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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How do you build confidence on the saddle?

A colleague of mine chatted with me on the elevator going down and out of the office recently. She had asked for tips about how to improve her confidence while riding, as her on-the-saddle nervousness was detracting from the time she could spend with her kids while they gleefully rode their own bikes.

I figured this would make for a good subject for today’s writeup. So, how do you become a more confident bike rider?

SADDLE TIME – AND MORE OF IT

Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic shortcut or an instant cure that will take away your jitters. The best way of building confidence on the saddle is to simply keep riding your bike.

Or is it?

As starkly simple as that advice is, it’s too simple and doesn’t give you much of anything to focus on. A more effective strategy is to break down the task of riding into individual skills you can practice when you do log the saddle time.

EMERGENCY STOPS

This is first on my skills list for good reason. The laws of physics dictate that vehicles with one front wheel just don’t stop as quickly as those with two or more. There are things we can do to improve the odds, though, regardless of what brake system you run on your bike.

Befriend your front brake; it is crucial if you want to stop quickly. Key to making use of it correctly without flipping over your handlebars is to straighten out your bike, get your pedals level, stand up out of the saddle, and push your hips backward as you pull the front brake lever. In a sense, you are pushing the bike away as you brake. This counterweighting action basically makes it impossible for you to fly forward off your bike. Pull on both front and rear brake levers, but bias the front brake more.

It is imperative you practice and get used to this skill quickly, because it can literally save your life. Regular practice recommended.

RIDING ONE-HANDED

Easily second on my list is one-handed riding. If you have any plans of riding on the street with vehicular traffic, you will need some way of visually indicating your intentions, and the best way of doing this is with hand/arm signals.

Freeing one hand from your handlebars also allows you to drink or eat while riding, and allows you to turn your waist and head more so you can check for traffic behind you.

So how do you teach yourself to ride one-handed? Take advantage of your speed, as it’s how a bicycle stays upright and stable. At a medium riding pace, around 12 km/h and faster, try to have one hand let go of the handlebars while going straight, and let the loose hand hover a few centimeters over the bar, so you can hold it again if needed. You’ll soon find out that you don’t have to grip the handlebars all that tightly to maintain stability.

RIDING AT VERY SLOW SPEED

Having established that a bicycle is more balanced and stable the faster it goes, what do you do when you take away the speed? You become more active and work to maintain your balance.

This is an excellent skill to learn, one for more advanced riders. It’s also great to go back and practice every once in a while. Without speed, you are forced to constantly tweak your balance on the bike, making adjustments with the handlebars and leaning your body left and right. It’s effective both done in a straight line and while turning or going round in a tight circle.

The good news is that all this low-speed balance work translates directly into better bike handling at higher speeds. On a fast road ride, especially, you can get used to steering the bike with your hips instead of your handlebars.

RIDING IN A STRAIGHT LINE

This might sound too simplistic, but you actually do need to intentionally practice riding in a straight line. Why? I see too many bike riders who cannot ride straight without flopping their wheels over left and right. Imagine the cold bullets of sweat you’d feel having to ride alongside such a cyclist.

The constant need for left-right correction while riding straight just means a rider cannot keep balance well. Much like in car racing, the more you move the steering wheel, the slower you ultimately are. While a fast pace on the saddle isn’t top of everybody’s priorities, I bet most people want to ride without having to needlessly expend energy doing anything else but go forward.

Practicing this is as simple as finding a white line on the side of the road and trying to keep yourself as parallel to it as possible – or even ride over it if conditions allow. Again, the side effect is you learn to steer your bike using your hips, rather than your hands. For added challenge, drop your speed and hold the straight line at a very slow pace.

It’s a wash

Recently, I replaced Hyro’s Shimano CN-HG54 chain and Tiagra CS-4600 10-speed cassette with fresh ones. The cassette had already seen 14,750 km of action; having meshed against four chains, it was time to replace both.

Shimano coats its new chains with a sticky light grease, which helps inhibit rust and corrosion while the chain sits in storage. Conventional wisdom states that this grease is okay to ride with for about 100 km or so. After a 70-km Sunday morning ride, I decided to give Hyro my usual cleaning.

Keeping your bike clean is the best way to save on maintenance costs later, especially when it comes to the parts of your drivetrain. The dirt and dust your bike picks up from riding can turn into a gritty paste over time that can slowly chew through your chain, leading to accelerated wear on the teeth of your cassette and chainrings.

PREPARATION

Job one is to remove all accessories from the bike: lights, mini pump, cyclocomputer, saddle bag, and cable lock.

Next it’s time to ready my cleaning supplies. I use PowerClean’s water-based Engine Wash Degreaser, which costs around PhP220 per gallon bottle. I keep some of it in an old spray bottle.

