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Road Racing

Lazer swaps MIPS for KinetiCore, with rotational protection right in the foam

Lazer is moving away from its longstanding MIPS partnership, but the replacement supposedly works just as well, has fewer compromises, and it’s cheaper, too.

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Belgian helmet brand Lazer was one of the earliest to embrace those trademark yellow plastic liners from Swedish company MIPS, and with them the protection from rotational impact forces they purportedly offered. Lazer still wholeheartedly believes in incorporating rotational protection into its helmets, but it’s now parting ways with MIPS after ten fruitful years, and instead using a new in-house technology called KinetiCore.

The MIPS concept has always been a straightforward one: by including a low-friction liner of some sort, the idea was to allow the helmet to slide slightly about the rider’s head during an impact. In doing so, the liner supposedly insulated the brain somewhat from the rotational forces often associated with concussions, and added an extra layer of protection in a crash.

KinetiCore goes about things in a very different way, but Lazer says it’s functionally very similar. 

Keep it simple

Every helmet that claims to offer rotational protection does so with an additional element added to the EPS foam liner, whether it’s a plastic liner, a ball-and-socket dual-layer design, some type of gel-like padding, various squishy bits, and so on. But KinetiCore incorporates its rotational protection directly into the EPS foam liner itself. There are no moving or separate parts; just a complex array of geometrically shaped columns molded into the inside surface.

Lazer’s new KinetiCore technology is a fundamentally different way to think about what conventional EPS foam liners can do. And because the columns are designed to compress, bend, and deform in an impact, Lazer says they can provide more information than a smooth EPS liner on the nature of a crash. Photo: Dave Rome.

According to Lazer, those columns can compress linearly to absorb energy in a straight impact, like a car’s crumple zone. But because the shape, depth, and orientation of those columns is strategically tuned to create the desired deformation characteristics for a given area, they can also fold over to effectively act as a shear layer, allowing the whole helmet to rotate slightly about your head just like MIPS is supposed to do.

In other words, instead of adding a shear layer to the helmet’s EPS foam liner, the KinetiCore EPS foam liner is the shear layer.

The KinetiCore concept isn’t only limited to places you can see. The columns are also present underneath the pads, which – at least in theory – should help in keeping the pads drier than if they were attached to a flatter surface.

Lazer says there are multiple benefits to KinetiCore as compared to MIPS. 

Most importantly, there’s similarly added protection as compared to an EPS helmet with no rotational element. There’s less plastic compared to helmets with more traditional MIPS liners. All that space in between the columns leaves more room for air to circulate around, which theoretically makes for a cooler helmet. There’s less EPS foam in general, which reduces weight and material. And last — but not least — integrating this sort of shaping directly into the EPS foam liner itself can reduce the cost, partially because Lazer no longer has to pay a licensing fee to MIPS, but also because it’s an inherently less complicated system.

KinetiCore will eventually replace MIPS throughout the entire Lazer range, and while the company plans to offer the technology to other brands at some point, it’ll be exclusive to Lazer for at least the first 3-5 years.

Multiple helmet options, with more on the way

Lazer is debuting six KinetiCore-equipped helmets to start. 

Replacing the Bullet 2.0 is the Vento KinetiCore (US$280 / AU$440 / €270), another aero-focused road model that Lazer says is not only “2.3% more aerodynamic”, but also “29% lighter… and 5.4% cooler”, too. For road riders looking for a more traditionally styled model, there’s the Strada KinetiCore (US$110 / AU$170 / €110), which features the same general shape as the Vento KinetiCore, but with a more liberally ventilated exterior that Lazer claims is, again, more aero, lighter, and cooler than the outgoing Blade MIPS.

Lazer claims the Vento KinetiCore is more aerodynamic and lighter than the outgoing Bullet 2.0. But I’d argue that it looks more conventional, too. Photo: Tim Bardsley-Smith.

Both of those helmet get Lazer’s new ScrollSys retention system, which is built around an adjustable cable reel like the older RollSys design, but features a larger adjustment belt on the rear of the helmet that’s much easier to actuate than the old barrel-shaped dial. 

For trail riders, there’s the Jackal KinetiCore (US$200 / AU$329 / €190), with large and open vents throughout, generous coverage around the rear and sides, an adjustable visor, Lazer’s TurnSys retention system, a magnetic buckle, and a goggle-friendly shape that still supposedly works well with conventional eyewear. Should you prefer to run a helmet-mounted light or camera, Lazer says the Jackal KinetiCore has also been specifically tested with those accessories in mind in case you’re worried about landing on one of those accessories and pushing it into (or worse, through) your skull. 

The Jackal KinetiCore includes all the features expected in a modern trail helmet. Photo: Lazer Sport.

