Review: Lazer Blade MIPS helmet

While my Specialized Centro helmet served me well, it got one too many unintentional knocks and tumbles from mishandling, and had to be retired and disposed of in the interest of riding safety even without actually crashing on it. Fortunately, a buddy of mine got me on board with a good deal on Belgian brand Lazer and its entry level road cycling helmet, the Blade.

Cracks on the underside of my Centro helmet. Even without actual crashing, be conservative with damage like this and replace your helmet immediately.

This is also one of the very first helmets that is offered in a version equipped with MIPS, the “multi-directional impact protection system.” I had heard of its advertised benefits in the reduction of brain trauma from rotational forces. While I’m not too keen to test out just how effective it is in a real crash, I am looking forward to seeing how differently a MIPS-equipped helmet would feel in everyday use…even though I don’t have a non-MIPS Blade to test against back to back.

 

 

 

FEATURES

  • Weight: 265 g at size Medium (55-59 cm head circumference)
  • MIPS liner equipped for mitigation of rotational forces
  • “Advanced Rollsys” adjustable retention mechanism
  • Adjustable chin strap and ear strap junctions
  • 22 vents for ventilation
  • 8 color variants
  • Size availability: Small, Medium, Large
  • Comes with four extra Velcro patches for pads

IMPRESSIONS

As with the Centro, I’m a little disappointed that the Blade MIPS doesn’t come with any yellow variants – and no, the MIPS liner doesn’t count. Mine is primarily white with red detailing.

One pleasant surprise is how closely the helmet comes to its claimed weight, coming in at 270 grams on my scale. By comparison, the outgoing Centro is 330 grams, a far cry from its claimed 275 without visor.

While the Blade MIPS isn’t expressly a commuter-specific helmet like the Centro is, it’s nice to see Lazer includes a single long reflective decal stripe at the top of the helmet. Also very discreetly hidden in the rear vents are two more black reflective stickers that will catch headlight illumination.

See those bright white patches under the red arc? Those are reflective decals that are black in normal light. Well done Lazer.

Lazer Blade MIPS vs Specialized Centro. Where the Centro has its ratchet knob and retention mechanism, the Blade has almost zero obstruction.

One thing Lazer does differently from other helmet makers is their retention mechanism, which they call Advanced Rollsys. Almost everybody else puts the adjustment knob at the base of the rider’s skull; Lazer mounts their knob at the very top instead. This takes a bit of getting used to, but the design does benefit lady cyclists because ponytails now have somewhere to go.

The Advanced Rollsys adjustment knob at its tightest. Note the position of the red plastic anchor nut.

At its loosest, the red plastic anchor nut is hidden by the “rear spoiler” at the top of the helmet, peeking out at the rear.

The Advanced Rollsys cradle is anchored at the front of the helmet. Turning the non-ratcheted knob offers a smooth transition between tightening and loosening the cradle. A closer look reveals that the adjustment knob is a long plastic bolt, with a red plastic anchor climbing up and down its travel providing the cradle’s tension.

 

There’s another point of adjustment for the cradle itself at the rear of the helmet, obscured by the yellow MIPS liner. This slider raises or lowers the cradle as it sits on the base of your skull. In the default “3” position, you’ll mostly feel the cradle tightening around the top and back of your head. I lowered this to “2” for a more secure fit, although be warned that it’s got a very notchy action and is almost reluctant to move.

On the outset, ventilation seems generous with twenty-two vents. The Blade MIPS is certainly a quiet helmet at speed, which says something about its aerodynamics, I guess. In terms of ultimate cooling, however, the Centro has the edge because of its deep internal channeling allowing incoming air to flow more freely through the shell.

The Blade also has these channels molded into its foam shell, but they’re both shallower and obscured by the MIPS liner. In actual use, get used to having the long brow pad saturated with sweat on a regular basis. If you’re particularly daring, you could unhook the four rubber nubs that anchor the MIPS liner and remove it completely…but that’s nothing more than a bad idea.

The basic shell is roomy, if unprotected around the bottom rim. The yellow MIPS liner anchors the four pads.

In terms of fit, the Blade MIPS suits my head shape as well as the Centro did. The basic helmet shell is roomy for my head, which the measuring tape says is 56 cm in forehead circumference. It trumps the Specialized helmet in terms of actual fit adjustment, since the ear strap junctions are movable and allow that last bit of customization. Lazer’s chin strap is a bit on the stingy side in terms of ultimate length, though – I have mine almost at the end with barely any slack left, and this makes the helmet fit feel tighter than it should be. Friends with the same helmet share this observation.

So what about the loud yellow MIPS liner? Slightly impaired ventilation aside, I don’t feel it at all once the Blade is on my head, which is the best praise I could give it. Its creators say that it’s easily added to most helmets, and I feel my experience with the Blade certainly bears this out. Transparent safety? I’m all for that.

