Kask Protone, marginal gains.

Kask’s march towards Assos like levels of naming conventions gathers pace. Off the back of the Vertigo and drinks based Mojito comes the Protone. If that doesn’t float your boat then how about a Rex for MTB’ing? Or a Bambino Pro for TT’s? At least their budget helmet, the Rapido, implies something to do with the sport.

And what does Protone even mean? I assume it’s short for something. Prototype One perhaps? That would be preferable I guess to Pro Tone. I mean, what tone does one want from its professionals? The stuff that Wiggins comes out with? Or the sensibly researched and cogently argued espousals of Chris Boardman. I know what I prefer.

But there we are, Protone. I guess it’s no worse than Synthe, Aeon, or Whisper. The Protone is, of course, awesome because it is worn by Team Sky. And it’s because of that association that we must assume that it conforms to (Sir) Brailsford’s marginal gain system and offer some modicum of performance that is at least equal to the best that there is and, hopefully, just that little more. That’s the theory, but what does it offer in practice?

Once more I am not going to deal with what level of protection this will give you in a crash. Read my piece on helmets if that’s interesting to you. But it’s certified anyway to EN1078 and will absolutely definitely survive a flat anvil being dropped on it from a specified height. Wile Coyote would be well advised to get one, that said En1078 appears on the helmet I bought for my son in Lidl last week.

Anyway, the Protone replaces the Vertigo as the “top level” helmet that Kask offers, sort of. It’s not really that simple because, of course, the Protone is an aero helmet. The Vertigo is not. So there’s an overlap there. Do you go normal or go aero? Aero things are very much in vogue and should be able of offer those marginal gains where it counts which must surely mean going faster, or at the most basic, letting you go as fast with less energy.

I had a look at Kask’s website to see how many watts saved wearing a Protone equated to. It’s not there. I had a google and couldn’t find it. Indeed, the Protone isn’t actually the most aero of Kask’s range at all. Above it sits the Infinity. That’s a “Protone Plus” with even less venting. Both are incredibly aerodynamic. I’m not clear whether one is even more incredibly aerodynamic than the other. But, there we are. My experience is that the Protone is probably more aero than the Vertigo and I’ll tell you why later.

Design wise it’s helmet business as usual. Styrofoam and plastic. I’m probably not supposed to call it that and there are different types of foam in use in the industry. But, it’s a traditional foam helmet with none of this new fangled MIPS business going on (to be fair MIPS is more about the lining). The plastic outer is once piece, layered onto the inner and bonded. The (green in this case) plastic inserts provide structure and, of course, aeroness. My spell checker doesn’t like that by the way. It’s a smart helmet actually which is probably much that most people are interested in. Clearly mine matches my bike which, if not one of the rules, certainly should be. It’s far less bulbous than the Vertigo which itself was one of the less bulbous offerings. You can’t be called mushroom head in a Protone. There are less vents at the front than you might usually find (arguably there aer only 7/8) but they are all pretty massive. I’d say there’s as much air getting in as there was on the more multi vented Vertigo.

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From the side you can see where the differences start. Where you’d expect many vents to occupy the rear section they start to disappear. At the rear it becomes much more enclosed than your normal helmet.

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And, finally, at the rear, you get the full on aero effect. There are a mere 6 vents facing backwards. So, that total isn’t great, 8 vents in and 6 vents out. The Vertigo claimed 24 air intakes. That’s a fallacy, clearly some of them are exhaust ports as it were.

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As discussed above the frontal vent area is, in my view, greater and more welcoming to the air than the Vertigo. That goes some way to offset the fact that this helmet is likely to be that little bit warmer than a traditionally vented helmet. That central vent is particularly airy and allows for a large volume of air to enter. Kask then did some computer modelling to ensure that it was all chucked quietly and tidily out of the back again.

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Quality is good, we’ve come to expect that from Kask. But, and this is perhaps the most important point to consider, it’s the detailing in terms of fit that Kask tend to get right. Let’s have a look inside. Gone is the more fixed up and down system from the Vertigo. It’s replaced with an adjustable “octo fit” cradle.

