Troy Lee Designs A1 Helmet
The concept of a half-shell helmet with extended coverage at the back of the head isn't a new one, dating back at least ten years, but as riders continue to push the limits of their all-mountain rigs, the demand for helmets with this extra protection has increased. To meet this demand, Troy Lee introduced their A1 helmet earlier this season, the company's first non-full face helmet in a number of years.
• Polycarbonate shell, EPS liner
• CPSC, CE, AS/NZS certified
• Weight: 344 grams (M/L)
• Colors: Battleship grey, matte black, satin blue, gloss yellow
• MSRP: Depends on color, from $139 - $165 USD.
The A1 uses a polycarbonate shell in-molded to an EPS liner, with an adjustable visor affixed to it with three aluminum bolts. The bolt heads are shaped so that no tools are needed to tighten or loosen the visor mounting hardware, simplifying in-the-field adjustments. The one-piece inner liner is made with an anti-microbial material, and can easily be removed for washing. An adjustable retention system cradles the back of the head, with three different height settings and a ratcheting dial to fine tune the fit. Ventilation is handled by sixteen vents positioned along the top and at the back of the helmet. The A1 is available in three sizes, XS/S, MD/LG, and XL/XXL. Our size M/L helmet weighed in at at 344 grams, and as would be expected, the A1 meets CPSC, CE, and AS/NZS safety standards.
Fit / On Trail Performance
The red dial on back of the A1 adjusts the helmet's fit around the head. The removable visor is adjustable by loosening three aluminum bolts.
Put the A1 on and its depth is immediately apparent – the helmet sits lower on the forehead and extends further down the back of the head than a typical XC lid would. Adjusting the fit around the head is as simple as turning the dial at the rear of the helmet, a one handed affair, with positive detents at each position. The retention system can also be set at one of three different heights so that it sits higher or lower on the back of the head. For us, the upper position proved to be the most comfortable, but this will obviously be an adjustment that's dictated by head shape and size. The inner liner was very comfortable, with enough padding so that we never felt the EPS foam underneath.
On the trail, the A1's excellent fit kept it in place even in the most jarring terrain, never slipping forward or sliding backwards. The extra weight of the A1 when compared to more XC style lids is noticeable, but we never felt burdened by the weight, and those additional grams are an expected result of the increased coverage the helmet provides. Luckily, we didn't crash test the A1, but the shell did shrug off a number of encounters with low hanging branches, emerging unscathed, and has survived the last few months of riding with only a few small scuff marks on the outer shell. The A1 does work with goggles, but the helmet's low position on the forehead can make for a snug fit, particularly with larger framed goggles. The same goes for sunglasses - we didn't have any trouble, but we have heard reports of certain sunglass styles not playing well with the A1 due to the extra side coverage.
An anti-microbial liner helps prevent things from getting funky, and can be easily removed for washing.
One small issue we ran into was with the A1's visor position – we couldn't get it quite a high as we would have liked. It was close, within a couple of degrees of our ideal position, but it still entered our field of vision on steep climbs. A slightly wider range of motion, or at least the ability to raise it up further would fix this.
The biggest gripe we have with the A1 is regarding its ventilation, or lack of it. There's no getting around it – this is one hot helmet, and we found ourselves sweating more than we're used to, even in relatively mild temperatures. The culprit seems to be the lack of a central vent and the thicker padding found at the front of the helmet; there's simply not enough airflow in this region to help speed up the evaporation process. The ventilation at the side of the helmet is fine, but even at higher speeds the air around the central forehead portion remained still and stifling.Pinkbike's take:
| Helmet designers are faced with a difficult task these days, trying to find that perfect balance between fit, function, and fashion. It used to be that slapping a visor onto a road bike helmet was enough, but that's no longer the case, with mountain bikers looking for helmets specifically tailored for their riding style. Troy Lee Designs' entry into the all-mountain market is a solid one, offering the excellent fit and construction that the company is known for, although the lack of ventilation prevents it from being a home run. It's close, but we'd love to see the air flow improved, a change that would make us much more likely to grab this helmet during those hot summer days. The A1's performance was satisfactory, but it didn't turn out to be as groundbreaking as we had hoped, leaving us to continue our quest for that holy grail of helmets - one that's well ventilated, light weight, and offers extra protection. Does this elusive helmet exist? The search continues. - Mike Kazimer|