Lazer wear their Belgian roots on their helmets’ straps. Note the MIPS logo too.

Lazer Blade MIPS vs Specialized Centro at the front.

 

Unlike the Centro, the Blade MIPS has a rising brow line in its shape. It seems like the perfect curvature to fit a cycling cap underneath, but the look does take a bit of getting used to next to other helmets which have a more forward, downward brow line. It’s also a little more svelte, with less of a mushroom-like profile when worn.

One suggested improvement is the addition of a protective plastic molding around the bottom rim of the helmet, to protect its naked foam from underside stratching, gouging or damage in day-to-day handling.

VERDICT

At PhP4,500, the Blade MIPS isn’t exactly cheap and not the last word in ventilation, but it’s impressively lightweight, offers good fit, and very good value, with MIPS protection serving as icing on a great cake. There is a more affordable version without the MIPS liner as well. For most road cyclists this may be all the helmet they need.

The flip side of training

Much about becoming better at riding a bike unsurprisingly involves actually riding your bike. Interval training, sprints, climbs, bike handling – all are gained by adding saddle time. This is all just half the story, however. The other half is in proper recovery.

The wisdom nowadays is that training and exercise yields microscopic tears inside your muscles. As your muscles work, they slowly secrete waste products, the most notable of which is lactic acid. This is the stuff that makes you feel tired and sore when you have enough of it soaking in your muscles. The aim of recovery, then, is to repair the muscular damage and help flush out waste products, so that your muscles rebound from the training effort stronger.

So what constitutes a good recovery method or routine? I’m no fitness expert but I can identify a few.

PERFORM A WARM-DOWN

If you watch professional cyclists racing these days, you’ll notice that after they cross the finish line of each stage of the race, they walk to another bike mounted on a trainer and continue pedaling easily for about 15 minutes.

“But wait,” you might say. “They just finished a hard stage! Why would they want to keep pedaling afterward?” Turns out, that’s actually the whole point.

The so-called “warm down” phase of very easy effort pedaling allows your sore muscles to flush out lactic acid and other waste products. Without this, all of that will stay inside your muscles and actually leave scar tissue and plaques, which can hinder your performance in the long run.

What can we learn here? We could make sure that our rides don’t end in a sprint that finishes at our doorstep. Allow for some easy spinning at the end of a ride.

EAT WITHIN THE FIRST HOUR AFTER A RIDE

One of the points of having recovery is to rebuild muscle torn up during training, and this requires the intake of protein. For maximum effectiveness, this intake has to be timed to within the first sixty to ninety minutes following a long or hard ride. Any time else, and your body won’t be as receptive to protein intake as your metabolism has cooled down.

GET A MASSAGE – OR GIVE YOURSELF ONE

A soigneur giving this Omega Pharma QuickStep rider a thigh massage. (Photo credit: BikeRadar/Tim de Waele.)

Many of the soigneurs (support crew) that follow pro cyclists as they race are also masseuses. They massage riders’ legs to assist in flushing out any lactic acid or waste products left soaking in their muscles. You can pay for a massage to get the same benefits as well.

Of course, not everybody has easy access to a masseuse all the time, so the next best thing is a foam roller. Effective use of this tool for self-massage takes a bit of getting used to. You basically lay the muscle you want to massage on the foam roller, and then apply your body weight as you roll forwards and backwards and side to side, practically pressing out the pain. This does feel clumsy and ungraceful at times, but it’s quite effective. Some cyclists swear by a short foam roller session after every training ride.

DAYS WITH SHORT, EASY RIDES – OR NO RIDING AT ALL

The current wisdom in training is to alternate hard training days with easy recovery days. It can be tempting to push hard on what are supposed to be your recovery rides, but best to keep your ego and competitive tendencies in check. Keep your recovery days really easy – spin the cranks such that you barely have resistance to push against.

Even pro cyclists need their forty winks. (Photo credit: BikeRadar/Tim de Waele.)

If you’re feeling particularly knackered after a hard block of training, don’t feel ashamed of shelving the bike for a day or two and resting. The saying goes that “don’t stand when you can lean; don’t lean when you can sit; don’t sit when you can lie down.” Spending time off the saddle for rest can also re-energize you mentally so that you can return to training with a better mindset.

Quick look: Shimano RS505 road bike disc brake system

In 2013, Shimano finally introduced hydraulic disc brakes to road bikes, but it wasn’t until 2015 that the technology trickled down to a more accessible level. Recently I chanced upon a bike that had this new hardware.

BUT FIRST, A HISTORY LESSON

Hyro, my TCX, uses post-mount frame tabs to mount a TRP Spyre disc brake caliper on the non-drive chainstay.

