Mandatory helmets for pro cyclists have been the rule since the Giro d’Italia in 2003. Most of us can’t remember watching a group of pros riding ‘uncapped’ save for the iconic images of Armstrong blowing past everyone on final climbs of Sestriere (See ’99 Sestriere in the rain no less);’ however, we do remember Greg LeMond’s signature neon yellow Giro helmets blazing along during his amazing back-to-back Tour de France wins in ‘89 and ’90 because it was so rare that a rider would wear a helmet at all. LeMond benefitted not only from the safety of having a helmet on but also the aero advantage of the bullet shape. His rival Laurent Fignon rode the iconic final stage with a flowing mane of blond hair atop his head and nothing else; not the “aero” choice for sure, he lost the Tour by just 8-seconds.
Today’s helmets are nothing like the heavy molded plastic caps of the 1980s. Modern helmets are well-ventilated, lightweight, and aerodynamic for better performance. One of our favorites, the 2012 Lazer Helium, will be atop the heads of the Lotto Cycling Team at this year’s Tour de France. I got the chance to take it for an MF.com test ride! Here’s a quick review of some of this helmet’s best features:
1. Fit Adjustment System
Lazer has been around since 1919; making them one of the oldest helmet manufacturers around. Their helmets have changed plenty over the years; today’s Lazer features a great size-adjustment system that the rider can easily control mid-ride. The single rolling control on the top of the helmet tightens/loosens a single cable that wraps the entire head and runs the circumference of the helmet aperture. While other brands release one area of pressure (usually the rear of the head) Lazer’s Rollsys system allows for a very secure yet supple grip on the noggin.
2. It’s all about magnets!
Everyone who has a Mac computer loves the mag-safe plug that pulls away from the computer with ease, saving you from major catastrophe every time you trip over the cord. Magnets can really be a lifesaver, but I had my doubts about the use of magnets for my cycling helmet. The Lazer Helium features a magnet latching system that seemed almost too simple. It took a couple of rides to get used to, but it actually became as intuitive as the swipe screen on an iPhone. The magnet latch allows you to un-hook the helmet with one hand easily; something that isn’t easy to do with other elite pro helmets.
3. Carbon-the real thing
True carbon integration is very rare in helmets marketed to the everyday rider. I’ve used helmets in the past that featured “faux carbon” decals; there’s just nothing like the real thing. The Helium sports a layer of actual, light-weight carbon on top of the dual density EPS for increased rigidity and strength for a safer ride.
4. Breathe, baby!
Naturally no one should ever buy a helmet that doesn’t sit correctly upon the head, so fit is the most important aspect when choosing a helmet. Second to this, ventilation is a major aspect of selecting headgear. (Well, weight is important too, and at 290-33- grams, the Lazer is among the lightest.) The Lazer features 19 large vents that are strategically placed to help airflow over the head, making it one of the best-ventilated products in the class. On one of the rides the Helium kept me cool despite a blazing sun and temps in the low 90s.