When Bontrager released WaveCel, it came with some bold claims and upper-end pricing. In time, more affordable models have been developed, but that elusive $99 price point has been unreachable — until now. The all-new Bontrager Starvos WaveCel helmet hits that price point while delivering a 5-star crash rating in a well-featured helmet.

Bontrager Starvos WaveCel Helmet Features:

  • WaveCel collapsible structure
  • Headmaster fit system
  • LockDown strap dividers
  • Available in XL sizing
  • 1-year crash replacement
  • Colors: Black, white and radioactive yellow
  • Weight: 340 grams (Medium, actual)
  • MSRP: $99.99
Bontrager Starvos WaveCel Helmet Review

The side profile shows the coverage and sunglass compatibility.

Starvos = WaveCel for the masses

On introduction, Bontrager’s WaveCel helmet construction turned heads. It was new and different with a promise to further protect your brain from injury. Now that we’re one year into it, WaveCel continues to shine and is consistently receiving 5-star ratings from Virginia Tech’s Helmet Ratings.  The new Bontrager Starvos has also been tested in the Virginia Tech Lab and it has also received a 5-star rating, which puts it among the least expensive 5-star helmets tested.

In short, WaveCel is like a crumple zone for your head. It effectively transmits impact by compressing, crumpling and gliding. By distributing those forces and slowing them down, WaveCel helmets are among the safest available, but have previously come at a higher cost.

Argon 18 Dark Matter GRX - Singletrack

Rocking the singletrack with the Bontrager Starvos WaveCel.

To achieve a $99 price point, Bontrager has cut out some features found on more expensive helmets. Most notably, the EPS foam is exposed around the circumference of the helmet rim. This just means you’ll have to be a little more careful with how you treat this helmet when not in use. Additionally, the BOA dial is replaced by Bontrager’s Headmaster fit sytem. And, finally, the straps aren’t hard mounted into the helmet’s structure, so they tend to get twisted. These features are on par with the price point. But, WaveCel’s unique protection and peace-of-mind most certainly isn’t on par with other $99 helmets.

The shell and shape of the Starvos is very similar to the Specter WaveCel helmet. Side-by-side, it’s hard to tell them apart, unless you have a keen eye or look at the backside vents. Bontrager’s spectrum of WaveCel road helmets can be seen in detail with the following images. They include the Starvos, Specter and XXX.

Top view of Starvos, Specter and XXX WaveCel Helmets

Top view: Starvos, Specter and XXX

Back view of Starvos, Specter and XXX WaveCel Helmets

Back view: XXX, Specter and Starvos WaveCel Helmets

Inside view of Starvos, Specter and XXX WaveCel Helmets

Inside view: Starvos, Specter and XXX WaveCel

While the Starvos WaveCel does lack some of the high-end features, once you put it on, you won’t know the wiser. It looks sharp and feels absolutely solid on the bike. The shape of the helmet does offer more coverage than some helmets and nobody’s going to call this one “low profile,” but function over form is a good thing when it comes to helmets. And, I think the lid looks quite sharp. Don’t you agree?

Bontrager Starvos WaveCel Helmet - Gravel Testing

Giving the Starvos WaveCel the gravel test.

At higher speeds, you’ll notice that the WaveCel material does make for a loud experience. It’s definitely one of the louder helmets I’ve got. But, those vents do an admirable job of expelling heat. Because of the WaveCel material, the helmet does get a tad warmer than open vent designs, but it’s definitely no pressure cooker. There’s plenty of airflow and I haven’t felt overheated on rides in the mid-80’s. I’ve also been wearing this helmet with both the Tifosi Sledge and Bolle Lightshifter sunglasses with much success. The straps play nicely and there’s ample clearance for the larger lenses both of those have.

As mentioned, the straps and Headmaster fit system are pretty standard for the price point, but they all work well. The straps are soft next-to-skin and the clip is easy to use. The fit dial offers precise retention by snugging the helmet around your head. I’ll also add that the variety of sunglasses I’ve tried with the Starvos have worked just fine without any interference with the fit system.

The Good

  • WaveCel safety at a low price point
  • Smart looks with high-vis color options too
  • Simple clip and comfortable straps
  • Headmaster fit dial snugs everything right up
  • No sunglass interference
  • Brow pads do a great job channeling sweat away
  • Can store sunglasses upside-down when not in use

The Bad

  • Things get pretty loud at high speeds
  • Breathability is good, but wide open vents are certainly more airy
  • Large profile design

The Bottom Line: Bontrager Starvos WaveCel Helmet

If you’re looking for a 5-star crash rated helmet for $99, the Starvos WaveCel is your choice. It offers an outstanding fit and supreme protection far beyond what you’d expect at this price point.

Buy Now: Available at TrekBikes.com

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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