First, I apologize for not getting this review out quicker. I was hoping to write it up and post in the past two weeks, but a combination of too much work, too much travel, illness, and a lack of time lands me here. I'll try to be as thorough as possible with this review, however it should be noted that I do not ride with a power meter and any data in regards to 'aero gains' is mostly empirical with casual verification when I compare recorded data on the same length of route with my training software. No testing was performed in a wind tunnel, on a computer, nor in a laboratory.
So let's begin, shall we?Helmet
: Louis Garneau "Course" (2013)Size
: White with red accents (aero blades are black)Weight
: 296g (with padding)
Rider Weight at time of review: ~151lbs (US) or 10.7 stone (UK) or 68.5kg (World)
The bike used for testing is in my signature, Exp001.Review terms
: 4 weeks of on-season riding, both training and racing. Rough numbers at the time of writing ~820 miles in distance, 70,000ft in climbing (1319km / 21336m). Weather conditions varied from 62°F/16.6°C at the lowest to 115°F/46°C at the highest. Most of the riding was conducted during daylight hours (from dawn until dusk) with approximately a total of 3 hours spent without sunlight. Maximum recorded speed in this time was 53mph/85kmh.
-----Packaging/what's in the box
The helmet itself is simply packaged, which is nice. It arrived in a black box which slid apart. The helmet was contained in a clear plastic bag which also held the small manual. The Spiderlock Vision light was also included in the box (stapled to the interior of the box). All said, minimal packaging, which I appreciate. The box was promptly recycled.
Included in the box:
-Spiderlock Vision light
-One helmet pad set already in place on the helmet, another included in the bag
There is no shell/case for the helmet, but I have placed it in another LG shell/case that I had available. I'm not sure what helmet specifically that shell/case was for, but it is clear that this Course helmet is significantly smaller and more compact in size to whatever that helmet was. A soft cloth bag or shell/case for the Course helmet included with purchase would have been a nice addition though, but it is not a deal breaker for me.Weight
Let's be clear here: this isn't a light-weight helmet. For example, Louis Garneau's other offering, the X-Lite, comes in a full 100g less than this one. For reference this was a switch from a LAS "Victory" helmet (medium, matte black) which weighs in at 264g. Did I notice the extra 32g? Not really, but when I did initially wear it maybe my subconscious kept thinking about the number on the scale and I thought
of it as heavy. That has since subsided. With anything that you put on your head, you will notice it for the first few minutes (or miles, km, whatever it may be) but as the ride goes on you will forget that it is there. This is in part due to the size of the helmet: it's really compact. Speaking of which....Size, Fit & Design
This helmet is size medium. You can tell by the pictures that it actually fits rather nicely and looks really clean. I believe it's a beautiful contrast from the "Dragonball Z!" style of helmets that we've been seeing from manufacturers over the past couple years, the LAS Victory one of the prime examples of that trend. Despite the rounded shape, it does not mushroom out from the head. One riding partner remarked that it had a bit of an 'old school' appearance to it with a slight design nod/reference to the old leather helmets of yore
. This design reference, I believe, is either emphasized or minimized depending on what colour scheme your helmet is and the colour of your hair to create contrast and highlight the structure of the helmet.
The crucial bit: does it hold sunglasses when you're not using them? YES, yes it does. In fact, of all the helmets I've used in my years/decades riding, this holds sunglasses to the best of my memory. The arms of the sunglasses (pictured: Tifosi Podium with "Smoke" lens) fit into the vents very well and the frame slid deep into the helmet, making them really secure. Logos
: as you can tell from the original photos, the logos are minimal which I appreciate. That said, I still wanted to remove them, which is not the easiest task and takes plenty of patience (I used an X-acto knife, it took about 30-45 minutes total to do this). The 'dot gradient' style graphics on the rear were kept.Fit
: Compared to the LAS helmet, which I believe has the best fitting mechanism I've ever used, the "Course" helmet fits rather nicely... but the LAS system is still better and a tad bit more secure while conforming nicely to the shape of my head. That said/written, the "Course" helmet is very comfortable and does not loosen over the course of a ride. Adjustments using the Spiderlock system to increase or decrease tightness is very easy.
There are two sets of pads included with the helmet. Rather, when I write "set" I mean just one pad, one piece, shaped to fit in the helmet attached by minimalist velcro. I can't say for certain, but it seems that the pads are a little bit different from each other: one is slightly thicker than the other. I prefer the thinner one, but can go with either. They wash easily (hand wash) and dry quickly. Placement in the helmet is very easy and simple. There is no 'bug net' included in with the helmet, nor a 'winter' nor 'summer' pad set.
