Description: The Catlike Whisper Plus is a top of the line road helmet made by Catlike, a specialty helmet company out of Spain. Some of the design intentions include lightweight, maximal cooling, fit/comfort, safety, style and functionality/design. Let’s break it down by each item:
Weight: The Catlike Whisper Plus weighs in at a very respectable 280 grams. This puts it in the same weight range as helmets like Giro’s Ionus (275 grams) and on the lighter side of the weight spectrum, but my impression is that the physical weight of the helmet is not what really matters the most when it comes to how heavy a helmet feels on your head during a ride. What matters most is weight distribution and this can vary a bit rider-to-rider based on riding style and physical attributes. For me, the Whisper Plus is a balanced helmet on my head which means that it does not feel heavier in the tip of the tail and thus the weight feels centered on my head. Because of this, I found the Catlike Whisper Plus to feel lighter at the end of a long ride than my staple Giro Atmos that I have worn the past two seasons.
Cooling: As seen on the heads of the Cervelo Test Team in the 2010 season, the Catlike Whisper Plus stands out because of its unique and aggressive ventilation shape. This helmet has a lot of holes in it! While I did not notice the helmet to be significantly cooler than my Giro, I did find that the ventilation and cooling to be more even across the entirety of my head. This is partially because of the number, shape and distribution of the vents, but may also be contributed to the unique fit of the Catlike Whisper Plus, which provides deeper internal cooling channels than most helmets and better circulation.
Fit: A helmet that does not fit well is not worth too much regardless of what it costs. A poor fitting helmet will not only be uncomfortable (thus making you not want to ride as much…) it may also not protect you as designed in impact. Based on this, fit is “king” when it comes to helmet decisions and you should not compromise in this department.
The first thing I noticed when I put a Catlike Whisper Plus on was that even though the listed sizes are a bit smaller than what my Giro and Bell helmets say, the helmet actually fits bigger. I wear a medium Giro and I was swimming in a medium Catlike. I found a small and I was still slightly south of being in the middle of the adjustment range that the helmet offers. Interestingly, riders with really large heads have found the large to not be big enough, so it is best to put one on your head before ordering or talk to someone with some experience that can help you compare the fit of your current lid to the Catlike.
The second thing that I noticed, once I had the correct size, is that the helmet feels completely different from any cycling helmet I had worn before. Frankly, the helmet did not feel like what I had grown accustomed to and I would dare say I would not have bought one based on this initial alien feeling. Thankfully, I spent a bit more time with the helmet. Once I took a little time to adjust the helmet and think about the fit the more I liked it. The helmet feels like it almost floats around the head, instead of sitting on the head, and it has a taller stance on the rider’s head. To its credit, unlike my Giro helmets where I usually need to do a small Dremel grind in the front brow to avoid getting headaches, no modifications were needed. I don’t usually test new equipment when going on a trip, but I made an exception in this case and I took my new Catlike Whisper Plus and rode it between Christchurch and Queenstown in New Zealand for nine days straight out of the box. I never had a headache or any helmet related issue on the trip and I’ll leave that for what it is – once adjusted, the helmet fits my oval shaped head well while people with rounder heads tend to find that few adjustments are needed out of the box for a good fit.
Safety: Thankfully, I did not directly test the safety capabilities of the Catlike Whisper Plus during my testing… Every helmet sold in the U.S. meets the same safety U.S. safety standards. The Catlike is a little bigger appearing than average, which may provide additional side protection, but I have no proof that this is a reality and I’ll leave it as an observation. I can tell you that there are enough safety stickers inside the Catlike Whisper Plus to make it clear that safety is no accident at Catlike. I actually found myself removing stickers as the only safety issue may be that all the safety and standards stickers inside the helmet can stick to your hair!
Style: The Catlike Whisper Plus has a style all its own and it is a little bit like a Porsche in that it has a timeless and functional style to it, but it may not be appeal to everyone. I personally like its broad and muscular look.
Functionality/Design: The general strap layout in the Catlike Whisper Plus works pretty well and I like how easy it is to adjust where the rear retainer hits the back of your head by just sliding it up or down the straps. It is notable that the chin strap latch is designed to latch to the side of your head and not directly under the chin. A nicely padded and very easy to remove Velcro chin pad is included, but it only fits under the chin if the latch is moved to the side of the head.
The full length front forehead pad contacts the head further around the forehead than average and it can help divert sweat out and around the eyes better than average. It did not completely stop water from getting behind my glasses on a wet day, but it helped keep salty sweat and rain out of my eyes better than other helmets I own.
I do have a couple nitpicks with the Catlike Whisper Plus and they involve the adjuster for the behind the head retainer and the small plastic adjusters the straps slide through on either side of the head. In the case of the behind the head retainer, a bit like Giro’s pre 2011 helmets, the ratcheted adjuster can be a bit rough and can stick on itself. Usually this is a one-time set adjustment, so it is not a big deal, but I had hoped for a better adjuster in a top of the line helmet like the Catlike Whisper Plus. Likewise, the little locking clips on the side of the head are actually shaped well and direct the straps well, but they don’t lock as solidly as I expected, but they also never moved once latched. None of these would keep me from buying this very functional and nice looking lid, but these are places I think that Catlike can improve.
Details: The Cateye Whisper Plus is available in three colors for $299 and includes a nice storage pod and replacement pads. Stop in and try one on or give us a call.