Review: Catlike Whisper Deluxe Helmet

A Swiss-cheese bike helmet that's big on price and personality

Catlike, the distinctive-looking helmet brand from Spain, has reimagined what safety looks like with its Whisper range. Where most brands embrace slick lines to accomplish aerodynamics and airflow (think Lazer and Bell), Catlike scoops holes out of the shell in every direction, creating a honeycomb appearance that’s dripping with personality.

My testing season for the Whisper was June, July and August, which are arguably the only months that having a helmet with this many vents (39!) matters. And—spoiler alert—they work. Really, really well. Weight weenies will wince at the Whisper’s 292 grams. True, it’s not the sleekest helmet around, but the whoosh of wind it brings in on the dog days is the ultimate cost-benefit.  

Catlike recently introduced a retention system for the Whisper Deluxe that is more durable and heartier than you'll find on other top-of-the-line helmets. Called MPS, it's a floating adjustment system that allows 3-D movement. The middle of the retention piece secures to the nape of your neck, while the two lateral adjusters use a push button release to move in-out and up-down with a squeeze of the release points. One hiccup in the system is that adjusting it takes a bit more muscle—not to mention two hands—than is true of more modern retention dials. So if you have long hair and need to widen the retention before putting the helmet on each time (and then tighten it down to snug) you may struggle at pinching the adjusters in just the right spot to make them move. They’re sticky and a little annoying to deal with each time you put the Whisper on.

With so many vents, it’s only natural that a helmet like the Whisper Deluxe raises safety concerns. Has breathability trumped safety? Well, Catlike designed a relatively high-tech approach to safety, too, and dreamed up another abbreviation—CES (crash energy splitter)—to describe it. During a crash, CES distributes the impact energy across multiple “nerves” between vents (graphic illustration here), absorbing the energy more uniformly and efficiently. In that scenario, vents actually boost safety rather than detract from it. While Catlike also claims the helmet’s glossy veneer is designed to slide more smoothly across asphalt in a crash, I prefer to focus on how brightly it glows with a little spit-shine.

With its quirky styling and hefty $270 price tag, this helmet isn’t for everybody. And that’s OK, since it won’t be all that easy to find with its limited distribution to cycling hotbeds like Boulder, San Francisco and New York. But it’s still the ideal brain bucket for hot weather, and for riders with a taste for stand-out-from-the-crowd gear.

Hits: Exotic style, category leading breathability, comfort
Misses: Difficult retention system, bulky, expensive
MSRP: $270
Buy It
($275 at WesternBikeworks)