Disc brakes are not new technology; they’ve seen service in automobiles and motorcycles for decades. In the realm of bicycles, disc brakes were an innovation first popularized by bicycle tourers.

They then found widespread adoption in mountain biking, where they quickly superseded rim brakes and their susceptibility to mud and water by the end of the 20th century. The disc brake calipers were mounted to MTB frames and forks by either the perpendicular IS (International Standard) mount, or the more ubiquitous Post-Mount system.

In 2010, the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale), the governing body of bicycle competition, allowed the use of disc brakes in cyclocross races. Prior to this, cyclocross bikes were essentially fully rigid mountain bikes with drop handlebars, road bike drivetrains, and cantilever rim brakes. These brakes were chosen for their mud-clearing ability, not exactly for their stopping power. With disc brakes, cyclocross racers could now enter corners faster and brake later, while remaining consistent regardless of conditions. This meant that the adoption of these brakes on road bikes was only a matter of time.

For bicycle component juggernaut Shimano, it was relatively straightforward to adapt its existing mountain bike hydraulic disc brake hardware to road use. Indeed, it took its Deore XT BR-M785 disc brake caliper and re-sold it as the road-use BR-R785 and BR-RS785, retaining Post-Mount as well. Later on however, Shimano introduced a new mounting standard called “Flat Mount” for disc-braked road bikes, citing better aerodynamics and integration. Indeed, after the introduction of Flat Mount, the only hydraulic road disc brake calipers that retain Post-Mount compatibility are the two R(S)785 units.

THE ACTUAL HARDWARE UP CLOSE

Yep, it costs a pretty penny. You can see the front of the ST-RS505 levers here.

On one of my visits to LifeCycle’s former branch in Makati, while having Hyro maintained, I noticed a flashy red bike on display. It was a brand-new Eddy Merckx Mourenx69 endurance road bike, made out of carbon fiber…and sporting Shimano’s RS505 disc brake hardware. I decided to take a better look since this was the first time I saw these parts out in the wild.

 

This is the BR-RS505 brake caliper. Note how they’re mounted to the bike’s chainstay; Flat Mount bolts them directly on. The bolts actually go through the chainstay from the underside and thread directly into the caliper. Merckx fitted this bike with a 140 mm rear rotor; the caliper will require a thin adapter plate to fit a 160 mm rotor.

Note the fins on the brake pad and the brake rotor. The finned center portion of the brake rotor is also made up of aluminum, sandwiched between the steel layers of the rotor’s main brake surface. All these features are supposed to mitigate heat buildup from braking, and let it escape into the atmosphere – a bigger concern for the higher speeds and braking loads of road bikes.

The ST-RS505 control lever as seen from the inboard side.

Unlike cable-actuated road bike brakes (either rim or disc), Shimano’s hydraulic road disc brakes tend to come as a kit of the brake calipers themselves and a matching set of STI levers. This is because the STI levers contain the master cylinders that push the hydraulic fluid toward the calipers. The first R785 brake systems paired the hydraulics with electronic Di2 shifting, currently available only on the top-end Dura-Ace and Ultegra groupsets. Later, Shimano reintroduced 2×11 mechanical shifting with the Ultegra-level ST-RS685 and these, the 105-level ST-RS505 STI levers.

The ST-RS505 control levers as seen from the outboard side. Note the Fulcrum Racing 5 DB wheels the Mourenx69 has – that explains some of the price.

You will have noticed by now the shape of these ST-RS505 levers. The earlier ST-R785 and ST-RS685 levers are very similar in shape to an Ultegra 6800 or Dura-Ace 9000 STI lever. These RS505s on the Mourenx69 look larger and rather bulbous by comparison. The look certainly divides opinion.

The brake hoods of the ST-RS505 control levers as seen from above. You can also see how flush the Flat Mount front brake caliper is with the non-drive side fork leg.

Actually holding the brake hoods.

I tried holding the RS505s by the brake hoods. As per glove sizing convention, I have medium-sized hands, and I had no problems with comfort. If anything, the front bulb makes for a nice extra handhold for an aero tuck while riding on the hoods. When held the normal way, it does feel like you’re holding a microphone.

The square-edged bleed port at the very rear of the brake hood tends to rub some people the wrong way, I’ve heard.

On some other cycling websites that have reviewed these STI levers, I read comments about a square-edged nub on the brake hood that rubbed some cyclists the wrong way and detracted from comfort. Apparently this problem area is the bleed port. Personally I never really noticed it, but it will depend on the individual rider.

If you’ve followed this site for any amount of time, you know I’m totally sold on the merits of disc brakes. The addition of hydraulics increases power to the modulation and consistency of the disc brake design. My only real reservations are the price and the backward compatibility of these calipers to road and cross bike frames with Post-Mount fittings, especially as I have no plans of getting rid of my TCX any time soon.