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7 of the Best Lightweight Full Face Helmets | Vital MTB Roundup

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The helmet is the single most important piece of protection in a mountain biker’s arsenal of gear. Traditionally, we’ve had the choice of hot and sometimes heavy full face helmets for downhill and bike park use, or much more breathable half-shell options for trail and all-mountain riding. However, as the way we ride our bikes has evolved, so has the trusty helmet. The last few years has seen the emergence of lighter, more breathable full face helmets aimed directly at the enduro crowd, which for the purposes of this discussion we shall define as “people shredding their single-crown bikes pretty damn hard and then climbing back up to do it again”. In light of this evolution, we thought it would be high time to round up the best options currently available for those looking for more protection without cooking their noggin on the way back up, and see how they stack up against each other. Read on to find out!

When deciding how to structure this helmet test, we came to the conclusion that formally scoring each contestant and declaring an outright winner was always going to be quite subjective and potentially unfair, for the simple reason that actual crashing is not something anybody really wants to do all that much of. So instead of a traditional Vital Face Off, we decided that a Roundup was more appropriate here. That said, we have allocated scores and we’re still ranking the contestants, so don’t take this as a sign of us backing down from calling it like we see it. We just want to acknowledge that the protection aspect of these products is more difficult to measure objectively, and since protection is the number one task at hand here, we felt that this slightly less formal classification was the most appropriate format. Standards provide part of the answer for sure, but many modern helmets claim to actually “test beyond the standard” so the label itself isn’t enough to rank the helmets on this aspect.

We have had long-term experience with a number of the helmets tested here, while others were new to us. To ensure that each product was evaluated fairly, they were all used again by the same tester over a period of several months, which gave us a good perspective on how they all compare. Back-to-back testing was often used to really try to separate the potential winners from the rest of the pack. All helmets saw riding in different conditions, everything from shuttle sessions to long, hot XC/AM rides in the desert. To give a bit more structure to the results, each helmet was given a star-rating in six different categories: Protection, Breathability, Fit and Comfort, Quality and Finish, Weight, and Price/Value.

Regular or Convertible?

Within the lightweight full face category, there is a sub-category comprised of so-called “convertible” helmets – helmets that feature a removable chin bar of some sort. Removing the chin bar essentially leaves the rider with a half-shell helmet that can be worn on the climbs or on less aggressive rides, only to be converted back to full face coverage for the next rowdy downhill section. The convertible helmets we chose to include in this test all pass the DH-level ASTM F1952 standard, which basically means that with the chin bar on there should be little difference between these helmets and the regular, non-convertible ones in this test (see the relevant section further down in this article for more on this standard).

Throughout this test, we have found that the best regular full face helmets featured here now breathe so well that they basically negate most of the benefits of the removable chin bar of the convertibles. Why deal with the extra steps of having to remove, store, and re-attach your chin bar when the best full face helmets on test here offer basically the same level of ventilation as a half-shell to begin with? This observation is reflected in the “Breathability” and “Fit and Comfort” scores of the convertible helmets.

Protection

The main reason for wearing a helmet is so that it can protect your head when you crash. As we stated previously, this aspect is certainly the most difficult one to try to measure scientifically, but the following criteria helped us give a sense of what’s what when it came time to score the different helmets: certification standards, the shape and size of the vents, the shape and size of the chin bar, the presence of MIPS or other similar rotational force management systems, and the different types of materials used in the liner. The fit also plays a role here, as a helmet that moves around a lot is potentially less safe in a crash situation.

Standards

To qualify for this roundup, a helmet had to be certified to the ASTM F1952 standard, the official designation of which is:  “Standard Specification for Helmets Used for Downhill Mountain Bicycle Racing”. This standard is more stringent than the regular EN1078 (“Helmets for pedal cyclists and for users of skateboards and roller skates”) for example, because it recognizes the “higher risk to the head and face for this sport [downhill] as compared to recreational street riding”. To translate this to practical terms, it means the helmet is subjected to higher-energy impact tests, and if there is a chin bar present, it too must pass a certain level of impact testing. Note that the ASTM F1952 standard actually does not call for a full face design or a chin bar for a helmet to be certified for downhill use, but if that’s the design chosen then the chin bar needs to be tested and certified as well. Now, digging into these standards in a bit more detail, there are no guidelines for things like how large the frontal opening of a helmet can be, nor the size and shape of any vents. The standards also do not attempt to measure the benefits of recent innovations like MIPS or multi-layer liners, and to be completely fair, the impact test criteria are in many cases so old that most helmets sold today surpass them by a significant amount. In other words, the standards do a good enough job of making sure that the minimum safety criteria are met, but in today’s world, you can do a lot better than the minimum. It follows that even though they are both certified to the same standard, we have little doubt that an all-the-bells-and-whistles downhill full face ultimately offers better protection than this new breed of lightweight, highly breathable options – the former would soon cease to exist, otherwise. If you race DH or all you ride is park, a classic full face is still the way to go.

Breathability

Breathability is really the reason that this new category of helmets even exists. If a “classic” full face helmet ran cool enough to let you get away with wearing one on a multi-hour summer ride featuring a bunch of climbs, then we wouldn’t be here talking about these new options. Our breathability rating is largely based on our actual experience with the helmets on the trail, as well as a visual inspection and appraisal of the relevant vents, air channels and liner materials.

Fit and Comfort

Fit and comfort are absolutely crucial for a helmet. We recognize that finding a perfect fit depends largely on the shape of the rider’s head, so ultimately there is no “best fit”. What we looked for here however are other aspects of the design that impact the fit and comfort, as well as how adjustable the helmet and whether or not it is able to easily accommodate different head shapes and sizes. If a helmet includes a higher number of pads of different thickness for example, it will likely merit a higher score here. The principle tester and author of this article typically wears a size L helmet, but each manufacturer sent the size that was deemed the closest fit for his 59cm head circumference.

Quality and Finish

Beyond the fact that nobody likes to pay good money for a half-finished product, the quality and finish of the helmet can also influence how comfortable it is to wear and how long it will last you in use. We evaluated this aspect both upon initial inspection of each helmet as well as over time.

Price/Value

With prices ranging from $230 to $400, we felt there is enough spread here to warrant keeping score in regards to this particular aspect as well. A high price for a quality item may yield the same Price/Value score as a cheap helmet with fewer features or lesser build quality.

Our Picks – Vital Recommends

These are the three standout performers who each earn the “Vital Recommends” badge:

Troy Lee Designs Stage ($295 USD)

Strengths Weaknesses  Vital Ratings 
  • Very comfortable
  • Extremely well ventilated
  • Very stable fit
  • High level of protection
  • Lightest helmet in test
  • Lots of different thickness pads included in box
  • Pricey (but still great value for money in our opinion)
  • No obvious spot for mounting your POV camera
  • Protection: 4.5 stars
  • Breathability: 5 stars
  • Fit and Comfort: 5 stars
  • Quality and Finish: 4.5 stars
  • Weight: 5 stars
  • Price/Value: 4 stars

TLD Stage Highlights

  • Polylite shell construction with fiber reinforcement
  • Dual-density EPS co-molded with EPP combine to manage high and low-speed impact energy
  • Polyacrylite injected chinbar with EXO-skeleton reinforcement
  • 25 vents in total
  • Fidlock magnetic buckle system
  • MIPS brain protection system reduces rotational forces to the brain in certain crash scenarios
  • X-static pure silver comfort liner delivers high performance odor protection and quick-dry moisture wicking (helmet includes 2 liners - 13/10mm and 2 neck rolls 25/15mm)
  • Low-profile cheekpads use Xstatic fabric and super soft interior surface for maximum comfort and breathability (helmet includes 3 sizes - 35/25/15mm)
  • Integrated anodized aluminum/plastic breakaway hardware (extra set included)
  • Wide range adjustable visor +- 40mm
  • EPP lined chinbar for multi impact performance
  • Anodized aluminum rivet washer
  • Drawstring bag with breathable mesh paneling
  • Exceeds the following certification: CPSC 1203, CE EN1078, ASTM F1952, ASTM F2032, and AS/NZS 2063-2008
  • Weight: 690 grams, size L, verified
  • 3 shell sizes: XS/S, M/L, XL/XXL
  • 3 Year Limited Warranty
  • MSRP: $295 USD

Shop the Troy Lee Designs Stage at Competitive Cyclist

When Troy Lee Designs set out to create a lightweight, breathable full face helmet, they wanted it to be the lightest in the category. However, TLD also takes a lot of pride in producing very safe helmets, and of course they also wanted to make a statement when it comes to styling. If all that sounds like a tall order, it’s because it is – but the CA, USA based company pulled it off with the Stage. Weighing in at a scant 690 grams, the stage features a dual-density, co-molded EPS/EPP liner (which is patented), MIPS, 25 vents and the clever FidLock magnetic strap buckle to make getting into and out of the helmet a breeze.

