Kask, an Italian helmet manufacturer, has seen its profile raised in recent years by an association with Team Sky.
While professional endorsement is a short cut to credibility for manufacturers of almost any product, there is perhaps real value in association with a team run by Dave Brailsford.
His pursuit of ‘marginal gains’ at British Cycling has included the riders’ apparel; the most recent example found in the raised seams on the skin suits of Great Britain’s Olympic track team.
Team Sky have worn Kask helmets since their debut season in 2010. The Vertigo RL is the most obvious example of input from the team. Mark Cavendish first wore an ‘infill’ helmet at last year’s world road race championships: a Specialized lid apparently modified by Rob Hayles for his friend and former madison partner. The Vertigo Tri follows the same principle: where air vents exist on the standard Vertigo, the Tri uses a smooth shell for aerodynamic purity.
The absence of wind tunnel facilities at RCUK HQ has left us unable to comment on the Vertigo Tri’s aerodynamic performance. Less sophisticated measures (a Garmin 500) indicated that it hadn’t made us any faster.
Almost everyone who saw the Vertigo Tri asked if its smooth shell made us too hot. The answer is no. Even in the recent soaring temperatures, we didn’t overheat. Clever use of discrete ventilation allowed an effective airflow through two vents at the front of the helmet, above the ‘brow’, which then exited through six exhaust ports at the rear. Additionally, four small vents are located on top of the shell, each with a small entry and exit port and a small hole either side.
Internally, contact between the ‘lid’ of the helmet (its upper surface) and the crown of the head is reduced by the 3D Dry padding (Kask claim a reduction of 70 per cent). We found its honeycomb design effective. The padding maintained a firm contact between skull and helmet, which kept things stable without the insulating effect of an unrelieved strip of foam.
Sadly, the same padding isn’t used at the brow, and this contributed to the sole area of the Vertigo Tri with which we were dissatisfied. The front of the helmet, just above the brow, is 32mm deep, which combined with the thicker, unrelieved padding made us very aware of the front end (compare and contrast with Kask’s superb Mojito where the brow is significantly more shallow and the padding much thinner). It didn’t obscure our vision but was something we remained aware of throughout our various test rides.
The second inference drawn by riding buddies from the infill design was that it would add to the weight of the helmet. The Vertigo RL tipped our scales at 295 grams. Kask claim a weight of 270 grams for the standard Vertigo.
Adjustment in the straps is limited to the leatherette chin strap (which has an elegant appearance and felt soft against the skin). Kask use a ‘self-adjusting lateral divider’ for the side straps. We were unable to detect any self-adjustment, but after testing it with two riders we think Kask have accurately estimated the crown-to-earlobe distance for most people.
Comfortable gel pads line the rear of the cradle, which offered excellent adjustment, and can be pulled to the base of the skull. Further adjustment can be made with a dial that tightens or loosens a ratcheted strap; a design common across brands (we encountered something similar on the LAS Victory Supreme; Giro call theirs Roc Loc) which worked efficiently.
To conclude, we found the Vertigo RL a comfortable helmet with many pleasing features (the 3D Dry honeycombe padding, the leatherette chin strap, the adjustable cradle). While we can’t report any performance gains from the smooth shell, marginal or otherwise, we can confirm that it doesn’t cause unnecessary heat build up, and we’d consider a weight penalty of only 25 grams over the standard Vertigo a small price.
The Kask Vertigo RL will come in sizes medium (48cm to 58cm) and large (59cm to 62cm). The recommended retail price is £180.