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by Dave Rome
July 8, 2020
Photography by Dave Rome & Tim Bardsley Smith
It was less than a year ago that Lazer – now under the ownership of Shimano – brought the Genesis name back to its top-tier racing helmet.
First launched in 2005, the original Genesis was a helmet that helped the Belgian company gain awareness in many global markets, and it stood as the company’s top tier road helmet for many years. Years later, the Z1, an evolution of the original Genesis, topped the line-up as a lighter and more breezy lid. And sitting alongside the Z1 was the Bullet – now in its second generation – serving as the company’s aero road helmet.
The new Genesis, also known as the G1 in certain markets, retains a familiar look and feel as its namesake, albeit with reduced weight, improved ventilation, a narrower profile and a little aerodynamic boost, too. It’s Lazer’s lightest helmet yet, and according to one independent test lab, the MIPS version is the safest road helmet tested to date. That’s not a small thing, and it’s one that’s likely to bring a whole lot of interest to this pro-level lid.
I loved the original Lazer Genesis. It came into the market at a time when I was really struggling to find a helmet that fit my narrow noggin. It was a time before Kask, before the American brands had made their helmet forms more universally fitting, and then, Lazer’s wire-based Roll-Sys retention system arrived and proved that absolute comfort could be had.
All these years later, that Roll-Sys wire-based retention system remains in the new Genesis. Where many adjustable retention systems pinch your head to the front of the helmet, Lazer’s approach is to draw the retention system around your head. The Roll-Sys in the latest Genesis offers height adjustment along with being greatly lightened, and it’s now fixed just forward of the temple. Adjusting the system is still done from a dial that sits at the highest point of the helmet shell, and it’s not indexed or stepped.
The Genesis offers what I’d deem to be a Euro-styled shaping that’s noticeably more oval in its head form than it is round. It’s a shape that fits me perfectly and is comparable to the likes of Met, Kask and Rudy Project. By contrast, I can now comfortably wear many of the latest American brand helmets, but many of those force me to size up for front-to-back length, and in turn, I get a wider profile lid.
As tested, the Genesis offers a noticeably oval shape.
According to the independent test lab of Virginia Tech, this is one safe helmet. Well, at least the tested MIPS version is. The non-MIPS version hasn’t been tested, and it probably wouldn’t do brilliantly well given that rotation force dissipation technologies such as WaveCell and MIPS rule the roost in Virginia Tech’s tests that focus on a helmet’s effectiveness against concussions.
Virginia Tech has the Lazer Genesis (G1) MIPS rated at 9.2, the second-best scoring helmet of the 99 tested to date, and the highest-scoring road helmet. Such a result isn’t an outlier for the Belgian company, which has done a pretty impressive job lately of posting more than positive results.
Now Virginia Tech’s helmet testing isn’t flawless, and there are some areas of testing that certain helmet brands dispute (such as the idea that you can design a helmet to ace Virginia Tech’s specific testing protocol). Still, it’s currently the most transparent and easily accessible safety testing we have, and to see Lazer at the top of the list surely isn’t a bad thing.
The Genesis lacks in rear head coverage.
I do, however, have two safety concerns of my own. Firstly, the head coverage provided is fairly average of a performance road helmet; notably, there isn’t much attempt to extend the coverage behind the head. Deeper head coverage has become the norm in mountain bike helmets (where falling backwards is all the more common), but it remains a rare feature on the road. POC is one brand that’s deepened its helmets, but the current testing out there doesn’t reward those that increase this coverage beyond the status quo. Whether it’s an issue or not is clearly open to debate, and I won’t be able to solve that here.
The second issue of note is related to the supremely comfortable Roll-Sys system. One of the reasons it’s so universally comfortable is that it flows around the occipital bone (the protruding bone at the back of your skull), but doesn’t directly overlap it. This is wonderful for those with a ponytail, but it means the helmet’s retention system isn’t hooked onto the ledge of your head; rather it’s snuggly tightened against the smooth arc of it. With the helmet straps undone, you can indeed just lift the helmet straight off, and a concern that many have pointed out.
I reached out to Virginia Tech about this very matter and asked whether the helmet’s retention system plays a role in the testing protocol. The institute’s director of Outreach and Business Development, Barry Miller (Ph.D), stated that the retention system is indeed used to keep the helmet on the headform and in the correct position. “As long as the helmet maintains its proper position just prior to impact then the retention system has served its purpose”, said Miller.