Looking at the Stage it’s immediately obvious that it’s made by TLD. It takes more than a few design cues from the highly regarded D3 downhill helmet, but all the added vents make it clear that the name of the game here is breathability. Inside, the Stage features a soft liner that looks like it came from a half shell, only with more coverage. TLD opted out of using any kind of harness system to adjust the helmet to your exact size, instead there are three different shell sizes to choose from and you get 2 liners and 3 sets of cheekpads of different thickness to help fine tune the fit. The helmet also comes with a mesh paneled soft bag and a set of spare visor hardware (the bolts of the visor are designed to break off in a crash).

On the trail, the Stage delivers on the promises of the design. The helmet runs true to TLD sizing, and fine tuning the fit with the included extra pads left us with a very comfortable and stable helmet. The light weight makes you forget you are wearing a full face helmet, and because the Stage is also impressively well balanced front to rear, it is among the most stable helmets of this group test. The frontal opening is large and will accommodate any goggle – an indispensable accessory if you want to go full enduro.

In fact, the Stage really feels just about as well ventilated as a half shell on those hot days, which is impressive given the amount of extra coverage it provides.

When things heat up, the breathability of the Stage is impressive. The chin bar is heavily sculpted and features a number of large ports, which translates to you never having to feel your own hot breath on your face as you grind your way up yet another climb. The strategically placed vents and channels help create internal airflow as soon as you start moving, to the point that we were able to keep the Stage on our head for extended climbs in the middle of some very hot summer days. In fact, the Stage really feels just about as well ventilated as a half shell on those hot days, which is impressive given the amount of extra coverage it provides. To sum up, the Stage is an impressive piece of kit that we seem to be reaching for on more and more rides – why forego the extra protection when it comes with so little downside?

Vital Recommends: FOX ProFrame ($249.95 USD)

Strengths Weaknesses  Vital Ratings 
  • Very well ventilated
  • Light weight
  • High level of protection
  • Comfortable and well balanced
  • No obvious spot to mount your POV camera
  • Narrow frontal pad can cause discomfort if not positioned properly
  • Only cheek pads offer adjustable fit, not main liner
  • Non-adjustable visor
  • Protection: 4.5 stars
  • Breathability: 5 stars
  • Fit and Comfort: 4 stars
  • Quality and Finish: 4.5 stars
  • Weight: 4.5 stars
  • Price/Value: 4 stars

FOX ProFrame Highlights

  • Dual density “Varizorb” EPS liner provides improved protection by spreading forces of impact across a wider area
  • MIPS or "multi-directional impact protection system" reduces rotational forces transmitted to the brain in the event of a crash impact
  • Integrated chin bar is secured to the main helmet structure with a patent pending system and meets ASTM Downhill standards
  • 15 big bore intake vents and 9 exhaust vents
  • The secure fixed visor is positioned to feed airflow into the vents
  • Fidlock SNAP helmet buckle provides quick entry and exit while wearing gloves with maximum security when locked
  • Highly breathable liner system is moisture wicking and has anti-microbial properties
  • Certification: ASTM F1952, EN 1078, AS/NZ 2063, CPSC
  • Four shell sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Weight: 758 grams, size M, verified
  • MSRP: $249.95 USD

Shop the FOX ProFrame at Competitive Cyclist

When the FOX ProFrame was introduced in early 2017, it was the first to bring proper DH helmet styling to the emerging lightweight full face category. Sure, there had been other lightweight options over the years (none that were ASTM certified however), but those all looked a bit wonky and since going full enduro wasn’t a thing back then, they were mainly used by weird, purple-clad Euros riding sketchy, slow and awkward rock faces around majestic high alpine lakes while drinking very strong espresso and enjoying post-mountaineering gelatos as the shop fixed their triple-ring transmissions. Where was I again? Oh right, the ProFrame and its heavily sculpted and distinctly aggressive profile, which arrived like a breath of fresh air and would soon be flying off the shelves - and off jumps - the world over.

