Review: Bontrager's New Rally WaveCel Helmet

May 21, 2020
by Daniel Sapp  


Last year, Bontrager introduced its line of helmets with WaveCel technology, a collapsible cellular structure that lines the inside of the helmet and is designed to help absorb the energy created by angled impacts. Originally, the line consisted of four helmets with the Blaze MTB helmet going for $300 USD. Now, Bontrager have decided to roll out some additional options in their line that are more affordable.

Bontrager's new WaveCel-equipped Rally helmet sells for $149.99 USD, with features that include a BOA fit system, adjustable visor, washable pads, and a crash replacement guarantee giving riders a free replacement helmet if they crash in the first year of riding it. The helmet also comes with a 5-star rating from Virginia Tech's third-party testing, according to Bontrager.
Rally WaveCel Details:

• Construction: PC Shell, EPS foam/WaveCel system, removable/washable pads
• Adjustments: BOA system, adjustable visor, adjustable straps
• Comfort: 13 vents
• Sizes: Small (51-57cm) / Medium (54-60cm) / Large (58-63cm)
• Four colors
• Certifications: CPSC, CE, AS/NZS
• Weight: 397g
• MSRP: $149.99 USD
• Contact: trekbikes.com

WaveCel acts like a cardboard box, crumpling when faced with an impact and gliding to absorb the force.
The helmet's adjustable straps make it easy to dial in the fit, even when you're dealing with a COVID mullet.


Construction and Features

The Rally has a three-way adjustable visor, BOA fit system, extended coverage in the back of the head, and "LockDown" dividers on the straps allowing them to be adjusted for comfort. The pads on the inside are moisture-wicking and washable. Those are all fairly standard features - it's the WaveCel material that sets the helmet apart from others on the market.

How does the Rally's WaveCel technology work? Well, Trek/Bontrager claim WaveCel is much more effective than EPS foam at dealing with rotational impacts by using a collapsible cellular material that's designed to flex, crumple, and glide during an impact in order to absorb the force. It's It doesn't entirely replace the EPS foam in a helmet, but the amount of foam that's used is greatly reduced. The EPS acts as the helmet's exoskeleton, with the WaveCel material situated underneath. The structure of the material bears a resemblance to the inner profile of corrugated cardboard, which makes sense – it needs to be strong in one direction, but also able to deform during an impact.

The WaveCel material covers the front, top, and sides of the internal area of the helmet, while there is EPS foam on the rear of the helmet. Inside all of that is a BOA retention system that is adjustable vertically in addition to the standard cinching and finally the removable and washable pads.

Photo: Michael McQueen


Ride Impressions

Out of the box, the Rally WaveCel looks stylish and very much like a trail-oriented helmet. I typically wear size medium helmets, and this one is no exception, but I found that the BOA system rode a little far down on my ears, which caused some discomfort, even after I'd moved it into the highest position.

The helmet provides ample coverage on the back of the head, and the pads on the inside of the helmet are very comfortable. The straps were quick and easy to adjust for my liking and the helmet stayed where it should be. Visor adjustment is easy, and I found running the visor in the middle position was preferred nearly all of the time.

Even with more low profile pairs of shades, I found the fit with sunglasses to be a little crowded and not completely ideal. This is something that will vary between users, however there is less tolerance in that department than other helmets, notably Specialized's Ambush. There is also not a location to stow shades on the helmet for when you decide you don't need them. That's not a deal-breaker, but for anyone who consistently wears those helmets for your eyes, it's something to consider. Fortunately, Bontrager does have a 30-day guarantee that if the helmet doesn't fit correctly, you can return it.

I've worn the helmet on a number of rides now and airflow is surprisingly good. The helmet does a good job of ventilating in warmer temperatures when moving, but at slower speeds it can get a touch warm. An added bonus of the helmet's WaveCel design in my eyes is that it does a terrific job of keeping bees and other flying nuisances out - especially handy in certain locales.

