European parts giants BBB are starting to move away from the cookie-cutter products that have heretofore dominated their catalog in favor of more exclusive items which they've had more of a direct involvement in developing. One of the first products of that shift is the Falcon road helmet and it's genuinely very, very good.
Ventilation is remarkably effective, with the Falcon's internal skeleton and carbon fiber reinforcements providing for generously sized vents and deep interior channels that bring lots of cooling air right across the top of your head. BBB claim no fancy wind tunnel testing or elaborate temperature sensing headforms but no matter – the Falcon's setup works and works well, and we even needed a light skullcap to keep comfortable on road rides when temperatures hovered around 10°C (50°F).
Overall comfort is impressive, too, thanks to a well-formed medium-oval shape, generous antibacterial interior padding with a full-wrap brow pad, and BBB's DualClose retention system that holds securely without hotspots. Like the venting layout, the strap setup is straightforward, with locking sliders and conventional buckles, but it gets the job done with little complaint or fanfare.
Though effective, the DualClose system is only adjustable for circumference – not height – and the mechanical bits are inflexible as compared to more refined soft-touch units from competitors like Giro, Bell and Specialized. DualClose also requires two hands to operate and while functional, it's a little cheap looking. This is a bit of nitpicking but it'd also be nice if BBB fed the rear straps through the retention system somehow as they can sometimes catch on each other when putting the helmet on.
Styling is attractive – if a bit derivative – with appropriately swoopy shapes and a wealth of colors that include Vacansoleil, Cofidis and Quick-Step team editions if you're into that sort of thing. Excellent ventilation, good fit and smart styling notwithstanding, the €149.95 asking price still strikes us as a bit on the high side, particularly given that US mail order brand Performance sell a nearly identical version under their Scattante house brand for just US$119.99 – roughly a 45 percent discount based on a straight currency exchange and not including sale pricing or other factors such as shipping and import duties.
"You’re correct that these helmets are from the same mold," BBB marketing editor Marcel Kruithof told BikeRadar. "But it’s not an open mold, it’s an exclusive mold for BBB, shared with Performance in the USA. BBB have chosen this construction in order not to absorb all the costs that had to be met to start our helmet product line. By sharing this first mold, we're now able to develop helmets on an exclusive basis and new exclusive models are already implemented in the product line (like the Griffon and Taurus)."
Kruithof says the BBB version adds a small size – something Performance don't offer – as well as a nicer retention system (though it looks the same to us) and better interior padding. Overall, he says it was a reasonable compromise to make as the reduced costs have allowed BBB to develop a second, higher-end helmet that has yet to be announced.
The BBB Falcon is certainly worth a closer look if you're in the market for a new lid and don't want to be seen in the same helmet as your riding mates. Chalk it up to the price of being different.