It should be noted that I made a small modification which I've done with all of my helmets for the past few years. Once I have the chin-strap length set, I had to cut off the excess. I then used a small torch or lighter to singe/melt the edge of the cut, melting together the fabric so it won't fray in the future and sealing the end. I then use a micro-sized zip-tie to keep the excess with the rest of the strap. I find the little rubber band that Louis Garneau and other manufacturers include absolutely useless.But is it Aero?!? (and some design notes)
One of the huge draws to this helmet is that it is claimed by Louis Garneau to be an 'aero' road helmet. The poster-child for the aero-road helmet movement is clearly the Giro "Air Attack", and we're beginning to see variations of aero-road helmets in the 2013 Tour de France (where, let's be honest, most of the 'new tech' gets put on display in the racing calendar). Since my LAS Victory was nearing two years in age, it was time that I replaced the helmet and I decided to jump into the 'aero road' helmet fray because I believe that it would potentially have a greater impact on 'aero' qualities, second to clothing/body/position, but far and away more beneficial than an "aero" road frame. I did not want the Giro "Air Attack" because, frankly, I think it looks like a cross between a welder's helmet and an upside down salad bowl. The "Air Attack" also has what Giro claims to be exceptional venting despite the two main channels in the front... but, let's be honest with ourselves: a very large percentage of people who ride tend to be older, balding or completely bald men where as I find myself in a different category - younger by comparison, thick hair with lots of curls and usually considerable length. Even if I don't ride with a helmet the amount of 'wind blowing through my hair' will be felt far less than most people. With that in mind, the "Air Attack" was not appealing due to the lack of vents. I do not believe that there is a lot of 'forced air' type venting when a person spends as much riding time climbing as I do, so the venting needs to be there to at least allow my body heat to vent out through my head... and yes, with this coif it's often like I'm wearing a knitted hat all the time, but I need to do whatever I can to help my situation.
Other options appear on the horizon from the likes of Scott and Specialized. I don't know if they are on the market just yet, but from what I can tell watching various pros don them during the stages of the Tour I'm not impressed in their appearance. It's just my take on it, but some of them make the Giro "Air Attack" look good, and that's saying something. Sure they're aero - but no one is kidding anyone if they say that appearance doesn't matter. Even people with crap aesthetic sensibilities and cobbled together kits still want to have some sense of dignity and they do try their best to not look like they have a fish with its mouth agape on the top of their head.So is it aero?
In short, I think it is. I do not have wind tunnel data to show this, and I truly wonder if there ever will be an absolutely non-biased 3rd party willing to test the new crop of 'aero road' helmets properly, but it does appear to have some significant aero benefits.
Based purely on noting speed on the same descent - an 11 mile continuous descent with easy curves (on camber, consistent radius, smooth road surface) that does not need any braking at all - I noted at range of at least 4mph and up to 6mph increase in speed compared to when I wore the LAS "Victory" helmet. Same bike set up, generally the same weather conditions.
Is this a fluke? Maybe, I really don't know and there is a likelihood that the actual gain in speed is less pronounced. Pundits might argue "if that were the case, then why doesn't Europcar win all the sprints wearing this helmet, huh?!?!" and to that I don't have any counter argument beyond pointing to the numerous factors that affect racing such as position in the peloton/train/sprint kick, and so on.
Will we ever see a non-biased, 3rd party test on all of the 'aero road' helmets coming out? I truly doubt it. Wind tunnel testing is expensive. Some manufacturers might not be willing to send in their helmets for testing (adding to the cost of testing). Magazines/publications are not neutral, let's be honest with ourselves: advertising pays, and some companies have a bigger $ay and $way than others.
. Compared to the LAS "Victory" I definitely output a lot more sweat at the start of a ride, which is in part due to those aero fins on the "Course" not quite giving enough vertical heat-venting from my head as the "Victory" does. After about 30 minutes of the first significant part of my long rides, however, the effect subsides and it becomes a non-issue. Going downhill or at high speeds, however, I can feel more air hit my scalp (shocking, I know) with the "Course" helmet compared to the "Victory." So on the whole, the venting is good for my thick, female attraction inducing locks, but not amazing and most regular style helmets would probably be better. This is apparently the downside to going with an 'aero road' helmet.
That wraps up the review, thank you.