In March 2019 Trek introduced new helmets with WaveCel technology, which is a collapsible synthetic material, through its bicycle accessories subsidiary Bontrager. In quite simple terms, it is a plastic type mesh that largely replaces the foam rubber that goes under the plastic shell of the helmet. This mesh absorbs the force of fall impacts making it 48 times less likely to suffer a concussion, compared to a standard helmet, according to Trek.
Until that date, the other similar leading edge technology in existence was MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System). Instead of a mesh, MIPS is a thin plastic layer attached to the helmet that, like WaveCel, helps to reduce rotational movement of the brain in falls and therefore the risk of brain damage. MIPS has existed since 2007 and various brands use this technology in their helmets such as Scott, Smith, Specialized and Giro, to name a few.
Deciding on a new helmet
After almost three years of using my Scott MIPS helmet that I bought on sale, I had to leave it in my hometown, so that I would have one there for when I went out pedaling. It was a good helmet, black, light, and multiple openings, so the ventilation was particularly good. It was of average level, but it did its job very well. Having MIPS on it gives you extra security.
When searching for my new helmet I decided that a fundamental requirement was that it have MIPS. Thus, I visualized helmets from various brands such as Specialized, Giro and Giant. All offered excellent alternatives, however, there were two factors to consider: a) I am balding, so a helmet with many openings would cause the sun to hit directly on my cranial skin (cancer must be avoided), and b) not I really like to wear a cycling cap, which performs several functions such as protecting you from the sun and deflecting sweat from the head so that it does not fall directly on the eyebrows and eyes. However, it also has its downsides, for example, it makes you sweat more.
Due to the above, I decided to learn more about the new Trek helmets with WaveCel. When I had it in my hands, I noticed that the new Trek helmets with WaveCel are of excellent quality and the main attraction that I could notice is that this mesh would protect my skull from the sun and avoid wearing a cycling hat. It was certainly somewhat heavier than standard due to the WaveCel.
Specter WaveCel Features and Usage
The Specter is not the highest-level helmet with WaveCel technology, as it is located one notch below the Bontrager XXX, yet it is a helmet to compete with the high-end of any other brand. Its characteristics are:
- Fit system: BOA.
- Pads: Absorbent pads.
- Buckle type: Fidlock (magnet type).
- Weight: 341g (size M).
- Warranty: Replacement by crash.
- Colors: yellow, black, red, pink, and white.
When I tried the helmet in the store, I felt it comfortable and well fitted in my head. But we well know that using a product under controlled conditions is not the same as in real life. So, in the hope that later on I would not have any regrets, I decided to buy it in October 2019. My only concern was the ventilation, because during the summer in Tokyo the heat is severe.
On my first outing with the Specter and 15-20 minutes into the ride, the first difference I noticed compared to my previous Scott helmet was its weight. Certainly, I had already felt it in the store when trying it, but it is not the same to feel it for two or three minutes than to feel it for more than 10 minutes and even a couple of hours. It is an extra weight of around 80 grams that the neck is not used to carrying and it is natural to feel it. Nor is it a tragedy, because for the second or third outing the subject will be history, as it happened.
The second aspect was the ventilation. Again, in the store it is something you do not feel. I immediately felt limited despite what Trek says, although it did not cause me a problem as the weather was around 20 degrees centigrade. But they did increase my doubts about the summer. I said to myself “We’ll see.”
The rest little to add. The helmet molded well on my head without issue. Its magnet buckle (not hook) at first requires extra work but you also get used to the mechanism. The knob to adjust it is like in any other helmet of the same level or higher.
The pads of the helmet are removable therefore they can be washed. They retain sweat well and do not emit odor. Its yellow color, which many cyclists do not like, gives me confidence that motorists will be able to see me better. In addition, it is no longer necessary that I wear yellow socks, jersey, or sleeves, except when I will be riding on highways or roads with heavy traffic. When the latter happens, I make sure to wear at least two yellow clothes (helmet – socks; helmet – jersey; helmet – sleeves). It may be my age of mature adulthood, but the saying goes “a cautious man is worth two”.
We are finally in summer here in Tokyo, when temperatures reach 33 – 37 degrees Celsius and excruciating humidity. And that’s the way it’s been for the last two weeks, so my last two rides of around 100kms and in such temperatures have been a good test for the Specter’s ventilation.
In this regard, I can point out that the issue of ventilation has not been a big problem. I would leave it at the level of detail because I must admit that the ventilation is somewhat less compared to a helmet with traditional openings. But in general, I consider that in this matter my helmet has passed the test.
Bontrager helmets with the new WaveCel technology aren’t cheap. For this same reason I thought twice before deciding to buy one. In addition, there are the MIPS helmets that, according to their designer, offer the same safety against impact that Trek claims and at a lower price.
But there were two factors that convinced me to buy it. The first is its novel protection technology. I think there is no need to skimp on expenses when it comes to safety, in this case of the head. The second factor is the protection of my head from the sun due to the WaveCel mesh. If I had enough hair even when it was short (as I usually have it) a MIPS would have been enough.
Would I buy it again? Definitely. My suggestion for you is that you do not skimp on taking care of your brain with a quality helmet, because as MIPS and Trek say; we only have one.