German company, Abus, are best known for their top quality locks. Branching into helmets may seem like an odd choice for such a company, until you consider both locks and helmets are built with security in mind: a lock protects your bike from the laws of the jungle; a helmet protects your skull from the laws of physics.
The AirBreaker is built for European summers - where the only thing hotter than the weather is the pace of the peloton. Light in weight and aero in profile, it’s the do-it-all choice of Team Movistar. It’s also one for the weight weenies; my size medium test sample weighed a scant 220g.
There are some interesting things going on here. For example, rather than being attached to the helmet by Velcro, the padding is attached to a lightweight plastic cage, which allows it to sit away from the helmet a little if need be - promoting better airflow. The pleasingly tactile retention system also features space for a ponytail to fit through - women and hipsters rejoice! The chin strap is removable for easy washing as well.
There’s a mesh-like network atop the rear of the helmet which Abus claim helps improve cooling in this region, as well as helping trap water when you dump a bottle over your head, pro-style. The vents themselves are arranged so you can store sunglasses on either the front or the back of the helmet when not wearing them, though I’m sure someone out there will try to use both at the same time, at some point. A lens for every condition, right?!
The helmet has a light presence on the head, as belied by the weight. I did find that, for my head, there were two pressure points near the rear which I noticed, however, they improved with wear. I suspect they’re related to the floating pads, as it takes time for them to bend to the shape of the skull. The retention system is very adjustable and easy to work with.
The chinstrap is built to be anti-flap with a folded leading edge, but the lack of adjustment tabs on the sides bothered me, as I couldn’t get the straps to sit quite right on the side of my face. The strap orientation also pulled the chinstrap further down than I would have liked - more of a throat strap than chin strap. Not having adjustment tabs is more aero and lighter weight, and if the default setting works for you it’s a definite win. I personally would take the 5g penalty for added adjustment though.
The helmet lives up to its promises; it’s got ventilation for days. I wish I’d had hotter weather during the testing period, to really make the most of it, but I’d say head-to-head it would be hard to call it between the AirBreaker and the Poc Octal, my benchmark for helmet ventilation. If the aero claims are what Abus say they are, then the AirBreaker is a worthy competitor.
The one thing the AirBreaker misses - where some of the competition have gone all in - is additional safety features. Whether that’s the ubiquitous MIPS, Poc’s SPIN tech, or Bontrager’s new Wavecell construction, the market is awash with tech purporting to make helmets safer. While there isn’t a bulletproof evidence base around some of these technologies yet, most of them have no downside beyond a few grams. In my opinion they are worth it, for whatever benefit they may or may not offer, and in the $400+ bracket I’d like all the gadgets please.
That said, the AirBreaker makes a case for a classic done well, so riders shouldn’t be dissuaded based on this. It’s a well constructed helmet that keeps up with the best when it comes to ventilation, with a few aero gains to boot.
Words & Images: Robin Page & Cameron Mackenzie
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