Unless you’ve been living in a cave the past couple weeks, you know the 2012 London Olympics are in full swing, and personally, I can’t get enough of them. I don’t care what the event is, I’ll watch pretty much any event in the Olympics, simply because I love watching people compete against one another.
What amazes me most about the Olympics is how minute the difference is that separates the winners. It’s not uncommon for victory to come down to a few hundredths of a second in many of the events. When you compete, speed matters, down to the most minute amount.
And while I’m not an Olympian, I do compete in a variety of a cycling races on an amateur level, with my favorites being road cycling and triathlons. As such, I’m always looking for ways to better my time, and one of the latest ways I’ve found to do so is with some new gear from one of my favorite cycling gear makers: Louis Garneau.
I recently picked up their VORTTICE aero helmet, Carbon Pro Team shoes and Quartz helmet, and all have surpassed my expectations in terms of both their comfort and performance. Here’s a look at all three, and why if you’re in the market to shave some time off your rides, how each will help you do so.
Louis Garneau VORTTICE Aero Helmet ($250)
Let’s face it: for novice riders, an aero helmet isn’t an everyday purchase. They note a distinctly alien-like in appearance, they weigh more than traditional helmets, and unless you’re in aero position, it’s unlikely you’ll see any benefit from one.
But once you make the switch to a tri-bike, an aero helmet needs to be at the top of your must buy list. Tri-bikes are built to be as aerodynamically efficient as possible, and aero helmets are built to maximize your aerodynamic efficiency when you’re in a tucked position. They’re simply made for each other.
I’ve tried a few aero helmets prior to Garneau’s VORTTICE, and for me, they suffered from a couple major flaws: they were uncomfortable, and they were relatively strict in terms of the position you had to be in to gain the maximum aerodynamic advantage. For me, the Louis Garneau VORTTICE solves both of these key flaws.
First of all, lets talk comfort. At the front of the VORTTICE you’ll note a singular opening strategically placed at the point of the helmet receiving the highest amount of pressure during your ride. While some helmets attempt to deflect this air around the helmet, Louis Garneau decided to vent it through the helmet. Air enters the VORTTICE through the vent, is then diverted through channels inside, and it exits out the rear. Not only does it minimize air resistance in the front of the helmet, it also produces exceptional ventilation while riding – eliminating the overheating issues I’ve experienced with other aero helmets. I’ve ridden with the VORTTICE on 100 degree days, and it’s handled the heat beautifully.
Another thing I love about the VORTTICE is its fit. When you’re in the Tour de France, you get an aero helmet fit specifically to you. Normal cyclists don’t get that luxury, so finding an aero helmet with the perfect fit is far more challenging. With the VORTTICE, you can get an exceptional fit across a variety of head shapes and sizes, thanks to Louis Garneau’s Spiderlock SL system. A series of webbing gives you a comfortable, secure fit that’s easily adjustable, and because the Spiderlock does such a great job keeping the helmet in place, it allowed Garneau to keep the ear sections a little wider. For me, that was a major plus of the VORTTICE, as almost all of the other helmets I used were too snug around my ears.
The second key element to the Louis Garneau VORTTICE is its aerodynamic efficiency (or more specifically, it’s broad range of aerodynamic efficiency). Typical aero helmets are optimized for aerodynamic efficiency in ideal conditions, meaning when the wind is coming at you and you’re in a perfect aero tuck. That’s why most aero helmets note a full teardrop shape that extends all the way to your back.
The VORTTICE, on the other hand, sports a tear drop shape that’s cut off in the back, which serves two key purposes: it reduces drag when you’re in a crosswind, and it reduces drag when you’re in a tuck and you put your head down (both of which, if you haven’t already guessed, are quite common). Because surface area is reduced, wind resistance is reduced, thus making you faster.
When you’re in ideal conditions and a picture perfect tuck, the VORTTICE is equally as exceptional. Up front, graduated dimples reminiscent of a golf ball help keep air flow close to the helmet. This air is then diverted to a series of channels in the middle of the helmet, which create a vortex like effect as they divert air back. Providing additional efficiency, an integrated (and removable) lens is included, which extends down to cover roughly half your face.
While I haven’t taken it in a wind tunnel, I will say the VORTTICE feels incredibly fast. For me, the biggest areas I notice a benefit in is either in crosswinds or when my head’s down, but these are both common enough that the VORTTICE has become my go-to aero helmet. Add in the extra comfort and beautiful fit, and Garneau’s VORTTICE is the perfect compliment to my triathlon/time trial arsenal.
Here’s more details of the VORTTICE aero helmet as noted directly from Louis Ganeau:
- Weight: 15.9 oz/450 g
- Certifications: CPSC-ASTM-CE-AS 2063
- Vents: 2
- In-Mold Construction: Industrial process binding the front liner and outer shell for increased durability.
- Spiderlock SL: Lighweight rack-and-pinion system, micro-adjustable using only one hand, offering extreme comfort and stability.
- Steplock Divider: Cam locking device to quickly adjust strap position.
