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Road Gear

Clothesline Review: new road helmets from Catlike and Lazer

In his latest Clothesline review, Zack Vestal takes a look at new road helmets from Catlike and Lazer

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The Clothesline reviews new Lazer and Catlike helmets
Hope you didn't miss it: Zack's full Euro-lid review was in the May issue of VeloNews

The Clothesline 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.

Way back in the early springtime, we assembled six road helmets of European ancestry for a tech feature in VeloNews magazine. Limar, Spiuk, Briko, and three other brands made the cut. Euro helmets obviously have distinctive styling compared to their American counterparts from Bell, Giro, and Specialized. We also discovered they often have unique approaches to fit and function.

But back then, you couldn’t get Catlike helmets in the United States. The Catlike Whisper Plus is worn by the Cervélo TestTeam and Euskaltel-Euskad and now it’s available on this side of the Atlantic. You can get one either directly from exclusive distributor Serotta Sport or from online retail partner sites.

Also back then, we reviewed the Lazer Genesis, a longtime mainstay of the European peloton. Now the Lazer range is updated with the Helium, a lighter road helmet designed to assume the top spot in the Belgian company’s line. You can still get the Genesis and O2 helmets, but Helium is what the pros have been wearing since spring.

If you’re looking for a new skid lid and you want to stand out from the crowd (or emulate a Euro-pro idol), both of these new helmets are great options.

Catlike Whisper Plus – $275

It’s certainly not the cheapest helmet you can buy, but I suppose style comes with a price tag. In this case, Catlike style includes the extensively perforated shell of the Whisper Plus. It’s molded with a whopping 39 vents. Each vent is scoop shaped and leads to deep internal channels to direct air across the head.

The Clothesline reviews new Lazer and Catlike helmets
With all these holes, you'd expect it to move a lot of air. It does.

Like almost all helmets these days, it’s got an adjustable rear retention system. However the Catlike retention strap is anchored only at the front and not up to the rear of the shell. Instead, the chin strap webbing passes through the retention system and up to the helmet shell where it’s anchored. The design permits up and down adjustment of the rear retention system along the path of the webbing. Tension of the retention strap itself is adjusted by a ratcheting band and push buttons to release the band.

Our test helmet in size medium weighs 270 grams. Serotta’s website says that it’s CPSC certified, but our test helmet bears only the EN 1078 decal. If you buy from Serotta, the Catlike Whisper Plus comes with a carrying case, and a visor and spare pads are available as accessories.

It’s nice. As you’d expect, the ventilation is about as good as I’ve ever experienced. The sensation of air actually flowing over my head has been welcome on hot afternoon rides, especially compared to the Giro Prolight I usually wear.

The Whisper Plus is comfortable. Retention is good, shell shape is good, and I don’t have any major complaints about the rear retention system. The release buttons are balky to operate, but it’s not a deal breaker. I like that the band itself is made of flexible material rather than hard plastic, and it’s padded at the back.

My only major issue has been the straps and Y-buckles under the ears. The straps don’t want to lay flat and the buckles tend to twist outward, away from my face. Maybe over time the material will relax, but for now it’s been annoying. It’s my number one pet peeve, especially considering that Giro somehow figured out how to make non-adjustable Y-junctions on the Prolight straps lay flat and fit perfectly.

More info:

Lazer Helium – $220

The Clothesline reviews new Lazer and Catlike helmets
The new strap system

Lazer has been hinting about the Helium since about this time last year, but design and delivery issues delayed widespread availability until recently. By all indications, the wait has been worth it, even if the Helium’s weight doesn’t actually shave much from its predecessor, the Genesis. The Genesis I wore all last winter (and described in VeloNews May 2010) weighed 311 grams; the new Helium in the same XXS-S size weighs 303 grams.

I like Lazer’s latest lid mostly because the straps and retention system are more comfortable. The Helium still depends on the RollSys thumb wheel to tighten or loosen a retention band that wraps fully around your head. But now, compared to the Genesis, the band is lighter, less rigid, and perforated across the front for ventilation. Additionally, the rear retention frame is made of lighter, more minimalist and flexible plastic. The lobes of the frame don’t dig into my head as they did on the Genesis.

The Helium straps are made from lighter, more flexible webbing. On the Genesis, the straps wouldn’t lay flat — they twisted outward in front of my ears. It felt weird and bugged the daylights out of me. I still think Lazer could improve the anchor points and routing of the straps so they lay flatter, perhaps by moving the front strap forward and the rear lower on the helmet. But the lighter, more flexible webbing of the Helium is a big improvement. I can feel it still wants to twist in front of the ears, but the flexible material does a much better job staying put.

Overall, the shell shape differs little from the Genesis. Fit and ventilation are about the same, which is to say perfectly adequate but not exceptional.

Is the Helium’s $45 premium over the perfectly good Genesis worth it? In my case, I’d pay it just to get the lighter straps and perforated retention band. But if you weren’t having problems with your Genesis like I did, then you’d be fine sticking with it.

More info: