Grouptest Addendum: Helmets

by 0

Helmet GroupshotHelmets! Gotta love’em! In issue 104, we did an huge 12-helmet strong grouptest of trail helmets – BUT IT WASN’T ENOUGH! Still more helmets came in – more, More, MORE! So we’ve got a further 8 helmets here, just for you!

So without further ado, let’s get cracking:

Alpina Carapax

Price £89.99

From: Moore Large

Reviewed by: Hannah

DSC_0400In my experience, helmets fall into the same category as shoes: most of them just don’t quite fit me, and if they don’t cause me immediate discomfort in the shop, then once I’ve bought and worn them past the point of return, some pain causing niggle will show itself.

However, this offering from Alpina has not fallen into this category. The Carapax felt instantly comfortable on my head, and remained so on rides. Highly unusual, surprising, and pleasing – especially as I think it looks excellent too. It has a nice slim profile – no mushroom noggin look here, and it is very light.

DSC_0402

Construction wise, the Carapax doesn’t claim any particularly ground-breaking or unique technologies, and the finish is good, but not the perfection that you might seek in a more pricey helmet. I do think the low weight of it is excellent, especially for the price. Adjusting the peak doesn’t feel quite as slick as it might, but I’ve had no problems with getting it to stay in place, and have found the size and positioning to be good for both visibility and keeping the rain out of my face.

If I had to pick holes in it – and being picky and hard to please, I can’t help it – I’d say that the fit is slightly narrow. A buff underneath is ok, but a hat is too tight. That said, it is so comfortable I didn’t need to wear anything under it except for on really cold days. Not having had any properly warm days, I can’t be sure, but the fact I can comfortably wear this helmet without a buff in cool weather suggests to me I might be seeking out something with more ventilation come the hot days of summer (all 3 of them). That said, I’ve had no problems with overheating this far.

DSC_0401

I’ve not felt any pressure points, and the helmet fits securely without causing a headache on longer rides – something I often experience in other helmets. The helmet and tightening mechanism caused me no problems when wearing glasses – of the essential vision enabling variety, rather than street cred enhancing sporting shades ilk – and the straps sat comfortably round my ears. The ratchet guide fastening mechanism eliminates the neck pinching risk of a typical side squeeze buckle.

Overall: This helmet ticks the comfort and appearance boxes for me, and has become my new go-to helmet.

661 Evo AM Helmet

Price: £89.99
From: One Industries
Reviewed by: Chipps

DSC_0872

The 661 Evo AM is an extended protection trail helmet from that masters of the soft kneepad, 661. Featuring 15 vents on a deep coverage shape, the shell is inmoulded to the ‘Contego’ EPS foam for durability. There is a jauntily angled peak, but it’s fixed by plastic clips in one place, so if it doesn’t work for you (or your glasses/goggles) then you’re a bit stuck.

I’m usually on the top end of a medium size (Giro) helmet and I found the M/L size to be a good fit, size-wise. The helmet protects the temples and reaches far down the back of the head. Below this is a fit system that includes a genuine BOA dial for fine-tuning the fit. Dial it in to tighten and there’s a clicky release to let you exactly find that sweet spot.

DSC_0874

The chin strap is equally pioneering in incorporating a magnetic ‘Fidlock’ buckle. It clips together by touching the two buckles together, but needs to be slid apart to release. This makes finding the release point easy with gloves and it hasn’t accidentally released. The buckle is slightly wider than conventional though.

DSC_0879The big vents and large, simple pads make this a very comfortable helmet to wear, though the fit didn’t suit everyone.

Overall: A very well made, fully featured helmet. If it fits, and the fixed peak suits, then definitely worth a look.

Sweet Protection Bushwacker MIPS

Price: £169
From: Sweet Protection
Reviewed by: Richard

DSC_0407

There is no mistaking the distinctive look of the Bushwhacker, or the name. It sounds like it means business and that it’s going to protect you no matter what. I’ve thoroughly tested this lid – one spill in particular (there have been others) even knocking me clean out. To this day I don’t know what happened on one of our simplest moorland trails, and I still haven’t lived it down.

But what are the details? Sweet Protection offer the Bushwhacker in three models, one as a composite lid without MIPS and two versions with MIPS; one composite (as tested here) and a top of the range carbon, all available in a variety of colours.

