by AJ Barlas
There are some crazy and great things going on in the world of helmet technology right now, seemingly coinciding with the recent popularity of Enduro racing. Maybe the fact that riders want more coverage from a lid has been a large part of the shift, though to be honest I think more coverage is a good thing no matter what style of riding. For far too long we as mountain bikers were stuck with helmets designed for road but had a visor thrown on and labeled a "mountain bike helmet."
A number of years ago there was a shift when companies like Giro began to add helmets to their line that moved away from the road bike wings and flares to a more integrated, mountain bike style and functional design. A number of helmets have continued to push this shift but up until a short while ago, they were still quite similar to what was already out there.
That's not to say that these helmets didn't function well - they met the safety standards put in place by the powers that be and surely saved many from injury. There still remained room to garner more coverage, though, in a style unique from the rest. Step into the limelight, Urge. Urge came forward with a range of interesting and unique designs, among them the EndurOmatic, an extended coverage helmet that blurs the line between cross-county and gravity. Arguably the first real step from the rest of the field, they seemed to push coverage and styling to a whole new level.
For the last couple of months I've been sporting this somewhat strange looking helmet to see how it measured up in everything from short DH races to XC and enduro events, in addition to day-to-day trail rides.
Urge EndurOmatic Highlights
- CE1078 Certification
- In-mold construction
- Eight vents positioned to create internal Venturi effect
- Flexible anti-crash visor
- Gangsta pad anti-sweat system
- Available in two sizes (S/M, L/XL)
- Weight: 319 grams
- MSRP $109.95
Surely the first thing anyone notices when they lay eyes on the Urge EndurOmatic is its odd aesthetics. This helmet is funky! Some will be totally into it and others won't - this is a completely personal thing and you'll likely either love it or hate it. Personally, I don't mind the look of it, especially when on my head. A lot of helmets tend to form a sort of muffin atop my dome and are exaggerated by my narrow face. The Urge didn't do this and is the closest any trail helmet has come to my old fave, the classic skate lid. It's actually really close in many design elements as well, though with a visor attached.
The second thing anyone is likely to notice is the weight. At 319 grams it's pushing into the weight range of full blown XC race lids! This light weight definitely aids with the comfort of the helmet. After getting used to the initial feel - as it does feel a little different to the usual - it is so comfortable that I almost never remove it from my head while out riding. Almost.
The helmet is adjusted by swapping out pads for one of two included sets of two pads, each pair of varying thickness. One pad takes up the back of the helmet and the other, the Gangsta Pad, takes up the front and leads up onto the top of the head. This doesn't allow a great deal of adjustability but is seemingly enough for most people. The Gangsta Pad helps with the comfortable fit too, and works well to soak up sweat that builds while out riding.
The lack of an easily adjustable 'cranial support' at the rear of the helmet is apparent when first fitting the EndurOmatic, which leaves it feeling as though it is not hugging onto your head, but rather sitting over it. Once the chin strap is adjusted and done up this is nearly forgotten, but it took some getting used to this on the trail. Even the classic skate lid I mentioned earlier had more of a hugging, supportive quality at the rear than the EndurOmatic. The strap mounts into the EPS shell also contain less maneuverability than most, making it difficult to set up a proper fit without the straps irritating the ears, perhaps a detail that only a few will notice or find a nuisance.
On The Trail
The EndurOmatic, despite taking a little getting used to, felt great on the trail. The light weight and comfort of a few simple pads makes for a lid that feels like you're close to wearing nothing. Despite concerns with the lack of support around the rear of the helmet, I never really noticed it moving about - maybe a little in the roughest sections of trail, but these sections would no doubt have resulted in similar movement in a more traditional fitting helmet.
For many, the largest draw to this style is the added coverage, and the Urge has no shortage. In fact the EndurOmatic comes pretty close to the coverage that a full face helmet contains in the rear, though in a thinner package. The sides of your head are also well covered, with the helmet coming down pretty close to your ears. These elements make for a helmet that feels like it has you covered, so long as it stays on in the event of a good digger.
The lack of the cranial support on the EndurOmatic leaves the helmet relying on the chin strap alone to keep it in place in the event of a spill. Without the strap buckled the helmet can fall off with the shake of your head. Even with the straps done up, pushing on the lower rear of the helmet creates a fair amount of movement - more than I personally am comfortable with. Even so, I think the helmet would remain in place in the event of a good crash, at least long enough for it to do what it is supposed to. The helmet remained in place during the few minor diggers that I had while testing.
When most first see this helmet they often ask how warm it must be. "That looks warm" and "where are the vents" comments are quite common, and while they can get tiring to hear, they are warranted. In earlier Spring and on cooler, wet days the lack of vents is not noticeable and actually favorable. However, once milder temperatures arrived, I found myself sweating more that I am used to on the trails. Urge says the eight 30cm round vents are strategically placed to create a Venturi effect, which forces cooling air to flow through the helmet. In practice, for this to be really effective, you need to be moving quickly on the trails.There is just no denying that the vents in this helmet are not the most fitting for the intended application. When grinding up steep climbs this becomes obvious, especially on hot days. The inners of the helmet also do not help the situation, with minimal extrusions to help promote air flow across a the scalp.
Long Term Durability
The helmet has held together well, with admittedly only minor knocks throughout the testing period. The straps have not frayed, the clips still work very well and the visor has remained solid and in place thanks to its flexible design. The pads have packed out a bit, leaving the helmet fitting a little looser than it did originally. This is something that has brought up a small issue for me personally, as the helmet was initially fit with the thickest set of pads. This is also a contributing factor to the helmet starting to move a little on rough sections of trail.
Things That Could Be Improved
While incredibly comfortable, in spite of initially feeling odd, the EndurOmatic is not without its problems and could benefit from a few improvements. An important update to the design of the vents, allowing more air to flow through the helmet and keeping the rider cooler on long rides, steep climbs, or even flat out sprints is an obvious one. While the Gangsta Pad does a great job of keeping sweat out of your face, it is almost outweighed by the amount of sweat produced as a result of the rest of the helmet's design.
The other update, which would make the EndurOmatic fit and stay in place better, would be to move in the direction of a more traditional support at the rear. Done well, these updates could make this helmet one of the most secure, best fitting, and most comfortable lids on the market.
What's The Bottom Line?
The EndurOmatic model name really says it all for the European helmet producer - this helmet is for the trail shredders and Enduro racers among us. It's best for those that are more focused on the descents, but can be overly warm while climbing to the top. If you don't mind taking it slow when the weather is warm, or live in a wet or cooler climate and want a comfortable, lightweight, unique looking lid that offers a lot of coverage, the Urge EndurOmatic may be for you.
For more details visit www.urgebike.com.
About The Reviewer
AJ Barlas started riding as most do, bashing about dirt mounds and popping off street curbs. Not much has changed, really. These days the dirt mounds have become mountains and the street curbs, while still getting sessioned, are more often features on the trail. He began as a shop monkey racing downhill since day zero, only to go 'backwards' and start riding and racing BMX later on. He then came full circle once moving to Whistler. AJ loves riding everything from 8 hour mountain pass epics (bonking) to lap after lap in the park and 20 minute pumptrack sessions at sunset. Driven by his passion for biking and exposing people to the great equipment we ride, AJ started and maintains the Straightshot MTB blog. So long as wheels are involved, and preferably dirt (the drier and dustier the better), life is good.