ENDURO DOMES | Helmets that Combine Coverage and Cool

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As enduro racing gains momentum in North America, a landslide of products catering to the “new” breed of renaissance rider has hit the market. Helmets are no exception, and just as the racing format’s proliferation has been a catalyst of the pursuit of the elusive combination of strength and lightweight when it comes to all-mountain bikes and components, expanding coverage and protection without sacrificing weight and breathability has become the mantra of enduro domes, expanding the selection of true mountain-bike helmets. Lucky then for the majority of riders, the format closely resembles what most mortals actually do on a mountain bike. So whether you’re looking to run goggles with your half-lid for the next stop of the World Series, or you’re just a weekend warrior looking for something better than a road helmet with a visor, here are eight enduro lids to keep you cool and covered.

 

Bell Super

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Even though it is the heaviest in the group at 390 grams, the Bell Super comes packed with enough features and a dialed fit to make the weight an afterthought. It provides some of the deepest rear coverage available in a half lid, but despite covering so much cranial real estate, features enough vents—25, to be exact—to keep you cool. Somewhat unique to the Super are the four brow vents just under the visor, designed to pull air in and through the internal channeling built into the EPS. The visor also offers 30-degrees of adjustability, which is not only nice when it comes to keeping a clear field of view, but actually allows room for goggles to rest off your face and under the visor. This, along with the integrated goggle guides, make the Super the most goggle-friendly of the bunch—and also leaves no doubt as to its intended demographic. Another standout feature of the Super is the integrated—yet removable—GoPro mount. Bell‘s Speed Dial fit system does a fine job of keeping things secure and comfy.

 

Uvex XP CC

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Although not the newest in the bunch, the made-in-Germany Uvex XP CC remains a solid performer in the all-mountain category. Formerly the XP 100, it gets a new name and colors for 2014. Despite full coverage and innovative who-woulda-thunk-it features like bug netting in the front vents and a Monomatic strap system allows you to micro-adjust strap tension on the fly, the XP CC is by far the lightest in the bunch at 260 grams. Thanks to something Uvex calls the IAS 3D+ system, one size fits all. While we were admittedly skeptical of a “one size fits all” claim on something as personal as a helmet, the fit system does its job well. Fore-aft length can be adjusted as can width, but the clincher here is the crown-height adjustment, which above all, seems to really allow you to find the just-right Goldilocks setting. Sixteen large vents help keep things cool and removable, washable, anti-microbial padding makes it easy to keep it clean.

 

Mavic Notch

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The French wheelmaker launched a line of technical apparel earlier this year aimed at the enduro trend that happened to include a new helmet very well suited to the discipline. Enter, the Mavic Notch. One of the lighter options in the group at 320 grams, the Notch is a ground-up trail helmet offering more coverage than Mavic’s cross-country offerings along with a unique rugged style.  Fit is dialed in courtesy of the Ergo Hold SL retention system, borrowed from the company’s road helmets to achieve maximum comfort and minimum weight. The anti-microbial liner fights funk and features a design that is continuos around the front brow with recessed channels for the straps for a seamless fit. A dozen forward-facing vents are coupled with large exhaust vents in the back for ventilation. The visor is fixed, which is fine as it doesn’t seem to obstruct field of vision, but riders looking for more room to run goggles may want to look elsewhere, although the visor is removable if doing so is more your style.

 

Giro Feature

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The Giro Feature has remained largely unchanged since its inception two years ago, but still finds a spot on this list for a reason—it is one of the lightest, offers some of the deepest coverage and is the most affordable. The In-Form fit system is among the more basic in the group, but does what’s mean to do and feels just fine. The Feature has 12 vents and internal channeling, but riders concerned with hot weather and longer rides may want to look at better ventilated options. But what the Feature lacks in ventilation, it makes with some of the most comprehensive coverage in the group and a round profile closer to a skate-style bucket than a spandex spear tip. The Feature also…um, features an adjustable visor. It all tips the scales at only 285 grams. Touché.

 

Urge Endur-O-Matic

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Even if you couldn’t see a single logo from afar, there’d be no mistaking an Urge helmet for anything else on the market—the Endur-O-Matic is no exception. The closest to being a full-on gravity lid sans chinbar in the group, the Endur-O-Matic offers the most coverage by far. There are only eight vents that give one the sudden “urge” to go bowling, but they are said to be positioned to create a Venturi Effect (air is accelerated as it moves through smaller spaces) along with the inner channels. The Gangsta Pad anti-sweat system mimics a bandana over your brow to keep the drips away, and along with the rear padding, does a fine job of wicking moisture for what looks to be such a sealed dome.