Heavily influenced by the FOX Rampage DH helmet, the ProFrame retains the overall imposing profile of its bigger brother but adds a number of vents and airflow channels to enable a whole other level of breathability. With a dual-density EPS liner and a MIPS layer, the ProFrame weighs in at an impressively light 758 grams (in size M), not far off the class leaders. It features a large, fixed visor, a FidLock magnetic strap buckle which is super easy to operate, and a soft liner closely resembling those found in half shell helmets. The ProFrame comes in one of four shell sizes, and you get three sets of cheekpads of different thickness to help you fine tune the fit (while the extra liner is only there as a replacement, it does not modify the fit).

On the trail, the ProFrame soon proved to be a shred-worthy companion. It runs fairly big, this tester found the best fit with a size M with the thinnest cheekpads (whereas at 59cm he would usually run a large in most brands). Running the size L with the thickest cheekpads was also an option, but that left the helmet a bit less stable through the rough stuff. Once properly dialed in, the ProFrame makes itself forgotten in action thanks to its low weight and deep coverage. The fixed visor is at the very top of the field of vision, and while some might wish for it to be adjustable we never found it to be in the way on the trail. Perhaps more annoyingly, it does make storing your goggle on the helmet when climbing a bit more inconvenient (and no option to push the goggle up under the visor to achieve full goon status).

The large vents create airflow around your head as soon as you start moving, and the chin bar’s open design makes sure you never have to recycle your hot breath as you desperately suck down another lungful of fresh oxygen.

On the way back up the hill, the ProFrame is right up there with the most breathable helmets tested here. The large vents create airflow around your head as soon as you start moving, and the chin bar’s open design makes sure you never have to recycle your hot breath as you desperately suck down another lungful of fresh oxygen. The soft liner provides enough coverage to help with stability, but it never gets claustrophobic or notably hotter than a half shell. The only negative we found when it comes to comfort is the pad that sits over the brow: it is a bit too narrow, and it fails to completely cover the underlying MIPS layer which can easily end up causing discomfort if you don’t make absolutely sure you position everything properly.

Leatt DBX 4.0 ($229.99 USD)

Strengths Weaknesses Vital Ratings
  • Very comfortable
  • Very stable fit
  • Very good protection
  • Innovative safety features
  • Reasonable weight
  • Good breathability
  • Slightly heavier and warmer than main competition
  • Only two shell sizes – try before you buy
  • Non-adjustable visor
  • Protection: 4.5 stars
  • Breathability: 4 stars
  • Fit and Comfort: 4.5 stars
  • Quality and Finish: 4.5 stars
  • Weight: 4 stars
  • Price/Value: 4 stars

Leatt DBX 4.0 Highlights

  • Polymer compound shell
  • Removable mouthpiece
  • 360 Turbine Technology for energy absorption and protection from rotational impact forces
  • In-molded EPS + EPO impact foam for energy absorption
  • 22 vents
  • Fidlock magnetic strap closure
  • Dri-Lex® liner (moisture wicking, breathable, anti-odor, washable)
  • Breakaway visor
  • Certification: AS/NZS 2063:2008, ASTM F1952–10, EN1078, CPSC 1203
  • Four helmet sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Colors: Black, Blue, Grey, Red
  • Weight: 886 grams (size L, verified)
  • MSRP: $229.99 USD

Shop the Leatt DBX 4.0 at Jenson USA

Leatt is first and foremost a protection company, and that heritage is obvious when examining the new DBX 4.0 helmet. It features the company’s “360 Turbine Technology”, which is basically a set of small rubber-like inserts that are placed all around the inside of the helmet, with the goal of providing both low-level direct impact absorption as well as protection against rotational force transmission to the brain during off-axis impacts. Additionally, the DBX 4.0 is equipped with a dual-density main impact liner to further improve the helmet’s capability to absorb harmful impact energy in different crash scenarios. The fixed visor is of the breakaway variety, and the main chin bar opening features a grill that can be removed to further improve breathability. The DBX 4.0 is of course certified to all the relevant DH standards.

