In Search of a New Noggin Bonnet|
Monday, July 25, 2005
|Bell Sweep XC
I ride roads and trails, pavement and dirt, mud and snow, and one good bike helmet is enough for me. So, this spring when it came time to replace my long-used and abused Trek helmet, I decided to test out models from three companies in a search of a new chief noggin bonnet.
The three models, from Bell, Louis Garneau USA and Uvex, are all nice helmets, with adequate ventilation and protection. All three weigh around 10 ounces and feature similar adjustment systems to fit the helmet precisely to your head. Prices range from $95 to $135, which signifies the upper reaches of the product category.
Uvex's Supersonic RS helmet sells for $100 and is made of a shock-absorbing, high-density polystyrene material, which the company says provides abundant durability while allowing for larger ventilation openings. Indeed, the Supersonic RS has the most generous air-flow vents of the tested models, and the three front vents are wide enough that Uvex (www.uvexsports.com) decided to add a mesh fabric covering in the holes to ward off errant insects. There are a total of 23 vents on this helmet.
Functionally, the Supersonic RS fit me well and adjusted easily with a ratchet-type chinstrap buckle and a twist-knob on the rear portion that cradles the back of your head. It's also the bulkiest and most protective of the three test helmets, making it appropriate for serious off-trail biking.
The $135 Bell Sweep XC is a top-end model from the company's Race Series of road-biking helmets. Its airy, lightweight design and integrated visor makes it attractive to mountain bikers as well. Bell (www.bellbikehelmets.com) molds the Sweep XC with 20 vents to channel airflow over the head and out the rear and it breathes just as well or better than the Uvex Supersonic RS.
As it's designed primarily for road biking, the Sweep XC does not feel bulky. It adjusts easily with a twist-knob and chinstrap buckle like the other models in this review.
The Aki model from Louis Garneau USA (www.louisgarneau.com) was the lightest and most minimal helmet of the three. Made for road biking, the $95, 9.6-ounce helmet has a precise, tight fit. Though there are 24 vents on the Aki, the holes are smaller than on the Bell and Uvex models, resulting in slightly worse air flow.
Louis Garneau's small twist-knob adjuster was the best in the group, as it turns easily with one hand to make micro adjustments to the helmet's fit. The company claims superior safety features with the Aki, specifically highlighting its patented U-Bar technology, which adds strength to the curved edges of vents. Fortunately, I did not have the occasion to test and verify these safety claims.
As stated, all three models are very nice helmets and it was hard to choose a winner. But, in the end, I found myself favoring the Bell Sweep XC. It rides a middle ground between the minimalist Aki and the larger Uvex Supersonic RS and I felt comfortable using the helmet racing down the road and off trail on tough, muddy and root-laden singletrack.