Affordable road helmet featuring Bontrager’s WaveCel technology
Technology focused on reducing the impact of both linear and rotational forces of a crash; good value; comfortable fit
Dial is clunky; helmet is heavy
Bontrager’s WaveCel technology receives a five-star rating from the helmet testing facility at Virginia Tech, so we’re happy to see that technology being made more widely available to all cyclists. Many of the helmets we test are double or triple the price of the Starvos. Some of our testers found it comfortable while others had reservations about the Wavecel material pressing against the head. While it isn’t the lightest, most breathable, or coolest looking helmet we’ve ever tested, we’re pretty happy with the weight and breathability.
Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.
Bontrager’s Starvos helmet brings the company’s proprietary WaveCel rotational force system to an entry-level helmet. WaveCel is perhaps one of the more polarizing developments in helmet technology: It’s an intriguing take on rotational force dissipation, but it has had issues with breathability, and some VeloNews testers have had concerns about comfort with WaveCel-equipped helmets. The Starvos has impressed us early on with its comfort and breathability, though we’d ultimately like to test the Starvos on truly hot summer days before making a final judgment.
- Bontrager Specter Wavecel helmet review
- Tech Podcast: The evolution of helmet technology
- Smith Trace Hi-Viz helmet review
Bontrager’s WaveCel technology
VeloNews looked at WaveCel technology last year when Bontrager launched the Specter helmet. Now, Bontrager has released the Starvos for $50 less with the same crash protection features. WaveCel looks like the name sounds and is a collapsible cellular structure that serves three functions in a crash:
- The cells flex to reduce the initial frictional forces of an impact
- The cells crumble, similar to a car bumper
- The entire structure glides, redirecting energy away from your head
There have been many studies concluding that reducing the impact of rotational forces in a crash decreases the risk of brain trauma. MIPS was one of the first technologies to the cycling scene to specifically address rotational force management, but since then, we’ve seen the development of several different systems. WaveCel is Bontrager’s proprietary technology in this field. Thankfully, I have not crashed while riding with the Starvos and we hope to continue that trend and rely on Virginia Tech’s five-star rating to ascertain how effective WaveCel is.
Starvos helmet: first impressions
Last spring VeloNews tested the Specter, which is now the next step up from the Starvos in Bontrager’s line-up, it received poor marks for breathability, weight, and functionality. These issues seem to have been mostly corrected with the Starvos.
Helmet fit and head shapes are variable, but the Starvos fit my head well, and was comfortable with dense, absorbent padding. The Bontrager dial is on the larger size, which makes it easier to grasp, but isn’t especially svelte; and while it doesn’t have the smoothest action, the dial’s adjustments were precise enough to bring the harness in for a secure, comfortable hold.
The straps are thin and lightweight and, once you get them adjusted, they lay flat. The straps thread through the back of the harness and take a little bit of time to get adjusted just right between either side, but once they’re set, the LockDown dividers secure everything in place. While I tested the size small, it’s also worth noting that Bontrager has extended their size range to include an X-Large.
While I haven’t had the helmet long enough to get out on any truly hot summer days or big climbs, it seems to breathe well. The WaveCel structure is closely spaced, which means that air doesn’t necessarily breeze through, but gets through a little bit at a time, at various angles. I didn’t notice any overheating on a 70-degree road ride through rolling terrain. It isn’t the most vented helmet I’ve ever worn, but it has been more than serviceable for the rides I’ve tested it on to date.
Many of the helmets we test are double and triple the price of the Starvos. This helmet isn’t quite as sleek-looking as some top tier helmets and it weighs a bit more, but—all things considered—not that much more. Several of our most recently reviewed helmets landed at or around 260 grams, and the small Starvos we tested weighs 300 grams. It’s a subjective and personal calculation, but the math on the dollars-saved-to-weight-penalty ratio doesn’t seem too shabby.
In all, the Starvos helmet checks a lot of important boxes: reducing the multidirectional forces of a crash, a comfortable fit, and a price that doesn’t make you want to take up running. It may not have a lot of frills, but it has everything that a good helmet needs. In addition to the Starvos, Bontrager has also released the Rally WaveCel mountain bike helmet and a kids Jet WaveCel helmet. Stay tuned for our thoughts on the kids helmet.