 

Troy Lee Designs A1

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Well known for its full-face offerings, Troy Lee Designs made a splash earlier this year when it returned to the half-lid game with the wildly styled and wildly popular A1. While the custom moto-inspired graphics and anodized hardware certainly make an impression, function leads form—as evidenced by three years of development and several scrapped prototypes. The goggle-friendly visor has 50 millimeters of adjustability, and a one-piece liner is as plush as we’ve ever seen in a bicycle helmet. Although Troy Lee Designs says more colors will be released throughout the year—we already saw a matte version of the Black Cyclops color at Sea Otter—the existing designs seem to be a love it or leave it affair for most riders. Regardless of how you feel about the graphics, once on, all else is forgotten. The A1 just feels right. The deep-fitting shell seems to cradle your skull just right. The retention dial will probably work for most melons, but there are also three height positions resulting in 20 millimeters of crown-height customization. The A1 weighs in at 340 grams without the visor, which, while not wispy, is quickly forgotten on long rides due to both the fit and cooling of the intake and exhaust vents and internal channeling.

 

Fox Head Flux

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One of the most popular helmets in the all-mountain/enduro category, the Fox Head Flux offers deep coverage with an aggressive look. It’s 352 grams is well ventilated thanks to 20 openings. In contrast to most “dial” fit retention systems, Fox Head‘s Detox fit system utilizes a ratcheting strap in the rear. Style and comfort lead the way as reasons this helmet continues to be a best seller.

 

SixSixOne Recon

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The SixSixOne Recon is a great option for more comprehensive protection in a sleek, lightweight package ready for all-day romps. The Recon weighs in at a tidy 300 grams and features matte graphics that stand out without being obnoxiously loud—a feat more difficult than it sounds. The straps anchor at the edge of the helmet, so they don’t rub your face or tussle with the liner over which one gets to hug your head. Eighteen vents and internal channeling provide “active” ventilation. The Recon shares the Detox ratcheting fit system with the Flux.

by Don Stefanovich

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VIDEO | Aaron Gwin Redefines Fast

Troy Lee Designs rider Aaron Gwin is fast—a fact he’s proven time and time again—but it’s still awe-inspiring to see him in action. Clay Porter’s lens captured him in action in Idyllwild, CA, for this edit from Red Bull Media House.

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INSIDE SEA OTTER 2013 | Part 2

The Link, Price Point’s finger on the pulse of the bike industry, delves deeper into the depths of Laguna Seca to continue bringing you coverage of the coolest new bikeswag from the Sea Otter Classic.

Giro Chamber

Served up hot ‘n’ fresh, the Chamber marks Giro‘s first entry into the downhill realm. Developed with none other than Aaron Gwin, the Chamber combines casual skate style with super-sticky vibram rubber soles. Flat and clipless-ready varieties are available, with the latter featuring a super-stiff sole. They’ve also lost considerable weight since debuting at Interbike in prototype form. An internal bootie,  EVA foam footbeds, impact-absorbing Poron XRD heel cups and velcro strap enhance comfort and fit.

 

Continental 27.5-inch Tires

Continental 27.5

Photo by Don Stefanovich

The German tiremaker introduced 27.5 (650b) versions of four of its most popular mountain treads. The Trail King (our personal favorite), Mountain King, X-King and Race King have all adapted to the tweener size. Currently only existing in 2.4 widths, Continental says most of the tires should be available in a full size run for 2014.

 

Troy Lee Designs Sam Hill D3 and Fresh A1 Colors

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

Troy Lee Designs released much anticipated colorways of two of its most popular helmets, the D3 and the all-mountain A1. The D3 sees a fresh splash of color for the Sam Hill Signature edition while the A1 gets both a new metallic treatment and even a version with a matte finish.

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

The matte finish covers one of the original A1 paint schemes, but creates a stark yet welcome contrast to its metallic-flake siblings.

 

Optrix Barfly

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

The new Barfly mount from Optrix makes mounting the XD5 to your handlebars a simple and versatile affair. It can be mounted for POV action, or flipped to lay the phone in a flat “landscape” mode if you’d rather use apps and training functions. 

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

Optrix also made sure no one forgot its waterproof dunkability.

