First Look Review: Lazer KinetiCore helmets - the new rival to MIPS?

The Belgian company has released new technology which aims to strike the perfect balance between protection and helmet performance

Founded in 1919, Lazer has long been an innovator when it comes to helmet design. The brand’s consistently scientific, disruptive thinking has made them one of the most trusted helmet manufacturers in the world, among both professional and amateur cyclists alike. From creating the first leather helmets, to the first aluminium ones, to outfitting the world’s best riders with the most aerodynamic lids, Lazer has a plethora of innovations to its name. Today’s launch of the brand’s new brain-protection system, KinetiCore, may just be one of the most game-changing in the company’s long history.

Riders are quickly becoming more aware of the importance of safe helmets. Long gone are the days of tackling alpine descents with solely a cotton cap for protection as focus is being placed on avoiding concussion and looking after our brains in the best way we can. Likely the most significant innovation in recent years when it comes to head protection is MIPS. Standing for ‘multi-directional impact protection’, MIPS has been a key ingredient in the safety technology in helmets of over 120 brands, selling 7.3 million units in 2020.

Aiming to mimic your head’s own protective structure, MIPs is a layer which sits between the helmet’s foam and liner, allowing sliding motion in each direction. Noticeable by its striking yellow colour, MIPS reduces the transfer of rotational motion onto your brain, lessening the risk of concussion or traumatic injury. 

For all its benefits when it comes to safety, however, many have found a few drawbacks when it comes to helmets equipped with MIPS, most notably a lack of ventilation and extra weight. True to their strap line “your enjoyment is our passion”, this is something Lazer looked to remedy, seeking to create a system with the same unrivalled protection as MIPS offers, but one that is more comfortable to use thanks to better ventilation and a lighter weight. To do this, the Belgian company had to think radically and take a different approach to helmet design. After 10 years of testing and refinement, KinetiCore has been born.

As opposed to MIPS, which is added to helmets as an extra layer of protection, KinetiCore is built into the helmet, creating “the same protection levels” according to Lazer’s independent tests, with less of the bulk. KinetiCore's controlled crumple zones – similar to those used in cars – are designed to absorb impact from a crash, cushioning the head and redirecting energy away from vulnerable areas. Made from EPS foam blocks, KinetiCore means that the helmet will buckle in the event of direct and rotational impact.

Not only does this integrated rotational impact protection give riders confidence and peace of mind that they are well-protected in the event of an accident, it comes with a host of other benefits. The first, and likely most important for professional riders, is a lighter weight of the helmet. Safety no longer has to be sacrificed for marginal gains in the mountains, with built-in protection meaning the helmet will weigh less than one with MIPS, but still offer the same protection. Less material leads to increased airflow and improved ventilation, too.

No additional material also has positive environmental impacts, with less plastic being used in construction than in previous comparable models. This comes as part of a series of measures that Lazer is taking to try and reduce its carbon footprint: changing box shapes so that more helmets can fit in each shipment, reducing the ink used on boxes as well as ensuring that all packaging is recyclable.

While it was developed with the needs of professional riders in mind, KinetiCore is not confined to the lids of the world’s best. With the aim of providing protection for all, KinetiCore will be included in a range of helmets in Lazer’s current offerings, ranging from the most premium performance-focused road helmet, the Vento KinetiCore, to the everyday road helmet (Strada KinetiCore), to MTB (Jakal KinetiCore), commuting (Cityzen KinetiCore) and kids helmets (Nutz and Pnut KinetiCore). Lazer general manager Sean van Waes explains: “We’re not working for the pro riders, we’re using them to make sure our customers have the best helmets possible.”  

Lazer’s Vento, Strada and Jakal helmets all received a 5-star rating from Virginia Tech, the renowned independent helmet testing lab which provides unbiased helmet ratings to allow consumers to make informed decisions. For Lazer, this served as the long-awaited acclamation that they had achieved their aim with KinetiCore. “The moment they confirmed our first KinetiCore helmets with 5 stars was hugely important. This is because this standard is recognised as the leading independent reference to cyclist brain-protection technology,” said Lazer’s R&D manager Guido de Bruyne.

The test

We were provided with the Lazer Vento KinetiCore helmet to test. Made with “no compromise”, it sits at the top of the brand’s range, priced at £259.99. Expected to be worn by the likes of team Jumbo-Visma for the rest of the season, the Vento has reduced frontal surface, leading to an increased aerodynamic performance of 2.3% compared to Lazer’s Bullet 2.0 with MIPs, something that will be an asset in solo attacks and close-run sprint finishes.

Lazer also boasts that the Vento has a 5.4% increase in cooling efficiency over the Bullet, something we found to make a significant difference while testing the helmet. Worn in the UK’s rare, recent sunny spell, we found the ventilation of the Vento impressive in temperatures that hovered at around 20 degrees celsius. There was no moisture gathering at the front of the helmet, as the Venturi ventilation system drew in air to stop any sweat stagnating, even during intense efforts. This is achieved while maintaining a sleek, aesthetically pleasing helmet that doesn’t feature many visible outward air vents.

The attention to detail in the helmet was impressive, and made Lazer’s claim that the helmet had been developed with those who ride their bikes day in, day out, ring true. The new ‘Scrollsys’ placed at the top of the helmet allowed for easy adjustments on the go, as well as providing aerodynamic benefits. The Vento’s floating head band meant that the pressure was distributed around the head rather than just being applied at the front of the helmet, as can be the case with dials at the rear. For a rider with long hair, the Scrollsys was also a huge benefit, fitting comfortably around my ponytail at the back of the helmet.

Coming in at 290g in a size medium – 90g lighter than the Bullet 2.0 with MIPS – the Vento had an impressive ‘barely there’ feel. With a secure dock for glasses which ensures that expensive eyewear is kept safe on the go, and a mount for Lazer’s Universal LED light on the rear, we were left wanting little more from the Vento KinetiCore helmet. The only drawback would be the high price point, but Lazer do offer the Strada KinetiCore road helmet as a cheaper alternative, coming in at just £99.99 – an extremely reasonable price for something with such advanced technology.

Overall, KinetiCore is an innovation that is likely to revolutionise helmets in the near future. Set to be used in all of Lazer’s new helmet releases, and eventually leased out to other sports including horse riding, we could see the bright green KinetiCore branding across a range of headwear.

The Vento helmet we tested performed exceptionally well under intense efforts, providing aerodynamic benefits, extra ventilation, less weight and a stylish design. Above all though, the KinetiCore technology removes any possible decisions riders need to make between performance benefits and safety, something that can only be welcomed. Plus, Lazer’s choice to roll out the technology across its whole range is a testament to the brand's commitment to making the best brain-protection available to all, not just for those at the top of the sport or with deep pockets.

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