Over the last few years, lightweight full face helmets have gone in the right direction. They still offer better ventilation and a lighter weight than a dedicated downhill full face, but they've actually become a little heavier, which I'd say is for the best. The pursuit of the lowest weight possible was probably taken to the extreme with some of the earlier versions of the style that became more commonplace around 2014 or 15. I was also never a particular fan of the removeable chinguard. For me, if I'm riding something that's enough to warrant a full face, I don't want a chinguard that's attached by a magnet.
Of course, the level of protection we feel is right for us is very personal, and I would encourage any reader to wear as much protection as possible to make themselves comfortable (I'm a big believer in wearing more protection than required rather than less). That said, what has worried me in the past is that people who would wear those very light full face helmets as a precaution for pedal-accessed trails would also wear those same helmets in the bike park. To me, that just doesn't make sense. Monetary considerations to one side, I don't understand the reasoning.Helmet Standards
All of the helmets profiled here are certified to the ASTM F1952 DH standard. In order to achieve that certification, helmets must withstand a higher impact level than what's necessary to achieve CPSC or EN-1078 certification, due to the fact that downhill riding typically involves higher speeds, and thus, bigger crashes.
For instance, in order to achieve ASTM F1952 certification a helmet can't transmit more than 300 G's to the headform when dropped onto a curbstone-shaped anvil from a height of 1.6 meters. In comparison, that drop is 1.2 meters high for the CPSC standard, and 1.1 meters high for EN-1078. It's worth noting that a chin bar isn't required for a helmet to be DH-certified, but that if a chin bar is present it needs to pass an impact test as well.
The purpose of this review is to evaluate the helmets based on their fit and design, not their impact resistance. There weren't any lab coats or complicated test rigs used for this article; instead, it was multiple rides out in the real world that delivered the necessary data. I would add the caveate though that I believe a downhill helmet will offer more protection than an enduro full-face, and the very fact there is a distinction is self-evident of that. While there will be a drop-off, one of the reasons is that a downhill helmet is often heavier. The lightest on test came in around 300 grams lighter than the heavier ones, and I can't help but take that into consideration when putting it on. For your reference, the Bluegrass and the Lazer helmet have both been tested by Virginia Tech
The Abus Airdrop is a strange mix of old meets new. In some ways, it's cutting edge and in one or two other instances it feels like the dull-blade of yesterday's ideas.
It's the burliest feeling helmet, with surprisingly good ventilation. The chin bar sits far away from the face, the pads sit further back around the cheeks. This makes a huge difference in ventilation, and for a helmet that feels so substantial it does make for a very cool-running one. For those, like myself, who tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to weight and find the marriage of weight and protection an irresistible prospect the MIPs equipped Abus could be a good option.
• Rotational impact protection: MIPS
• Buckle type: double d-ring buckle
• Additional features: adjustable visor, quick release cheek pads
• 4 color options
• Sizes: S/M & L/XL
• Weight: 933 grams (size L/XL)
• MSRP: $300 USD
The Airdrop also is ready to have the Abus Quin System
installed. The crash detection system, which can notify contacts via a rider's smartphone if a crash is detected, is available to buy aftermarket for around $100,
It's not all good though. The Mips is very noisy Mips. The system, which often can creak and groan as you ride, is particularly noisy on the Airdrop. The ratchet at the back also digs in, especially when taking it on and off. The pads are comfortable though, and the ventilation around the back of the helmet is good, even if not quite as impressive as something like the Leatt. The "Ambient Sound Channels" system contributes to this. That said, it's not like it has a massively noticeable benefit compared to the other helmets on the test. Furthermore, I quite like the hush-quiet feel of a true downhill full-face helmet. Systems such as this mean they kill the wind noise but not the bike noise and trail chatter. I personally prefer the quieter, more muted option.
As for looks, I like the modern take on a conventional full face. That said, there is something about the chin bar being so far away from your face and the large visor that does make it appear somewhat bulbous. There is also a decent gap between the edge of the goggles and the helmet. This does help airflow, but doesn't look so hot.
This helmet is best suited to those who will happily forgo something a little better ventilated for something a bit more reinforced. The chin bar is more solid than some others on the test, for example. This would also make a great all-day enduro helmet for big, lift-accessed pedaling rides in the mountains or multi-stage enduro races. Of all the helmets, it is one of two that I would consider racing in. That said, if you're looking for a trail lid with bonus protection, rather than a full downhill helmet with better ventilation there are simply better options.
