While we’ve always enjoyed the fit and look of Lazer’s road helmets, we've often felt that they leave the rear of our heads’ exposed. The new-for-2011 Sphere provides noticeably better coverage, alleviating our previous concerns.
Despite slotting into the Belgian company's range below the top-tier Helium, which is upgraded with a new magnetic clip for 2011, and Genesis, which remains relatively unchanged, the Sphere is an impressive, fully featured helmet – especially when its price is factored in.
We appreciate the added rear coverage the Sphere affords over Genesis
Aside from its lack of peak (US: visor) and new graphics package, the Sphere sports the same shell and feature set as Lazer’s highly successful Nirvana mountain bike helmet. Essentially it is the Nirvana, which after spending close to three months riding in that lid, is fine by us.
The 262g (actual weight) Sphere is extremely well ventilated – it has 21 vents, compared to 19 on the Helium and Genesis – and it seems the vents work better than that of Lazer’s top-tier road models, especially at slow speeds (climbing).
The Rollsys retention system is second to none for providing a comfortable, almost custom fit. It differs from other manufacturers' systems by adjusting around the entire circumference of the head, versus just the rear half.
The Rollsys circumferential adjustment is easily operated with one hand
The Sphere’s straps and buckles are simple and straight forward, but offer adequate adjustability and allow the straps – which are colour matched to the helmet’s shell – to lie comfortably flat against your head.
Our average sized head fitted well into the XXS-Med shell size. One drawback to the Sphere and Genesis is that they both come in just two shell sizes (XXS-M, 52cm-57cm; L-XL, 58cm-62cm) versus the Helium’s three (XXS-S, 50cm-56cm; M-L, 56cm-60cm; XL-XXL, 61cm-65cm). Like the top two helmets, the inside of the Sphere is finished with high quality X-Static anti-microbial padding.
Lazer offer an array of options for the Sphere, including their AeroShell (external plastic vent cover), winter padding and insect net padding. A radio wire retention band serves as a final feature to set the this road helmet away from its off-road brother.
The radio (or phone) cable retention band is a 'pro' touch, though we never used it
The biggest area of cost savings (read: feature downgrade) compared to the top two road models comes in the form of the in-mould shell reinforcement, which Lazer call their Rigidity Brace System (RBS). The Helium comes with a seven-piece composite fibre RBS, the Genesis a six-piece nylon RBS and the Sphere (and Nirvana) come with an RBS system made up of just two internal nylon pieces.
The RBS system is said to help the helmet handle successive hits that might otherwise break up the EPS foam, thereby reducing its effectiveness in protecting against a second or third impact. Despite fewer in-mould pieces, the Sphere meets all CE, CPSC and AS safety standards.
In terms of comparison to the competition, the only major concession we can find is the lack of a vertical adjustment to the Rollsys system. Two recently reviewed helmets – the Uvex fp 3.0 and Giro Athlon – have this adjustment, and it has proved useful. Finally, sunglass stowage in the vents is possible, but we’ve found that other helmets have vents that are better oriented for it.
In the end, why not just buy a Nirvana? That’s a good question that’s answered easily by colour and graphics preference, and just how useful a peak is to your riding.