criteria by which to evaluate.

Fit is subjective. Your head isn’t shaped like mine, so the standard sizing, measured by head circumference gets a bit more complicated when your head is more conical or round.

Then we get into shape and ventilation, the form of the helmet, whether or not your sunglasses slot neatly into the holes in the front or tuck neatly into the back. This too is subjective and random. You have awful taste in sunglasses probably.

Finally there is style. There is no accounting for style. Have we discussed your sunglasses?

Here’s what I will tell you about my recent history with helmets. I wear a Giro Prolight. It’s light, like its name implies. It fits me well. I like it. There is a high likelihood, because I tend to be brand loyal, that I will get another Giro, probably the Aeon, but I am also somewhat suggestible.

This week’s Group Ride asks: What are you wearing? Do you like it? Why? What would you consider switching to? There are so many choices now, from the conventional to the esoteric. Has any of them saved your life? Let’s not get into the larger helmet debate. Let’s assume, for the sake of the discussion, that we need to wear helmets, and we just need to pick one. Thanks.

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  1. Scott M

    I’m in the same boat as Paul: I wear a Bell Volt (good deal during the closeouts) because it fits my head. Giro never fits right nor does Specialized. Lazer helmets seemed to fit well when I trying things on.

    1. Author

      @ ALL – Early returns suggest it’s all about fit. Do we have thoughts on the style of the helmets that fit us?

  2. Lewis Moon

    It really does come down to head shape. In motercycles you have Arai heads and Shoei heads. I have a Giro head. In fact the medium fits me so well I almost don’t need any of the padding.
    After fit, for me, comes ventilation. I live in Arizona. duh.
    My one beef with most helmets (that fit and breathe) is the strap. I had a Bell “pump” type helmet a bunch of years back that had a strap that was maybe, 1/4″ wide, That was comfy. The buckle was shite, though.

  3. Sharkie

    Fit really is everything with style a distant second.
    I have Giro head so that’s what I buy.
    Had a sponsor once that provided Specialzed helmets. Bad fit so I wore it only at races.

  4. Ransom

    Lewis Moon hits on just the thing I was going to point out and follow up on. Beyond just an “Arai head”, I have an “Arai Signet head”, which is to say that I’ve got a long, narrow skull. Viewed from the front, a friend once remarked that I’m the only person he’s met whose skull has an hourglass figure, but that all happens below a bicycle helmet (and I don’t think I’m as funny-looking as all this would suggest)…

    Drawing to a point, anybody else whose got a “Signet head” have a favorite bicycle helmet? My Bell is okay, but I’d have to go up a size to fit a cap under it comfortably. Do bicycle helmet manufacturers even have this corporate tendency of shape?

    Robot, I do have a terrible, terrible note on style. As much as I love the look of the airy modern helmets, through some terrible fluke I’ve been picking up bees at an alarming rate in the last couple of years, and am hoping someone starts playing with mesh on the intakes lest I have to return to the late ’80s spandex-and-mesh covers. The world doesn’t need me to look any worse on the bike than I do now, so hopefully there’s a better way.

  5. Casey

    As close to style as I come is getting something that will somewhat match my myriad of cycling kits. That said I went with a Bell Volt black/red. Of course it doesn’t really match anything I have except my shoes!

  6. Tom in albany

    Style of helmets? I like the ones that are a bright color. I want to be seen! I don’t go for garish though. Bright red is a good color. It won’t blend in with grass and/or sky. I also have no hair. So, I often wear a cap underneath – or at least a gallon of sunscreen.

    FWIW: Bell Ghisallo. I know this is a dated model but, I ordered another one since I liked it so much.

  7. Polyhistoric

    I’ve got a Giro head (with Bell a close second) and have loved the way the Aeon simply disappears from my cognition while riding. Straps and retention system go a long way. I really wanted to love the Lazer roll-sys, but did not fit me right.

    Style – well it has to be white-ish – unless you like your head soaking up the sun through a black/dark helmet. Catlike is weird in a good (Antoni Gaudi) way. Specialized looks weird in a bad (baleen whale) sort of way.

