We review a lot
of kit here at Pinkbike. In fact, sometimes it can feel like a constant merry-go-round of helmets, gloves, tyres, or if we're extra lucky the latest bikes. It often transpires that we spend little time in the things we actually like most and more time trying to understand why things don't fit, work or feel as good as the manufacturer insists they should.
Open-face helmets have changed quite a bit over the last decade. Not only in terms of the deeper, now near-ubiquitous fit that you see in most trail helmets, but also in regards to venting, comfort, and weight. Helmets have also got safer too with the advent of slip-plain systems such as MIPS. Helmet fit is inherently subjective so sometimes finding your own ideal model can be tricky. Without getting drawn on safety, because ultimately we don't want to crash test these things and, even if we did, our evidence would be anecdotal, these are the helmets we like most, that fit us best and provide the features we love.
There are helmets that fit deeper than the Bluegrass Rogue and have that more bucket style fit that you enjoy. Whilst I'm not opposed to it, it can lead to something I don't enjoy - and that's the helmet tapping my glasses down my nose as I ride. It doesn't happen with all helmets, and you can try and tune it out with the ratchet-bands placement, but it can be a real nuisance.
Tech Editor & Kettle SupervisorPedal to Shuttle Ratio:
99/1Preferred helmet features:
Glasses storageChosen Helmet:
I had an A3 that I rode for a long time before I wrote it off in a crash, and that was a great helmet too. It perhaps fit a bit deeper than the Rogue but also felt slightly heavier on the head and less ventilated. That said, both are exceptionally comfortable for me. The Rogue is a bit lighter than the TLD (370g for a MIPS large). It's also a cooler riding helmet, too, and I personally really like the styling. The helmet is quite squat and stout. I don't mind seeing the visor as I look up through my eyebrows, that's what it's there for after all, but helmets that I can see the lip of the helmet hang over my forehead and sit in my line of sight isn't something that I particularly like.
I run some Scott Pro Shield glasses with clear lenses that tuck up nicely between the visor. The way they fit the helmet is very secure, and they never fall out even if I ride through some rougher trail with them still in the helmet. That said, the bent-arms of these glasses work a lot better for anchoring into the helmet vents than straighter-armed models.
Although I like it a lot, it does seem somewhat fragile and scuffs up very easily. This perceived fragility might well not be what you want from a piece of protection although it doesn't bother me too much. That said, it would nice if the matt paintwork was a bit harder wearing.
The Coyote didn't immediately strike me as a standout helmet - it's pleasantly neutral in most ways, but the cool comfort and light weight won me over in the long run. I think a large part of why this helmet breathes so well is the structure of the Kineticore protection system. The little foam protrusions inside the shell are meant to shear in the case of a crash, but they have the added bonus of channeling tons of air around your dome as you ride.
Tech Editor, Goblin KingPedal to Shuttle Ratio:
97/3Preferred helmet features:
Max VentilationChosen Helmet:
Lazer Coyote KineticorePrice:
Prior to the Lazer Coyote, I was rocking the well-named ATB-2T
from 6D. Both share the excellent 5-star rating in Virginia Tech's helmet safety test, but I've found the Coyote to be far more comfortable than the 6D. It's much lighter, and significantly less sweaty - a key feature as I tend to run pretty hot.
Intuitively, the dual-shell design on the 6D seems
safer, as it really does move a lot under shear load, but I feel like the Coyote should provide similar protection in a high-impact situation. It's funny to blindly trust the assumed safety of a new novel approach to helmet tech, but with an impartial third party like Virginia Tech doing some testing, I tend to rest assured by their conclusions.
I tend not to wear bike-specific shades, but my budget spectacles (shameless plug for Eyebuydirect.com) fit in the lid quite well. Since I'm always rocking the old man lenses, I don't worry too much about glasses storage on helmets - if that's a concern for you then the Coyote might fall a bit short.
For being a relatively inexpensive helmet, the Lazer lid has all the features I tend to look for in a daily-use option. The magnetic buckle seems superfluous until you realize how much nicer it is to use, the ratchet works well, the visor is effective and adjustable, and the safety rating is top notch.
It's worth noting that this isn't a stock colorway - I have a habit of drawing on anything too blank, so after an initial review period this helmet fell prey to the pen. I suppose it's a sign of how much I like it, as it was worth spending a few hours dressing up.
Reviewing so many helmets over the years has allowed me to get a pretty good idea of which models work best for my medium sized, fairly oval shaped head. POC's Tectal helmet is one of those models, and I've been wearing this black and gold version a bunch lately.
