As an urban cycling lid, the Bontrager Charge WaveCel Helmet looks pretty sleek and offers an excellent fit. It is heavy though, and at £129.99 is a massive investment compared with typical urban cycling helmets. Does meeting the latest standards for e-bike use and sporting the brand's new WaveCel technology justify it though?
- Pros: Comfortable fit, small peak keeps the sun out of your eyes
- Cons: Heavy and pricey
The Charge is part of Bontrager's new WaveCel line-up, which, if you haven't come across it before, is a collapsible cellular material designed to deal with 'twists, turns, and angled impacts' rather than just direct impacts like standard EPS helmets.
If you are interested in the details you can take a look at Mat's piece on it here.
We've seen similar systems to it before (although Bontrager says it is completely different) from the likes of Koroyd, which was fitted to the Endura Pro SL that I tested last year.
The biggest issue with that was ventilation, and it's a similar story here. The Charge has very little venting in the first place, and what it does have doesn't let a whole lot of air through. One ride where I was heading directly into a cold northerly headwind saw about as much breeze as an asthmatic mouse could conjure up.
We also have one of the WaveCel race models in for testing, which will be more definitive from this point of view.
I found the fit of the Charge to be very comfortable, with tensioning of the cradle being dealt with at the rear by a Boa wire, like those usually found on shoes. It gives tiny little increments to get the fit just right.
The padding is firm but soft against your head and the whole experience is quite pleasurable, although it's quite a weighty helmet. At 445g it's one you're going to notice perched on your bonce.
In its defence, the Charge is certified to NTA 8776, a more stringent EU standard than 'normal' cycle helmets have to meet. It's approved for S-EPAC ('speed' electronically power assisted cycles) use, pedal assisted vehicles that can achieve speeds up to 45km/h (28mph) and are basically classed as mopeds here in the UK. You can get the full details on our sister site ebiketips here.
NTA 8776 helmets look like cycle helmets but have to withstand higher impact speeds, which could explain the increased heft. Its EPS body certainly feels thicker than most other road helmets.
Rather than using a standard clasp for the strap, Bontrager has gone for a magnetic option, the Fidlock, which works well and is quick and easy to open and close once you've got used to it.
Out front you get a rubberised peak that's just the right length for keeping the sun out of your eyes but doesn't restrict your view when scanning the road ahead.
If you're just after a simple urban commuter cycling helmet then there are a lot of cheaper options. The Smith Maze, for example, costs £54.99 and weighs 282g, though George found its fitting system a bit of a faff.
The TSG Status scored better, but will cost you £64.99 and weight is up a little compared to the Smith, at 313g.
If it's an NTA 8776 helmet you are after specifically, the Charge sits around the same price as a lot of the limited number of competition. The Met Grancorso mentioned in that ebiketips piece is available for around the hundred quid mark in the UK and has a lot of similarities to the Charge.
Overall, the Bontrager is a decent helmet if you want the extra protection over a standard cycling helmet for your commute and are willing to pay for it.
Pricey and heavy for a standard commuter lid but passes the much more stringent standards for e-bike use
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager Charge WaveCel Commuter 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 says, "Bontrager Charge WaveCel Commuter is a fashion-forward helmet that earns top marks in style and safety. It's perfect for commutes, e-bike rides and everyday adventures, and it's built with the most advanced helmet safety tech available so you don't have to choose between fashion and function.
"WaveCel is a collapsible cellular structure that lines the inside of the helmet. This Bontrager-exclusive technology disrupts the safety standards that the industry has accepted for over 30 years."
It's a decent helmet for commuting in an urban environment, if a little heavy.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
WaveCel advanced helmet technology
The Boa® System lets you easily secure and adjust helmet fit with just one hand
Fidlock magnetic buckle fastens effortlessly for a quick, secure fit
The rear Blendr mount system easily integrates Bontrager light accessories
Soft, comfortable, moisture-wicking and washable helmet pads
Helmet is NTA 8776 certified and approved for S-EPAC use
Reflective elements on the back of the helmet offer enhanced visibility to be seen
The Crash Replacement Guarantee provides a free helmet replacement if involved in a crash within the first year of ownership
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
On any bike where you need to pedal hard you are going to get warm.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
As a commuter helmet it's pricier than most, but against other NTA 8776 lids it's in the right ball park.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, for steady rides.
Would you consider buying the product? No, it's quite pricey for normal cycling.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
An impressive fit and cool looks but better suited to e-bike use because of its weight and breathability.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!