Brain buckets: Like ’em or not we all need to wear one and, fortunately, there is a wide enough variety that everyone can find something to suit their style. We crammed our skulls into ten different MTB helmets this season and each of their reviews is outlined below for your link-clicking pleasure. The half shells are up first, and we cover your jaw with the final four.
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British Columbia-based writer, Sam James, tested the premium Bontrager Blaze helmet and had a mostly positive experience with the wavy lid.
“The Blaze is undoubtedly a great helmet. It’s extremely comfy, has some great integrated features, and it boasts some impressive protection credentials, but there’s still an elephant in the room. The price. The Bontrager Blaze helmet retails for a whopping $300. That’s twice the price of its sibling the Rally, and I just can’t figure out why. The Rally uses the same WaveCel technology, the same Boa fit system, looks very similar, and actually has an adjustable peak. So what are customers paying an extra $150 for here, other than a GoPro mount and a magnetic buckle? I’m not so sure, but if I was spending my own money and wanted something with the protection of WaveCel, I’d probably buy the cheaper helmet and stick a GoPro mount on top.”
The Bontrager Blaze mountain bike helmet is available for purchase at the Trek website.
IXS Trigger AM MIPS
Our IXS Trigger AM MIPS review comes from none other than Grace Zarczynska who pedaled in it through the wet UK weather. Don’t be fooled; she waited for a dry day to take these photos.
“Overall I found the helmet an excellent option for trail riding (and the occasional gravel ride), thanks in part to the excellent features packed inside and the mid-range price tag. Provided that one of the two sizes fits you, and you do not mind the slightly limited coverage, then it is a great, lighter-weight option.
“I would recommend this helmet for people that enjoy cross country or a trail rides. However, if you are looking for a helmet for more all-mountain and enduro-style riding, you might want to look elsewhere. That larger helmet will probably come with a weight penalty in comparison.”
Leatt MTB 3.0 V21
Chris Schieffer likes her MTB kit as colorful as possible, and the Leatt MTB 3.0 V21 half shell comes in several hues to compliment its well-tested technology.
“Overall, I have nothing negative to say about the Leatt MTB 3.0 All Mountain helmet. I love it. Everything about this helmet is a winner. The technology is top-notch, it looks good, feels great, and is as functional as they come. Not to mention, the 3.0 All Mountain helmet is approximately $100 cheaper than some of its competitors, sitting at the moderate price of $150 and currently on sale at many online retailers.”
The Liv Path mountain bike helmet is attractive because it offers MIPS, a rotational impact reduction system, and also because of its low price — just $55. However Chris Schieffer found the helmet fit awkwardly and has an unpolished look and shape that could be a turn off to buyers.
POC Kortal Race
Gerow tested the POC Kortal Race prior to its launch this season and loved everything about it — apart from the high €/$250 price tag. There is also a non-MIPS version for folks like this lid and who want to save a little coin.
“In addition to its MIPS Integra tech, this new half shell includes an NFC Medical Aid chip so riders can enter their medical information to share with emergency staff if they’re unconscious, and a RECCO Reflector so search and rescue crews can find you in the backcountry.
“The POC Kortal Race MIPS construction feels as solid as ever, and there is no question that it will protect your dome with the best of them. If you enjoy long backcountry trips with some aggressive riding mixed in, this helmet is a good one to consider.”
Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS
The most appropriate place to test a Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS helmet is likely California, which is where writer Jamieelee Palma pedals through the trees.
“It’s no secret that helmets are literally lifesavers, keeping our brains safe and keeping riders out riding and doing what they love on the trails. There are many different helmets with unique features and technologies for different riding disciplines. For the technology it has and all the benefits, A2 MIPS is well worth the $169 price compared to some similar helmets and you can never put a price on your noggin. If you are in the market for a durable, lightweight, low-profile, and sleek mountain bike helmet, I recommend the Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS helmet.”
URGE BP AllTrail
Designed on the gnarly descents above the French Riviera, the URGE BP AllTrail should be up to a sweet romp in any hills.
Gerow says, “I prefer to blend in with nature a little when I’m out VTT-ing, and I would love an AllTrail in almost any other color. This “safety officer” colorway may stoke some riders who aim to stand out, but it’s the first thing I would change about the helmet. The second and third things would be to add rotational impact protection and a Fidlock-style buckle for easier gloved-hand use. Apart from those factors, the AllTrail from Urge BP is a well-made lightweight helmet option at a reasonable price that’s largely constructed with recycled materials. Hopefully, that helps narrow down your search through the half-shell sea.”
“The chin straps anchor in the usual spot up front, but the rear anchors are located higher up than most, sitting near the crest of the skull. You can feel the rear straps against your head while riding, which is a little distracting at first. After a few rides, the straps began to feel normal and I eventually forgot about them. I couldn’t determine the advantage of anchoring the straps higher in the helmet like this, but the disadvantage is that if the strap is twisted on one side it can create a knot against your head that has to be sorted before you can pedal.”
The AllTrail helmet sells for €79. Click over to the Urge BP site for availability.
The Kask Defender is a full-face helmet that closely resembles your favorite moto protection. Gerow rode mountain bikes with it over the summer and, in keeping with the theme, liked everything but the exorbitant price.
“Goggles get a nice little cubby under the visor, with several clicks of height adjustment to move it up and out of the way. The visor itself is rather flimsy, and I managed to break one without even crashing. The helmet fell a couple of feet from a shelf to my floor, snapping the little plastic arm that holds the bill in place. While it’s good to have these pieces break to keep the visor from rotating your neck in a crash, these seem overly fragile. The field of vision is appropriately broad, with ample space for large goggle frames. When looking ahead and tracking your line the helmet frame disappears from view just as it should.
“At €600 a pop I would have a hard time recommending this helmet to anyone unless they make wheelbarrows of money and just really love the motocross looks. It is a good-looking and well functioning lid with top-notch ventilation for anyone who doesn’t spit out their smoothie after seeing the price tag.”
Leatt MTB 8.0 V21 and MTB 1.0
The Leatt MTB 8.0 V21 and MTB 1.0 were thrown into a comparison battle this summer, and Gerow found a clear victor.
“The MTB 1.0 DH V21 lid comes in three sizes and five colors, retailing for around $99 (available for backorder at Performance Bike), while the MTB 8.0 V21 currently comes in two colorways and the same three sizes, and retails for $399.99 (currently 20% off at JensonUSA).
“So what’s gained or lost in that price difference? Well, at 1,287g for the carbon-diffusor shell and 1,060g for the polymer version, it’s not the weight savings you’re paying for. The more expensive helmet weighs a full 227g more in the largest size. A lot of that added weight likely comes from the fact that the shell on the MTB 8.0 covers more of the foam liner, for a cleaner moto-style look. While the MTB 8.0 helmet is expensive, it also passed motorcycle certification tests, so folks who ride moto can use it for both disciplines. The added safety reinforcements that allow it to achieve the moto rating likely also attribute to its weight gain over the MTB 1.0. While not a major nuisance, that additional weight is noticeable, and I would choose the MTB 1.0 for any ride or race where the helmet has to stay on all day.”
Sweet Protection Arbitrator
“As a half-shell, the Arbitrator works fine. It vents reasonably well, and fits similarly to other Sweet Protection helmets like the Trailblazer that I’ve been wearing. The Arbitrator feels a little more “on the top” rather than “around the head,” at least for me, and it obviously weighs more. That heft does make it a safe-feeling helmet, especially since it’s a downhill-minded lid.
“The Arbitrator is not my favorite helmet, despite having enjoyed other Sweet Protection helmets I’ve worn. The conversion process is a little funky, and donning the helmet in full-face mode isn’t comfortable. As a half-shelf or even worn as a full-face, the helmet works just fine, however, and if you don’t mind a time-consuming conversion, then most people will find that the Arbitrator works great as a convertible helmet.”