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Buyer’s guide: Best aero helmets

BikesEtc
6 Dec 2018

Aerodynamic lids that not only protect your noggin but boost your speed too

Frankly, we all love going fast on a bike, but one thing that holds us back from going as fast as we’d like is the huge effort required to move the air out of our way – otherwise known as ‘aerodynamic drag’.

If you can find a way to reduce that resistance and make yourself more slippery through the air, you’ll find that you can ride quicker for the same effort.

This is where helmets come in. While they’re generally seen as a good idea from a safety perspective, they’re quite prominent extensions to your head, so getting an aerodynamic lid can make a useful difference.

Quite where one draws the line between aerodynamics and cooling is a very personal choice (more vents generally means poorer aerodynamics) so we’ve pulled together a selection of options to show some of what’s out there, but stopped short of including full-on time trial helmets.

As ever, though, getting a good fit should be your primary concern, so it’s important to try any helmet for size before making a purchase.

Here is a selection of the best aero helmets

1. Met Manta aero helmet

Met Manta aero helmet

Along with a Mark Cavendish version (pictured), the Manta comes in six colours and in either medium or large sizes.

With a mass of 219g, Met’s aero offering is significantly lighter than other similar helmets and according to the marketing, saves 10 was when traveling at 50kmh.

Minimal front venting undoubtedly plays a role in achieving this, so the rear has plenty of exhaust porting.

The widest of our group, Manta uses a full skull-wrapping micro- adjust fit system that contours well to your head, while the straps function well enough but do want to twist rather than lay flat.

With its big claims for drag reduction and minimal vents, we were impressed when we placed the Manta on the scales; fit-wise, we’d suggest it’s best suited to rounder head shapes.

Verdict: A stylish and surprisingly light option that will help you ride as fast as Cav. Possibly. 8/10

2. Mavic CXR Ultimate aero helmet

Mavic CXR Ultimate aero helmet

With a ‘rising sun’ vent pattern to the front of Mavic’s CXR Ultimate, it’s a very distinctive looking lid.

Designed in the wind tunnel, the French firm state that this ‘sun’ design moves air to the sides, reducing drag while the exhaust ports at the rear help pull air out.

At 255g it’s one of the lightest in this selection and one of the narrowest. We especially like the fact that there’s some cross-over between the three sizes, thanks to the Ergo Hold SL retention offering a wide variation in adjustment, so no worries about being on the cusp between two sizes.

Black and black/yellow is a limited colour range but it’s hard to fault if you like the style and fit.

Verdict: A good aero helmet with a distinctive design and a generous range of adjustment in the fitting. 8/10

Buy now from BikeInn for £143

3. Catlike Cloud 352 aero helmet

Catlike Cloud 352 aero helmet

Independent thinkers are never ones to follow the pack (perhaps the clue's in the name), Spanish brand Catlike has very much gone its own direction on its fast helmet for road riding.

Using a pair of M3 bolts to secure the top section it can be swapped from a solid to a perforated version boasting something like 300 holes, easily transforming it from a slippery aero shape into something more cooling for hotter days, but still with a rounded profile.

Three vents across the brow feed air into deep main pockets and it comes in three sizes. Our medium sized Cloud weighs 353g.

A unique take on the fast helmet that’s best suited to shorter/broader heads and features plenty of adjustment.

Verdict: An innovative aero design that also doubles up as a well-ventilated, lightweight summer helmet. 8/10

Buy now from Ribble Cycles for £160

4. Giro Cinder MIPS aero helmet

Giro Cinder MIPS aero helmet

Giro’s latest creation brings sleek aero styling to a lower price point than ever before in a host of colours.

Our medium had the narrowest internal width of all the helmets here (albeit by just a few millimetres), which meant that it felt secure once the Roc Loc 5 retention system was tightened up and one of the three vertical positions selected, prior to adjusting the straps.

With a fairly modest weight of 303g, you can see what your extra cash will buy. With the widest stated range of all the helmets here we expect to see a lot of these lids on the road.

Built with MIPS, a wide range of colours and size range, you can bet the Cinder is going to be a popular choice.

Verdict: A comfortable helmet with great fitting adjustment, excellent safety features and stylish looks. 8/10

Full Giro Cinder MIPS aero helmet review

5. Lazer Z1 aero helmet

Lazer Z1 aero helmet

Yes, it’s the most expensive helmet in our selection but the Z1 does double duty thanks to the optional Aeroshell a achment.

This clear plastic cover is beautifully formed to fit snugly over the helmet to give a smooth aero shape – ideal for time trials – but when you remove it, you have over 30 vents to help keep air flowing, which is perfect for warmer days.

A nine-stage vertical adjuster with central cut-out is about as unobtrusive as you get for the retention system.

Eight colours and a small cross over between each of the three sizes shows that Lazer has put a lot of innovation and thought into this helmet.

The whole package weights 277g or 233g without cover. A MIPS version is available for an extra £30. Middle of the road for width, the Z1 is packed with innovation and stands out from the crowd – not just because of the eight colours.

Verdict: The Aeroshell makes this an excellent choice for time triallists who don’t want to splash out on two helmets. 9/10

6. Specialized Evade aero helmet

Leaning more towards the aero side than some others, Specialized has made use of its in-house wind-tunnel on its products and it’s clear to see its influence, especially at the rear of the Evade.

