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by Dave Rome
June 13, 2018
Photography by David Rome
TECH NEWS BROUGHT TO YOU BY BIKEEXCHANGE
With so many new helmets boasting aero benefits, it’s easy to forget that most cyclists don’t give a damn about such marginal gains. Instead, it’s safety, comfort, cooling ability, and low weight that most people look for in a helmet.
First seen at the 2017 Tour de France, Kask’s latest helmet, the Valegro, is the company’s lightest and most ventilated to date. It doesn’t replace the aero-tested and already impressively lightweight Protone, but rather complements it at the top of the range.
If the Valegro were a bike, it’d be an ultralight climbing machine, whereas the Protone would be the lightweight all-rounder with an aero cockpit and wheelset. They’re close, and certainly, they overlap somewhat, but there’s enough of a difference for most to know which features they value most.
I was handed a sample of the new Valegro during this year’s Santos Tour Down Under, and have been testing it since. There is lots to love, but every relationship has its trials.
So light it can sit on a fern.
Weighing in at just 186g for an Australian standard size small (50-56cm), this is an insanely lightweight lid, especially when you consider the relatively bulky leather chinstrap. Australian standards-approved (AS/NZS 2063) helmets are almost always heavier than ones made for European or American markets, too, and so if you’re outside New Zealand or Australia, you can expect an even lower figure.
To put the Valegro’s weight into perspective, a small-sized Kask Mojito helmet weighs 239g, while Kask’s newer Protone is said to weigh 215g. The 30g weight saving seems minimal in terms of absolutes, but it’s more than a 10% reduction on an already lightweight lid.
To achieve such a low weight, Kask created a simple round shape that wastes little material, all while trimming weight at every other possible point. For example, the retention system is minimal, and the side straps are fixed (both the same as the Protone). And with 37 ventilation holes, there’s only so much space left for the supporting foam.
Despite being so light, the lower edge is still protected with a wraparound microshell.
Helping trim weight further, the helmet is rather shallow with no extended coverage for the back of your head or temples. While I can’t comment on the actual safety of the helmet, I can say that Kask at least hasn’t sacrificed everyday durability, with the in-moulded polycarbonate shell extending to the lower edge of the helmet so the underlying foam won’t take too much of a beating in everyday use.
Take a peek inside and there’s no shortage of channels to guide the air from the many vents through the helmet and out the back. The Valegro was supposedly designed with the help of a wind tunnel, but rather than focusing on drag reduction, the time was used to test thermo-cooling. Kask isn’t alone in this approach (Giro used instrumented wind tunnel testing for this also), but it’s a good sign nonetheless.
More important than the number of vents is having clear paths for that air to travel inside the helmet, and the Valegro definitely checks that box.
Look front-on and the Valegro offers clear entry and exit points for air to flow through. The most obvious vents that sit above the brow are kept open and sit away from the forehead, while the padding begins just to the side of the two central vents and extends back from there.
The 5mm-thick multi-layer foam pads are said to be anti-static, anti-bacterial, and moisture transferring, but the amount of padding is fairly minimal overall, with just a few removable strips around the top, and just a tiny bit at the forehead.
Helmets are much like saddles: what’s comfortable for one person isn’t likely comfortable for the next. I’ve always preferred more oval-shaped options, and the Valegro fits into this category nicely (pun intended). The “Octo Fit” retention system affords a huge range of vertical, horizontal, and circumferential tuning, and I was able to easily dial it in for a comfortable hold. One small nitpick is that the detents on the retention system are perhaps a little too light, as even a quick flick of my head could sometimes change the settings.
There’s a huge adjustment range on offer.
The fixed strap splitters sit in an ideal location below my ears, though, and also comfortable was the leather chin strap, which is claimed to be minimally irritating, especially for guys with stubble. Kask has used the faux leather pad before, but this was the first time it worked well for me; the one on the otherwise-comfortable Kask Mojito sat too far rearward and pressed on my throat.
One long-standing complaint with Kask helmets is how they often interfere with many popular brands of eyewear. The Valegro addresses this with a small kink in the retention system that creates a gap for sunglass temples. Combined with the retention system’s generous adjustment range, I was finally able to comfortably wear my previously problematic Oakley Radar EVs, eyewear from Kask’s sister-company, KOO, and Ryder’s Roam Fyre. Likewise, even casual eyewear could be slotted in and used without issue.
This feature is still somewhat of a band-aid solution and a bit of a fiddle, especially if you’re putting on your glasses while riding, but I quickly got used to running the eyewear frame closely along my head until the ends found their way underneath the retention cage. This feature may still be a miss if you’re one to really crank down on the retention system, though, as doing so would just uncomfortably push the sunglass arms into your skull.
Subtle ridges provide space for sunglass arms to be slotted between your head and the helmet’s retention straps.
Speaking of sunglasses, the Valegro’s simple round profile works wonders for directly storing eyewear. I was able to easily tuck my Oakleys into the back of the helmet for a secure and flush fit, without having to worry about pointy edges rubbing the lens.
The Valegro also does really well in steamy weather at keeping your head cool, and riders who often find themselves in hot and humid conditions will likely find plenty of joy here. A good testament to the feathery weight, comfort, and ventilation is that I often entirely forgot I was testing this helmet.
With such minimal padding at the brow, there’s not much contingency for what doesn’t get wicked away.
Sweat management could still be a little better, however. The tiny amount of padding at the forehead can quickly get overwhelmed with perspiration, and if there isn’t enough airflow to dry the pads out, it doesn’t take long before sweat finds its way onto your eyebrows. The Valegro doesn’t necessarily perform worse than average in this respect, but helmets with more dedicated systems for keeping sweat out of your eyes, such as what Bell uses on the Zephyr, are notably better at keeping your face dry.
Impressively lightweight and with breezy ventilation, the Valegro is well worth your consideration. It’s actually now my favourite helmet, but it’s not an absolute home run. The limited protection at the back, the sweat that falls on my eyebrows, and somewhat delicate retention system stop this helmet from being something truly special. Still, if it fits, and low weight and plenty of vents are what you seek, you’ll likely be happy with your purchase.
The Kask Valegro is available in three sizes and a multitude of colours. It retails for US$250 / AU$299 / €189.
The Kask Valegro has a slim profile on your head.
The fixed splitters were comfortable for me and kept the straps clear of my ears.
Kask has “fixed” the sunglass compatibility issue by providing clearance for tucking the frames under. I had to run the cradle extremely low to take advantage of this feature, though.
Like many other lightweight road helmets, the Valegro offers minimal protection for the back of your head. Realistically, POC is one of the few brands to do it differently.
Another head shot, this time with KOO sunglasses.
A closer look at how the slim-framed KOO fit with its sibling Kask helmet. The thicker Oakley frames are no doubt a tighter fit, but they’re still comfortable.
Kask Valegro (right) vs Kask Mojito.
The Kask Valegro (right) has a much more rounded profile than the Kask Mojito.
A look inside reveals a bunch of channelling that links the many vents.
The Valegro offers a simple round shape.
The retention system is designed to be run low.
The cradle pads are adjustable horizontally.
Fixed strap splitters are becoming increasingly common.
The leather chin strip is supposedly better for sensitive skin than standard nylon webbing.
A soft carry bag is included with the Valegro.