Thursday, May 13, 2010

Catlike Whisper

This year, two Grand Tour teams sport that distinctive look on  their heads: Euskaltel Euskadi and Cervélo. How shall we define that look? Brainy, perhaps? To me, the Catlike Whisper helmets make those tops look like giant brains. Interesting.
With their Whisper helmets, the Spanish manufacturer Catlike explored unknown design territory. This is the case where indeed form follows function.

To a certain degree, most manufacturers are still indebted to the tradition that began with leather helmets of the kind worn by Fausto Coppi until the 1950s. 

Let’s just say that they were not the ideal form of head protection. Maybe the padding could absorb a little of the impact, but head injuries were still frequent. Those helmets were bulky and thick and offered little and inefficient ventilation. Most pros dispensed with them most of the time. To an extent, the new carbon fiber and styrofoam helmets have inherited the look of the longitudinal, streamlined, padded strips of leather.

Not so the Catlike Whisper helmets: they are different from the pack and exhibit no regard for tradition. Two main concerns guide their design: efficient ventilation and maximum head protection.
The Catlike helmets provide 39 openings to take advantage of the flow of air during a ride. We all know how important ventilation is and hate it when it gets hot and sticky under the helmet. Furthermore, it gets extremely irritating when the noise of the air flow gets so loud that we can’t think. The location of the openings and the air stream inside and above the helmet address these two major sources of distraction. The holes are designed to form several tunnels to facilitate the passage of air, perhaps taking inspiration from the design of Formula 1 cars, a big thing in Europe.

Even more importantly for our well being, in case of a crash, the ridges and valleys formed by the ventilation holes are strategically located to distribute the force of impact equally over the largest possible area, which is to say that rather then suffering from a blunt and painful blow in one particular spot, we may be able to feel less pain over the entire head. No question, this is better for us—science tells us so.

Designed to provide maximum comfort, the Catlike Whisper helmets introduce interesting details, such as this padded chin strap.

The Catlike Whisper helmets come in several colors and finishes. The matt black finish, shown above, is my favorite, but that's just me.
With their distinctive look, these helmets may please some but not all. Some may prefer the more traditional kind, and BikeNüt carries those, too. 
The important thing, however, is to wear a helmet. I know, there is a debate going on between helmet doctrinaires and free spirits. Immediately before, during, or after a crash, however, it is too late to decide which side is right.


This point became painfully clear yesterday morning, while riding on the Golden Gate Bridge, when two cyclists coming from two opposite directions clashed on the East sidewalk. There were paramedics, fire fighters, and a few stretchers. Not a good sight.

1 comment:

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