The first thing to admire about the Catlike Whisper Deluxe ($275) is the unique design. This isn’t a Giro or Specialized or Mavic with curved, sculpted vents. The Whisper screams distinctive and people usually have a love or hate reaction.
Initially we weren’t much on the esthetics behind the “shotgun hole” or “Swiss cheese” approach to ventilation. But with time we’ve come to really appreciate the Whisper for just that reason. There’s nothing else like it on the road and the recognition is instant. In fact, ProTeam Movistar wears the Whisper and even in a crowded peloton shot from a helicopter camera, you can’t miss the Whisper.
The 39 vents provide the requisite max air-flow that is cost of entry these days. Perhaps easy to quantify in a lab but hard to compare on the road, we found the Whisper gave us plenty of cooling air. The vents out the back are huge, like the exhaust ports on a 70’s muscle car. Catlike calls it Dual Flow and the goal is to equalize the flow from intake to exit. (Cool side note: the Whisper is the easiest helmet to pick up — with all the roundish holes, it’s like a bowling ball — stick two fingers in anywhere and lift.)
Of course, before you become super cool, you have to adjust fit. In this respect, the Whisper Deluxe uses a fairly lightweight, simple and we’re temped to say old school retention system. The design uses a ratchet system that requires two hands to pinch-click in or to release. Works fine, nothing fancy.
What’s of more interest is the vertical adjustment. The rear straps on each side run down through what we’ll call two soft rubber O-rings. Again, we’re thinking a little oddball but it actuality, we’d argue it almost works better than any other approach. Instead of popping out a plastic piece tightly embedded inside the rear shell, you simply slide the O-rings up or down through the straps to raise or lower.
We found that it was a simple task to dial in that fit and it’s extra handy in the Winter when you’ve got a cycling cap or thin wool hat to accommodate. Once we set the Whisper up, it fit as well and with as much precision and comfort as our Giro and Mavic lids. Sometimes, simple design beats gizmo flash.
Throw the Whisper on the scale and a medium weighs in at just 260 grams. That’s down in the same territory as the Limar Ultralight and roughly 30 grams heavier than the Giro Aeon. So you’re in the light category but not anorexic which can sometimes be unhealthy when you hit the tarmac.
It’s worth noting that the Whisper has a round interior shape that would seem be a disadvantage for heads with an oval shaper. We’re in the oval category but fit was excellent. And while we’re on the subject of shape, the rear depth of the Whisper seems to provide an extra measure of protection in back. So if you’re going to crash, you’re just down for road rash, not cranial surgery.
Speaking of going over the bars, Catlike claims their in-mold process — which bonds the hard outer shell to the inner polystyrene — not only ups the crash resistance but works to diffuse the energy of the impact by spreading it throughout the structure. Hopefully, we won’t have occasion to put that statement to the test. The Whisper, like all lids, has passed all relevant US and Euro safety standards.
In the end, ventilation, light weight, personalized fit and safety certifications aren’t the driving reasons to select the Whisper Deluxe. Those factors are almost givens in this price range. What draws us to the Catlike is the distinctive visual style. In that respect, the Whisper Deluxe makes quite a loud statement.