The helmet stays in place well, but the fit with sunglasses could be better. Photo: Michael McQueen
599812 599813 599814
The BOA system offers a range of adjustments and can be moved up and down to accommodate various head shapes.



Pros

+ Excellent style and features
+ 5-star safety rating from Virginia Tech
+ 1-year warranty
Cons

- Fit can be finicky for some riders
- Not a ton of room for sunglasses, and no spot to stash them when they're not in use





Pinkbike’s Take:

bigquotesThe Rally WaveCel helmet brings the performance of Bontrager's $300 Blaze down to a more affordable price point. The styling, retention system, and safety features score big at this price, but there were a few areas where the fit didn't quite vibe with the shape of my head. Trek's one-year crash replacement warranty is a great addition and something that frequent riders shouldn't discount. As always, with helmets, it's best to try before you buy in order to see if the fit will work for you.Daniel Sapp



61 Comments

  • 13 0
 Another note, unless I’m missing it but the rally mips is the helmet with 5 stars, I don’t see the wavecel version on Virginia tech’s helmet ratings yet. The rally mips has a better rating than the blaze wavecel so I don’t think it’s fair to say the rating will be the same for the rally mips and wavecel. Unless you have some inside scoop.
  • 4 0
 Yeah, it doesn't seem to be up on Virgina Tech's rankings. The marketing text for the helmet on the product page is very generic, it says: "This unbiased assessment proved Bontrager's WaveCel helmets to be among the highest level of protection available to cyclists with a 5-STAR rating." ... so maybe they're just assuming it's applicable to all WaveCel at this point...which seems dodgy.
  • 6 1
 According to Bontrager/Trek, the Rally along with all of their adult WaveCel helmets received the 5-star rating.
  • 3 0
 @danielsapp: This is true. I believe WaveCel protects better from crazy impacts that could happen in the real world. I have a Specter WaveCel and love the fit, I will be getting the Rally WaveCel as soon as my Mips Rally is done... Also I have used the 1 year crash replacement twice, one at 12 months! So sweet to get a free Replacement!
  • 1 1
 @MrDiamondDave: Welcome to the crash replacement party. Kali have been doing this for a few years now.
  • 1 0
 @minesatusker: i just cant justify their look tho....
  • 2 0
 I have the rally mips and it's awesome, big selling point was the magnetic light/GoPro mount, fits great and the passing is surprisingly absorbant
  • 6 1
 I am follicly-challenged and shave my head. These helmets scare the crap out of me. I cringe at the thought of this thing scalping me in a crash like a cheese grater. I've tried wave cell helmets on and can absolutely feel the edges of the plastic on my scalp when i press on the helmet. So, not for baldies. Also, the last Rally was too deep and the back was too low causing the front of the helmet to push down over my eyebrows when in the attack position with my head up looking down the trail. Helmet fit and preference is so highly personal...
  • 8 0
 Smooth top with shaved sides here and I've got no problems to report after both of my crashes while wearing a Wave Cell helmet.
  • 10 0
 Gotta lube up that scalp beforehand lol. Little Slick Honey up there and you’ve got SUPER Wave Cel
  • 1 0
 @coregrind: That's good to hear! I still find that bontrager helmets don't fit me at all.
  • 3 0
 @NotSorry: Fit is critical and there's certainly not any single helmet out there that is perfect for all. I just didn't want our bald brothers to feel the Wave Cell was an absolute NO for them based on the technology alone. Stay sexy.
  • 5 0
 The first Rally I had fitted really well, but I had the same problem of the helmet tipping forward with the mips version.
  • 3 0
 +1 on the Rally tipping forward (and I had the adjustment at the back bottomed-out), It was also the sweatiest helmet by far. But, it saved my skull big time in the biggest cartwheel-to-headplant I've ever had. And they replaced it for free because it was within the period.
  • 4 1
 Couldn't see that this helmet has it or not... but why don't all new helmets come with fidlock straps?

