The aero lid of Dimension Data and UAE Team Emirates impresses with its weight, but cooling could be better
Aero road race helmets are notorious for being particularly sweaty things. A covered helmet often means less air gets through to cool your head, in turn reducing the ability for warm, moist air to escape out the other end. It’s not rocket science, and while the MET Manta is competent at high speeds, it leaves a bit to be desired if you don’t often ride at 35km/h and over.
I’ve plucked that speed figure out of the air somewhat, but it’s at around this speed that I felt I got adequate cooling from the helmet, with air seemingly being rammed into the slitted holes on the front and sides of the otherwise smooth exterior. If you’re going slower but still run hot or sweat lots, then it can become a little ‘closed’ in there, resulting (in my case) in a damp mop on more than one occasion on test rides. The rear ‘exhaust’ outlets are far bigger and help drag air through but it’s only really at higher speed that it becomes effective compared with more vented helmets.
On that note, MET launched the new Trenta helmet at the Tour de France. It’s not an all-out aerodynamic lid in the mould of the Manta, but it does have an aero-profiled shape and, just as significantly, a bunch more vents. In fact, MET say the Trenta’s shape makes it more aerodynamic than the Manta when riding on the tops at 45 km/h, whereas the Manta is faster when sprinting in the drops. The Trenta will be available from December 2017, so you’ll be able to take your pick as to which MET lid best suits your riding.
Back to the Manta specifically, MET say that it uses NACA profiling to create the shape of the crown vent, while the overall aero shaping is claimed to save “ten watts of effort at 50km/h”. That statement itself hints that this is a lid that’s tailor-made for the pro ranks and high-speed crit racers, with both Mark Cavendish’s Dimension Data squad and the UAE Emirates team sponsored by MET. When pushing this speed, the Manta’s performance does come together, especially in the cooling stakes as airflow improves, although it’s impossible for us to prove the brand’s ten-watt saving claim.
Unlike many aero-profiled helmets, however, weight is impressively low at a claimed 200g in a medium certified to EU standards. The low weight is arrived at thanks to a low profile on the head, as well as lightweight straps and retention system. MET calls the latter the ‘Safe-T Advanced System’, and it really does give a large cradle area that encircles the head and cocoons the skull, with a simple dial adjustor to bring the cradle inwards or let it out.
It’s certainly one of the most comprehensive retaining systems I’ve tried, so much so, in fact, that I’d even argue it’s a little tight around the sides of the head and at the temples for my taste. Then again, you feel particularly secure in the lid as a result, and helmet fit can be very personal. I also found the lightweight straps were prone to getting tangled a little too easily when donning the helmet – I always felt I need to check the straps in the mirror before heading out.
There are a couple of extra features worth mentioning, too. First is a gel pad that seals your brow, so that sweat can’t as easily drip down your face. It also effectively keeps the front of the helmet even more comfortable than the supplied padding already does, while the gel is specially formulated to improve cooling on the forehead. Personally, I wasn’t a fan, not appreciating the feel of the gel against my forehead, but it’s definitely not a stretch to imagine that others would benefit from the anti-sweat credentials.
There’s also USB-charged LED light clip available as an optional extra (much like Lazer’s LED light insert) that fits over the top of the fit system dial. Inside, there are six LEDS that can either light up statically or flash in three different modes, and it’s switched on with an integrated button in the centre. It does what it says on the tin and is a neat piece of safety-orientated integration, although when you charge it using the supplied USB cable, bear in mind that the rubber cover that seals the charge port isn’t tethered to the unit, so it’s easy to misplace.
And finally, you can have the helmet in CVNDSH, Dimension Data and, as we have here, UAE pro team special editions, along with plainer designs for the more conservative among us.
The MET Manta is a race-ready aero lid with speedy credentials. With tactically positioned vents that help draw air through at higher speeds, along with a NACA-inspired aero design, this is truly a pro-level piece of kit ideally-suited to racers and very fast club riders. That said, the slim straps won’t be for everyone, while the way the retention system cocoons the circumference of the head might not work for all head shapes. Ventilation also suffers when riding slowly in warmer weather, but this isn’t designed as a helmet for cafe cruising.
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