Louis Garneau Vortice Review
Oct 14, 2011
article & images by Nick Salazar
There's been quite a proliferation of new aero helmets as of late. That's a double edged sword, because while it offers a wider variety of options which could potentially lead to a better-fitting lid, it also means that sifting through those options has gotten more difficult. Ultimately, I think it's a good thing, because it means you can be a lot pickier. You can filter your helmet selection by whatever criteria you want, and then sort through whatever options remain. One helmet sporting several of the latest bells and whistles is the Louis Garneau Vortice.
The Vortice has the single most important feature that I think is critical to a good aero helmet: it has an integrated visor. The former criterion is crucial for visibility. I've come to learn that sunglasses aren't a goot fit with my aero position, because they block my vision, and tend to slide down my nose as I sweat. Visors eliminate that problem completely. I never have to fidget with a pair of shades, and the visibility is wonderful. The visor on the Vortice, like on all LG helmets, is bolted on at the sides, and can pivot up and out of the way. Personally, this bit is a wash for me - I don't really care that it flips up, because I keep it down all the time. But it might be useful on occasion to move it away, particularly if you run into nasty precipitation on your ride that obstructs your vision. My gripe about the visor is that it's clear -- not tinted -- and isn't the lens you'd want on a bright day. Louis DOES make both a tinted and mirrored version of the lens though, which are available separately.
But the Vortice goes on to have a number of other features that LG claims are aerodynamically advantageous. The most obvious of these is the truncated tail, reminiscient of the Kammtail shape made popular by Trek's Speed Concept bike. Trek did a very convincing job persuading the triathlon community that a truncated airfoil can be beneficial. Whether it is in the case of the Vortice is beyond my ability to test, but it definitely appears logical. When you look down, the chopped tail means there's less helmet sticking up into the air. And when you're looking forward, the truncated tail fools the wind into thinking it's still there. The Vortice also has a dimpled front, and "vortex generator" bumps on the top of the helmet that LG says are meant to "manage winds from all directions." There's no compelling white paper behind these claims, but even without them, the helmet has a solid design.
Fit, Pricing, and Verdict
The most important aspect of an aero helmet is its fit. The Louis Garneau Vortice comes in a Small, Medium, and Large. Unfortunately for me, I'm a 59cm head size. That's right on the cusp of the M and L sizes. As in, the Medium maxes out at 59cm, and the L has a minimum of 59cm. So I'm a bad candidate for the Vortice. It's a bad idea to get a helmet that's going to be way too roomy, and also bad to get one that's way too snug. I rolled the dice on a Medium lid, and it was definitely snug. But despite the tight fit, the helmet wasn't overly hot, and it WAS comfortable. The only caveat was that it's a bit of a squish to get the helmet on my head, but once I'm in, I'm good to go. The ratcheting adjustment on the back is easy to use on-the-fly to perfect the fit. And the venting in the helmet works as well as other aero lids I've tried, despite the fact that I was really crammed in there. I'd expect that if you're in the middle of any size range, you'll find the fit and ventilation to be excellent.
At $249.99 retail, the Vortice is on the expensive side of aero helmets, but it's also on the more advanced side. For the price, you receive the helmet with the visor included, and a soft case. As expensive as these helmets are, it'd be nice if they came standard with a hard case for travel (one is available for purchase separately). But most of them don't, so this is a wish more than a real complaint. Overall, a solid option, if it fits you.
All-around good lid