The Abus AirBreaker is an excellent helmet that provides loads of ventilation in a lightweight and low profile package.
- Pros: Cool, light, comfortable
- Cons: Top-end price
The AirBreaker's overall shape is the same as that of Abus's GameChanger aero lid that Liam reviewed here on road.cc and liked very much. Aero helmets tend to be heavier than most others and ventilation is usually compromised, hence the introduction of the AirBreaker. Our medium sized test model hit the scales at just 214g and it has a similar level of ventilation to the Abus Aventor that we reviewed last year.
The AirBreaker's venting is its best feature. It's an in-mould design (meaning that the outer shell is permanently connected to the expanded polystyrene inner) with what Abus calls ActiCage structural reinforcement – essentially a plastic framework within the EPS, the idea being that you can have big vents without the helmet's safety being compromised. Many other brands do something similar.
Complex internal shaping (possible because of the use of collapsible tooling in the manufacturing process, apparently, but let's not get too hung up on those details) allows loads of air to flow over your head as you ride. You get large openings at the front and top, and deep channels that run front to rear.
Abus calls this its 'Forced Air Cooling' system, because everything has to have a tech-sounding name these days. If other helmets leave your head feeling uncomfortably hot and sweaty, the AirBreaker could surprise you with the amount of ventilation on offer. If you still start burning up on a climb, you can pour water into the grid section at the top/back of the helmet and it'll flow all over your head to cool you down.
The Zoom Ace fit system works well for a wide variety of head shapes. The cradle at the back offer 2.7cm of up/down movement and you get the choice of three different anchor points on each of the temples, with 1.5cm between the two extremes. You adjust the tightness via a clicky dial that's easy to turn even when you're wearing gloves.
You don't get all that much padding inside the helmet, but it's highly effective. Rather than the usual Velcro tabs, the single-piece pad is held in place by a plastic bolt inside the central ventilation channel and the cradle anchors on the temples. The relatively few fixing points means the padding largely floats inside the helmet. It might sound odd but it works just fine. One section of padding reaches the full width of your forehead, helping to stop sweat dripping into your eyes all over your glasses, and it all dries out very quickly.
The soft, lightweight straps are comfortable and the section that runs along the side of your face has an unusual profile: the leading edge is thicker than the rest. Abus says that this helps to stop any fluttering, although I can't say that's something I ever encounter anyway, even on the fastest descents.
Rather than using plastic dividers, the front and rear sections of the straps are sewn together where they meet below your ears, saving a few grams and avoiding a double layer under your chin. This is a design feature borrowed from the GameChanger. It does mean a little less adjustment than usual but we got several people to try out this helmet and no one was at all bothered.
Unusually, you can entirely remove the straps from the helmet to hand wash them; you just twist the little metal anchor rods out of their plastic housings. That's handy if you want to soak the straps in soapy water after a really sweaty ride.
One other feature that's worth a mention is stowage for your eyewear. I tried out half a dozen pairs of glasses with this helmet and they all fitted securely in the ports. No worries at all there.
We don't safety test helmets on the basis that everything on the market has already met the relevant standards for the countries where it's on sale. If you're interested in MIPS, though, you're out of luck because Abus doesn't offer the AirBreaker with this technology.
One other thing we don't test for is aerodynamics. Abus says that the AirBreaker offers "maximum ventilation on slow, mountainous stages and optimum aerodynamics on fast, flat stages" thanks to the honeycomb structure covering vents at the top of the helmet. It calls this the 'Multi Speed design'. It looks vaguely similar to the 'aero mesh' perforated panels on the Giro Synthe helmet.
Abus says that the Multi Speed tech is designed to encourage smooth airflow while allowing heat to escape, although it doesn't provide any aero data to support its claim. The AirBreaker is quite low profile and definitely offers a high level of ventilation but if aerodynamics is your number one priority you'd almost certainly be better off reaching for the GameChanger.
Its rrp of £230 is, of course, a lot to spend on a bike helmet. Many at this sort of price come with MIPS technology, although plenty don't – the £220 Catlike Kilauea and £265 MET Trenta 3K Carbon being two examples from those we've reviewed recently. The AirBreaker does pack in some very good features and you might consider that the level of cooling on offer is worth paying for although, as is always the case with helmets, you can get something that's almost as good for a fraction of the price.
Overall, the Abus AirBreaker is a great helmet that offers superb ventilation at a very light weight. It's priced towards the top end of the market but the quality is excellent.
Cool and lightweight lid; top-end performance, top-end price!
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Abus Airbreaker 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?
Abus says, "The AirBreaker from Abus is a helmet that effortlessly meets the highest demands of professional cycling.
"In the race, top performance counts on every single stage, whether on a steep uphill climb or in the nerve-racking top speed of the sprint. The AirBreaker from Abus supports you every kilometre of the way.
"Thanks to the honeycomb structure of the innovative Multi Speed design, the AirBreaker always offers the best possible aerodynamics and at the same time ensures optimum ventilation. Because the Multi-Speed Design doses the ventilation as it is needed: maximum ventilation for slow, hilly stages, and optimum aerodynamics for fast, flat stages."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Abus lists these tech features:
* In-mould for a durable connection with the outer shell with shock-absorbing helmet material (EPS)
* Forced Air Cooling Technology: Sophisticated ventilation system for an optimal head climate
* Excellent ventilation with 11 air inlets and 3 air outlets connected with flow channels
* FlowStraps: Aerodynamic, flutter-free and skin-friendly thanks to specially developed strap profile
* Zoom Ace: Finely adjustable adjustment system with handy adjustment wheel for customisable fit
* AirPort: Aerodynamic glasses holder with strap guide
* Ponytail compatibility: Helmet well suited to plait wearers
The build quality suggests it'll last at least as well as most other helmets.
Saving a few grams makes next to no difference to your speed, but a lighter helmet is often a little more comfortable to wear.
The ventilation, fit system and straps all make it superbly comfortable in use.
It's a pro-level helmet. You can, of course, buy helmets that offer the same level of protection at a fraction of the price.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performs really well. It's one of those helmets you just put on and almost forget it's even there.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Definitely the ventilation.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The price is a hurdle, for sure.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Priced at £230, the Abus AirBreaker is among the more expensive helmets out there. Many at roughly this price come with MIPS technology, although the £220 Catlike Kilauea and £265 MET Trenta 3K Carbon that we've reviewed recently don't. The AirBreaker does offer some very good features and a high level of cooling.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? The price is high, but I still would.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
This helmet puts in a very high level of performance, with just the price dragging it down from an overall score of 9.
About the tester
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: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, 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 winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.