Giant’s new Realm MIPS is an open face helmet that gives extra protection around the ear and back of the head. There’s so much about this helmet that clearly has a focus on protection for riding rowdy trails, which begs the question: does this style of helmet bring anything worthwhile to the table? Or would you be better of riding a lightweight full-face helmet? Or even a full downhill model?
Giant wasn’t the first to do this style of helmet. You may also be familiar with models like the Giro Tyrant and Fox Dropframe. Initially, they were met with derisive claims from some that they’re just a halfway house offering a poor compromise of both. However, after having ridden this helmet for a while I have to say I couldn’t disagree more, and it’s become my go-to for most of my winter riding.
Giant Realm MIPS Details
• Small/medium & medium/large sizing
• MIPS Protection System
• 3-position visor
• D-ring buckle
• 3 choices of cheek pad thickness
• Weight: 700g (M/L)
• Certifications: ASTM, CPSC, CE, AS/NZS
• €199.90 / $279.99 CDN
But before we get into my impressions, let us look at the helmet itself. Details
The helmet details suggest a no-nonsense approach, and not half-hearted compromise. The visor is large and actually helps keep the mud (and sun) out of your eyes. I personally find it strange when mountain biking helmets that are meant to be ridden off-road feature nothing but the vestige of a visor that was once there. Some helmets have visors that are too small, too high or without the needed adjustment to actually make a difference to your vision. This is a bugbear of mine - I don’t want a visor just to suggest that the helmet is off-road focused. I actually want it to be an off-road focussed helmet.
Another element of this is sensible glasses storage underneath the visor. Again, another pet peeve of mine is the lack of secure storage of your specs or putting them in a place on the top or the back of the helmet. It feels like only a handful of years ago helmets were boasting of complicated exhaust vents
. Now that supposed feature has morphed into where you store your glasses on many helmets. This is right in the firing line of all your heat and seems to steam up the glasses without fail. Having them on the front of the helmet goes a long way to mitigate this.
The last obviously sensible, and very welcome feature, is the crash replacement program offered by Giant. The program states, “If your Giant or Liv branded helmet is damaged, Giant Canada will offer a replacement helmet if the damage and claim is made within the first year of ownership. Giant will aim to provide a free helmet, which is either like for like or the latest equivalent model. If the same colour helmet is no longer available, Giant will provide an alternative colour from the current model.” This, to me, is more than just merely reasonable and extends to above and beyond what one could normally expect.
The helmet features different cheek pads to tailor the fit to your needs. As well as a square space left atop the helmet that’s the perfect size for a GoPro patch. It also features a D-ring buckle closure system. I’m not sure if this is strictly needed for an open face mountain bike helmet but they’re quite common on full-face helmets.
At $279.99 CDN it’s not exactly cheap. Although Giant is making forays into higher-end kit, this price point means that it goes up directly against the Giro Tyrant and the Fox Dropframe, which are both less expensive. It's currently not available in the US.The Fit & Comfort
The fit is, as expected, deep and secure. It doesn’t just provide more coverage over the ears but also extends far further down the back of the head than a normal half shell. I did find myself making use of the cheek-pad sizes to fine-tune the fit. I initially rode with the originals but found they pressed against my upper jaw slightly. Changing them out remedied this small issue.
The helmet has a dial adjustment. I have a head circumference of 58cm and am very happy in the medium/large size.
The depth is about right, too, leaving ample space for goggles. Glasses work well too and don't interfere with the fit of the helmet or give pressure points around the temple.On Trail Performance
The Realm MIPS promises some great features, and I would say that it delivers out on the trail. If the mud splatters on the top of the aggressive visor are anything to go by, then it would suggest it really does help shield dirt from your eyes and keep your vision clear. It’s not dissimilar from a full face’s size. Its adjustment goes from slightly visible to up and out of the way. If you wish to store eyewear then the visor will need to be in its upper position. Changing where the visor sits is easy and has a light clicking action.
The part of the helmet that covers the ear does shield the wind from your ears and reduces noise. That said, I don’t believe it alters how well you can hear in traffic. I’ve worn this helmet in the autumnal and winter conditions of Canada so overheating hasn’t been too much of a concern. I think it breathes well, but I’m not sure I’d be reaching for it in the height of summer on big pedalling days.
In some ways, it’s a perfect helmet for winter. The wind chill is kept off your ears and its deeper fit means that if you wish to wear a light when night riding it will still stay stable.
My only small qualm would be the noise from the MIPS system. It creaks and groans when you’re moving around. You do kind of get used to it, but it is a bit annoying. I also feel like the D-clip buckle, whilst very secure, might be slightly over the top.
The weight, at 700 grams for a medium/large might put you off. For reference, a Troy Lee A3 weighs just over 400 g and a D4, which is reasonably light for a full-face helmet, is around 1000 grams. The Giro Tyrant, which has a similar 3/4 shell profile, weighs in at 623 grams. You don’t really notice the weight of the Realm when riding with it, but that’s not to say it isn’t there. Thanks to the deep fit it feels like it wraps around your head rather than it being perched on top.Is This Style of Helmet a Fad?
Is this style of helmet merely a fad? I wouldn’t say so. I think helmets such as the Realm are here to stay. They might not have the chin bar of some burlier helmets, but that’s also what makes them so versatile. For me, it’s not just the weight of a full-face helmet but also the chin bar keeping my hot-air exhalations in that makes me not want to wear one all the time.
If I was doing days of bike park laps, I'm not going to be wearing the Realm - if a ride deserves extra protection then I want a full downhill helmet. Then again, there are plenty of times where I might be going to ride technical trails where I would gladly take some extra protection but don’t want to risk overheating. That's where a helmet such as the Realm comes in.
Comfortable, especially with lights+
Great for colder climates+
Excellent crash replacement program+
Large adjustable visor
Might be too much coverage for hotter climates-
MIPS is noisy-
The looks won't be for everyone