Marginal gains: which helmet for an enduro stage race?

With the new Enduro season about to kick off internationally and then more locally I thought I would write a bit about the choices of helmet available to riders in 2017.

Choice and Risk

There are essentially four types of rider, in enduro races, as far as the use of full face helmets are concerned:

  1. The well-hard, trail ninja: personal skill levels, sense of ability and event regulations mean that this rider wears a trail helmet for the entire event (and the rules don’t require a fullface helmet);
  2. The Nico Lau: the minimum weight and complexity approach combined with warp speeds means wearing the full face all the time (perhaps removing check pads to allow better venting);
  3. The early adopter: happy to wear a hydrid helmet that has a removeable chin bar, lighter and more air flow on the transfers and a greater level of protection on the downs; and
  4. Everyone else: who chooses to wear a trail helmet for the transfers (mainly up) and wear a full face helmet for the timed stages (mainly down hill).

Option One

For me this was a non-starter, I am reasonably happy on harder trails but I don’t have the ninja skills and sense of invulnerability that lends itself to riding everything, at a reasonable pace, whilst only wearing a trail helmet.

Option Two

Whilst this appealed a lot, I was not preparing for the average enduro day or weekend. I had to decide what was the best balance of weight and risk for a totally arduous six day event. I won’t ride without a helmet which means wearing a full face for six days except when stopped or carrying our bikes.

Option Three

This meant buying a new helmet, which was not the end of the world but I have several very good helmets in my workshop which meant I thought I should consider option four first.

Option Four

This means that one is carrying a full face helmet, on one’s pack, for a considerable distance and time.

My trail helmet is an excellent and undamged POC Trabec Race MIPS. Whilst noisy in the wind, it has fantastic venting, great field of vision and I believe that POC really know their stuff when it comes to complicated head injury prevention or reduction, so in summary I trust this helmet. I know I can happily wear it for hours each day and multiple days. POC tells me that it weighs 350 grams.

To choose the full face helmet I headed to my helmet shelf (yes I have one as there are the helmets I buy for myself and the helmets I am expected to wear at work). I have three excellent condition, un-crashed, full face helmets: Troy Lee Designs D3 Carbon (XXL); Troy Lee Designs D2 Carbon (XL/XXL) and Kali Avatar II (XL).

My TLD D3 was a present to myself for a season of guiding when I received some very generous tips. I also splashed out with PaintHouse Customs for a personalised paint job.

TLD D3 LH side rear   TLD D3 Top Rear   TLD D3 RH side rear

I love this helmet and it fits perfectly. This is one of the industry gold standards for safety and performance. It is certified to CPSC 1203, CE EN1078, ASTM F1952, ASTM F2032, and ASTM F2040 standards. However that protection comes at a price; it is heavy, not kevlar, combat helmet heavy, but certainly has a heft that is noticable. It weighs in at 1260 grams.

TLD D3 Carbon weight

So I reached for the TLD D2 Carbon. It is slightly older but, due to me spending more time in the work provided helmets when guiding than in my own helmet, it has not really seen much use. It lives in a helmet case in my workshop so is well protected from the deterioration that comes with UV light, heat, dust and sweat.

TLD D2 Carbon front    TLD D2 Carbon side    TLD D2 Carbon rear

This helmet has not ever been crashed. It doesn’t look as ‘cool’ as the D3, especially with its slightly dated (classic TLD?) graphics, but it is a good helmet, comfortable to wear and with great field of vision. It is certified highly with ASTM F2032-00 and F1952-00 standards, CPSC standard, 16 CFR part 1203 & CE EN 1078 standards.

The D2 is significantly lighter than the D3. One can feel it as it is lifted to the scales where it weighed in 870 grams

TLD D2 Carbon weight

Finally there is my Kali Avatar II. This is a carbon helmet that was provided through my work sponsors. This one is a new helmet that I was given as a crash replacement for the one that I wore for 100 plus work days but died when it took the brunt of a fairly heavy spill on Original Sin at the end of the bike park season. Doing what helmets are designed to do and doing it well.

Kali Avatar II front   Kali Avatar II side   Kali Avatar II rear

I am used to wearing this helmet. It is light, comfortable, it vents well and the field of vision is good. It is certified highly with ASTM F1952, ASTM F2032, EN 1078, CPSC standards.

On the scales it comes in a cheeky 730 grams:

Decisions

The best case for Option Four is wearing and carrying 1080 grams worth of helmets and always having a helmet of one kind or another strapped to my day sack for six days. It doesn’t seem like much in the comfort of one’s workshop but it certainly adds up over 270 kilometres of French summer temperatures with a lot of climbing.

Options Three is the best

After deliberation (see above) Option Three appeared to be the best and there was only one helmet that fit the bill and my head properly; the Bell Super 2R MIPS. It weighs 696 grams with the chin bar fitted. The chin bar is easily removed and stores flat against the day sack when it is not being used. the helmet is well vented (and quieter than the POC Trabec Race MIPS), it is CE EN1078 and CPSC Bicycle certified and one is 386 grams ahead of the best case Option Three weight. 386 grams is equal to 386 ml more water, or the baguette you get given for lunch each day.

Summary

For those times when one doesn’t need (due to speeds and objective risk) or have to, due to race regulations, wear a DH certified full face helmet then the new “Enduro” helmets with easily removable chin bars are a weight saver. They feel like a trail helmet for the trails and transitions and provide most of the protection of a DH helmet on the downhill or timed stages.