Fox's Dropframe Helmet Takes Top Spot in Latest Virginia Tech Rankings

Apr 2, 2020
by Sarah Moore  
Kirt Voreis mountain biking in California


The latest Virginia Tech helmet safety rankings have been released and it's Fox's Dropframe helmet, released just under a year ago, that now sits in the number one spot with five stars and a safety score of 8.9.





In addition, MIPS equipped helmets have claimed the top seven spots. In fact, 27 of the top 30 helmets had MIPs in the latest rankings. The Bontrager Specter Wavecel, POC Tectal Race Spin and Bontrager Blaze WaveCel were the only non-MIPs helmets to make it into the top 30, with the Bontrager Specter Wavecel now being bumped to seventh.




Virginia Tech has now rated 99 helmets in collaboration with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Their impact tests evaluate a helmet's ability to reduce linear acceleration and rotational velocity of the head resulting from a range of impacts a cyclist might experience.

The latest rankings score Lazer's G1 MIPS road helmet in second place with a score of 9.2, Bontrager's Rally MIPS (the winner of the last round) in third place with a score of 9.3 and Troy Lee Designs' A2 MIPS Decoy in fourth place with a score of 10.


119 Comments

  • 38 1
 If you find this info useful, shoot them a few bucks so we can have them continue buying and testing helmets as an independent 3rd party.

apps.es.vt.edu/onlinegiving/gift?giftDetail.supportAreaID=GTEN&giftDetail.fundCode=821082&giftDetail.fundName=Other&giftDetail.customFundName=Helmet%20Lab%20Research%20Account%20875399
  • 2 0
 Which area and fund should we pick to donate?
  • 2 0
 @ozhuck2flat: College of Engineering > Other > "Helmet Lab"

If you drop them a note, they will usually reply too!
  • 14 0
 So from a safety standpoint: Roadies should be wearing the Fox dropframe and Mountain Bikers who don't want ear coverage should be wearing the Lazer roadie helmet. Got it.
  • 2 1
 Safe, but ugly. Kinda like '80's Volvos.
  • 2 0
 @rrolly: 80's volvos are the most beautiful cars for me and i likethe dropframe
too according your statent. I won't buy it though because I like to move the visor all the way up.
  • 20 9
 Here’s the methodology used: vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/83760/Bicycle%20STAR%20Methodology.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

