Catlike Whisper Plus Helmet
When we first saw the Catlike Whisper Plus helmet, we didn't understand it. Yes, it's a helmet. Yes, it must have passed all the relevant tests (first CE and now CPSC standards as well), but it wasn't shaped like any other helmet on the market. Unlike the others, which have obvious structural elements holding things together and limiting the design, this helmet seemed to have started as a solid mass that someone had taken a Dremel to, boring holes here and there until, we assumed, the structural limit was reached. Maybe it was inspired by Santiago Calatrava. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason for the design. From some angles, the Whisper Plus looked round, from others, oval, from others still, boxy to the point of being rectangular. From the back, it looked flat and truncated, almost a Kamm-tail.
All of the above is to write that whether or not you like it, the design is striking, an original. It seems more modern art than headwear. If nothing else, we can tell you that this helmet is a conversation-starter.
When you go to the Catlike website, it seems they're writing in another language, even in English. It has MPS, which is the secondary retention system behind your head. It has CES, Crash Energy Splitter, which means any impact to the helmet gets spread across the helmet rather than take the brunt of the impact in one place. It has LNP, Low Nape Protection, extra protection for the backside of the head.
Jargon has only so much use. And while we're not going to experience any of their jargon until we crash, we are impressed by how minimal the helmet seems. It weighs in at 266g for the Medium helmet we tested, which is 14g below the advertised weight. It seems lighter than the weight indicates. The holes seem bigger in person than they do in pictures. The only place where the helmet appears more substantial than the competition is the lower back of the helmet. That nape protection at work.
Turning the helmet upside down to examine the inside makes the helmet seem even more minimal than it does from the outside. The holes, 30 intake vents in total, lead to pretty deep interior channels and seem to guide the air through the helmet to a big open space in back—which is the more impressive because the back looks from the outside to be sitting against the user's head. The back has nine exhaust vents.
Adding to the sense of minimalism is the secondary retention system. While it resembles a mash-up of older Giro RocLocs, it's a simple design that works great. The rubbery side straps attach to the back straps of the helmet via pods. There is a pod on each back strap that is attached to an adjustable cross member. The pods can slide up and down on the straps so you can easily and precisely customize the fit.
The strap that goes under your neck comes with a cover. We noticed in looking at the Cervélo Test Team riders that many have the helmet strap buckle sitting in the middle of their neck and the pad on one side of their jaw line. This is how we initially set up our helmet, too, only because that was pretty much how the straps were arrayed when they came. The cover is softer than the straps, but we're contemplating getting rid of it, as we've never had a problem with helmet straps chafing; the Catlike folks suggest keeping it as it's covered in soft CoolMax, as are the rest of the pads, and easy to wash.
If anything, this helmet comes with too many pads. There are two pads in the back of the helmet and one pad on each of the rubbery side straps. Maybe it's because our head fills out the Medium helmet almost to the limit, but these seemed unnecessary. The pad across the brow, the pad across the top (both removable and washable), and the pads integrated into the secondary retention pods are plenty.
We started wearing this helmet during a summer heat wave. It was awesome on the 90+ and 100+ Fahrenheit high humidity days of July. The helmet felt light and airy, even when climbing. There were moments when it seemed that the front edge of the helmet protruded a bit too much, but it never led to any glasses-fogging moments, and then when you take it off and compare the front and back to the almost skinny sides of the helmet, the tiny bit of extra thickness that seems to be in front is more than justified.
Periodically, we moved the secondary retention straps up a bit or down a bit. This is easy as the pods slide on the primary straps. Couldn't settle on the perfect spot, but almost perfect was plenty comfortable all of the time. The secondary system is adjusted by pressing the button on each pod; so long as there is a little pressure on the system, it will automatically loosen; conversely, if the system is loose, you can just slide it tight and hear it clicking as it gets tighter.
We read a review of the Whisper Plus in VeloNews, where the critic was complaining about the helmet straps not sitting flat against his head. We couldn't get the straps to sit flat, either, but it didn't bother us. Maybe if there's proof that the slightly-angled strap is less aero would we worry, but it seems to be shielded by our ears. People at Catlike say that if the strap threaded through the back of the helmet sits flat, all the others will sit flat. Haven't tried it yet, but when we figure out how to get the straps through the pods, we'll go for it.
Ever since somebody figured out how to stick their glasses in a bike helmet, we've loved having our helmet as a place to stow our specs. Whether it's heading into a tunnel or climbing in the rain, or stepping into a quickie-mart, being able to take off our specs without dangling them on our jersey collar or shoving them into a pocket is a great benefit. We could always stash a pair of glasses in the holes, but no position ever feels secure. We can shove them in some vents, but we only do it when stepping into a store.
Otherwise, we found the Catlike Whisper Plus an excellent helmet. The fit is comfy, the straps are barely noticeable, and venting is great. An added benefit was the people, cyclists mostly, who were excited to see the helmet in person and talk us up over it.