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100% Altis Gravel Helmet review

The coverage of a mountain bike helmet paired with a style that’s perfect for a gravel bike

100% Altis Gravel Helmet
(Image: © Josh Ross)

Our Verdict

The 100% Altis Gravel helmet is an inexpensive helmet that includes rotational impact technology and looks great. It’s exceptionally comfortable and because of a shared design with a mountain bike helmet, extended coverage makes it more appropriate for off-road riding

For

  • - Low price
  • - Comfortable pads
  • - Easy to adjust straps forward and backward
  • - Style fits off-road riding
  • - Lower in the back for better coverage
  • - Rotational Impact technology

Against

  • - No vertical adjustment of the rear cradle
  • - Likely not a great hot weather helmet

Despite being a real force in the overall cycling market, gravel equipment is far from established. Things like the best gravel shoes and the best clothing for gravel riding are still up for debate and iteration. When it was time to gather a collection of the best gravel bike helmets there was only one option in the group specifically marketed towards gravel riding and that was the 100% Altis Gravel.

There's certainly a debate to be had about whether or not you need a gravel-specific helmet, but it's out there, and we included it in our list because we thought it was a good option. Now we've had the opportunity to spend  time with it to give you all the details. If you are looking for a helmet for the gravel cycling you do, then keep reading to see what we think of the 100% Altis Gravel helmet.

100% Altis Gravel Helmet detail showing the front venting

The big forward-facing vents look impressive but are they enough? (Image credit: Josh Ross)

Design and aesthetics

For the Altis gravel helmet, the design is far more staid than anything you might find in the 100% brand's lineup of sunglasses or even the many full-face mountain bike helmet options. There are five colours available including black and grey that appear positively sombre, and there's even a beige option masquerading as tan. If you'd like to get a little wilder, the bright white with red details certainly stands out and there's a black camo that comes closest to what many would expect out of 100%. 

Of course, with a technical product like a helmet, aesthetics has to go hand in hand with the functional design. In this case, the Altis Gravel is an in-mould design. The colours available represent a very thin polycarbonate shell directly bonded to the EPS core (expanded polystyrene) responsible for doing the work of the helmet. Look into the array of 14 different vents and it's easy to see just how thin the exterior is, as the EPS sits on display. 

The Altis Gravel shares nearly the same design as the Altis mountain bike helmet. That means in the rear you've got extended coverage that comes down below the top of the ears and wraps around the back of the head. Keep moving down even further and you'll find the plastic rear cradle. It's adjustable for tightness but doesn't move up and down. 

The strap system uses a Y design. On each side, a length of strap travels around the ear and sits permanently attached at the front and rear. In the centre, a plastic guide in the shape of a Y anchors the under-chin strap. Moving the under-chin strap forwards and backwards means spending some time adjusting where the Y anchor sits on the strap that houses it. Connecting the two sides of the helmet is a buckle with a slight curve that 100% refers to as a Nexus push release snap-buckle. 

100% Altis Gravel Helmet Smartshock Rotational Protective System

Eleven of these rubberized points make up the Smartshock rotational impact system. (Image credit: Josh Ross)

Flip the helmet over and the inside reveals some of the best features of the Altis Gravel helmet. There's a three-piece padding system that's completely removable for washing and sits anchored to the helmet with hook and loop as well as the Smartshock system. Smartshock does a great job of making the pads easy to remove but it's also a lot more than that. 

Smartshock is the 100% take on a rotational impact system. You won't find any plastic shell system but something more akin to technologies that absorb earthquake energy in the base of a building: eleven rubberised points that stick out from their base that's bonded with the EPS. When connected to the padding only the very top is visible while the rest of the body sits partially protected by the foam and partially hidden by the padding. 

Each of these spots can move and compress in the event of an accident. The hard outer shell handles the bulk of the impact while the elastomers slow the head and allow it to move as it comes into contact with the EPS. It's a two-prong approach to energy dissipation and while it shares a goal with the more well-known MIPS the two technologies take a very different approach.

Performance

Helmets are clothing. They happen to be protective clothing but they have to feel good when worn and there is an aspect of style involved. Much of the time when it comes to something as technical and important as a helmet it's easy to get lost in the technical details. When you put the 100% Altis Gravel helmet on, all that melts away.

The story of the Altis Gravel helmet is how comfortable it is. Despite the extended coverage and reasonable price, it's not overly heavy. A size S/M weighs in at 326 grams while the POC Ventral Lite, which is specifically designed as a lightweight helmet, comes in at 245 grams for a size medium. A saving, no doubt, but with no rotational impact system in the POC, and a vast price difference, the two helmets are very close.

The comfort goes beyond the weight though. Part of that is the Smartshock elastomers allowing some movement and it's a bonus to not have to deal with any interior plastic shell. Those with longer hair will likely appreciate this feature more than others.

100% Altis Gravel Helmet detail showing the inside

The best feature of the 100% Altis Gravel helmet is how comfortable it is (Image credit: Josh Ross)

Out of the box, the straps did require some adjustment. The initial placement had the front of the helmet high on the forehead and it required bringing the under-chin strap forward. Making the change is an easy enough adjustment though and the final result keeps the straps against the skin. There's no bowing away from the head near the ears and under the chin is close but not uncomfortable. 

While testing this helmet the weather ranged from cold, windy, and overcast to cold, windy, and sunny and there was a fair bit of cold and rainy in the mix as well. With that in mind, I can only make some assumptions about how it will handle hot weather but I expect it won't be the best. Despite the large vents, my sense is that this is not the coolest of helmets on the market. Sometimes there can be surprises hidden within clever exhaust venting, however there's little evidence of that here. 

100% Altis Gravel Helmet detail of in-mould construction

The in-mould construction helps keep the helmet light. (Image credit: Josh Ross)

Verdict

With a product that really nails the value proposition it can be hard to have any negatives stick. The 100% Altis gravel is a little dubious as a gravel-specific helmet given that it's the same design as the mountain bike-specific Altis. That's not a strong negative though, since it means extended coverage and there is the very real difference of brim/peak vs not. The lack of it in this version does make the style work better on a gravel bike. 

For not a lot of money, you get a very comfortable helmet that's lightweight and looks good. The Smartshock rotational impact system is a comfortable design that won't interfere with long hair. The only solid complaints are a lack of vertical adjustment in the rear cradle and hot weather performance that's unlikely to be among the best.

Tech Specs: 100% Altis Gravel Helmet 

  • Price: £89.99 / $100 / AU$189.95 / €109
  • Colours: Tan, Camo, White, Black, Grey
  • Rotational Impact System: Yes
  • Weight: 345g size S/M
  • Sizes: XS/SM, SM/MD, LG/XL

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