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Bontrager Rally WaveCel mountain bike helmet review

Bontrager’s Rally mountain bike helmet brings WaveCel protection tech to a much lower price point but what’s it like to ride in?

Bontrager Rally WaveCel
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

Low brow and low airflow but an extra safe helmet at a more affordable cost if you believe Bontrager

For

  • Enhanced protection claims
  • Micro-adjust Boa deal
  • Cheap for WaveCel
  • Widely adjustable visor

Against

  • Reduced airflow
  • Intrusive brow
  • No glasses or GoPro mount

According to Bontrager and the independent Virginia Tech test lab, WaveCel’s corrugated crumple layer made its Blaze the safest MTB helmet around. Now you can get the same tech and some other top features for a whole lot cheaper. Thankfully we’ve not tested the Rally in a potential skull-crushing manner but secure fit and solid construction are definite bonuses if you’re okay with restricted airflow and a prominent brow line. 

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The Rally shares the same 13 vent hardshell and thin EPS foam outer layer as the Blaze, but the corrugated WaveCell doesn’t cover the back of the helmet. You don’t get a magnetic Fidlock strap buckle and there’s no magnetic ‘Blendr’ light/GoPro mount either. The last time we tried a Blendr mount it repeatedly ejected taking our camera with it though so don’t shed too many tears about that. You still get a Boa dial adjusted cradle though plus thin NoSweat single piece liner pad. There's a solid hard shell covering the extended lower part of the helmet too and the widely adjustable visor is the same as the Blaze.  

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Bontrager Rally WaveCel

The brow of the helmet is quite deep and can be distracting due to its bright orange colour (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Bontrager Rally WaveCel

The visor is the same as the same as the Blaze and offers a wide range of adjustment (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Performance 

The basic Bontrager head form is relatively round so oval or squarer skulls are going to get a lot of sideways rocking even with the Boa snugged up tightly. It is much finer in its adjustment than most cradle systems though and so if it fits it's very secure without obvious pressure points. To answer some online enquiries we’ve seen it doesn’t leave bald heads engraved with wavy lines and it’s also very effective at keeping wasps/bees and other flying fiends away from your scalp.

While the EPS layer is thinner, the WaveCel is very deep which makes the helmet tall and also extends it a long way out front. The fit naturally tips forward too so we were peering out from under an intrusive brow line made more obvious by the bright orange colour of our sample. While there is a gap between the EPS outer and the WaveCel which helps draw air through and radiate heat away, cooling airflow is much lower than a conventional helmet with similar vent arrangement. That makes it relatively hot compared to the best MIPS liner helmets but it’s a sweaty match for helmets where the MIPS liner interferes with the air con and it’s definitely cooler than Smith’s Koroyd honeycomb helmets. Weight is also reasonable if not remarkable.

There’s no place to stick glasses but the high rise visor leaves plenty of room for goggles and the rear of the helmet has moulded strap guides. The full hardshell covering keeps it safe from accidental damage and there’s free crash replacement for the first year as well as a 30-day cooling-off period where you can return the lid if you don’t like it. 

Bontrager Rally WaveCel

Despite the large vents Wavecel is unable to match the ventilation offered by integrated MIPS systems (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Verdict

If you believe Bontrager this is one of the safest helmets around and the designers have done a good job of integrating the mesh into a good looking trail lid. Fine adjust Boa dial and wide adjust peak are positives as are the 30-day trial and crash replacement offers. It’s still more expensive than a lot of second-tier MIPS helmets though and ventilation and cooling are reduced compared to conventional lids. If you’re not convinced by WaveCel there’s a MIPS version of the Rally, too.

Tech spec: Bontrager Rally WaveCel helmet  

  • Weight: 398g (medium)
  • Colours: black, azure/nautical, olive/roarange (tested) and marigold/black
  • Price: $149.99 / £129.99