Review: Oakley Aro 3 MIPS Helmet

Well ventilated, light and highly protective helmet suited for road and gravel

Feature type Review

Read time 10 mins

Published May 12, 2022

Author Chris Hunt

Chris Hunt BASE Editor and Bristol-based adventure writer with a penchant for travel by bike, interesting coastlines and adventures that end in the pub.
Our Verdict:

The Oakley Aro 3 MIPS is a comfy, well-vented and distinctive looking helmet well suited to road and gravel riding.

The build quality has a premium feel, from the X-Static forehead pad, the Boa dial for adjustment at the rear, to the intuitive chin strap system, while the MIPS liner adds a welcomed extra degree of safety.

Size M (54-58cm)
Weight 295g
Features MIPS, glasses garage, Boa dial
RRP: £153.00

Pros

  • Effective glasses storage
  • Recognisable design
  • Comfortable
  • Premium build

Cons

  • Large profile
  • Fit might not suit everyone

First Impressions

Out of the box, the instantly distinctive aesthetic of this helmet is what stands out. The profile of the helmet is quite big and bulbous which, although won’t be for everyone, I like. The actual foam and plastic shell of the helmet is thick. It’s really well vented with huge holes on the top and a nicely designed unique profile. Although the numbers won’t really excite the hill climbers obsessed with cutting weight, it is noticeably light to hold.

Finishes like the strap and the boa dial for easy adjustment are an indication of the familiar high build quality from the brand.

I’m a sucker for additional bits that come with any product and from experience Oakley are pretty good at covering those extra nice-to-haves. In the box comes a mesh bag for keeping the helmet safe in transit, additional logo stickers and also a replacement brow pad.

What I’m Looking For

Safety is obviously the top priority when it comes to choosing a helmet. By law all helmets sold in Europe need to comply to a specific safety rating known as 1078 (set up in 1997 and revised in 2012). All helmets will show this on a sticker on the inside. The Aro 3 of course is no different with the label certified to 1078.2012 clearly shown.

Ultimately any helmet’s effectiveness is defined by fit. If it doesn’t fit your swede quite right it won’t prevent damage and if it’s uncomfortable you’re simply not going to wear it. And this is dependent on the kind of rides you’ll do too. I do a lot of cycle touring and longer audax style rides where things like aero performance and weight aren’t the top of my priority. Instead, all day comfort and forgetting about it once it’s on my head is much more important.

Then come aesthetics. It can feel shallow to be so quick to talk about the looks of technical products but I’m a big believer that kit that looks good will make you want to use it, which means particularly for safety gear like this, the product is doing its intended job. It’s not easy to define what makes a good looking helmet and it is of course hugely subjective. But every few seasons see a new wave of specific helmet designs become instantly recognisable.

Any helmet’s effectiveness is defined by fit. If it doesn’t fit your swede quite right it won’t prevent damage

The Test

I’ve been riding with the Oakley Aro 3 for about three months now during winter and into spring here in the UK which means I’ve experienced a good range of temperatures. Those rides have included shorter day rides both on tarmac, gravel and some fairly user friendly cross country trials, a 300km Audax and a short cycle tour in France and Belgium.

For me, this is a pretty good representation of my typical riding requirements. I’ve had freezing headwinds and rain as well as belting sunshine and I’ve spent long days and in some cases nights back to back meaning my head has got really used to the feel of having this helmet on my head.

Who is this helmet designed for?

As we see the distinction between road, gravel and mountain biking continue to be eroded, helmets like this do a pretty good job at catering for a good chunk of those needs.

Similar to the hugely popular POC Octal of a couple of years ago and a few helmets on the market that currently seem to cater for both the road and gravel markets effectively, it feels light but protective.

Oakley references ventilation as one of the key points of the helmet suggesting it’s a key item for hot rides and big climbs.

What Stands Out?

Design

The thickness of the foam construction gives a sense of increased safety.

If you’re after a low profile bike helmet, this might not be the helmet for you. It’s quite big in structure with an instantly recognisable profile available in a range of colours to suit almost everyone.

Fit

Fit is obviously a really personal thing, but to me this helmet did seem to come up a bit small for a medium.

I have a 56cm head which puts me bang in the middle of the size bracket for most mediums across the market. The ARO 3 medium is said to cover heads of 54-58cm but I needed to have the boa dial almost at its loosest, which is surprising being bang in the middle of the size bracket. 

The Aro 3 also sits slightly higher on my head than previous helmets I’ve owned which does at first give it a kind of top heavy and even slightly unstable feel but it’s something I’ve become familiar with and am no longer aware of.

Boa Adjustment

I love the minimal profile of the boa string and the quality feel of the dial to adjust sizing and I think the way it connects to the forehead padding enables a really good fit around the entire head.

MIPS 

Which stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection has become pretty common place on modern bike helmets. This is a shell that sits inside the helmet designed to help reduce rotational energies otherwise transferred to the head during an impact or crash.

Thankfully I haven’t had to put this element of the helmet to the test yet but it’s a nice additional safety element to include.

X-Static Padding

The brow padding is thick, comfortable and absorbent. It is said to include silver to eliminate oder and inhibit the growth of bacteria. So far, this pad has kept looking and feeling really fresh. It is also replaceable with a replacement pad provided.

 

Ventilation

The main marketing focus with this helmet seems to be its ventilation but I’d say there’s probably cooler options out there.

I used the helmet through the winter and rarely felt I needed a hat for warmth, which may be partly down to the plastic lining of MIPS – although it’s worth saying I do generally run pretty warm. That said, for me, doing most of my riding in the UK it’s definitely vented enough.

Comfort

Besides the brow pad at the front, the helmet contains very little else in the way of padding, instead just the plastic insert of the MIPS liner.

At first this looks quite uncomfortable – particularly coming from my previous helmet which the whole inside was padded. In reality though, it isn’t something that I’m at all aware of during use.

Getting used to a new helmet is always a bit of a challenge but I have no issues wearing it for over 10 hours at a time which I think is testament to a comfortable design.

Value For Money

On the Oakley website, the ARO 3 is currently listed at £153 but across the web it’s listed for a huge range with little consistency and as low as £60. At retail price it’s what you’d expect to pay for a helmet of this quality with MIPS and well within the range of its competitors. If you can bag it as low as £60 I’d say you’ve got a bargain .

BASE Bottom Line

If you ride a lot, investing in a new helmet is big deal. Riders will quite quickly merge with their helmets. You might have more than one type of helmet on the go depending on the kind of riding you do but chances are the helmet will define how you look and feel on the bike for quite a large portion of time.

Ultimately you should definitely be looking to try a range of helmets on before committing, but if a distinctive and different look with a premium build is what you’re after, then definitely consider the Oakley ARO 3 MIPS.

With an instantly recognisable design, there is great attention to detail within the components and construction. The comfortable no-fuss chin strap, high quality padding (although not much of it), the boa dial for size adjustment, the MIPS internal shell and sunglasses compatibility all make for a really user friendly and I think good looking helmet suitable for a range of different riding styles.

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