The Bontrager Circuit WaveCel Helmet is comfortable and very well made, and promises great safety with its rotational impact protection and quality Boa dial cradle adjustment. It's pretty heavy and warm, though, for the price.
If you're wondering what WaveCel is, the blurb says it 'disrupts the safety standards that the industry has accepted for over 30 years', and leaves it at that. Which is all very thrilling, and leaves just one follow up question: Yes, but what is WaveCel?
It's actually Bontrager's exclusive solution to the problem of twisting impacts and their role in concussions – traditional helmet testing only involves straight drops from height, whereas tradition bike crashes don't – so WaveCel is a competitor to MIPS. But where MIPS uses two thin sliding layers to allow independent skull/shell movement, WaveCel uses a large collapsible structure of gel-like walls. (We first reported on it back in 2019.)
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And it's WaveCel that leads to two of the three potential sticking points this helmet has: there's a lot of material there so it's heavy, and it doesn't vent that well so it's hot.
These things are relative, of course, and you may not care about weight – certainly at 383g (356g without the top Blendr mount attached) it's not heavy enough to be an issue on anything but the longest and most exhausting of rides. As far as fit and adjustment go, it's very comfortable. Nevertheless, the MIPS-equipped Circuit we tested back in 2018 was usefully lighter at 300g.
Even the relative warmth isn't so great it's a problem in cold/cool/mild weather, though I seemed to end even the chilliest rides with sweat-darkened pads all around the front. For summer use or generally hotter climates than Wales – and I'm assured these exist – it will surely get very sweaty or even overheat.
The third sticking point is the price, though you certainly won't be disappointed by the quality (with the sole exception, perhaps, of the stick-on stripes, which on this one are starting to lift). Overall, this is extremely well made.
The inner foam is protected everywhere necessary by a hard outer shell, and the bonding and general finish are immaculate. The cradle adjusts for height as well as circumference and both feels and looks to be a similarly high quality. The straps are thin for comfort and easy to adjust, with neat y-pieces to dodge your ears.
If you use Bontrager lights as well (or want a GoPro on your head), the Blendr magnetic mounts are pretty useful – and if you don't, the top one comes off very easily to leave the helmet looking normal (and 27g lighter).
The various matt finishes and sculpted shaping only add to the sense of class, and it's available in four other colours if you don't like this white.
Unfortunately for the £134.99 Circuit, it's not hard to find equally safe alternatives that are cheaper, lighter and cooler. The Met Estro MIPS is over 100g lighter at 270g, for instance, actively impressed our tester with its excellent ventilation, and is £120. The glossy finish is a bit prone to scuffing, though.
Meanwhile, even the £69.99 Abus Macator MIPS offers rotational impact protection, if you're not worried about poor venting, and its solid-looking build is still lighter at 300g. Inevitably there's no comparison in quality, though.
> The 10 best lightweight high-performance cycling helmets for 2022
This is not to say the premium-feeling Circuit is overpriced for its place in the market: the Rapha Poc Omne Air helmet features Poc's MIPS-alike system, SPIN, and is £140, for instance, while the CHPT3 x Thousand Barrivell MIPS is £139.
That said, the Rapha is a chunk lighter at 306g, and while the Barrivell is much closer at 378g, that's a minimally vented 'urban' design that's not unlike a horse rider/California Highway Patrol rider's helmet.
As such, it's very hard to agree that this is an 'ultra-versatile helmet that is light, cool and sleek'. Bontrager, I 'disrupt' your claim. It's demonstrably heavy and warm, while arguably being too substantial to be considered sleek – though if you ask me it's certainly shapely and good looking.
To me, the Circuit earns its asking price for its very obvious quality and impressive, easy-to-adjust comfort. I was happy to ride in it during this winter test, and mostly found its mass reassuring. If you ride a lot in cool weather, want a lid for low-intensity riding or just really value quality, you'll be very happy with it.
On sheer performance, though, considering factors such as low weight and strong ventilation alongside high protection levels, it's just not competitive – you can get lighter and cheaper lids without compromising on safety.
Very well made and very comfortable, but warm and heavy for the price
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Make and model: Bontrager Circuit WaveCel Helmet
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: "An ultra-versatile helmet that is light, cool and sleek with the added protection of WaveCel advanced helmet technology and the convenience of magnetic light mounts."
It's very comfortable, but it's not particularly light or cool.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
-WaveCel advanced helmet technology
-The BOA Fit System lets you easily secure and adjust your fit with one hand
-The Blendr magnetic mount system easily integrates a GoPro camera and Bontrager lights
-Made of 50% post-consumer recycled polystyrene
-FlatStrap semi-fixed strap dividers lay flush and move fore and aft for a perfect fit
-Soft, comfortable, moisture-wicking and washable helmet pads
-Reflective elements on the back of the helmet offer enhanced visibility
-The Crash Replacement Guarantee provides free replacement if your helmet is impacted in the first year of ownership
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Very neat and solid, bar the lifting stickers.
Rate the product for performance:
It's comfortable and secure, though relatively warm and heavy.
Rate the product for durability:
Feels very substantial and the inner foam is protected.
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
It's pretty heavy, even with the top Blendr mount removed.
Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
Rate the product for value:
It's at the upper end of what's arguably the 'mid-range' price spectrum, but considerably heavier than many, and warm.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Having not crashed in it (touch wood) I can't answer that... it meets the necessary standards and feels very substantial and secure. It's comfortable to ride in, but relatively heavy and warm.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Very comfortable and sits securely.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It's heavy and quite warm.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's towards the upper end of the mid-range market, with a construction and spec that befits it.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your overall score
I found this a very comfortable fit, but even in this winter test it was noticeably warmer than most; in summer it could get rather hot. It's also considerably heavier than the competition. While its quality is obvious, its performance is more limited than some much cheaper helmets that can also offer MIPS or similar systems. If it were 100g lighter, under £100 or just cooled more effectively it would be a 7 or 8 – and if it were all three then maybe a 9. As it is, I'd say overall it's 'quite good'.
Age: 48 Height: 183cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Vitus Zenium SL VR Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mtb,
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