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The Abus Metronaut stirs conflicting emotions in me. Styled to look like a baseball cap and compliment the street wardrobe, I grew attached to ours very quickly. However, at this point the world-weary, caffeine dependant journalist proclaims it's little more than an in-mould construction piss-pot skate lid peppered with twenty-three pet-box type ventilation holes and dressed in a washable nylon cover.
Common to the type, ventilation is pretty sketchy leaving my hair matted to my scalp after a brisk twelve-mile saunter but this misses the point, it's aimed at the short haul jeans, T shirt and trainers recreational/utility rider and in my humble opinion, Abus are on to a winner if they can solve the airflow issue.
So then, down to brass tacks. Peel away the Velcro tab, slide the cloth material away from the helmet and you're left with a fairly substantial hard shell tipping the scales at a very reasonable 310g. Build quality and finish are generally what I've come to expect from Abus-there's no blips and half head-ring adjusts easily in gloved or bare hands-even on the fly. This incorporates a little LED powered by watch batteries for some additional 'left my lights at home' security-nice. Although it's only a back up handy back-up, the law says that rear lights must be positioned between 35 and 150cm from the ground - so unless you're under five foot you are going to need a proper rear light as well, you're going to need one even if you're over five foot as well come to think of it. Pedantic but it's the sort of loophole exploited by smooth talking lawyers in the event of an accident.
After wearing performance lids, the Metronaut feels quite bulbous but this evaporated in a matter of minutes and despite liberal helpings of scepticism, I could genuinely feel wind coursing through my hair. The peak is surprisingly functional too, shielding my face from sun, rain and twigs, although the street profile encroaches upon peripheral visibility, necessitating more caution when entering the flow of traffic, overtaking or negotiating roundabouts.
Even with a healthy thatch and the mercury nudging the muggy mid twenties, the inner climate remains fairly temperate riding for twenty minutes or so at a steady twelve-mph. Increasing both tempo and duration soon left me very sweaty, although to their credit, the washable pads absorb moisture very efficiently without "humming" between machine washes. On the strength of several prolonged showers, the outer cap does an excellent job of keeping the head dry-at least in cooler temperatures and the increased heat retention could be a real boon on cold winter commutes. I'd like to report the same for the integrated LED but frankly, it's too dim to be of much use and easily obscured by ponytails and similarly long hairstyles.
Quirky, yet stylish utility lid needing better ventilation
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Make and model: Abus Metronaut Helmet
Size tested: Grey - 53-59cm
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?
"The Metronaut is the first fashion led helmet to be designed with a headring adjustment system and produced with lightweight In-Mold technology. This helmet is ideal for urban cyclists and commuters". Just so long as they're not hustling along at a brisk pace.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
In-Molded construction for a durable fusion of the outer shell to the shock absorbing EPS.
Fitted with the ABUS Zoom half headring which can be adjusted quickly and simply with adjustment wheel.
Removable and washable internal pads for maximum comfort
Fashionable textile cover in baseball style with integrated visor
To Abus' usual high standards
A reasonable 310g
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The metronuaut is a largely successful take on helmets for riders wanting an alternative to the traditional hard-shell race lid. The baseball cap design is surprisingly practical, shielding the face from sun, rain and rogue tree branches and easily removed for washing should it turn unpleasantly fragrant. This is quite likely through the warmer months since ventilation can't keep pace with faster riding and/or milder conditions. That said, I genuinely think Abus are on to something here if they improve the airflow.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Imaginative and fairly practical design.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Lack of ventilation and the rear, integrated LED was surprisngly low-rent and very much a missed opportunity.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? On balance, no but improved ventilation could sway me
Would you recommend the product to a friend? For short haul utility riding in street clothes- yes
Age: 37 Height: 1m 81 Weight: 70 kilos
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)