 

Marzocchi 380 C2R2 Titanium Fork and Moto C2R Shock

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Marzocchi is replacing the 888 with the new 380 C2R2 Ti fork. Compatible with 26 and 27.5-inch wheels, the 200-millimeter 380 is a complete redesign with 38-mil stanchions, titanium spring, new arch and lowers, titanium pinch bolts, a hollowed-out axle and new internals. It trades in the open-bath design in favor of a “Dynamic Bleed Cartridge” inspired by the Italian company’s motocross forks, which it says will provide the plush, smooth feel of open bath with the consistency of a cartridge.  The DBC cartridge employs a one-way seal to let oil in. A spring-loaded piston acts a compensator; the piston moves up to make room as the damper cartridge fills with oil, and then back down to take up excess volume as oil exits the cartridge. Impressive—and it all weighs in at a tidy 6 pounds, 2 ounces.

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

The ROCO isn’t going anywhere just yet, but the C2R will be the top-of-the-line DH shock going forward. With an eye on weight, the body is machined down to a minimalist design, and the 14-millimeter shaft and shock eyelet have been precision machined from a single piece of aluminum, decreasing weight and increasing strength.

Marzocchi doesn’t find the compression boost necessary, but offers the C2R both with and without for riders wanting increased tunability and bottom out. It all tips the scales at just 369 grams without the spring.

 

Bell Super

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

Bell claims the Super splits the difference between heavy-duty downhill coverage and cross-country comfort and breathability. While that’s just another way of saying this is an all-mountain/enduro helmet, it seems to hit the mark in both form and function—not to mention style. The Super is also designed to readily accept goggles with an adjustable visor and guides.

 

Mavic Cosmic Carbone 40C

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

Creating what it felt was the perfect carbon clincher wasn’t easy, but Mavic found a simple yet elegant solution.

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

The French wheelmaker used aluminum inserts for increased strength and stiffness, giving the spokes a strong anchor point while keeping weight respectable at approximately 1,545 grams per pair.

 

Sock Guy Rainbows and Unicorns

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We think these socks speak for themselves.

 by Don Stefanovich 

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TROY LEE DESIGN’S TRAIL ROOTS | New gear recalls the company’s history

The new A1 only the most recent incarnation of TLD's trail helmets.

The new A1 is only the most recent incarnation of TLD’s trail helmets. Photo by Don Stefanovich

If you ride a mountain bike, chances are you know Troy Lee Designs for its line of full-face helmets and gravity gear. And maybe you are familiar with its origins in races requiring internal combustion engines; Troy, after all, got his start racing motocross as a teenager and painting helmets for his friends in his parents’ garage. But what most people don’t realize is that the company’s first venture into bicycle helmets was closer to the recently hyped A1 enduro helmet than anything in between.

The A1 recently received quite a bit of buzz, and rightfully so. After three years of development and scrapping several concepts, TLD released what it felt to be a proper all-mountain helmet—not a road helmet with a visor. The A1 features deep rear coverage and EPS (expanded polystyrene, the impact-absobing material in most helmets) that is strategically thicker in common impact zones and reinforced with fiberglass strands, but combines that extra protection with “super vents” for improved cooling over similar designs without compromising safety. Inside is a one-piece liner for comfort, so you won’t have to fuss with separate pads. Naturally, as an artist, Troy couldn’t let the A1 leave the factory without a custom look, so techniques used on moto helmets were applied to the paint and graphics along with anodized hardware. It all weighs in at a tidy 320 grams.

But among all that buzz in the bike-industry media, the A1 was widely regarded as TLD‘s first trail helmet without a chinbar—a statement that happens to be both true and false.

A young Troy Lee makes visors on at a time on the punch press. Photo courtesy TLD.

A young Troy Lee makes visors one at a time on the punch press. Photo courtesy TLD.

Troy Lee Designs‘ deep [bicycle] roots can be traced back to the ’70s when Troy and his brother Kelly roamed around in the hills of Laguna Beach on beach cruisers,” bicycle division marketing manager Craig “Stikman” Glaspell told The Link. “And later on when Troy started painting helmets in 1981, he would eventually find his way to BMX racing in the late ’80s painting Dave Cullinans helmets, who would be the first BMX racer to have a custom painted helmet.”

In the early ’90s, motorcycle helmet manufacturer Shoei decided it was going to take a stab the mountain-bike market, but needed a little help. Troy got the call.

The Edge lived double lives as trail helmet and downhill dome bucket.

The Edge lived double lives as trail helmet and downhill dome bucket. Photo by Don Stefanovich

Shoei’s now-iconic—among those old enough to remember it—louvered shell was soon splashed with wild paint schemes by Troy and outfitted with a custom visor. One of the first “real” mountain-bike helmets was born. Donned by pro riders the likes of Brian Lopes, Greg Herbold and Leigh Donovan in races at the time, it quickly put the motorsport-goods maker on the mountain-bike map. When Lopes wanted a little more protection, Troy devised a detachable chinbar, making the Edge both TLD‘s first half-shell and full-face lid. While the chinbar design wouldn’t pass TLD‘s strict safety standards of today, the concept was revolutionary at the time for a bicycle helmet—and even moto helmets of the day featured removable chin pieces.

