When Bontrager introduced the Blaze as part of its line of WaveCel helmets, it made a really big deal about the new concussion prevention liner.
There were bold claims that the novel helmet liner was 48 times more effective at preventing concussions than a traditional EPS foam helmet. Those claims were quickly challenged by competitors. The WaveCel helmets still remain among the top ranked on the list Bicycle Helmet Safety ratings.
How does Bontrager’s Blaze WaveCel, the only mountain bike helmet with the new concussion reduction technology, fare in the real world outside the laboratory?
Bontrager Blaze WaveCel – Features
The central feature of the Blaze is its WaveCel liner. Different layers in the liner move independently and flex until the material starts to crumble, then glide. This is intended to disperse and direct rotational forces of an impact away from your head, reducing the chances of a head injury.
Bontrager has put together a full list of features for the Blaze WaveCel beyond the concussion preventing liner. The helmet uses a Boa dial and adjustable fit system. The fabric straps close using Bontrager’s handy Fidlock magnetic closure system. There’s more magnets for the integrated, removable Blendr light / GoPro mount system.
Bontrager Blaze WaveCel
Three position visor moves up..
way up out of the way
Bontrager's Fidlock magnetic closure system connects two comfortable fabric straps
The magnetic closure is easy, and more comfortalbe than a traditional buckle
Bontrager uses a Boa system to dial in fit
You can fine-tune fit inside the helmet as well
Bontrager WaveCel liner wraps fully around the inside of the Blaze
A three position visor moves up out of the way for goggles. The hard shell extends around the base of the helmet to prevent damage to the protective foam when the Blaze WaveCel is put down on the trail or post-ride at the trail head. Finally, for the sweatier among us, there’s an optional NoSweat liner with a silicone channel that funnels sweat away from the forehead to keep it out of your eyes while riding.
Bontrager Blaze WaveCel – On the trail
The Boa system and magnetic closure are both intuitive and easy to use. This makes it easy to get the Blaze WaveCel to fit comfortably. And it is a comfortable, well constructed helmet. There’s good coverage around the back of the head, without the helmet reaching so far down that it interferes with your sunglasses.
Adding WaveCel does make the Blaze warmer, though. Bontrager claims WaveCel changes airflow through its helmets without reducing ventilation but I found the Blaze WaveCel to be noticeably warmer than other helmets. While there is plenty of space for air to flow through the WaveCel liner, looking head-on at the helmet it’s clear the liner is not channeling air in the same direction as the helmets main vents. On the plus side, the flexible WaveCel liner is otherwise comfortable, and doesn’t grab at your hair. But the extra warmth will make you consider using Bontrager’s NoSweat liner, especially on warmer days or extended climbs where you’re not moving all that fast to help force air through the liner.
At 425 g for my medium sized Blaze WaveCel, it’s also on the heavier side for a high end mountain bike helmet. Finally, the WaveCel liner means there’s no handy place to shove your sunglasses. This problem isn’t unique to WaveCel, or even helmets with protective liners. But it is an issue some competitors have found ways around.
The Verdict: Safety above all else?
Bontrager’s Blaze WaveCel performed near the top of the safety rankings, as did the brand’s new road helmets, like the XXX WaveCel. The most important feature of a helmet is its ability to protect your brain, so the Blaze WaveCel is a success on that front. Its quality construction and comfortable fit add to the helmets value.
It’s not the only helmet with a top safety rating, though. Some of the other options out there are lighter, cooler, and come in below the Blaze WaveCel’s $390 price tag.
If getting the every ounce of protection out of your helmet is worth a bit of extra weight and heat, the Blaze WaveCel is worth a look. The first generation of WaveCel helmets are definitely promising, and I’m looking forward to a more refined version from Bontrager in the future.
Bontrager’s Blaze WaveCel is available in three sizes: Small (51-57 cm), Medium (54-60 cm) and Large (58-63 cm). There’s four colour options: Black, Slate (shown), Miami Green and Orange. The helmet retails for $390.