For almost two years Catlike has been giving glimpses of the RAPID to the cycling and triathlon community. Prototypes were first shown at Eurobike in 2014. And last year we regularly saw Movistar riders using the RAPID (TT version). But it wasn’t until just recently that Catlike give us the whole scoop on the RAPID – including their time in the tunnel at the University of Granada. And unlike with most First Looks where final products are in the mail, we actually have one at AeroGeeks HQ. Read on for the initial details and stay tuned for our complete review.
The Catlike RAPID TRI
That RAPID and RAPID Tri are Catlike’s newest entries into the ever growing aero helmet field. The RAPID is intended for track events and short time trials, while the RAPID Tri is for triathlons and long-course TT events. The difference being that the RAPID Tri includes three points of ventilation placed in order to enhance ventilation without compromising aerodynamics. Catlike calls this “TRI VENTILATION.”
The first point is in the front of the helmet: two air vents in the front and another two in the rear area. This ventilation, linked by an internal air-channel, ensures continuous airflow in the upper area of the head where heat accumulates. At the same time, Catlike designed the frontal position of the air vents in a way that they do not compromise the aerodynamics of the helmet. Combined, these four vents create constant airflow to cool the temperature of the head.
The second and third ventilation points are located in the lateral parts of the RAPID triathlon helmet, where the air flows thanks to the openings created in the visor and along the side of the helmet. The ears are a temperature sensor, so these two constant air channels are essential to keeping riders refreshed. These vents are also featured on the RAPID (non tri) while the front vents are not.
Both versions of the RAPID helmet include two interchangeable visors. The TRIvisor incorporates two lateral air vents that create a constant airflow to keep the ears fresh. The Nvisor is totally closed for extreme aerodynamics and is best suited for short time trials and track. Both visors are attached via magnets and easily removed.
The RAPID TRI also ships with a protective hard case with an included helmet stand. The case is one of the better ones we have seen – soft on the inside but hard enough to withstand the bumps and jostling of travel. And at the RAPID’s price of $354.99, a case is something we have come to expect included with purchase. The helmet stand is great for protecting the visor in the case, or even just for displaying your RAPID in your garage.
Aerodynamics and Ventilation Design
Catlike partnered with the University of Granada (Spain) for development and testing of the RAPID. The initial work done was based on 2013 tests of the Catlike Chrono Aero WT. That study found a number of things regarding the Chrono Aero WT. Starting with Catlike’s use of matte painting that facilitated the sliding of the air on the helmet. The study found this did increase the aerodynamic efficiency of the helmet. When it came to the Chrono Aero WT shape, it was found that—because of the long tail—as the rider increased the tilt angle of their head, aerodynamic efficiency decreased significantly. This aspect was evident not only in pressure tests, but also in cycling tests, where many cyclists bowed their heads, which produced a worsening of the aerodynamics.
Finally, one of the main handicaps of time trial helmets are their poor ventilation, producing increased fatigue of the rider, fogging visors, and so on. The Chrono Aero WT was not designed for races where heat is important. And while the 2013 study noted that discrepancy, it did not address it, and instead proposed this as a goal for future studies and products.
Using the knowledge from the 2013 study, a new set of prototypes was commissioned. The new study found the best configuration is a helmet designed with vents and internal visor. The design must handle the flow of air passing through the visor and out the side vents in a way that does not cause vibration and noise nuisance for the rider. Additionally, it was important that all vents be rounded to avoid additional turbulence. The study also recommended shortening the visor to a distance slightly higher than the nose of the rider. The part of the helmet covering the rider’s ears must also be stiff enough to avoid vibrations.
The inner conduit connecting the front and rear vents should be as streamlined possible, to minimize turbulence. And finally, the study recommended a redesign of the rear of the helmet, corresponding to the rotary adjustment at the rear of the helmet to make it easier to adjust and allow additional ventilation. All of this knowledge combined to create the final product we see before us – the RAPID TRI.
While we have not yet ridden the RAPID TRI – we are already impressed with the level of detail found in the helmet. Let’s begin at the front with the visor. It is incredibly easy to add and remove, yet it cannot be easily knocked off with an accidental impact. The visor sits far enough away from your face that you can quickly rub swear away from your eyes and nose.
At the back, the rotary dial is easily accessed. Even in race conditions we doubt we would have any problem tightening it as we ran out of T1.
Looking at the inside of the helmet you can see the deep channels for moving air across the top of your head. We could even imagine being able to easily dump water over the back of our heads via the two back vents, if needed.
The ear vents are not flexible, but are spaced wide enough so that we found no clearance issues when we took the helmet on or off.
Our helmet (size MT) weighed in at 404 grams (Catlike claims 415g).
It’s always hard to give any conclusive thoughts before we have spent serious road time with a product. But everything we see in front of us is impressive so far. The RAPID TRI has all the cooling features we not only want, but also demand, in an aero helmet for tri use. And the studies that Catlike provided us show that they did their homework (plus the fact that Movistar relies on it is not lost on us either). We hope that by the time of our full on review that Catlike is able to provide more comparative data between the RAPID and others on the market to get a better idea of where it stands. That, plus our own experiences in the hot Florida sun, should paint a pretty detailed picture of just what Catlike has built. Until then, stay tuned to our Week in Review posts to see how rapid this RAPID really is.