With very few exceptions, it seems as though the best cycling gear is the stuff that basically disappears when riding.Â No one wants to have their attention drawn to floppy jersey pockets, poorly padded shorts, slipping glasses, or unstable lids.Â At the end of the day, no one wants their gear to get between them and the experience of the ride.Â While it is unlikely that Lazer set out to build an invisible helmet, they have come remarkably close with their Genesis model.Â Hit ‘more’ to find out if this 5 year-old model is still worth seeking out.
Given that Lazer have been building helmets for over 90 years, 5 years doesn’t exactly make a model old.Â In fact, the Belgian brand (the helmets themselves are made in China) is just now starting to gain a foothold here in the United States.Â Having been picked up by super-distributors QBP last year, Lazer helmets are available to most of the country’s bike shops and are welcome competition for the companies that currently dominate the US helmet market.Â Last spring, after retiring my previous helmet on account of some bizarre fit issues and persistent mid-ride headaches, I contacted Lazer’s brand liaison Chris, who sent out their second in command Genesis for us to test
Since the introduction of Giro’s RocLoc retention system in the mid-1990s, helmet companies have set themselves apart from one another by each coming up with their own mechanism for cradling the back of the head.Â Unlike most systems, which use a band running below the occipital protuberance (that bump at the back of the skull), Lazer have designed a head-holding basket that is tied, using thin stainless steel cables, to a band that runs about 3/4 of the way around the rider’s head (similar to the one used by Uvex in their helmets). The basket is split to accommodate long hair as well as to clear the weird tendon (the nuchal ligament) that connects the back of the skull to the shoulder area. Adjustment of the basket and circumferential band is made via a single roller on the top of the helmet, which takes in and lets out cable. It’s complicated to describe and was probably more so to engineer- but very easy to use. The hardest part to remember is that the action of the roller seems backwards for us right-handers- something that’s easy enough to figure out.
While it’s no longer close to being the lightest helmet on the market, the Genesis manages to puzzle some very effective vents and interior channels into what is really a low-profile helmet.Â Riders close to the large end of each of the two available sizes will find that the Lazer sits very close to their head, keeping it from looking too much like a mushroom cap.Â Though it can’t boast any exposed carbon fiber accents, at $175 (without visor, $180 with) and 280g (actually 309g), the Genesis looks on paper to be natural competition for Giro’s $175, 275g Atmos.
After trying a L-XL Genesis for a couple of rides, I ordered up an XXS-M version.Â Though the included set of thicker anti-microbial X-Static pads made the larger helmet quite comfortable, my hunch paid off and the smaller size fit my ‘Giro Medium’ head very well.Â Possibly on account of the ear-to-ear brow pad, the Lazer initially felt a bit warm across the forehead- but certainly cooler than average from there up.Â In fact, at low speeds (10-20mph), the Genesis is probably the coolest helmet I’ve worn.Â Better yet, the Rollsys basket is unobtrusive, easily adjusted, and secure.
On the road, the Genesis is one of the few helmets whose retention system neither interferes with any of my glasses or rubs uncomfortably against that nuchal ligament, even on the longest rides or when tucked into the drops.Â Despite the warm-ish brow pad, the helmet has proven plenty cool for blisteringly hot New Mexico summers.Â After a couple of months’ road riding and sick of my dirt helmet, I ordered up the accessory visor ($15 when not included with the helmet) and took it off road.Â While it can be hard to make a helmet that is stable and comfortable on the road, mountain biking’s lower speeds and increased jostling are even more demanding as far as retention systems and vents go.
Though the non-adjustable visor seems positioned a bit high and is oddly integrated from certain angles, the Genesis has also become my favorite cross-country mountain biking helmet.Â The vents and channels do a great job at moving air through the helmet at lower off-road speeds.Â Though it can be overwhelmed when asked to manage the added weight of a light, the Rollsys system is more than up to the task of keeping the Lazer in place and remains comfortable even over the course of 9-hour days and 24-hour races.Â A road helmet by design, the Genesis doesn’t offer quite the rear protection that newer ‘trail’ helmets can, but then the company’s newer Nemesis and Oasiz models are targeted at that market.
In my opinion, it might have been nice to see the Genesis offered in a third size- but as both sizes fit me well, that might not be necessary.Â The full-width brow pad does a good job at keeping sweat out of the eyes- it takes an awfully hot and humid day for it to saturate to the point of dripping.Â Given that the tooling is probably paid off by now, it would have been nice if Lazer could have held last year’s $150 retail price-Â but once in this price range, most riders will probably absorb the extra $25.Â While it may not be the flashiest helmet out there and the price will give many riders pause, the Lazer’s Genesis’ fit is as close to perfect as I’ve found.Â For riders who are, like me, sensitive to pressure-induced headaches and/or likely to spend long days on the bike, the Genesis is certainly worth seeking out.
photos (the good ones) courtesy of Kip Malone, Photographer