A young Troy Lee shows his nephews how to paint an Edge helmet. Photo courtesy TLD.

A young Troy Lee teaches his nephews how to paint an Edge helmet. Photo courtesy TLD.

“Later in the ’90s was when Troy would make the groundbreaking full-face that set the standard, the Daytona,” said Stikman. The Daytona closely resembled today’s full-face helmets, and was a giant leap forward in 1995. Mike King, Nico Vouilloz and Dave Cullinan—luminaries during the ’90s in BMX and mountain-bike racing—all had their heads inside a Daytona. Soon everyone wanted one. TLD began production in 1996, and soon the Daytona was making appearances on the World Cup circuit on noggins the likes of Steve Peat and Shaun Palmer (yes, the snowboarder was a World Cup downhill racer—and a damn good one).

A detachable chinbar was was good enough for motocross, why not mountain bikes?

A detachable chinbar was was good enough for motocross, why not mountain bikes? Photo by Don Stefanovich

While the Edge helmet planted TLD‘s feet firmly in the mountain-bike market, the Daytona’s popularity carried more momentum, eclipsing the Edge and eventually evolving into the popular D2 full-face in 2001 and later the D3 in 2009.

Today the company is predominantly known for its strong footing in downhill and freeride helmets and gear but Stikman is quick to point out that it’s only a part of TLD‘s bicycle segment. “Troy Lee has been making BMX and mountain-bike apparel since the ’90s as well, from number plates and racewear to the introduction of trail-riding gear in early 2000, to what is now one of the best lineups in all-mountain, enduro, freeride and racing apparel on the market,” he said. The company counts to its credit an all-star big-bike roster including Aaron Gwin, Sam Hill, Brendan Fairclough, Troy Brosnan,Cam Zink and Brandon Semenuk, but is growing its enduro team as well. Nicolas Vouilloz, Curtis Keene and Lars Stenberg are all on board.

Even though they are separated by two decades, the A1 bears a striking resemblance to its predecessor

Even though they are separated by two decades, the A1 bears a striking resemblance to its predecessor. Photo by Don Stefanovich

The Link was recently able to preview TLD‘s newest technical trail products—including gloves, shorts, jerseys and even an expansion on TLD’s partnership with Shock Doctor to include post-injury support products such as knee and wrist braces—but most of the goods are still top-secret. We will give you full details as soon as we’re able, but what we can say is that the new gear will round out the line to cover just about any style of riding when it comes time to put two wheels in the dirt.

Vintage cross-country race bikes and kits from the likes of Brian Lopes, John Tomac and Greg Herbold remind visitors of TLD's trail roots.

Vintage cross-country race bikes and kits from the likes of Brian Lopes, John Tomac and Greg Herbold remind visitors of TLD’s trail roots. Photo by Don Stefanovich

Lest anyone forget TLD‘s trail roots, cross-country race bikes and kits from the likes of legends like Greg Herbold, John Tomac and Brian Lopes hang among the wild array of clothing, products and memorabilia in its So Cal showroom.

“We have been doing it for a few years and some of the items we have had were the first to market: trail-riding shorts, freeride shorts, loose-fitting jerseys, etc.,” Stikman said. “It is definitely a buzzword right now, but these new formats are things Troy and I did 20 years ago. Racing mountain bikes you had to race the uphill to race the downhill. We were out all day on trails, having fun with our friends, cooking at the campsite, having a beer fireside. It is a lifestyle that we all still live today, not just the latest craze for us.”

by Don Stefanovich 

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VIDEO | Troy Lee Designs A1 Enduro Helmet

Troy Lee Designs spent nearly three years crafting its most recent entry into the half-lid all-mountain/enduro market, and it looks as if it’s been well worth the wait.

The TLD A1 features full coverage and an aggressive style, making it a worthy contender for today’s emerging crop of enduro racers and all-mountain riders. Sixteen large vents coupled with a specially designed air-channeling visor are designed to keep the rider cool, while a deep rear profile provides more coverage than a traditional trail helmet.

TLD has a history in motorcycle racing, and it shows. In addition to the aggressive lines, the company has applied a paint/graphics process used in moto helmets—very unconventional to bicycle helmets—along with anodized hardware to create a unique and custom moto-inspired look.

Whether you are an elite enduro athlete or an after-work ripper, the long-awaited A1 was developed for you and the love of your sport.

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