Thursday, November 23, 2017

Kask Bambino

When it comes to going faster on your bike, most authorities agree that one of the most cost-effective (i.e. speed increase for money spent) investments you can make is in an aero helmet.  Estimates vary on exactly how much time you can save over the course of a triathlon bike course (or, of course, a TT), but compared to spending £1000-plus on an aero wheelset, a couple of hundred pounds on a helmet seems like a bargain.

BambinoThe Kask Bambino is an example of the new breed of 'short-tail' aero helmets. Stubbier than the older teardrop style helmets (of which there are still plenty around, it's by no means a dying design), the idea of helmets like the Bambino is that it is 'more aero more of the time'.  Let's face it, unless you're a pro cyclist (and even if you are), the chances are your head moves around a lot during a tri or TT.  The problem with this is that whenever a teardrop helmet is in anything other than the 'ideal' position, it's like to be causing MORE drag than a vented road helmet - not what you want at all!

In contrast, the idea with short-tail helmets is that when you look up, around, down, whatever, they don't suddenly cause a shedload of drag - hopefully providing a net benefit over the course of the race.

The Bambino

Let's be honest. Ever since we saw Wiggo and Team Sky wearing the Bambino we thought it looked pretty darned cool. With its all-enclosed shell and near full-face visor it looks like something out of Star Wars rather than a cycling race. For that alone it has desirability in boatloads.

In your hands, the Bambino is relatively light but clearly well-made. The leather chin strap is a nice touch and the simple velcro cradle is actually more effective and comfortable than perhaps it first appears.

The Bambino comes (in the UK anyway) with a clear plastic visor, but you can buy a tinted/mirrored version for another £40.  That makes the helmet pretty bloody expensive, but you are paying for a quality piece of kit (or are you...? read on!).

Wearing the Bambino

On the head, the Bambino is comfortable and the visor provides a good field of view (in terms of no frames or nose pieces obscuring your view).  Despite the helmet having what appears to be minimal ventilation, I've worn the helmet in high 20 degrees C temperatures without over-heating.  Yes, of course you'll sweat, but you would in any kind of aero helmet and I'm not convinced the Bambino is any worse.

Fog on the Tyne

When I first wore the Bambino to race Mallorca 70.3 in May 2013, I managed to complete the whole bike leg without over-heating, getting uncomfortable or having the visor fog.  And then comes the bad news. In almost every single TT and triathlon since May 2013, the visor HAS fogged. The worst example was representing Newbury Road Club at an inter-club 10-mile TT event where I literally could not see a thing, so bad was the fogging.

This is, according to many Bambino owners, an all-too-common problem.  Many Bambino owners have taken to drilling holes in their visors to let air flow over the inside of the lens, thus preventing fogging.  After a handful of fogging 'incidents' I too relented and drilled mine, ready for the Age Group world champs in London in September.

It was a wet and muggy day and, you guessed it, the Bambino visor fogged again.  Rather than ride blind, I removed the visor, inverted it and stuck it back to the front of the helmet upside down (the visor is fitted with magnets to facilitate this).  About 20 seconds later, the visor flew off the helmet and that was the last I ever saw of it... £40 down the drain, perhaps quite literally.  I have to say, in fairness, that others have had more joy with drilling their visors, claiming it does fix the fogging issue.

Practicality of the Bambino for Triathlon

I've already covered the lack of over-heating and the comfort of the Bambino for extended periods of time - no issues there.  But there is a major difference between TTs and triathlons.  In a TT you can faff as much as you like getting the helmet fitted just right and taking time to get it done up.  In a triathlon you don't have this luxury and it is inescapable that the Bambino requires a lot of practice to get it on and fastened in a hurry.  It won't work for everyone and I definitely cursed it a couple of times this year! That said, practice does make perfect and thankfully it comes off pretty easily in T2.

Conclusion

I like the Bambino. I like the way it looks (especially with my bodged home-made custom colour scheme!) and I like how comfortable it is and that I don't over-heat wearing it.  That a £250 helmet fogs so easily, however, drives me nuts. I can't believe that Kask thinks it's okay to leave it to owners to try to fix this (as far as I am aware, Kask doesn't even acknowledge the fogging issue and has no plans to revise the design of the visor or offer a vented option).

Is is suitable for triathlon - yes. Is it perfect - definitely not! Will I wear it again in 2014? Undecided... There are a couple of other helmets I'd like to look at over winter - such as Giro's Air Attack and Casco's SpeedAiro - before I make a decision.  I will very likely keep the Bambino for TT duties even if I select a more vented lid for long course triathlon in hot conditions.

Ultimately I think the Bambino is a flawed gem. Great in some areas but let down by the fogging issue (which seems to be caused by humid conditions). If you can live with that, or are willing to get the drill out, it could be a great choice for you. And let's not forget, it DOES look damned cool!.