Review: Garneau Course helmet. Aero without ugly.
Exciting new product category: aero helmets that aren’t ugly.
When Giro and Specialized developed their new aero lids, our verdict was a head-shake no. While they might shave seconds in a time trial, they were too ugly to wear unless you were a highly paid professional under sponsor contract.
With their new Course helmet ($239), Garneau has made an effort to deliver the benefits of aero without the deep visual disappointment.
The first surprise is that the Course doesn’t scream aero — the general design cues look similar to most road helmets with a few perhaps vital distinctions.
After extensive testing in the Canadian National Research Council’s wind tunnel, Garneau came to the conclusion that the frontal area was where all the evil drag occurred. (This seemed like a duh but we don’t have an engineering degree.)
That dictated some design changes: the vents are positioned to maximize the airflow through the helmet. Some lids go for aggressive angular cuts in their vents but the Course takes a smoother, more direct and wind-friendly approach.
The vents are oriented so air flows straight in with clear, unobstructed exit pathways. If you look thru the front of the helmet, you get nice, clear lines of sight out the back. Flow, baby, flow. What you lose in daring style points you gain in streamlined wind manipulation.
In overall appearance, the Course is also pretty compact in size and keeping with the minimalist, cheat-the-wind design, the back end and sides are strictly about flow, not fashion. That’s where those dollars in Computational Fluid Dynamics Software are spent. Data in, drag out. Same goes for their shaping of the inner channels — the goal is shooting that air out the back as efficiently and quickly as possible. You stay cool and stay fast.
Now, Garneau has data that states the Course is damn fast and by all means dig into the numbers and computational equations. That’s beyond our skill set and perhaps the data doesn’t truly matter unless you’re doing a 40k time trial. For us, aero is a nice bonus we take on faith for a helmet that’s stylish, fits well and keeps us cool.
So let’s talk fit. The Course has the ubiquitous ratchet dial that Garneau calls Spiderlock Pro II and that system does the job just dandy. In fact, the dial is larger than most so even with gloves on you can fine-tune while riding.
You adjust the height of the rear retention system by selecting the angle where the Spiderlock attaches at the temples. You pop out the two sidearms and pick one of six possible angles. which in turn lowers or raises the back section. Velcro pads help keep the side arms firmly in place.
The straps are fairly standard except for two pluses: the nylon fabric is particularly soft and the Pro-lock Divider features a secure-feeling camlock for setting your preferred strap location. Nice touches that help justify price.
While we’re on the Spiderlock, we have to mention what we consider one of the unexpected highlights of the Course: a cool, easily attachable rear safety light.
There’s no such thing as too much lights when you ride at night and their Vision light comes as part of the Course package. It sticks right on the ratchet dial, is waterproof, surprisingly bright, good for up to 80 hours of battery life and weighs a scant 12 grams. That is sweet indeed and pretty much guarantees that the Course becomes our Winter helmet.
What’s extra cool is that the Vision light sticks with velcro so you can pop it on and off in an instant — your other option is the Spiderlock logo button that also has a velcro pad. Plus the light has three modes — two flashing and one steady. It’s so nicely integrated into the helmet that it begs the question why other companies haven’t done something similar.
Now forgive us if we go light on all the safety particulars. Why? We have six helmets and guess what, they’re all safe! Now POC is making a big deal and point of difference on safety but do you want to wear one of those freaky helmets with your Castelli kit?
The Course passes the same tests as everybody else and you get the same technology — in-mold construction with an internal frame within an expanded polystyrene (EPS) structure. We’re not worried about this helmet in a crash.
Road notes: Very comfortable right out of the box. Honestly, we didn’t even fiddle with the Spiderlock positioning. Felt just fine and we’ll play with that later. Weight is around 296 grams for our Medium — not hyper light but super fine. Drawbacks? None in particular but remember that you’re trading aggressive style factors for better aero numbers.
At this point in time, the Garneau Course helmet is the only good-looking aero helmet on the market. Throw in excellent ventilation, a well-designed fit and the surprise bonus of a cool rear safety light and you’ve got a winner.