Abus Performance helmet  £89.99

2/10

Innovative helmet with distinctive looks, but heavy, poorly-ventilated and uncomfortable

Weight 640g   Contact  www.zyro.co.uk

by John Stevenson   June 9, 2014  

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The Abus Performance helmet (previously known as the Ecolution) is a curious beast. Abus claims its layer of cardboard makes it more shock-absorbing and therefore more protective than a conventional expanded polystyrene helmet. It has the rounded looks beloved of urban riders, clearly its target users. But its weight, lack of ventilation and some problem details swamp its appearance, and innovative technological and ecological features.

We've talked about this helmet design before and again when it was shown at Eurobike at the end of 2012The brainchild of Anirudha Rao, who now runs Kranium Headware Ltd in London, the Performance uses wood-cellulose fibre board as its main shock-absorbing material. It was originally claimed to be three to four times better at absorbing shock that a conventional helmet, but Abus is now claiming an improvement of about 40 percent.

The board is coated with acrylic to make it waterproof and there's a layer of recycled expanded polystyrene on the inside so the edges of the board don't get rammed into your skull if you hit your head. There's also a thick layer of plastic over the whole lot.

It's quite similar to the construction of helmets in the 1980s and early '90s, which typically used an ABS plastic shell over their expanded polystrene cores. They were heavy compared to the polystyrene-only lids that followed them and that in turn begat today's helmets with thin co-moulded shells.

You really notice the Performance's weight when you first pick it up and you can feel it from the moment you put it on. You're always aware of the extra mass. You feel it whenever you turn or lean your head. Taking it off is a blessing.

Weight, then, is helmet's big problem. Even the heaviest first-generation helmet didn't match the Performance's 640g heft.

Six hundred and forty grams.

That's 130g heavier than the previous holder of the title of heaviest helmet we've tested, the folding Biologic Pango. It's twice the weight of a typical mid-price modern lid. It's over three times the weight of the 185g Specialized Prevail S-Works, the lightest helmet we've tested.

Ventilation is also an issue. There are just two slots fore and aft for air to enter and leave, and there are no internal channels to conduct air over your head. At cruising speed in cool weather it's fine, but if it's warm or you're in a hurry things get sweaty quickly.

I also didn't find the Performance very comfortable. It's the only helmet I've ever used where I couldn't get the rear of the fitting cradle to sit below my occipital protuberance with the helmet properly positioned on my head. The occipital protuberance is the lump on the back of your skull that most helmets use as an anchor point. The Performance's occipital cradle also houses an adjustment dial and I found the dial's housing dug in to my head unless I tilted the helmet back.

The straps throw up another comfort problem. They're attached to the outside of the helmet, the best part of an inch away from your head. That means they only contact your head under the chin, concentrating pressure there. Most modern helmets mount the straps inside the helmet so they sit snugly against your head all the way to the buckle, spreading the load. The Performance has a pad over the buckle, which helps a bit but not enough.

Conclusion

Abus deserves credit for trying something different, in using recycled or recyclable materials for the Performance, but the result is deeply flawed. Compared to similarly-priced conventional helmets it's very heavy, poorly ventilated and uncomfortable.

You'd only choose the Performance if you were extremely taken with its looks. The transparent shell and consequently visible cardboard inner is very distinctive, and it'll probably be a great conversation-starter in urban cycling cafes. But for me its practical disadvantages far outweigh the small benefit of its looks and eco-friendliness.

Verdict

Innovative helmet with distinctive looks, but heavy, poorly-ventilated and uncomfortable

road.cc test report

Make and model: Abus Performance helmet

Size tested: Large

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Abus says:

Technology:

Completely new, ecological and technical concept

Shock-absorption through dual layer wood-cellulose fibre honeycomb board

Significantly higher shock-absorbing properties (approx. 40 %)

Main part of the helmet separately fully recyclable or made of recycled material

Weatherproof and humidity-resistant wood-cellulose board

Removable and washable padding with a high natural fibre percentage for maximum comfort

Soft touch straps easy to adjust by practical sliders

Designed by Kranium Headware Ltd, London

Operation and use:

Adult and youth helmet for city, commuting and everyday use

Tips:

This helmet fulfils the demands of urban cyclists and commuters

This helmet is a unique, exclusive world's first

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Can't fault it here, it's tidily made and all the moulded parts are clean.