  8. Lewis Moon

    As for style: Form follows function. The Catlike Wisper looks like a cheese grater, but if it were cool and fit (and was cheap) I’d wear it.
    One thing I realy don’t like much is the usual Star Wars X-wing fighter treatment you see on the rear of most helmets. Goofy.
    I tell ya, if the new Giro Attack had more vents (a lot more) that’d be my first choice.
    As for bees….yep.

  9. Hoshie99

    Giro here due to fit as others said. Saros, downgraded myself from their more expensive helmets because, frankly, I didn’t perceive any major difference.

    As long as it is a pleasing color combo and doesn’t make me look like a space alien or a skateboarder (those utilitarian bucket style helmets don’t speak to me), I am good. It’s not where I go for style points.

    I will invest some time soon in an aero-ish helmet for occasional use as I am becoming interested in time trials and that large noggin, apparently (!), is a good place to save some signifcant wind resistance.


  10. Carlos

    Padraig, a few years ago, my g-friend and I left riding our bikes from a little village in Provence at 9 AM. I was wearing a nice Giro helmet. That’s all I remember of the day. I woke up in a hospital in Nimes at 5PM. Apparently, I never lost consciousness but I have no recall of those 8 hours. I am fine now (I still confuse Decker with Westlake Blvd and also the direction, darned if I climb it instead of descending it). The helmet cracked but stayed in one piece. I think I am alive because of it. I will never know. By the way, my current helmet is a Giro too. Loyalty and gratitude as they say. Cheers.

  11. Ron

    I’m loath to share, as they might become the hot lid…

    LG Quartz, size small. Black for CX riding, white one for road riding. Light, comfortable and I’m pretty darn sure the only PRO-level helmet around $100. You can find them on sale for less than that.

    Sits low on my head, very comfortable, and all four pairs of my shades tuck into the vents nicely. I thought my circa 2003 Specialized M helmet would always be my favorite, but these LGs are awesome. And, get to see Tommy V. bouncing and bobbing in the same lid!

    I do like the looks of the Limar high-end lids but they didn’t fit my head as well. They even have a Giro special edition with pink highlights!

  12. Rod

    I loved my old catlike Kompact. Change of team brought me to a LAS Squalo. Loved it. Very adjustable, no fuss, nice vents, especially the huge central one.

    Of course, then I crashed it. So now using a Kripton. It’s ok, the retention system in the back moves up and down a bit. Not bad, just annoying when putting it on, then it stays).

    After my crash, I wanted a second helmet and my shop owner actually gave me his, a LAS Victory. That thing is awesome. I only use it for racing and “serious” rides.

  13. Ron

    Ransom – the Limar 104 Prolight (I think that’s the model I am talking about) has a mesh net built into it. Might not be good for tucking shades, might be great for keeping bugs out.

    Limar also makes a small pad that goes around the straps to swaddle thine chin. I’d like one for my LG helmet. I’d also like to be able to purchase the little Y-joint rubberized pieces Specialized has on their straps just below your ear. Those would be nice to add to my LG.

  14. Ron

    Now I want to hear who is the first to be at a group ride when someone shows up with a new (hideous!) aero helmet…

  15. Harold

    I’ve got a big round head and wear a Kask K.10; it has a low profile and a great fit. I switched to it from a Specialized after crashing a couple of years back and haven’t regretted it since. Although initially there were some issues with sunglass stems vs. retention system integration.

  16. Andrew

    I’ve gone through a bunch of midlevel Giro and Bell helmets over the years. Never had much a preference either way. Got a good deal on a Catlike online, so I have one of those now. I think it looks cool, and it’s very comfortable. Sunglasses are an issue though…

  17. Bill Harris

    I was wearing my second consecutive Giro Atmos two weeks ago, when it hit the road third after my hip (broken pelvis) and elbow (massive loss of skin). I knew immediately my helmet hit the road, but my head never felt it. I literally laid there in the road thiking to myself “Wow! That worked.” So right now, my default midset is another Giro Atmos. That having been said, I’m intrigued by, and at least want to try on, the Cannondale Teramo.

  18. Josh

    I have had two Kask helmets. The first was the K50 EVO, and it was okay, but the fuzzy strap cover stuck to my whiskers and was super annoying. I switched to a Kask Mojito and can highly recommend it. It looks great, is light, has a “leatherette” strap (their term for it), and doesn’t make me look like a mushroom head. The “up/Down” restraint system is great.

