Wavecel is a promising rotational impact system
Very, very hot; uncomfortable fit system
I am a fan of Bontrager’s helmets, and the Velocis MIPS helmet is still my go-to lid. Thus, I had high hopes for the Specter, one of the company’s latest helmets to feature the new WaveCel technology. Unfortunately, the Specter did not meet the high standard of quality we’ve become accustomed to with other Bontrager helmets.
You likely read about the buzz and ensuing controversy after Bontrager introduced its WaveCel helmets earlier this year. Does big talk equal big performance? Are these helmets, with their new design, safer than MIPS lids? At this point it’s impossible to say whether WaveCel makes Bontrager’s helmets safer without conducting some serious independent testing. Results appear to be mixed at best so far, and this review won’t focus on WaveCel’s safety claims because frankly, riding the helmet won’t prove or disprove said claims.
We must also analyze these helmets based on the traditional qualities of fit and functionality. Unfortunately for Bontrager, that’s where the Specter helmet misses enough marks to call into question whether WaveCel is enough to entirely save the helmet.
Let’s start with the good stuff: The Specter is a stylish helmet, and it features a Boa dial closure. It’s hard to go wrong with Boa at this point, since these dials have set the standard in micro-adjustability. The pads within the helmet feature a thin profile, which helps keep the overall profile low. I never felt like I needed more padding than what was in there. Generally speaking, this is a comfortable helmet and it mirrors the high quality of Bontrager’s previous offerings.
While I do love the Boa system, I had difficulty keeping the Specter straight and centered on my head. It seemed to creep to one side during the ride, so much so that it was cocked off-center by the end of every ride I did. It didn’t really bother me in terms of comfort and fit, but it certainly looked a bit silly.
Bontrager made claims that the Specter’s larger vents helped with cooling, and in its own testing the company says venting was up to its standards. But this proved to be a very hot helmet. The tight “weave” of the Wavecel material makes it difficult for air to pass through unless it hits at exactly the right angle to penetrate the gaps in the material. On slow climbs the helmet was sweltering. It’s a similar problem Koroyd helmets suffer. WaveCel doesn’t seem any better in this regard.
I was excited to see a Fidlock magnetic clasp on the strap system. It works wonderfully: It clasps quickly and easily, and you can unclasp it with the flick of your fingers. Unfortunately, the strap does not stay secured throughout a ride and I found myself constantly re-tightening the strap under my chin. This was a consistent problem on every ride.
Bontrager representatives said this was not a known issue and it’s possible my situation is a one-off. The company recommended ensuring the straps were secured through the rubber strap keeper. Mine were secured in the band and still slipped. Bontrager was also quick to note that the straps, “pass all testing which includes a pull force test so you don’t have to worry about the strap coming through the buckle in a crash.”
To top it all off, the Specter is by no means a light helmet. At 395 grams, it does feel bulky, especially when you’re gritting it out on a long, hot climb.
To me, this is a rare and consequential misfire for Bontrager, given the bold marketing claims. Unfortunately, it has not met the high standard of quality we’ve become accustomed to with other Bontrager products. So regardless of Bontrager’s claims of WaveCel’s safety efficacy, it’s clear the company needs to spend more time on the basics — fit, function, and venting.