I still think MIPS tests are are only valid for people who don’t have hair...
  • 22 23
 I have hair, and MIPS saved my life!
  • 18 1
 @JacobyDH: Because your hair provides a slip-plane inside the helmet that makes MIPS redundant.
  • 22 4
 I can call an A1 non-mips and an A2 and a lot of hair my own. If I apply pressure on any spot on my head there is almost no slippage with the A1 and a lot with the A2. The A1 has one crack (therefore the upgrade) and shorty after the A2 purchase I tried that exact stupid line again and, surprise surprise, the same thing happened at the same speed and I braked with my head first. I had a slight headache with the A1 and nothing with the A2. That crash was as similar as something can be in real world situations. I even lost the same lens of my riding glasses both times. Never had any headaches or something with my Switchblade either, the last helmet I got headaches with was my non-mips ski helmet. If there is any technology that adresses brain injuries, even if it may be a little immature still, it's worth it IMO.
  • 29 13
 @jzPV: given the number of variables if you believe you replicated the experiment, then the hit was much harder than you have imagined. Mips makes sense in theory but proving it in practice is virtually impossible.
  • 2 0
 @f*ckingsteve: oh, I can see how that might work, but if it is tightened properly, shouldn’t it work? Also, I would imagine that you would be sweaty if it was a bad enough trail that you might crash on, and that would (in theory) make the MIPS not work on a bald person.
  • 6 1
 @WAKIdesigns: of course it's not scientific. That's why lab experiments need to happen. But those results and my real world experience don't lead me to the conclusion that it's all just marketing. There surely will be better systems in the years to come. And better tests. But you have to start somewhere, that's my point.
  • 5 2
 @WAKIdesigns: waki dropping truth bombs
  • 5 5
 @hamncheez: the real true facts
  • 11 1
 @jzPV: I'm not a doctor, but maybe your head is hardening as a result of so many hits?
  • 4 0
 This is what happened to my (non mips) helmet. It also saved my life, so I guess the solution to this is I should stop riding so recklessly!: www.pinkbike.com/photo/18465770
  • 2 0
 @JacobyDH: wowwww nastyyyyyy
  • 2 0
 @audric: yeah, you can really see where the tree went through the helmet. I then tumbled down a drop off, and in some other photos, you can see the damage from that. I hope this never happens to anyone!
  • 4 0
 @JacobyDH: hair is a slip plane just as mips
  • 1 0
 @enduroFactory: I guess that makes sense!
  • 1 0
 @jzPV: maybe you just ran out of brain cells? Seriously though, I ride MIPS.
  • 2 2
 Whatever MIPS does, it’s here and will be here, unlike Corona there is no cure for it. POC made possibly best alternative - Spin, but MIPS will probably kill it since they either sued or black mailed them about suing them, I am not sure exactly how it went, I honestly don’t think much of MIPS management, but I am pretty sure I know how they dress up to meetings. Shirt, jeans and slightly spiky leather shoes aka “Konsult dojor”. Thin feather jacket for lunch. Lots and lots of Henri Lloyd in their wardrobes...
  • 1 1
 @WAKIdesigns: your poetry and martyrdom shall not be in vain
  • 2 3
 What I find quite amazing are judgements like yours, contradicting scientific testing, that start with „I think...“.
It says you have nothing but a gut feeling and no real proof for your opinion. Itsure jives with the current POTUS but is as baseless!
So, balls to the wall: what is your testing regimen and where are your results that show VTech‘s results are wrong or biased?
  • 15 1
 @Heidesandnorth: Scientific testing is all we have. It doesn't mean it isn't skewed, especially when it comes from one source. Saying "MIPS saved my life" is naive to say the least. If someone asked me to put 10$ on research on helmets, I'd do it. If they prove MIPS is best, I am fine with it. So far, MIPS is not on top of my list of priorities when looking for a helmet but most helmets on my "want" list do have it so I don't care. Most arguments against it are pointless since it infected whole helmet industry. My main argument against it that they are actively fighting other design, and that deserves nothing else than bashing. Mips are monopolistic a*sholes currently decreasing safety of helmet world by eliminating other designs trying to tackle same problem. That's rather against the spirit of science. They should withrdraw their outrageous lawsuits against POC and Bontrager immediately
  • 1 0
 @jzPV: dont repeat this too often Wink MIPS wont help, any concussion ist dangerous and repeating it is exponentially more...
  • 2 0
 Exactly, no hair and rubber for skin, as in the test.
Please go to minute 2.40 in this video
youtu.be/aNuj9UQONzM
That's your test headform, see that the guy struggles to position the helmet on it and the sound it makes? Is because is a rubberized exterior, grippy as hell in any helmet, of course mips or any other system will make a difference in that headform.

Ignoring hair and scalp is such a major flaw in helmet testing.

Also, every high end helmet has mips nowadays, that doesn't mean is the mips what makes it safer; is the combination of high end features what makes them safer.
  • 4 0
 @ismasan: as someone who did automotive crash testing on the same headforms, I can agree with this. Those things are stiff, sticky, and hard to work with. The problem lies in the that there isn't really that good of a correlation between the skin of a person and the skin of a headforms. I believe Denton and NHTSA both have articles published about the lack of correlation.
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: didn‘t address you - but if you think the shoe does fit.
Anyhow, the Mips lawsuits are asinine for sure!
  • 1 0
 What do you guys think of MIPS Spherical, the think in the Bell Super DH. I have one, and I don’t think it is so useful. Instead of that plastic thing sliding around, there are two layers of foam, and they slide around.
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: You know Giro owns MIPS right?
  • 2 0
 @EcoRiptide: maybe it borders on a conspiracy theory, but if helmet designers were able to get better results using the rubber head by having the helmet slip a bit then maybe MIPS was invented to manipulate the safety data??? This is actually the first time I had heard that the head has a rubber surface, so it only confirms my lack of trust in MIPS.

My wife is currently wanting a new helmet, and It’s actually hard to find a “high end” helmet that doesn’t have mips in it. And she doesn’t need an “am” style half shell, I’m thinking a giro fathom or other airy XC helmet...
  • 5 0
 @EcoRiptide: See, you are letting informed processes get into the way of scare tactics and marketing.

Years ago when the options were leather nets, the BellV1 and the Protec Mirage (oh, and Specialized Sub6) it turned out that only the V1 did a damn thing. The polystyrene helmets were more dangerous than no helmet at all. This was due to the surface of the helmet (in the Protec example covered in spandex) would grip the road surface upon contact and then just break your neck
.
Fast forward a few years and the helmets were made to deflect an impact. They do this with the shell being as slippery as possible on impact and trying to create a glancing impact on the noggin. While the methodology of the tests is germane to the use of a bicycle helmet, they are not at all practical for 99.9999999% of cycling impacts to the helmet, and I have seen thousands. The entire premise of the "M" in MIPS is that there are multiple, critically sharp impacts in a rapid event. That just is not the case, again, generally. There would be one major impact (in the event of deflection) a final and possibly two additional far less severe impacts on the helmet. While a direct impact or an offset impact will add to the risk of concussion, this will not be altered, in general with a subsequent impact. Certainly, on a road where an impact with an automotive windshield and then the road surface are possible, that is not, in general, a common risk, nor even, more so with mountain bikes such as ours that tend to not be on a road.

