Lazer Century MIPS helmet review: Heavy, but also slick and safe

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Lazer seems to be making a habit lately of developing road helmets that have moving and/or interchangeable pieces in order to expand their appeal, and this latest Century MIPS seems to pack it all in: a reversible vent cover, a built-in rear-facing LED light, a MIPS low-friction liner, and on and on. All of those features add weight, but also quite a lot of versatility, and as Virginia Tech’s latest round of testing has shown, some impressive safety credentials, too.

Breaking down the Century MIPS

The Lazer Century MIPS is certainly a very interesting helmet.

Its defining feature is the TwistCap plastic cover on the front of the helmet. It’s held on with a pair of magnets, and can be swapped to either expose or conceal the forward-facing vents. Should you so desire, you could also remove it completely if the conditions are particularly toasty.

Not surprisingly in this day and age, Lazer makes some intriguing aero claims related to the TwistCap: the closed position is fastest, the open position is close behind, and running without the cap produces the most drag. But all of those claims seem a bit dubious, to be honest, and to me, the more obvious benefit is on-demand adjustable airflow that allows you to tune the Century MIPS to the current conditions.

The TwistCap strikes me as a much more elegant solution to variable ventilation than the AeroSlide contraption that Lazer uses on the Bullet 2.0.

Speaking of keeping you cool, the Century is otherwise graced with 18 generously sized vents, along with an array of internal channeling to help move incoming air through the interior of the helmet. And to keep things comfortable, there’s Lazer’s latest height-adjustable Turnfit dial-type retention system and a healthy allotment of anti-bacterial padding.

On the safety front, the interior of the Century MIPS is fitted with a traditional MIPS low-friction plastic liner, and overall coverage is somewhat more generous than what you often find in high-performance road helmets, particularly around the rear. And out back, there’s even an integrated red LED light to aid in low-light visibility.

Although the TwistCap is only held on to the helmet with a couple of magnets, it stays put and is still easy to remove and reposition with one hand while riding.

Lazer offers the Century MIPS in five colors — including two high-visibility hues — and three standard sizes, along with a region-specific version with a rounder headform for Asian markets. Actual weight for my standard CPSC-certified medium sample is 358g, including the TwistCap cover and LED light.

Retail price is US$180 / AU$TBC / £130 / €180 — a pretty reasonable figure, all things considered.

Never too late to teach an old dog new tricks

I’ve had a somewhat mixed relationship with Lazer helmets in the past.

The original Genesis? It was never the airiest or lightest, and definitely not the most advanced design. But it was my go-to for quite some time owing to its enviable comfort and handy Aeroshell snap-on cover. I eventually replaced it with a newer Z1, which I like (and dislike) for the same reasons.

Although the TwistCap lets you effectively open or close the forward-facing vents at will, the rest of the Century MIPS is very airy. If it’s really cold, you’ll still need a hat.

The Blade MIPS? Looked and felt good, but uncomfortably warm and remarkably poor at managing sweat. The first-generation Bullet? Nuh-uh. Neat concept, but heavy and brutally hot. Thankfully, it was ultimately redeemed by the second-generation Bullet 2.0.

And so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this new Century MIPS. But as it turns out, I like it. Quite a lot, in fact.

As I’ve come to expect from Lazer helmets, the Century MIPS is very comfortable to wear. The headform is middle-of-the-road in terms of its ovality, and compared to what you find in a lot of other road helmets these days, there’s a generous amount of padding inside. Lazer’s latest Turnfit AFS retention system also offers up a firm, yet coddling grip on your skull, and it’s made with pleasantly soft plastics that don’t dig into my closely-shaved noggin.

Overall, the Century MIPS has a respectably low profile on your head.

Lazer may be celebrating its 100th anniversary, but it only seems to be learning more recently the value of internal channeling — better late than never. Indeed, airflow through the interior of the Century MIPS is quite good, and arguably even better than the flagship Z1, which has nearly twice as many vents, but less comprehensive channelling behind them. Sweat management isn’t bad, either, thanks to three big openings between your forehead and the helmet’s EPS foam liner, which let a decent amount of air in to help keep the browpad dry.

The Century MIPS is even a close match to the Z1 when slogging up steep climbs on a hot day thanks to its generous amount of total open area. Granted, that’s only the case when you forego the TwistCap entirely on the Century MIPS, but on a really hot day, you’re likely more concerned with staying cool than changes in weather, anyway.

A nice bonus feature is how the Century MIPS is surprisingly quiet, too. If you can’t stand wind noise, add the Century MIPS to your list of potential candidates when it comes time to get a new helmet.

The rear of the Century MIPS offer pretty decent coverage, at least for a road helmet. The retention system wraps around the rear of your head quite a bit, but most sunglasses I tried still fit with it just fine.

And last, but certainly not least, the Century MIPS has been shown to provide excellent protection, too. Virginia Tech recently updated its database of tested models, and the Century MIPS actually ended up number one among all the road-specific helmets the independent lab has tested to date.

Lazer got an awful lot right with the Century MIPS, but it overlooked a few key details, too.

That integrated LED rear light sounds good on paper, for example, but it’s so laughably underpowered that it’s only likely to provide just the absolute bare minimum of additional visibility, and even then, only in pitch-black conditions, instead of at dusk when you’re most likely to need it. It’s also poorly integrated into the helmet. The on/off button can only be accessed from the inside — meaning you have to take the helmet off — and the light unit itself has to be removed for charging.

The integrated rear light is a nice idea, but it’s done so poorly that it’d almost be better not to have it at all. It’s hard to operate, hard to recharge, and virtually invisible.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that if the light is going to be this useless, it’d be better for Lazer to not include it at all lest someone get a false sense of security. Good intentions, Lazer, but awful execution.

There’s no denying the fact that all of these features make the Century MIPS a pretty heavy helmet, too.

The official claimed weight for my medium CPSC-approved sample sounds pretty reasonable at 305g, but that’s apparently without the TwistCap or LED light module. With both of those included, the actual weight balloons up to 358g — roughly 100g heavier than a Specialized Prevail II, and certainly enough to be noticeable after a long day in the saddle.

A few points shy of a hundred

Overall, count the Lazer Century MIPS as one of my favorites to come out of the long-standing Belgian brand. It’s comfortable, well ventilated, looks pretty good, it’s fairly priced, and offers superb protection, all while providing the all-weather versatility of that nifty TwistCap front panel.

Just be sure to pack a real rear light.

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