  19. Aaron Anderson

    I’ve had a number of helmets over the years. In each case of a crash, the helmet not only saved my nut, but also my face from serious road rash. I’m very, very thankful I was wearing one and never leave for a ride with out one. The trouble with my current helment – a Giro (can’t remember the model) is that it’s not very breathable. I think I may upgrade to something that helps evaporate the sweet. There’s nothing worse on a hot day than having sweet drip from your helmet down the inside of your sunglasses, and so on. I only spent 90 bucks on my nut bucket – and it worked when my commute was only 10 minutes one way. Now that I ride about a half an hour each way – ~7 miles, I need better ventilation. Will have to hunt for one.

  20. Kimball

    After several Giro helmets through the years I am currently sporting a Lazer Genesis that I upgraded with the magnetic buckle that comes on their Helium. It may seem gimicky, but its actually a sweet little buckle that makes me smile everytime it clicks itself together. Found it on ebay for about $10. The helmet fits me well (maybe not as well as my Giros) and I like wearing something a bit less popular.
    Being follicly challenged I wish someone could a way to angle the vents to allow air flow while blocking the sun. I’d love to not have to wear a cap or worry about how often to reapply sunscreen up there. Next time I’m in a shop I’ll be checking out the Giro Air Attack for that reason.

  21. jorgensen

    I have a Bell shaped noggin. Been that way for 20 years. Thankfully, the two now sister brands are not yet sharing skull forms.
    To keep the plain wrap theme, I go with white, or as close to that as I can.

  22. Grego

    I want a Scott “Lin” helmet because it’s the only sporty/roadie helmet currently on the market that has the “Multi-directional Impact Protection System” (MIPS) technology.

    There’s exactly one reason to wear a helmet while riding, and that’s so you have a place to mount your headlamp… no wait, it’s protection vs. impact, which I want to maximize, while still wearing a bike helmet and not a football helmet. I like the look of the science behind the MIPS system, so I tried to find a helmet that has it… and this is the only one.

    For as long as I can remember, Scott’s US distribution has been abysmal. I’ve *never* seen a Scott bike helmet for sale in a bike shop. I found a UK shop that will ship it, but as I have a not-quite-standard head, I’d prefer to try the lid without risking international return shipping. Does anyone know where in the US I can buy this helmet?

  23. Les Borean

    Coincidence this question would pop up. I just purchased a Cannondale.

    An article in the latest issue of Bicycling, “Senseless,” notes that the current government standards for helmets dates back to 1999, even though medical research shows the current standard is deficient. The current standard is designed provide to protection against skull fracture, but not against concussion and other types of head injuries.

    Since 1999 helmets have been designed only to meet that standard and not reflect present medical knowledge. Until just recently. Some manufacturers are upgrading their designs despite lack of government fortitude.

    Cannondale is one manufacturer who is designing helmets to do more that protect against skull fracture. In their two top models they are incorporating two-layered EPS thechnology which was noted in the Bicycling article as providing advanced protection.

    So I voted for Cannondale with my pocketbook.

  24. royalewithcheese

    had a Bell Furio (i think), found out how well it works (pretty well apparently) and when they let me ride a bike again about a month and a half after they screwed my clavicle back together I picked up a cheap Giro Transfer to take care of commuter duty. Its not the best looking of helmets, but I can put it over a hat if need be, and I don’t feel guilty having it clipped to a bag all day, knocking into things. Now that spring is here I’ll have to pick up something a little better looking, and with better ventilation.

  25. Alan

    I have a Bell helmet with a visor for commuting and the occasional wet MTB ride. I have a Giro Atmos for road rides. My LBSs only carry mid-range helmets which is okay with me and my wallet.

    Fit is way more important than fashion to me, which is why I buy them local. You never know how one fits until you try it on. Please smack me if I ever considered trying on a helmet at the LBS and then ordering it online! 😉

  26. Brian

    Lazer –I’ve ridden in most of the road helmets in their line at one time or another, and ‘compromised’ a fair number crashing. The Rollsys is unmatched in terms of retention systems, both in function and in feel. One major benefit is that the pads go all the way around your head to cover the cable, so you don’t have the Giro-issue two-pad forehead mark after you’re done riding. It also accommodates switches between caps and bare heads with incredible ease.