In regards to its appearance, the DBX 4.0 borrows heavily from the FOX ProFrame, but tones down a few of the angles and the color schemes to fit in with the overall look and feel of the Leatt’s other products. The liner is fairly thick, and offers far more extensive coverage than the Stage and the ProFrame. With only two shell sizes, each helmet is delivered with a second set of pads and liners of different thickness to help fine tune the fit. There are a number of large vents designed to promote better airflow, including an impressive intake duct running through the visor to push air into the helmet when moving forward. To make it easier to put on and take off the DBX 4.0, the chin strap is equipped with the magnetic FidLock buckle just like the Stage and the ProFrame.

The generously dimensioned liner is soft to the touch and provides an experience closer to that of a classic full face helmet.

On the trail, the DBX 4.0 has the edge when it comes to outright comfort. The generously dimensioned liner is soft to the touch and provides an experience closer to that of a classic full face helmet. The shell sizing is ample which made for a slightly less tight fit for this tester, even with the thicker liner installed (running the thicker cheek pads proved to be too tight in that area specifically). The helmet is still very stable in use, although the extra weight compared to the Stage and the ProFrame can just about begin to be felt in certain scenarios as the balance of the helmet is different on the head. The visor is not adjustable which some might find to be a nuisance, especially when it comes to storing goggles on a climb, but we did not find that it interfered with our vision on the trail. We also noted that the DBX 4.0 is completely free of any kinds of creaking, which speaks well to the build quality.

The downside to the extra comfort of the DBX 4.0 is that it runs a bit warmer than the coolest helmets in this test. The interior liner covers a much larger surface area which translates to more heat held in, and even though the large vents do their job, the overall result is that the helmet leaves your head feeling warmer. If you live in hotter climates and want a lid that can stay on during climbs, this is not the one for you. Bonus points to Leatt for avoiding placing vents under the goggle strap though, this is something we’d like to see more companies care about – what’s the point of having big vents if you’re going to cover half of them with the obligatory goggle strap? (and no, you’re no longer allowed to run sunglasses with a full face under any circumstances).

The Contenders

We chose all the participants for this roundup carefully, they represent what we feel are currently the best lightweight full face helmets. Here are the contenders that didn’t quite make the “Vital Recommends” list above, but are nevertheless worthy of your attention: 

Bell Super DH ($300 USD)

Strengths Weaknesses Vital Recommends
  • Very stable fit
  • Good breathability
  • Very functional as a half shell
  • Good build quality
  • Good protection
  • Clip-on POV camera mount
  • Slightly austere in terms of comfort
  • Dual shell construction is a bit creaky
  • Chin bar section is large and cumbersome to carry on climbs
  • Pricey (but good value if you factor in that you get two helmets for one)
  • Protection: 4.5 stars
  • Breathability: 4 stars (4.5 without chin bar)
  • Fit and Comfort: 4 stars
  • Quality and Finish: 4 stars
  • Weight: 4 stars
  • Price/Value: 4 stars

Bell Super DH Highlights

  • Meets ASTM 1952-00 DH // ASTM F2032-06 BMX // CPSC Bicycle // CE EN1078 certifications
  • Tool-free detachable chin bar
  • MIPS Spherical energy management
  • Progressive dual-density EPS/EPP foam layering
  • Fusion in-mold polycarbonate shell
  • Snap-in breakaway camera/light mount
  • Overbrow ventilation
  • 19 helmet vents, 4 chin bar vents, 2 brow ports
  • Goggle friendly visor adjustment
  • Adjustable Float Fit DH system
  • Magnetic Fidlock buckle
  • Sweat guide
  • X-Static padding
  • No-Twist Tri-Glide strap management
  • Sizes: S / M / L (52-62cm)
  • Weight: 880g (size medium, verified)
  • Colors: Black, Black/Gum, Copper, Red/White/Black Recourse, Yellow/Smoke/Black Recourse, White/Emerald/Hibiscus Recourse
  • MSRP: $300 USD

Shop the Bell Super DH at Competitive Cyclist

The Bell Super DH is the evolution of the 3R helmet, and it brings a number of improvements to the convertible helmet game. Starting with the visuals, the Super DH really looks the part both as a full face and as a half shell with the chin bar removed. When it comes to safety, the downhill certified Super DH makes use of the new “MIPS Spherical” system, an evolution of the classic MIPS slip plane technology designed to reduce the transmission of rotational forces to the brain during off-axis impacts to the head. MIPS Spherical makes use of two impact foam liners (EPS/EPP) that fit together much like a ball-and-socket joint, separated by a MIPS slip plane that allows the two liners a degree of movement between each other. Additionally, because they are each of different densities, the liners provide protection against both high and low energy impacts.

