With a fat bike added to my stable last year, I knew I was going to be doing a whole lot more cold weather riding. Not only more, but in much colder conditions. Last winter, after a couple of longish rides in the low teens I finally came to accept the shortcomings of riding with a standard cycling helmet and skull cap/balaclava. It was time to get myself a proper winter helmet.
In talking with several people about making the jump, one wise sage instilled this piece of wisdom upon me – “Julio, just make sure it’s got plenty of vents.” With this in mind, I set out upon the quest to find myself a proper winter riding helmet. After scouring the Internet and finding tons of options (and opinions) I decided that it was time to hit a few actual brick and motor stores to find out what fit (and didn’t). After looking at all the major players like Giro, Bern, and Burton, I decided on the Smith Vantage helmet. The deciding factor? You guessed it – vents. Not only are there quite a few (21 to be exact); they are adjustable! The vents on front and the rear halves of the helmet can be adjusted independently from one another. Adjustments are made from fully closed to half open to full open using two small sliding “switches” on the top of the helmet. Another key feature that tilted the scales in favor of the Smith was the adjustable fit system. On the back of the helmet there is a Boa lacing system dial that lets you dial in a perfect fit. The dial is easy to turn even with gloved hands. This helmet just fit better than all the other ones I tried on. Even others from Smith but without the Boa dial. There is also a small brim, which, while it helps a little, is really there for aesthetic purposes.
By far, the adjustable vents have been the best feature of this helmet. Getting over heated? No problem, just slide the vents open a little (or a lot). Just want a little cooling action? Just open the back half of the helmet. Too cold? Close them all up. Once you figure out the right configuration(s) you are set. The helmet is warm enough with the vents closed that I have only needed to wear a thin skull cap in the coldest temps. Its cool enough with the vents open that I can comfortably ride with it into the mid to upper 20s, at which point I just get too warm and switch to my normal helmet and various head coverings. The Boa fit system has been pretty nifty as well as I can easily adjust the fit to run the helmet with or without a skull cap and its never to loose or tight.
For a full coverage, snow sports helmet (read snowboarding), the Vantage is surprisingly light and not bulky at all. The inside of the helmet looks very much like my normal cycling helmet in that it just had some thin X-Static pads. The only insulation is found on the removable ear flaps (which are headphone compatible). There is also a padded chin strap and a goggle lock. While I haven’t ridden the helmet with goggles, Smith sells goggles that supposedly integrate specifically with the helmet to increase air movement and help prevent fogging.