After making its first appearance back in the 90's the Giro Switchblade is about to hit the new Zealand shelves again in a few weeks. So what is it? Is it a full face DH helmet with a removable chin guard or is it an XC lid with a clip-on chin guard? I have decided it's the former. Why? It feels like a DH helmet. It looks like one too. when it's on my head it feels exactly like one. But better. More secure. Lighter though. And with a much larger face aperture. Are you sold already? I was. Am. Sort of...
So what sets it apart from a Standard DH lid? It has multiple large vents. The chinguard sits lower so oxygen flies straight into your lungs unimpeded. It has a ratcheting cradle to get the perfect fit. It's lighter. OK, sounds pretty good huh? What about strength? It actually surpasses all standards for a fullface helmet. Even with the guard removed. Impressive.
So what about a comparison with a good trail half shell when you take the chin guard away? Way more coverage and protection. A more secure fit due to the ear pieces that prevent rotation. A more comfortable fit due to the full head cradle with roc-loc. A bit heavier, a bit warmer and a bit more time to take it off and put it on.
The design team have done a fantastic job making this helmet work really well while still looking great. The detail everywhere is very good. Padding is awesome and all detachable. The guard is easy to mount and remove. The peak adjuster detentes work great. It's comfortable and secure and seems to fit everybody really well. Is it the perfect enduro helmet? First we must ask...What is enduro?
Enduro is pushing or riding your bike up a hill or catching a shuttle maybe some of the way. Having a few minutes rest at the top then racing your ass back down to the bottom as fast as you can on a trail you may have never ridden before. Sounds dangerous. It is. That's why you really should be doing it in a fullface helmet.
But what about that hot sweaty climbing stuff? That's where you want to have a lightweight trail lid. Is this helmet the answer? Yes, though I'm not quite 100% on this equation. It isn't a lightweight trail lid. It weighs 680 grams without the chin bar. For comparison my Troy Lee A1 helmet is 370 grams. I'm not sure this is that one helmet you can take away for a long weekends riding with a race thrown in the middle. I would prefer the ear pieces to come off with the chin guard for better airflow.
Oh dear, am I sounding a little negative? I may be, but I am actually over the moon with this Switchblade. I hate riding in a fullface. It feels like I'm in a video game, I feel a little removed from the ride. But riding in the Switchblade minus the guard means I can ride harder with more confidence while still feeling the wind on my face and through whats left of my hair. It's like wearing better knee pads that you can still pedal well in.
Finally you can sit on the fence and feel like you have proper protection without turning into Robocop. Yet there is still that chin guard to snap in place if the race rules or trail difficulty insist the use of a full face helmet.
So, what have we got here? It's a proper full face DH helmet. It weighs the same as the top tier carbon offerings out there today. 970 grams. You can race DH with it and have better vision and better air flow. Three sizes and at $449 rrp it's very well priced.
Take the chin guard off and you have an open face DH helmet. Perfect for laps of the bike park, jump park even the skate park and snow park. Most head impact bike crashes are a glancing blow to the head on the side just above the ear which cause a sharp rotation (that's why MIPS was invented) and try and pull the helmet off . With the Switchblade this type of impact has you covered. Well covered.
If Giro had indeed made the ear pieces part of the chin guard as I wanted earlier, then it would have been a normal trail helmet and would have been a better Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde helmet. But what's the point if you keep on leaving the chin guard in the car because like me you want to be free. The Switchblade is a helmet for extreme riding and then even more extreme riding. Or it's a helmet for smart riders who have realised that it only takes a relatively minor head concussion to change your life forever. I myself have had two hospital concussions and I often wonder if my memory and moods would be the same if they had never occurred.
I have a lot of recognizably stress moments in my life and one of them is packing my riding kit in the morning and trying to justify leaving my full face helmet at home when I know that I should be taking maximum care of my brain. Now I don't have to. All I have to worry about is whether I click my chin guard in at the start of the trail or leave it clipped to my back or on the seat of the shuttle, ready to be used on the next run if I come to my senses. This helmet was made for me. I am going to wear it as much as I can. And like 650b, bumbags and plus bikes, soon as more people become aware of the benefits, we'll be seeing more and more similar offerings on the market as we move forward. Thanks Giro. My wife and kids applaud you.