A full 11 years after its debut, the Catlike Whisper remains quite possibly the most distinctive and instantly recognizable cycling helmet to achieve substantial market share. With 39 huge oval-shaped air openings, this helmet (sorry, we’re not going to call it a “lid” at any point in this review) is one which must only be seen once to recognize immediately every instance thereafter.
There are 30 forward facing, and nine rearward facing vents. In the front, the largest approach 5cm in length and 2.5cm in width.
The big guys are on the back, with two measuring 6cm in length but none wider than the aforementioned 2.5cm (all vents taper somewhat from the exterior of the helmet to the interior; our measures were made on the exterior).
All those vents give the helmet something of a swiss-cheese or, I’ve heard, a “honeycomb” look, which many cyclists, our reviewer included, find aesthetically appealing. We’d love to improve on those widely-used similes, but short of finding a spider with 30 forward facing eyes, instead of 8 – 12, we’re stuck using those tired ones (that’s right, you just learned some spider natural history).
Catlike – or the markets that regulate their products – clearly aren’t joking around when it comes to conveying date and place of manufacture, safety regulations with which the Whisper comports, or the helmet’s weight: there are 12 stickers total inside our review helmet attesting to these characteristics.
Catlike manufactures the vast majority of their products at their facilities in Spain. Safety regulations in the United States and Europe apply equally to lower-end helmets as to performance gear like the Whisper, leaving us with the one item cyclists love to obsess about, weight.
Our review helmet is a size large (58-61cm) with a claimed weight of 310 grams. After trimming the excess strap material our helmet weighed in on our calibrated Accu-lab V1200 gram scale at 300.7 g. Kudos to Catlike for truth in advertising!
There’s so much variation in head shape among our species that a whole branch of bunk science – phrenology – arose to study it and make horribly false conclusions about what that variation means while missing the one fundamental truth in all that variation, which is, of course, it can be really hard to make a good fitting cycling helmet.
Two things seem paramount in helmet fit:
- Will the helmet perform to the best of its ability when you crash?
- Will it be comfortable even after many hours in the saddle?
In putting the Catlike Whisper on and tightening the rear-retention system dial, a comfortable snugness that turns out to be oh-so-important is realized. Striking the helmet in the front and from slightly below with an upwardly facing open palm – it does not slip. The same is true for a similar motion from the back. Keep in mind, the straps are not yet adjusted or connected. Our reviewer, a 13-year competitive cyclist, had never experienced this level of fit in a helmet. (Editor’s Note: This is perhaps the first test anyone should perform when trying on a new helmet – connect the straps, and if you can easily push the front up over the top of your head, it’s probably not the right helmet for you.)
The Whisper’s padding is not overly-generous (which can be hot and too absorptive) but just right. Two sets of pads are provided for the temple area, and while we opted for the thinner pair, this level of customization is a welcomed convenience.
In terms of comfort, the Catlike Whisper scores very high marks. The review period ran mid-May through mid-July 2017 coincident with a change in the weather from warm and dry, to dangerously hot and humid, with heat indexes ranging from 100-105° F.
Worn over 50 times during this period, for short daily commutes to 70 mile group rides and hammer fests, the Catlike Whisper proved to be an extremely well-ventilated helmet that stays drier and cooler than any other model our reviewer has owned.
The aforementioned snugness of the retention system is easily adjusted while riding should it begin to feel “too snug” – something that happened to our reviewer around the three-hour mark on a couple of rides.
In summary, the Catlike Whisper is a uniquely styled, exceptionally good-fitting, well-ventilated, comfortable helmet that performed extremely well under the test conditions of a hot and humid Florida summer.
It is available in 5 colors (black, white, black-red, black-blue, white-red) and small (54-56 cm), medium (56-58cm), and large (58-61cm).
Article by Gravel Cyclist. Jayson O’Mahoney is the Gravel Cyclist: A website about the Gravel Cycling Experience