Catlike's Olula helmet is aimed at the amateur road race market and borrows some of the tech and a lot of the recognisable design cues from its higher-end helmets, but for a lower price.
The first thing to mention, and something that sets the Olula apart from the rest, is the removable strap feature. Not a quality you'd necessarily want to associate with a helmet, especially at the crucial moment, but it's here for the more prosaic reason of keeping the helmet straps clean.
Though secure when they need to be, the adjustment straps are designed to be removed from the helmet for ease of washing – pretty useful since helmet straps can absorb a lot of sweat, get a bit stinky and if left alone be downright unhygienic. People probably don't wash their helmet straps enough, so anything that encourages this has to be a plus, doesn't it?
I can't say I've ever felt the need to remove my helmet straps to give them a wash; if my straps get a bit minging I simply wash them under the tap with a bit of soap, rub and a rinse. I take the pads out and wash them too while I'm at it. It's really not a big bother, just a part of my routine. It's not like you have to remove the straps as a necessity because the rest of the polystyrene and plastic helmet can't cope with a bit of water, is it?
Unfortunately, while it might be an admirable idea, trying to remove the straps from the Olula helmet, while not technically difficult, is ridiculously fiddly and time consuming. A metal bar fits through a loop in the ends of the strap and it slots into a recessed plastic dock inside the helmet. Removing the straps requires the use of something thin and pokey to coax the strap out, and trying to tease the strap back into its dock is twice as frustrating. It's really really not worth the bother. You'll do it once, just to see that you can, and then just wash the straps in-situ like you might any other helmet.
Catlike also suggests that having removable straps also means they can be easily replaced if they get old and tatty, or you want to customise your helmet with some different coloured straps. Again, these aren't problems I've stayed awake worrying about in a cycling lifetime of owning a variety of helmets.
Those straps have Catlike logoed adjustable clasps on them so you can get the position under your ears and the fore/aft tightness to hold the helmet level on your head just so, and there's a rubber loop and an o-ring to keep strap ends in place, so there are absolutely no excuses for unsightly flapping helmet straps now. You know who you are. The strap system isn't the most sophisticated I've used but it works, though it does feel a bit thick, heavy and clunky under your chin.
Catlike has come up with four ways to make sure the Olula helmet fits you. It likes to call it Multi Position System Evolution or MPS eVo for short (not to be confused with Mips helmet protection technology), a system that's meant to optimise comfort and adapt to any head size. The retention cradle out the back is adjustable up and down a small amount, the pair of supports can be moved side to side to avoid any skull lumps and bumps, and the tension wheel has a multitude of clicks for precise tightness so it's easy to get that bit to fit comfortably to whatever cranial contours you may have.
The pads inside the Olula are made from a Thermy-tex anti-bacterial material that helps cut down on odours; they also rapidly absorb perspiration and are 100 per cent breathable and washable. You aren't given any different thicknesses to swap out the internal padding to help with custom fitting, but the Olula does come with a pair of wing pads that click into each arm of the retention cradle by the ear. Coming in a couple of thicknesses, these pads should help with side-fitting, should you find that the helmet is a little too wide on your head.
When it comes to safety, Catlike has that covered with another set of acronyms. The Olula comes with Safety LNP (Low Nape Protection), which means that the rear of the helmet has been designed to extend lower down the back of the head, the occipital area to be exact, and you can feel it sitting deeper than other more minimal road helmets. Internally, the Olula has Safety Crash Energy Splitter, or CES, which is a honeycomb structure designed to dissipate any crash impact, and this is paired with SAS or Shock Absorption System, which is your basic expanded polystyrene helmet filler.
The entire outer of the helmet is covered with a plastic shell, so as well as providing a level of both crash protection and tarmac slide it means the Olula resists the random knocks and dents that can befall helmets with less shell coverage and more exposed foam. There's an extra teeny-tiny nod to safety with a small reflective stripe at the back too.
The Olula is served well in ventilation with 27 vents, which also give the helmet that signature Catlike look, but the Olula does it with a softer, friendlier, more rounded edge than its more pro-level offerings. Of course, all those vents have a scientifically designed system to boost breeze-through; Catlike calls it Dual Flow Thermal Regulation, which combines the external holes with internal channels to provide maximum ventilation. In practice, as you might imagine with all those holes, it's a very airy helmet and it didn't overheat at any point, the only evidence that you're wearing a helmet being that's it's not especially featherweight and is noticeable on the noggin.
The internal profile of the Olula is very egg-shaped – broader at the back, narrowing towards the front and flattening off across the forehead. Like any helmet, it's well worth trying on before you buy to see if it fits your bonce as it is definitely suited to those of a more rounded skull than me. No matter what I did, the Olula never really fitted my flat-sided head. The extra padding that clips into the side arms of the retention system didn't do much to fill the void between the helmet and the side of my narrow skull, and the flattened area at the front caused a pressure point on my brow after about 30 minutes on the bike. Which is a shame as I quite liked the look and the styling of the Olula, and that's really how we all choose our helmets, right?
Well vented and stylistically different, but removable straps are clunky and gimmicky – and try for fit before you buy...
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Catlike Olula
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?
From distributor i-ride's website: "The Olula is the new Catlike road helmet; a model that incorporates features trickled down from the brand's other high end helmet offerings, with no sacrifice in quality. Perfect for amateur racing."
The Olula definitely has the Catlike look and it's well priced to suit the less obsessed cyclist.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Comfortable Strap Dividers
Highly Adjustable Fit System
Made in Spain
Complies with on or more of the following standards - EN 1078:2012+A1:2012, U.S. CPSC Safety Standard and AS-NZS 2063
Well made, solidly put together.
Can't – don't – want to comment on the crash protection performance, but it's a well-vented helmet, if a little heavy.
Not crashed it yet, and the full coverage of the plastic shell means it's resisted the usual scuffs and bumps well.
A noticeable weight on the head.
Comfortably padded and the retention system works well with a wide range of adjustment, check it fits first though.
On a par with other helmets in this price bracket for features and weight.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's a good helmet for the price; you'll probably buy it for its looks, or not, like you would any helmet in all honesty. It's a well-vented yet sturdy lid. Ignore the faffy removable straps thing.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfy retention system, styling and ventilation.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Clunky straps, it didn't suit my head shape, bit weighty.
Did you enjoy using the product? Can you enjoy wearing a helmet? If it fitted me better I'd be more than happy with it.
Would you consider buying the product? No, because it really didn't fit me.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? I have friends with more Catlike heads, so yes.
Use this box to explain your score
The Olula isn't a bad helmet, nor an amazingly good one, it's at the top level of okay. I like the looks and it's airy enough to wear it all the time were it to actually fit me, but that's no reason to mark it up or down, just try before you buy. The removable straps thing strikes me as a pointless gimmick that can safely be ignored and doesn't hinder the performance of the helmet, although those straps are chunky and noticeable compared with others.
About the tester
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I'm on at the time
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo-cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, fun
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.