If you want to go fast, aero is important. If it wasn’t, would we put up with the drawbacks that come with it? Heavier bikes, stiffer ride, sketchy deep rims, stifling helmets? Free speed, indeed. But there are precious few products out there that deliver those advantages without the drawbacks, and of the ones we’ve been riding most recently, the MET Manta has become a favorite.

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MET is an Italian helmet maker that doesn’t have much name recognition in the U.S., so if you want to be the nth guy on the club ride in a Giro turn the page. If you want to go your own way, read on. The Manta is MET’s aero helmet, one you most likely saw on Mark Cavendish last summer as he stormed back to Tour de France sprint domination. Cavendish has always been one of the least powerful guys in the sprint ranks. He can’t match Greipel or Kittel for peak watts, so he’s always focused on aero technology to make the most of what he does produce. It obviously works.

The MET Manta drops 10 watts at 50 kilometers per hour. WorldTour sprints frequently hit 80 kilometers per hour, so the savings are magnified even more for Cavendish. Like other aero road helmets it has fewer vents to create smoother airflow across its surface, but the vents it does have are very well thought out. The top vent, surprisingly far back on the helmet, uses an airfoil design on its scoop to deliver maximum ventilation with minimum disturbance. The rear vents are huge, literally sucking air away form your head. It works. Next to the S-Works Evade, the Manta is the bestventilated aero helmet on the road.

There has been no skimping on fit. With a full-featured fit system called Safe-T Advanced, the cradle can be adjusted in 2mm increments circumferentially and has four different vertical settings plus polyurethane padding for a secure, but comfortable fit. Amazingly, the fit system and limited venting don’t hurt on the scale—at 265 grams, this aero helmet is as light as many brand’s traditional road helmets.

The Manta even has accessories. MET makes small LED lights that affix to the helmet’s rear, and a special optional gel pad can be used up front for even more comfort. It won’t crush, smell or soak up sweat like a foam pad and it’s designed to channel sweat away form your eyes.

The speed offered by the MET Manta isn’t free: it costs $230; but it’s free of the sacrifices other aero helmets require. 265g (MD), $230; met-helmets.com