REVIEW: Bontrager Blaze WaveCel Helmet
Let’s face facts: helmets are intended for safety. Yes, there are all kinds of other benefits and style factors, but ultimately, they’re built to protect your noggin. For the past few years, head safety and brain protection has been a big topic - not only in the MTB scene, but across the board in most action and impact sports. The major point of discussion is concussion. Bontrager has captured some attention recently with the launch of its new line of WaveCel helmets, which is said to majorly prevent concussions. This is the company’s take on MIPS technology (which is the protection system seen in other helmets). The new WaveCel helmets rely on a semi-flexible mesh structure for shock absorption. WaveCel technology, specifically developed by Bontrager, is a collapsible cellular material which works to shear, dent and crumple in response to angled impacts. Bontrager says their new product deals with both angular and linear impacts, without the need of an additional liner. Now, whatever the protection, I’m all for brands working on safety features, especially where the head is concerned - after all, you only get one, so it pays to look after it!
The Blaze is made for trail and enduro riders and has a few nifty features to accompany the most important feature: WaveCel. The lid has a Boa dial to adjust the cradle and a clever magnetic Fidlock fastener under the chip. Whilst I state the Fidlock is a clever feature, it does take a few goes to get it. This is simply down to it not being the same as most other helmets on the market,however, it’s really good once you’ve got it sorted. Other features include: a magnetic mount system compatible with the brands’ own lights; GoPros; a three-position adjustable peak; a ledge for goggle strap placement; and fully adjustable chip straps. Another good addition is the spare set of pads with a silicone strip on the forehead section. This means you can choose between the regular pads and these ones that aim to channel sweat away from the eyes - great if you sweat a lot or are riding in summer.
On the trails, the lid feels good. The fit is excellent - comfortable, with no pressure points even after a few hours rolling around the trails of Taranaki’s Lake Mangamahoe. The strap design is dialled and there’s no unwelcome flapping in the wind. The boa dial is easy to adjust when pedalling the trails. The rear coverage offered me the protection I needed in case I ‘sent it’ (or tried to send it) on the flow trails. I particularly liked the adjustable visor - sometimes I have found these to get in the way of my vision, but having the ability to click the visor into a higher position allowed me to easily see my way down the trails. On the recent rides I’ve done, it seems to vent well, but of course, I haven’t been testing the lid in the height of summer.
It should be noted: the new lids are at the higher end of the price scale but what’s the price of head protection?! These lids have a crash replacement policy - Bontrager will replace (for free) any crash-damaged WaveCel helmet up to one year after purchase. Lastly, the WaveCel is not a multi-impact system. Like a standard foam bicycle helmet, you need to replace it after any impact, or if any of the material is deformed, crushed or cracked.
Words: Liam Friary
Image: Cameron Mackenzie