The need to go faster is a recurring theme among competitive amateurs and professional cyclists and this notion is continuously evolving – this goes for bicycles, clothing and, of course, helmets. The tough part comes in striking the perfect balance between comfort and performance and that’s a tricky exercise as there’s a tipping point that can throw things out of kilter.
While Met boasts a brimming portfolio of options for all disciplines, it’s the brand’s best road bike helmets that have impressed us most. Some of you might remember my Met Rivale MIPS helmet review from last year – the lid pretty much saved my life, so I value all the safety claims made by the Italian manufacturer. The helmet you see here, however, is Manta MIPS, an aero helmet that sits at the top of Met’s range.
We’ve been testing it in a variety of weather conditions and riding environments to see where it stands among the best aero helmets in the world.
Design, aesthetics and specifications
The Manta adopts a design blueprint typical of the best aero helmets, but retains Met’s typical two-tone styling cues. Even the black-on-black version uses gloss and matte texturing to add in some contrast to the package. The range spans six colors which should appease most style aficionados – ours utilises Met’s white-holographic glossy colorway, which might not seem too dynamic at first glance. That said, it’s only when it makes contact with the sun that its true visual brilliance comes to the fore.
The helmet features a glossy metallic-pearl hue with hologram-like detailing on the inside edge of the front vents and Manta graphics on the flanks. A black Met wordmark logo resides on each side of the upper section, which together with the blacked-out rear diffuser, injects some contrast to package. That said, closer inspection reveals a faint silver gradient that fades from the top rear to front, the flanks adopting the opposite treatment which adds an extra sense of dynamism. It really looks great. While the glossy varnish means the Manta is easy to keep clean, the white color scheme is prone to showing up scuffs.
Despite its aero inclinations, the Manta still benefits from 15 ventilation ports – each of which is strategically positioned to balance air flow with cooling. Like the Rivale and Trenta performance helmets, the Manta also benefits from the brand’s signature top-mounted NACA scoop. Having used the helmet during both the summer and winter months, I can vouch for its effectiveness at coping with both ends of the temperature spectrum. Like all Met helmets, the Manta is available in three size configurations only – small, medium and large – but there’s enough sliding room across the range to fit most head sizes.
In terms of weight, the MIPS MIPS tipped our scales at 235g for a medium, which comes in at 15g under the claimed weight.
Contemporary road bike helmets have become so good that’s not much separating the best options in the segment – and, as a result, it’s become a very personal thing and fit is the biggest factor here. In this regard, Met has things waxed with the MIPS blanket. It’s fairly light, sits well atop the head thanks to its seamless tailorable adjustability, which is further bolstered by the close-fitting straps and magnetic buckle.
What about its cooling properties? As an aero helmet, ventilation is not at the top of the list of attributes but is still a key element when it comes to on-bike comfort. The 15 ventilation ports have been positioned in a manner that ensures a balance between air and cooling. Even on the hottest of summer days in the UK (25-degrees and upwards), the Manta MIPS proved perfectly adept at mitigating heat – even with the MIPS-C2 liner. The trademark yellow liner is perfectly positioned within the cradle system, adopting a cut-out configuration that matches up with the ventilation ports. It’s a really well put together and thought-out system.
As a dedicated aero helmet, performance plays a large role in the Met Manta MIPS ethos. According to Met the Manta MIPS boasts a respective three- and four-watt efficiency gain over its rivals and forebear in terms of mean drag, thanks to wind tunnel-verified testing at 33, 55 and 80km / h. While this is something we’re not able to personally validate – the helmet is genuinely quick. I used the Met Manta MIPS in Farnborough and Camberley Cycling Club Road Bike 10-Mile TT Championships and managed to win the race by a couple of seconds – 21:18 at 45.1km / h. While I have no scientific proof the result was down to the Met Manta MIPS – I did choose it specifically for this event and like to think its slippery façade gave me an added edge.
Beyond the aerodynamic data, the Manta uses the brand’s Safe-T Upsilon retention system and 360-degree fastening belt to reduce pressure around the head, while the magnetic Fidlock buckle is an absolute treat to use – especially one handed. The strap management system is really good, and fits flush against the face. The only bugbear is that some eyewear does interfere with the helmet real estate behind the ear. While you don’t feel it when looking straight ahead, it’s only when moving your head from side to side or checking your blind spot that a squeaky sound resonates from the sunglasses arms as they make contact with the polycarbonate shell. It’s not a deal breaker though, and it doesn’t happen with every pair of shades.
At £ 220 / $ 299 / € 250, the Met Manta MIPS represents a fairly pricey option but it’s backed by Met’s really good safety standards, fit and performance – not to mention a two-year crash replacement warranty. If you’re looking for a genuine top performer that strikes the perfect balance between comfort, cooling and speed, the Met Manta MIPS is one of the standout options among the best aero helmets.
|Design and aesthetics||Aero helmets in general might not possess the most eye-catching looks but Met has managed to pull out all the stops with the MIPS MIPS. With six colourways on offer, and each with a unique blend of contrast, the Manta is up there with the very best-looking in the segment||9/10|
|Fit||Save for the interference with some eyewear systems, the Met Manta MIPS boasts an incredibly comfortable fit, which is tailorable thanks to the cradle system||9/10|
|Weight||At 235g, the Manta MIPS is one of the lighter aero helmets in its category, and comes in 15g under quoted weight (for a medium) which is a bonus||8/10|
|Safety||Having crashed heavily using the Met Rivale MIPS (and lived to tell the tale), I have massive faith in the safety systems and MIPS-C2 liner used in this helmet||9/10|
|Value for money||The Met Manta MIPS is not cheap but then again, not many options at this level are. It’s worth considering what type of riding you’ll be doing before making the purchase but – if it involves top-level racing where safety and speed are your top priorities – look no further||8/10|
Tech Specs: Met Manta helmet blanket
- Price: £ 220 / $ 299 / € 250
- Weight: 235g (current, medium)
- Rotational safety: Yes, MIPS-C2
- Retention: Safe-T Upsilon system
- Air: Yes
- Sizes: S, M, L
- Colors: 6