Italian helmet maker MET is probably not on the radar of many triathletes, at least in the US. It certainly was not on mine. You may have spotted them on the heads of Team Dimension Data (formerly Team MTN–Qhubeka). I don't pay too much attention to pro tour team sponsorships, with a couple of exceptions. One is Sky, because they have so much money that it's at least possible that they'll choose superior equipment even in exchange for lower dollars. The other is whatever team is riding on Cervelo (as Dimension Data does) because Cervelo has such a great history with aerodynamics; they are a company that has emphasized aero from the very first day of their existence. Working with Cervelo gives you access to that huge repository of aero knowledge.
But what really piqued my interest was seeing the MET Drone Widebody (WB) on Jan Frodeno in Frankfurt in 2015, and especially seeing it without MET decals. Jan had previously been racing in Uvex helmets, also without decals, but I also knew that he'd been doing a lot of aero testing with Canyon as part of the development of their new bike. The absence of decals - along with Jan's expressed reticence about "promoting" brands he's not explicitly partnered with - made it clear that he'd chosen the MET Drone for reasons unrelated to sponsorship.
I wrote to Jan, and he confirmed what I'd expected; he'd been to the wind tunnel, and the MET Drone WB had by far tested the fastest for him. He did end up wearing the Drone WB with MET decals in Kona later that year, so he may have (after having found success in the helmet) felt confident in partnering with MET, but the initial decision to wear the helmet was totally driven by Jan's experience in the tunnel. As I said, my goal with testing these helmets is not to try to figure out what it is the most aero, but to describe everything else about helmets that have aero "credibility."
I reached out to MET to see about testing a helmet, and it was clear that the North American market is about as far off their radar as they were off of mine. Most European helmet makers have a PR firm or distributor that they work with in the US, but not MET. They shipped me the helmet straight from Italy. Accordingly, if you live in the US and want to buy one of these, you're going to end up shopping overseas at a site like ChainReaction or Wiggle that does a lot of shipping internationally.
The Drone's so called "Wide Body" design is primarily meant as an aerodynamic feature according to MET. Rather than seeking to cut the minimal profile, the Drone is designed to push air out and around the shoulders in order to improve aerodynamics. Can this work in theory? Yes. Does it work in practice? I have no idea. Jan's testing at least says something about the helmet is working. But what's amazing is how comfortable this design makes the helmet. One of the worst parts, in my opinion, about aero helmets is the claustrophobia they cause. They cover your ears, and the visor (when a helmet has one) can make you feel like you're sealed inside a bubble. The literally wide body of the Drone is a revelation in this regard. Instead of feeling claustrophobic, you feel like you are in your own little sanctuary. This was a helmet that I simply enjoyed wearing. It was quiet without keeping you from being aware; it was roomy and would likely fit a pretty big noggin; and it just felt good to have on.
The Drone is already roomy, but they do offer it in two sizes, Medium (what I tested) and Large. The Medium is listed for head sizes 54-58cm and Large for 58-61cm.
There's a nice dial retention system that has the added benefit of being easily adjustable even when you are riding. The plastic "cage" attached to the retention system is quite wide, and it does a nice job distributing load. Overall, this helmet just feels great to wear. The retention system is secure, easy to adjust, and distributes the load well to keep the helmet snug without ever feeling tight.
The Drone WB comes with two visors - a clear visor and a smoke grey. The smoke lens is not very dark, but it is "dark enough." Again, I'd like to see more options here. The visor clips in at two points on either side, and it's fairly secure, though the fit is not super precise. The visor doesn't mesh exactly with the grooves on the helmet. Overall, it works fine, but this is an area for improvement. I do think the magnetic systems are better than a fixed visor.
The wide design really seems to keep this visor clear. I didn't test it in super humid conditions just because I couldn't, but the visor never even hinted at fogging when I tried to "simulate" humidity by blowing air up into it from my mouth (the things I do for completeness).
The visor offers an unbelievably wide field of view, and you can almost forget you are wearing a helmet at all because you have so much space. This also is nice because this visor stays very clear. I didn't get much - if any - sweat on the interior of the visor. It stayed very clean.
Besides a lack of options, I did find that the optics were not as good as they could have been. There was some slight distortion that you don't see with something like the Zeiss optics on the POC. I didn't really notice it after about 30min or so, but some distortion is there and if visual "trueness" is important to you, this is a bit of a weak spot for the MET.
One final note. The Drone is unquestionably meant to be ridden with the visor. The visor is not optional; it's mandatory.
