Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gear Review: Specialized Echelon Helmet

I can't think of a better time to review my helmet than right after it saved me from what would in all likelihood have been a concussion (in a best case scenario).  Sure, "the what have you done for me lately" mentality could influence my opinion, but I honestly didn't have anything bad to say beforehand.  I actually liked the helmet so much that after splitting my old one I bought the same one again.

The bottom line is that helmets really only have one true purpose: SAVE LIVES. The rest, like looks, ventilation, weight, aerodynamics, comfort and fit (okay maybe fit is essential) are just bonuses. In most cases a $35 helmet will do just the same for you in an accident as a $250 helmet (presuming they were made at similar times and to the same safety standards).

That said let's face it, most of us do care how we look (whether going out for a night on the town or going out for a bike ride - although after a certain amount of miles any thoughts about one's appearance fall by the wayside).   It used to be the case that in order to have a good looking helmet you had to spend a sizable chunk of change.  Fortunately, helmet design has trickled down from the high-end models and there are many more options available at all price points.  

When it was time (probably overdue) to replace my helmet a few months ago I did some browsing to check my options.  I'm a sucker for matching, so being a Specialized guy (both my tri and road bike are Specialized) I wanted to stick with one of their helmets.  The Echelon is the most economical ($60 msrp) of the four models offered and is a great choice for any rider.  I'm sure the better models are a bit lighter or have better ventilation, but I haven't had any regret with the Echelon.  It breathes well, is affordable, lightweight, adjustable, comfortable and looks good (as far as helmets go).  One of the best features is the adjustable dial in the rear which makes it easy to adjust both before and during riding.  I'm also a fan of the easy-to-use side strap adjusters as well as the reflectivity built into the design.  Overall the helmet's design is well-thought out and it seems to share many features of the upper-tier models offered. 

As far as the helmet's main function, unfortunately I can now attest to its ability to cushion the blow related with a 23mph bike crash.  The Echelon did what is was supposed to do, splitting to absorb the impact, sparing my noggin from trauma.  What more can I ask for?

Overall the Echelon is a good choice for those not looking to spend a ton of money on a helmet.  If money isn't an issue go ahead and look at the S3 or the Prevail, but in my opinion I'd rather spend that money elsewhere (like on other tri-toys). 
Other Helmet Thoughts
At the risk of being labeled a curmudgeon, while I was writing about helmets I couldn't help but be reminded of all the people I see riding without head protection.  I know that people have the power to make their own choices but I struggle to see the positives of this decision.  I just can't think of any good reason that anyone would choose to ride without one. 

What About the Children
When it comes to kids, the look of a helmet is paramount to any other features. If a child doesn't like their helmet one of two things will happen: he simply won't ride their bike as much or won't wear his helmet.  Neither option is good so do you and your child a favor and let him pick the one he wants to wear (assuming you can afford it).  If I recall correctly I once tried to have my parents get me a new (cooler) helmet by accidentally misplacing my current model. Uncool move on my part, but it does emphasize the point.

Ride safely and wear a helmet

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