Urban commuters get the new CityZen (US$65 / AU$90 / €65), with distinctly casual styling, a tougher ABS shell, and a rear vent hole that’s specifically sized for use with a U-lock. 

Finally, for the kiddos, there’s the Nutz KinetiCore and Pnut KinetiCore ((US$50 / AU$79 / €50 for both), which include Lazer’s EZ Fit self-adjusting retention system, built-in bug nets, side-mounted buckles that are less prone to pinching, and lots of coverage around the sides and rear of the head for added protection.

Save for the Pnut KinetiCore, all of the new helmets feature a built-in dock on the back for Lazer’s new LED rear light, which offers a daytime-capable 40-lumen output, five flashing modes, daylight and movement sensors, and a 20-hour claimed run time. When it comes time to recharge, there’s a magnetic charge port that’s less prone to water damage than traditional micro-USB or USB-C plugs.

Shiny happy people. Might be holding hands. Photo: Lazer Sport.

And in case you’re wondering, all of Lazer’s new helmets have already earned a five-star rating from independent test lab Virginia Tech, save for the CityZen, which landed a four-star score.

Vento KinetiCore ride report

Lazer hasn’t exactly been at the cutting edge in helmet technology and features over the past few years, often being a little too hot, a little too heavy, and maybe even a little too clunky compared to other major brands to really compete head-to-head (no pun intended). But that may be changing for the better with this new family of KinetiCore models.

Dave Rome and I have been testing the new Vento KinetiCore aero road model for the past few weeks, and we’ve both been pretty happy with our experiences so far. One important note: neither of us have tested KinetiCore’s safety claims, but even if we had crashed in the things, it’d only be anecdotal evidence, anyway.

That said, the Vento KinetiCore has proven to be a very comfortable helmet — so much so that Dave declared it “perhaps the most comfortable helmet” he’s ever worn. The standard shape is more ovoid than round (Lazer also offers rounder “Asian fit” options in certain markets), but assuming that works for you, you’re treated to a generous amount of soft padding and a retention system that does a superb job of evenly distributing pressure around your head. The rear cradle has a generous range of adjustment, and using the new ScrollSys adjustment panel is a treat, too. There’s a big target for your fingers, the diamond-pattern surface offers good grip (even with gloves), and it seems to hold its setting better than the old RollSys design. 

The new ScrollSys setup offers a much easier target for your fingers than the old RollSys design. It seems to hold its adjustment better, too. Photo: Tim Bardsley-Smith.

Lazer doesn’t draw much (if any) attention to this, but the Vento KinetiCore also sports an admirably low profile, especially compared to older Lazer helmets with original-style MIPS liners. 

I haven’t generally found Lazer helmets to offer best-in-class ventilation performance, but the Vento KinetiCore is tangibly better at medium-to-high speeds than the old Bullet 2.0. Those big forward vents obviously do the lion’s share of the work here, but especially on my close-shaven head, it’s very noticeable how well air is able to circulate all around the interior of the Vento KinetiCore what with all that space between the EPS columns. 

Lazer says the Venturi-style slit at the rear center further helps to pull air through the inside of the Vento KinetiCore, and it seems to work — to an extent. My nearly-bare scalp can feel air rushing around the rear of my head at speed, but the lack of open venting in general still makes it feel stuffy at lower speeds, especially if it’s remotely hot or humid. On the plus side, the Vento KinetiCore does a better job of managing sweat than many other Lazer helmets we’ve used in the past. 

The Vento KinetiCore’s side profile is pretty interesting.

Eyewear compatibility is excellent with neither Dave nor I noting any sunglass models that appreciably interfered with the retention system cradle. Small rubber pads and slots on the lower forward edges of the Vento KinetiCore also provide a dedicated place to stash your sunnies if you don’t feel like wearing them, although I found the slots to be much too small for quick and easy use. 

Weight has indeed been a major area of improvement, too. My medium-sized CPSC-approved sample was 286 g, while Dave’s Australia-spec small-sized sample was 280 g. Neither of those figures is groundbreaking, but that’s far lighter than Lazer’s Bullet 2.0 (which weighed 342 g in a CPSC-approved size small), and it’s inline with other high-end competition like the new Giro Eclipse Spherical

One nice bonus? The Vento KinetiCore is pretty quiet. This isn’t always a reliable indicator of aero efficiency, but it seems to correlate, and it’s nice to not be incessantly pounded with wind noise while riding regardless.

All in all, while only time will tell how well the market will receive the KinetiCore concept — especially as compared to MIPS — the Lazer Vento KinetiCore scores a solid hit on all counts. Lazer has already stated that KinetiCore will eventually make its way throughout the entire range. Given the concept’s impressive suite of features (and especially its excellent test scores), that paints a pretty bright future for Lazer moving forward. 

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