About Marcel Rambo
Marcel Rambo is a busy father of 3 who recently concluded that the best way to relive his youth would be to pin a number on his back and ride around in circles as fast as he could. You can see how this is going for him by following the Instagram account @vee9zee.
As with a lot of cycling equipment, there are many factors that go into the choice of a helmet. Safety is perhaps obvious, but many others might be critically important – weight, ventilation, aerodynamics, fit, aesthetics, and of course price. In the Z1, Lazer has created a product that strikes a winning balance between these factors and provides a versatile choice for riders of many disciplines and tastes.
I’ve owned the Lazer Z1 helmet for about a year now, so I think that this could be considered a long term review. Along with an outline of the features that drew me to the Z1 initially, I will also describe some of the finer points of why I continue to be impressed by this product.
The No Brainers
Funny choice of words for a helmet review? Perhaps, but in some respects the Z1 fits neatly into what is today a pretty large pack. It is an EPS helmet priced competitively with high end offerings from other manufacturers like Giro and Specialized, and when uncovered (more on that later) its 31 vents provide more than adequate cooling for even the hottest conditions. At 190 grams for a small, it is among the lighter helmets on the market. The Z1 meets CE, CPSC and AS standards as one would expect, and is available in a MIPS option for those seeking additional safety enhancements. The helmet strikes something of a balance between the ‘rounder’ offerings of some manufacturers and the more ‘finned’ designs favoured by others, and its ARS Advanced Rollsys retention system provides a secure fit on a wide variety of head shapes and sizes.
The Tasty Stuff
In the last decade, advancements in materials engineering and an industry focus on ‘marginal gains’ have facilitated the rise of the aero road helmet. There are many available today, and most manufacturers offer data to support claims that theirs are somehow superior to the competition. However, all represent a fundamental compromise between better aerodynamics, and poorer ventilation and added weight. In a perfect world, we would all own a couple helmets, an aero model for criteriums and spring conditions, and a traditional one for long summer road races or XC grinds.
Enter the Aeroshell, a snap on (no tools required) aero cover for the Z1 that I think is one of the helmet’s best features. It is lightweight and inexpensive, and allows the helmet to fill both roles as necessary. It is available in a variety of colour schemes, or in transparent plastic if (as in my case) you prefer to show off the original helmet graphics.
Speaking of graphics, aesthetics is another place where the Z1 really stands out, literally and figuratively. Gone are the days of ‘white, black, red, and the colours of our favourite pro team’ – the Z1 is available in a wide range of finish schemes, from the conservative options noted above to some highly recognizable and unique patterns and colours like neon orange and camouflage.
Additionally, although I have not had the chance to review them, there are a range of other interesting options available for the Z1. Among them are a ‘gel’ pad set for additional cooling, an in-mounted tail light system, and perhaps most innovatively an ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible heart rate monitor in collaboration with LifeBEAM. The helmet also ships stock with Lazer’s Magneto system, which allows for an easy magnetic attachment between helmet straps and the arms of the company’s many attractive eyewear options.
The Z1 In Use
After a year of riding with the Z1, I continue to be impressed by its quality and features. In some respects, this relationship can be described as ‘I like my helmet best when I forget it’s there’. I don’t find myself constantly fiddling with the straps, I don’t have to shift the helmet on my head, and I’m never bothered by the retention system. I don’t see the helmet in my periphery, and I haven’t noticed any ‘hot spots’ even when climbing in summer.
However, a few aspects of the fit are definitely worth a mention. The brim of the helmet is cut relatively high, which both improves visibility when riding with the head lowered, and improves the fit of the helmet over the brim of a cycling cap, something my traditional sense of aesthetics appreciates. The ARS retention system also gets a nod for moving the adjustment to the top of the helmet, where it is far less apt to engage in annoying hair-pulling (especially for those with longer hair). The helmet also fits quite close to the head (I was surprised to find that I use a size smaller than normal), something that has both aerodynamic and, to many, aesthetic benefits.
To me, the biggest selling point of the Z1 was and continues to be the Aeroshell option. Aside from its aerodynamic advantages, it provides an outstanding level of warmth and weather protection on those long winter rides, and protects the helmet graphics (which I have found to be quite durable regardless) from the sort of cosmetic wear and tear that they would normally experience. Living in an area where the temperature rarely rises above the mid 20’s Celsius, I have found that I keep the Aeroshell in place throughout most of the year. I can just wipe it off after riding, and should it experience some more dire cosmetic circumstances, a replacement can be had for the price, literally, of a handful of energy gels.
Would I Buy It Again?
The answer is yes, in a hearbeat. Actually, to be perfectly honest the answer is ‘I already have’, as I now own two Z1s in different finishes, but you get my point. I appreciate the blend of features and quality the Z1 offers, and the fact that the Aeroshell effectively provides ‘two helmets in one’ really seals the deal on an already outstanding product.