Lazer Bullet 2.0 aero helmet review: Potential realized
I grew up obsessed with Transformers. Granted, my stereotypical Asian immigrant parents really only let me have toys with some sort of educational value (which basically translated into tons of Legos) so I never had very many of the things, but I adored the few that I did. I remember being amazed by the way they could so cleverly turn from one thing into another, and part of me thinks it’s a big reason I’m still fascinated by products that capably do double-duty.
Lazer’s original Bullet helmet was supposed to be one of those things. It promised the low drag of an aero lid (and a claimed 7W saving at 57km/h relative to the Z1), but with the ventilation of a more all-around model available on-demand courtesy of a sliding forward cover and an array of snap-on panels. There was also the option of adding Lazer’s neat Magneto magnetic eyewear system, a Bluetooth optional heart rate sensor, and/or the company’s electronic inclination sensor, which would give an audible alert if you got lazy and started dipping your head too much.
It was truly the Transformer of bike helmets. But alas, while I loved the idea of it, I found its execution left much to be desired. It was too hot, too clumsy to operate, too heavy.
Lazer now has a second-generation version available — aptly called the Bullet 2.0 — and this one seems to address most of my previous criticisms. The basic shape remains the same as before, but Lazer says the ventilation performance is much improved, and there are several accessories that are now included as standard equipment.
Headlining that list are solid snap-in panels that take the place of the ventilated ones, a Zeiss-certified eye shield (that attaches with magnets, of course), plus a tiny LED rear flasher that’s built directly into the adjustment dial on the retention system. The inclination sensor and heart rate monitor are still compatible, but remain optional add-ons.
There’s also a decent array of colors available, and Lazer even offers a version of the Bullet 2.0 with a MIPS low-friction liner in certain regions.
I received the standard Bullet 2.0 for review, and my small CPSC-certified sample tipped the scales at 342g with the standard Air Slide front panel and open rear vent. Retail price is US$270 / €260 for the non-MIPS version, or €280 for the MIPS-equipped one (sorry, that one isn’t offered in the United States).
Second time’s the charm
Let me get this out of the way first and foremost: this Bullet 2.0 is worlds better than the original version. I still see some remaining room for improvement, but it’s far more competitive than it was the first time around.
Ventilation is dramatically improved. The first-generation Bullet had a near-complete absence of internal channeling to help air flow through the interior, but the Bullet 2.0 has far fewer obstructions. There’s a clear path from the forward-most vents all the way to the rear exhausts, the sides are much more aggressively carved-out, the new “Venturi port” at the upper rear of the helmet actually reaches through to your scalp now, and there are prominent cutouts around the forehead area to help circulate cooling air there as well.
In stark contrast to the veritable sweatbox that was the original Bullet, the Bullet 2.0 actually does a good job of keeping your head cool on hot days, at least when you’re moving at a decent speed. The overall lack of open area in the shell means the Bullet 2.0 will never feel as airy as a conventional non-aero helmet when you’re creeping up a steep climb, but that’s forgivable given the intended use here.
Perhaps best of all (at least for me), there’s no longer a steady stream of perspiration pouring down off the front of the helmet on to my face and glasses. There’s still a modest amount of dripping when things get really steamy, but it’s pretty reasonable now, and no worse than average.
Versatility is still among the Bullet 2.0’s strongest attributes. In standard form with the Air Slide front panel, I greatly appreciated the ability to open and close the main forward-facing vent at will. Here in Colorado, the weather conditions can change dramatically depending on the time of day or elevation, and rarely can you be ideally dressed to suit them all. But with the Air Slide, I had the option to “crack open the windows” while on the way up a big climb, and then seal things up for the fast descent back into town. Lingering winter weather provided good opportunity to use the solid panels, too.
Granted, the Air Slide panel remains harder to operate than I think it should be — some sort of gripper dot or something similar would be immensely helpful, especially if you’re wearing full-fingered gloves — and there’s also no way to easily close up the side or rear vents. But even so, it’s nice to have this level of flexibility in a single helmet, particularly when all of the various pieces are included in the purchase price.
And you know what? This may be the first eye shield that I didn’t hate. I noticed a bit of distortion relative to top-end conventional sunglasses (particularly from Oakley and Smith Optics), but the coverage is fantastic, the not-too-dark neutral grey tint works for a decent range of conditions, and I didn’t find it to look all that goofy, either.
The magnetic attachment system up front is fairly easy to use, too, and Lazer thankfully incorporated a second dock at the rear of the helmet so you have somewhere to put the shield if you need to pull it off mid-ride. The small target back there can be tricky to find while in the saddle, but I appreciate that it’s there nonetheless, and the process admittedly gets easier with practice.
For those of you that would prefer to instead use standard sunglasses, rest assured that the newly carved-out side vents now leave enough room to stash conventional eyewear. Lazer’s bulky retention system still tends to interfere with sunglass models that have particularly long temples, though. Raising the height-adjustable cradle helps, but at the expense of fit security.
I continue to be a fan of the Bullet 2.0’s low-profile shape, and the lower edge is now covered with a plastic shell, which bodes well for long-term durability (the original Bullet was exposed foam there). However, that only adds to the amount of plastic that is already there, and that takes a toll on the scales. That extra weight isn’t so noticeable on your head, but it’s hard to ignore when you pick this thing up next to other high-end options (the Giro Vanquish MIPS, for example, is a significant 70g lighter).
Safety-minded riders should also note that the rear of the Bullet 2.0 is still very high-cut, and leaves a fair bit of your head exposed.
One thing that I didn’t expect (and don’t recall from the original Bullet) is significant wind noise. I’ve come to find that a nice benefit of aero road helmets is that they’re quieter at high speeds. However, for whatever reason, this Bullet 2.0 was strangely loud. Whether that is a reflection of the helmet’s aerodynamic performance, I can’t say (and I should point out that I didn’t conduct proper aero testing, either). But it’s something I noticed all the same, and not necessarily in a good way.
And finally, I appreciate that Lazer has included a rear LED into the retention system, but it’s far too dim to be remotely usable in daytime conditions. It’s better than nothing if you’re caught out after dark, but it’ll very much provide a false sense of security if you’re trying to enhance your midday (or dawn, or dusk) visibility.
From forgettable to a contender
Overall, Lazer has made a lot of major improvements here, to the point where I’d now consider the Bullet 2.0 to be a viable competitor in the category. It may not be light, but there will undoubtedly be a lot of people who will find appeal in its versatility, and Lazer has done a good job of maximizing that utility by including everything in the box.
My recommendation would be to go with the MIPS version instead of the standard one I tested here, though (assuming it’s available where you live). The jury may still be out on the effectiveness of MIPS in some circles, but independent testing by the folks at Virginia Tech University strongly suggests that helmets with some sort of rotational elements do a better job of protecting your brain than helmets that don’t have them, and that’s good enough for me.