Compared to most other options on the market, the Roll-Sys simply doesn’t hook over the pointy part of the skull.
Certainly, the Genesis doesn’t feel as secure as a helmet with an occipital-overlapping retention system, but it also doesn’t seem to matter. After all, it’s the job of the chin strap to keep the helmet on the top of your head.
Speaking of, those chin straps are thin and light without feeling like paper in the wind. The buckle is on the simpler side and can occasionally be more of a fiddle to click into place than it should. Other buckles use a stiffer plastic and more rounding to help channel the two pieces together. Otherwise, I have no complaints. The infinitely and easily adjustable ear splitters are a good improvement too.
According to Lazer’s (CFD-based) virtual modelling, the Genesis’ 22 vents and detailed network of internal channelling offers a 6% increase in ventilation compared to a bare head. By comparison, the Lazer Bullet 2.0 is said to be 96% as good as a bare head (which is assumed to be 100%), while one of my favourite lightweight lids, the Kask Valegro, is said to be 99.1% efficient.
Now here’s the tricky part. All of that testing was performed on the non-MIPS version of the Genesis. By contrast, the tested version uses what I’d call a traditional MIPS plastic liner; one that is cut out to match the vent holes, but crisscrosses over nearly all the internal channelling. The result is a helmet that, while not uncomfortably hot, certainly doesn’t feel as ultimately breezy as a Kask Valegro or Specialized Prevail II MIPS. And on humid days I experienced the occasional sweat drip down onto the inside of my glasses.
The Bullet 2.0 still has the aero edge, but the Genesis isn’t far off.
At higher speeds that ventilation was all good and the wind noise seemed about average, and according to Lazer, the new lid is faster. Versus the Z1, Lazer’s testing with Team Sunweb rider Tiesj Benoot showed the Genesis to save approximately 13 watts (527 vs 514 W) when travelling at 50 km/h while in the drops. And as above, the Belgian company’s data shows the aero-focussed Bullet 2.0 helmet to be only marginally faster, too.
Of course, such data raises further questions over how this all compares to the competition, which sadly I cannot answer. And with the channelling partially blocked by the MIPS liner, I asked Lazer if they’ve ever wind-tunnel-tested the MIPS and non-MIPS versions against each other. Unfortunately, such data isn’t available.
This helmet certainly offers a narrow profile.
A large part of the aero improvement is due to a noticeably narrower profile than before. And while I haven’t been busy doing laps of flat roads in use of the Chung method, I can confirm the Genesis offers a slim and pleasing aesthetic.
Those looking to further cheat the wind will likely be attracted to Lazer’s AeroShell (US$23 / AU$$40), a UCI-compliant clip-on plastic shell that blocks many of the frontal-facing vents. According to Lazer, it does indeed offer a tiny aerodynamic advantage, but arguably the numbers are so minuscule that you’d really only use such a cover in extreme cold or wet conditions. Still, options are not a bad thing.
Sunglass fitment may prove an issue with the Roll-Sys retention system wrapping around so far.
Those numerous vents offer plenty of space to securely stash sunglasses, and I found doing so easier than usual, too. And on that topic, the Roll-Sys retention system can interfere with some sunnies. My preferred Oakley Radar EVs sit on top of the retention system without issue, but less-flexible or shorter-armed glasses could present issue. And, for example, my casual sunnies (Oakley Frogskins) which lack rubber grippers, simply slipped out of place when worn with this lid. As is often said, try before you buy.
And yes, it’s lighter, too. The Roll-Sys system was always the first to be blamed for Lazer’s generally high helmet weights, and while the latest Genesis isn’t the lightest thing out, it’s a good bit lighter than the models before it. My small-sized Australian Standard MIPS sample weighs 249 grams, while the non-MIPS version should shave off a further 25 g. Australian approved helmets are often heavier than the CE or CPSC versions, and those carry claimed weights as low as 189 g.
My test period with the new Genesis has been fairly lengthy, and part of that is because I haven’t been in a rush to be done wearing this helmet. It fits my noggin with absolute comfort, is supposedly safer than any other helmet I have to wear, and offers a simple style that goes with everything.
That original Genesis that I loved so dearly was never the lightest or most breathable helmet for the money, and yet, it offered a point of difference in other important ways. And some 15 years later, I believe the same can still be said for this new version.