Every season, the bicycle industry seems to latch onto a particular trend. Recently, companies both large and small have been touting aerodynamics as the next big thing. Whether it’s bikes, wheels, or even helmets, each manufacturer claims that their wind-slicing product will save you time and energy. With helmets, however, those savings sometimes come at the cost of ventilation and cooling. To bridge aerodynamics and ventilation, Louis Garneau developed the Course ($239.99 MSRP) helmet by using a blend of labwork and real-life conditions.
At first glance, the Course looks like a conventional cycling helmet. Compare Louis Garneau’s Course (with its 31 vents) to the aero offerings from Giro and Specialized, and you’re probably wondering how much aerodynamic benefit could come from such a well-ventilated helmet. According to wind tunnel testing performed by Louis Garneau, the Course can knock up to 2 minutes and 40 seconds off a 40 km time trial. Increase the distance to 180 km, and the savings bumps up to 14 minutes and 10 seconds (compared to a conventional cycling helmet).
While I may lack the facilities needed to qualify Louis Garneau’s data, I can tell you that the Course’s ventilation is excellent. The helmet’s ample airflow, combined with the X-static XT2™ padding kept me comfortable (and funk-free) during unseasonably-warm spring weather. If you have sensitive skin, or your current helmet’s straps just rub you the wrong way, you’ll definitely appreciate the Course’s ultra-soft straps (which are easy to adjust thanks to flip-lock Pro-lock dividers). To keep the helmet planted firmly on your noggin, Louis Garneau’s Spiderlock PRO II stabilizing system can be adjusted on-the-fly with one hand.
There’s more to the Course than just improved aerodynamics and increased ventilation. For increased protection, the helmet’s in-mold construction is reinforced with ring-shaped plastic at the base of the helmet. Additionally, an internal frame reinforces the helmet’s structure so that integrity isn’t compromised by the large vents. On May 4th, I had the unexpected misfortune of testing the Course’s safety features. I was on a trail that I’d ridden hundreds of times. One moment I was riding along, and the next I was spitting out blood and dirt. I’m still unsure of exactly what happened, but I suspect that the bike’s front wheel washed out, I overcompensated, and then went down (head-first). Thankfully, the helmet took the brunt of the impact, which resulted in a large dent in the foam, and piercing of the outer shell.
The Course complies with CPSC, ASTM, and CEN safety standards, and is available in sizes small, medium, and large. My large sample helmet weighed 324g excluding the Spiderlock Vision LED light. Louis Garneau includes a second set of X-static XT pads with each helmet, as well as two CR2032 batteries for the aforementioned LED light.
Disclosure: Louis Garneau provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.