A full range is offered with three sizes available and three core colour ways. One of the narrower helmets by a couple of millimetres, the Mindset adjustment offers a good fitting range and the straps with their Y connector are worthy of praise as they lie flat.

Said to offer a 50 second saving over a 40km ride, the Evade has every base covered to our minds.

Verdict: An exceptionally well fitting helmet that both looks smart and delivers on its aero promises. 9/10

Full Specialized S-Works II Evade aero helmet review

Buy now from Tredz for £250

7. Bell Zephyr aero helmet

Bell Zephyr aero helmet

Introduced in the summer of 2016, the Zephyr is claimed by Bell to be the most innovative helmet out there – not bad for a 60-odd year old company.

Constructed from two densities of EPS foam that are layered together, it’s designed to be low in volume yet high on protection – to that end it also includes MIPS technology.

Opting for larger vents and a smooth profile, Bell has included small vents that take air straight off the forehead, too.

Another mid-width shell, again Zephyr offers a small intersection in its three sizes along with five colours, and a very respectable weight of 278g.

Using the well-respected Float Race fit system makes for a very comfy, safe helmet.

Verdict: An impressively sleek helmet with large vents for superior cooling along with aero performance. 9/10

Full Bell Zephyr aero helmet review

Buy now from BikeInn for £138.99

8. Lazer Bullet aero helmet

Lazer just loves to make its products plenty versatile and by including the Air Slide in the Bullet they’ve made sure that box is ticked.

A simple plate on the front can be slid back to open five vents and thereby allow a big gulp of cooling air in.

Besides this, there are ten further vents to ensure plentiful cooling.

The downside to this cleverness is a bit more weight – our middle of three size options weighs 359g, making it the chunkiest on test, though you probably won’t notice those extra grams unless you’re a real weight weenie.

Fit is quite generous, sitting deep on the head especially at the back, and as ever the ATS fit system cradles the average head shape well.

Verdict: The choice of full aero mode or maximum ventilation makes this a great all-rounder. 8/10

9. BBB Tithon aero helmet

At around half the price of many of its rivals, there is plenty to recommend the BBB Tithon. It comes in five colours and three sizes, the middle of which weighs 260g on our scales.

A wind tunnel-tested design that’s been ridden by the Groupama-FDJ pro team, BBB says it’s the best balance between aero- and thermo-dynamics and as such has five vents with an extra inlet located above the eyebrows that channels air over the top of the head.

Fit is slightly biased towards the narrower head form but offers a good average thanks to the highly adjustable Omega retention system. 

Verdict: Exceptional value for a high-performance helmet that’s good enough for the pros. 9/10

Buy now from Ebay for £65.99

10. HJC Furion aero helmet

With years of experience in the motorcycle helmet business HJC has hit the ground running – or should that be pedalling – with the Furion.

Developed in the company’s own wind tunnel, it’s clear the designers concentrated on weight as well as aerodynamics because it tips the scales at just 212g for a medium/large, the middle of three sizes.

Minimal internal air channels mean it relies on space above the head for cooling. Touching down front to rear, it’s easy to imagine there is room for air to pass through the 15 vents.

Fit-wise, the Furion will suit the slightly shorter head shape.

Verdict: Impressively low weight and performance from these newcomers to the cycling market. 8/10

Buy now from Wiggle for £180

11. Rudy Project Boost 01 aero helmet

With renowned cycling aerodynamicist John Cobb’s name on the side and involved in the design process, you can be assured the Boost is capable of reducing your ‘coefficient of friction’.

Constructed with 12 vents, the front pair can be covered partially or fully, and with smooth internal channels it certainly looks the part inside and out, while the unobtrusive RSR9 retention system and straps offer one of the comfiest, most adjustable systems around.

Available in two sizes, our S/M weighs 283g. Size wise, it’s suited to a shorter shape of head and will sit nice and deep for maximum protection.

Verdict: Comes with excellent aero credentials and offers a very comfortable, adjustable fit. 7/10

Buy now from BikeInn for £142.99

12. Giro Vanquish aero helmet

One of the first names you think of when it comes to cycling helmets, Giro has taken things to the next level with the Vanquish.

We’ve seen removable integrated visors before but nothing quite as neat as this, with sculpting to ensure smooth internal airflow and minimal drag.

Fit wise, its comes up slightly larger than the average, offering a good depth and a well sculpted shape. Always a joy to use, the Roc Loc Air retention system is compact and offers a great range of adjustability.

With the eyeshield in place it weighs 340g, or 288g without. It also has 10 vents and comes in three sizes.

Verdict: The removable integrated eyeshield makes this perfect if you occasionally dabble in time trials. 9/10

13. Abus Game Changer game changer

‘Game Changer’ is a bold statement of intent and it’s clear that Abus have put a great deal of effort into ensuring this helmet lives up to its billing.

Developed in conjunction with the pros of the Movistar team, it claims to offer an aero advantage in ‘real race conditions’, regardless of which direction the wind is coming from.

Weighing just 269g, it has 14 vents and comes in three sizes. The details are what make it shine, specifically the elegant internal flow lines and straps that are the very well thought through.

In terms of fit, it’s best suited to those with a narrower/longer head shape. 

Verdict: Impressively low weight and well-designed straps make for excellent comfort. 8/10

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