The Bushwhacker is constructed using in-molding, a technique that fuses the EPS liner with the polycarbonate shell, and brings the overall weight down. Our test helmet is 333 grams for our M/L, which is pretty good for the protection, coverage and construction. Sweet Protection also shouts about the five-piece shell construction, which uses variable outer shell thicknesses to help shape and optimize the protection and performance.

DSC_0409I’m a fan of the fit and feel of this helmet; it fits deep, hugs my head and makes me feel very protected. The Occigrip turn dial provides easy adjustment and the mechanism has a nice low profile. It has never caught on the grab handle of a pack, though it’s still user friendly with gloves. There are some soft silicone pads that help hold the helmet in place too.

Although the Bushwhacker sports 17 vents, I found it on the warm side of things, with sweat dripping from my forehead on hot days after effort, possibly as it sits so low and the vents seem to start above the peak. But I think this is a small price to pay for the coverage.

DSC_0410

The peak is strong and is held in place by two replaceable plastic breakaway clips, and you even get a couple of spares in the box.

Overall: This lid saved my head. The MIPS works well (I actually tried it out), it sits nice and low providing a lot of coverage and there is no mistaking the good looks.

Cratoni AllSet

Price: £69.99
From: Hotlines
Reviewed by: David H

DSC_0523

The Cratoni Allset is an entry-level MTB helmet, lacking some of the features of it’s big sibling the AllTrack, but still with a dialled fit system and bug netting in the frontmost vents. The pads and general fit are very comfortable, and the helmet has large vents. So large, in fact, that on cold days I found wearing a buff underneath wasn’t enough to avert a headache, and I needed a beanie.

DSC_0524

The visor isn’t movable, so you might want to look further up the range if you’re going to wear goggles. The vent pattern is also unusual, such that mounting cameras and lights is a problem: no strap-based mount can attach in a way that’s central, secure or points forwards. The main vent is a large inverted V, with an apex they’ve named the “camera port”. It’s basically a big flattish area on top that you can stick a GoPro mount to, which I’ve also used for lights.

DSC_0525

The ratchet buckle is really good and unique to Cratoni. Compared to traditional ones, fancy magnetic ones, and strappy moto-loop things, the new quick release they’ve designed is simple, never pinches skin, and is easy to use with gloves on.

Overall: The niggles of this helmet do work a little against winter and night riding, but I think it would make a really excellent summer helmet. It’s comfortable, exceptionally well vented, and has a good fit system.

Bontrager Rally MIPS

Price: £89.99
From: Trek
Reviewed by: Barney

DSC_0391

The Bontrager Rally MIPS is essentially the same helmet as the Bontrager Rally reviewed in the magazine, with a fancy new paintjob, and of course MIPS – the wondrous yellow plastic shell which acts as an interface between the lid and your head, and prevents rotational forces from a crash transferring themselves to your head and thence your brain. Reducing shear forces has been shown to reduce the severity of rain injuries, and it’s thought that systems like the MIPS one here can do much to help in the event of a crash.

Firstly, this really is the same helmet – at key points under the MIPS is the velcro which would ordinarily be used to secure the padding, and which is now redundant.

DSC_0392

So the same attributes apply. I’ll quickly re-cap: the vents are small but serviceable, the fit is good, the peak is hugely adjustable, and we liked it enough to give it a coveted ‘recommended’ tag.

So what’s changed? Well, fit hasn’t been compromised overmuch – the Headmaster system feels pretty similar to the non- MIPS lid, and the whole thing fits solidly on the head. The helmet does seem to be somewhat warmer than the non-MIPS version, especially around the temples. It’s by no means a deal-breaker, but back to back the MIPS helmet does seem slightly warmer; the close-fitting yellow cap is vented, but perhaps it’d benefit from a few more holes. And the lustrous turquoise and blue paintjob is one which garnered appreciative ‘oooh’s from many around the office – so a palpable hit.

DSC_0394Overall: perhaps unsurprisingly, much the same as the non-MIPS Rally, but a tiny bit warmer. It’s a worthy tradeoff for the extra safety of MIPS, though.