Myself as an example, I ride MTN with road helmets. I am not exactly too worried about C1 and lower rear skull impacts as I ride XC, not downhill. The problem with these studies, and with the lawyers (more so in the US) is the whole idea of “usual” and expected impacts on a particular system for a particular use.

I find the MTN specific helmets to be far too heavy, far too limiting of airflow (thus too hot) and I find I have zero use for a visor. If I end up as that pariah and do have a basal fracture due to exposure to a rock or whatever, that is akin to losing the lotto by picking the right numbers. But, some moron will get hurt, go and sue Bell Sports (also owns Giro) and say “they knew they could have made the helmet safer”, then get a judgement from 12 idiots too stupid to get out of Jury duty (so they could sit in their trailer watching Judge Judy). So, for these helmets are getting heavier and heavier. None of us wins, none of us are really more safe (as DH people SHOULD be wearing a helmet with more coverage).
  • 1 0
 @RoadStain: wow, that’s a whole lotta words, but I somewhat agree. Mountain bike helmets have more rear coverage, and are less based on aerodynamics. I think that in many places in life, you can get away with wearing the “road bike helmet on mountain bike rides” but in biking, I think it is important to play it safe. I am no scientist, I probably shouldn’t be talking about “playing it safe” but I think you shouldn’t ever cut corners when you’re riding. That’s why I chose one of the ugliest, but safest DH helmets for racing.
  • 1 0
 @EcoRiptide:
To me the obvious solution is to build a standarized slip plane into the headformh. Oh irony, mips is the one that seems more similar to scalp, with hability to move around but no shock absorption properties.
Any test conduced on a headform with a built in slip plane would be more relevant than the actual ones, where the helmet doesn't move a milimeter.

Genuine interest, maybe I'm missing something, what's the lack of correlation you mention?
  • 12 0
 Ear lobes be flappin in the wind
  • 11 0
 Has anyone ever suffered an ear injury from biking?
  • 77 0
 yeah, one time I tried inflating a 700x23 road tube with an entire 25gram cartridge of Co2.
  • 58 2
 Only when riding with Avid/SRAM brakes.
  • 2 0
 Yeah, i've cut up my ear during a crash. The ear is part of the head so it make sense to protect that part of head as well. Imagine hitting a branch or sharp rock with the side of your head.
  • 4 0
 tore earlobe on tree. superglued it in gas station parking lot and told my lady it was a scratch.
  • 5 1
 @ipattis: is that because it was a scratch?
  • 1 0
 Only when I got too near some ornery ramblers.
  • 3 0
 @rocky-mtn-gman: seating MTB tires in my small bathroom because I didn't want to get sealant in the carpet...
  • 1 0
 @slayerdegnar:Yeah, and by that logic these all fail as they aren't full face.
  • 1 0
 @slayerdegnar: The ear is part of the head? Ya, right.
  • 1 0
 @ipattis: This relationship will never work out if you keep being dishonest.....or......https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EY7lYRneHc
  • 1 0
 Yes, slow concussion inducing OTB wearing a roadie inspired mtb helmet. Needed several stitches behind my right ear. Many years later wearing a Bluegrass Goldeneye I avoided both despite impacting a trail side boulder with my arm and head just above the same ear. Helmet edge was compressed right through and all I got was a slightly sore ear lobe. The drop frame would have prevented even that...
  • 1 1
 @headshot: so would having stayed safe at home
  • 25 18
 I would hope it would get a great score to offset how ugly it is. Its also being compared against road helmets and half shells, so I would hope that the extra material and protection would give it a safety bump over those other helmets.
  • 26 8
 I think they look rad.
  • 8 3
 Yea, with all the added weight and bulk and loss of ventilation I expect this thing to have massively more protection. Otherwise it would be the ultimate fail.

