Troy Lee Designs have been making helmets for over twenty years, starting with their very popular Edge in the '90s and moving on to downhill full face helmets from there. Their range has always been fairly narrow, but they've remained some of the most desirable on the market. The Stage is their first lightweight full face helmet designed for enduro racing. It has the silhouette of their hugely popular D3, but with lots of material removed to give it the sort of venting that you would expect to find in a trail lid.
Unlike some other well ventilated full face helmets on the market the Stage's chin piece isn't designed to be removable, but this is one of the reasons why it was possible to make it so light. At a 685g for the M/L, it is the lightest helmet on the market to conform to the full DH testing standards.
It is offered in three sizes, going from XS up to 2XL to fit head circumferences from 54cm to 62cm, and two thicknesses of pads are included. It is offered in 'Race' and 'Stealth' variants for a total of five different colorways, which should offer something for everyone, but the technical features of both options are identical. The Stealth Race in Silver / Navy is reviewed here. Retail price is $295 USA, $375 CAN, £275 or €329.99.
• Intended use: Enduro
• Fibre reinforced Polylite shell
• Combination of dual density EPS and EPP foam
• MIPS liner
• Total of 25 vents
• Various sizes of X-static moisture wicking, odor reducing, liners, neck rolls, and cheek pads
• CPSC 1203, CE EN1078, ASTM F1952, ASTM F2032, and AS/NZS 2063-2008 certified
• Size: XS/S (54-56cm), M/L (57-59cm), XL/2X (60-62cm)
• Weight: 685 grams / 24.16oz, size M/L (actual
• MSRP: $295 USD
Troy Lee have not only been working hard on the weight and ventilation of the Stage, but also the safety, which is appreciated in a time when everyone is charging harder on rowdier terrain than ever, and the effects of repeated concussions are becoming more widely known. The helmet utilizes a system of two different densities of EPS and also EPP foam in order to more effectively protect your brain from both small and large impacts. The lower density EPP should increase the impact time of smaller hits, reducing the force on your brain and thus injury. In harder crashes the higher density EPS is intended to absorb the energy that the first layer can't handle. The MIPS system has also been employed in order to help manage off-axis/rotational impacts. The various safety standards it meets or exceeds is quite extensive: CPSC 1203, CE EN1078, ASTM F1952, ASTM F2032, and AS/NZS 2063-2008. If the various codes mean nothing to you then the fact that it meets the same standards as a regular full face helmet should.
Ventilation and air flow were another priority in the design, and for this reason there are 11 air intake vents and 15 exhaust ports with deep channels to funnel fresh air over the head in between the two. The very front of the chin piece is particularly open to help with getting air into your lungs on a mid-stage sprint.
Other nice touches include the Fidlock magnetic buckle that can easily be closed with one hand; various thicknesses of moisture wicking, odor neutralizing liners, neck rolls, and cheek pads, and the anodized aluminum visor hardware, which adds a touch of class and provides 40mm of visor adjustment. In Action
When I put the Stage on it was a comfortable fit; the choice of padding thicknesses helping with this, but it did feel more like an open face trail helmet than the secure feel from a full-blown DH full face. I think this is down to the thinner padding used in order to keep the weight down and air flowing, like an open face, rather than the cushy, padded feel from a DH helmet. On the other hand, it was very airy and didn't feel much warmer than an open face helmet. The cheek pads are cut back and away from your jaw, which makes breathing easier and give it a less claustrophobic fit than a DH helmet.
The Fidlock closure is very handy, and can even be used to connect the strap with one hand while riding. The straps that the Fidlock are attached to did cause a bit of an issue – they aren't in a Y shape, as you find in an open face, but ran straight down like a normal full face. This would be fine, but the lack of padding on these straps resulted in them pulling against my ear lobes and becoming uncomfortable on long rides. Some padding on these straps would solve this problem and hopefully this is addressed at some point.
Another compromise made in the quest for ventilation is that despite all of Troy Lee's work on safety it still doesn't feel as confidence inspiring as the current crop of DH helmets. The very open design, which is essential to keep it cool, also meant that I felt more exposed. The noise from the wind rushing over my ears created the illusion of speed, like an open face. I suspect that is one reason why I feel so safe in a traditional full face.
Finally, and this is a small thing, but the lack of any foam or mesh in the chin piece resulted in being much more likely to inhale flies or flying debris on the trail. How does it compare?
The Fox Proframe and Bell's Super DH are the two other helmets on the market that are similar to the Stage. The Fox and the Bell are both heavier in the same medium size, at 761g and 892g respectively. The extra weight of the Super DH is mostly from the removable chin bar and fixation points that give you a hybrid helmet that can be used as a full, or open face.
The Fox uses the same Fidlock closure and straight style strap with no padding as TLD's lid, but I did not experience the same pulling on my ears feeling with the ProFrame that I did with the Stage. The Bell also boasts a Fidlock buckle, and uses their 'Float DH' retention system also found on most of their open face helmets that offers a micro-adjustable fit, helping to give a more secure feeling when not riding fast, and a y-shaped strap that gives a better fit. The downside of the Super DH is caused by the 'Mips Spherical' system which is a separate foam shell inside the exterior shell that can rotate in a crash, instead of a thin plastic Mips layer. I found when riding over fast and bumpy ground the whole exterior of the helmet moves around on the Mips Spherical layer which is off-putting and can move goggles, distorting your vision which can make it hard to ride.
Ventilation might be slightly better on the ProFrame due to the increased size of the intakes at the front of the helmet, but even now I have a shaved head there is little to tell between the two. The Super DH has the least amount of ventilation compared to the other two, but that is not always a bad thing. Increased ventilation can lead to a more exposed feeling compared to a full-on DH helmet that's particularly noticeable on the Stage thanks to the vents placed right over the ears. This does keep your ears cool, but the Super DH and ProFrame shells cover your ears leading to a safer feeling.
For endur-bro goggle storage under the peak, the Bell is the best, the Stage just about holds a set with the peak at its highest setting, but the ProFrame can't fit any goggles under its peak. On a hot day, storing goggles here can make them fog up when you are perspiring or working hard. For that reason, I'm not a fan of keeping my goggles on the front of my lid.Thoughts
The new generation of lightweight full-face helmets designed with enduro racing in mind are great, but I do have concerns about them replacing regular full face helmets due to the numerous large vents that make them so cool. As I've explained, the Stage meets or exceeds all the DH helmet standards, but is an undeniable fact that more large vents increase the likelihood that a sharp object could get through.
Many helmet manufacturers argue that these standards I've talked so much about are lagging behind what is required. Research and high profile athletes facing problems due to repeated concussions have shown that more can be done to reduce brain injury, so the standards should be moving forward with technological advancement in order for us to confident that we are being protected as well as possible. Usually, these standards are set to cover helmets across a range of cycling disciplines by government organizations that move more slowly than the rapidly evolving world of mountain bikes.
It is my view that these new 'enduro helmets' should be considered to be more protective trail helmets, rather than a DH helmet with better ventilation. I personally will be sticking with a full on DH helmet when going to a bike park or shuttling, but will happily reach for the Stage when heading out the door on a trail ride, or need better cooling and lighter weight for enduro racing.Pinkbike's Take