Don't worry if you haven't heard of LEM Helmets (pronounced like the start of 'lemons'). The company only introduced their bike helmets at Eurobike last year. We ran into them shortly after at Interbike 2018 and were impressed enough to take them up on reviewing their road bike helmet, Volata.
LEM's history reaches back nearly 40 years to 1972, when Italian motorcycle enthsiast Romano Magnani created "Lavorazioni Elmi Magnani" which translates to "Helmet Workshop of Magnani." So while the company is new to bicycles, they have a long tradition of innovation and protecting the heads of two-wheeled enthusiasts. Today, LEM's new division offers seven models of cycling helmets: 4 road (Gavia, Tailwind, Volata), 1 mountain (Flow), 1 commuter (Boulevard), 1 kids (Scout), and 1 toddler (Lil' Champ).
Out of the Box
Volata is an aerodynamic design that strikes a balance we like. Some aerodynamic helmets are lifeless or alienesque, prioritizing less vents and smoother shapes over looks. Volata has a sleekness to it, but there are still 17 vents and shaping around them that keep it appearing normal and better than you regularly see in entry-level lids.
Our "black" model is actually black and two shades of grey, making for a stealthy and sharp look. Volata is available in six other colorways, all similar design.
Handling Volata, it feels lighter than average, and it's proven on the scale at 279 grams for size medium. Compare that to 290 grams for a Specialized S-Works Evade or 270 grams for a Bontrager Starvos (a similarly-priced entry-level helmet).
Setting Up and Adjustment
We received the LEM Volata a day before heading out on the Yamaha Wabash Gravel Adventure E-Bike test ride and decided to give the helmet a go starting there even though we prefer to take photos first and then set it up and adjust the fit. Going from the box and onto my head the morning of the ride was no problem; the buckles and strap guides (clips below the ear) are typical and working with them was simple. The FS2-5 Fit system has an easy-to-turn micro-adjust dial to get the necessary snugness at the back of the head: clockwise to tighten, counterclockwise to loosen with fine increments of adjustment. The vertical occipital reach (back cradle) can be moved up and down in 5 positions, a range of 2.5 cm, for additional tuning.
One meager criticism is that the end of the Volata's straps is a nicely finished closed loop with a pull, not two loose ends. How is that bad? It probably isn't for a lot of people, but we are used to getting a helmet setup and then trimming the loose ends so there's enough to fit under the rubber retaining band and not so much as to stick up and out in the air. In this case, we decided would look better to keep the neatly finished loop on the Volata even though it meant having the straps be longer.
Riding and Comfort
The best helmet is the one you'll use, and better yet if you don't have to think about it when it's on your head. Volata was and has been great here. From the first ride in the cool of winter to recent hot and sweaty summer miles, Volata has remained comfortable and adequately airy — and aero. The thinner polyester flat straps are comfortable and there's enough padding in all the right spots while not obstructing the vent channels. Volata comes in small, medium and large sizes; our medium felt like an appropriate match and the shape doesn't feel too wide or narrow.
Padding stands out because it's simple. There is one long brow pad, four pads on top that run aside the channels, and one pad on the back cradle — all Velcro attached, not too puffy, not too thin. Pads are uniquely contour shaped for the helmet, but no two are joined together, meaning that if any needs to be replaced you could swap out just the ones needed and, in a pinch, use common pads from other manufacturers.
Compatibility with sunglasses is good. Volata doesn’t reach too far down up front, so there were no issues with any of the cycling sunglasses’ frames and ear stems we used, including some of the larger-lens varieties.
Appearance and Performance
As usual, we refrained from crash testing the helmet (whew!). We're confident it will do it's job since it's easy to fit (good fit is a component of safety) and it complies with the necessary helmet safety standards — U.S.'s CPSC and Europe's EN 1078 CE.
Volata is an aero-style helmet, but not just a road racing helmet. It has a serious, yet unpretentious look which allows it to appear just as fine on a commuter, or as you can see from these photos, fits right in on a dirt or gravel ride.
Is it aero-fast? If you're looking for hard data, we don't have it here (sorry, no wind tunnel) and LEM doesn't supply any. Instead, our logical deduction and ride feel say yes, certainly compared to regular style helmets. We expect other aero helmets, with more aggressive styling and higher pricepoints, would beat Volata in quantitative testing.
Bonus safety features: Volata's straps and LEM side logos are reflective and there are two reflective decals on each side of the back of the helmet, behind the ears. Extra vibisility is always welcome.
Roar It or Ignore It?
Roar It! Volata is LEM's lowest pricepoint of their three road helmets — $65 USD MSRP. That might seem too low for cyclists used to seeing $200 or more performance helmets from the big brands, and on the other side, high for those used to shopping for bargain helmets at big box stores. Luckily for either type of shopper, Volata has enough quality, looks, and performance to go with the savings or justify spending a little more to get a lot more.
If you do want to spend more and get less (weight), LEM just formally announced the very light (220 gram) and a full-carbon exterior MotivAir, a helmet they teased as a concept last year. (Check back with us soon for the review.)
Where to get one? Ask a local bike shop or order one online at lemhelmets.com.
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