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marka

Bauer Re-Akt 200

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Howdy,

When Bauer recently came out with their new Re-Akt 200 helmet, their claims of "next generation protection" and "enhanced impact management" caught my eye.  Virginia Tech also rated it as their first 4 star helmet, leading me to think that there might be more behind that than the standard "bold new marketing".  Couple that with me not being particularly happy with how my previous helmet (CCM Resistance 300) interacted with my cage (Bauer Re-Akt Titanium Face Mask)*, that helmet having been a used purchase, and me using it ~4 times a week for over a year.  I was ready to explore getting a new helmet.

I picked one up at SummerJam in Toronto and have been using it since.  Coming up on 2 months now playing ~4 times a week and I figured I'd give folks my thoughts.

Price paid: $349.99 CAD, without cage
Purchased From: Pro Hockey Life - Vaughn Mills, Toronto, ON

(note that the cage shown here is one I already owned, not the one that comes with the combo)

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Protection
Let's start with a protection review, since this was certainly a major factor for my interest in this helmet.  But this necessarily has to be anecdotal.  I do not have a helmet impact testing lab, I don't have a degree in mechanical engineering, and I'm not a brain surgeon.  I didn't even stay in a Holiday Inn.  I'm also not willing to go skate head first into the boards, even if I could somehow manage to do that consistently enough to have it be meaningful.

Instead, like basically everyone else, I have to rely on information from others.  Luckily, it seems like I've started playing hockey in a time when the protectiveness of helmets is receiving increasing attention.  Bauer claims that this helmet is their most protective to date.  They tout their VTX Technology, Suspend-Tech NG Liner system with XRD foam, FIT PLATE customizable occipital lock, etc.

That all sounds good, but its not like any manufacturer is going to introduce a new helmet with a claim like "uses the same old tech we've always used, but we added a new decal!"  Luckily these days, there's an independent testing lab attempting to quantify these types of claims.  Virginia Tech's Hockey STAR rating system attempts to assign a value that "represents the theoretical incidence of concussion for one player season assuming that the player experienced the same range of head impact conditions and frequency as outlined in the Hockey STAR methodology."

Ok, look... VT's ratings are hugely controversial.  I've heard every possible detraction... "Its a football test", "no helmet can prevent a concussion", "helmet xyz didn't score as well as helmet abc even though its the same helmet except for some minor padding changes".  "They only use one head form so the test is naturally biased to helmet that fit that head shape".  Etc.

Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc.

And it doesn't help that VT's system doesn't just report the average impact attenuation and instead attempts to assign a number that is supposed to be "how likely are you to get a concussion?".

But even with all that, they're the only game in town who is publicly testing impact attenuation of hockey helmets.  Do I think the Re-Akt 200's rating of .330 - 3.30 (the best they've ever tested) REALLY means that I'll get one third of a concussion next season?  Not really.  Do I think it means that this helmet attenuated impacts better than any other helmet they've tested?  Yeah.  I think that is pretty likely.

As for my own personal anecdotal evidence (which, again, is just barely this side of meaningless since this is anything but scientific), I've had the occasional impact to pucks, sticks, people, ice, etc.  This helmet seems to take more force to twist it out of position in those impacts.  The worst impact I've had so far was running into another player hard enough that the helmet was twisted up on my head some, a contact popped out, and I was really wondering if I'd managed to injure myself.  No headache or concussion symptoms resulted.

Anyway, I've got to give this a rating so with both Bauer claiming this to be the most protective helmet they've ever sold and VT rating it the highest they ever have, I'm giving this one full marks.  10/10.
 

Fit
Ah, but what about fit?  We all know that fit is the most important thing about helmets, right?  "A helmet that doesn't fit well won't protect you!"  "Ratings don't matter, the helmet that fits best protects best!"

I don't have the background to validate those claims (and, frankly, I don't think 99.9% of the people making the claims do either).  But that's beside the point.  A helmet that doesn't fit well makes your head hurt, distracts you, shifts on your head screwing up your vision, etc.  None of that is fun.  Nobody wants to deal with any of that.

But fit for a hockey helmet is a weird thing.  First off, the damn things all adjust for size!  As someone who comes from a motorsports background, that flat out just blew me away the first time I saw it.  Second, everyone's head is different.  Some are rounder, some are more oblong / egg shaped, some have weird bumps, some are pointy, etc.  Making it worse, some people are more sensitive to pressure points on their head than others, some are less.

The Re-Akt 200 adjusts two ways.  The first (and primary) way is the standard sliding interaction between the front and back halves of the shell.  Release the central (and tool free) locking clip and push/pull to slide the two halves such that the distance between the forehead and "backhead" are shorter/longer respectively.  Note that this only adjusts the length... There is no width adjustment, unlike the Resistance 300 I used previously.  The second mechanism is the Fit Plate at the back of the helmet.  You bake this, after you take it out of the helmet, in your handy skate oven.  Be sure to only use the Bauer branded skate oven attended by a trained(?) 16 year old professional or you will burn your house down. Then stick it back into the helmet, install the supplied foam wedge behind it to provide pressure to help form fit the Fit Plate to your head, and pop the helmet back on your noggin.  After the Fit Plate cools, it'll have a new shape customized to your very own head.