- Sealed Pro Ice Padding: Washable sealed adjustment padding for enhanced durability. Provides cool effect when wet. Ergonomic design for optimum comfort.
- Vorttice Lens Included: Designed to minimize fogging. It features UV 400 resistance.
You can learn more about the Louis Garneau VORTTICE helmet at the official Louis Garneau website.
Louis Garneau Carbon Pro Team Shoes ($330)
I’m a huge fan of Louis Garneau’s cycling shoes, so when I saw they came out with new Carbon Pro Team Shoes, I had to have them. I’m sort of like a girl in that respect – when I see a cool new technology packed pair of cycling shoes, I have to have them. And Garneau’s latest offering hasn’t disappointed.
Most importantly, there’s the incredible outsole. The Carbon Pro Teams are built on Garneau’s Carbon X-Lite outsole, their stiffest, lightest outsole to date. Not only is it super light, it’s super thin, meaning your foot is closer to the pedal for maximum power. Mated to the outsole, the Pro Teams feature insoles utilizing Ice-Fil moisture technology. The fibers in the insole work by converting your foot’s perspiration into a refrigerant, thus keeping your feet cooler and dryer as you ride. Of course, you can alway swap the Ice-Fil insole for a traditional cold weather insole as well.
Fit wise, the Carbon Pro Team shoe utilizes what’s called HRS-300 technology in the heel area. Getting geeky for a second, it’s an internal polymer system that secures the foot in place, optimizes fit, and reduces loss of power through slippage. In the real world, it means your foots stays glued in place – no slippage, which equals no power loss.
Up front, two velcro straps and one ratchet strap offer a secure fit, and they do so without placing strain on your foot’s pressure points. These straps (in tandem with the HRS-300 technology) make Louis Garneau’s Carbon Pro Team shoes, the stiffest, most secure and most comfortable cycling shoes I’ve worn, bar none.
Here’s more details of the Louis Garneau Carbon Pro Team shoes:
- ELITE FIT
- Carbon HM X-Lite outsole
- New HRS-300 system featuring built-in rigid nylon with a 0.6-mm membrane
- PU Lycra inside heel cup
- Breathable Dry-type microfiber and nylon cycling mesh upper
- Fully adjustable micro-rachet
- Ice Fil Ergo Air Cool Stuff blue double density EVA and Hot Stuff red insoles
- Visual display of cleat position compatible with DURA-ACE, TIME, LOOK and SPEED PLAY cleats with shims (F-4, R-4)
- Shoe bag included
- Offset straps
- Ergo Air insole interchangeable
- Approximate weight (size 41/1 shoe): 258 g/9.20 oz
To learn more about the Louis Garneau Carbon Pro Team cycling shoe, head over to the official Louis Garneau website.
Louis Garneau Quartz Helmet
For traditional road racing or just everyday rides, my go-to helmet is the Louis Garneau Quartz Helmet. To be honest, I even use it when I’m mountain biking. It’s simply the most comfortable, coolest helmet I’ve had the pleasure of wearing.
So how did Louis Garneau make the Quartz so comfortable? By adding huge ventilation channels (with 33 a total of 33 vents) to provide ultimate cooling and weight reduction. Of course, too many vents typically means reduced rigidity; however, thanks to Garneau’s monocoque structural base (MSB) technology, this isn’t the case with the Quartz helmet. The base of the helmet is reinforced around the perimeter for superb protection, while additional composite reinforcements help spread the shock of impacts while still noting an exceptionally light weight.
Providing a superb fit, the Quartz helmet utilizes Garneau’s Spiderlock SL system. As is the case with the VORTTICE aero helmet, the Quartz fit system easily adjustable and comfortable irregardless of your head shape, while angle adjustments and ergonomic foam padding make the Quartz the most comfortable helmet I’ve worn.
Here are the full details of the Louis Garneau Quartz helmet:
- Weight: 8.8 oz/250 g
- Certifications: CPSC-ASTM-CEN-AS 2063
- Vents: 33
- Super MSB Technology: Ring-shaped protection at the base of the helmet reinforces the perimeter for enhanced protection.
- In-Mold Construction: Industrial process binding the front liner and outer shelle for increased durability.
- Evacuation channels: Moisture channels provide better airflow and moisture wicking.
- Ringlock: Frame ring that ensures helmet’s integrity on impact.
- Spiderlock SL: Lightweight rack-and-pinion system, micro-adjustable using only one hand, offering extremet comfort and stability.
- Steplock Divider: Cam locking device to quickly adjust strap position.
- Sealed Airdry padding: Washable sealed adjustment padding for enhanced durability, ergonomic design for optimum comfort.
- V-Pro System: Receptacle molded into the helmet in order to put on and off the visor as often as you wish. Plastic plugs are included to fill the holes when not used.
- Quartz Visor: Specifically designed for the Quartz, this visor perfectly adapts to the helmet design. Can be installed with the included V-Pro system.
To learn more about the Louis Garneau Quartz helmet, head over to the official Louis Garneau website.