It is almost pointless anyway. For the same weight and (lack of) ventilation one can get a helmet with a chinbar.
  • 3 1
 I think they look awesome. Best looking not-fullface helmet out there.
  • 3 0
 @Ttimer: Have you ridden one? They ventilate just fine.
  • 2 1
 @jadias: Tried one in the shop. Read the reviews. "Just fine" isn't what i would call that. The "earmuffs" alone feel warm even at rest.
That might still be fine compared to helmets from a decade ago but the bar has been raised quite a lot in recent years. Ever tried one of the new POC helmets? Or an Abus Airbreaker? Thats a whole new level of ventilation.
  • 2 0
 @jadias: What if I sweat out of my ears?
  • 1 0
 @Ttimer: I don't think trying one on at rest in the shop counts as riding in one. When there's any amount of air flowing through it, it's probably better than most of the half lids I've ridden (yes, even modern, good ones!).
  • 5 1
 Not sure if I think this or the giro switchblade without the chin bar looks worse. I'll never understand the people who think either of them look good, but I guess it's just personal taste.
  • 6 0
 TLD A2 with a great score as well.
  • 2 0
 These are great helmets they looks 100 times better, comfortable to wear and cheaper than the Star Wars Dropframe
  • 5 3
 If you're gonna go so far as to have a helmet that wraps around your ears and has a pad near your cheeks, just go all-in and get a convertible full-face or one of the newer breathable full-faces. Chin/teeth protection isn't much farther down the line than what the dropframe provides. IMO.
  • 2 0
 Dropframe is still better in the summer than even the most ventilated full face helmets. It's an adequate level of protection for jibbing hitting small/mid level stuff. If you're going to be out all day on your bike in July I say get a dropframe and a boxing teeth protector for 10 bucks.
  • 10 4
 Is this design a late april's fool?
  • 2 0
 Savage.

A $18 Schwinn helmet ranks right between the Poc Tectal and $250 mips helmets from Giro and Scott.

Asuming that the helmet uses the cheapest most common materials available and zero extra features, that gives you an idea of:
-how important is the amount and placement of foam vs. how fancy the helmet is.
-how important mips is.
-how stupid we are buying helmets by the looks.
  • 1 0
 In the end only deflecting an impact matters, not absorbing the impact like an egg crate.
  • 1 0
 Looks ( and cooling) are the two most important things. Seriously.
  • 1 0
 I have both the Dropframe and the Switchblade.. I think the Switchblade offers more protection, but is much hotter to wear. I dont find the Dropframe to be too hot. Despite being quite warm to wear, the Switchblade has some magic material in the padding that holds all the sweat, so no sweat ever drips into my eyes..The Dropframe however releases torrents of sweat into my eyes at random intervals during a ride.
  • 2 1
 Bought the border helmet because it won the study last year and it matches the colorway of my new Yeti (Grey & Turquoise).

No where in the bontrager description is the super cool magnetically attached / break-away go-pro mount mentioned. This is super handy and means I can easily attach and remove my light with out leaving a stupid mount attached via straps to my helmet. And in the event of a crash, the light mount will separate and not negate the anti rotation provided by the MIPS. Unfortunately it's located too far forward on the helmet and not balanced over the centerpoint of your head when in the riding position. You can feel the weight of the light wanting to rotate your head forward. Also for my Niterider Lumina style lights, you can't aim the beam far enough forward. I had to modify the light attachment so it would project further out and not at the ground. Moving the light mount to the rear vent would solve both of these problems.

I have not figured out a way to stash sunglasses in the vents. Neither front or rear, or upside down glasses seems to work. This should be a standard helmet feature.

I sweat profusely from my head. No fault of the helmet (i think?). But when I lean forward and squeeze the helmet against my head to drain sweat from the pads, rather than a river of sweat dripping to the ground from the helmet, I get a river of sweat running down my nose to the ground. Which is grosser than the already gross river of sweat. This seams to be a function of the MIPS insert maybe? If I lean way, WAY forward I can get the river to separate from the helmet, but I can't do this while pedaling on the bike. Which is unfortunate and something I could do with my old helmet.

Just my 2 cents on last year's winner. The price is certainly right, apparently it's extra safe, and it's matchy matchy w/my kit!
  • 1 0
 I am sure it is challenging to simulate dirt, roots, rocks, tree bark etc., but it is interesting that they are only testing on an impact surface covered in sandpaper to simulate pavement. A different, mountain bike impact surface might bring other factors into play, such as the outer shape of the helmet. For example, TLD A1 vs A2. A2 is super ridgy, and the A1 is a lot smoother. Would that make a difference when hitting something other than pavement?
  • 4 2
 Look at all these pseudo-scientists. Just becuase you read the methodology section of a study means you should pontificate your beliefs to the public. Nice!
  • 2 0
 Oof, no Bell helmets anywhere? Are they spending all their time target practicing with dat cold cold steel, instead of testing helmets? Wink
  • 3 0
 I have personally watched this helmet save Kirt's noggin a couple times!
  • 2 0
 Has anyone ridden this helmet? is it noticeably hotter/sweatier than a normal half shell?
  • 5 2
 My neighbor has it, he said it is very hot, but he "loves the look bro".
  • 3 0
 I live in the PNW and the Dropframe is my "winter" helmet (which is half of the year) precisely because it's so nice and warm. POC Tectal for the warmer months.

