The Oakley ‘O’ is one of the world's most recognizable trademarks, often seen on the faces of Olympians and movie stars, but Oakley has spent its 45 years making much more than shades. Actually, the company's first product started on two wheels, with a motocross grip. Over the years, the Oakley ‘O’ has been etched on such things as watches, apparel and footwear, including combat boots for multi-million dollar military and government contracts.
For a time, Oakley made some of the nicest mountain bike apparel in the land. It never stopped making cycling-specific sunnies, but is decidedly less present in the mountain bike world than it was a decade ago. Gone went the indestructible baggies, carbon-knuckled Factory Pilot gloves, and burly clipless-pedal shoes, and in came this preppy golfing apparel lineup for Spencer over here:
And they did whatever this is:
But the big ‘O’ is back on knobby tires with some fresh kit, including a fancy new helmet. There are more helmets on the market right now than Spence could shake a 5-iron at, but the Oakley DRT5 is among a select few that show that little extra level of care in design.
The DRT5 is equipped with plenty of vents, includes a MIPS liner and sports a modern, stylish shape that surprisingly for Oakley, isn’t all crazy-looking.
It’s functional too. The visor has a ton of adjustment, the straps are thoughtfully designed with an adjustable webbing splitter that allows for larger ear holes, and the straps themselves are thin and lightweight. The end of the strap is captured as well, so it doesn’t flap about.
Oakley put in a BOA retention system that completely surrounds your skull, leaving the helmet suspended from your head sort of like a hardhat. The retention system itself is super adjustable via a tactile rotating knob that has small clicks for good micro adjustment. The system has three levels of height adjustment as well.
The way it feels on your head is a bit different. It feels like the helmet is floating over your head more than sitting on it, and it moves around up there a fair amount. The stuff touching your head doesn’t budge, but between the MIPS and retention systems, there’s a slip plane where the shell of the helmet moves independently of what’s against your head. I have to admit that I hated the feeling at first, but it’s since grown on me.
But perhaps the fanciest of all the DRT5’s accoutrements is the, “Eyewear Landing Zone,” as Oakley puts it. They’re little clips that go up and down, that hold your glasses when your face is, like, so over it.
These little doodads work well. They do an excellent job of holding a set of specs. As long as you’re not in a hurry to get them clipped on there—the ‘LZ’ isn’t set up for emergency landings. Getting your glasses up there is definitely a two-handed affair, so I either stop to do it, or get it done in a spot where I can ride no-handed. How annoying this is depends on the day, place and conditions. Some rides require just one glasses stow-job, while others require several off and ons. Those are the rides I’m not so stoked on the DRT5.
The LZ is secure, though. The clips hang on tightly to the temples of my shades, and I don’t worry about them rattling off. But I do sometimes worry about low-hanging branches ripping my glasses off the top of the helmet. They’re a bit more exposed than they are when stuffed into the vents of my Specialized Ambush helmet, which by the way, holds my glasses securely and comfortably, but I can get them off and on with one hand in less than three seconds.
It makes perfect sense for Oakley to make a helmet that incorporates some clever way to hold sunglasses. Smith did it too. But, for me, this solution is walking a tightrope between practical and gimmicky. It works, but not ideally so.
Moving on, let’s talk fit. I’ll preface this section with some info about my noggin: It’s little. Just 54.5 centimeters around. And I don’t know how to measure this, but it’s shallow too. It’s not unheard of for me to have difficulty with my sunglass/helmet interface. If you’ve got a little head as well, this section might apply to you.
The DRT5 feels deep. The brow feels lower than any helmet I’ve ridden, which caused a rather annoying interference with the Oakley Flight Jackets I was originally pairing with the helmet. During descents, the tops of the lens would rattle against the helmet brow. I adjusted the retention system to the shallowest position and tilted the helmet back on my head a bit, but it wasn’t enough to correct the issue with those glasses, so I moved to a pair of Smiths I have with far smaller frames than the Flight Jackets.
When the brow pad—which by the way, is this cool sweat guard made from silicone—is in a comfortable, familiar spot on my head, the bottom of the helmet comes all the way down to my eyebrows. It took a little getting used to, but I now ride with that pad contacting a part of my forehead that’s above where other helmets hit, so it feels as though it’s tilted back a bunch. It doesn’t look that way though, so it was really just a matter of getting used to. But the glasses clearance thing is still an issue. I can’t wear bigger specs with more coverage when riding in the DRT5. But again, small noodle problems.
The other thing to point out is the DRT5’s weight; 455 grams is not light. It’s 150 grams heavier than a Specialized Ambush, and 100 grams more than a Troy Lee A2. I don’t know how big of a deal that really is. I can definitely feel it if I switch directly from one of those two helmets over to the DRT5, but after a few consecutive rides in it, I can’t truthfully say that the weight bothers me. It’s not like it makes my neck sore or anything.
Even with my complaints, I still find myself reaching for the DRT5 quite a bit. I’ve come to like the hardhat hovering feeling of the helmet, and the retention system is tight and solid without giving me a headache. I like the looks of it, dig the colorway, fancy the way the chinstrap works, appreciate the visor adjustment, and respect the craftsmanship. Even though it’s not perfect and the “Eyewear Landing Zone” borders on gimmicky, I’m impressed with the product, overall.