The Drone WB has three large slot vents on the front as well as a number of small vents along the top of the visor. There's a wide open hole in the back to exhaust airflow. Overall, the helmet vents very well. Here, as with fit, the literal "wide body" makes this helmet seem incredibly cool. It's not just that there's good airflow, it's that there's a lot of air - in general - inside the helmet. The front vents open into deep channels within the helmet that flow straight through to the large exhaust. Overall, this helmet seems to keep your head from getting too hot, though I didn't test it on a brutally hot day (but it was July in Southern California).
Unfortunately, that wide body also makes a big cavern that can suck air in underneath the helmet. And that is a problem if the helmet isn't sitting flush against your shoulders/back. MET actually adresses this somewhat - and acknowledges the potential problem here - by describing their "Full Wrap" design - "The polycarbonate shell wraps the bottom of the helmet towards the inside." But there's still a void here that air "wants" to fill. If you are riding reasonably fast and come up out of the aero position - to eat, to drink, to look around - the helmet generates a lot of lift. You can actually feel the helmet pulling up and away from your head. And with lift comes drag. During one of my test rides, I was on a flat stretch of road and had to make a left hand turn. I sat up and looked back to check for cars, and I could actually feel the helmet wanting to fly off my head. While I don't want to get too involved in aerodynamics because they are largely individual, especially when in the aero position, I do see this a potential issue in terms of making this helmet practical for AG athletes, for multi-loop courses, and just the realities of triathlon.
For a guy like Jan, who leads out of most swims and, as a result of also being one of strongest cyclists in the sport, is in the lead for most of the race, the amount of time where he ever needs to be out of the aero position is relatively minimal. He also has a bike with an integrated drinking system, something which I think is almost a requirement to pair with this helmet. This helmet clearly showed why Jan chose it in my own riding. It's obviously quick when you are down in the aero position, but I found that, as compared with say a helmet like the POC Cerebel, it's clearly not as good when you are not in the aero position. The degree to which you experience that may or may not be a limiter for you. But if you don't have a good, low aero position and if you aren't comfortable staying down in that for 99% of the race, I don't think this is the helmet for you. On the flip side, if you are disciplined about staying aero and have struggled to find a helmet that is comfortable, the Drone is absolutely worth looking at.
The Drone WB has gone through a number of different color schemes over the past few years, but currently it's available in a mostly black version with white accents and a mostly white version with black and red accents. I tested the mostly white version simply because I don't see why anyone racing Ironman would want a dark helmet rather than a light one. (Said as someone who has raced in dark helmets.) Do I think there's a big difference because of color? No. But I do think white is cooler than black. So why choose black? On a kit, I don't think it matters as much for a variety of reasons, but for a helmet I think white is the logical choice.
As you'd expect, the Drone WB is only certified under the CE standard (EN 1078) for use in Europe, so it does not meet the USAT requirement of CPSC certification. If you want to use it in the US, you're out of luck unless you are racing a championship Ironman race where you are allowed to take advantage of the helmet waiver negotiated between Ironman and USAT.
Overall, this is a great helmet but is clearly not a helmet for everyone. From a comfort standpoint, I think this is the best aero helmet I've ever used. Unfortunately, the optics could be be better in basically all facets of quality/fit/construction. Likewise, it seems to take a big aero hit whenever you are out of the aero position, which may or may not be a deal breaker for you. But if you are good about staying down in the bars and want a helmet that doesn't try to squeeze your brains out of your ears, the MET Drone WB is a great choice. CE-only certification may be a deal breaker for US athletes, but the Ironman waiver program for pros (and perhaps also age-groupers now?) is promising. For our Canadian, South American, Asia-Pacific, and European readers, this helmet is definitely worth putting on your shopping list.
MET Drone Wide Body (WB)
Price: MSRP €299 ($335 approx.)
Weight: 350g (M) 400g (L) - manufacturer. 397g (M) - measured.
UPDATE FOR 2017: MAG-CLIP SHIELD
Late last year, right about the time I published my initial review, MET released up an update to the Drone WB that addressed my primary issue with this helmet. It remains a helmet that it likely best for certain individuals who are especially disciplined about keeping their head down and low, though more and more athletes are reporting CdA improvements in aero tests with this helmet. But now, with the new magnetic visor attachment system and subtly improved optics, the single outstanding issue with this helmet has been addressed. I've been racing with this helmet all year, and I have enjoyed the optics, the comfort, and the breathability. I am not sure if it is the fastest helmet for me, and I need to do some further testing, but I can say that the helmet is incredibly functional and comfortable helmet that has been significantly improved with the new visor system.
MET calls this system the MAG-CLIP SHIELD and it's discussed more (and with more pictures) on MET's website above.
The new system is easiest to explain via video, and I made a short clip demonstrating how it works.