Breathes relatively well+
Well ventilated for the weight
Ratchet is uncomfortable
Leatt Gravity 4.0
The Leatt Gravity 4.0 is possibly the closest in terms of design, fit, and dimensions to a standard full-face helmet. In fact, although lots of brands do make lightweight helmets, it's not all that often that their sponsored pros actually wear them in between the tape. However, the Leatt is sometimes spotted being raced at the top level of enduro.
The Leatt does offer reasonable ventilation compared to a downhill helmet, but it was also the hottest on test, at least at lower speeds. When moving quicker, the air runs through well, and the ventilation past the ears towards the rear of the helmet is its strong point.
• Rotational impact protection: 360° Turbine Technology
• Buckle type: Fidlock magnetic closure
• Additional features: removable mouth vent, quick release cheek pads
• 5 color options
• Sizes: S, M, L, XL
• Weight: 941 grams (size XL)
• MSRP: $270 USD
It's got other strengths too. Most notably, by using their own 360 Turbine impact absorption system, the Gravity 4.0 can go without Mips, meaning it's very quiet. It also has a removable mouthpiece for more ventilation (which is what I preferred), and is one of two helmets on test alongside the Lazer that has no retention buckle at the back of the helmet. This makes it more comfortable to take on and off over the course of a day in the bike park. The pads are also very soft. All in all, it feels like a well finished helmet.
The chin bar feels sits closer to your face than the other helmets, and the cheek pads also sit quite far forward. This means that pedaling at slower speeds can get very warm. While this is a good helmet for gravity riding, I wouldn't recommend it for pedaling. This would be good for multi-stage racing if you could put up with the heat, but even in cooler climates the helmet does feel close and stuffy.
Similar to the Abus, this helmet really mutes all wind noise, which may be to your liking. It also benefits from the ease of a magnetic Fidlock clip and a large breakaway visor. That said, the visor isn't adjustable, even though I never found it to be an intrusion into my vision. All in all, it is a good helmet, and I would only really fault it for its ventilation and heat management, particularly at lower speeds.
Quiet and comfortable padding +
Secure fit without ratchet
Warm and stuffier at slower speeds
IXS Trigger FF
The IXS Trigger FF is a full face for those that might otherwise be wearing an open face helmet, and I think it does an admirable job of offering a good compromise of comfort, breathability and coverage.
Most brands do offer a true downhill full face, so why not offset that by offering something really different? I feel that's what IXS has done here. It's similar to the Lazer in its high level of breathability. However, I would say it's a better execution in terms of fit.
The Trigger isn't a replacement for a downhill helmet, and I don't believe it's meant to be. Instead, it's just an extra layer of protection for trail riding. Of all the helmets here, this would be the one I'd most likely wear on a daily basis for pedaling.
• Rotational impact protection: Mips
• Buckle type: magnetic
• Additional features: adjustable visor
• 9 color options
• Sizes: XS, SM, ML
• Weight: 664 grams (large)
• MSRP: $299 USD
At 664 grams, this helmet is very light and it reaps a lot of benefits from that. Personally, though, I wouldn't be particularly excited to wear this in a bike park on high-speed trails. It is however very well-ventilated and I rode in it over the long hot BC summer and really enjoyed bringing an extra layer of protection where previously I would not have. The helmet doesn't feel as deep at the back, and the dial is felt when you take it on and off a lot, but it's more comfortable than the Abus in this regard and offers a similar level of comfort as the Bluegrass Vanguard. The fit with goggles is good, and it does without the gap between the edge of the goggles and helmet. The visor is stated as adjustable, but really you can only get a few degrees of difference between its most extreme positions
The main strength of the IXS is definitely its ventilation, and there seems to have been a deliberate effort to just reduce the size of the pads, especially around the face. This really comes back to the rider in terms of comfort and heat management.
Adjustable visor +
Doesn't feel as substantial compared to others
Bluegrass Vanguard Core
Bluegrass is the gravity wing of Met helmets that was founded fifteen years ago. Although it can get slightly confusing having two brands that make the same thing, all you need to know is that Bluegrass just does gravity protection, including body armor and pads.