Primary Adjustment: 

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Fit Plate:  

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Fit Plate forming foam in place:  

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One note on adjustments... It seems like the central locking mechanism releases catches higher up in the shell.  For the sliding to happen though, the rear shell is slotted at the lower screw area (where a cage strap connect point will be), and it has to slide back and forth there.  The locking mechanism doesn't affect this area, and my experience with a few of these helmets at the store showed that some of them slide easier than others here.  Pay attention to this when you're adjusting them to ensure that the shells are sliding uniformly on each side, etc.  I also had the helmet "self adjust" a bit in this area when it was in my bag.  Now I glance at the slotted opening before I toss it on my head, to make sure its showing about the same amount of slot as it was before.

Pay attention!  

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I'm now going to tell you how the helmet fits on my head.  I'm not sure this is particularly valuable to anyone, but I'm writing stuff down so I might as well keep going.  My previous helmet was a CCM Resistance 300, size large, adjusted to around 1/3 from full closed.  I thought that fit reasonably well.  The one before that was a Bauer 2100, also size large.  My recollection is that that one rocked around on my head a little bit more, but its been a while.

I mentioned these helmets had caught my eye, and I'd tried a few on.  The first Re-Akt 200 I tried on was a size Large, with the size closed down fairly tight.  I did this while I was waiting for skates to be sharpened.  It felt ok, nothing special one way or the other.  When I actually bought this helmet (at Pro Hockey Life - Vaughn Mills location in Toronto... Simply awesome hockey store, with a HUGE selection), I got serious about it and brought along my then current helmet (the aforementioned Res300).  This time when I put on a size Large and compared it directly, it came up wanting.  The helmet was comfortable enough, but it rocked around on my head some, with the sides of the helmet seemingly a decent ways away from the sides of my head.

I was ready to throw in the towel on the helmet at that point, but decided to see if a Medium helmet would work.  Turns out a Medium adjusted out to near the max size seemed to fit great.  I had even pressure all the way around my head, with no rocking at all.  When putting on the helmet, it seemed like there was almost a 'suction fit' between the liner and my head.   This of course makes some intuitive sense... With the standard "sliding shell halves" adjustment mechanism many helmets use, clearly whether a particular helmet fits a more round or oblong shape depends on where that helmet is adjusted in its range.  This type of helmet at its minimum size is necessarily going to be more "round" than a helmet adjusted to its maximum size, so the Medium size was a little better for my more egg shaped head than the Large.  Cool trick!

Anyway, just to be sure, I put my cage on it (again, I re-used my Re-Akt Ti cage) and it still felt great in the store.  The store clerk who was helping me said it looked like (and felt, we did the standard "hold the helmet, move your head" test) it fit great as well and recommended not even bothering heat forming the Fit Plate since it was comfortable and not moving.  I still haven't heat formed it, and for now it remains "factory", though I eventually would like to, mostly "just because", vs. any real expectation that the fit will change.

Initially on the ice at my first game, I had similar feeling all around as in the store.  I never had sweat running into my eyes, the helmet never shifted, etc.  The helmet felt more form fitted to my head than the Res300 I'd been using.  That stayed consistent for 1.5 hours of continuous play.  What did happen is that one of the pads dug in a bit just over my right ear.  It was just that one side and I would say I first noticed it around 30 minutes into the game.  It got slightly worse as the game went on and by the time I was done I was happy to take the helmet off.  Looking at the area, it seems like there's space behind the pad, plus the helmet was new, so my plan was to live with it for the next ten games or so and see if it got better before I take any more invasive measures.

Bad pressure point.  Bad!  

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Unfortunately with a couple months in, I can't report any significant improvement.  It might take 45 minutes to an hour for that area to start being annoying, but it still happens.  If I play back to back games, I'll yank the helmet during warm up for the 2nd game to give my head a rest.  I have not attempted to address it in any fashion, mostly because I can't see what I can do to change it.  I've confirmed that there is still a little space behind that pad when the helmet is on my head and because those pads are "floating", I don't see any way to convince that area to have a little less pressure except for perhaps cutting the pad, which I'm hesitant to do for fear of destroying it and/or making the pressure points worse.

Anyway, all that said, I'm going to put fit at 8/10.  I was really hoping break in would take the annoyance away, but at this point I'm not holding out too much hope.  Still, the level of irritation is minor enough that I can ignore it.

Weight
On my completely uncertified postage scale that's been kicking around my house for 20 years or so, the helmet plus my Re-Akt Ti Cage is ~29oz.  You, the dear reader, can go compare that to whatever you'd like, so I'm going to base my rating on "did I notice anything different about the weight while wearing it compared to any other helmet I've worn"... And the answer to that is no, I did not.  So I'll go with 9/10 here, just because I didn't jump with joy about how light it was.

