In cycling, only one thing is more important than the bike itself: the bucket you strap on your noggin. You see, eventually that important bike that you baby so much decides it no longer wants to be ridden by you and tosses you off down the tarmac. With the myriad of helmets out there (all meet very similar safety certifications) it falls to the rider to decide what helmet is for them based upon cost, availability, fit and (most importantly, of course) style. Ok, maybe style isn't important, but looking like a mushroom is never a good thing…
After purchasing a Lazer O2 helmet about 2 years ago (back when the O2 was the top of the line from Lazer) and riding the hell out of it, I figured that this season it was time for an upgrade. The O2 was perhaps one of the most comfortable helmets I've ever worn (although some Giro models were a close second) so I figured another Lazer was in the cards.
Instead of sucking in more oxygen, this time I figured it would be worthwhile to step down the periodic table (and up the price scale) to the Helium. Lazer's flagship road helmet can be seen on ProTeam Katusha, as well as safeguarding the noggins of Team Lotto Honda, Kelly Benefit Strategies – OptumHealth and Team Mountain Khakis, so it certainly has had a fair shakeout in the big leagues. Protecting such valuable craniums is a tough job, but the Helium is up to the job; claiming an impressive list of features like the Rollsys Retention System, Featherlight weight (it IS called the Helium, right?), Carbon RBS (Rigidity Brace System) and optional bug netting and winter padding, the Helium can float your boat in any season or condition. But does the actual product stack up to all these airy claims?
Fine tuning the fit of a new helmet is always a tricky proposition. It usually takes me about 2 weeks worth of good solid miles to tweak a helmet setup the way I like it. That being said, the Helium is one of the more comfortable helmets I've tried (right on par with the O2.) You're probably expecting that I'm going to rave about the RollSys retention system, but I'm not. It's not a gimmick, and it just works, to the point where any novelty is worn off and it's just there. Helmet loosened mid ride from all the sweat and thrashing around?
*roll* *roll* *roll*
There, snug as a bug in a jug wrapped in a rug. Back to crushing souls. Maybe you need to toss a cap underneath your brain bucket for those cool days?
Good to go. It's that simple.
For me, the biggest surprise was the padding. So many helmets have odd sharp spots, pokey bits and rough edges, and it seems like the padding is an afterthought. The Helium has well designed padding that is not only soft and comfortable, but it has anti-microbial properties that actually *gasp* keep it from stinking. Now THAT is worth talking about. We've all been behind the stinky helmet guy, and it's NOT a pleasant place to be (although maybe that's how he prevents people from wheelsucking?) On top of the anti-funk properties, there's a nifty bunch of channels built into the front retention system and forehead pads that allows for a lot of airflow, keeping your head as cool as possible during sweltering weather.
The second big surprise for me was the quality of the straps. I've always hated thick, bulky nylon straps, and it seems like Lazer figured this out. The straps are made of a thin, silky and soft nylon material, and the feel light as…well…Helium. The "Y" buckle is unobtrusive and perfectly thought out, complimenting the success of the straps admirably.
Thankfully, there's not too much to put under this header, but like all products, there's something that just doesn't stack up. First off, the "Featherweight" moniker is close, but the Helium is a little bloated compared to the other "featherweight" helmets out there. It weighs in around 220 grams, nearly 40 grams heavier than the Giro Prolight, about 35 grams heavier than the Specialized Prevail and on par with the Limar Ultralite 104. That said, it is lighter than probably 90% of the helmets out there, and indeed, it does feel stupid light in hand (or on head as the case may be.) The other downside of the Helium is that you will likely feel like your wallet is full of it (helium, that is) after you bring this guy home. Expect to spend about $1 per gram of helmet that you're wearing (that's $220 for those of you like me who are math-hopeless.)
Or maybe not, depending upon your style. The Helium comes in a myriad of color variations including Matte Black (shown), Timeless White, Team Red/White, Team Red/White/Blue (otherwise known as Katusha colors) and Team Pink/Matte Black. For an extra $20, you can show how badass you really are with the Warrior Series of helmets, which come colored in the Belgian, Russian or Italian colors (if you want to channel Pippo.) The Warrior series also comes with a color matched cycling cap and clear aero shell, so in a way, you get more than just a pretty palette swap.
While the Helium will lighten your wallet about as much as its namesake element, it certainly does perform up to snuff. And if you're not prone to falling on your head, a helmet this nice can certainly be an investment. Even with the minor quibbles I have about this helmet, I would highly recommend it if you're willing to part with the bills to buckle it on.
Comments? Questions? Something I forgot to cover? Post up and let me know!