Mountain Bike Action Product Test: Bontrager Rally WaveCel Helmet
Bontrager Rally WaveCel Helmet
Protective mountain biking gear has evolved quite a bit over the years. Now protective gear brands are offering various priced versions of equipment that differ in the number of safety features they offer. Although we are seeing the cost of protection rise, shouldn’t we all have a safe helmet to wear without spending an entire paycheck?
A little over a year ago, WaveCel hit the market to offer more protection in helmets. The technology, developed by Bontrager, uses a cellular structure designed to collapse on impact. Initially, this new technology would cost you $300 in a half-shell mountain bike helmet. While this pricey option is still available in Bontrager’s current MTB helmet lineup, Bontrager decided to launch a more affordable option priced at $149.99.
The new Rally WaveCel helmet shares some significant features with its more expensive sibling known as the Blaze WaveCel. They both feature WaveCel and have a BOA fit system, moisture-wicking pads, an adjustable visor, and even a nearly identical helmet vent layout. Unlike the Rally, the Blaze does feature a Fidlock magnetic buckle. The Blaze also differs by offering Bontrager’s Blendr integration for mounting a helmet light and GoPro camera on top of the helmet. But, what really sets them $150 apart is the amount of WaveCel used in the construction of the helmet.
The innovative WaveCel design works by mitigating rotational impacts. More effective than traditional foam, the cellular material can flex, crumple and glide to redirect energy away from your head. EPS foam is still used as the outer layer of the helmet, while the WaveCel material is inside the helmet. Unlike the Blaze, which has WaveCel fully covering your head, the WaveCel in the Rally covers the front, top, and sides of your head with foam at the rear of the helmet. We buckled into the Rally and hit the trails.
On the trail:
Dialing in our fit, we used the easy height adjustment for the BOA retention system. The Rally’s retention design did not include padding, but this did not create any discomfort during our test rides. All of our test riders’ heads have a slightly different shape, so the helmet did not fit equally well on everyone. Always try on any helmet before you buy.
In our scorching-hot SoCal trail conditions, we came to realize the Rally WaveCel doesn’t flow air well. For any kind of air movement, we had to be at speed with our head aiming downward so the wind could pass through the vents and the WaveCel structure—not ideal for summer fire-road climbs. Nevertheless, the Rally does well at retaining heat for cooler temperatures.
When Bontrager first launched the WaveCel helmet, it seemed unlikely to fit the budgets of many riders in the market for a new lid. The Rally WaveCel brings the impressive performance of Bontrager’s $300 option down to a more affordable price point while still managing to include the modern safety features you would score with the higher-priced alternative.
• Cutting-edge safety features and comfort
• One-year crash-replacement warranty
• No area for storing sunglasses (a miss for some)
• Trouble dissipating heat in high temperatures
Sizes: Small (51–57cm), medium (54–60cm), large (58–63cm)
Weight: 397 grams (14 ounces)
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun.