100% Altec Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Great ventilation, durable construction, not overly expensive
Cons: Average protection, less versatile fit shape
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Our Analysis and Test Results
100% is a relative newcomer to the mountain bike helmet market. With roots in motocross, the brand made the jump to cycling equipment and apparel relatively recently. Since their debut in the cycling world, they've taken it by storm, and they've quickly gained a reputation for providing some of the best gear on the market. The Altec is the latest eye-catching addition to their helmet lineup. With 100%'s new Smartshock rotational impact protection system, loads of ventilation, and integrated sunglasses storage, we think its an intriguing option for anyone looking for a solid all-around helmet that won't break the bank.
We feel that the Altec provides solid protection for trail riding, but its coverage doesn't match the top performers in our test. Compared to most cross country helmets, the Altec provides a little bit of extra coverage for the temporal and occipital lobes, but among the helmets we tested, it's roughly average. The fit isn't particularly deep, and it seems to sit a little bit high on most head shapes. Donning this helmet before a ride didn't inspire confidence in the same way as some of the highest-coverage models we tried out. Despite the high fit, we found that the harness system does a great job of keeping the helmet securely in place.
Rather than use the MIPS rotational impact protection system like most of the helmets in our test, 100% equipped the Altec with a similar system of their own design called Smartshock. Instead of a plastic shell that rotates within the EPS, Smartshock uses 14 small shock-absorbing elastomers that sit between the EPS and the helmet pads. The shocks are designed to absorb direct impacts and also allow side-to-side movement in rotational impacts. When wearing the helmet, you can press on the EPS outer shell and feel the shock absorbers doing their job, and, much like MIPS, you can feel the rotation that they allow within the EPS shell. We typically try to avoid crashing during the testing process, so we're not in a position to speak to Smartshock's effectiveness. However, we like the design, and we think the shock absorbers add to the helmet's comfort at the very least.
Beyond coverage and the Smartshock system, the Altec features a healthy layer of 100%'s multi-density EPS foam. The EPS is injection molded with the polycarbonate outer shell making for a solid, sturdy construction to protect your head.
The Altec is a comfortable helmet, but it didn't stand out against the competition in our test. Available in three sizes, XS/S, S/M, and L/XL, the fit range should be enough to accommodate all but the furthest head-size outliers. The interior of the shell features ample padding to keep you comfortable on a long ride, and the Smartshock elastomers provide a little bit of give that adds to the cushion. The ratcheting harness system has a wide range of adjustment, and the gaps between indexed positions are small enough that most riders will be able to find the perfect fit. Additionally, the harness system pulls tension around the entire circumference of the helmet to provide a secure fit without being overly tight in any area. The straps are soft and comfortable where they contact the face, and the clever strap splitters keep everything lying flat and bother-free.
Throughout testing, we discovered that the Altec's EPS shell doesn't have the same refined head-contouring shape as helmets from brands like Specialized and Giro. Most testers who tried on this helmet noticed subtle pressure points at the back of the head from the EPS foam shell. None of our testers found the fit to be overly bothersome, and the pressure points were minor enough to slip our minds once we were actually out on the trail riding. However, there is a clear difference between the Altec and the most comfortable models we tested.
With its massive vents, the Altec certainly passes the ventilation eye test, and out on the trail, our testers confirmed that this helmet breathes as well as any model we tested. Its 15 yawning air vents are well-positioned to promote airflow. Five vents across the forehead and crown of the helmet work as intakes and a channel in the interior of the EPS foam shell provides space for the air to move through the inside of the helmet.
Throughout testing, this was one of our favorite helmets to take out on hot and humid days. None of our testers reported any issues with overheating, and we also found that the interior padding did a great job of absorbing sweat and keeping it off of our faces and sunglasses. Riders who live in hot climates will love the Altec's breathability.
The designers at 100% packed in some clever features to the Altec's construction that can make your life easier out on the trail. First and foremost is the Smartshock impact absorption system that we discussed in the protection section. Systems like Smartshock are essential and come standard on most high-end helmets these days. We're not ones to say no to extra head protection when offered.
Less consequential, but still highly functional is the Altec's adjustable visor. Like many helmets we tested, the Altec's visor has multiple indexed positions to suit your preferences, one of which is high enough on the head to allow for goggle storage on the front of the helmet. While this is a fairly standard feature, we think it's essential to a good trail helmet these days. The visor itself is on the shorter side, but it will still provide decent sun, rain, and brush protection for your face if you position it properly.
In addition to Smartshock and a visor, the Altec also packs a few less common features. Our favorite was the conveniently placed grooves on the outer shell to store your sunglasses while not in use. We used this feature frequently and were impressed by how securely the storage system held our sunglasses. We also appreciated the easily removable and washable antimicrobial pads and the two-position ratcheting harness system.
The 381-gram or 13.5-ounce heft of our L/XL Altec sits roughly in the middle of the pack among helmets we tested. With its great ventilation, it feels light and airy on your head, and none of our testers had any complaints about the weight. Given its coverage and features, it sits just about where we would expect it to on the weight spectrum. The heaviest helmet we tested outweighs it by over 300 grams, while the lightest in our test beats it out by just around 40. Racers hunting for the most lightweight equipment might not be satisfied with the Altec's mid-pack standing, but we can't imagine anyone else having any complaints about what it provides for the weight.
The Altec held up incredibly well to the wear and tear of our testing process. After months of test sessions, truck bed rides, and backpack transport, our test helmet came out more or less without a scratch. The finish on the polycarbonate outer shell doesn't scratch easily and barely shows a thing when it does. Additionally, we had no problems with straps fraying, harness breaking, or padding falling apart throughout our test process.
Beyond our experience with our test helmet, we can say that we have plenty of confidence in the Altec's durability based on the quality of construction. 100% did a great job of ensuring there are no weak points in the helmet's architecture that might fall apart over time. The polycarbonate shell fully covers the lower edge of the EPS shell, the visor is firmly secured, and strap connection points are securely molded into the EPS. We're confident that this helmet will last you at least a couple of seasons of heavy riding if you can avoid impacts to the head.
As with many of our metrics, the Altec's price sits roughly mid-pack among helmets we tested, and we think that it provides solid value. While it doesn't quite match up to our top models in some areas, it isn't far off, and it also costs roughly fifty dollars less. Anyone who's looking for a solid all-around helmet with few compromises that won't break the bank should give the Altec a look.
100%'s Altec is a high-quality offering that will stand up to daily wear and tear and keep your head cool on balmy days. With this model, 100% serves notice to the industry giants to stay on their toes.
— Zach Wick