Bontrager Specter helmet >> $140
The lowdown: Amazing comfort and striking looks for a very reasonable price.
Pros: Headmaster II adjustment dial is very user-friendly; fit is second to none
Cons: Too heavy for its price and airflow is second to some
Bontrager’s Specter is a new-for-2012, budget alternative to its top-of-the-line Oracle. A medium Specter weighs 306 grams, slightly heavier than the visually similar Giro Atmos, but $40 cheaper.
Design and aesthetics
As with the Oracle, Bontrager developed the Specter’s air passages with the help of computational fluid dynamics (CFD), essentially a computer-modeled wind-tunnel simulation of aerodynamics and airflow.
Visually, the Specter lives up to its name; from the front, it appears to be constantly frowning, but its swept-back shape is undeniably “pro.” You’ll have to decide which is more important when kitting up for an on-the-bike date.
An excellent fit
Beneath the CFD-shaped composite shell — carbon is reserved for the top-of-the-line Oracle — Bontrager clearly focused on comfort. The antimicrobial interior pads make the Specter feel more like a soft, soothing hat than a composite helmet.
The Headmaster II adjustment knob makes for very quick one-handed adjustments, and the chinstraps are noticeably gentle; they feel soothing and unobtrusive against both bare skin and facial hair.
How it stacks up
The Specialized S3 is slightly more expensive at $150. The Giro Atmos is visually indistinguishable from the Specter, but retails for $180.
Bontrager claims 300g for a medium Specter (our scales showed 306g), 62g heavier than the S3 and 20g more than the Atmos.
Comfortable, inexpensive, or light: choose two. For the Specter, Bontrager chose comfortable and inexpensive.