Rate the product for performance:
 
3/10

It meets CE shock-absorbtion standards, but in every respect - comfort, weight, ventilation - performance is poor.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

Hard-shell helmets have the big advantage of lasting years, as long as they're not crashed, because the outer shell protects the compressible liner.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
1/10

Heaviest. Helmet. Ever.

Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
2/10

Between the weight, problems with straps and cradle, and lack of ventilation, it's just not comfortable for more than a few minutes' ride to the shops.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Badly.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Innovative use of materials

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The weight, lack of ventilation and comfort problems.

Did you enjoy using the product? No.

Would you consider buying the product? No.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? No.

Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?

The Performance has distinctive looks and innovative use of materials in its favour, plus various claims of improved protection over standard helmets. But none of that maters when the resulting helmet is so hot, heavy and uncomfortable that you'd never use it. Abus and Kranium Headware need to go back to the drawing board and see if their ideas can be incorporated to a helmet that bears comparison with similarly-priced conventional helmets.

Overall rating: 2/10

About the tester

Age: 48  Height: 5ft 11in  Weight: 85kg

I usually ride: Scapin Style  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding,

 

11 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

The only point that matters when reviewing a helmet; How protective is it ? If this lid makes a head injury less likely then that's good enough for me. Weight and venting are nice but you only have one head.

posted by Beaufort [143 posts]
9th June 2014 - 16:35

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Maybe protection is the most imprtant thing about a helmet, but if it is uncomfortable it won't be worn and it won't protect anything.

Ride more, ride better

posted by Sniffer [126 posts]
9th June 2014 - 16:54

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Beaufort wrote:
The only point that matters when reviewing a helmet; How protective is it ? If this lid makes a head injury less likely then that's good enough for me. Weight and venting are nice but you only have one head.

Yes, but you've got lots of choice at helmets at £89.99 and below, so the other points made in the review are perfectly valid. That's why its called a "review".

"Taking it off is a blessing." Don't understand why it wasn't given nil stars.

posted by surly_by_name [141 posts]
9th June 2014 - 16:56

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Beaufort wrote:
The only point that matters when reviewing a helmet; How protective is it ? If this lid makes a head injury less likely then that's good enough for me. Weight and venting are nice but you only have one head.

you wear a full face motorsports helmet then, presumably?

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7295 posts]
9th June 2014 - 17:15

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Having never been in an 'urban cycling café', the thought of the clientele having earnest discussions about helmets has left me with no wish to ever visit one.

I presume this is a distinctly London based variety of refreshment venue?

posted by crikey [106 posts]
9th June 2014 - 17:35

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Great styling - if you want to look like Robbie the Robot Devil

posted by FMOAB [230 posts]
9th June 2014 - 17:53

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Or something from an H R Giger painting. Or a tortoise....

markfireblade's picture

posted by markfireblade [10 posts]
9th June 2014 - 18:35

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Dave Atkinson wrote:
Beaufort wrote:
The only point that matters when reviewing a helmet; How protective is it ? If this lid makes a head injury less likely then that's good enough for me. Weight and venting are nice but you only have one head.

you wear a full face motorsports helmet then, presumably?

That would be too light and flimsy. I'd recommend a deep sea diving helmet if maximum protection was desired (whilst ignoring all other qualities). After all, you only have one head ...

posted by Joeinpoole [235 posts]
9th June 2014 - 18:45

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i just assumed this was a giro air attack Rolling On The Floor

posted by russyparkin [579 posts]
9th June 2014 - 21:40

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Dave Atkinson wrote:
you wear a full face motorsports helmet then, presumably?

Or even just a full-face cycling helmet like downhillers wear?

You don't see many road cyclists wearing these for some reason. I wonder why? Confused "You only have one head." after all.

Also I don't think I've ever seen anyone wearing a neck brace whilst road cycling. But "you only have one neck" and it is just as important as your head.

Turns out most sensible people weigh up the risks and benefits of safety gear.
So no, "How protective is it ?" is actually pretty far from the "only point that matters when reviewing a helmet".

posted by GrahamSt [79 posts]
10th June 2014 - 11:21

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This helmet, plus my black assos 851 air jack will complete my hell raiser look quite nicely.

posted by mingsta [11 posts]
10th June 2014 - 21:33

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