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Those grey sections slide in and out to get a perfect fit. In practice, for my head, I’ve left them at their outer limit. That black ratchet strap at the back allows the entire cradle to move up and down depending on how you want it to fit and, as usual with Kask, it just works. But it’s not without it’s flaws. The back of your head/neck is not a static structure. So, if you move from a typically Froome like “staring at your stem” position into a “looking at the road like you should be” position then the cradle moves a bit. That’s fine, and it should work with your biomechanics. But in the Vertigo the outside hinge was silent. In the Protone the inner ratchet strap is audible so you know that it’s moving. It’s fine and it works but I’m not actually convinced that the system is an improvement. It is comfortable though and seems less overly engineered than the system on the Vertigo. You might say it’s a little fragile looking. I doubt there would be any issues with its longevity.

The inner padding is an improvement on the Vertigo. It’s a patterned texture and seems a little better in terms of outright comfort.

Round the back and we have the fastening system that Kask have got so right on their previous models, the dial adjuster. This is a better implementation than the Vertigo as it’s, for want of a better explanation, integrated. The old dial at the back of the Vertigo was made up of a number of different parts and it was quite easy to knock the dial off. No issues here and operating it with gloves is a cinch. The octo fit cradle makes it very easy to get the fit that you want. In terms of the helmet fit overall then, of course, much depends on your head. Are you a Giro head? Are you a Kask head? We are all different. I find it fine from side to side and almost perfect from back to front. I have a slightly oddly shaped head just in the middle of the forehead so getting a helmet to sit well there, for me, isn’t always easy. The Kask is 99% of the way there in this regard.

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And, of course, around the chin, that lovely Italian “eco” leather strap. It remains by far the most comfortable strap that I’ve had on any helmet. It terminates half way up and then becomes a fabric section round the ears. That’s pretty lightweight and very comfortable as well.

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So, what’s it like? Well, it’s not perfect. That audible ratchet movement is irritating and I don’t think it’s improved in any meaningful way on the comfort of the Vertigo (which is already very good). It weighs 260g which is still very heavy for a helmet let alone a Pro one. And it’s impossible for me to test its aeroness.

Mostly. Because, and I said I’d return to this point, it’s a much quieter helmet than others that I’ve worn and that includes the Vertigo. There’s less sensation of air rush, it’s easier to hear other things going on around you, your headspace feels less convoluted. Is that the aeroness working? Possibly. Perhaps that’s the indication of it, or maybe it’s a side effect of it, but that’s a big plus over other helmets for me. It’s just so damned quiet. That has to be a major attraction. You can often come back from a ride with your head buzzing because of the air rushing round it constantly.

Is it too warm? It’s not been all that easy to test given that it’s still spring. I’ve put some harder efforts in and it’s fair to say that the inner sponge was soaked. But no more than the Vertigo has been. I did some unexpected hill reps yesterday in calm and mild conditions and there was no issue. Over the 27 miles of Battle on the Beach it was perfect. It’s also good in the rain, of which there has been a lot. The back of the helmet is just that little more protected so there’s less rain pouring through at any given point. We’re talking margins here, but marginal gains in the rain is still a gain right?

Where the Protone works better for me was with how it integrated with my sunglasses. On the Vertigo getting the Oakley Radarlock to sit well was a bit of a chore. That was improved a little with the Jawbreakers. But the Protone and Jawbreaker combo (also black and green natch) is nigh on perfect. It’s an important issue you see.

It comes in 12 colours so matching it to your bike, kit or whatever else you fancy should be fairly easy. It’s not cheap but if you shop around a bit you should be able to source it for the discount price of any of the high end helmets. I certainly cannot attest to phenomenal airflow or massive speed increases. In terms of comfort, quietness and looks I think it offers marginal gains. Dave would be happy, so I’m happy.

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