The race-oriented intentions of the new Centric Plus are clear: more of a lycra-friendly, aero look than a classic MTB aesthetic of huge vents, and no visor. Impressively it also weighs a third less than many standard lids, and it doesn’t stint on safety features. On paper it undoubtedly aligns itself with the best XC helmets but does it perform as well as it looks?
Design and aesthetics
It looks as if the designers for this elegant update of the Centric Plus set themselves a challenge: minimize weight and maximize airflow, then repeat. It’s arguably a set of vents with some helmet around it, rather than a helmet with vents. There are seven front vents, four side vents, three top vents and four huge rear vents, most of them big enough to stick a finger in and give your head a scratch if you’re inclined.
The overall shape is broad and low-profile, with a strong road cycling feeling about it, it has been proven off-road though as its Nino Schurter’s helmet of choice on the World Cup XCO racing stage. There’s no visor, and the rear coverage isn’t quite as deep as some of the best mountain bike helmets, which gives it a pleasing, understated contour.
On the inside, you have to look twice to check if there’s any padding, as it’s slender on the top and sides but thicker on the front where it’s needed. In the quest for more air, there’s even an inch-wide vent to let air flow underneath the brow padding.
Eight colorways, mostly with two-color contrasts, give you a good chance of finding a match for your ensemble (the silver version has big grey reflective areas too). And the overall finish is strong, with the shell extending around the underside of the inner foam to add protection and a slick look, and there are some nice touches like a rubberized fit dial in the back.
Probably the most significant feature of the latest Centric Plus is the way the MIPS impact protection system is combined with the padding to save weight and maximize airflow. MIPS is designed to let the helmet rotate slightly on the head to reduce impact in a crash, and traditionally it sits in a layer of its own between the padding and the helmet body. That basically lets the vents be completely unhindered. Scott says that its aerodynamics and ventilation testing shows the Centric Plus gives two per cent better airflow than not wearing a helmet because of the way the air is channeled.
The MIPS system integrates four centimeters of up-down travel for the fit cradle at the back of the helmet. The straps are adjustable for length under the chin, but not around the ears. More on all this below.
For cross-country mountain biking and gravel riding, the Centric Plus has been my go-to helmet of the summer. It’s extraordinarily airy, light and comfortable. The fit system is easy to adjust, and that fixed-length strap arrangement around the ears is a bonus rather than an inconvenience. Because it’s fixed, it never goes out of alignment, and the triangle buckle sits flat and is super-inobtrusive.
The super-slender MIPS/cushioning system looks fragile but has been holding up just fine. And amazingly, the barely-there padding has been plenty comfortable. (Maybe the little bit of give from the MIPS system is a kind of cushioning of its own.)
In terms of fit, the Centric Plus might not look as if it's as deeply encasing as more traditional bowl-like MTB helmets, but actually, the HALO adjustment system helps it stay surprisingly deep and secure on your head. It’s also, to some extent, the choice you make with a light, aero lid like this.
Other flipsides of the elegant, low-profile looks and the massive airflow are that you don’t get a visor to keep branches out of your face, and theoretically, there’s more chance of something spiking you through a vent if you crash (though it’s obviously CE compliant, and Virginia Tech gave it a five-star rating for safety, so this might be more of a psychological factor).
For me, there were virtually no real-life downsides other than my hair sticking out of the vents when it was getting too wayward. I can live with that. Also, some riders haven’t been able to slot their glasses into the vents, so that’s something you may want to try out.
If your riding is more towards the aerobic end of things, and you want a light, well-ventilated, and comfortable helmet, the Centric Plus should be on your list. It’s not cheap, but the weight and airflow are a work of genius, and the comfort is impressive.
Tech Specs: Scott Centric Plus helmet
- Price: $199/£150 ($209/£160 for silver/reflective grey, as tested)
- Colors: White/black, black/light blue, vogue silver/reflective grey, stealth black, radium yellow RC, mineral blue, sparkling red, prism green/radium yellow
- Sizes: S (51-55cm), M (55-59cm), L (59-61cm)
- Weight: 223g (medium)
- Key features: MIPS impact protection system, Scott HALO fit adjustment; Outer polycarbonate shell fused to foam liner with in-mold construction