There has been a boom in quality mountain bike helmets over the past year or two. Notable dome protectors are the POC Trabec, Bell Super and the Troy Lee Designs A1. I choose to highlight these three not because they are the coolest offerings and come slathered in the fashionable colors and designs, but because they are all very good. Considerably better than a lot of the alternatives. They all offer excellent protection, a great fit and are designed with mountain biking in mind.
I'm not discrediting every other helmet, but these three mark a considerable shift in intention of helmet manufacturers. In recent years we have seen a massive improvement in trail bike technology which has allowed riders to approach the kind of terrain at the kind of speed that was formerly reserved for freeride-ists and clock wrestling time bandits. I'm not suggesting that the danger to the average rider has increased but that the frequency of opportunity for danger has increased. With this we have been seeing a trickle down of technology and design philosophy from high protection downhill helmets rather than from wafery road bike skull caps.
Most people know Troy Lee Designs is the king of petrol pipe style but it shouldn't be forgotten that its helmets are leaders in safety. Which is why the A1 is a welcome addition to the helmet marketplace.
The A1 is constructed with reinforced polycarbonate shell in-molded with the EPS liner which extends down the sides and back of the head for maximum protection and durability. The helmets meet both CPSC and CEN standards and a size small/medium without visor weighs 320 grams. The fully adjustable moto inspired visor comes with anodized aluminum hardware that should outlast any fixed and press-fit plastic offerings.
Internally, the fit is created by a single piece, ultra plush, removable and washable comfort liner made of anti-microbial moisture wicking material for a dry, comfortable feel. The triple position adjustable retention system allows you to customize the fit of your helmet.
And what a fit! This helmet is like putting a cozy toque on your head. The fit is something Troy Lee and team slaved over and the extra effort really pays off. While I acknowledge that fit is entirely personal and we all have different shaped heads I've yet to find someone who doesn't appreciate the fit and comfort of the A1. It really is a joy to wear.
There are 16 vents on the helmet, eight at the front to draw in cool air and eight at the rear to exhaust heat from your head. Some of the vents are big gulping mouths. However, there is a considerable lack of vents in the very front of the helmet, which combined with thick (10-millimeter) padding creates a very hot forehead indeed. We might all be familiar with the sweaty squeeze, where perspiration pours from the front of helmet, but the A1 takes the award for most powerfully potent perspiring helmet. The build up of heat and sweat over the forehead is quite remarkable and is my only mark down for an otherwise great helmet.
The looks are an acquired taste, you'll either love them or loath them. Since the release of the A1 in February Troy Lee Designs have already introduced several different colors for the same design. There's not many riders who can pull off the gold metal flake version but props to Troy Lee Designs for being bold and not just spraying its range with gimcrack patterns. I tested the gloss black version which from afar is pretty understated, yet still has that classic Troy Lee look which just makes you feel like you should be going faster than you are. Perhaps some less…err, chintzy versions would convince riders with more conservative palates to embrace the fit and safety of Troy Lee Designs helmets.
Fit is quite superb.
Quality construction and the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have this helmet on your head.
Hot, sweaty forehead.
Verdict: Do you ride in temperate environments or desert humidity? Do you love adding a bit of glitz and glamour to your kit? How much do you want to feel like your head is being cradled by the hands of angels? Your call. Although not my absolute favorite helmet, you could do far worse than buying this helmet. Cost: $165 to $185.