By Zack Vestal
Uvex, a leader in cycling helmets in Europe, is not well known in the United States. But the German brand hopes to change that through a new distribution agreement with Magura USA.
I had a chance to try the Uvex FP1 Race helmet, the same lid as worn by sprinter Mark Cavendish and his Columbia-Highroad teammates. It’s exceptionally light, fits well, is very comfortable, has passable ventilation and is noticeably lighter than most other helmets I’ve worn.
One caveat: While it meets the European EN DIN 1078 standard and is therefore legal in U.S. Cycling Federation events, it is not certified to the American ANSI, SNELL, or CPSC standards and thus is not legal for USA Triathlon events.
The name “Uvex” was coined as an amalgamation of the words “UV,” as in ultraviolet rays, and “exclusion,” as in “protection from.” The company started in sunglasses and now encompasses four major categories: jobsite safety products (like safety glasses and protective clothing); sporting goods (like cycling, skiing, and equestrian eyewear and helmets), the sibling Alpina brand (also sporting goods); and fashion sunglasses under the name Filtral. The company is privately held, and much larger than its presence in the USA would indicate.
The basics of the FP1 Race are similar to most full-featured road bike helmets on the market. The outer shell is made of a material called Makrolon, a thermoplastic polycarbonate manufactured by Bayer Corporation. The body is expanded polystyrene, which is injected into a mold already lined with the Makrolon shell, making for a smooth bond between the two materials. The helmet body has 22 vents.
The retention straps are like those found on most helmets: soft, 16mm wide and easy to adjust with clip buckles where the straps form a “Y” between the front and rear of the helmet. The chin buckle is Uvex ’s “monomatic” adjustable piece, in which a serrated male end slides into a slotted female receiver. A single button releases the buckle and permits on-the-fly tension adjustment of the chin strap.
Uvex uses an adjustable plastic strap, the Individual Adapting System (IAS), to secure the occipital lobe. It tightens easily with a dial. It also has vertical adjustment at the forward attachment point, so it adjusts not just for tension, but also vertical placement around the back of the head. The IAS strap is nicely padded at the back.
I found adjustment relatively easy, but as with most helmets I’ve worn, it took some fiddling to get the “Y” clip buckles just where I like them — at the back of the jawbone, close under the ear, but not touching the lobe (I’m fairly picky). I’ve got a small head, so I adjusted the IAS as high in the helmet as it would go so it would not interfere with the earpieces on my sunglasses, and then tightened it three clicks. Easy.
I think it’s a nice helmet. It’s very light, just 206 grams in a size small. The lightness gives it an easy, airy fit on the head. The straps lay flat, and while I don’t make frequent use of the adjustment offered by the “monomatic” chin buckle, it’s a nice feature.
The size small fits my head quite nicely, similar to a Giro in size small, but it rides a touch higher over the ears. I don’t mind the look, but I would feel more comfortable (in terms of safety, if not style) if it sat a little deeper on my head. It’s not as tight along the sides of my head as a similarly sized Giro, and the padding is good.
The ventilation ports are noticeably smaller than those found in other helmets. Personally, I don’t feel like it’s as well ventilated as a top-end Giro Ionos. But, it’s lighter by quite a bit (90 grams), and that makes up for it.
The shell material has a dull matte finish as opposed to the shiny, polished look of most helmets. It may serve a practical purpose (hiding scratches from everyday use), but as a fashion statement I like the unique look.
Fortunately, I never had occasion to test the protective capability of the FP1 Race. But as mentioned, it is not built to the same standard as most helmets for retail in the USA. The Uvex catalog specifies “for competition use only.” To meet the CPSC safety standard, Uvex has a new helmet, the FP3, which is in the late prototype stages. It should be available by fall.
If you are looking for a very light, perfectly comfortable road helmet, Uvex is worth a try. And now that Magura USA is picking up distribution, expect to see more Uvex products available in the USA.