It provides a good amount of coverage, has a reasonable weight of 352 grams, and it'll hold my Smith Bobcat sunglasses moderately well when they're not in use.
Managing Tech Editor, nap aficionadoPedal to Shuttle Ratio:
100% pedaling (20% of that is on an e-bike). Preferred helmet features:
Glasses storageChosen Helmet:
Specialized's Tactic and Ambush helmets surpass the Tectal when it comes to sunglasses retention thanks to slots that were designed specifically for that purpose, and they both also rank higher on Virginia Tech's list, but for long rides I've found the Tectal to be more comfortable than either of those.
I'm also a fan of the Tectal's looks - I'm pretty goofy looking to begin with, so I prefer wearing a helmet that doesn't attract more attention than necessary.
The Tectal is well-ventilated, with plenty of airflow and padding that does a good job of dealing with sweat on hot summer days. The rear retention dial can be a little tricky to operate with one hand, but that's not usually something I need to fuss with too often. The main knock against it is the price - $180 is pretty steep, especially considering that the aforementioned Tactic is currently at the top of the Virginia Tech chart and retails for $110 USD. Granted, POC's Kortal Race model that Matt Beer prefers is $280, so in that context the Tectal's price tag starts to look better.
The comfortable, unobtrusive fit and secure feel are what have kept the Tectal in my regular rotation, where it'll remain until something else comes along with the right blend of features to convince me to replace it.
No one takes safety as seriously as the Swedes, like their Volvos that can stack seven cars high, and POC isn’t far from that. When the Piece Of Cake brand entered the mountain bike market, the styling resembled a mixture of a crash test dummy and Teletubby. Lately, they’ve shifted to a bolder look with straight edges, such as the straight edges on the Kortal Race MIPS helmet
that fits the shape of my head, style, and last but certainly not least, safety features.
Tech Editor, tire hoarderPedal to Shuttle Ratio:
80% pedaling (15% shuttles, 5% eMTB)Preferred helmet features:
Adjustable chin strap on ear loops, glasses storageChosen Helmet:
POC Kortal Race MIPSPrice:
First and foremost, the coverage on the flat panelling is massive, wrapping around and down the back of the skull. There’s no arguing that more material makes for greater energy absorption. The yellow dot indicates the rotating MIPS Integra system and we’re all familiar with the benefits of by now. Non-visible at the surface, there’s an aramid bridge that runs through the helmet to give strength and reduce penetrating rocks. Additionally, the visor quickly disconnects to reduce strain on your neck in the case of an OTB. There are also two pieces of hardware that relay information to first responders. The Recco detector sends out a locating signal, while the twICEme uses a Near-Field Communicator (NFC) chip to hand over the medical details of the rider via the stored info on their app.
There’s no shortage of adjustment in the Kortal either. The occipital harness out back is easy to reach and dial in or out, relieving pressure on long days and has four slots to adjust the height. That works in combination with a chin strap that can be rotated around the ear loops to align the helmet perfectly, plus the dead end is wrapped up to avoid flapping around.
With all of that adjustment, I find the fit to be extremely comfortable, especially with the cushy liner that soaks up sweat well. It’s not short on airflow because of the carved-out channels that run the length of the lid. There’s even enough space towards the back to tuck the folded arms of the glasses into the rear vents and not touch your head. This is clutch because I can’t ride for more than a brief photo opportunity without eyewear. You do have to remove the helmet to store the glasses though. Only once have they popped off without warning due to a low-hanging branch.
Costing $280 USD and weighing 401g the Kortal Race MIPS certainly isn’t cheap, or light for that matter. For reference, one of the lightest full-face helmets out there, the Specialized Gambit, is only 200g more. At the end of the day, it’s the coverage, safety features, secure fit, storage, and styling on the Kortal that win me over.
I have a particularly large head (63 cm) so finding a comfortable helmet isn't always easy. I get on with the size Large Speedframe helmet so well that it's been my go-to for a couple of years now. It's light, well-ventilated and offers good visibility. For high-consequence situations, I'll step up to a lightweight full-face like Troy Lee Stage, but for most of my riding, this is what I tend to go for.
Position: Tech Editor, slop enthusiast
Pedal to Shuttle Ratio: 98.99% pedaling
Preferred helmet features: Comfort & ventilation
Chosen Helmet: Fox Speedframe Pro
Price: $189.95 USD
It's not the best for storing goggles under the peak or glasses in the vents, but that's not something I tend to bother with anyway. I also find it irritating that the magnetic strap buckle occasionally pinches my skin as it snaps closed, but I can forgive that because it's so comfortable on my head.