It's much easier to use, especially with gloves on (have it on my snowboarding lid). Would love fidlock on my full-face as i only tend to use that at the bike park so i'm constantly taking it on and off when getting in an out of the uplift van. The normal strap is too fiddly with gloves on and you also risk the much-feared throat-skin-pinched-in-the-buckle injury.
  • 2 0
 The Blaze has the Fidlock buckle...at twice the price. I really wish the Rally Wave Cell was available at the time I bought my Blaze as I would easily give up some features for the lower price. Anyway, I've knocked my head twice since purchasing a couple of the Blaze and each time Bontrager replaced them free of charge under their crash replacement guarantee. Good stuff.
  • 7 2
 Fidlock buckles use a magnet. if the magnet gets magnetic soil attracted to it i have found it will not latch properly, which is annoying and a serious safety hazard. It's happened many times in the first few weeks. Considering that many of us mountain bike in the dirt it seems like an obvious weak point. I have been undoing standard buckles for decades using one hand gloves with gloves with no problem.

It seems like Fidlock is solving a problem which doesnt exist while creating another problem at increased cost. So where is the benefit?
  • 4 1
 @getsomesy: The Fidlock on my Blaze constantly has crap stuck to it and I can never get it all off. Makes it clasp like crap. Just give me a regular buckle.
  • 6 4
 @getsomesy: maybe if you spent more time riding your bike and less time rolling around in magnetic soil the Fidlock would work better?

My Fidlock's been working perfectly for over a year.
  • 3 0
 I'm glad serious helmets come with D-link buckles. Really not into the idea of a moulded plastic clasp keeping the lid on ya head under crash scenarios, better to let the nylon (or whatever they are) straps take the load.
  • 2 0
 @excavator666: or i could just get a helmet with a décent clasp. I usually set helmet upside down so i dont get cheek pads dirty. But unlike SOME ppl i build trail so getting dirty is manditory!
  • 1 0
 @getsomesy: Hope you don't think you're referring to me there, beause i've built more trail than you've ridden mate.
  • 2 0
 I've got the Rally without the WaveCel and it's pretty good. BOA can be cinched super tight and it's not uncomfortable. The magnetic go pro mount was a selling feature for mounting lights for winter/night rides. I sweat a lot though and noticed this thing tends to let the sweat drip down my face more than the FOX helmet I was wearing before this one.
  • 1 0
 Wore the Blaze all last summer, and it was a warm helmet, and also kind of heavy. I could completely feel the difference between it and the Smith Session. I now have the O.G. Bontrager Rally, and it's as comfortable as the Blaze but without the weight and so much cooler. I would give this Rally Wavecel a pass unless you have trouble keeping your head warm.
  • 1 0
 Helmet fit is a funny thing, I tried a Blaze when they came out and it is the best fitting helmet I have ever had. I figure that is as much the luck of the skull draw as much as anything, but I ended up keeping what seems like a nice but rather bland and overpriced helmet just because I couldn't give up the fit. The Fidlock, integrated snap in cam/light mount, and second pad with a sweat strip are nice features but I would say no way worth the extra $150 over this helmet, except that damn sweat strip works really well too. It allows me to ride without a Halo band, which I didn't think was possible. So ultimately it's both overpriced and actually worth the money for how well it works for me, and I'm still surprised I even tried it at that price. Which only happened because I was curious about the Wavecell. Well played Bontrager, I guess.
  • 5 2
 No one needs to wear a helmet, just cover your head in butter and boom - instant MIPS style rotational slip layer
  • 1 1
 I was lucky enough to get one of these helmets at Summer Gravity Camp in Whistler last July. Been using it nearly a year now and super comfortable to wear. The magnetic buckle is genius and I wish my full face had one. super easy to lock/unlock with one hand and even had some minor crashes and no issues. stays put!
  • 21 23
 I am astounded at how many helmet manufacturers neglect the basic requirement of making a helmet that lets you store your glasses on top. All you need to do is lay the vents out properly. If I can't put my glasses on top, I won't buy it. Like, do testers actually do long-ish rides with these things on?

