Deciding between cycling helmets typically has come down to budget, design and comfort. More recently, many helmet manufacturers have incorporated additional safety features beyond the simple EPS foam and head cradle systems. Bontrager has made a big splash with their debut of WaveCel liner technology. Marketed with the slogan “You only get one Brain,” WaveCel is an exclusive technology that Bontrager has developed to protect against cycling related head injuries. In this review, we’ll be taking a close look at the Bontrager Specter WaveCel helmet in an eye catching radioactive yellow gloss finish.
The Bontrager Specter WaveCel is a unique and premium quality cycling helmet helmet. With the innovative WaveCel liner, magnetic clasp and BOA dial equipped cradle we found it was one of the most comfortable and secure helmets we’ve ridden to date.
The Specter WaveCel is one of the most affordable helmets that feature the WaveCel technology and is offered in everything from S-XL size as well as five glossy color options. The full product line consists of the mountain biking Blaze WaveCel, commuter friendly Charge WaveCel and the aerodynamic XXX WaveCel. Unlike other helmets with MIPS that only have subtle yellow stickers to differentiate them from standard helmets, the WaveCel liner is clearly visible from the exterior of the helmet. The Specter is designed for all types of riding and features a number of premium touches as well.
|Measured Weight (in g)||346 (Medium)|
|Likes|| + Magnetic clasp |
+ Premium quality fit and finish
+ WaveCel liner adds safety and comfort
|Dislikes||– Heavier weight |
– Clasp release is not intuitive
– WaveCel liner covers vent holes
|Where to Buy (US)||Trek Bikes|
As with other helmets we’ve reviewed, the Specter WaveCel is shipped in a standard helmet box. Pads hold the helmet securely in place and protect the helmet from scratches during shipping. Inside the box there isn’t much more than some basic informational tags and a user manual.
FIT & FINISH
At the core of the Bontrager Specter WaveCel helmet is the innovative WaveCel inner liner. With the radioactive yellow color (that we reviewed), the WaveCel liner is finished in a complementary transparent green. This liner appears to be clear transparent for other color schemes. While we can’t validate Bontrager’s safety claims, the WaveCel liner is an exciting and intriguing design. Visually they look similar to a triangular honeycomb structure that have been strategically arranged to absorb and reduce impacts. Bontrager describes the WaveCel elements as ‘three-dimensional structure’ as they are designed to reduce rotational forces as well as complement the EPS foam and collapse vertically. The WaveCel liner fills the entire region between the foam and the inner liner with no cutouts for vents..
This means the WaveCel liner is clearly visible from the exterior, and even though the liner is aligned perpendicular to the helmet it may restrict the airflow compared to a standard helmet. We also found that we couldn’t mount any lights or other accessories as they typically require pulling a strap through the vents which are impeded by the WaveCel liner. We would describe the WaveCel liner feel to be similar to a thin plastic. Unlike a more compact MIPS liner which cleanly integrates to various helmet designs, it’s clear that integrating a WaveCel liner requires a specifically designed helmet to accommodate it.
In terms of exterior design, the Specter WaveCel is an attractive helmet that stands out. The front of the helmet is simple and clean with no removable or integrated visor. While there are plenty of vents, the Specter WaveCel is designed to be smooth without the aggressive sculpting found on other helmets. The side profile is more stylized and has a blunt rear profile that gives the helmet a unique and less dome-like shape. The ear cutouts have a multi-layered molded design that adds style to the helmet as well. On the rear of the helmet you have an aggressive vent design as well as a reflective patch for improved night time visibility.
One of our favorite elements of the Bontrager Specter WaveCel helmet is the overall fit and finish of the helmet. The exterior shell appears to be two parts that tuck underneath each other and extends all the way around the inner lip of the helmet. This subtle detail gives the helmet a more premium and finished look, as there is no visible EPS foam on the bottom rim of the helmet. Details like this really make the Specter helmet stand out from other helmets and look more upscale than the price would suggest.
FIT AND COMFORT
Having ridden various regular as well as MIPS helmets, we were particularly impressed with how comfortable and secure the Specter WaveCel helmet felt. The helmet features a plush removable inner padding that is attached on top of the WaveCel liner. Perhaps because of the fully enveloping WaveCel liner, we found that the helmet has a secure feel and uniform pressure. The nylon straps are soft to touch and the cam style adjusters provide more controlled adjustments.
The BOA dial on the rear of the helmet also provides dual direction micro adjustments to fine tune the retention cage. Adjusting the dial loosens or tightens the nylon lace on each side of the helmet to allow the helmet to fit various head shapes. The gap between the helmet and the BOA dial is big enough to pull a ponytail thru. The rear height of the retention cage can also be adjusted by pulling up on the padding and pulling/pushing the attachment point to the desired location. Lastly, the Fitlock magnetic buckle is a nice feature that adds a little premium feel and makes putting the helmet on quick and easy. The same can’t be said about removing the helmet while worn, as the magnetic buckle has more resistance and direction-dependent than standard plastic buckles.
Overall, we found the Bontrager Specter WaveCel to be a unique and well finished helmet. Although we don’t have the testing equipment or desire to crash test the helmet to verify WaveCel’s safety claims, we found the WaveCel liner provided a comfortable and secure feel we haven’t felt with other helmets. Our only concerns with the helmet are the fact that the WaveCel liner may inhibit the airflow through the vents and limits the possibility of attaching lights/cameras to the helmet. Despite being the lowest cost WaveCel helmet offered by Bontrager, the helmet also has premium features such as a plush inner padding and wrap-around outer shell that set the helmet apart. We look forward to see the WaveCel technology incorporated into more Bontrager helmets.
Disclaimer: The product for this review was provided by Trek Bikes. The views expressed on this website are solely those of the authors and are here to help people make an informed choice before a purchase. The authors or the blog itself does not get any monetary compensation from the product manufacturer or third-party websites/vendor links that are posted here.