As the second Bontrager WaveCel helmet tested, the new XXX WaveCel is their top-of-the-line lid and it has all the features you could ask for — all in a pricey, $299 package. If aerodynamics, protection and style are your utmost priorities, then have a solid look at the Bontrager XXX WaveCel helmet.

Bontrager XXX WaveCel Helmet Features:

  • WaveCel advanced helmet technology
  • The Boa® System lets you easily secure and adjust helmet fit with just one hand
  • Easy-to-use adjustable strap dividers allow for a fine-tuned fit
  • An aerodynamic shape helps you outsmart the wind and ride faster
  • Additional NoSweat pad with silicone channel keeps sweat out of eyes for constant clarity
  • Team Trek-Segafredo sticker kit included with Viper Red, White, and Radioactive Yellow colorways
  • Crash Replacement Guarantee provides a free helmet replacement if involved in a crash within the first year of ownership
  • Weight: 365 grams (medium, actual)
  • MSRP: $299.99
SBT GRVL - Bontrager XXX WaveCel Review

SBT GRVL Start, 6:30am and 46 degrees.

XXX WaveCel offers protection above all

Long days in the saddle with sprint finishes, that’s what the Bontrager XXX WaveCel helmet was built for. Well, and protection (can’t ignore that bright yellow WaveCel lining). Any helmet serves as one of the largest air surfaces on your body. Your body is first, but beyond that, helmets really do make a significant difference in watts savings over time. Still, it’s splitting hairs, but at the WorldTour level, that’s all that matters.

With that, the all-new Bontrager XXX WaveCel Helmet comes into play. It looks sleek like a race helmet should, but also features aerodynamic elements to cheat the wind. Let’s be honest though. No good helmet on the market is “low profile” and that’s a good thing. You need that material to offer proper protection in a crash. And here, we have WaveCel material that lines the interior of the helmet.

Bontrager XXX WaveCel Helmet Review

Larger sunglasses do occasionally impact the underside of the helmet.

WaveCel is a newly-developed material that’s exclusive to Bontrager helmets. The intent of it is to crumple and glide in a crash. Not only does the material absorb impacts, but with a built-in breakpoint, it shears — thus saving your brain from taking the brunt of rapid deceleration. That abrupt brain jiggling is what causes brain injuries. Does WaveCel actually work? I haven’t tested it first-hand (thankfully), but you can learn more here.

Long, hot days with the Bontrager XXX WaveCel

Rolling in the heat with the Bontrager XXX WaveCel.

Slipping on the XXX WaveCel is immediately-comfortable. The shape and padding combines with the BOA Fit System to instantly cradle your head. Speaking of padding, the helmet includes a second insert with a No Sweat silicone bead. It looks great and I’m sure it works better than the regular one, but I couldn’t figure out how to get the fit system to detach from the inside of the helmet to swap it out. I tried pulling on it by hand and prying it until it started making me nervous — this is a $300 helmet after all and there’s no way I’m going to break it by trying to install another liner. I’ll post an update if I’m successful, but if it makes me nervous, y’all are going to be even more leery tugging away at a brand new lid.

Bontrager XXX WaveCel Helmet

Detaching the fit system is no easy task. I gave up for fear of breaking it.

With the regular liner, the brow pad does an acceptable job, but as you’d expect, sweat will drip down your glasses (just like every other helmet). The straps sit comfortably next-to-skin and the standard buckle is easily clipped and unclipped. Of course, there’s a yoke on each strap to adjust placement. As an added bonus, the straps are hard-attached to the helmet. This means that the straps won’t end up getting twisted or pulled askew.

Most modern helmets sit further down on your head for better coverage. The XXX WaveCel does just that. As a result, you do get better protection, but some sunglasses can become difficult to fit. I tried a variety of sunglasses and all fit without issues. The only minor issue I noticed was that larger lenses did rattle the underside of the helmet on rough terrain.  Your face shape and sunglass placement on your nose may impact that one way or another. My best suggestion is to bring your sunnies into the store when trying it on.

Bontrager XXX WaveCel Helmet Review

It’s easy to store sunglasses atop the XXX WaveCel.

Ventilation is an important factor with any helmet and the XXX WaveCel does an admirable job. It’s definitely not the most breathable (POC Ventral Air SPIN takes that cake), but it’s not an oven either. It’s also not the lightest helmet around. With large front vents, the back third of the helmet is optimized for aerodynamics with exit vents for cooling. Wind does channel through the helmet to encourage airflow throughout, but yeah, breathability isn’t the XXX’s strong suit.

There’s just no way around it, WaveCel doesn’t breathe as well as an open design. But, again, it’s definitely not a deal-breaker and in no way is it an oven on hot days. I kind of look at it as a benefit because it does well in lower temperatures as a result. For example, the start of SBT GRVL was cold — 46 degrees cold. There was a good hour of riding before the sun even came up in earnest and my bare noggin was grateful for a little extra warmth. I’ve since continued using it as the temperatures have fallen and I really appreciate the lack of direct wind on my head.

The Good

  • WaveCel offers excellent protection
  • Feels solid and instantly-comfortable
  • BOA Fit System is the the best on the market
  • Aerodynamics pays off on long rides
  • Easily stores glasses
  • Added warmth on cold days
  • Built-in sun protection
  • Straps are fixed to helmet so they don’t get skewed

The Bad

  • Breathability isn’t superb
  • Heavier than the competition
  • Can’t figure out how to detach the fit system to install the No Sweat liner
  • Expensive

The Bottom Line: Bontrager XXX WaveCel Helmet

When performance is the goal — above all else — the Bontrager XXX WaveCel helmet delivers. And, with WaveCel, you get top-shelf protection in all types of impacts. It looks great and is offered in several colors — including Trek Segafredo colors and decals (should you choose to install them). The aerodynamics are also on par with their excellent Ballista helmet, so this lid won’t hold you back.

Buy Now: Available from TrekBikes.com or Your Local Dealer

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason 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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