What You Need to Know: Bontrager WaveCel Helmet

Trek rolls out a new level of protection...and hype

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In what easily qualifies as one of the bike industry’s most recently over-hyped new product roll-outs, Bontrager hosted a handful of journos in New York to present a new line of Bontrager helmets that feature a proprietary safety technology dubbed WaveCel.

While any step forward in improving the safety of cyclists is laudable, the PR run-up to the helmet’s  launch had set cycling keyboards ablaze wondering just what product would be unveiled that promised to  “change cycling forever.”  Change cycling forever?  Thankfully, that  claim was given some shade when a later press release arrived narrowing the focus to  instead calling the new product “the biggest advance in helmets in over 30 years.”

THE OFFERINGS

Bontrager is releasing a line of four helmets (2 road, 1 mountain, 1 commuter) that use an exclusive  safety technology to bring cyclists a new level of added protection.

All four  helmets use a Boa retention system. Unique also to Bontrager’s helmets is the crash replacement guarantee where they will provide free post-crash replacement within the first year of use.  

Luckily, no RBA test riders have crashed using the helmet so we can’t vouch for how well the WaveCel holds up on impact. However, the one take-away we found is that the on hot days (especially slow  speed gravel climbs) the Bontrager helmet gets really warm due to a hindrance of ventilation. We also found that the WaveCel foam diverts water from pouring directly on the head when it comes time to try and cool off.

 

A NEW WAVE IN HELMET TECHNOLOGY

See that funny stuff inside the vent? That’s the WaveCel material that is still breathable and adds a claimed 58 grams of weight.

THE Q&A

What is WaveCel? WaveCel is a collapsible cellular material that lines the inside of your helmet. It’s designed to lessen the motion associated with brain injury through a three-step change in material structure. Check out trekbikes.com/wavecel to see it in action.

Who created WaveCel? WaveCel was created by a team of doctors, researchers, and engineers who have been studying head injury prevention for the last 15 years. During this time, they’ve received multiple National Institute of Health (NIH) grants to support their work. Learn more at wavecel.com.

What sorts of safety testing have been performed? First and foremost, this helmet passes all the current required safety standards. You can find additional information in WaveCel’s peer-reviewed scientific journal paper found at trekbikes.com/wavecel. If you don’t want to take our word for it, Virginia Tech, a third-party helmet review institution, has assessed WaveCel helmets with their own test criteria and awarded all WaveCel helmets with top honors. You can see those results at https://www.helmet.beam.vt.edu/bicyclehelmet-ratings.html.

How does a helmet with WaveCel compare to a normal helmet without WaveCel? Every impact to a helmet is different, so it’s impossible to say whether or not an injury will occur while wearing any helmet. That being said, significant research has been done to understand the most likely causes of brain injury. In a peer-reviewed academic paper, a helmet with WaveCel was up to 48 times more effective in preventing concussions caused by common cycling accidents* Read the full study at trekbikes.com/wavecel. You’ll never ride in anything else.

 

Trek is releasing two levels of WaveCel helmets in a “road” format. The WaveCel material used in this red version of the higher-end XXX stands out.
The WaveCel mantra can be broken down into three words: flex, crumple, glide.  All of the models are available in three sizes.

Does it prevent concussions? There is no helmet on the market that can prevent concussions 100% of the time. Every crash is different, but WaveCel has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of concussion and traumatic brain injury. Nearly 99 times out of 100, WaveCel prevents concussions caused by common cycling accidents.* The edge of a WaveCel helmet has an EPS ledge and the ledge area will have impact characteristics similar to EPS.

 

The entry-level WaveCel lid is called the Specter and like the higher-end XXX version is available in five colors. Price is $150.

 

Here’s what the blue colorway of the XXX model looks like.

Is a standard foam (EPS) helmet unsafe? Standard foam (EPS) helmets pass the current required safety standards. They’re designed to protect against direct linear impacts and skull fractures. WaveCel is designed to protect against the way most cycling accidents happen: ungracefully, with twists, turns, and multiple rotational impacts to the head. But any helmet is safer than no helmet.

How is WaveCel different from other honeycomb systems? Some cycling helmets use honeycomb shaped materials but primarily address linear impacts to prevent skull fractures. These systems usually include a slip liner to the helmet to address rotational forces. WaveCel addresses both linear and angular impacts but also flexes to make a uniform dome shape that wraps mostly around the inside of the helmet.

In addition to the two road models, Bontrager is also rolling out a commuter friendly model. Like the entry level Specter road helmet, the Charge will sell for $150.

 

“Blaze” is the model name given to the 3/4 coverage mountain bike friendly helmet. Available in a variety of colors for $300.
Just as quickly as the helmets were launched, both of Trek’s pro road teams began using them….owing to how warm the month of July can be in France, we wonder if the less ventilated WaveCel  lids will be used in the Tour.

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