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The Leopard Trek team's new Bontrager Oracle helmets aren't set for public release until later this summer but we've already managed to rack up a couple hundred kilometers on an early production sample during the team training camp in Palma de Mallorca. While the weight sits at the heavier end of the spectrum, Bontrager has gotten the rest pretty much spot-on with excellent ventilation, a tidy profile and keen aesthetics, excellent overall comfort, and a new retention system that's easy to adjust and virtually invisible on your head – all at a retail cost less than US$200.
Bontrager's press materials about the Oracle make a big deal about the computational fluid dynamics work put into the shape, in particular how it led to the inclusion of a big, central vent. Regardless of how it came about, it works, and very well at that. When combined with the 26 other vents, the internal channeling, and the big rear exhaust ports, you can genuinely feel cooling air rushing in and across your head for very effective temperature control. We even almost reached for a hat when it was still a relatively warm 10°C (50°F) at the start of one of our test rides.
Add to that an impressively comfortable ovoid fit thanks to a generous allotment of antimicrobial padding, slightly thinner straps, a well-shaped interior head form, and Bontrager's new Headmaster retention system. The spindly setup is very flexible, height-adjustable in three positions, and effectively wraps 360 degrees around so there are no pressure points on your skull. The big dial on the back is also easy to operate one-handed and simple cam-lock sliders on the nylon straps make for quick tweaks there as well.
Even the styling is well suited to the helmet's premium target market with a complex exterior shape, a partially visible real carbon and glass fiber internal reinforcement skeleton, and a notably low-profile shape that won't turn your head into a mushroom. And if the Leopard Trek team colors don't suit you, Bontrager will ultimately offer the Oracle in up to four other color schemes, too (final production colors are still being determined at this time).
We've just a handful of little complaints: Bontrager has left the straps unusually long and we would prefer a stronger detent in the adjustment dial along with a grippier ring for easier twisting. However, the former is easily remedied with a pair of scissors and a lighter – plus Bontrager soft goods manager Tom Kuefler says the straps may be shortened for production anyway – and the latter is more a matter of personal preference since the Headmaster is perfectly functional as is.
Regardless, the Oracle is still relatively weighty at 318g for our medium tester – about 100g heavier than lightweight challengers from Specialized, Limar and Giro but on par with other high-end competitors like the Bell Volt and even Giro's own Ionos. Pricing is justifiably on par with much of high-end market at US$199.99, too.
Given all the factors at play here we'd consider it to be not only an impressive first high-end debut but also a legitimate player in a crowded market that's well worth considering.
Weight: 318g (medium)
Available sizes: S, M (tested), L
Available colors: Leopard Trek team, black/silver, white/red, black/blue, white/silver
Pros: Excellent airflow, notably low profile shape, comfortable retention system, good styling, reasonable cost
Cons: Straps are very long, retention system ratchet detents are too light, relatively heavy
Cyclingnews verdict: 4 stars
More information: http://www.bontrager.com
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