What's Cool In Road Cycling

Great Head: Catlike Whisper Plus

I’ve been a fan of Catlike helmets since before they were “legal” here in North America. I remember sneaking a “Kompact” in to the country simply because it came in colors to match my bike at the time (A Pinarello Green Jersey Edition that was also not available in the US) and wound up surprised at how great it was in pretty much every aspect…

Fast forward a few years and despite now being certified for use here, they were still too damn hard to find. Hopefully those days are gone though, as Serotta Sport are the new North American Distributors and have a fresh stock of helmets, including the newly redesigned Catlike Whisper Plus.

Catlike are a larger and deeper company than most realize. They’ve been helmet guys for more than a decade, but they go from head to toe fairly neatly, with the range from helmets to eye wear to shoes.

Pepe Del Ramo decided to stay in the game after pro cycling, and his company started like lots of good companies do. Pepe knew there was a need for a few products to be better and his knowledge was first hand. Not everyone can get their ideas from A to B however, but it seems this man had the right stuff and “Catlike” was born (Pepe’s nickname was “El Gato”, thus the company name).

The company remains in Yecla Spain (the Whisper Plus is produced there) and is fully functioning in production and design…

Catlike’s designs have evolved pretty freely over the past few years and the new Whisper Plus is no exception.

While I remember a prototype of the first whisper model, I also remember that I preferred the Kompact to it in use, because although it has loads of openings, huge ventilation and a very aggressive design, the Kompact seemed to vent just as well, but was also much quieter and lighter.

Catlike noted some of the same needs and their Whisper Plus has come through a few design cycles to address a few details, while remaining one of the more striking designs available.

You know you have an eye catching design when Matte Black jumps like this.

Generally speaking, the number of holes in your helmet is not a great indicator of its air flow function. There are more than a few helmets out there with 15-20-25 holes, but they are, on some helmets, dead ends.

The Whisper plus may be the best ventilating helmet I have ever used.

It’s plain to see that it has lots of holes… But it’s what’s going on between the holes that make this an industry leader in air flow. The vents string together in a fashion that most manufacturers should take note of.

Loads of holes in front…

And lots of holes out back…

But what’s special here is that Catlike did away with virtually all of the garbage other companies leave in between.

Some companies leave too much material in between the holes or don’t link them together much at all. That’s the worst venting. But some of the companies that have good channeling get a little too complex in trying to direct it in different directions. Every change of direction is a downgrade when you have the relatively low speeds involved in bicycle riding…

Catlike have always had simple effective interiors and the Whisper Plus is no exception. They run channels straight through from front to back…

Not many lids will let something as simple as a pencil sit straight like this.

And the channels are deeper average depth from front to rear than any other high end helmet tested in the past year…

Catlike have also been smart with the liners in relation to the channels. They don’t just run a strip of material down the length of the ridges. Instead they have a pattern that crosses over their channels.

Normally, for most helmet makers that would be a bad thing, but Catlike’s vent channels are so deep and so well connected that the parts of the liner that cross over don’t interfere with venting at all…

Even the forehead strip has deeper channels underneath than most companies.

And all that air flow over the materials does a much better job of wicking moisture than strips of material sandwiched between your head and the foam (which doesn’t allow much air to pass over it).

The straight on view shows you how uninterrupted the airflow inside the Whisper Plus is…

The shape of the exhaust holes is important on the whisper plus. The holes doing the bulk of the venting are the 5 along the top and looking at it at a back-side angle, you’ll note that the holes sit at a bit of an angle. That will provide a bit of suction in this position and aid in drawing air out rather than simply relying on air pressure from the front to flow through.

There’s actually some of this shape at the side and bottom rear vents that act in the same way…

Now with all this space inside and all of this air movement, you would think that this helmet would need to have at least 4 downside factors. It would likely be HUGE on your head, make HUGE noise and have HUGE aero drag and be relatively heavy…

Well frankly it’s not that big on your head… It’s got roughly the same outside dimensions as my Giro Ionos, Bell Sweep or Lazer Helium.

And it’s not that noisy relative to anything in its venting class. Not that there are even 2 other helmets that vent this well.

And quiet speaks to drag… I have not stuck this on a dummy head and run it at San Diego’s low speed tunnel, but this helmet is fairly quiet and helmets that run quiet tend to do pretty well. This many holes and a face and ass that look like this should do poorly, but when you look at the top and side views and take it all in, it’s actually not a relatively bad shape. I test Moto lids and you can tell by buffeting and turning your head who’s helmet does what, but since I don’t run a bike at 170 mph, you’ll just be stuck with “not bad”…

And weight here is among the very best in class for a helmet with nearly this much ventilation… Lots of range topping lids sit right at 300 grams + or -. The Whisper Plus is 265 grams in Medium. The best ultralight helmet right now is Giro’s Prolight but it doesn’t vent this well (though it’s pretty damn nice) and doesn’t have a typical retention system.

Speaking of, the Whisper plus has an exceptionally adjustable system…

It’s also a damn simple system.

Push the buttons on the “balls” to release and push together to tighten. And the whole system floats up or down the retention straps for height adjustment. The temple / side pieces are shaped to keep them out of the way of glasses in most adjustment settings.

Now none of this would mean a thing if it didn’t pass safety testing and it does… A side note to that deep channeling is that the structure was a very safe design as a priority. All of that depth of material and the overall shape make for a very good job of spreading impact loads and providing crush space…

That’s It
You Norte Americanos will see more of Catlike now that distribution is improved and honestly I don’t like that one bit!

I like having hard to get stuff that also happens to be VERY good performing… It makes me feel special. But I guess all good things eventually get recognized as good things and the global economy is what it is, especially in cycling it seems.

With that, the Whisper Plus should get consideration as one of the best helmets available right now. I don’t think anything tops the airflow here. In simple and effective retention systems it’s up the list a ways and at 260 grams, the only thing lighter gives up feature and function. There are a lot of great helmets worth your money and this is at the very least one of the top 2-3 total packages.

MSRP is also at the high end for helmets at $275 and you’ll find the Whisper Plus in several color combinations. Because Catlike are helmet manufacturers, rather than a helmet “contractor”, they also have the ability to do custom color runs for you (though the minimums are not “small”).

You can contact Serotta Sport as the US exclusive distributor and or find these at both your local Serotta dealer and at Competitive cyclist on line.

In Canada, contact CoolEuroStuff.com.

Have Fun,
Charles Manantan

Thanks for looking. If you have other experiences with gear, or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews, or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

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