31. October 2020
10 Minute Read
Paul Smith Custom Kask Utopia Helmet Review
An Update as of December 1st, 2021
If you’re interested in reading about my thoughts on this after having used it consistently for a year now, check out my thoughts on it here.
With that, on to the original review!
Just had to say something about this one
First of all, this is completely of my own doing. No sponsorship needed here. It’s not like anyone has paid me to say any of the following things, although I wish they would! The direct link to this helmet on their website is here, no tracking cookies included!
I’m already a big fan of Kask, the brand
At this point, I’ve had several bike helmets from Kask. I originally got into them because I had read somewhere online that they had a faux leather strap that worked better for those of us who choose to have facial hair. I can certainly attest to this, especially at this point, but I also never truly did an A/B comparison on this with other helmets back in the before-times.
Basically the strap connector around your chin actually clips around the side of your face, as opposed to directly underneath your chin. I remember always hating that feeling as a kid whenever I rode a bike with a helmet, so this certainly appealed to me.
I’ve owned a Kask Vertigo and a Kask Protone, both fantastic helmets. Upgrading from each of them was done largely as an aesthetic choice. However, it’s also a good idea to replace a well used helmet after about 2 or 3 years of usage anyway, even if not involved in any kind of spill or crash.
This is essentially just a Kask Utopia
Not that that is a bad thing of course. There are numerous reviews online about this particular helmet, with a few variances among them. I’ve researched this one a lot, so I’ll highlight a few of my findings so far.
- It’s an aero helmet, but not a time-trial kind of helmet that makes you look like an alien
- It has fewer vents than other styles of helmets
- It’s a helmet run by Team InEOS
- It doesn’t come with a MIPS option (a more US-based set of standards for safety)
- It’s Italian
Paul Smith does sweet collabs like this
I’ve only recently been turned on to Paul Smith as a brand. It’s mostly a fashion brand, based out of London, and for whatever reason, is quiet popular over in Japan according to one of my friends who is from there. However, the original founder, Paul Smith himself, is an avid cycling enthusiast, and has done several collaborations like this in the past. Perhaps you’ve already seen some of them out on the road.
As far as helmets go, I’ve only noticed these collaborations being done with the Italian brand, Kask.
My additional thoughts
First of all, I love the color scheme here. The gradient is a common motif across the other Kask helmets, but this one looks particularly striking to me. The multiple colors without them being too over the top and while still primarily being a black helmet, makes it work, color-wise, with a wide variety of cycling kit.
I’ve done one ride with this one so far, and as the top subtitle says, I felt just so Gucci wearing this. I think some other riders may have noticed the color scheme, and I’m sure some of them noticed just how damn shiny it is. I hope it stays that way!
It took me a while to get this
The first run of these apparently immediately sold out. Because of course it did. Thanks, Instagram. I actually called a US representative from Paul Smith about this and he told me that another run was being made for the US (different standards between EU and US) and was going to be available later in the year.
He even said they may have had some over in their Los Angeles store, and since that was on my way home for a July 4th trip I was already planning, I even offered to go there to get one. That didn’t really pan out, though, as inventory during 2020 basically is no longer something most stores can manage.
I actually never really heard back from them directly, but did put in a notification alert on the availability of this item on their website. This ended up working out a bit easier. As soon as I got the email, I immediately ordered this thing.
The packaging seemed on-par with what Kask has provided me in the past, which is great overall, with some fun materials included. I did not, however, get a helmet bag with mine, which I thought was standard these days. Perhaps that was an oversight? Or maybe it simply isn’t included with either the Utopia or with the Paul Smith edition.
The box is a thing of beauty, too.
The colors are different on either side of the helmet, one side being more predominantly blue, while the other is more green and yellow.
What I also thought was cool was the interior of the helmet, specifically that the pads used between your head and the helmet also match the color motif.
No brow padding strip
Note here that, just like with the normal Kask Utopia, there is less padding in here than their other helmets. Especially across the brow region, meaning that sweat will likely be an issue if you wear this helmet as a heavy sweater or if you don’t also wear some kind of under-helmet head covering. I always wear a cap, so I honestly don’t notice any difference here compared to my other Kask helmets.
