Whatever sort of mountain biker you are, you inevitably have special cycling shoes and a particular helmet you wear. Some riders want nothing but the best, most efficient version of everything, while other riders are after the minimum level of tool to do the particular job. The Giro Manifest Spherical is definitely for the first group of riders. It’s the most high-tech helmet we’ve seen from Giro, except perhaps the Switchblade with its removable chinbar. And it’s a helmet that has the latest thinking in MIPS anti-rotational tech and design, all from a company that’s been making helmets for as long as there’s been mountain biking.
This helmet, in a snazzy greeny gold colour showed up a couple of weeks ago, just in time for a three way Zoom meeting presentation on the tech with marketing, PR and engineering all present and doing their respective bits. And then I was left to get some rides in on the helmet.
I’m usually on top end of medium size for helmets and this fits true to that. Not too tight, just snug enough that it takes a few clicks on the RocLoc Trail knob to get it completely dialled. Interestingly, I have a love/hate relationship with deeper coverage ‘trail’ helmets as I have a bit of an out of round head and helmets always sit slightly askew on me when they’re adjusted properly. I find that the deeper the helmet coverage – how low it goes at the back – the more uncomfortable I find it around the front of my head. So, I never got on with the Xen, Giro’s original trail bike helmet and didn’t ride the Montaro that much either. The Giro Manifest hasn’t given me any such issues at all. Your head, obviously, will be whatever shape it is, but that was my initial experience – one of reasonably instant comfort.
Given that the helmet is really two interlocked helmets – in a ball and socket arrangement – I was expecting it to be a little mushroom-like in both height and width, but, while it does have a ‘unique’ shape that you’ll either get used to, or won’t, it doesn’t look physically any bigger once on the head (unlike, perhaps the 6D helmets that we saw a few years ago.) The helmet sits very low over the forehead, with a close fit over the temples and good coverage at the back.
Now, it’s not the first time we’ve seen the MIPS Spherical system – it appeared in the Giro Tyrant – the ‘I’m wearing a baseball helmet’ freeride helmet, which personally I think looks ridiculous (but then I don’t jib my steeze, or whatever). But that helmet featured way fewer vents and a generally bulkier look with its ear flaps. It has also appeared on the Bell Super Air R – but this is the first time it has appeared in a relatively compact trail helmet with no real gravity ambitions.
The helmet straps adjust easily and I was pleased to see a regular adjustable Y buckles under the ears rather than the sewn-in-place buckles that appear on some trail helmets. In my experience, those buckles always sit too far below the ears and usually right on my jawbone. As scruffy and uncoordinated as my riding gear usually is, I’m a stickler for a helmet that is adjusted well, with a tight chin strap and Y-buckles tight under the ears. This was easy to achieve.
Talking of buckles, the Fidlock buckle is a new appearance for Giro. The ‘let it it snap together’ closure is about as foolproof as it gets and the helmet stays secure until you slide the strap apart. I can’t see this failing unless you leave your helmet buckle in a bucket of metal shavings. But as the magnets are heavy duty, make sure you keep ball bearings, swarf and lodestones away from the buckle so it doesn’t fill up with magnetic crap.
Giro makes much of the superior cooling of Manifest, thanks to some huge vents, which is something like 7% better than the Montaro. In fact it’s only a couple of percent behind the Aether, Giro’s Tour de France road lid. Can I feel it? Yes, it’s definitely a very well vented helmet. One of the ‘advantages’ of having a buzz cut head is that it’s very easy to feel the breeze. Especially in places like the temples where the cooling effect is greatly appreciated. I did do some back to back rides with this and a much, much cheaper helmet and I found them both to be pretty breezy feeling – however, with the cheaper helmet, I found that any movement of my head caused torrents of stored sweat to cascade into my eyes. The Giro Manifest seems to do a great job of keeping your head cooler so you don’t sweat as much, as well as getting rid of the sweat too.
Glasses fit is always important on a mountain bike helmet and Giro has made an effort to fit glasses (and goggles too). Although the brow and temples are low on the head for protection, the insides of the temples are thinned out to allow most sport glasses arms to fit under. This was true in the case of most glasses I tried – like the Oakley Sutros in the photos, Smith Pivlock Arenas and more Rayban-style glasses like Oakley Gascans and Frogskins. Unfortunately my favourite Oakley Radarlock shades were too wide to fit, so make sure you take your favourite glasses along when shopping.
There’s also provision for stowing your glasses in the helmet vents, thanks to unobtrusive rubber grippers that sit in the vents, waiting to grab hold of the arms. This practice seems to be common in the road-riding world, and in California, but it’s not something that any of my riding friends do. Anyway, the provision is there. I tried four different types of glasses with this feature and I’m only on a 50% success rate.
Talking of eyewear, the visor will also lift enough to keep your goggles under the visor, and there’s a silicone gripper out back too for the strap. It seems to just fit a pair of regular goggles (and I’ve used a Giro stunt photo here as I never wear goggles on an open face lid). I think this tells of the more trail-oriented aim of the helmet. If you’re a regular goggler, Giro makes the excellent Switchback bolt-on chinguard helmet.
Giro Manifest Spherical – The Verdict
So, after around 100km of riding, what do I reckon? I think it’s a fantastic helmet and it’s a great evolution of everything that Giro has done so far. The MIPS Spherical is also very clever evolution of the MIPS idea and it’s way, way more comfortable having a regular foam helmet and padded liner against your skull than a hard yellow plastic bowl that is designed to move within your helmet. I’ve never found MIPS versions of the same helmet to fit as well as the non-MIPS ones, so this is a good thing.
Buckles, straps, Fidlock closure are great. The overall fit and finish of the helmet is excellent. It’s a bit of a challenging looker in its contrast-colour styles, but the black on black or white on white are subtle enough for all but the shyest of riders.
Yes, it’s £250. Only you can work out if that’s the kind of money you want to pay (though saying that, we’ve seen full facers nudging the £500 mark, so it’s nowhere near the most expensive helmet we’ve seen). If you replace your helmet every three years, that’s about £80 a year. If you do 80 rides a year, that’s £1 a ride, which is what I consume every ride for every energy bar, contact lens-wear and packet of peanuts. To say nothing of the £2.70 pint of Yorkshire beer at the end of some of those rides. Heads are obviously priceless, but who likes spending money on insurance? Insurance is not sexy.
Saying all that, if you want a new helmet that has the absolute latest cutting edge tech, that fits well, adjusts easily, vents well and is day-long comfortable, then I don’t think there’s currently a better helmet than the Giro Manifest Spherical. I guess I’ve talked myself into recommending it if you can afford it.
|Tested:||by Chipps for Two weeks|