Words by Johan Hjord // Photos by Nils Hjord and Johan Hjord
Troy Lee has always been at the forefront of rider safety, especially when it comes to helmet design. Following the introduction of the company's first ever D3O-equipped kneepads earlier this year, it is time for the much acclaimed A1 half-shell helmet to get new-school tech boost, in the form of MIPS. Short for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, MIPS adds a free-floating layer between the shell and the liner, designed to allow a degree of "float" that is meant to reduce the risk of rotational brain injury that may occur in off-axis impacts. Put simply: the helmet rotates but the head doesn't. Naturally, the new MIPS helmet line comes with a fresh set of graphics, and as per usual, they range from the sober and understated to the brash and the bold. The sample we just took delivery of falls decidedly in the latter category - join us for the first ride to see what else we think of it.
A1 MIPS Highlights
- Reinforced polycarbonate shell in-molded with the EPS liner extends down the sides and back of the head for maximum protection and durability
- MIPS - Multi-Directional Impact Protection System
- 8 pressurized intake passages draw in cool air for maximum ventilation
- 8 rear vacuum vortex outlets help exhaust and draw heat from head
- Triple position adjustable retention system allows customized fit for various eyewear, head shape and riding styles
- Single piece, ultra plush, removable and washable comfort liner made of anti-microbial moisture wicking material for a dry, comfortable feel
- Full spectrum adjustable moto inspired visor with anodized aluminum hardware
- Race inspired styling
- Sizes: XS/S, MD/LG, XL/XXL
- Weight: 400 grams (verified, size MD/LG)
- Colors: Vertigo Yellow, White, Grey, Red, Black
- MSRP: $215 USD (Vertigo), $189 USD (Drone)
We've been big fans of the A1 ever since it was first introduced 3 years ago, and pulling the all-new MIPS version out of the box just a couple of days ago now reminded us of why, once again. The helmet is very well made, and in our case, it featured particularly eye-catching graphics to boot. There are more toned-down options available in the Vertigo line, or you can go for the outright understated Drone version that is easier both on the eye and on the wallet.
The main features of this A1 remain largely unchanged from the previous version we tested, with the notable exception of MIPS. MIPS is an internal floating harness that sits between the EPS shell and the liner. It is suspended by 4 elastic bands, and it slides against soft pads that are glued to the helmet shell, giving it the range of movement necessary to let the helmet shell rotate without transmitting the rotation to the head. As with many safety features, there is some debate as to just how much protection MIPS adds in real life, but even the most cynical among us would have to admit that there are some sound ideas behind it:
The MIPS integration is well-executed on the new A1, the extra layer conforms to the shape of the vents of the shell with very little overlap or obstruction - which should bode well for airflow.
Comparing the MIPS-ed A1 to its immediate predecessor, there is no visual difference between the shells. The internal harness also remains unchanged, as do the straps and adjusters.
On The Trail
One of the standout features of the A1 is the level of comfort it offers. The internal liner is thick and soft, giving it an overall impression that is more full-face like than most other half-shells. The addition of MIPS changes nothing in this department, which is a good thing. Put on the non-MIPS and the MIPS versions back to back and there is little discernable difference between the two in terms of how they feel on your head. We've only had the new A1 out for a couple of rides so far, so it's too early to draw any conclusions in regards to heat management or overall durability of the MIPS version, but the first impressions are of a fairly seamless integration.
Wiggle the shell and you can feel the MIPS layer sliding around a bit. Your normal, non-MIPS helmet will of course do this as well, especially if you happen to have lots of hair, but the theory is that the MIPS layer slides in a controlled way and will do so even under a hard impact. The good news is, when you're just riding along, you won't know it's there. There is no extra movement or sloppiness caused by the MIPS layer, no matter how rough the trail gets. It also doesn't interfere with the integration with sunglasses, nor the overall fit of the helmet. On the scales, the inclusion of MIPS added 23 grams to our sample compared to the non-MIPS version.
The internal harness offers 3 different fixation points to account for different head shapes, and an external dial lets you adjust the circumference on the fly. The chinstrap can be adjusted for length as well as the angle and placement of the 2 individual strap portions (that sit on either side of each ear). All together, these features give the A1 a very secure fit, while the adjustable visor ensures nothing interferes with your vision down the trail. Particularly useful for picking out those enduro lines...
Troy Lee's A1 is among the current favorites of the Vital test crew. It is comfortable, stable, and offers extra protection on the sides and back compared to the classic half-shell designs out there. The introduction of MIPS adds 23 grams to the weight of the helmet (as verified on the scales), and $50 USD to the bill, while providing extra protection from brain injuries caused by rotational forces. Whilst it is up to you to decide how much you value this feature, know that for now, we have not found any real drawbacks on the trail.