This is the big topic with aero helmets - what you gain in decreased wind resistance, you often have to capitulate on when it comes to airflow. This means that these helmets often keep you hot, more noticeable if you already run hot or are living in a warmer climate.
I can attest personally though that this isn’t really a problem for this helmet. Those two big vents you see actually do a phenomenal job of letting in airflow. They also hold your sunglasses better than I anticipated, too, as that was another concern I thought I had read about the Utopia.
Like with the other Kask helmets I’ve owned, I’ve basically “fit” into them without having to do much. I actually just order the large size and it just kind of fits. I actually haven’t had to modify the strap at all, just the back adjustable clinching mechanism. If you’re concerned about it, go to your local bike shop that sells Kask, and give one of them a try on. They all fit basically the same.
It’s the big name in cycling right now! This helmet claims to be faster than a lot of other helmets due to the way the wind slips over it. It also claims to be quieter, too, as the wind is less turbulent around your ears. After one ride that included some high speed descending, I think I noticed some of this, but it may have also been due to less wind than normal. Not sure. But it felt great, and while it may be a placebo effect still, I felt quiet stable in that high speed descending.
While I don’t obviously have data on this particular helmet as to its long term durability, I can say that my Protone is still holding up very well. I’ve had it for three years, ridden maybe 15k miles with it, and even with minimal cleaning (I always wear a cap under my helmets), it still looks pretty new. Only one side of the rear adjustable clamp has lost its (minimal) padding, which I honestly didn’t even realize until a recent review I watched pointed out that this is common for this brand. Eh, oh well.
This one is a bit on a high side. You can get the Kask Utopia on sale every so often, depending on where they are with supplies and the product cycle, but this one likely isn’t going on sale any time soon. It’s an exclusive product. And you feel very exclusive wearing it.
At least I do. And so it’s easy for me to justify!
If you’re into this kind of thing, just get this helmet. If you can, of course. I have no idea how long this will be available. They may still have a custom Kask Protone for sale right now that also looks fantastic.
If the custom color isn’t your thing, the Utopia is available in a lot of places, with even some new colors for 2020/21 on Kask’s website (I haven’t seem them on US based sites just yet), and I can say that I recommend it. It’s fun to have an aero helmet - I think it’s aesthetically pleasing (although perhaps a bit weird at first), and it ends up being quite functional.
An Update After a Year of Ownership
It’s hard to believe that I’ve had this helmet for over a year now! It’s just “my helmet” at this point, and I still get a lot of looks when riding with it. Although I will admit they have been less than when I first got it. Perhaps that’s just me not noticing it at this point, though!
Vain, much? But then again, we cyclists do tend to be a bit of a vain lot.
A few things to point out:
- The colors have maintained themselves, especially the outside. I can’t tell really any difference.
- The straps still hold up.
- I’ve definitely gotten used to the aero effect of this, or at least the perceived aero effect, so it’s hard to tell at this point if the helmet is indeed “quieter” as I mentioned in the original review above.
- I’ve never had issues with overheating with this helmet, but I also handle heat better than most and live in a cooler region.
Current pic of my helmet (with minimal cleaning, I’ll add):
If you look closely, you can see a few things:
- The colors on the inside padding are a bit faded compared to what they were before, which absolutely should be expected of a helmet.
- There is some salt staining on the rear portions of the straps, which should be easily cleanable, I guess I’m just lazy.
- If you’re really meticulous, you’ll see the thin padding strips in the back are coming undone.
A bit closer on that last part:
This is a bit of a gripe with some of the Kask retention system based helmets. You’ll notice that the padding should be fitting into that thinner channel that the rear strap loops through.
I’ll admit that I only discovered this when researching this helmet, which is funny to me because I had the issue happen on my prior helmet, the Protone, but never noticed. With this helmet, I’ve been paying more attention to this, trying to keep it in place before loosely putting it on over my cap before securing it all down with the ratcheting adjustment knob.
So overall, I still absolutely recommend this helmet. I think it’s fun, mainly for the color, but also for the perceived quieter noise. Aero effects I think are noticeable, too, but that gets into a whole other realm of measurement and, if I am quite honest, subjectivity.
Anyways, stop reading this and go buy one! I don’t think the Utopia is still available for purchase from Paul Smith directly, but they do have a really nice looking white / black fade available.
Decisions, decisions! Perhaps I need that one next!