Although I could write about aero helmets all day long, I'd be remiss if I didn't devote some attention to their standard, vented brethren. Regular road helmets are undeniably part of triathlon. Whether you just train with them, or opt to race in them as well (as many riders do), it's important to have a lid that fits you well, and will keep you comfortable for the long haul.
I've personally been training in a Bell Sweep R for many seasons, and definitely like the helmet. My 59cm head is right in the middle of its size range, which is usually a good indicator for fit. But alas, the helmet has reached its expiry date. Manufacturers recommend that you should swap helmets out every five years or so, lest the helmet's foam become brittle and lose its ability to properly cushion an impact. That's one recommendation I'm not willing to defy for the purpose of testing.
So, the good folks at Rudy Project sent me their brand new Windmax helmet to review, which will hit store shelves in early 2012. When I first opened the box, I was a bit worried - they'd sent me the S/M size, which corresponds to a maximum head size of 58cm, just shy of my 59cm. But the next size up goes from 59cm to 63cm, so I'd be at the very bottom of that range, and likely feel like the helmet was very large. You usually want to find a helmet that puts you somewhere in the middle of its size range, not at the very extremes. The short story is that I'm actually NOT the ideal candidate for this helmet.
But I ended up really liking it anyway.
As expected, the helmet is snug when I put it on, even with the retention mechanism all the way open. But in this case, it was a good thing. It means that I don't have to use any retention, because the lid stays on even doing a lean-over test without buckling it on. And despite the fact that I should feel cramped, it turned out to be very comfortable. In fact, during my first test ride with the helmet, I twice had a brain fart, thinking I had forgotten to put a helmet on. It wasn't until reaching up to make sure that I realized I was indeed riding the Windmax.
The helmet comes with some standard fare features - a ratcheting mechanism in the back that works pretty much as expected (perhaps not quite as smooth as some other ratchets, but nothing to worry about), plenty of ventilation (22 vents in all), and an easy-to-adjust chin strap. The chin strap also has a little padding that prevents the buckle from rubbing your neck, but I didn't really care for it and took it off.
The Windmax also includes a removable "Bug Shield", a mesh insert that covers the front half of the helmet, and will hopefully prevent bugs from getting in your hair. I haven't really had much of a problem with bugs in the past, because any that got into the vents usually flew right out again. But it's a nice option to have. And if you don't like it, you can remove it. Mine stays in for now.
I have no hesitation in recommending the lid to any rider who fits it. At $299 retail, it's definitely an expensive bucket. And make no mistake, every certified helmet is going to keep you safe. You don't have to spend a bundle to protect your head. Helmets at these price points are meant to sell you on their slightly better ventilation, and earn you some style points. The Windmax has both of those in spades. Choosing it over other offerings from the major helmet manufacturers should come down to the one that fits you best.