Review: Met’s new Manta aero helmet adds MIPS and motorsport

by Ronan Mc Laughlin

photography by Ronan Mc Laughlin


First launched in 2015, the Met Manta has been a popular aero road helmet with distinctive design cues. Eagle-eyed WorldTour fans might have spotted a new Manta on the heads of Team UAE riders at both the Belgian ‘Opening Weekend’ and the UAE Tour. Met has now officially announced an updated Manta, and to say the design is distinctive would be a vast understatement.

Met has retained the recognisable and largely closed off frontal area from the previous two iterations of the Manta, with only slight modifications to the vents. However, much like we found on a tour of the Met factory in 2018, all the action is out the back. Met has completely redesigned the rear of the helmet, and it now looks like something straight off a LeMans 24-hour car’s rear end.

The bike racing and motorsport worlds have a long history of collaborating, despite all that is different between them. Colnago famously worked with Ferrari in making its first carbon road bikes. Motorsport drivers turn to bikes for fitness, while some cyclists have brought in Moto GP stars to help with descending. More recently, WorldTour teams and Formula 1 teams have shared names, sponsors, owners, and resources.

However, aerodynamics and engineering have become the major converging points, with the influences on design becoming ever more apparent.

Met targeted the rear end of the new Manta to improve ventilation and aerodynamics. The new design features air channelling aids like the “exhaust” and the “rear deflector” that sound more like car parts than helmet features. This is not too surprising given Met’s head of design, Filippo Perini, has vast experience in the automotive world, most notably as former Lamborghini chief designer.

The automotive design influences are easy to spot.

Aerodynamics

Focusing on aerodynamics, Met has created a lower-profile Manta than its predecessor, which tapers to a tube shape profile at the rear. With Perrini’s experience, Met first sketched an aerodynamically improved design before creating 3D models, which it validated using CFD. Finally, the new helmet got the obligatory wind tunnel testing sessions at the Newton Laboratory of Milan.

Met tested the new helmet at 33 km/h, 50 km/h, and 88 km/h in two head positions: 77° (normal head position) and 65°(sprint position). The result of this new design and aero testing is a mean drag reduction of 4 watts in the standard head position and 3 watts in the sprint position.

If these numbers don’t sound huge, bear in mind the test compares the new helmet to the previous Manta design, which was already aero. To put this in perspective, Canyon claims the new Aeroad saves 4.4 watts when tested with a rider compared to the previous iteration of the Aeroad. While ideally I want the watt savings from both an aero helmet and an aero frame, the helmet has a much greater watts-saved:pounds-spent ratio.

Met also claims a similar 3-4 W drag reduction compared to an average of four competitor aero helmets but won’t tell us which four competitors.

Unfortunately, with the current weather conditions in Ireland, I couldn’t properly test the helmet’s ventilation properties. As an aero helmet with a closed face, it inevitably compromises ventilation in some manner. Met does say the helmet has 15 vents, but this does include the rearward-facing deflector complex, which alone features a total of eight vents.

Met claims the combination of the new internal shape, the NACA vent retained from the previous design, and the new rear exhaust creates a low-drag, high-airflow channel, which improves ventilation.

Vents and air channels are said to combine to improve ventilation by effectively driving a constant air flow through the inside of the helmet.

Claims of aerodynamic improvements are to be expected with an aero helmet but can be difficult for an end-user to validate or even feel. Thankfully aerodynamics was not the only area Met looked to improve with the new helmet design. Met says safety, fit, and style were also key considerations, with safety being the number-one consideration, even ahead of aero.

Safety

The new Manta features MIPS C2 Essential brain-protection system from MIPS’ newly classified range. This is the first time Met has included the MIPS rotational energy protection technology on the Manta. Given that neither the previous Manta nor the Trenta 3K featured the brain protection technology, it is good to see that it’s included on the newer models.

Fit and comfort

Fit and comfort are inextricably linked but also highly personal. The new Manta is well equipped to suit many heads, borrowing the Safe-T orbital retention system found on the Trenta 3K. The system offers the vertical and circumference adjustment expected from a premium helmet plus width adjustment for the occipital pads. Despite offering extra personalisation to the helmet’s fit, occipital pad adjustment is included in relatively few helmets.

The Safe-T Orbital Fit System has a rotating tensioner with vertical movement as is common on modern helmets. But Met has also added occipital pad width adjustment for a more personalised fit.

A retention system’s impact on the straps is an often overlooked aspect of helmet fit. Out-of-position straps can be uncomfortable or pull on certain areas, such as under the chin. This is particularly important on an aero helmet, where loose-fitting straps can negate aero gains.

Met has used a low-profile strap divider on the new Manta which, with just a few minutes of adjustment on first use, I was able to set to achieve that perfectly snug and aero strap tension. The straps are lightweight, and the thin divider means the whole system is barely noticeable when riding.

Met has added a magnetic buckle from Fidlock. While this is a neat feature, it solves a problem I don’t believe existed. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer the simplicity of a traditional clip. The magnetic buckle here is a little bulkier, and although it can be fastened one-handed, it is still easier and quicker to use both hands.

Magnetic buckles provide a neat feature but offer little or no functional benefits.

The test model size medium Manta weighs in at 247 g (CE version). This is by no means a super-light helmet and is 47 g heavier than the previous Manta’s claimed weight, but it is respectable for an aero helmet featuring MIPS protection.

Style

Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, so I won’t attempt to review the new Manta’s style, especially given the inclusion of that rear deflector which will no doubt prove decisive. In saying that, I do like the helmet and especially the colour range Met has offered. While not a vast array of colours, the six options provide a mix of rich glossy colours and stealth matte finishes.

The helmet appeared to be a solid flat black with no detail in the pictures Met had supplied prior to the helmet arriving. In reality, it is a mix of glossy and matte finishes with a hint of titanium fade on the sides, reflective decals, and titanium throughout the rear deflector. It’s a design and colour choice which works well together and lifts the whole helmet, giving it a premium look.

The new Manta is quite sleek, with minimal added bulk and style features I wasn’t expecting.

The helmet is noticeably less bulky than my other helmets. This no doubt helps in terms of aero gains but also gives a neater appearance in general. I had noticed this myself, and my wife, who is far less picky about anything cycling, commented the same … so it must be true.

Met also claims the helmet is “ponytail compatible”, which I have neither seen advertised before nor been able to test, but I can see how it might work.

Met doubled up the lower side vents on the Manta to securely house sunglasses. While I have seen this on other helmets, the Met version is the most secure I have used for sunglasses with standard shaped arms. I regularly use the POC Aim glasses, which have wider arms that do not sit just as snugly.

Exploring in style! Selfies are tough but thankfully Dora took over modelling duties.

The Manta has been a popular helmet since its inception in 2015. It has also been considered one of the “faster” road aero helmets. With this update, Met has improved the Manta platform further, enhancing safety and aero while maintaining its general appearance. Ventilation capacity remains unknown, but in every other aspect of an aero helmet, the new Manta hits the mark.

The new Met Manta MIPS is available now and priced at US$300 / AUS$400 / £220 / €250.

Head to MET-Helmets.com for more information.

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