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.
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.
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.