The Super DH’s party trick is of course the removable chin bar. Bell went with a system that lets you take off the whole lower part of the helmet, leaving you with a classic half shell once removed. The chin bar is held in place with three clasps, designed to be operated even while wearing the helmet. In terms of comfort and fit, the Super DH uses a half shell style soft liner and an adjustable internal harness to allow the three different available shell sizes to fit a wider range of head shapes and sizes. There are also two different thickness cheek pads provided in the box, along with a clever snap-on POV camera mount.

On the trail, this tester got good results with the M size, indicated for 55-59 cm (this tester’s head measures in at 59 cm). The adjustable harness and the different cheek pads work well to fine tune the fit. Overall, the Super DH is comfortable, although we did find that the rear part of the harness could sometimes cause a bit of pressure on the head. Dialing it out a couple of clicks alleviated this issue, but that would also leave the helmet slightly less stable on rougher trails. We ended up finding a good balance after a while, but we still ultimately think that a regular full face design is the most effective when it comes to comfort and stability.

This underlines what we really see as the strength of this helmet: a two-in-one solution for those wanting a little more protection on shuttle days or the occasional visit to the bike park.

Breathability of the Super DH is good, although the chin bar is fairly big and sits pretty close to the face, which means you’ll want to be removing it for longer climbs on hotter days. Removing the chin bar is fairly straight forward, but it does leave you with a bulky item to store away. Sweat management on the other hand is excellent, in part thanks to the clever little liner extension over the brow that allows sweat to be pulled further away from your face before dripping. Also, the Super DH works really well as a half shell, both aesthetically and functionally. This underlines what we really see as the strength of this helmet: a two-in-one solution for those wanting a little more protection on shuttle days or the occasional visit to the bike park. We’re not completely sold on the concept of having to remove a bulky chin bar for climbing on hot days however, and we’d love to see Bell improve the breathability of the chin bar itself to remedy this aspect.

MET Parachute (EUR 220)

Strengths Weaknesses Vital Ratings
  • Great breathability
  • Light weight
  • Comfortable
  • Optional POV camera mount provided out of the box
  • Creaky shell construction
  • Limited range of visor adjustability
  • Brow gel liner ineffective for sweat management
  • Protection: 4 stars
  • Breathability: 4.5 stars
  • Fit and Comfort: 3.5 stars
  • Quality and Finish: 4 stars
  • Weight: 4.5 stars
  • Price/Value: 4 stars

MET Parachute Highlights

  • Outer shell construction: In-mold monocoque
  • Fixed chin bar
  • Inner shell: Shock absorbing polystyrene
  • Double-D chin strap buckle
  • Kevlar straps
  • “Safe-T Advanced” adjustment system
  • Adjustable visor, 3 points attachment, flexible injection material
  • Gel Front Pad, Coolmax anti-allergenic interior padding, hand washable
  • Accessories: Cheek pads in two thicknesses,  goggle clip, removable POV camera support
  • Helmet Bag
  • Certifications: ASTM 1952-2032, CE, AS/NZ, US
  • Three shell sizes: S, M, L
  • Weight: 759 grams, size L, verified
  • MSRP: 220 EUR

Shop the MET Parachute at Chain Reaction Cycles

The original MET Parachute featured a removable chin bar (non-certified), but it was replaced by a completely redesigned, non-convertible version in 2015. Rather than rely on a removable chin bar for breathability, MET came up with a lightweight and highly ventilated design that would essentially lead the way for this new breed of helmets. Based around an “in-mold monocoque” construction with a bolt-on but non-removable chin bar, the Parachute features an internal adjustable harness to tune the fit of the three available shell sizes to each rider’s head size and shape. The harness is complemented by a three-point strap system to really secure the helmet on the head. The soft liner is of the traditional half shell variety, but there is a gel pad on the brow section instead of the usual soft foam which MET says is there for comfort and to help keep sweat out of your eyes.

Breathability is equally good, and we never felt the need to remove the helmet even during long climbs on hot days.