The Vanguard is probably the most well-rounded helmet on test when it comes to striking a balance between breathability, comfort and robustness. I haven't tested these helmets by crashing, so my observations are just that - observations - but I think this strikes a good balance. Like the Leatt it includes a removable mouthpiece. Stylistically, it holds similar lines to Bluegrass' Legit downhill helmet.
• Rotational impact protection: MIPS
• Buckle type: Fidlock magnetic
• Additional features: c-shaped cheek pads, removable mouth piece
• 4 color choices
• Sizes: S, M, L
• Weight: 776 grams (large)
• MSRP: $350 USD
The helmet has a Fidlock buckle and a flexible even if non-adjustable visor. There is a ratchet at the back of the helmet. Again, when it comes to comfort when removing the helmet I prefer Leatt and Lazer's style, which provides a secure fit through padding. However, it probably isn't a coincidence that the helmets with a ratchet system can forgo more padding in the first place and therefore be better ventilated. The padding in the Vanguard itself is very minimalist and the design makes use of novel c-shaped cheek pads to maximise venting.
Bluegrass has done a great job of integrating goggles in one regard, and a sub-par execution in another. When putting goggles on the back of the helmet for climbing, there are divots and contours to hold them securely, which I really like. However, when wearing the goggles normally there is a huge gap between the side of the goggles and the helmet. It's not a big deal, but it is a noticeable blemish on what else is quite a good-looking helmet in my opinion.
The Vanguard is only behind the Trigger when it comes to breathability, but it also does feel stronger and considerable in your hands. The ventilation is good if not fantastic, but it also manages to incorporate that airflow with a good deal of comfort and compromise.
Good venting around face+
Comfortable and without ratchet+
Removable mouthpiece & flexible visor
Large gap between goggle and helmet looks strange
Lazer Cage Kineticore
The Lazer Cage Kineticore brings their impressive crumple zone technology to a full-face helmet. While thankfully I haven't impact-tested this technology, I have enjoyed the way that the system manages to pull air through a Lazer open-face helmet in the past, and I've been similarly impressed with the Cage. While it's not the best at slower speeds or without foibles in terms of fit, it is impressive when it comes to airflow when on trail and descending.
• Rotational impact protection: Kineticore
• Buckle type: magnetic
• Additional features: novel ventilation
• 3 color options
• Sizes: S, M, L, XL
• Weight: 898 grams
• MSRP: $300 USD
Like the Leatt, it does without a ratchet and relies solely on padding to provide a secure fit. Largley, the fit is good without any noted discomfort save for the cheek pads. They're shaped like a Z, and while it's not a massive issue, I did find that they weren't cut low enough to fit underneath my ear. It wasn't a big issue, but on big climbs that would take several hours into the alpine I would often just unclip them at their lower point and rotate them down. It should be said that I haven't tried on the extra large, but the helmet does fit in all other regards and I don't necessarily want anything bigger.
Ventilation on this helmet is good but it mainly shines when the speed is higher. On slow speeds it's okay but to my mind not as good as the Bluegrass or the IXS. The visor is particularly flexible even if not adjustable. Save for the fit, it's a good all-around helmet.
Good ventilation when descending+
Does without ratchet
Visor isn't adjustable-
Uncomfortable around the ear
All of the helmets featured here are worthy options if you're in the market for a lightweight full-face, but choosing the best one will depend on what type of riding you're planning on using it for. Racing
For racing true-enduro, where the stages are gnarly and you're a mixture of both scared and excited, I would lean towards the Abus or Leatt. Although I have no intention of proving it, they do just feel so much more reassuring in your hands. Without the creaking and fit issues of the Abus it would be a clear leader, but for long days riding the sheer comfort of the Leatt offsets its slightly hotter running, and I would tie them for first. The Bluegrass isn't too far behind. I personally wouldn't be that excited about racing in either the IXS or the Lazer, whatever the certifications say.All-Purpose
For all-purpose riding when it's about increasing the protection compared to a standard open face for your everyday trail rides, as opposed to replacing a downhill helmet, the IXS Trigger is a really great option. It's the best breathing helmet. Again, the Bluegrass Vanguard is not far behind. For that reason, I would say the Bluegrass is possibly the best all-rounder, even if not the out-and-out best for pedaling or hotter days.