HELMET COMPARO: LAZER STRADA KINETICORE VS. LEM VOLATA GELMOTION
What about budget helmets with the latest emergent safety tech?
Aesthetically, modern helmet design has undergone few changes. Aero influences and improved ventilation have led the way with the trends most noticeable in the pro peloton and weekend races. Thankfully, with football injuries having put so much spotlight on the importance of concussion management, nearly every big-name helmet manufacturer has begun using some version of added protection to mitigate the effects of rotational forces after impact. The most popular version would be the MIPS liner, which is an open-market product that’s integrated into the helmet shell. Despite helmet makers having to incur a hefty licensing fee of nearly $15 per helmet, consumers have been willing to pay up for the benefits.
However, MIPS doesn’t come without shortcomings, and looking to take advantage of that while at the same time seeing the need to create their own design, many helmet makers have taken it upon themselves to create a lower-cost alternative.
Lazer and LEM are two helmet brands that understand this and have come up with solutions that blend linear and rotational force reduction technology without the drawbacks (costs) associated with MIPS. Each company has incorporated unique tech into their own helmets. We picked out two entry-level models to test what you get when a company ditches MIPS to improve the helmet-wearing experience.
Lazer Sport is a Belgian brand entrenched in a 100-plus-year history of making protective gear. Owned by Shimano since 2016, Lazer has developed a wide range of helmets optimized for road riding. Their latest development, dubbed KinetiCore, looks to improve upon some shortcomings the Lazer team found with MIPS, specifically the disruptive qualities that the plastic liner can have on airflow, the discomfort the liner can cause to riders, and the overall added weight of the system.
KinetiCore consists of additional “crumple zones” built into the EPS foam mold of the helmet. They’re designed to reduce rotational forces in the helmet before reaching the rider. The KinetiCore design has been incorporated across Lazer’s catalog including two road helmets, the Vento and the Strada. The Vento can be seen on the likes of Jumbo Visma riders Wout van Aert and Primoz Roglic in the WorldTour. The Vento KinetiCore is Lazer’s new flagship model that retails at $300. We got our hands on the Strada, which runs for $110 and features many of the same characteristics as the Vento.
The Strada has aero shaping with 21 vents. It’s low profile, and a size medium hit our scales at 296 grams. Channels run between the KinetiCore blocks from front to the back to encourage airflow. Thin pads line the front end of the helmet over the retention liner. Lazer updated its Rollsys retention system in favor of a new “Scrollsys” design, which uses a new tightening logic. A rubber strip can be scrolled, as you do on your phone, to tighten and loosen the helmet tension system. Basic synthetic straps complete the simple build.
LEM just celebrated 50 years since the brand started making helmets for the moto industry in the ’70s. Over the last decade the brand relocated to Northern California with a renewed focus on developing cycling helmets. Looking to advance their in-house safety features, LEM designed a unique gel-pad technology called GelMotion. Similar to Lazer’s KinetiCore, GelMotion allows for airflow, improves comfort and saves weight over a MIPS liner.
LEM sent their entry-level Volata aero helmet to the office. Fourteen GelMotion pieces approximately 3cm x 1cm are bonded to the EPS helmet mold. The gel helps keep the overall 267-gram weight competitive for a $65 helmet. Thick padding covers the gel and the rear retention cradle, as well as the lip of the helmet. Deep channels help air flow through the 17 vents. A simple dial located on the rear cradle is adjusted with a basic right and left twist logic. Like the Lazer, the LEM’s straps are easy to adjust.
Initial impressions when trying on the Strada highlighted the light touch needed to tighten the Scrollsys and the firm grip that could be achieved by the rear cradle. The cradle grips low on the head with a noticeable tightening on the sides and front of the helmet. Riders noted the weightier back end, which left some riders reporting the front end of the helmet tended to slightly tilt up during rides.
Ventilation was passable for an aero design but not quite at the level of the LEM. Heat collects around the center, with a few riders yearning for more airflow. We had a chance to ride Lazer’s higher-end Vento and noticed improved ventilation, thanks to the deeper channels in the mold.
LEM’s Volata had us impressed with its feel. It’s well-balanced, weight-wise, and the thick padding helps provide a snug fit. The dial feels like there’s little holding it together ,and some riders noted the system would slip when they reached their peak retention level. Most of the pressure occurs on the rear cradle and around the lip of the helmet.
On the road, the helmet felt lighter than it was, especially on long three-plus-hour rides, unlike the Lazer, which we found ourselves adjusting as it tilted from its weighted back end. On warm days, we noticed sweat build up in the padding, causing drips to land on our sunglasses. In cooler temperatures the LEM thrived, but we still wanted more airflow to dissipate the sweat.
Both helmets lack the finer touches and proper ventilation of their higher-end brethren, but they make up for it with the added value of each brand’s innovative safety systems. The weights of both helmets are reasonable, but we came away impressed at the well-balanced construction of the LEM. LEM and Lazer offer seven colorways and three sizes (small, medium and large), which should make finding a helmet that fits your style and head easy. We’d likely recommend the LEM to a friend looking for a value helmet, but insist they try the Lazer if they wanted a finer feel on their retention system.
LAZER PUNCH LINES
• Trickle-down crumple-zone tech
• Front end lifts up
• Higher-end versions to consider
LEM PUNCH LINES
• Thick pad liner
• High value-to-weight ratio
• Could use more ventilation
Weight: 296 grams
Weight: 263 grams