    Kask is a close second. Their helmets’ low-hanging retention system just feels solid on the head.

    Always white/silver-ish, always with a cap underneath for sun protection.

  27. Stuart

    I have the Mavic Plasma SLR in black. Great fit for my noggin. Euro cool. And not everyone is wearing one. So you can be unique on the group ride.

  28. DanL

    Brand for me is Bell (and the whole family too). The neighborhood shop carries those, and they are fairly one-size fits all (at least by our easy stds). Gotta love those ratcheting/cradling systems, now even down in the budget models — they’re so much better than the old move-the-elastic/velcro-one-more-cm…. or the rocky/rolly fit of the plain straps before that.

    And we’ve got one big bike hook just for all the helmets, snapped on so we can unsnap as needed and not have to unstack them all off there….

    Color is white for me right now. Cool in the summer and feels better in traffic/night on my head — but that might just be in my head. Pads and straps get shampooed occasionally, that seems to break down the oils/stink pretty well.

    I cut down the strap so it’s not hanging down my neck and burnt the end to seal up the fibers, gotta do that. In the rain I tried the showercap trick once maybe, seemed ok. Pretty mild weather around here though.

    That’s all I know and care about helmets; I own only one and wear it on every ride. Now where’s that big Italian race with those darn ugly (for now) Giro Air Attacks?

  29. Wsquared

    I wore Giros for many years, going back to the fabric covered styrofoam original. Most recently, I had an Atmos. Last year, on on a whim in an LBS, I tried on a Bell Volt. I had assumed that, since they have been owned by the same company for a long time, they fit pretty much the same. I was wrong. It was immediately apparent that the Bell fit my particular noggin much better. I bought the Volt and am glad I did. It wasn’t really a matter of style & the Bell was slightly heavier, but the fit did it. I also like the way the helmet tightener works better.

    Btw, I find my enthusiasm for the Giro & pro racing pretty much undiminished. Maybe that’s because I have been following it for more than 30 years & have seen a lot of twists & turns. IMO, it’s cleaner now than its ever been. Certainly cleaner than pro sports like baseball & football, where testing is a joke. Taylor Phinney is not Lance Armstrong. Some folks seem to enjoy knashing their teeth & tearing their hair out over bureaucrats in Switzerland more than watching a duel in the Dolomites. I suppose suffering, angst and a certain degree of masochism are part of the draw in cycling.

    By all means, test & throw out the cheaters & work for change, but I’m not letting what happened in the past spoil the fun tomorrow & be all I think about when somebody says “bike racing.” I’ll be squinting at my Iphone at 6:00 AM when the first pirated Eurosport broadcast comes on the net.


  30. SusanJane

    O.k. Gloss over if you are offended but I’m a spectator. Here’s what I watch for (much like a birdwatcher actually — you know certain features that help identify species)…
    – legs, shoulders and butts (can’t fake that kind of fitness — ladies or men);
    – new kits at the beginning of the season;
    – sunglasses at the Tour;
    – helmets — not just the latest vent patterns but the fit… mushroom head anyone? and don’t get me started on those polka dot holes that a couple of teams wear!

  31. Peter. Leach

    Lazer for me.
    I wore a Genesis for several years and it did me proud in a crash in February – no major broken bones, just my four front teeth, nose, fractures to my sinuses and a big concussion. I have a Helium to replace it (although I’m not back on my bike yet). It seems to fit a bit closer to my head and came with the Magneto glasses. I really like the Rollsys mechanism.

  32. Hautacam

    +1 for Lazer. I’ve worn a lot of helmets over the past 25 years (only “tested” one of them, thank goodness, many moons ago in a ridiculous MTB stunt involving a very large teeter-totter). I’ve got to say that the Lazer rollsys is fantastic, especially if you live in a place where it may be cold and wet at some point in the ride — requiring a skullcap or cycling cap under the helmet — and then otherwise at another point (requiring none). The rollsys adjusts the helmet fit on the fly better than anything I’ve ever tried. And the ventilation is excellent, especially on the Helium but almost equally so on the lower-priced O2.

