The Louis Garneau Quartz is everything we like to see in a road helmet: it moves a lot of air across the top of your head, it fits well, it looks good, and it's even very reasonably priced at just US$139.99/£99.99. Unless you're looking to save weight, there's little motivation to move further up the company's range.
The Louis Garneau website quotes 33 vents for the Quartz but nearly a dozen of them are tiny and offer seemingly minimal effect. That's fine, though, since the big ones that remain are extremely effective at bringing in – and exhausting – cooling air, especially in combination with the deep interior channels that actually give the air somewhere to go.
Consider some sort of hat a must if the temperatures dip below 13°C (55°F), especially if there's some fast descending involved. There's plenty of room between the inside of the shell and the top of your head, and the big ports make for easy access to deal with the occasional itch. Sunglasses comfortably tuck away during long, hot climbs, too.
Fit is surprisingly good given the simple Spiderlock SL retention system, which consists of little more than a thin loop of nylon that runs from temple to temple around the back of your skull and a ratcheting dial. Instead of the usual central anchor point, Louis Garneau use the helmet straps as part of the structure.
Though seemingly flimsy at first, we found the Spiderlock SL to be very effective and comfortable. The dial is easy to operate with one hand – even with full-fingered gloves – the thin bits of nylon are soft and flexible, and while it's not adjustable for height per se, the retention system's rear section can still pivot up and down as needed to better conform to the shape of your skull.
Women riders will be happy to see that there's plenty of room to feed a ponytail through. Frequent travelers will find that the Spiderlock SL's free-form structure is less likely to break in transit, plus the lower shell will help the Quartz retain that brand-new look for longer than helmets with more exposed bottoms.
Visually, the Quartz again hits harder than its cost would suggest, with a visible fiber composite reinforcement structure (which complements the full-perimeter ring hidden inside the polystyrene liner), an impressively low-profile outer shell, and minimal graphics that might not quite match the level of alignment perfection of Giro and Bell but are refreshingly understated and elegant regardless.
Lest you think there are no advantages whatsoever of looking further up the range, weight weenies should keep in mind that the CPSC-compliant Quartz's 268g actual weight (size small – 24g heavier than stated on the internal label) can't quite compete with the likes of Giro's Aeon or Prolight, the Specialized S-Works or Prevail, or Limar's Ultralight range, nor is the ventilation right at the brow pad quite as good as the best models out there.
In addition, the Quartz's relatively high cut – especially out back – will probably preclude its use for more aggressive trail riding where more coverage might be prudent and while Louis Garneau have included a removable visor, it isn't big enough to be useful and isn't adjustable for tilt, either. Barring those minor complaints, there's almost nothing of substance to complain about here and lots to like, especially at this price. Heck, Louis Garneau even include an extra set of pads.