Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Bontrager Rally helmet review

Posted by Matt | December 8, 2015 | 13 comments so far

Bontrager Rally Helmet

Bontrager Rally Helmet

The world of mountain bike crash helmets continues to evolve. Enduro-this and MIPS-that and chinguard-the-other are all very well and just some of the trends currently influencing helmet design. If the helmet doesn’t fit however, none of it is much use, which is where the Bontrager Rally comes in.

I have a hard time finding crash helmets to fit me. As the owner of an aerodynamic (i.e. pin) head, I often run into problems with crash helmets. Not only do I have a size zero skull, but I suspect my head is also ovalised, which might be helpful in chainring design but does nothing for headgear that has a fixed shape. A challenge for mountain bike helmets then, but top hats too, in case you’re wondering.

This problem is something I’ve endured for years. A long time back, I found relative happiness with a Giro Xen, still a favourite in my memory with a matt finish and a trend setter in offering a deeper rear design than most of what was on the market at the time. Then Giro discontinued it, to my great regret. I replaced the Xen with a Hex but this was a different beast. By no means a poor helmet, and sporting a vivid matt green finish, it just couldn’t match the Xen for comfort.

Partly due to the colour, I used the Hex for a couple of years, but matters came to a head (ahem!) after our recent trip to Wales. After wearing the Hex for several hours of Welsh mountain exploration, the Klingon style grooves on my forehead and skull showed just how tightly I’d had to cinch up the adjustment to keep the thing on my head. Elliott summed it up succinctly by saying it was obvious the helmet just didn’t fit. And he was right.

Bontrager Rally Helmet padding

Bontrager Rally Helmet padding

So I started a search. First port of call was the Bell Super 2.0, similar to what Jem had been running, but neither the small nor the medium fitted me, much to my regret as I ordered it in matt black and grey. It didn’t grip my head at all at any level of adjustment and gave me a spectacular head mushroom look to go with it.

My search continued. I wasn’t convinced that spending more money would help and was pleasantly surprised to come across the Bontrager Rally at AllRideNow for a very competitive price.

This offered plenty of features to tempt me – a matt orange finish, deep coverage around the rear, a large Enduro-style visor which is detachable. So I ordered one.

It turns out this helmet fits me perfectly! The tensioner actually flexes around the entire skull, unlike many helmets that make do with wedging the skull at the front and tightening around the rear. On the Bontrager Rally, the tensioner is also able to conform to the shape of the skull around the sides, with the net result being that it’s actually resistant to being pulled off even without securing the helmet straps.

Comfort is further enhanced with some decently thick padding, unlike my Hex which is very mean in that regard. The helmet is well vented with large openings and hidden channels inside that direct air through the helmet and out the rear. If my hair was less will o’ the wisp and more Donald Trump I suspect I would return from the Surrey Hills with spectacular helmet hair as a result. Another plus in the Bontrager Rally’s favour is that the helmet straps sit flat and are just the right length, with no unnecessary flapage to them.

Side view of the Bontrager Rally Helmet

Side view of the Bontrager Rally Helmet

In terms of style, once you get past the spectacular (yet tasteful, in my view) matt orange* you find a helmet with a flattish rear and enough space under the visor to suggest it would work well with goggles, although I haven’t tried this option myself. The visor can be removed entirely or moved well out of the way. The outer shell extends right around the bottom edge, suggesting that the helmet will resist minor knocks from everyday use, while the tensioner is operated, one handed, via a large rear dial.

All in all, it seems a very good product, as you’d expect from a Trek-owned brand, especially at the bargain price. In an ideal world I’d like MIPS too but first and foremost a helmet has to fit and that’s where this scored so well for me. And did I say it’s orange?

* Other colours are available. Lime with a touch of purple for example. Nice.

Filed under Clothing, Reviews in December 2015


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years then a 2016 YT Industries Jeffsy 29er, he now rocks a Bird Aether 9 and a Pace RC-627.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 13 comments on ‘Bontrager Rally helmet review’

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  1. Colin says:

    A very amusing review Matt, lots of subtle but very funny throw-ins that had me chuckling away!

    Like your quest, I’ve spent over 3 years trying every lid known to man. I also settled on a Bontrager, but a Lithos and it really is very comfortable, great strap, coverage, etc.

  2. Elliot says:

    I remember the Klingon grooves…looked bloody uncomfortable!

    So compared to the Bell is this bigger or smaller size for size? Mostly their lids fit me well but mine seems to have been discontinued and I’m not a huge fan of the look of Bell’s latest ‘enduro’ offerings. This looks good forwhen I’m in the market for a replacement, if a little weighty.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Elliott, in comparison to the Bell Super 2 this is definitely smaller.

      Medium versus medium, the Bontrager is more compact with less of the mushroom look, as well as the retention system fitting around the whole skull. The Bell clamps around the back with nothing on the sides apart from padding. Great if your head fits, rubbish if not.

      In my case the Bell wobbled side to side no matter how tight I wound up the back and I could lift the Bell off without any resistance, so I didn’t feel it was going to do the job for me in extremis.

  3. DaveW says:

    Are there any local stockists of these bonty lids?

  4. Jemster says:

    I must say Matt’ your orange helmet matches your garden bench very well. Do you wear it for Bbq,’s?

  5. Mat says:

    Decent coverage, central vent for an exposure mount and it sounds like it might suit my head shape- my current helmet is getting pretty tired, this might be just the thing

  6. Erik says:

    Dear interwebs,

    I’m resurrecting a months old thread – I’ll pause here for the requisite verbal lashing.

    I too tote around a head with a dangerously low coefficient of drag. I just tried this helmet on at my LBS (RacePace in Ellicott City) and the fit is MINT! The only remaining decision is colour choice…Black for that hardcore, tacticool look… or hi-res blue to unabashedly broadcast “this guy’s fun” – and he isn’t afraid of the 1980s coming back in all it’s neon glory.
    Great review; you definitely pointed my pointy noggin in the right direction . Thanks!

  7. Matt says:

    Erik, very glad we could help. The Rally certainly seems well thought of by reviewers more knowledgeable that I and I remain very pleased with my choice.

    As for colour… oooh, blue! Or, hmm black? Tough call as you say!

  8. Related: Bike Park Wales rocks hard - Mutterings, Stuff & nonsense - Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

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