Helmets are one of the best ways to improve aerodynamics and increase speed. And, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, the aero shaping of helmets has become extreme at times. But, what if you could wrap all the aero goodness into a road-worthy helmet that won’t make you look like a pterodactyl? This year, the Trek Ballista MIPS Helmet was completely redesigned and has been worn during the biggest one-day races and grand tours alike. Oh, and it’s been ridden by me (a much less-accomplished cyclist) for fast-paced road and gravel adventures.
2023 Trek Ballista MIPS Helmet Features:
- Trek’s fastest, most aerodynamic road helmet
- Large ventilation ports to allow airflow
- Lightweight MIPS Air system helps reduce rotational forces
- The single-lace BOA® fit system for a 360° fit
- Rubberized sunglasses docking port
- Beveled front edge improves field of vision
- 1-year crash replacement and 30-day unconditional guarantee
- Weight: 270 grams (medium, actual)
- MSRP: $299.99
An approachable aero road helmet
In recent years, most road bike helmets have undergone wind tunnel testing for both aerodynamics and airflow. While it doesn’t look aero, the Giro Eclipse Spherical Helmet has been my clear choice for speed, aerodynamics, comfort and breathability. While the all-new Trek Ballista MIPS Helmet definitely looks more nerd-worthy than the Eclipse, as a function over form guy, I was game for a little pocket protector-type fun.
With the new design, Trek has delivered their most aerodynamic road helmet to date. Designed and engineered to the hilt, using all the latest technology, the all-new Ballista was derived from over 1000 variations and countless hours in the wind tunnel. There’s no ignoring the protruding rear end of the Ballista, but there’s some secret sauce with that fairing that you may overlook. After careful inspection, you’ll see a shallow trench that goes around the helmet from ear-to-ear just ahead of the rear fairing. This creates turbulence (borrowed from aerospace engineers) and allows the air to remain attached to the helmet longer — saving significant watts over the previous design. With that, the Ballista is still wrapped in an ultralight, protective and reasonably-breathable design.
Because of the huge air vents and lightweight design, the all-new Ballista can be worn on the longest rides and on the warmest days to eke out the most performance possible. I set out to determine just where I could push the limits of the Ballista and where I found something like the Trek Velocis MIPS Helmet to be preferable. Most of my tests have been on the fast and capable Fezzari Veyo SL, but I did some gravel on the Open WIDE as well.
In general, I’m a fan of anything that can help me save watts on the road. Concealed cables, tight-fitting clothing, aero bars and deeper-section wheels are all on the table. But, helmets are a sometimes-overlooked factor as well. But, it’s easy to see how a helmet can improve aerodynamics since it’s one of the leading surfaces on your body. However, as mentioned, many aero helmets look like a science project. In my opinion, the new Ballista does still look like a science project, but it’s normal enough that I can overlook the pocket protector vibe due to the benefits of the design (back to my function over form mantra).
Out on the road, the Trek Ballista MIPS is easy to love. With a single-cable BOA fit system, the pads and helmet design allow a glove-like fit. The minimalist retention system also doesn’t interfere with sunglasses and has a nifty trick up its sleeve — it folds down for travel. I loved that on the new Velocis MIPS and appreciate that it’s also on the Ballista so I can stash my helmet in the Thule RoundTrip Bike Duffel without worry.
Trek’s helmet designs tend to sit further down my head than other helmets for added coverage. While I can appreciate that, sometimes larger-shaped sunglasses can tap-tap-tap on the brow. I have found that to be the case here, but only with really large shapes like the Scicon Aeroscope or Vinco Sola Sunglasses that sit higher on my face. There is a slightly-beveled front edge for added forward vision, but not as aggressive as the new Velocis is.
Those huge air vents are strategically-placed for airflow and aerodynamics. While they are large, there’s no denying that they simply can’t provide the airflow of a lightweight climbing helmet (particularly at slower speeds). That was confirmed on a long ascent where I did start to feel a little cooked. Luckily, by the time the climb ended, and I headed downhill, the airflow returned and all was good in the world. It’s pretty obvious that you’ll trade aerodynamics for slow-speed airflow, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise. As an added bonus, the Ballista also provides more sun protection than an airy helmet. So, if you have a shaved head like me, that’s also a bonus feature.
While I didn’t intentionally (or unintentionally) test the MIPS Air system, the goodness of MIPS can be seen and felt. I have, in the past, crashed with MIPS helmets and have felt the impact, then instant slip of the liner — saving my brain from additional forces. While other helmet technologies exist that all aim for protection in all types of falls, I’m a MIPS believer. And, the whole package, with that lightweight MIPS Air is competitively-light and in line with many traditional helmets.
- A science experiment gone well
- Road-friendly design that yields aero benefits
- Cool technology under the hood
- Vents work well rolling and descending
- Very comfortable with a folding rear retention system for travel
- MIPS Air is light and still protective
- Disappears during use — you just don’t notice it
- Airflow is quiet at speed
- Can get warm on long climbs
- If you’re a form over function kind of person, you may look elsewhere
The Bottom Line: Trek Ballista MIPS Helmet
Aero nerds should double-click on the new 2023 Trek Ballista MIPS Helmet because it’s a winner. And, even traditional roadies should also think about going this route as well. If you compete, or train on long distances, the new Ballista will help you save watts and still look good doing it. In spite of all the shaping going on here, it’s also really lightweight and protective.
Buy Now: Visit TrekBikes.com