Like shoes, the price tags on our best helmets will make you do a double-take. However, the criteria for excellence in both categories is similar; less weight, better fit, and ventilation are all top concerns for both shoe and helmet buyers. Some folks will never feel the high cost of a premium helmet is justifiable, but think about this: the best helmets all far exceed minimum impact standards, and do it with the bare minimum of material. Engineers who can figure out that equation don’t work for cheap, and each size of helmet requires it’s own multi-piece mold. Plus, each helmet requires a human to load and remove the mold pieces—so the costs add up quickly. A lot goes into your super-helmet, and really, you’ll get a lot more enjoyment when your helmet has big, well-designed vents to blow air over your head, and it weighs so little and fits so well you forget it’s there.
Here is the cream of the crop of our helmet collection, with a spoiler thrown in to keep ’em honest. Categories judged are weight, ventilation, retention system, comfort and price. The contestants are the Kask Vertigo, Cannondale Teramo, Bell Gage, Giro Aeon, and the Specialized Prevail S-Works.
Weights are given in grams, for a size large (because that’s what I wear!), and include all straps, dials and pads—just how you would ride it.
Bell Gage—3 Stars. 276 g
Cannondale Teramo—2 Stars. 296 g
Kask Vertigo—1 Star. 323 g The Vertigo is the only full-wrapped helmet of the bunch, meaning it’s hard polycarbonate shell covers the bottom edge of the helmet. This usually makes for a longer-lasting and perhaps more robust helmet, at the expense of some extra weight.
Ventilation was judged with a visual assessment of the surface area of the vents on the inside of the helmet. Channeling was also taken into account. This is a subjective measurement, but hey, we’re pros. Trust us.
Specialized Prevail S-Works—5 Stars. This was a tough call… Giro’s Aeon seems like it’s more vent than helmet, but the Prevail’s full-length, deep-channeled vents, with five massive openings facing forward to scoop up air, and the Mouthport above your eyebrows, make it a fresh-air factory.
Giro Aeon—4 Stars. Another close finish between the Aeon and the Bell Gage. The Aeon’s deeper channeling and slightly more vent area gave it the win.
Bell Gage—3 Stars. The most vent area on a Bell helmet. Good, sculpted channels, just not as deep as the Prevail or Aeon.
Cannondale Teramo—2 Stars. The Teramo is very well-vented. It’s simply because of the company it’s in that it comes up a bit short.
Kask Vertigo—1 Star. While showing good vent area, the Vertigo doesn’t have the extensive channeling of it’s Compatriots.
Retention systems include the rear cradle, which grasps the back of your head and cinches down to eliminate movement, and the chin straps. I judged the retention systems on comfort, ease-of-use, and range of adjustability.
Kask Vertigo—5 Stars. There is nothing that comes close to the range of adjustability and ease-of-use of Kask’s Up-N-Down hinged cradle. Achieving the perfect placement for anyone is effortless, and the squishy cradle pads remind me of my pillow.
Bell Gage—4 Stars. Bell’s Twin Axis Gear fit system is basically the Giro Roc Loc 5 with a bigger dial, which actually makes fine-tuning the tension easier. Vertical adjustments aren’t as silky-smooth or as infinite as the Kask’s but it’s as good as anything else out there. While the Specialized Prevail also has ultra-thin, lightweight chin straps, the Gage’s are more adjustable.
Specialized Prevail—3 Stars. It’s a toss-up between the Prevail and the Giro Aeon, but because of it’s thinner straps, the Prevail gets the nod. Widest range of vertical adjustment of all but the Kask, which doesn’t actually have a traditional adjustment.
Giro Aeon—2 Stars. Very close between the Aeon and the Prevail, especially considering the similar design and action of their respective tensioners; Roc Loc 5 and Mindset.
Cannondale Teramo—1 Star. Here is where the Teramo is a little out of it’s league. No vertical adjustment hurts its rating, but it’s cradle is very comfortable.
Judging comfort is fairly subjective, since it depends on head shape and personal preferences, but trends emerged when I passed the helmets around, making me confident in these rankings.
Kask Vertigo—5 Stars. No pressure points, a rear cradle that offers perfect placement on anyones head, and cushy, ventilated padding make the Vertigo feel more like custom headwear than a cycling helmet.
Bell Gage—4 Stars. Fits very much like the Bell Sweep. Add thin straps, more ventilation, shed 30 grams, and you can’t deny the Gage is one cozy lid.
Specialized Prevail—3 Stars. It’s the lightest helmet in our comparison, which helps the comfort factor. But the widely positioned, soft, light straps and extra padding help too. A bit of pressure on the top of my head, which may or may not matter to you.
Giro Aeon—2 Stars. A shape that fit everyone, adequate padding, and a minimal rear cradle. There really isn’t much separating the Gage, Prevail, and Aeon in terms of comfort.
Canondale Teramo—1 Star. Not an uncomfortable helmet, in fact, it’s quite comfy. Once again, the company it’s keeping here is hurting it a little.
We all want to get more for less, right? Stars were awarded according to price—lowest to highest.
Canondale Teramo—5 Stars. At $109.99, the Teramo costs almost three times less than the Kask Vertigo. When considering all you get for the price, the Teramo wins.
Bell Gage—4 Stars. $189.99, which is actually pretty affordable for such a featured helmet.
Specialized Prevail—3 Stars. $239.99.
Giro Aeon —2 Stars. $249.99.
Kask Vertigo—1 Star. $299.99. You think all that Italian comfort comes cheap?
In reality, each of the helmets here would be an excellent choice; they all have a combination of features which makes them a desirable purchase. For instance the Cannondale Teramo is the lightest, best-ventilated, most comfortable helmet you’ll ever see at it’s price point, and it’s actually lighter than much more expensive models we have. But, since we need to have a winner, here we go—the winner of our High-End Helmet Shootout is… It’s a tie! Yes, the Bell Gage and the Specialized Prevail S-Works both came out with 18 total stars. Since the Gage fits me better, is a bit more affordable, and it’s worn by the defending Tour de France Champion, I’m declaring the Bell Gage the winner.
Here is the breakdown;
Bell Gage—18 stars
Specialized Prevail—18 stars
Giro Aeon—15 stars
Kask Vertigo—13 stars
Cannondale Teramo—11 stars