As enduro and trail bike capability is being elevated year after year, the risk involved with riding rougher terrain at higher speeds has elevated, too. Comparing the protection of modern half-shell helmets to those of years past will reveal the same progression in cranial coverage and impact safety. The latest Flowline offering from Troy Lee Designs implements a high level of safety while retaining sleek design cues and a level of comfort we’ve come to expect from the stylish brand. We spent some time in the all-new Flowline SE helmet to experience the updates firsthand.
Photos by Josh Weinberg
- Polycarbonate shells
- 5-star Virginia Tech helmet safety rating
- Certification - CPSC 1203, CE EN 1078
- E-bike certification - NTA 8776
- Gender neutral colorways
- MIPS B32 rotational protection system
- 3-way adjustable screwless visor
- Precision fit system with 3 height settings
- Sizes: (Flowline SE) XS/SM: 53-56 cm, MD/LG: 57-59 cm, XL/2XL: 60-63 cm || (Flowline) Youth: 48-53 cm, XS/SM: 53-56 cm, MD/LG: 57-59 cm, XL/2XL: 60-63 cm
- Redesigned ventilation
- SE-only - Dual Density EPS impact foam for low and high-speed impacts
- SE-only - Anti-Microbial Quick Dry premium liner
- SE-only - Fidlock® Magnetic Buckle
- MSRP: $119 and $159 (tested) USD
With the success of the Troy Lee Designs A3 helmet, the Flowline ($119 USD) and Flowline SE ($159 USD) are introduced as two new affordable options with some notable improvements to ventilation and impact safety. There are two different price points that use the same shell construction. The Flowline and Flowline SE feature fewer vents than previous A models, but despite the lower number of vents, the channels in place are larger and provide a higher level of air flow for cooling. In addition to physical changes, the latest iteration of trail helmets from TLD deviate from the A series nomenclature to fit into the brand’s lineup of trail-oriented Flowline riding gear. The Flowline prices should make the helmet accessible to more consumers. New iterations of TLD helmet models have traditionally replaced their predecessors, turning the old helmet trims into the budget-friendly variant (e.g. A1 and A2 offered as the lower priced option to an A3), but the Flowlines stand on their own.
The standard Flowline sizing ranges from 48cm Youth to 63cm while the Flowline SE model fits 53-63cm size heads. The shell of the new helmet has a slightly larger overall silhouette than the A3, primarily around the front of the helmet. The more robust taper around the forehead area seems to offer a higher level of frontal impact safety, while the rear of the helmet features smoother lines with more rounded edges to provide wrap-around coverage. Ventilation has gone from 16 vents down to 14, but internal channels are larger between padding, and the openings in the shell is significantly larger. The sweatband feature found in the A3 is absent on both models in favor of standard absorbent padding. Flowline helmets are offered in 11 colorways with mostly solid, single colors and Flowloine SE models have 10 color options that use both matte and gloss finishes, creating a premium-level look.
With how much we liked the A1, A2, and A3 helmets, it is no surprise that the Flowline fits right in that lineup as one of the most comfortable helmets we’ve tried. The heritage of A series helmets is carried into the Flowline by utilizing many characteristics that made those helmets impressive. As expected, the shell has a slightly different shape but maintains the same wrap-around feeling that feels virtually weightless on the head. Ear cutouts have less extreme reliefs to them and resemble those of the A1 while still achieving ample wrap around the back of the skull. Getting the helmet to fit just right was no issue with a familiar feeling to it, and we immediately noticed the additional airflow once things got moving.
On The Trail
Similar to our experiences with the A3, we hardly noticed the Flowline on our head most of the time while wearing it. What we did notice was the improved ventilation and a bit less sweat than usual during our rides. While the sweatband feature found on the A3 was appreciated by many for its ability to redirect sweat from dripping directly down, the constant dripping on higher temperature rides is no longer an issue with the Flowline thanks to its more traditional style foam padding that is more absorbent. The switch to foam paired with additional forehead vents works together to help mitigate sweat buildup and keep things cool. Overall we noticed our head felt notably more comfortable, even when grinding up steep climbs at a lower cadence in the Phoenix sun. We didn’t notice any movement out of the helmet during our rides and thankfully only had a small crash where we utilized its impact safety without any unwanted movement out of the helmet on our head.
What's The Bottom Line?
The Flowline would certainly be one of our top picks when looking at half-shell options to live with. While it is more focused at beginner and enthusiast-level mountain bikers, we really like the additional ventilation at the front of the helmet and felt it did a great job of alleviating the constant drip of sweat we’ve experienced in other helmets. With many of the same safety features as the A3 and a plethora of color options, we feel it’s possible to wear one of the safest options on the market, look good while doing it, all without breaking the bank. Because helmets are disposable items meant to be replaced after substantial impacts, we believe the cost-friendly price point of the Flowline makes a lot of sense for riders at any level.
For more information, please visit troyleedesigns.com for more details.
About The Reviewer
Jonny started mountain biking in 2003 after a trip to Northstar showed him how much more could be ridden on 26” wheels than on a BMX bike. He began racing downhill in 2004 and raced for 12 years until ultimately deciding that having fun on a bike was more important than race results. After working as a mechanic in the industry for a few years and developing a deeper understanding of bikes inside and out, he has an aptitude for pairing his riding ability with the analysis of bikes and breaking down what makes them work well. He spends most of his time between trail rides, skatepark sessions, and occasional days on the downhill bike.