In cycling, the pursuit of more speed is relentless. Nearly every product, from bike frames to the smallest accessories, gets broken down, prodded and analyzed to find even the most minuscule gains possible. The same goes for the gear we wear. And perhaps no piece of on-rider equipment is scrutinized as closely as the helmet, long understood to have major potential for drag reduction, even as far back as Greg LeMond donning an aero helmet to great effect in the 1989 Tour de France. In fact, helmets are one of the single most cost effective ways to speed up your ride, much more so than new wheels or a frame. As a helmet maker, MET is highly attuned to these potential aero savings.
By William Tracy | Images by Ulysse Daessle
The Italian brand’s aero Manta model has been around for quite a few years now. And though it has always been a fast helmet in its own right, the pursuit for perfection marches relentlessly on. It’s 2021 now, and a lot of research has happened in the intervening years since its last update. Today, a new Manta builds on its predecessor’s speedy legacy.
So, where to start for an already fast helmet?
Luckily, advancements and techniques learned making one helmet do not stay sequestered in that one product; they eventually trickle throughout the range. Because the starting point for this project, the previous Manta, was so aerodynamically advanced already, the design team “worked using the experience we acquired while developing pure TT helmets like the MET Drone and the MET Codatronca,” said MET project manager Matteo Tenni. Additionally, experience gained making the Trenta 3K Carbon road helmet, specifically the shape and profile surface, provided invaluable contributions to the new Manta.
This time around, significant attention was focused on the rear of the helmet. “The first thing we did was to lengthen the tail, and taper the sides and the top in order to guide the flow in a better way towards the back,” said Tenni. After determining a couple optimal helmet shapes through 3D modeling, then testing those in the wind tunnel at the Newton laboratory of Milan, MET arrived at a new Manta featuring a lower, tube-shaped profile in the back.
But when optimizing for aerodynamics, even details as minute as the helmet’s strap need to be considered. Together, the strap and strap dividers can account for a loss of 3 to 4 watts if they don’t fit properly. That’s why MET redesigned the strap divider on the new Manta to be much thinner, allowing the straps and dividers to better adhere to the face for the smoothest airflow possible.
The proof of the new changes’ effectiveness is in the numbers. Wind tunnel testing, also at the Newton laboratory in Milan, certifies the new Manta as, depending on conditions, 3 to 4 watts faster than the previous version, which was already a fast helmet in its own right. At a 77-degree helmet tilt, a normal head position under most conditions, the new Manta Mips saves 4 Watts, and it still saves 3 Watts at a 65-degree angle, which is adopted by riders while pushing harder or sprinting. And the wind tunnel data puts the new Manta at the front of the pack of all the helmet brands MET tested.
All that speed is a fantastic thing. Yet, as with any aero helmet, a great balancing act remains: making the fastest helmet possible, while maintaining airflow for comfort. That’s why a NACA Vent, an element borrowed from aeronautic and automotive design that allows for intake of cooling air with minimal disruption to airflow, remains a keystone design element of the Manta Mips. That vent channels air through the redesigned internals of the helmet, and exhausts it through the rear of the helmet for maximum cooling.
That’s free speed, and a cool head. Couple that with the addition of Mips and the 2021 Manta is the fastest, coolest and safest aero road helmet the Italian brand has ever produced.
Learn more about the MET Manta Mips.