Anticipation can be a killer. And after months of watching Trek Factory Racing riders “test” out a new helmet, we were beginning to wonder if we could survive the wait. But Bontrager finally made the big reveal in July, formally introducing the world to their new Ballista helmet. Our matte black Ballista arrived at our doorstep soon after the launch, and we have been riding it ever since. So did it live up to the anticipation? Read on to find out.
The Bontrager Ballista
A ballista is a catapult used in ancient warfare for hurling large stones. And as we amusingly suggested in our First Look, a cyclist is one of the largest “stones” you can find. The Ballista is meant to help propel you to the line as fast as humanly possible. To optimize helmet shape, Bontrager started with CFD analysis and ended up selecting a mid-length design. They also added three centralized vents to keep riders’ heads cool.
The resulting design was then taken to the low speed wind tunnel and compared to other manufacturers’ designs. Bontrager conducted their testing at 30 mph at a helmet angle of 30 degrees. As you can see from the results below, the Ballista is fast. When Bontrager compared it to the Giro Air Attack, Louis Garneau Course, and Specialized Evade, the Ballista was the overall winner.
But the Ballista is meant for more than all-out speed. It’s also designed to be both light and cool on your head.
We weighed our Ballista the first day it showed up at AeroGeeks HQ and found that our size medium weighed in at 272 grams.
To keep things cool, Bontrager added internal, recessed channels to manage airflow through the helmet and over the head. At the rear is Bontrager’s Headmaster II system that allows one-handed adjustment to the helmet circumference.
The first thing we noticed when donning the Ballista was just how light it felt. While it certainly doesn’t look like a lightweight helmet, don’t judge a book by its cover—the Ballista is so much lighter than it looks. It’s just 22g more than our size medium Giro Synthe.
The Headmaster II system is incredibly easy to tighten once you’re wearing the Ballista. A few spins of the knob, and we were set. However we did notice that sometimes it could be a touch difficult to loosen when we already had it on. In those situations, we were able to loosen it after a few additional tries. Otherwise, it worked just fine once we removed it from our head.
We rode with the Ballista on both TT bikes and standard road bikes and, regardless of head position, the Ballista did an excellent job of keeping our heads cool. Even during the hottest rides of the summer, we never felt the urge to stop and pull the Ballista off at a stoplight. Considering the aero shape of the Ballista, we expected it to retain heat when we weren’t in motion. Fortunately we never encountered that to be the case. Instead, the Ballista kept us cool from the first minutes of the ride right up to the very last.
At $179.99, the Ballista sits on the more affordable end of the aero road market. Yet for that low price you’re getting a very fast aero road helmet. Not to mention a helmet that we saw at least one pro rocking at Kona. We’d call that a pretty good value. And when you see the pros choosing an aero road helmet at the most important race of the year, we can definitively say that yes, the Ballista certainly did live up to the anticipation.