04 January 2009

bikefix Exclusive Review: Uvex Supersonic RS & GT helmets

How much should one spend on a bicycle helmet? After all, helmets are essentially disposable- they should be trashed after five years (Giro recommend three), following their first crash or when any damage is apparent. Over their expected lifespan, the cost of even top-end helmets (costing in excess of $200) works out under 20¢/day, but I have a feeling that most of us will be reluctant to bin a $200 piece of gear on day 1096 (or even day 1827, given that the longer figure will include at least one leap year)- no matter how funky the pads and straps or embarrassing the color scheme.

Complicating matters more, almost all helmets sold in the US meet the same basic safety standards. But beyond that, there's little by which they can be objectively judged. Sure, a helmet's weight and number of vents can be used to compare one to another, but the most important measure by which one can really judge a helmet is by its fit. Fit is a personal thing, but for folks with small and medium-sized heads, your best fit is likely going to come from a sized (as opposed to one-size-fits-most) helmet. Modern retention systems have come a long way, but a helmet shell that sits close to the head will minimize the space the head has to rattle around in the event of an off- as well as reduce your resemblance to a brightly-colored mushroom.

As I mentioned (gushed?) in my initial review, the smaller (xsmall-medium) Uvex Supersonic fits my head very well. It's claimed to weigh in at a reasonable 285g (with visor) but thanks to the excellent fit doesn't wobble and so to me feels even lighter. Despite my near-hairless head, I haven't felt any pressure points or headaches while wearing the Supersonic. The retention system, adjusted by a dial at the back, is easily height-adjustable for various head shapes and riding positions. It runs completely around the head, from below the occipital protuberance, up over the ears and through the brow pad, very effectively stabilizing the helmet- even with lights mounted. The dial is very easy to operate, even with winter-gloved hands, and readily accommodates hats and do-rags of various thicknesses. It is also well-shaped and did not interfere with any of my riding glasses, as others' can. While I had thought that my Giro E2 fit well, the Supersonic takes things to another level altogether.

This head-hugging fit does come with one drawback, however. While its unrealistic to expect a $90 helmet to be as well-ventilated as one costing more than twice as much, the Supersonic may be slightly warmer than it needs to be. Though the large vents do a good job of bringing in outside air, the fleece-y brow pad runs literally from ear to ear. It does a very good job of keeping sweat out of the rider's eyes but makes the lower inch or so of the helmet a bit warmer than competitors'. This was only an issue for me when climbing in temperatures above 85 degrees or so, and even then it wasn't a major discomfort. I've considered trimming the brow pad back about 1.5in from each end, but by the time I'm home, showered and fed the problem is largely forgotten and the pad spared. Doing so might also increase the effectiveness of the round foglight-looking vents at the base of the helmet, but with temperatures topping out at 40, now's really not the time to try to improve cooling.

After several thousand on- and off-road miles, I can say that the Supersonic fits me better than anything I've ever owned- which is fantastic. While there are a number of very good mid-range helmets out there, Uvex is one of the only brands sold in the US the majority of whose helmets are manufactured in the West (Germany), under the EU's strict environmental and labor regulations- an added benefit. The difference between the $90 Supersonic RS and $100 Supersonic GT is the finish: the GT has a more rubbery matte finish, while the RS is shinier. Either way, this works out to 5-10¢/day- a very reasonable price for such an important piece of safety equipment. Finally, for $120, the Supersonic GT can be ordered with coordinated Crow Pro sunglasses (which sell on their own for $70)- a helluva deal.

marc

www.uvexsports.com

6 comments:

Dee said...

I haven't been able to find a place online where I can order the Supersonic GT (let alone the Helmet and Crow Pro deal for $120!) Moreover, the Uvex web site gives me bunk leads for dealers in my area :S What gives? And how can I get my hands on these?

bikefix said...

Dee,

Uvex's distribution has recently changed, which could make things rough for a bit. Fear not, though! Reload this page a couple of times until a HuckNRoll (Backcountry.com's mountain bike shop) ad comes up in the far right column. Click on it and they've got loads of colors in stock for $55-60. That's a screamin' deal.

marc

Dee said...

Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately, this helmet still eludes me. I've literally never had so much trouble tracking down an item. HuckNRoll's web site doesn't even list Uvex products. Two other shops I phoned in my area who are supposed to be distributors said they no longer have it. And Bikemania.com has it listed, but it's $133 and no there's option to choose sizes when ordering online. So I'm reluctant to use them. I'm starting to think I'll need to go to Germany to get this darn lid.

Dee said...

Also, for the record, I'm looking for the Supersonic GT. I've seen the RS for sale in a few places, but no luck with the GT

bikefix said...

Dee-
Shoot me an e-mail, and I'll put you in touch with Justin from Uvex. Here's what he's got to say:

"With the exception of the Large size Matte Black we have all the Supersonic GT’s in stock. I did a quick search of dealers and none have received this helmet yet. I would be glad to help her out and ship it from here. Which color does she want and what size?"

Anonymous said...

Cheers,

I have been looking for a new helmet, and am piqued by the Uvex line. Although reading an old post, I wonder if this deal is still out there somewhere?
Uvex seems to have moved to individual dealer sales, but... do you have any idea if this helmet/glasses deal can still be found?
I am wright1427@hotmail.com if you can write back. Thanks
Mike