Sweet Protection Arbitrator MIPS Helmet Review

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The Sweet Protection Arbitrator MIPS helmets is the Norwegian brand’s foray into the increasingly popular convertible helmet market.

  • Brand: Sweet Protection
  • Product: Arbitrator MIPS Helmet
  • From: Jungle Products
  • Price: £299
  • Tested: by James Vincent for 4 months
Sweet Protection Arbitrator

Although such helmets started out as a solution primarily for enduro racers looking for maximum protection on race stages without sacrificing ventilation on the climbs, they can now be seen on trails across the land, worn by riders of all standards.

Sweet Protection Arbitrator

The Sweet Protection Arbitrator MIPS sits unashamedly at the burlier end of the category, being fully certified for downhill racing, and features mode specific retention mechanisms and a full MIPS liner for increased protection against rotational injuries.

It’s not short on certification either – SGS EN1078 (DH racing), ASTM1952 (European helmet) and the more stringent CPSC 1203 (US bicycle helmet). Despite all this certification, parts of the build feel a little plasticky and some of the trim looks a bit untidy right out the box.

Sweet Protection Arbitrator

Unlike most convertible helmets, the chin bar on the Arbitrator is a fully wraparound affair, making the helmet feel exceptionally solid when in full face mode. It’s made of pre-pregnated carbon fibre to try and keep the weight down without sacrificing strength, and is secured to the main shell with a metal clasp at the rear of the helmet, aided by two metal guide pins either side of the helmet.

One unique feature of the Arbitrator is the mode specific straps; When used as a trail helmet, the Arbitrator is secured with a regular chin strap, while in full face mode, these straps are tucked away and there’s a ratchet strap to fasten it instead as per a traditional full face. The process of tucking the other straps out the way is a little fiddly, so it’s not something to do right at the last minute before dropping into your race run – leave yourself plenty of time.

sweet protection arbitrator

The chin bar itself is very bulky, and while this no doubt adds to the overall very solid feel of the helmet in full face mode, it does make it very awkward to carry the extra piece in your pack.

As a full-face helmet, the fit is nice and secure, and the dedicated ratchet strap really makes it feel like a regular full-face – it doesn’t feel compromised in any way at all. It’s a bit of a squeeze to get over my ears, but once on it’s very comfortable.

sweet protection arbitrator

Sadly, as a trail helmet, the Arbitrator isn’t quite as good. It’s on the heavier end of the spectrum coming in at 550g without the chin bar, and you can really feel this weight when riding. The Arbitrator also sits quite high on my head, with the Occigrip retention cradle at the back of the helmet feeling less effective than other helmets retention systems.

It’s not the best ventilated helmet either, with a reduced number of vents on the top of the helmet. Sweet Protection claims it’s got “Digitally Optimised Ventilation” (optimised for fingers?), but I can’t help but feel as though it just needs more vents. This extra warmth is great if you’re uplifting in a miserable UK winter, but not so great when faced with a punchy climb mid stage in the height of summer.

sweet protection arbitrator

Also, and this is admittedly pretty niche, but due to the lack of vents I’ve been unable to attach a light to it for night riding. Not a deal breaker, but something to consider if you’re looking for one helmet to rule them all.

Lastly, I’ve found the Arbitrator is a little awkward with certain glasses. Yes, yes, I know the MTB fashionistas dictate that we shouldn’t be wearing full-face helmets with glasses, but it’s the attachment points for the straps to the main helmet that cause a problem so it’s an issue when in trail mode too.

Overall

To sum up, the Sweet Protection Arbitrator MIPS is a fantastic full-face helmet, but an overly compromised half-shell. If you need a full-face helmet 90% of the time, then by all means go for it, otherwise there are cheaper, lighter and better ventilated options out there.

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Review Info

Brand: Sweet Protection
Product: Arbitrator MIPS Helmet
From: Jungle Products
Price: £299
Tested: by James Vincent for 4 months

Having ridden bikes for as long as he can remember, James takes a certain twisted pleasure in carrying his bike to the most inaccessible locations he can find, before attempting to ride back down again, preferably with both feet on the pedals. After seeing the light on a recent road trip to Austria, James walked away from the stresses of running a design agency, picked up a camera and is several years deep into a mid life crisis that shows no sign of abating. As a photographer, he enjoys nothing more than climbing trees and asking others to follow his sketchy lines while expecting them to make it look as natural and stylish as possible. He has come to realise this is infinitely more fun than being tied to a desk, and is in no hurry to go back.

More posts from James

  • This topic has 9 replies, 8 voices, and was last updated 1 year ago by ehrob.
Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
  • Sweet Protection Arbitrator MIPS Helmet Review
  • bikesandboots
    Full Member

    Is this actually intended to be used in both modes on one ride? The additional steps compared to competitors seem quite a faff – take off goggles/glasses, unbuckle, take off helmet, tuck away straps, put helmet back on, buckle up.

    justinbieber
    Full Member

    @bikesandboots – yup, very much so. Compared to competitors, the steps required to switch between modes is a fair bit of faff, and that’s before you add in the bulk of the chin bar.

    sargey2003
    Full Member

    Have we reached peak peak?

    hightensionline
    Full Member

    So it’s the same concept as the Giro Switchblade from 1998, with the same issues but a bit more protection.
    Plus ça change…

    I made the mistake of buying one on a whim, got injured before use, returning it slipped my mind (off my bonce on opiates) now stuck with a pig of a helmet that is an utter faff to convert. Currently an ornament on my shelf.

    Why the double strap? Bonkers.

    barney
    Free Member

    @relapsed_mandalorian – This is the way.

    sorry.

    @barney

    This is the way.

    mashr
    Full Member

    I really like Sweet helmets. I’ve owned a Fixer FF, Bushwhacker, Dissenter and now a Trail Blazer. Wouldn’t even look at this one, looks like it was designed by committee or something

    ehrob
    Full Member

    I’ve had one for a year and like it, though it is a faff compared to some of its competitors.

    They’re all a compromise these convertibles – as far as I can see this one compromises less on protection in full face mode than others. It feels the closest to a proper full face helmet of the convertibles I’ve tried. However, it compromises more on convertibility and the open face mode. Though I don’t seem to have the same fit issues as the reviewer.

    I like it for enduro racing. But don’t tend to bother with it otherwise.

Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)

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