Belgium. Land of my pal Ed Hood’s favorite races — the Spring Classics (including two of the five Monuments): Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, E3 Saxo Bank Classic, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders (aka de Ronde or Ronde van Vlaanderen), Scheldeprijs, La Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Belgium is also the land of Lazer Helmets, a brand that’s been around for more than 100 years and currently worn in the pro peloton by Jumbo-Visma (both men’s and women’s teams) and the women’s FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope team. Their latest and greatest helmet is the Vento KinetiCore that dropped at the end of March and features new technology to provide more protection in the event of a crash.
Fittingly, the Vento KinetiCore made its debut in the pro peloton at de Ronde
And Marta Cavalli won the women’s Amstel Gold Race on Sunday
Lazer Vento KinetiCore – $299.99
Full disclosure: I’m not sponsored by Lazer but I’ve ridden their helmets exclusively for the past 8+ years, including the Helium, Z1 (their former flagship model) Flanders special edition, and Sphere MIPS. So I was psyched to get my hands (or is that head?) on the new Vento KinetiCore.
At first glance, the Vento KinetiCore looks like a typical aero helmet (it’s a replacement for Lazer’s Bullet 2.0 MIPS aero helmet — PEZ had a first look at the original Bullet helmet when it was first introduced) that you see a lot of riders in the pro peloton wearing. As you would expect for an aero helmet, there aren’t a lot of vents — 13 total. There are two “main” vents at the front of the helmet and two smaller side vents for air intake. There’s also an intake vent at the top back part of the helmet. For “flow through” ventilation, there are eight outtake vents at the back of the helmet. According to Lazer, the Vento KinetiCore is 2.3% more aerodynamic that the Bullet 2.0 MIPS that it replaces — even though the Vento KinetiCore has more vents (the latter has 8 vents). In other words, the Vento KinetiCore is both more aero and more ventilated — what’s not to like about that?
Just because it’s aero doesn’t mean it’s not ventilated
You have to hold it up to light just right to see that it’s a vent. The other way to know is to pour water on it and it will come through to the inside of the helmet.
A venturi vent on the top back of the helmet is designed to pull more air through the helmet to expel it out the back
What goes in must come out … eight outtake vents at the back
But what makes the Vento KinetiCore different from every other helmet on the market (aero or otherwise) is the Lazer’s KinetiCore technology that provides additional protection against rotational impact — which is more common with cycling accidents and most traumatic brain injuries are the result of rotational impact. Up until now, the other technologies for rotational impact have been MIPS, which stands for Multi-Directional Impact Prevention System (a technology that was invented in Sweden in 1996) and is used in other Lazer helmets (in fact, Lazer was the first bicycle helmet company to incorporate MIPS into an in-mold helmet) as well as by other manufacturers, and WaveCel, which is a technology exclusive to Trek. Both MIPS and WaveCel are excellent technologies but can add weight and/or reduce ventilation. They are also both technologies that are an added-on to the interior of the helmet.
KinetiCore is radically different — the technology is part of the helmet itself. It consists of blocks and channels molded into the EPS foam of the helmet during manufacturing that are engineered to absorb or redirect the force of either linear or rotational impacts to help reduce head injury.
The KenetiCore molding creates air channels to help pull air from the front through to the back of the helmet for cooling
The concept is similar to “crumple zones” built into modern cars that are designed to deform and crumple in a collision, absorbing and redirecting some of the energy of the impact and prevent it from being transmitted to the occupants.
In addition to safety, the other benefits of KinectiCore are:
- Reduced weight: No additional system added after manufacturing. Less EPS foam used in construction
- Increased ventilation: No liner or other material blocking vents or airflow
- Reduced plastics in manufacturing: Up to 24% less plastics as compared to previous comparable models
5 Star Safety
It’s important to note that all helmets have to pass minimum safety standards depending on what part of the world you live in:
- CE (acronym for the French Conformite Europeenne) for Europe and parts of Asia
- AUS for Australia and New Zealand
- CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) for Americas
The different agencies set minimum standards for the amount of energy that can be transmitted to helmet interior for a baseline impact force. So helmets that pass these certifications can be considered safe. And in that regard, the Vento KinetiCore is no different from any other bicycle helmet on the market.
However, above and beyond these certifications, Virginia Tech conducts independent and unbiased helmet ratings (for a variety of sports).
For bicycle helmets specifically:
In collaboration with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, we have rated 144 bike helmets using the STAR evaluation system. Our impact tests evaluate a helmet’s ability to reduce linear acceleration and rotational velocity of the head resulting from a range of head impacts a cyclist might experience. Helmets with more stars provide a reduction in concussion risk for these impacts compared to helmets with less stars.
The details of their testing methodology can be found here. Without going into the nuts and bolts of it, it’s essentially a helmet drop test at different velocities with measurements at six different locations to represent body-driven impacts in which the head leads the body, skidding-type impacts, and an impact from flipping over the handlebars. Importantly: “We measure linear acceleration and rotational velocity for each impact, which are correlated to concussion risk.”
Based on how well a helmet scored (a lower score is better), it is then given a star rating from 1-5, with 5 stars being the best. The Vento KinetiCore was rated 5 stars by Virginia Tech.
Helmets ranked higher by Virginia Tech may offer better protection that those that are ranked lower and their independent testing results offer an additional perspective on any purchase decision. But as Virginia Tech points out:
No helmet is concussion-proof. Any athlete can sustain a head injury, even with the very best head protection. The helmet ratings identify the helmets that best reduce your chances of sustaining a concussion.
