Training, racing, gear, facial hair styles and thoughts from my push to become an elite cyclist.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Review- Rudy Project Sterling Helmet

One of the recurring features here at pro-35 will be the gear I'm using along the way. I'll be up front about how I got it, and I'll mention if they're a sponsor so you can take my comments accordingly.

First up is the Rudy Project Sterling helmet.

Rudy is has been a long-time sponsor, and they've been good to me. Their repair/replacement policies are excellent and I've been able to get severely scratched lenses replaced for a nominal fee.

Recently Rudy Project has put a lot of attention into their helmet line, and their efforts have been well publicized in the mainstream cycling press. In the late 90's and early 00's Rudy Project helmets weren't allowed to be sold in the US because they didn't have the necessary safety certification. Most of us only got as close as the pictures in VeloNews.

I got my first one around 2005. At that time the major selling point for those helmets was the Euro-cool factor because it was the same model that Cunego and Simoni wore throughout their epic inter-squad battle during the 2004 Giro d'Italia. Beyond aesthetics that appealed to a select few (namely bike geeks like myself) the helmets were heavy, poorly vented and ill-fitting.

Last season I did all of my racing and training in a Rudy Actyum, and it was a great helmet. The design offered enough vents to be as cool as the Lazer Genesis and Giro E2 that I tested and the removable visor and bug screen were great additions. The visor was short and offered about the same amount of sun and rain protection as a cycling cap; it nearly perfectly covered down to the top of my sunglasses providing the right mix of ventilation, forward visibility and protection from the elements. To date that visor is my favorite, and I don't normally like visors.

Now on to the Sterling. The first thing you notice about the helmet is the exoskeleton that protrudes from the foam shell. It makes for a unique and very engineered-look with large vents and muscular styling. The same treatment is given to the strap carriers that sit under the jawline. Although they look minimal they have been trouble free so far, though if you're worried about it you can order spares from Rudy and keep them in your gear bag should one fail.

The fit dial on the back does a good job of snugging the helmet so that is stays put in rough terrain. There's a nice pad that allows it to sit comfortably without digging into the back of your head.

A full bug screen comes installed, but I preferred to remove it in favor of the smaller individual pads. The bug screen offers great sweat absorption and I found it comfortable against my shaved pate, but I only use it when the temperature is below about 65.

Also included is a visor that snaps into the front of the helmet. Small tabs on the visor fit into mounting holes in the exoskeleton. Some short, finger-like braces keep it from shifting around. As I mentioned before, I'm generally not a fan of visors, and I found the Sterling visor to be short and moderately effective. The setup isn't as neat as the Actyum, and I ended up using the helmet without the visor unless it was raining and too warm for a cycling cap.

The two most important aspects of any helmet are fit and ventilation. It needs to stay in place comfortably and keep you cool, or at least keep you from unduly overheating. The fit of the Sterling is great and the ventilation is as good as anything else I've tried. This really is a step up from the Actyum and I found the Sterling to be noticeably cooler on the hottest summer days when the temperatures were in the low 90's. On those rides helmets don't feel cool, but having one with good airflow is critical to for optimal performance.

The Sterling comes in two sizes, and the L/XL was the right one for my large, bald dome. Although I never felt like I could get a good fit in Giro (the Medium was too tight, the Large was enormous) the Sterling is nearly perfect without any modifications or fiddling. Right out of the box I cinched up the retention dial, set the straps and was ready to ride.

How much did I like this helmet? Well, I bought a second one so that I'd have more mountain-bikish black color in addition to the standard gray matte/red that I've used all season. I decided to go stealth, but there are new limited edition fluo models that are certainly eye-catching.

The Rudy Project Sterling is a great helmet worth considering if you're in the market for a high-end helmet. I've used it both on and off-road and found it equally at home at either.

For more information visit www.rudyprojectusa.com.

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