Priorities, in order of importance:
1) Safety (which as far as I'm concerned, if it's on the market and from a reputable manufacturer, it's safe enough)
2) Comfort
3 and 4, tied) A place to put my glasses, and SWEAT MANAGEMENT
5) "Safety" features that seem like marketing gimmicks like wavecel
  • 60 5
 Under what circumstances do you store your sunglasses on the helmet? I’ve always put my sunglasses on my face at the beginning of the ride and taken them off at the end of the ride. Just curious.
  • 22 0
 @EmDeeCross: Where I ride it gets warm, and having sunglasses on for climbs means sweat dripping onto them, and then blurry downhills (or downhills without glasses on). They need to be taken off for climbs most days, and a sweaty pocket is no place for glasses.
  • 5 0
 @rickybobby18: @EmDeeCross: Yeah, I agree! Also when your ride takes you a little past sunset and you need to pull the glasses off to see. Helpful to have a secure place to store them.
  • 12 12
 You are the first person I’ve ever heard complain about this.
  • 7 1
 @nickfranko: really? You don't sweat going uphill? If you do, it never drips onto your glasses?
  • 8 7
 See: Pockets
  • 2 0
 I bought the Bontrager non wavecell Rally Helmet last year because of it's excellent crash rating and will concur the lack of a place to put my glasses is very annoying. It's sweat management is also poor. Sweat drips down my face (not even to my glasses) instead of off the helmet to the ground or off the helmet to my glasses. Either are preferable to down my forehead to my nose and my mouth.
One nifty feature the non-wavecell Rally has but is not mentioned in any of the literature is the magnetically attached go-pro mount. It's a great feature allowing quick-release of my light and not wearing a helmet with a strapped on light attachment through the vents. Unfortunately, its location is a little far forward on the helmet which throws the balance off. It would be better if the mount was located more to the rear.
I wonder if this helmet has the same magnetic attachment?
I wonder if this wavecell design can take a strapped on light mount?
  • 1 1
 ok on sweat management, but if the sweat management is pretty good then that should resolve the glasses issue? Ya I sweat going uphill and I've never really wanted to put my glasses on top of my helmet.