    I like my helmets black because then they go with everything.

  33. August Cole

    A long time ago a weathered-looking guy was buying a bike for his daughter. She selected a helmet that cost half as much as the bike. He said good. He raced motorcycles, and believed in getting the best helmet you can. Good advice. I wore Giro until realizing I was between sizes. Bought a Specialized S3 a couple months ago. Great helmet (a white one), echoes of Boonen. It fits my massive Norwegian noggin and is breezy enough on a climb. To me, it was expensive. But I followed back the motorcycle racer’s mantra, and soon forgot how much it cost.

  34. Patrick O'Brien

    I am now wearing recently purchased POC Trabec helmets for both both road and mountain biking. I am extremely satisfied with all aspects of these helmets, and feel safer wearing them over my old Limar helmets. And, yes, then ventilate very well, better than the Limars. My wife recently switched to the POC Trabecs as well. She agrees with me. Style? Set your own style.

  35. oldschoolzeus

    Currently wearing a Lazer O2. Trashed a Bell Ghisalo in a crash last summer. Slammed back of helmet on the tarmac at 20+mph. Not even a headache.

  36. jprumm

    I have been using Bontrager helmets for the last five years. The price is way better than Giro, Bell, Rudy and the rest. They tend to look a bit bigger on the head. I was wearing a Bontrager Circuit last year at a road race when I crashed into a fence and crushed my head on a large rock. The helmet was destroyed but my head was fine. I know what they say “how much is your head worth”? After using my Bontrager helmet for it’s intended use (crashing) I know my head is not worth the Giro price.

  37. Peter Lütken

    Robot, you asked for style advice. I’ll give you a piece of advice regarding the Aeon: on my noggin’ it looks remarkably similar to one of those Devo Power Domes. I’ve been using Giro Atmos for a long while, and I’m currently using a Specialized S-Works Prevail. The Prevail is my favorite so far.

  38. Dustin Judice

    I use a Lazer Genesis II. It’s the blue team helmet and matches our kit quite nicely. It fits well and looks pretty good, but the sunglasses vent situation is atrocious on that helmet. The only configuration I can ever manage without looking like a idiot is to wrap my glasses on the bottom exterior of the helmet. They hold OK right there but I’m always worried they will fall off. So good helmet, vent place could be better.

  39. Wsquared

    Re: “Many fans, myself included, feel far less passionately about the races than we once did.”

    Well, if your pulse didn’t race & you’re palms didn’t get a bit sweaty during the last 30k of stage 3 of the Giro today, call 911 because you’re almost dead. WOW!

  40. Eric L.

    Bell Gauge. Why? Simple, my Bell Sweep R saved my life. Landed on the back of my head. 20 to stop using my helmet and head. Concusion, bleeding, blood clotting, and swelling of the brain. All injuries that have killed. Without the helmet taking some of the force, I would guess that the swelling would have become too much. Weight, ventilation, and looks are all nice to haves but I will take something that saves my life any day. Now if Easton just lets the company run as it has and does not screw it up (but that is another story).

    As for Pro racing. Don’t watch it and don’t care. Got tired of watching, finding someone to admire, and finding out I had been played the fool. Turns out, I have just as much fun riding without paying any attention to the pro tour as I did when I knew it existed.

  41. Berongus

    Mavic Plasma is a comfortable fit. Much more comfortable than the Giro. As for style, well, they look a little different.

  42. Scott

    I’ve had eight crashes over the years. On at least two occasions the helmet saved my life. While crossing RR tracks, I took a bad line and went down right in front of a small pickup truck. The car hit me in the back cracking my helmet, not my head. On another occasion, I went head first over the bars at 45 MPH and took the blow right on the dome. That one cracked my helmet in seven places (and my pelvis, among other things). Zero head trauma. Whether blue, red, green, or white, it really doesn’t matter. As long as it says “ANSI” on the sticker, it’s good.

  43. Ev

    Third vote for a Mavic – the Syncro fits my pinhead with amazing comfort.
    I think I’ll pick up a second one in white for the warmer months ahead.

    Gyro Atmos gives me such a headache but it was a great deal after I cracked my ribs and Trek entry level helmet on a MTB.

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