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After four years of development, Scott has unveiled two new road helmets — the Cadence Plus and Centric Plus — that the company says maximise aerodynamics without sacrificing ventilation or safety. Both helmets are targeted for elite competition, where the Cadence Plus is designed to provide an extra edge in aerodynamic performance, while the Centric Plus offers a little extra ventilation. In this review, Australian tech editor Matt Wikstrom takes a closer look at the Cadence Plus.
According to Scott’s marketing material, the story behind the development of the Cadence Plus and Centric Plus started with a blank sheet of paper. Rather than refine an existing design, Scott set out to build two new helmets for elite athletes from the ground up without any restrictions or compromises.
A lot of the aerodynamic thinking was left in the hands of Associate Professor Richard Kelso and his team of engineers at the University of Adelaide. In many ways, Kelso was an obvious choice for the job given his experience in fluid mechanics, aerodynamics and hydrodynamics as well as a history of involvement with the Australian Institute of Sport and Orica-GreenEdge.
What also appealed to Scott was Kelso’s hands-on approach and his team’s ability to rapidly create and modify prototypes. With a wind tunnel on campus, Kelso was able to rigorously test the aerodynamic performance of each design iteration, both in absolute terms and in the context of a purpose-built mannequin.
The results from Scott’s wind tunnel testing predict that the Cadence Plus will provide time savings of 0.11-13.59s for a 40km time trial (completed at an average speed of 40km/hr) or 0.2-2m at the finish line for a sprinter. Marginal gains, for sure, but as a helmet designed for elite athletes, such gains are no less tangible.
The ventilation system was developed after the shape of the helmet was decided, where the goal was to maximise cooling without interfering with the aerodynamics of the helmet. To this end, instrumented mannequins were used to assess the effectiveness of the vents, and the final result produced temperatures 4.5-12.6% lower than Scott’s competitors and 1.1% lower than a bare head. While this isn’t the first time that a helmet has been able to achieve this, it’s unusual for an aerodynamic design.
All of the ventilation in the Cadence Plus is provided by five large vents and a couple of slots in the front-third of the helmet and three reasonably generous vents in the rear. The middle-third of the helmet is solid, which I presume plays some part in reducing the aerodynamic drag of the helmet.
For those buyers looking to make the most of the helmet’s aerodynamics, Scott supplies a set of “aero plugs” for the vents at the front of the helmet. Made from foam and plastic, they are light enough (they add 22g to the weight of the helmet) that they will blow away in the wind and promise an extra 5s for a 40km time trial. However, they aren’t UCI-legal, (Article 1.3.031: Additions to the helmet are not allowed (cover, tape, etc.)), so while Orica-BikeExchange riders are currently using the Cadence Plus at the Tour de France, they have to leave the aero plugs at home.
The Cadence Plus is perhaps the first aerodynamic road helmet to incorporate MIPS, which is designed to reduce “rotational violence” to the brain. Scott was one of the first helmet companies to adopt MIPS and the ongoing incorporation of the technology into their latest helmet design is strong sign of the company’s faith in the product.
For the uninitiated, MIPS is a layer of plastic that sits between the head of the cyclist and the rest of the helmet. It is anchored at four points, but barely so, because it is designed to shift/slide upon impact. This movement is enough to dissipate some of the rotational force to protect the brain, and makes for a more effective helmet than those lacking the MIPS layer.
Scott refined the MIPS layer for the Cadence Plus (and Centric Plus) by adding dozens perforations to improve breathability and cooling. While it’s an obvious strategy, it wasn’t a simple undertaking because the company had to ensure that it wouldn’t compromise the performance of the MIPS layer.
This was my first experience with a MIPS-equipped helmet, so I can’t say whether the perforations had any effect. Testing conditions were far from ideal though, since I was wearing the helmet during the early weeks of the Australian winter. Nevertheless, I found that the amount of ventilation was ample, especially at the rear of the helmet where there seemed to be less heat build-up than my regular helmet (Kask Mojito).
Without warm/hot conditions to test the helmet, the most demanding test I could manage was to make a 15min climb in direct sunlight and still conditions on a mild day where the temperature was in the mid-high-teens (°C). Under these conditions, I was able to enjoy a cool head, but given a choice, I’d prefer the Centric Plus, since Australian summers can be pretty brutal.
I’m sure the aero plugs will work well on cold days to keep the head warm. When I plugged up the vents on another mild day when the temperature was in the low-mid-teens (°C), my head slowly warmed up to become uncomfortable after about 30min on the bike.
The Cadence Plus (and Centric Plus) is fitted with Scott’s Halo Fit System that integrates with the MIPS layer. In essence, the system comprises a micro-adjustable band with a simple dial for adjusting the circumference of the helmet. There are three height settings for the band so it can be positioned to suit the shape of the head.
According to Scott, they were able to identify regions of comfort and discomfort using mapping data for the arteries and nerves of the head and positioned each part of its retention systems accordingly. This isn’t enough to guarantee the comfort of the helmet for every individual, but I found the fit of the helmet immediately comfortable and stable.
Better yet, the dial offered small yet meaningful increments in tension that really felt like I was able to fine-tune the fit of the Cadence Plus. The dial is easy to locate by touch, so it was an easy matter to adjust the fit of the helmet while I was on the bike.
The straps of the Cadence Plus are the thinnest I’ve experienced, so they rested easily and comfortably on my skin. The strap guides, however, were fussier to adjust than the simple clips found on other helmets and nearly impossible to fine-tune while riding the bike. With that said, I liked the way they spread the straps further apart for a better fit under the ears. Once adjusted, I wasn’t tempted to fiddle with them anymore.
The helmet has a minimum amount of padding with thin strips for the brow and forehead. As such, they didn’t do a lot to soak up the sweat, but they didn’t turn into waterlogged sponges either. Unfortunately, Scott continues the modern trend of supplying helmets without a set of replacement pads. Am I the only one that would like at least one extra set of pads, especially when it is high-priced helmet like the Cadence Plus?
This is only a minor criticism for a helmet that otherwise offers performance-oriented road cyclists everything that they could ever hope for. The styling clearly stands out from other brands but my eye has quickly become accustomed to it, and I suspect it may usher in a new era of helmet design.
No helmet review would be complete without a comment on its compatibility with sunglasses. In this regard, my Oakley Radars played well with the Cadence Plus, such that its long arms didn’t interfere with the rim of the helmet. Perhaps more importantly, I had no trouble docking the Radars in the vents of the helmet, right-side or upside down, with a single hand. The arms were a snug fit so they didn’t slide out when I hit a bump on the road but the wind could catch them whenever I turned to look behind me.
The Cadence Plus has a recommended retail of €229 (~AUD$340/US$255) though pricing has yet to be determined for other markets. Scott expects that the new helmet will be available in September in three sizes (S, M, L) and four colours.
For more information, visit Scott.