When a company like Rudy Project launches a new aero helmet, everyone in transition takes notice. And that’s not just because they have the highest helmet count in Kona year after year. Rudy Project is also smart in that they consult with experts to make their products better, like John Cobb for example. So when Rudy Project first announced the Wing57, we all wanted to know more.
We started seeing examples show up in the pro peloton, as well as among the ranks of pro athletes in transition, almost immediately. Unfortunately, it took a little while longer for the helmet to make it to the age groupers—and even longer for it to get into our hands. But finally in late fall of last year we received ours. Fortunately the helmet arrived with enough time to not only put it through its paces via our usual testing process, but we were also able to wear it for a couple races as well. Before we jump into our full review, lets recap what makes the Wing57 so special.
The Wing57 follows the trend of “shorter is better” aero helmets. Instead of a long helmet that runs partway down your back, helmets like the Wing57 barely make it past your neck. Along the top of the Wing57 you’ll find the dorsal ridge. This provides a surface that, when viewed from the front, is minimal. However, from the side, the dorsal ridge helps minimize the effects of cross winds.
Along each side of the Wing57 is Rudy Project’s Vortex Killer system. Comprised of vents on either side of the Wing57, this system creates a high\low pressure area that moves air from one side of the helmet out of the back of the opposite side, resulting in reduced turbulence for the rider. An added benefit is increased ventilation across the rider’s neck and shoulder area.
At the back you’ll find a removable magnetic aerodynamic tail that Rudy Project calls “Jet Stream”. This tail helps to smooth the air coming off the Wing57 as it interacts with your back. For those riders with a “flat” (or “A”) back, this is going to provide an aerodynamic edge. And if you have a more “U” back shape (also known as a “B” back), you can ditch the additional tail completely.
Up front is the customizable air management system. Depending on conditions, you can customize the tradeoff between aero and ventilation. The Wing57 ships with two different covers that allow you to either fully close or partly close ventilation, with the full cover being the fastest option. You can also go without the cover completely to optimize ventilation on even the hottest of days.
Finally, the Wing57 ships with a removable visor (though “removable” may be a bit of an overstatement, but we will get to that). Ours shipped with a non-mirrored smoke gray version and we also picked up the mirrored multi-aser orange version. The additional lenses retail from $64.99 for smoke gray or transparent, while the mirrored multilaser orange goes for $84.99.
Riding with the Wing57
The first thing we thought when we donned the Wing57 was that it was one of the most comfortable aero helmets we have ever worn. Rudy Project uses the Fastex buckle system to help keep the Wing57 on your noggin. The strap itself even has a small amount of padding underneath your chin. So for those among us who (smartly) prefer a fairly snug fit, the strap will sit comfortably for your entire ride.
The helmet retention system at the back of the helmet makes locking it into place a cinch. Once we had the chinstrap secured, it was easy to simply reach back and rotate the dial to lock it down. We were even able to quickly tighten the retention while running out of T1 with our bike.
Speaking of putting on the Wing57, we found it to also fit over your ears quickly and efficiently. While Rudy Project did not make the ear covers as flexible as some others on the market, the covers do have just enough give so we could get the helmet on comfortably without feeling as though we were folding our ears into a sandwich in the process.
The comfort continued on the road. While most aero helmets tend to be on the warm side at best, we never found any major heat issue with the Wing57. Regardless of whether we left the front cover closed, open, or partially covered, we never felt the need to tear the Wing57 off our heads to cool down. Come race day (70.3 distance) we went with the partial cover just to ensure we had all the ventilation we might need. Although for shorter races—and those that are not in 80-degree heat—we would opt for the full cover without hesitation.
In fact, the helmet’s ventilation worked so well that we probably could have worn it almost every training day without issue. However, we suspect our riding partners would have taken issue with that (if only because they didn’t want to be associated with “that guy”).
Our only major issue with the Wing57 was taking advantage of the “removable” visor. The visor clicks into place with four tabs (one on each side and two up front.) It takes quite a bit of pressure to push the tabs into place, and getting them out can be touch and go. You really have to give it a firm consistent pull to remove it. With that in mind, we found the visor really wanted to stay in place and even ended up breaking one of the tabs while trying to remove it. The good news is that Rudy Project is aware of the issue and they are working on a solution to the tabs breaking sometimes, but for now they have a completely free warranty replacement for these visors if it happens. All customers need to do is call their service center at: 1-888-860-7597. In the end, we would hesitate to truly call the visor removable at least for now. If you choose to go with the visor, plan on leaving it in place for a significant time (if not full-time). If you are someone who finds that you frequently like to add and remove the visor, you might find an issue here and may need to take up Rudy Project on their warranty offer or at least keep a spare on hand.
Rudy Project put a great deal of thought and effort into making the Wing57 one of the premier aero helmets on the market. We love how they focused on finding every aerodynamic advantage possible while balancing those with comfort and ventilation. But we have to admit that at an msrp of $499.99 (www.e-rudy.com), this is definitely not a cheap helmet. Although for those who ride with an aero helmet often, especially in hot weather, you are probably going to find it well worth the investment. This is a helmet that will go the distance with you no matter what the conditions. And most importantly, as we often say, if we are willing to race with it then that’s about as big a recommendation as we can give.
[Updated 4/20/2015 with information on Rudy Project’s warranty service for the visor]