For general cleaning, I use Pedro’s Green Fizz, a biodegradable foaming bike wash; for protection, I use Pedro’s Bike Lust, which is a silicone protectant. Both are on the pricey side, but in practice, you don’t need to use a lot, and the bottles can last you a fairly long time.

Above are my cleaning tools. I differentiate them by what they clean; there are those used on the drivetrain, and those used to clean the rest of the bike.

For the drivetrain, I have an old Finish Line chain scrubber I bought from my trip to Japan in 2014, but has since become locally available – which is great, because mine is on its last legs. I also have a flat-profile stiff-bristle brush I use on the cassette.

For the rest of the bike, my main cleaning implements are sponges and rags. I also have a toilet brush (never before used in a toilet!) for cleaning hard-to-reach places such as hub shells and the bottom bracket shell area – an idea I cribbed from YouTuber Clint Gibbs. Mine could actually be a bit smaller and softer-bristled.

I use my trusty Minoura DS-AL30 display stand to help prop up bikes while washing.

If you have a bike with disc brakes, you might want to remove your brake pads to avoid contamination.

CLEANING THE DRIVETRAIN

Open the chain scrubber and pour in some degreaser up to the fill mark, then clamp the chain scrubber over the chain.

While holding the chain scrubber straight, I turn the cranks backward at least 30 revolutions. This will run the chain through the brushes of the chain scrubber and its degreaser bath. Finish Line’s unit has a magnet at the bottom that will collect the debris and worn pieces of chain, keeping it away from the rest of the degreaser.

Rinse out the chain scrubber of dirty degreaser.

Repeat the procedure – only this time, fill up the chain scrubber with water. This will clean the chain of any degreaser that was left inside the pins and rollers.

If you don’t clean the degreaser off, any lube that you apply to the chain later will just get broken down.

Take the spray bottle of degreaser and spritz it on the derailleurs, cassette, and chainrings. You don’t need a lot. Be careful where you spray it; you don’t want it ending up on your hubs, bottom bracket, or brake rotors.

To clean the cassette, I spray the flat-profile brush with degreaser, and run it through the cogs as I pedal forward (in smaller cogs) or backward (in larger cogs).

Last but not least, take a rag, toothbrush, or flat-head screwdriver, and clean the muck off the face of the rear derailleur’s jockey wheels while pedaling backward.

The great thing about degreaser is you can leave it alone while it does its job. Get a cup of coffee and come back to the bike after 15 minutes.

CLEANING THE REST OF THE BIKE

At this point, I spray the bike down with Green Fizz. It’s a good idea to start from the top and work your way down so gravity helps you.

While spraying, take your sponge and run it over the Green Fizz, wiping and scrubbing away dirt as you go. Take care with spraying it on brake rotors; try to avoid it if possible. For tight spots like hub shells, I bring the spray bottle closer to the component to minimize overspray.

Speaking of hub shells, they’re perfect for cleaning with the toilet brush. For rims and spokes, just spray the Green Fizz into a rag and wipe it on.

Wipe down the rims, spokes, and tires. Spin the wheels slowly, and watch the tire tread area for any debris such as embedded rocks, glass particles, and pieces of nail or staple wire. If you find any, pry them out with your fingers or a pick before they worm their way into puncturing your inner tubes.

This is an old photo, but one of few showing me hosing down a bike. You get the idea.

Once done, go over the bike with a hose to shift the Green Fizz and any dirt away. Keep the water at low pressure.

Wipe down the bike dry with a rag or towel. Get the chain dry as well. Sometimes I bounce the bike on the floor a few times to shake out more water.

BIKE LUST TIME

Once the bike is dry, break out the Pedro’s Bike Lust. This milky white liquid imparts a shine to your bike’s frame and parts, while easing future cleaning by making dirt and stains less likely to stick.

As it’s basically a wax, you have to be very careful with this stuff. I like to start using it on the frame. It’s best to spray it in small amounts, and then wipe. This is a great time to check over the frame for any paint chips, cracks, or other such damage.

When I get to the wheels, I spray it onto a rag first and wipe it onto the surface in question. Obviously, you should avoid spraying this on braking surfaces such as rim brake tracks and disc brake rotors, as it can cause contamination and compromised braking. It really does feel slick to the touch when applied to frame tubes.

FINISHING UP

The final step is to apply lube to the chain. Here I’m using Weldtite’s TF2, which is a decent all-around wet chain lube.

One nice thing about wet lubes is that they can be used on many more places than just the chain. I put a small amount on derailleur pivots, jockey wheels, and derailleur springs.

After lube, I like to turn the cranks and shift through the full range of gears, then wipe off the excess. Replace any brake pads removed previously, remount lights and accessories, and we’re done.