The Catlike KOMPACT'O has a fun, flowing design reminiscent of the Gothic Art Nouveau style found in the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona. That might not be such a coincidence given that the holy site is about a five and a half hour drive from Catlike's headquarters in the autonomous town of Murcia, Spain. But it won our Best Buy award for a reason. It's not all folly and shenanigans. It has practical features like four points of adjustment and bug netting in the front vents, padded by thick, well-placed padding. It comes at a discount to many of the top products, making it an even more intriguing road helmet.
Catlike Kompact'o Urban Review
Cons: Forehead padding requires visor, bulky, doesn’t use MIPS
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The KOMPACT'O is a solid performer, percolating up near the top of our list as one of the most consistent offerings out there.
One of the top features of this model is its widely distributed padding across the forehead to the temple and along the top of the skull. One note here is the KOMPACT'O Urban comes with the visor while the straight KOMPACT'O does not. Urban cyclists tend to prefer visors for some unknown reason (revisited in Style below). This is notable because the Urban's padding is on the visor, so if you ditch the visor, you ditch padding, so be sure to grab the model you prefer. If you screw up and get the wrong one, don't worry, Catlike sells replacement padding without the visor.
Another aspect we're super appreciative of is the bug net covering the front lower vents. They sell additional netting with wider coverage, but it wouldn't be a crime if it just came stock. We'd also prefer that it had a finer gauge because gnats are still a menace, but at least bees, beetles, and the other larger chitinous creeps stay out of your hair (or whatever's there). We'd also be remiss if we didn't mention the easily adjusted retention system that locks in the fit and makes this a very comfortable helmet.
As great as this feels, there are a few other helmets that pull of even more comfort. The Editors' Choice Giro Synthe MIPS is a more traditional offering with judicious application of padding, but a well-designed retention system that hugs the head and secures the liner and shell while maintaining a nice float. If you want more padding and are in the market for a premium aero helmet, you might enjoy the Top Pick for Aero Kask Infinity.
Catlike uses its MPS EVO (Multi Position System Evolution) to allow four adjustment points to fit a wide array of domes. At the rear is its convenient two-way dial to change the diameter of the retention frame.
Ergonomic adjustment wing features sit along the sides between the temple and ear to better fit different dome shapes, which made a big difference to our testers with comically misshapen heads.
At the back of the head is an up/down adjustment option for height, to navigate the nuchal crest and occipital region to improve fit and comfort. Finally, the rear of the retention system uses an open/close adjuster to ideally position the support around the back of the neck. Catlike claims that it relieves pressure from the center of the cervical vertebra, but that seems a bit spurious because it's not too close to the cervical vertebrae, even the C1 vertebra. Maybe they're thinking of the nuchal crest and associated tissues anchored thereto.
Understandably, such features place this brain bucket at the top of the list, illustrating yet another reason this road helmet picks up the Best Buy award. It sits alongside the other helmets that offer the most personalizable fits. We preferred the fixed Y-straps and adjustable chinstrap of the Kask Infinity, but it does better than the Infinity in overall adjustment options. If you are interested in going premium and have a need for an aero helmet, take a look at the Kask. If you're in the market for a mid-range helmet with great adjustability, we think you might appreciate the Bell Gage MIPS.
It uses a combination of EPS (expanded polystyrene) and PPE (polyphenyl ether) to deliver a strong plastic foam structure that can take impacts. Most of its parts are easily replaceable, which improves the longevity of the product, though most of the componentry is fairly simple and degradation isn't too likely. The one slight complaint was that that the velcro that secured the visor and padding came off, but that issue can be fixed with a stronger glue for polystyrene from a hobby shop or hardware store.
The KOMPACT'O will last you a good while and take a pounding, but if you are looking to beat the helmet up and really give it the business or just want something that's going to live forever, there are a few others you might want to check out. The Smith Overtake is also simply designed, but uses durable premium materials to improve its longevity. The Kask Protone also uses a similar scheme to deliver an indestructible headcase.
