The new Bontrager Specter helmet is airy and adjustable and it brings most of the performance of the top-end Oracle down to a more affordable price point.
The Specter is a similar shape to the Oracle (now £139.99) that we reviewed favourably last year. It's a similar weight too. Our medium sized model hit the Road.cc scales at 298g (the Oracle we had, also a medium, was 314g, although Bontrager's official figures are 300g for the Specter and 295g for the Oracle). There are certainly lighter £100 helmets out there but this is still a reasonable weight.
The Specter is built around an internal cage that's made from aluminized glass-fibre and carbon reinforced nylon, unlike the Oracle which has a carbon-fibre skeleton. The vents are positioned in a very similar arrangement but they're slightly smaller. They're still very effective, letting in loads of air to keep your head cool while deep internal channels do a good job of allowing that air to circulate and then escape out the back.
I'd say that in terms of cooling, the Specter isn't quite up there with the Oracle (which is one of the coolest lids I've ever used), but it's not far off. I certainly haven't felt especially sweaty while wearing this helmet.
The fit system is Bontrager's updated Headmaster II design which attaches to the EPS (expanded polystyrene) right around on the sides of your forehead so it'll suit most head shapes without any trouble.
You have a choice of three height-adjustments at the back to control how far it reaches down your head, and you alter the tension with a clicky wheel. It's really comfortable and you can tune the fit easily with one hand while you're riding along. There's another pad-covered plastic strip that runs across your forehead. It's not adjustable but it does conform to the shape of your head, adding to the feeling of security.
The soft straps are simple to adjust and the dividers that sit underneath your ears lock into place perfectly. The internal pads are anti-microbial and the one that runs the full width of your forehead helps prevent sweat running down into your eyes.
The Specter of course conforms to CE European safety standards, and to CPSC standards in the US.
All in all, this is a really good helmet that's big on comfort and, £40 cheaper, it's better value than the Oracle.
Airy helmet with good adjustability and plenty of comfort.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager Specter helmet
Size tested: Medium
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?
Bontrager say, "Aimed at racers and performance enthusiasts, Specter borrows DNA from the pro peloton-leading Oracle to deliver outstanding fit, massive airflow, and quick, easy adjustability."
It's a sporty-type helmet that's nearly as good as the Oracle at a significantly cheaper price.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Whereas the Oracle uses a carbon-fibre skeleton in-moulded into the EPS, the Specter's skeleton is reinforced nylon.
There are lighter helmets out there at this price.
The Headmaster II fit system is flexible and adaptable enough to fit most head shapes. With this and the level of ventilation, I found it a really comfortable helmet.
£99.99 puts it at the top of mid-range, I'd say, or towards the bottom of high-end. It's a reasonable price for the level of tech and the performance.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
We don't test helmets for safety; we take the word of the safety standards experts on that.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The fact that it's well-ventilated and comfortable.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
50g lighter would be good - but in the overall scheme of things, comfort is more important.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
Age: 41 Height: 190cm Weight: 75kg
I usually ride: 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: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.