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Bontrager Ballista helmet



An aero road helmet with very good ventilation and a low weight; in use it feels almost like a standard, non-aero lid

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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The Bontrager Ballista helmet is a new aero road option with very good ventilation that keeps your head cool and comfortable as you ride.

Bontrager says the Ballista has less drag than any other aero road helmet out there. The brand doesn't put a figure on its claims – there's no spiel about the Ballista saving you a certain amount of time over a given distance – but it says that the helmet outperforms the Specialized Evade, Louis Garneau Course and Giro Air Attack, according to measurements in the wind tunnel. The other brands might well contest that.

We can't test the Ballista's aerodynamic efficiency, unfortunately, so you can either take Bontrager's word for it, or reject the claims.

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What I can tell you for sure is that the Ballista feels very cool in use. You get three very large vents up front and two more on the top of the helmet. These lead into deep channels in the EPS (expanded polystyrene) that run right over the top of your head and on to a series of exit ports at the back.

When you hit a fast descent you can feel cool air coming in at the front and moving over your head to keep you cool and dry – or, at least, cooler and drier than you would otherwise be. There are more airy standard helmets out there but the Ballista feels cool for an aero helmet.

Bontrager reckons that as well as being good for cooling, the design of the vents and channels reduces drag. The idea is that the air comes in the front, moves quickly over your head and then exits out the back efficiently, rather than the helmet simply catching air like a parachute and slowing you down.

The Ballista uses Bontrager's Headmaster II fit system which features a plastic cradle that attaches to the EPS at the temples and the rear. You get the choice of three different height positions at the back while a clicky wheel allows you to set the tension easily. You can fine-tune the fit one-handed while you're on the move. It's a very good design, similar in essentials to several others, that fits a wide variety of head shapes.

Bontrager's AgION padding is antimicrobial, which is good news for keeping nasty niffs at bay. I really like the fact that one section of padding goes right across your forehead so you don't find sweat dripping in your eyes unless you work really hard and saturate the fabric. That makes a big difference.

The straps are soft and lightweight rather than the thick, reluctant-to-bend variety, and the strap dividers lock down tightly when you set them to the right place.

The Ballista is a good weight too, ours hitting the Scales of Truth at 266g. That's not particularly light for a standard helmet – the Bontrager Velocis that we reviewed recently, for example, is 222g  but it's a decent weight for an aero option.

I'm not bothered about the difference that a few grams makes to speed, but a lighter helmet feels more comfortable. I certainly didn't feel that the Ballista's weight affected comfort, even towards the end of long rides.

In terms of looks, I'd say the Ballista is a medium ranker for an aero helmet. I guess it looks a bit Mekon, but you can make your own mind up on that. If this black version doesn't do it for you, it's also available in white/silver and visibility yellow.

One more important point: like other Bontrager helmets, the Ballista is backed by a crash replacement guarantee. That means you can claim a free replacement if it gets damaged in a crash within the first year of ownership.


An aero road helmet with very good ventilation and a low weight; in use it feels almost like a standard, non-aero lid

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Make and model: Bontrager Ballista helmet

Size tested: Medium

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Bontrager says: "The Ballista road helmet projects racers to their target just like the ancient Greek missile weapon it was named after."

Ha! Okay.

It's a race helmet where saving seconds counts.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Bontrager lists these features:

* Front Center Channel - Distinct vent shape draw in significantly more air for increased cooling and all-day comfort

* Headmaster II - One-handed fit system with premier look and feel

* Internal, recessed channels manage airflow through the helmet and over the head

* NoSweat - Keeps sweat out of eyes through channeled pads for constant clarity

* AgION fit pads - Moisture-wicking antimicrobial pads completely eliminate odors

* LockDown strap dividers - Helmet strap management made simple

* NeoVisor-compatible - Allows easy installation of NeoVisor

* Crash Replacement Guarantee

Rate the product for quality of construction:

It's in-moulded around a carbon-fibre skeleton.

Rate the product for performance:
Rate the product for durability:
Rate the product for weight, if applicable:

Compared with most other aero helmets, the Ballista is light.

Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:

Very good ventilation and a decent weight make this a comfortable lid.

Rate the product for value:

£130 for a helmet might not sound cheap but it's only fair to compare the Ballista with other aero helmets, most of which are considerably more expensive.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

The Ballista offers good ventilation and a low weight, both of which make it feel great out on the road.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The weight and the very good cooling.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

It doesn't look as good as some non-aero lids. It looks a bit out of place if you're not racing.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

This helmet is very good in terms of ventilation and comfort. It feels a lot like a standard, non-aero helmet in use, and the price, while fairly high if you take the whole helmet market, is low for an aero helmet. It's clearly either an 8 or a 9 overall; I'm going with a 9 because of the comfort.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 43  Height: 190cm  Weight: 75kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,


Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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racingcondor | 7 years ago

I've owned one for about 3 months and unfortunately crashed at the start of the month.

Landed pretty much shoulder first (broken collarbone, yay) but the helmet did a great job. Cracked the shell and foam of the helmet but I barely felt the head impact and of course it saved me from sliding down the road on my face.

The venting works pretty well and it's cheaper than anything else I've found that fits me as well so I look forward to the replacement coming.

nadsta | 8 years ago

Some independent comparative date here between the current aero crop, interesting but controversial

midschool replied to nadsta | 8 years ago
nadsta wrote:

Some independent comparative date here between the current aero crop, interesting but controversial

The most interesting part of that was at the bottom where the owners of the wind tunnel tell everyone that Bike Radars test was wrong and doesnt give accurate results...

shadwell | 8 years ago

Bontrager says its the fastest, but has provided no verifiable data to substantiate this, neither did this article.. vs. the myriad of other aero lids which have been available for some years.. many with OEM and independent data...

So assuming its "as" aero, the best thing about this lid is that its cheaper.... for hopefully similar performance.. and thats Great..

Wish they'd stop writing Bontrager 50 times on everything though..

earth | 8 years ago

Looks very much like the Specialized Evade

njkacher replied to earth | 8 years ago
earth wrote:

Looks very much like the Specialized Evade

...just like lots of products 'look' like other products, but everything I've seen (haven't gotten to try one yet) suggests that the Ballista outperforms the Evade in addition to being a good bit less expensive.

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