Reminiscent of porcelain cholla wood, this is one of the most aesthetically pleasing helmets in the group, especially for those with biophilia. Now, keep in mind that there are two versions: the road version and the urban version. The difference is that the urban version has reflective paint and decals and a visor while the road version does not and there are stylistic implications. Most roadies would likely contend that the visor reduces one's visual appeal and perceived prowess, but there are some folks that swear visors look Euro, pro, and cool. We should also be clear here, we mean it has the bill of a cycling cap, not dorko a fred visor (acceptable only on cyclocross and mountain bikes). The urban version comes in three stock colors and the road comes in five. For a fee, however, they offer a customization option that allows you to pick from the full ROYGBIV spectrum to paint about seven parts of the helmet and even add text and logos.
It's not clear why any sane person would want other options, but there are certainly some models that do better in the style department. The Smith Overtake has a certain cyberpunk appeal to it that we found irresistible. The appeal of the Giro Synthe MIPS is at least partially because it's been espied in the pro peloton and that pro mana immediately elevates it to the top - nothing is sexier than looking pro (at least in the fiercely endogamous realm of road cycling fashion). The rest of its appeal is that it's sleek and aggressive.
Large front intake vents and rear exhaust holes really cool the situation off. Its excellent performance isn't just attributed to its twenty-one vents (a pretty average number), but to their design. It's just as breezy and cool as the Lazer Z1, which has a remarkable thirty-one vents. The tradeoff for the Kask is that whatever breeze it allows is paid for in extra drag and turbulence. That might be a big concern to some riders, but if you just want to go out and feel good, especially in warm climates, you probably aren't going to care as much about shaving a few seconds off of your 40K. The Lazer, meanwhile, keeps a smooth profile and reduces the turbulence, improving aerodynamics.
The only helmet that outperforms these is the Specialized Airnet MIPS, which only uses 22 vents, but uniquely places them horizontally along the lower front rim, sides, and lower rear to draw air in and pull air out. If ventilation is a top priority, we encourage you to give this one a serious look, but we think the KOMPACT'O is still one of the best helmets out there, especially for its price, making it a solid buy and the reason it wins our Best Buy award.
291g puts this somewhere around the average for high-performance road helmets, though there are quite a few lighter helmets in our lineup. It uses a larger design to improve its visual appeal, support its ventilation, and add to its protection.
If weight is a huge concern for you, there are a few other lids you should check out. The POC Octal comes in at just 241g and has excellent ventilation. The lightest helmet in our crew is the Giro Aeon, just 225g, also featuring excellent ventilation.
This is a helmet that will please across the range of desires, but it really stands out for its ease of use and ventilation. That makes it a great choice for warm weather and riders that tend to need a lot of adjustment. It's also worth noting that it's our Best Buy and would be a good choice for newer riders looking to stand out in style.
We think $100 is a good asking price for this lid. It has a simple design with replaceable parts, good ventilation, unique design, great adjustability, and solid comfort. It's a helmet that will last a good while and keep you happy and looking good for the duration of its life.
The KOMPACT'O's late Gothic Catalonian design absolutely adds a thick layer of allure to it, but it outperforms across many of our measures. In fact, the only area that it didn't really dominate was weight, but chances are you can do more to improve weight by cutting out one beer a month (say it ain't so!). That said, the Urban version explicitly encourages riding to cafes and bars, so weight probably isn't much of a deal breaker here. But out on the road doing hard rides in the heat, it was an absolute godsend, especially on long, slow, grinding climbs in the sun. It's perhaps not kosher to do this, but it was also nice to have a helmet that could quickly loosen on the climbs and reach back to tighten back up for switchback descents. Taken together with its affordability, the final piece that helped it snag the Best Buy award was its comfort. It uses just enough padding distributed across the top and front of the head, cradled in its MPS EVO retention system to deliver top comfort. We think most riders will be very pleased with the KOMPACT'O, even if they don't have a flair for the whimsical.
— Ryan Baham