Durability
Well, it hasn't broken yet playing 4 or 5 times a week for a couple months.  There's been no appreciable wear to anything either.  Of course, I wouldn't expect there to be either of those things in 30 games or so, so I'll rate it as 8/10 because I think I scratched it with something in my bag and it didn't magically heal itself.

Intangibles
Let's throw "style / looks" into this one.  It looks like "a normal black hockey helmet" to me.  I'm pretty oblivious to style though, so maybe you might care about something more.  Look at the pictures and make your own call.

I'm also going to put in "mechanics and such" in here... A few things to note... The chin and cage strap points are easy enough to reach and feel and the cage straps seemed to solidly hold the cage closed.  I never had sweat run into my eyes.  I never felt like the helmet was appreciably hotter or cooler than my previous helmet.

I'll lump all that into a 9/10 rating.  I don't want to have its babies, but I'm not kicking it out of bed either.

Cost
I'm going to add cost as its own category because this is obviously a driving factor for everyone.  About the only good thing I've come up with for starting hockey so much older than the average bear is that I'm fortunate enough to be fairly well established in life/career/etc.  As such, I'm in a position where if I think a $300 (USD retail) helmet is something I want, I can afford to buy it.

However, that 18 year old kid I was sitting next to on the bench a couple weeks ago who's just graduated high school and works at the local ice cream shop isn't in the same position.  This helmet is the most expensive one currently at Hockey Monkey.  I have to rate cost as 1/10 for that reason.  I had to pause at the idea of replacing my helmet with it, even though I clearly wanted it.

Conclusion
This is a really expensive helmet.  It is a helmet for people that believe that there are meaningful differences in the protection offered by helmets, even between helmets that "fit well".  Its Bauer's current state of the art.  Its Virginia Tech's highest rated helmet.  It fits me quite well.  I like it, I can afford it, and I'm happy I bought it.  All those categories above will be weighted differently for different people.  If you're the 18 year old ice cream shop kid, the cost category is probably going to matter a heck of a lot more than the intangibles category.  And even though maybe it shouldn't, I bet it'll matter more than the protection category as well.

But for me and my weighting of the categories, all that above comes out as a 9/10 combined rating for me right now.  I wish it cost a little less. Warrior's top of the line Covert PX+ is less than 2/3 the cost.  CCM's top of the line Tacks 710 is even less.  I'm also not ecstatic about that pressure point above my right ear, and may eventually try and address it.  Those are my two nits as compared to all the positives and at least at this early date, I'm quite happy with this lid.


About me
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 175 lbs
Location: Youngstown, OH (Pittsburgh, PA hockey area)

I'm a 47 year old parent who got skates and a stick when his son got interested in hockey, then discovered I loved it.  I've been playing for a little under 2 years now, typically on the ice four or five times a week.  Nobody would mistake me for someone that is good at the game, but I'm slightly better than a true beginner at this point.


* The Re-Akt cage "fits" on the Res300 helmet, but the helmet has adjustment sliders where cage strap snap points usually are.  They (presumably) put the snap points lower on the helmet because of this and that, coupled with the fairly high attachment points for the straps on the Re-Akt cage, meant that the strap angle was such that it didn't do a great job of holding the cage closed.  A nit, but one that annoyed me.

Edited by marka
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About me:

Age 55.

Experience: One and a half years. 

Level: muppet. 

I started out with the Bauer 4500 helmet and face cage. It does the job, but you feel every bang on the head due to the firm foams used. I decided to upgrade the helmet after I collided with a huge player going at full speed who wasn’t looking where he was going. I was nowhere near the puck, so there was no excuse, but there was a loud bang as our helmets collided, I went flying, he remained upright, and I had a headache for several days afterwards , which is not good. 

The Bauer Reakt 200 is a top end helmet, and well reviewed by Virginia Tech. I know the VT reviews are controversial, but a good review can’t be a bad thing. So I ordered a large to try, and bought it as it fitted well. The first time I wore it on ice I had mild pain either side of my head, which I figured out was due to the cage being too narrow, despite being a large. A few minutes manually widening the cage sorted out the discomfort. 

This helmet is much more comfortable than the 4500, and after suffering a collision with the boards and a whack on the head from a stick I can say that it provides noticeably more protection than the 4500. Obviously if my head hits something hard, and decelerates rapidly, the helmet will not protect my brain from the deceleration, but the soft foams do without any doubt dissipate the impact much better, and hence the helmet should reduce brain damage to some degree. 

The helmet is expensive compared to others, but given that brain damage is a serious risk, I don’t mind paying more for a better level of protection. 

Added 1 January 2019: Last night I took a slap shot to the head while wearing this helmet. The puck hit the plastic shell above the forehead. It wasn't the most powerful of shots, thank goodness, but the helmet did its job: I didn't feel a thing, nothing and I haven't felt anything since either, so hopefully there was no zero injury. When it impacted, I had the feeling that the foams and suspended lining inside the shell were deforming and absorbing the shock of the impact. I'm sure my old 4500 would not have dealt so well with that shot. So, a big thumbs for the new helmet. 

Edited by Leif
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