What causes a concussion? PLUS we review the Bontrager Specter Helmet with the all-new Wavecel technology


First off, it’s important to note that your brain is one of the softest substances in your body. It’s really more jelly-like than what we imagine it to be. It is cushioned from everyday jolts and bumps by cerebrospinal fluid inside your skull. Essentially, in a crash, your brain might stretch and compress as it rotates and distorts inside your skull. The sudden acceleration or deceleration of your brain may lead to bleeding, cause symptoms such as prolonged drowsiness and confusion which is commonly referred to as a concussion. These symptoms may develop immediately or later.

The effects of a concussion are usually temporary and can include headaches, problems with concentration, memory, balance and coordination issues. Some concussions cause you to lose consciousness, but most do not. It’s very possible to have a concussion and not realize it at all. They can be fatal.

Quite naturally we should fear concussions more than we do say a broken wrist or torn ligament but alarmingly that is often not the case. What’s worse is because concussions and their severity are often difficult to diagnose, riders regularly continue to ride with them which is incredibly dangerous. Concussions can cause long term debilitation and in my opinion, are the worst kind of injury we can possibly sustain when riding.


It’s a flexible and suspended dome inside the Bontrager helmet which conforms to different wave shapes on impact. The Wavecel structure has a specific cell shape that allows it to deform without destroying the cells.


THE TECH: The wavy honeycomb, translucent green liner called Wavecel is designed to flex, crumple and glide independently during a crash to reduce rotational and linear acceleration. Using a continuous liner, it is suspended inside the helmet and behaves differently depending on the angle of impact. Each cell has a small fold in it that helps in initiating the crumpling on a straight impact. In a rotational impact, the cells fold over in a sheer and allow the helmet to spin on itself rather than imparting that spin to the head. Bontrager has posted a 19-page white paper document with all the data acquisition and lab analysis. The interpretation is that Wavecel technology is 48 times more effective at preventing concussions than standard EPS foam-only helmets — a claim I thankfully never put to the test.

COMFORT AND FIT: What I will say is that apart from the 50 odd grams that Wavecel adds to the helmet, there really is no difference in comfort or feel on the road. In terms of fit, you really don’t notice the Wavecel technology at all when the helmet is on. The Specter has the traditional soft, moisturewicking padding and is as comfortable as any other top of the range lid I have tried.

The magnetic buckle system is similar to what is used on some downhill helmets and is secure, easy to operate and doesn’t pinch. The Boa closure system for adjusting fit and fastening is flawless and provides a fit which is very snug without being overly tight. A 5cm reflective patch on the back of the helmet increases visibility.

ON THE ROAD: The helmet works well with most eyewear brands with no obvious issues. If you prefer to slide your eyewear into the air vents on long climbs and the like it is possible to do so with the Wavecel layer. In fact, the edging and layers of the Wavecel liner do a good job of securing your glasses when stowed up top. There is a degree of sun-shield provided by the Wavecel and I never felt warmer than with other helmets. The Wavecel inner is breathable and the outer shell is a well-ventilated layout with 5 inlet ports and 9 exhaust ports airflow.

There is no rattling or creaking from the Wavecel which is something I have experienced on other helmets. Some say the helmet looks a bit bulky or weird but to be honest I would wear a milk crate on my head if it was safer than a regular helmet. I measured out the Specter and compared it with a Bontrager Circuit and the lower perimeter of the outer shell is 1.3% bigger – which is around 9mm in circumference.


The Wavecel technology is available locally in two lines of the Bontrager helmet range covering mountain bike and road applications. Weight of the Specter model is around 359grams – actual. Retail pricing is R2999 for the Specter and R4299 for the Blaze (MTB) model. Bontrager include a 1-year guarantee of the product. Having ridden bikes for many decades I am a huge fan of any technology that is going to make our sport safer, particularly if it can reduce the likelihood of a concussion.


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