On the trail, the Parachute is roomy and easy to dial in thanks to the harness (there are also two different thickness cheek pads to really let you fine tune the fit). The double-D ring, three-point strap helps provide an extra sense of security, while the overall balance of the helmet is excellent thanks to the low weight. Breathability is equally good, and we never felt the need to remove the helmet even during long climbs on hot days. However, the gel pad over the brow did not really function as intended, we found it no more comfortable than a regular soft foam liner, and much more prone to dripping sweat in your eyes than other systems we’ve tested. We also noted that the Parachute is slightly noisy in use, the chief culprit being a creak between the bolt-on chin bar and the main helmet body, and we would have appreciated a larger range of adjustability in the visor to give us somewhere to store our goggles on the climbs.

Urge Archi-Enduro RR+ (EUR 359, or EUR 259 without goggles)

Strengths Weaknesses Vital Ratings
  • Awesome construction and build quality
  • Superb finish
  • Eco-responsible manufacturer using recycled and/or natural materials
  • Very comfortable
  • Great protection
  • Integrated goggle system works well
  • Heavy and warm
  • A bit on the pricier side even without the goggle option
  • Protection: 4.5 stars
  • Breathability: 3.5 stars
  • Fit and Comfort: 4.5 stars
  • Quality and Finish: 5 stars
  • Weight: 3 stars
  • Price/Value: 3.5 stars

Urge Archi-Enduro RR+ Highlights

  • Construction: Fiberglass and linen fiber
  • Shell: EPS
  • Adjustable visor
  • Integrated goggles
  • Vents: 11
  • Standards: CE1078 - CPSC 1203 - AS/NZS 2063 - ASTM F1952
  • Micro-indented strap buckle
  • Double density pads, removable/washable
  • Sizes: XS 53-54cm, S 55-56cm, M 57-58cm, L 59-60cm, XL 61-62cm
  • Weight: 1102 grams (size L, verified)
  • MSRP: EUR 359 (EUR 259 without goggles)

Shop the Archi-Enduro RR+ at Chain Reaction Cycles

We’ll be the first to admit that Urge’s polarizing styling choices have often left us scratching our heads a bit – but then let us also be the first to admit to completely changing our opinion of the product once we actually had it in our hands. The Archi-Enduro RR+ (that’s a lot for a name!) looks like none of the other helmets tested here, but rather than the ugly duckling we thought it might be, it blew us away the minute we took it out of the box. The oddly shaped round and angular lines seem to somehow melt into a whole that is so much more than just the sum of its part – and it’s a whole that just screams “go fast”.

The Archi-Enduro RR+ not only looks different, it IS very different. In fact, you could probably argue that it has no business taking part in this test, given is rather hefty weight and comparable lack of ventilation. You’d be partially right too, but the reason we chose to feature it is that it is in fact the only ASTM certified enduro helmet in the Urge line-up, which left us with no other choice if we wanted a little French flair on the menu (the recently released but non-ASTM certified Gringo is by the company’s own admission aimed more at the all-mountain crowd and not at all meant to take the place of a proper full face).

The Archi-Enduro RR+ shell is made from fiberglass and linen (!), all part of the company’s pledge to being environmentally responsible. It features a number of strategically placed vents that are mainly meant to help keep the helmet cool at speed (some of them look like the air ducts you’d be likely to find on a rally car). The interior liner is soft and thick, and apart from a little more space around the ears you’d be hard-pressed to find it any different from a classic DH lid on the inside. To help you breath better during those long enduro stages (the “RR” stands for “Race Ready" BTW), the chin bar has been more heavily sculpted than on a regular full face, and the top arch on it is made from a softer material for reasons that are not entirely clear to us. There is a quick release ratchet buckle on the chin strap, but no MIPS nor dual-density liners in sight. And as for the “+” in the “RR+”, it stands for an integrated goggle that clips onto little bosses on the side of the helmet – a nifty solution that works well both on the front and for carrying your goggle on the rear of the helmet for climbing (there is also a non-+ version of the RR sold without the goggle).

Putting the Archi-Enduro on our head for the first time was like meeting an old friend – specifically, your favorite old DH helmet. Soft and cozy on the inside, the Archi-Enduro is free of any pressure points despite really hugging your head. Only the cheek pads are a little bit intrusive, although they give a little with time we would have loved to see Urge include a second, thinner pair in the box for those of us with hamster syndrome. The stiff ratchet buckle can also be a little bit uncomfortable depending on where you place it, but those small issues aside the Archi-Enduro is a pleasure to wear.

