Review: Lazer Tonic helmet

The first cycling helmet I bought, a Fox Transition hard-shell, had seen better days. Five years on a helmet that’s seen lots of use is plenty, as the primary EPS (expanded polystyrene) material does degrade with sweat and sunlight exposure. Despite never crashing on it, its foam padding had also disintegrated to the point where I couldn’t sew it up to keep its shape any more.

While it had served its purpose, the Transition was also a cheap, heavy thing with poor ventilation. The loud graphics and yellow shell maximized my visibility while bike commuting, sure, and many friends thought the Transition looked bad-ass, but as an actual helmet, it really wasn’t all that great.

Having had a Lazer Blade for about two years now, as my introduction to the MIPS head trauma reduction technology, my impression of it was favorable but not without criticism. On the Blade, the MIPS liner is sort of an afterthought, so it blocks much of the ventilation baked into the helmet’s basic design. Also proving a bugbear was the worsening hold of the helmet’s foam pads to their Velcro retention points, and the disappointing capacity of the brow pad to absorb enough sweat to avoid it being a distraction while riding. I’ve since replaced most of the padding with those from my broken Specialized Centro helmet, and those work leagues better.

Still, I liked the Blade MIPS helmet enough to give Lazer a second chance. I ended up with their entry-level Tonic road helmet.

FEATURES

  • Weight: 243 g at size Medium (55-59 cm head circumference)
  • TS+ Turnfit System adjustable retention mechanism
  • Adjustable ear strap and chin strap junctions
  • 28 vents for ventilation
  • In-mold construction
  • 8 color variants
  • Small, Medium, and Large size options
  • MIPS version available at a premium

IMPRESSIONS

Ben Delaney of BikeRadar rated the Tonic highly, saying that with its fit and finish, it doesn’t feel like an entry-level helmet at all…and I agree. You could do far worse with an entry-level helmet from other brands.

Compared to its other Lazer brethren, there are a few differences. Most notable is the TS+ Turnfit System, which is how Lazer reconfigured its Advanced Rollsys fit mechanism into a more afforable, more generic format. Advanced Rollsys helmets, like the Blade, are adjusted with a stepless knob at the top rear of the shell. In contrast, the TS+ Turnfit System uses the same, smoothly operating wire-and-cradle guts, but is adjusted with a ratcheted knob in a more conventional location on the bottom rear. That does mean the Tonic is less accommodating of riders with ponytails, but in terms of adjustment, it works just as well.

The Tonic also uses a simpler but larger complement of pads. The brow pad is a huge T-shaped thing that also extends to the scalp on the top of a rider’s head, while two smaller pads flank it left and right. I prefer this arrangement over the Blade’s, since Lazer is more generous with the Velcro attachments on the Tonic’s shell. This helmet is excellent at handling my high sweat output. At first glance, the thin pads don’t look like they’re up to the job, but I’ve had zero saturation problems, and sweat never threatened to drip into my eyes.

The five-level rear cradle adjustment is as stubborn as always.

In terms of basic fit, the Tonic fits on my head as well as the Blade does, retaining a trim, svelte form factor. The plastic cradle can also move up and down within a range of five steps, but it’s just as stubborn to move and is best left alone once set to preference. The cheaper helmet trumps its bigger brother by offering a lot more scope for adjustment, mainly in the longer chin strap.

The Blade MIPS has these black decals that turn reflective when hit by light, but they’re recessed into the rear vents.

The rear reflective stickers on the Tonic are larger and more easily seen.

Aesthetically, the Tonic is a treat. It’s a smidge taller in profile than the Blade, and it’s styled a little rear-heavy, although it still keeps the generally trim shape. While not the last word in visibility, and despite Lazer not sponsoring Team Sky, the blue-on-black color scheme on mine looks pretty sharp. Here again, the Tonic trumps its Blade brother by including larger black reflective stickers on the rear, in addition to all the reflective “Lazer” decals.

Close to rated weight, at 250 g

The Tonic has a slightly higher and more upright profile compared to the Blade.

With 28 vents, the Tonic offers lots of exposure to the air and wind, and should offer good ventilation in theory. In reality, it betters the MIPS-compromised Blade, but not by much. The internal air channeling cut into the foam shell isn’t quite that deep, so there’s not much of the “wind rushing through your head” feeling at speed that you’d feel more of from the Specialized Centro. Still, the Tonic works well and should help ward off overheating on hot days. The huge rectangular vents also double as convenient sunglasses storage.

VERDICT

Entry-level, in Lazer’s case, costs PhP3,000. While competitors such as MET can undercut it purely in terms of price, the Tonic makes up ground in perceived quality. In many ways, I get along with the Tonic better than I do the Blade, and in the quality stakes, there isn’t much difference between them at all. Recommended.

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