First ride review: Trek revamps road helmets with faster Ballista and lighter, more ventilated Velocis

First ride review: Trek revamps road helmets with faster Ballista and lighter, more ventilated Velocis

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Trek has released a brand new generation of its top road helmets, though their existence won’t come as too much of a surprise to anyone paying close attention to the equipment choices of WorldTour teams.

Trek-Segafredo helped develop the brand new versions of the Ballista aero helmet and the Velocis all-around helmet, and has been racing in them this season. You might have noticed Mads Pedersen snag third while wearing the Ballista at the Tour of Flanders last weekend.

The improvements are plentiful and nothing to bat an eye at. From aerodynamics to weight to ventilation to safety, these helmets deliver on all fronts.

Also read: Cannondale Dynam helmet review: crash tested!

The Ballista: Significant aero savings, but not at all costs

The new Trek Ballista Mips aero helmet. (Photo: Trek)

Like before, the Ballista’s charge remains to be the fastest possible helmet that is still comfortable enough for hours-long road cycling stages.

With the usual hallmarks of aero road helmets, including limited vents and an elongated profile, the Ballista looks fast, and Trek has some numbers to back up its claim of it being the brand’s fastest road helmet ever.

Trek claims the Ballista saves 10.1 watts over the course of one hour compared to its own Velocis road helmet (which got an aero improvement itself, but more on that later). Trek also claims a significant full bike-length advantage in a final sprint when wearing the Ballista. Trek didn’t say which helmet that is compared to.

But aero savings in helmets almost always mean tradeoffs, whether to ventilation or weight. The tradeoffs in the Ballista seem quite minimal, however.

At 275 grams for a size medium CPSC (USA version), the Ballista is only 15 grams more than the Velocis, Trek’s lightest helmet. A size medium Trek felt me ​​actually way outperformed that, weighing just 261 grams.

Trek also claims that improvements to the ventilation channels made using computational fluid dynamic analysis makes the new Ballista cooler than other aero road helmets on the market.

The Velocis: Lighter, cooler, and more aero, choose all three

In contrast to the Ballista’s aero profile, the Velocis looks like a classic road helmet, and plays up its low weight and high ventilation accordingly.

By integrating OCLV carbon fiber, and streamlining the shape, Trek has turned the new Velocis into the lightest road helmet in its lineup. A size medium CPSC version weighs a claimed 260 grams. However, my size medium sample weighed in at 269 grams. Still light, but not quite as light as claimed, and interestingly 8 grams more than the medium Ballista aero helmet I weighed.

The Velocis is made with Trek’s OCLV carbon.

For comparison, Giro claims 270 grams for a medium CPSC Helios Spherical, and its other top helmets are about 5 to 10 grams heavier than that.

Trek backs up those low weight claims with significant cooling ability, claiming a 38 percent improvement over the previous Velocis. This is due once again to a revamped vent and channel system.

The new vents have not detracted from aerodynamics despite letting much more air flow over the head. Trek says the Velocis is now 18 seconds faster than the prior Velocis generation. There’s no more elaboration from Trek on how that was measured, but it’s likely that’s over an hour-long time trial.


Both the Ballista and Velocis make use of Mips Air for enhanced safety. The Air is a lightweight, lower-profile version of the Mips slip-plane layer that integrates quite seamlessly into the helmet for a more comfortable fit, especially compared to the earliest Mips liners.

Trek uses Mips Air for the Ballista and Velocis. (Photo: Trek)

It still performs the same function as the original Mips, allowing the helmet to move independently from the head in an angled impact, reducing the force reaching the neck and head in the first moments of a crash.

Mips Air is likely a big factor in helping both the Ballista and Velocis earn five-star ratings (the highest possible) from Virginia Tech’s independent helmet testing lab, which has become the industry benchmark for safety testing.

Should you have to put those safety features to real world testing, Trek is kind enough to offer a one-year crash replacement policy. The brand will give you a free replacement if you crash your helmet in the first year of owning it.

comfort and fit

Trek thought about comfort and real world usability of these helmets while designing them.

The adjustable fit system uses a single lace Boa dial, like you would find on most road shoes these days. The Boa lace has two height positions, and the cradle around the back of the head has three height adjustment options.

Trek uses the Mips Air padding system. (Photo: Trek)

Trek also thought about line of sight with these helmets, beveling the front edge of the helmets to provide a greater field of view in the riding position. Speaking of sight, Trek has also designed the vents of both helmets with stowing sunglasses in mind.

Trek uses a Boa dial fit system. (Photo: Trek)

Velocis first ride thoughts

The Velocis is a fantastic-looking helmet that sticks to traditional styling while packing in some noticeable benefits.

Grabbing this lid out of the box, its low weight is immediately apparent. Even if my medium test version came in a little over advertised weight, I wouldn’t have noticed any extra heft without the aid of my scale.

The Velocis has a low-profile fit.

Adjusting and dialing in the fit is simple. The chin strap can be tightened by pulling on the end of the strap, and loosens up just as easily — no fumbling around with impossibly tight fabric. Likewise, a simple locking mechanism splits the straps below the ears and can be adjusted in seconds. This is often one of the hardest points to adjust on a helmet, but Trek gets it right. The only drawback is the straps have some slack next to the face that can catch a little bit of wind. Anyone who has tried the previous generation Specialized Prevail will have experienced something similar. It’s not enough to annoy me, but it’s something to keep in mind.

The Boa dial provides a comfortable fit, although it’s also about my only peeve with the helmet. Twisting the dial adds pressure continuously around the head without any significant pressure points, making for a comfortable fit. But when tightening down the Boa, I ran into some resistance in the dial after a couple turns as I tried to get the fit nice and snug. Overall, it’s a small thing, and by no means a deal breaker, but the fit system doesn’t feel as robust as those on other brands.

On head, the Velocis performs as advertised. I have a thick mop of hair that usually means the finer points of ventilation are lost on me. I can tell the difference between an aero helmet and a ventilated one of course, especially in the summer, but I’m less attuned to the differences between top helmets.

The Velocis is different. I can feel the extra breeze in a significant way, to the point that I wish I had a cap on for a ride in 50F (10C) weather. That’s never been the case for me in that temperature range. Come summer this helmet will be at the top of the heap for me.

An almost unforgivable design error for helmets is not accommodating sunglasses stored in the vents. Luckily, the Velocis once again gets things right, fitting traditional cycling sunglasses securely. Causal sunglasses however will not stay put in the front vents, so keep your preferred eyewear choice in mind before getting one.

Traditional cycling sunglasses fit well in the vents.

The beveled front end is a welcomed feature as well, providing a completely unencumbered field of view.

The beveled front makes for an unencumbered view in the riding position.


These high end helmets come with a corresponding price tag. Both the Ballista and Velocis cost $300 USD. Each model has small, medium, and large sizes available.

Color options

The Ballista Mips is available in four colors: matte black, gloss white, gloss white/nautical navy, and matte purple flip.

The Ballista Mips in matte black. (Photo: Trek)

The Ballista Mips in gloss white. (Photo: Trek)

The Ballista Mips in matte purple flip. (Photo: Trek)

The Velocis Mips is available in five colors: matte black, gloss white, gloss white/nautical navy, matte dark aquatic, and gloss viper red/cobra blood.

The Velocis Mips in gloss white. (Photo: Trek)

The Velocis Mips in matte black. (Photo: Trek)

The Velocis Mips in matte dark aquatic. (Photo: Trek)

The Velocis Mips in gloss viper red/cobra blood. (Photo: Trek)

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