Aside from heat management, the Archi-Enduro is one of our new favorite helmets, and one we would often reach for even if it meant hanging the helmet on the handlebars for climbing in hotter weather.

On the trail, the Archi-Enduro is warm. We would have guessed as much just looking at the design, and although the vents do provide a certain amount of air flow at speed, the overall result is still a much warmer helmet than the others tested here. The ample cut out in the chin bar does make breathing very easy, the issue here is not the chin bar but of course the overall construction of the helmet. Aside from heat management, the Archi-Enduro is one of our new favorite helmets, and one we would often reach for even if it meant hanging the helmet on the handlebars for climbing in hotter weather.

Giro Switchblade ($250 USD)

Strengths Weaknesses Vital Ratings
  • Easy to switch between chin bar modes
  • Great safety features
  • Dedicated POC camera visor supplied
  • ASTM downhill certified both with and without chin bar
  • Heavier than most other helmets in this category
  • Warmer than most other helmets tested here
  • Still runs warm with chin bar removed
  • Hard to get in and out of
  • Protection: 4.5 stars
  • Breathability: 3.5 stars (4 stars with chinbar removed)
  • Fit and Comfort: 4 stars
  • Quality and Finish: 4 stars
  • Weight: 3.5 stars
  • Price/Value: 4 stars

Giro Switchblade Highlights

  • In-mold construction
  • Removable chinbar
  • “P.O.V. Plus” visor (spare visor with camera mount included)
  • Hydrophilic X-Static anti-microbial padding
  • Certified to CPSC, EN-1078 and ASTM-1952-DH with & without chinbar
  • MIPS
  • “Roc Loc Air DH” fit system
  • 20 vents with internal channeling, “Wind Tunnel” cheek pad ventilation
  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
  • Weight: 969 grams (size L, verified)
  • MSRP: $250

Shop the Giro Switchblade at Competitive Cyclist

Giro first created the Switchblade in 1998 – talk about being ahead of its time! However, when it came time to redesign the Switchblade for its 2016 rebirth, Giro (thankfully) went with a complete overhaul. Whereas the original Switchblade was really a half shell with a clip-on chin bar, the new Switchblade is much more of a full face helmet with a removable chin bar. It is based around an in-mold main shell featuring 20 vents for improved airflow. Rather than relying solely on shell sizing and padding to adjust the fit, the Switchblade uses Giro’s “Roc Loc” internal harness to allow you to fine tune the fit. There is also a three-point chin strap to really make sure everything is secure in action. There is no dual-density liner, but a classic MIPS slip plane is there to help reduce rotational force transmission to the brain during off-axis impact events.

The Switchblade is the second helmet in this test to feature a removable chin bar. In contrast to the Bell Super DH however, the Switchblade only lets you remove the frontal portion of the chin bar, leaving you with an extended coverage half shell that looks not unlike an open face old school trials or moto helmet. The system is much easier to use than the Bell Super DH, and it also leaves you with much smaller piece to find a place for on your next climb.

On the trail, the Switchblade is comfortable. It offers a very enveloping fit, and although the size M was distinctly on the snug side for this tester’s 59 cm dome, the overall comfort factor is high. The downside to all this comfort however is heat management, as the Switchblade runs quite a bit warmer than most of the other helmets featured in this test. With the chin bar removed, it is obviously very easy to breathe in the Switchblade, but because it still covers the ears and because the interior soft liner is of more generous dimensions, the helmet still runs a bit hotter overall.

On the plus side, as we previously mentioned the chin bar is very easy to operate and its relatively unobtrusive size means it’s easy to store in your riding pack or even stuck down the back of your pants for the climbs. As for the looks, the least you can say is that it leaves no one indifferent. Love or hate, the Switchblade does things its own way, and if you have euro tables like Cody Kelley, don’t think twice about it…

Cody Kelley showing how it's done.

About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord - Age: 45 // Years Riding MTB: 13 // Weight: 190-pounds (~87kg) // Height: 6'0" (1.84m)

Johan loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.

Photos by Nils Hjord and Johan Hjord