Where I am, dust gets to be an issue and I pretty much never take off glasses. I'd be more impressed if it had rubber on the back to help with goggle retention. I'd like to know what "safety" features don't seem like a marketing gimmick (#5). I REALLY don't want concussions- and technologies like this and mips and spin all seem like a step in the right direction. I guess you can argue about which one is the most effective, but I wouldn't buy a helmet now without some anti-shearing/concussion protection technology. If you can spend thousands on a bike, you can pop for a good helmet.
  • 1 0
 It's pretty easy to accommodate; I just had to get a little creative with stowing my traditional eyewear using the visor. And I've had zero issues with goggles since the visor rotates up enough to prop them just below it and off your face so they don't get steamy.
  • 4 1
 @rickybobby18: I know amazing athletes who don't sweat. They can go on 3hr rides in the middle of the day on a single water bottle. Whereas I have to fill my belly with water beforehand, bring 3 bottles with me, and I still pee yellow when I get home for the same ride. 80% of that water comes out my head.
  • 5 0
 I agree mostly, I do not need to worry about sweat management with my glasses. My balls, however, that's another story. I wish I could stash them somewhere else for for climbing, coz, boy do they get sweaty. And, I need them functioning at full capacity for the downhill.....can't have them blurry
  • 2 0
 @enis: Electrical tape to the downtube?
  • 2 0
 @laksboy: some sodium to the body dude.
  • 1 1
 @rickybobby18: Sweat plenty going uphill. I wear Julbo Aerospeed glasses with reactive lenses. they sit so that water rarely gets on them and if it does, it just rolls right off. No fogging, no water marks. They have adaptive lenses, so no matter what light condition they are perfect. I even wear them for night rides. I don't ever take off my glasses on a ride.
  • 1 0
 @rickybobby18: The current bell helmets brow pads do a great job of wicking the sweat away from the glasses, sometimes still get a drop, but waaay better than the strategically dropped sweat bombs from my older helmets.
  • 1 1
 @EmDeeCross: yeah I’ve always found my sunglasses don’t work when they’re not on my face
  • 4 0
 @grntnckl: who the f*ck puts sunglasses in your pockets? Savage af.
  • 1 1
 I leave my sunglasses on the entire time. Usually on the climbs I can manage to tilt my head so the sweat drips to the side or something. It's actually on the downhills where it typically pours onto my glasses and I have a hard time tilting my head or whatever to avoid it falling onto my lenses.
  • 2 0
 @laksboy: Yeah that magnetic thing is great, wish more people knew about it
  • 1 1
 I just don't think it's a feature mountain bikers are looking for. These same companies make that a consideration on their road helmets but none seem to bother with it for mountain helmets; they're not ignorant to the concept of making it available, they just don't seem to think it's a feature worth selling.
  • 1 0
 @HopeFbn: I'm a big fan of the 2x and 3x salt shotblocks... Are you saying that if I eat even more salt, I'll sweat less and need less water intake??? You have any citations for that? Because I've never heard that but it sure would be awesome.
  • 1 0
 @laksboy: that's literally why salt tablets exist... salt supplementation improves electrolyte concentrations and reduces water loss. You don't want to reduce your water intake but they help maximize effective hydration while maintaining proper hydration intake.
  • 3 0
 Agreed. I sweat like Hunter Thompson and it’s a problem. I‘ve tried Those Halo headbands and that just delays dripping onto my face eyes and glasses a bit. Tried helmets with rubbery forehead pads and it’s the same. Sweat buster works the best but doesn’t always fit on some helmets. Putting glasses in a pocket is a guarantee that they will be fogged and smeared when I need them to descend. Cool and damp and I fog no fog glasses like Ryders. Some helmets allow stowage through the visor vents. Like my Leatt helmets. Or Fox drop frame.
  • 1 0
 @badbadleroybrown: great Croce name. I just did some googling. Salt tablets are great for keeping electrolytes in balance and cramps at bay during endurance events. I've used them, they definitely help on long hot days, but they won't make me sweat any less. That's an engine heat rejection issue and mine just runs hot. I can't sleep until my room is 65° or less with a fan blowing on me. My poor wife. I've got the AC on and she's got the seat warmer on....
  • 2 0
 @laksboy: Have you tried potassium then? or any other mineral by that means?.
I am a super sweaty dude too, also carry loads of water when going out, but it reduced significantly when I started to watch my mineral intake.
  • 2 0
 @HopeFbn: I actually take Potassium Citrate supplements by prescription to control kidney stones. Seems to work for that. It’s the citrate that’s does it. But I am checked for potassium levels in my blood as too much stresses your heart I’m told. In fact I take half as much as I used to because my potassium was too high. I still sweat huge.
  • 1 0
 @Someoldfart: Hmmm, as it comes out, any diet/supplement consumption is relevant just personally. what I mean by that is what helps me prob do not help you. Interesting to know about those potassium citrate supplements.
well some fidlocks might do the work Smile . BTW the TLD A2 sweat liner is good, I have tried it several times and it does channel the sweat, not just accumulate, you might want to give them a look.
  • 1 0
 I really really like the normal Rally mips. The subtle camo is pretty sweet however.
  • 2 0
 Pretty sure that's rain... if you're referring to the headline photo
  • 1 0
 @haroprease: Under closer inspection yes it definitely is rain on the visor. But on the helmet too? I am mildly special so i could special...
  • 1 0
 I had good luck with the crash replacement program! Awesome
  • 1 1
 Who buys Bontrager besides diehard trekies? Mostly old old trekies.
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