I love the Dropframe, but I'd honestly choose something else if I lived in a warm climate.
  • 2 0
 Ive had it for the last 6 months or so (winter here) and have not found it more sweaty than other helmets. In my experience all helmets make me sweat, all helmets look dumb and i am really glad the helmet I am riding got the top safety score.

If you want to look like a real cool guy just wear a really cool hat or maybe no helmet with some bad ass sunglasses when you ride. That will get you noticed.
  • 2 0
 What's wild is that the Lazer Cyclone scores almost as good as the top 5, but at at least half the price.
  • 1 0
 I like fox in general, however their helmets just doesn’t suit my head, design wise and protection wise it is fantastic option
  • 2 0
 Why does this article title mention ‚Fox pro frame‘ when there are safer helmets?
  • 1 0
 Why has FOX stopped doing XL sizes? I love my old Fox Rampage Carbon in XL, but that doesn't seem to be available anymore and none of these new helmets offer XL sizes. Wtf?
  • 2 0
 Marvin the Martian approved.
  • 1 0
 The dropframe *Pro*, guess the normal dropframe didn't make the cut for top 10
  • 1 0
 Voreis still has a scuff on his forehead. Maybe the hat should come down lower on the forehead... like a melon would.
  • 5 0
 It was from a rock flake that got wedged under google strap during crash. Hard to avoid scooping up rocks with head sometimes!
  • 1 0
 @Voreis: Legend!
  • 3 2
 the troy lee a2 received a 10. the dropframe received a 9.8--why is it at the top of the list?
  • 2 0
 I'm guessing from the tone of the article that more stars and less numbers= better. But it should really be stated as it makes no sense given the figure.
  • 4 0
 @dirtyburger: Yes, that's it. More details on the Virginia Tech website :
www.helmet.beam.vt.edu/bicycle-helmet-ratings.html
  • 2 1
 The lower the score the better for this test!
  • 1 0
 I wonder if the Bell Super Air MIPS was released yet when the test took place?
  • 4 2
 Ugly as sin. Those ear holes are pointless. Junk.
  • 2 0
 also take top spot in special needs looks department
  • 2 0
 Way Way...I mean WAY toooooooo heavy. Hell no.
  • 1 0
 Any of these offer a L/XL to fit heads as big as 62cm?
  • 2 0
 I have a big 62cm round head and rock a Troy lee a2, not a lot of room left though.
  • 2 0
 yeah the TLD a2 xl/2xl fits my noggin that is that size
  • 1 0
 For you guys with bigger heads, are you finding some helmets that are "slimmer". My Large Bell Super is pretty round, and my head is more ovalish. As a result, the helmet looks like I'm trying to pull my best Lord Helmet impersonation.
  • 1 0
 @PHeller: the struggle is real with big heads, I have a pretty round head which seems to work better with specialized and the Tld a2. From what I remember testing helmets it seemed like a lot of other brands were more oval, POC I remember as large as enough in theory but but very oval. I would not have been able to find anything with out trying about 20-30 helmets on in real life. The Bell super almost fit me but was too small or too oval can’t remember off hand.
  • 1 0
 @PHeller: in fact here is a PB review on the POC saying it is great for oval heads, I would start Here IMHO. m.pinkbike.com/news/review-poc-tectal-race-spin-helmet.html.
  • 2 2
 If they made mesh covers for the ear holes, I would definitely maybe consider the dropframe.
  • 3 0
 Probably the only helmet you could fit over-the-ear beats on.
  • 3 2
 Isn’t it basically the Proframe version of the Giro Switchblade?
  • 1 0
 What about Giro helmets??
  • 1 0
 there's a bunch of them on the list
  • 1 0
 Really wish they’d do some of the removable Chin guard helmets.
  • 1 0
 But it doesn't have mips? Or is it just mine that doesn't?
  • 1 0
 I bought one a while ago, I was unaware there was unaware there was a MIPS (PRO) version, turns out there is Frown
  • 1 0
 The helmet was updated with MIPS this year and can now only be bought as the MIPS (Pro) version, which costs a lot more. The old version is no longer being made.
  • 1 0
 *bontrager. Stupid autocorrect.
  • 4 3
 That’s as ugly as sin
  • 1 1
 Sold ! I am getting one!????
  • 3 4
 Fugly as fuck edition.

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