Clothesline Review: Go Euro with a Briko Mustang helmet; Craft Performance Light jacket

The Clothes Line is an occasional column about clothing, shoes, helmets, and other accessories we’ve encountered.

The Clothes Line is an occasional column about clothing, shoes, helmets, and other accessories we’ve encountered. Clothing is possibly the most personal of all gear choices: two riders can try the same jersey and come back with completely different opinions. This is not meant as an extensive review (as in, worn until threadbare), but we simply hope to ride these products for as long as possible and report back on the basic fit and features. We hope you find it helpful.

Last month in VeloNews, we rounded up a group of readily available European road helmets and put most of them to the test. The group included a lightweight Limar, a sturdy Spiuk, a yellow Uvex, and others. If you don’t have a subscription, you missed it. And if you haven’t got a copy yet, you’d better hustle, because newsstand copies will be gone soon.

Click for larger image

At the time of writing the story, Catlike helmets were not available in the U.S., but that’s changing soon. Serotta Sport is picking up distribution, so the popular Catlike Whisper helmets worn by both Euskaltel and Cervélo TestTeam riders will soon be on sale on this side of the Atlantic.

We also missed including Briko helmets. Unfortunately, the Briko Mustang Carbon we requested arrived a day late for the photo shoot, so we’re circling back for a closer look here. As with Catlike, Briko helmets have not been available in the U.S. for the last few years, but are poised to make a splash this fall.

According to Kirsten Andreae of Briko North America, “The Mustang Carbon will not be readily available in North America until 2011.” She added, “We will be launching a very small collection at Interbike which will reflect Briko’s re-introduction into the US market after being gone for the past 5 years. Included will be all-new helmet designs such as the Mustang and the revolutionary ProTek and Paolo Bettini apparel collections (of which Paolo lead the design team).”

Briko partnered with Gran Fondo USA to display and sell helmets at the start of the Italian-themed Gran Fondo Colnago in San Diego last month. “We have had many nice comments from riders who purchased them at the Gran Fondo about the fit,” said Andreae. “People seem to seem to appreciate the comfort and ‘secure’ feeling it offers.”

In addition to checking out the Briko Mustang helmet, warmer weather gave me a chance to get out on the road with an exceptionally lightweight, compact jacket from Craft.

Briko Mustang carbon helmet –$180 (projected retail)
Briko helmets were Paolo Bettini’s lids of choice. Our test helmet, the new Mustang carbon, is dressed in white and gold, with Italian flag accents and a Bettini autograph decal. The scheme is symbolic of his back-to-back world road championships victories and his 2004 Olympics road race gold medal. It looks sharp, especially if you’re into Euro-style flair.

The retention dial on this Briko Mustang is easy to use and seems sturdier than most. | Brad Kaminski photo

The Mustang has a rounded shape that bulges slightly at the sides. It sits very level, and with slightly thinner material at the front and top and thicker material at the sides, it sits low on the head. This fit contrasts with certain American helmets, which tend to perch higher on the head. It’s also more rounded than many American helmets.

At just 280 grams, our test helmet in size medium is one of the lightest of the Euro lids we found for the magazine. It’s got a retention dial at the back, straps made from pliable webbing, and nice padding. The Mustang Carbon is a carbon cage in-mold design with 24 vents and full ‘butterfly’ internal skeleton. It’s safety certified to EN 1078 and CPSC and is produced in two mold sizes: M (54-58) and L (59-61). It is sold with a protective bag, visor, variable thickness pad sets, and bug net.

Andreae asserted, “This [the Mustang internal skeleton], combined with its deep crown fit and low-lying roll-fit system make it a uniquely safe and secure high-end road racing model.”

The fit and comfort are outstanding. If an Italian-inspired look is what you’re after, match this Mustang with a Campagnolo or Castelli outift, and you’ll be set. I can’t find anything at all to dislike about the retention, fit, or finish with this helmet. The padding is great, and the retention band wraps very effectively around the rear and sides of my head.

My only comment is that the ventilation isn’t as good as I’ve come to prefer. There are plenty of vents, but they’re just a little too small and the inside structure needs a little deeper relief to channel airflow effectively.

Craft Performance Light Jacket – $100
Craft’s Performance Light Jacket is the lightest jacket I’ve ever used, and that’s both a plus and a minus.

Craft’s Performance Light jacket is just that – very light, and high performance (at least down to a certain, not too cold temperature range). | Brad Kaminski photo

I love the fact that it weighs just 118 grams in a size large and is compressible enough to stuff easily into its own compact pouch. Weight and compressibility have never meant much to me, but after grappling for years with various unwieldy jackets and vests, this one is sweet. Plus, the stuff pouch doubles as a back pocket when the jacket is being worn. The light weight and portability leave no excuse to leave it behind.

Other features on the Performance Light include mesh panels under the arms and along the back, reflective trim for visibility, and a nice soft collar. The shell material is incredibly light and soft, so the jacket feels positively whispery on the body. Elastic at the waist and cuffs is just right for comfort. The sleeves are plenty long enough to accommodate a rider’s reach to the bars. It’s so unobtrusive that it hardly feels as if I’m wearing a jacket at all, yet it does a good job providing shelter from the wind.

On the other hand, the ultra-light construction limits its ability to insulate, as do the mesh panels. I brought this jacket for the long descent after a grind up to the mountains. To my admittedly thin skin, it felt outmatched in the face of a light snow flurry and a chilly, 38-degree breeze. Craft says that it’s shaped to avoid flapping in the wind. It’s certainly trim, but at 6’-1” and 165 pounds, I would opt for a size medium next time. I’ve been using the size large and the cut is generous enough that it feels too big. Unfortunately while it doesn’t flap excessively in the wind, it’s still not as snug as I prefer.

The verdict? Craft’s Performance Light jacket is perfect as emergency protection from light showers and wind, in temperatures down to the upper 40s. But if you expect to encounter temperatures below 45 degrees, plan ahead and bring a more substantial jacket. This is a sweet shell, but keep your expectations in line with its feathery form.

Craft’s Performance Light jacket is just that – very light, and high performance (at least down to a certain, not too cold temperature range). | Brad Kaminski photo
Mesh fabric under the sleeves and at the back adds breathability and stretch to this ultralight jacket. | Brad Kaminski photo
Briko helmets will land in North America starting next year. | Brad Kaminski photo
The retention dial on this Briko Mustang is easy to use and seems sturdier than most. | Brad Kaminski photo
This tiny pocket actually doubles as a stuff sack for the jacket when it’s turned inside out. | Brad Kaminski photo
This sweet little package fits perfectly in a jersey pocket and still leaves room for an energy bar and pair of gloves. | Brad Kaminski photo
The Performance Light jacket is highly compressible and has no problem fitting into its own small pouch. | Brad Kaminski photo
The zipper, collar, cuffs, and waist are all nicely executed on this Craft jacket. | Brad Kaminski photo