The reason that companies pay pros to wear their gear is because it works. We mere mortals look at them and say “Wow, if it works for them then it should work for me.” But that doesn’t mean a pro athlete is just going to take the money and wear the gear. Those athletes looking to call themselves world champions want to race with the best gear they can obtain. That’s what makes Sebastian Kienle racing the past two years at Kona in the Scott Cadence Plus so interesting. Scott has a pure aero helmet – the Split (a helmet that, when we reviewed it, Kienle was then racing with). Yet he has moved to the Cadence Plus as his Kona gear of choice. And we wanted to know why. Luckily, Scott had a Cadence Plus available for us to spend some time with. And spend some time we did.
The Scott Cadence Plus
Scott designed the Cadence Plus to be the fastest aero road helmet on the market. Together with Richard Kelso from the University of Adelaide, Scott developed the fastest possible shape for a road stage racing helmet. This solid aero shape had compromises, specifically in how much heat it would let escape. And a hot rider is a slow rider. So creating a solid aero shell seemed off the table … or so they thought.
But they wanted to find a way to get the best of both worlds – speed and ventilation. And they found it in the form of five removable aero plugs. When inserted, the plugs create a consistent aero design. When removed, the Cadence achieves class-leading cooling (designed through exhaustive thermal mapping, airflow modeling, and wind tunnel testing).
So, what does all this design get you? Scott claims the Cadence Plus is 11/100ths of a second faster over 40 km than its nearest competitor in stock form. It also includes a trio of vent plugs that, when inserted, increase that time savings up to five seconds (testing was done at 40 km/h air speed, 20˚ head tilt angle, 0˚yaw angle).
And all that work on ventilation? Scott tells us that the Cadence Plus isn’t just 4.5% better than its nearest competitor—it’s 1.1% better than if you had just chosen to ride sans helmet. (Cooling performance, in %, based on maximal temperature recorded by 36 sensors 40 kph air speed, 15˚ head tilt angle, 0˚ yaw, headform only).
Speaking of sans helmet… The reality is that we don’t ride with a helmet to look cool. No, we wear them to protect our noggins. Scott equipped the Cadence Plus with MIPS. But this isn’t just the standard MIPS cage we have seen in other helmets. Scott Air is a unique construction of the MIPS system using micro perforations, adding breathability and enhanced cooling.
With the plugs out, we weighed the Cadence Plus (in size medium) in at 315g (the plugs added another 22g when installed). MSRP on the Cadence Plus is $249.99 (though a quick search on Google tells us you can find them for quite a bit cheaper).
We rode with the Cadence Plus through fall and early winter here in South Florida. This gave us a chance to ride with it in temperatures that topped out in the low 90s and bottomed out in the 50s. We also spent some time with the plugs in and out. So, let’s start with the plugs out. The Cadence feels light and airy with the vents wide open. Whether heads-up in a more road-oriented position, or head-down in the aero bars, air easily passed up and over our head. Our chief editor keeps his hair particularly short, and could easily feel the wind ripping across his scalp.
With the plugs in, you notice a reduction in air passing around the helmet. It is definitely noticeably warmer. The good news was that when the temperatures started dropping at the end of the year, we enjoyed the heat that was retained. But early on, before the temps dropped, we finished most rides wondering why we didn’t take the 30 seconds to pop out the plugs. Which, by the way, really are easy to add and remove. Our biggest concern with removing them on a ride is that we could lose one from our back pockets.
Moving on from the plugs and ventilation to the fit. The Cadence Plus is easily one of the most comfortable helmets we have tested to date. Scott’s Halo Fit System works with the MIPS layer to create seamless comfort for your head. Yeah, we know the video below seems like mostly marketing speak, but after wearing the helmet for a while, we really can tell you it works.
The rear adjustment dial is easy to adjust, even with fully gloved fingers. And the straps laid comfortably around our face.
Our only real nitpick was the cost. An MSRP of $249.99 is on the higher end of the price spectrum. True, it is cheaper than some of the newer helmets out there, and including the fact that it does come with MIPS, it’s not a completely unjustified price. But if you are shopping purely on price, we know it may impact your decision. The good news is that, as we mentioned up above, a quick talk with your local bike shop (or just spending time online) may net you one at a price a bit more palatable.
While you may never hear someone actually say “if it’s good enough for Kienle, it’s be good enough for me.” That doesn’t mean the adage shouldn’t apply. And if Kienle thinks the Cadence Plus is a better bet for Kona than the aero-specific Split, it’s hard to argue against him. Especially after we got to spend some quality time with the Cadence Plus and put it through its paces. And while the price is a bit high, it certainly wouldn’t stop us from pulling out our credit card if we were shopping for a new way to protect our noggin.