Ultimately, it’s your head so your decision.
Weight is normally the first spec that comes up in any discussion of helmets. After all, no one wants a heavy helmet on their head when they’re riding. Lazer claims 290 grams for the Vento KinetiCore. So it’s not a featherweight, but you wouldn’t expect an aero helmet to be the lightest. But if minimum weight (or maximum ventilation for climbing on ultra hot days) is what you’re chasing, these are not the droids you’re looking for.
6 grams lighter (a whopping 2 percent!) than spec
Sizing and fit
All my other Lazer helmets are size medium and that’s what size I went with for the Vento KinetiCore. My head measurement (56 cm) is actually on the cusp between small and medium per Lazer’s size guide. Lazer recommends the smaller size when you’re in-between sizes like me, but I chose to go the other direction for a couple of different reasons. NOTE: Helmets (like shoes) are best if you can try-before-you-buy. Otherwise, make sure your purchase can be returned/exchanged.
First, I like to wear a thin skull cap under my helmet (what you see a lot of NFL players wear under their helmets) so that makes my head size marginally bigger (but not to be confused with #marginalgains). My experience is that being at the lower end of the size medium fit rather than at the upper end of size small works better for fit/comfort. The main reason I wear a skull cap is because it helps keep the inside of my helmet from getting too sweaty and “funky” smelling (and it doesn’t make my head feel any hotter … even during the hottest of summer days). Plus it helps with keeping sweat from dipping down onto my sunglasses/into my eyes (even more important with the trend to oversized sunglasses).
Looking good, Billy Ray. Feeling good, Louis.
Second, a size medium sits on my head better. I see a lot of riders (including pros) who wear helmets that sit relatively high up, exposing a fair amount of their forehead (like more than half). IMHO a helmet actually needs to sit lower down (but not so low that you it interferes with wearing sunglasses — especially with the trend to oversize sunglasses) to provide adequate protection. Why? As I wrote in my review of the Lazer Sphere MIPS helmet:
Well, my wife had a bike accident (many years ago) where her helmet wasn’t positioned down low enough in front so it didn’t provide enough protection when she hit the pavement. The result was a helicopter trip to the hospital. It was scary and she came through it all OK, but her head injury was such that she still has occasional short term memory loss.
Remember what I said about it’s your head so your decision?
Tom Dumoulin (left) with his helmet sitting properly on his head. Tony Martin (right) with excessive forehead real estate exposed
Fit itself is adjusted two ways. First, the “basket” at the back of the helmet can be adjusted up or down for fit/comfort (and to accommodate a ponytail) via a ratchet system. NOTE: This can be a little fiddly to move. You have to pull or push pretty firmly on the ratchet part to get it to move, so a minor PITA.
Left: The basket in the highest position (#5). Right: The basket in the lowest position (#1). My head was most comfortable with it adjusted in-between #2 and #3.
Second, the snugness is adjusted via what Lazer calls its ScrollSys retention system, which is a variation of the RollSys system on my Z1 and Sphere MIPS helmets. Instead of a barrel adjuster on the top back part of the helmet, there’s a “conveyor belt” that you scroll up or down to loosen or tighten the fit. Not because the RollSys adjustment doesn’t work well (it does), but because the ScrollSys is more aero. #maginalgains
Scroll up (green) to loosen and down (red) to loosen
I’m a fan of Lazer’s ScrollSys/RollSys because it completely encircles the head, creating even distribution of tension and eliminating pressure points. IMHO it’s simply a better design than helmets that anchor the retention system into points inside the helmet and squish one end of the helmet against your head (which was the case with Lazer’s previous Bullet 2.0 MIPS aero helmet).
In addition to the ScrollSys and rear vents, there’s a direct-fit mount for the Lazer Universal LED light for some added safety
Does this make my head look faster?
Fit-wise, the Vento KinetiCore fits my head well and is comfortable to wear. That’s probably the most important thing when it comes to a helmet. No matter how good a helmet is, you’re not going to want (or be able) to wear one that doesn’t fit well and isn’t comfortable. I can’t tell you how many cycling friends I have who’ve bought a helmet just based on spec and then had to return it because their head and helmet weren’t compatible. So try-before-you-buy is always a good idea.
The one thing I wish Lazer would do is bring back the locking strap sliders that were on my Helium
It’s also worth noting that most of Lazer’s helmets are considered more “oval” fit (a few, such as the Sphere MIPS are considered “all,” which is presumably more “round”). Typically, round tends to be better for “Asian” heads. I’m of Filipino ethnic heritage (so technically Asian), but haven’t had any issues with Lazer’s oval fit. Again, why try-before-you-buy is always a good idea.
The side vents have a grippy material to make sunglass storage more secure
I got the Vento KinetiCore as spring was springing here in Babylon on the Potomac, which means the weather has been a little bit all over the place. We’ve had some sunny days with temps in the 70s. But we’ve also had some days in the 30s with stiff winds. As an aero helmet that’s less ventilated, it’s been fine for those conditions. But I’ll have to see how it fares when it’s the dog days of summer with temps in the 80s/90s and high humidity.
Same helmet, but (left) cycling god vs (right) punter
This is my first experience with an aero helmet. One of the ironies is that IMHO the Vento KinetiCore isn’t as “sleek” looking as something like my Z1 (I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder), but it slices through the wind better (largely due to fewer vents and more surface area for air to move smoothly over). It’s definitely an acquired look. Style points aside, the important question is: Does it make my head look faster?
FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope happy with Marta Cavalli’s Amstel win
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