GT Helion Helmet

Price: £44.99
From: GT
Reviewed by: Barney

DSC_0412The Helion is an helmet from GT which sits unashamedly at the more value end of the market, compared to some of the others in this test. Although the GT Helion bike is a thoroughbred XC machine, the identically named helmet is more of all-mountain affair, and extends more down the back of the head than more shippet-aimed lids might. It’s perhaps not the prettiest helmet we’ve seen – although beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that – it features an in-moulded polycarbonate shell which bonds the inner and outer together, there is a non-adjustable visor at the front, a selection of pads in the middle and a ‘micro-adjustable fit belt’ with an ‘occipital pad’ offering ‘unmatched comfort and customization’.

DSC_0415This last seemed pretty secure, although it’s not the easiest to use with gloves on. The fit of the helmet strikes me as being slightly more rounded than my alien shaped head, but it was pretty comfy despite that. It’s a pretty warm helmet to wear, especially at the back; some of the 13 vents are pretty small, but in the UK of course this can be as much of a blessing as a curse, and it was particularly snug with a buff underneath on a couple of particularly cold days.

Overall: probably a better lid for cooler days than warmer ones, but it performs fine if you can handle the looks.

Mavic Crossmax Pro

Price: £115
From: Mavic
Reviewed by: Barney

DSC_0403The Crossmax Pro is Mavic’s Capstan full-strength enduro helmet, which therefore is crapped full of features it hopes will appeal to those who wish to hurtle downhill even faster than they scamper up it. And as such, it has many features which would appeal to any self-respecting trail rider.

First up, it’s pretty good looking, with a substantial amount of coverage at the back. Ventilation looks good, there are 20 holes to cool your noggin, and the front ones are mesh lined to minimise insect/forehead interface issues. The large peak is adjustable and you can lock it down thanks to the two plastic grommets that attach visor to lid. There is a groove down the sides and back of the helmet which keeps your googles (should you choose to go Full Enduro) in place, and a couple of snicks taken out of the brow of the helmet at the front keep air flowing, and help to dispel fog. In the glasses, that is – not just wherever you’re riding.

DSC_0406The helmet’s fit is excellent. The LiveFit concept (!) essentially means that there’s a stiffer foam lining the front of the lid between it and the usual helmet padding. It serves two functions, apparently. The first is to conform to the shape of your head, and the second is to ‘absorb vibrations and cushion impacts like never before’. Well, I can’t attest to the latter, but I can say that it’s a very comfy helmet which stayed put impressively. This L helmet weighs in at 368g; it wears its weight well.

DSC_0405The peak adjustability is ideally a fit and forget job; the plastic bolts aren’t all that easy to fiddle around with when you’re wearing gloves, so tweaking angles when you’re in the middle of a ride can be a pain.

But air flow is excellent, looks are good and comfort is right up there. A great lid: Recommended.

Endura Humvee

Price: £34.99
From: Endura
Reviewed by Tom Hill

Despite having a couple of helmets in their line for the last few years, Endura remain better known for their no-nonsense clothing than they do for their other riding accessories.DSC_0526The Humvee is a new model in their range, and fills the ahh, umm, “enduro” shaped hole in their line-up. There are no big surprises at first sight. Good coverage? Tick. Plenty of vents? Tick. Peak? Tick. Rad colour? Tick. Other details are well thought out, if not ground-breaking. A good sized ratchet dial at the rear offers a wide range of adjustment and can easily be worked, even with chunky winter gloves on. The chin strap buckle is again chunky enough to work with gloved hands, without ever feeling obstructive while being worn. Finally, fabric mesh keeps any flying creepy crawlies out of your hair come summer.

DSC_0527As with shoes, the number of features doesn’t mean much if the thing doesn’t fit. Earlier Endura helmets seemed to suffer from failing to feel comfortable on a lot of “average” heads. The Humvee feels closer the norm. Fit wasn’t quite on a par with the (for me) perfect Giro Feature, but it was close. There were no pressure points or hot spots, even after long rides. I was initially disappointed to see that the peak is a fixed affair – more often than not, I find these obstruct my eyeline slightly. Happily, this was never really an issue with the Humvee.

DSC_0529The helmet market is a crowded one, but the Humvee more than holds its own. It fills the typical mountain bikers requirements perfectly, for everything other than full on XC or downhill racing.

Overall: While there is little new or unique on offer, it is a solid choice and one worth trying on next time you are shopping for a new helmet. And that was where the review was going to end, until I spotted the Humvee’s price (£34.99) – it compares superbly with helmets that cost twice as much. It feels that so much in cycling is ever more expensive. It’s nice to see a well thought out product bucking the trend. Recommended.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply