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  • Thursday 9th July 2015

First place: Bontrager Ballista (US$175 / £129.99 / €240 / AU$200, 253g)

Bontrager came to the market late with its first aero road helmet, just launching its new Ballista at the start of the Tour de France. However, its designers have clearly learned from the lessons and mistakes of others as the Ballista emerged as the best overall model we evaluated.

The Ballista finished second in the wind tunnel tests at 20mph but jumped ahead in the overall ratings on account of its excellent ventilation scores. You can legitimately feel a rush of cooling air across your head when you’re going fast, and yet the deep internal channeling, generous space at the brow, and louvered upper vents do a remarkably good job of evacuating hot air on slower climbs, too.

Sealing the deal: Ballista was nearly the least expensive helmet on test, nice and light, and one of the better looking ones, too.

Should you bother with an aero helmet at all?

We’ve gone through the trouble of determining which of these aero helmets is the best overall but one big question remains unanswered: should you even care?

No matter what kind of cyclist you are, science is science and all else being equal, wearing a helmet that’s more aerodynamic makes more sense than one that’s less so. You can go faster and further with the same amount of effort, or save energy while maintaining the same pace.

Aerodynamic benefits also increase exponentially with speed, meaning those advantages will only grow larger the faster you go. In other words, an aero helmet might not make a ton of sense if your primary concern is just getting in a good workout or making it to your favorite coffee stop, but it’s an easy choice if you’re a racer looking for every bit of help.

As always, though, not all manufacturer claims hold water. Each of these helmets is billed as generating less drag than non-aero helmets but that wasn’t the case for theGiant Rivet, Giro Synthe, and Giro Air Attack (although keep in mind that could've changed with a different test protocol). All three were actually slightly slower than our benchmark non-aero helmet, the Specialized S-Works Prevail, which is also exceptionally well ventilated and one of the lightest helmets around. This isn’t the last aero road helmet test we plan on doing, and next year’s will certainly include a bigger selection of non-aero models, too.

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