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Bontrager WaveCel XXX Road Cycling Helmet Review

May 03, 2019
Bontrager WaveCel XXX Road Cycling Helmet Review

After one of the most effective hype campaigns in recent memory, Trek’s in house component arm Bontrager pulled the curtain back on its revolutionary new line of WaveCel helmets a few short months ago. Promising to be up to 48 times more effective at mitigating the chance of a concussion than a standard EPS foam helmet in the event of a crash, with thanks to Trek Australia, we got our hands on the new Bontrager WaveCel XXX and set about putting it through its paces.

  • Whos is for?: The performance orientated road cyclist chasing the latest in helmet safety technology.

  • What we liked:Supreme comfort, BOA adjustment and the sweat diverting padding options.

  • What we didn’t: Additional weight and compromised ventilation won’t suit all comers.

Related Reading: Bontrager WaveCel Helmet Technology – Six Things to Know


Safety in Spades

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The biggest drawcard of this lid and the chief reason many punters will shell out their hard earned will likely be for the WaveCel safety technology. Best described as a cellular structure, WaveCel is designed to both reduce rotational forces imposed on the head and brain and deflect energy away from the head. The cellular structure is designed to compress three different ways in the event of an impact; First, the cells flex to reduce initial friction forces, the cells them crumple to absorb the impact and then glide to disperse energy away from the head. The end result is a helmet that Trek and third-party testing lab, Virginia Tech claim is “48 times more effective at preventing a concussion than standard foam helmets at preventing concussions from common cycling accidents.”

The Details

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At the time of publishing, the XXX helmet (RRP AU$349) provided sits atop the WaveCel road helmet hierarchy. The lid features an aerodynamic shape that’s best described as a hybrid of the wind-cheating Ballista and high-end Velocis helmets in the Bontrager product line-up.

In addition to the WaveCel liner, the XXX features a BOA retention system at the rear of the helmet, AgiON antimicrobial moisture wicking pads (with a new Nosweat pad featuring a silicone channel to keep sweat out of your eyes), a Trek-Segafredo sticker kit and a crash replacement guarantee. The Crash Replacement Guarantee provides buyers with a free helmet replacement if the wearer is involved in a crash within the first year of ownership.

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All told our size Medium (54-60cm) review unit tipped the scales at 360 grams, just 8g above the claimed 352g weight. The XXX is available in a host of colors including; White, Black, Red, Azure Blue, and a limited edition metallic color dubbed Purple Phaze. Sizing on offer includes; Small (51-57cm), Medium (54-60cm), and Large (58-63cm).

Ride Impressions

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Upon taking delivery of our test unit, the Wavecel structure hiding beneath the EPS liner of the lid is strikingly apparent. The cellular structure on our unit was shipped in a fluoro green color that contrasted well with the white color scheme of the helmet. Also included in the box was a helmet bag, additional padding with a silicone sweat diversion band, and a sticker kit with instructions for punters to have their lid mimic those worn by Trek-Segafredo.

Sliding the lid out of the box, the weight of the unit is immediately noticeable, especially when compared to the feathery light Kask Valegro to which I am accustomed. I wouldn’t go as far to say that the weight was an inhibiting factor; however, those with an aversion to adding an extra 50-100 grams on their bonce may want to try before they buy.

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Slide the helmet on though, and the weight qualms disappear entirely. The weight of the helmet is evenly distributed around the wearers entire head with no pressure points to note. In fact, i’d go as far to say that this is the most comfortable lid I’ve ever worn. The oval-shaped interior suited my dome well with a number of other members of the BikeExchange team also remarking on the supreme comfort. This is mostly thanks to the positioning of the padding on the inside of the helmet and the nature of the WaveCel lining. Being a cellular structure that covers the full interior of the helmet, it feels as if the lid conforms to the shape of the head, rather than bony protrusions on the head sticking into the foam padding as is common on other helmets. Also on the subject of fit, the singular BOA IP1 dial at the rear of the helmet provided an excellent level of hold and adjustability. Additionally, the straps are just as they should be. Lightweight and minimal in design, easily adjustable and typically a set and forget item.

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Moving to the exterior, the aero-inspired aesthetic of the lid was adept at filtering air over the shell and onto my noggin; however, there was a noticeable difference in breathability compared to the ventilated helmets I typically use. I rarely found the helmet too warm on my head despite using it in temperatures ranging from the single digits through to the mid-thirties, but it's worth remarking that it's best suited to riding in a colder climate. On the whole, I’d put the ventilation on par with many other aero helmets on the market.

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While I wasn’t too keen on throwing myself off my bike on purpose to test the bold safety claims made by Bontrager, it's safe to say that more than a few competitors in the industry have taken notice. Chief among which is rival helmet safety outfit MIPS Protection who have publicly called the tech into question after subjecting the new technology to a battery of tests. So while the jury may still be out with regards to just how safe the new tech is, third-party testing and a five-star safety rating from Virginia Tech certainly bolster the safety credentials of the WaveCel range.

Final Thoughts

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In an industry where technology is evolving at a rapid rate, it’s clear that Bontrager is onto a new standard with its latest innovation. After all, anything that enhances the protection a rider is worth investing in, particularly if it doesn’t come at the expense of comfort and wearability. So if you’re in the market for a new lid packed with the latest tech and can live with an additional 50 odd grams of weight and slightly compromised ventilation, the WaveCel XXX, and it’s siblings are well worth the investment.


Thanks to Trek for providing the product for this review. Our main tester wears a size Medium

Looking for more information? Our Ultimate Cycling Helmet Buyer’s Guide is loaded with all you need to know.