LEM MotivAir cycling helmet

LEM MotivAir ‘Inside-Out’ Helmet Review: Light, Cool, and Sleek

LEM leaps onto the American cycling scene with the MotivAir cycling helmet. With its ‘exo shell’ and 23 vents, the Italian brand offers up one of the lightest and most ventilated skull buckets we’ve tried.

It’s not always easy to see through the marketing jargon of a new product. Whether or not it performs is all that matters. Oddly enough, LEM Helmets’ new MotivAir road cycling helmet ponies up both techy ad-speak and real-world function.

While LEM’s claim that the MotivAir “flips cycling helmet technology inside out — literally” is a bit confusing, there’s no question it’s one of the lightest, most well-ventilated helmets we’ve tested. We rode in the MotivAir through four scorching weeks in Colorado to see what the Italian brand will bring to the U.S. market.

In short: While many helmets on the market focus on advanced slip layers and proprietary tech to handle a crash, LEM aimed to make a more comfortable helmet for the ride itself. While it’s unclear how the helmet would stack up in a serious accident (we didn’t try), it excels as a less cumbersome option for the serious rider. It does comply with U.S. CPSC Safety Standards in the U.S. and EN 1078 CE in Europe.

LEM MotivAir Road Cycling Helmet

The MotivAir pegs its success on two tech innovations: a carbon fiber shell on the outside and low-density EPS foam on the inside. According to the brand, both work to carve precious grams out of the helmet’s construction.

“By moving the interior structure of the helmet to the exterior, this multi-layer, composite, exoskeleton, takes the strength to weight ratio to the next level, and allows for low-density EPS foam — not standard high-density foam — to live in the MotivAir’s internal construction and keep weight down,” LEM’s advertising states.

LEM MotivAir cycling helmet review

Despite the radical “inside-out” claims, the MotivAir looks very much like a standard performance helmet. The difference, if you look closely, is a carbon lattice that lives just under the shiny polycarbonate skin. This “exoCarbon” shell provides the helmet’s structure. According to LEM, it also allows the brand to use low-density EPS foam instead of the more popular high-density alternative.

The combination of low-density foam and carbon structure keep the MotivAir to a scant 220 g. And that puts it among the lightest helmets you’ll find on the market.

LEM MotivAir Helmet Review

To be sure, the first thing we noted in our tests was how light the helmet felt. On longer rides, that sub-8-ounce weight can help save a rider’s neck. And among racers, those missing grams will only add speed.

Additionally, as temps climbed into triple digits around Denver, the MotivAir’s 23 vents worked well to keep me from sweating out of the helmet. Hard rides still left me with wet, matted hair along contact points. But there was plenty of airflow to keep any sweat from beading down my forehead — a major deal-breaker for a helmet in my book.

LEM MotivAir cycling helmet

If the helmet has a performance drawback, it may be the fit system. It uses a dial closure to tighten the inside of the helmet around the rear and front. Properly adjusted, it provides a snug, secure fit. But it’s easy to go one or two clicks too tight, causing pressure spots on the forehead. It sounds intuitive, but it happened a couple of times and took a little getting used to.

And while overall safety and comfort should be paramount, a helmet’s style remains an important consideration. In that department, the MotivAir looked sleek — not too bulky — but also not overly race-y. It’s not a statement piece; rather, it’s svelte with clean lines — a great aesthetic in my opinion.

LEM MotivAir Helmet Buying Tips

With the MotivAir, LEM gives American riders a solid high-performance road helmet. Lighter than most (if not all) the competition, it lives up to its marketing.

And while it lacks MIPS or other proprietary anti-concussion technologies, it offers a very comfortable — and decently stylish — noggin protector. You may have to fidget a little to dial in the perfect fit, but once you do, it’s about as comfy as a helmet gets.

And at $225 — though not cheap — it’s competitively priced with other high-quality road helmets. Overall, the MotivAir should help put LEM Helmets on the map for more American cyclists when it launches this fall.

Adam Ruggiero
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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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