The last Dirty Mission wrap up was conspicuous for the absence of any ranting about the newest piece of ENDURO kit acquisition that was debuted in Finale. No, not a lazy editing oversight, but a nod to the fact that the piece of kit in question is intriguing enough that it warrants its whole own Rantview.
Yes, I’m going to commence oddly frothing about and critiquing the new Giro Switchblade helmet:
If you’ve been anywhere near the Internet recently, you’ll appreciate that this thing is so hot right now it instantly leads to clammy genitalia and the generation of the distinct odour of radness. Just another helmet you may think? Not if you live in the warm bubble of MTB frothing, which if that’s the case, then there’s a very high chance this is the helmet you have been waiting for – Even if you didn’t know you were waiting for it.
Perplexed? Then let’s get deeper into that rabbit hole as I break it down over a Rantview so weirdly authentic, I had to split it into 4 parts.
Part 1 – The background and general Blah Blah
Ok, first I feel compelled to establish some credentials here, so that the rant-wanking to come has at least a semblance of legitimacy to it. Over the last 12-18 months I’ve had the honour of riding, racing, sweating, spitting, swearing and crashing in all of the following contemporary full face helmets, each with their own unique approach and design philosophy:
Whilst this doesn’t make me an expert, at least its not my first rodeo. Speaking of being bucked off and into the ground, this is pretty much how I arrived at packing a Giro Switchblade into my carry on for Finale. Some may recall that at La Thuile I decided to end my weekend head first into the loam to ring my Bell (apologies for the obvious pun) and leave me questioning if it was still up to the task.
Chances are the Super 2R was still fine, but like a Magpie with a little bird stiffy, I used it as an excuse to swoop in on a new piece of kit. The second I got the “Its in stock consumer cunt” e-mail from Universal Cycles I pulled the trigger on the new Switchblade and luckily got it in my dirty mitts a week before Finale.
I’m not going to waste our collective time explaining how this helmet works, as:
- A) If you’re a Roadie you’ve already vomited onto your designer desk and left or feel oddly compelled to stay because its a story about a shiny helmet
- B) You’re an ENDUROphile and somewhat well versed on how detachable helmets work
- C) You just want to know how the fucker works and what’s shit about it.
In case anyone needed a recap, here it is with the face guard off, which makes you look like a Trials moto rider unfortunately:
And in the same luxurious Italian Riviera location with the face guard on… Regrettably it covers up ones beard, which is definitely cuntish.
Of course, this leads to much weird hand wringing among on-line reviews and testers. Is it a Trail lid trying to be a DH helmet?! Or OMG, a DH helmet trying to be a trail lid?! Fucks sake cycling media, its a fully certified DH helmet, even with the face guard removed (fuck knows how it manages that), so lets not stress about what its trying to be and instead focus on its radness and quirks.
If you need more actual facts about it, then Giro can help you out there, I’m in a hurry to get on with my own narcissistic experiences and views, let’s not hold that train up.
So yes, all my below observations are from what I would call a pretty reasonable test of a helmet – An EWS round in hot conditions with over 3,600m of climbing in 2 days. Not to mention 3 days of build up and 2 rather big days of practice. There is no room at an EWS round for sub-optimal gear, so how would this new wonder helmet stack up? Let’s see wasssssup…
Part 2 – You’re SUCH a Bitch
So, now let’s get into it with the part of the post that people who like to rub themselves in gun oil while looking at pics of Ivanka Trump and reading mean tweets enjoy the most: The bitching. That’s right, it wasn’t all gelato and neck massages in Finale and as the week went on and we got to know each other better, a few quirks came out that I hadn’t expected. Roll tape…
Fuck your ears – When I first tried to put this thing on, Size Medium, I had to stop to wipe up my tears and check that Universal hadn’t fucked up the order. No, it wasn’t a small, its definitely a Medium… And I’m always a medium in Giro (except for the Synthe, what the fuck Giro?).
So word up, getting this thing on and off is a nightmare. Straight up, I fucking dread it. The upside is that I no longer need to hold on to the childhood dream I never had of being an All Black Forward, as the Switchblade gives my ears the reaming that’s on par with any International Test scrum. Once on its a different story (see part 3), but its a deep breath and a cough the moments before you have to sheath or unsheath yourself.
Entry and exit is tight as fuck and in the end I’ve gone with the ‘will this break it’ technique of stretching it as wide as possible before trying to get my head in… So to speak.
About that Go PRO mount – The Switchblade mount location is a great idea, and lets face it, its positioned in the best spot you can imagine, that’s right, no more Teletubby! Under the visor is not only the best POV, but also the safest. Allow me to elaborate with a smiling goon summary:
And, unlike the hack DIY job on the Troy Lee, this is actually a legit set up. What I wasn’t expecting though is that there are two separate visors – One for normal riding and then one for when you want to rock the Go Pro and here’s the Dirty tip:
The Go PRO visor doesn’t FUCKING move
I know this as I tried to rotate it down to the point where I almost snapped it in half, yeah, that fucker is fixed in place and you don’t want to argue with it. This sort of makes sense, but the whole set-up has two issues:
- You have to carry around 2 visors if you want flexibility from practice to race – Talk about first world problems man. Insert Faux outrage HERE
- The placement of the Go PRO on the visor is just slightly in the eye line that little too much that it will annoy you. The simple answer here is to run the smaller Session camera, but I found with my Hero 3 or similar size it was fucking with me just that little too much. I certainly wouldn’t want to race with it.
So yes, a good design, but not quite as happy clappy as I initially expected it to be, so definitely bust out the smaller gPro if you have one.
Ah…. The colour palette – Eye of the beholder and all, but er, colours aren’t that great IMO… Hence the murdered out acquisition. I guess at a push the fluro yellow would get the nod, but that would require a full matching kit overhaul, time consuming. Two tone is always risky, unless you’re the Santa Cruz paint department #legends.
The wetness – Ok, so this is a two part story. Its not often I complain about wetness, so its as uncomfortable for me as it was when my head was subjected to it. Yes, there’s no escaping this, but even with the face guard off this is a hot motherfucker.
Litmus test? The 2 x 2 hour climbs which greeted us in Finale at the start of each day a good experiment. Riding a 14.9kg ENDURO weapon up a road climb with those tires for 2 hours in mid-20 degs temperatures is an excellent test for any helmet. While the Giro holds the sweat in quite well, it does generate and collect a staggering amount of head liquid (seriously not an innuendo).
If you think you’re buying a well vented trail helmet, you’re not – You’re buying a VERY well ventilated DH helmet, dwell on that for a moment…
As for part two of the wetness issue? Much like a brand new relationship, once things got wet, they stayed that way for days. The pads are pretty think and in the end I lost count of how many days it took for the side ones in particular to dry out, so don’t expect this to be overnight. Good news is that they’re all fully removable for cleaning, something you’ll be doing a lot of if you live somewhere warm.
Final word before we get back into the group hug – Beware how tightly you adjust the Roc Loc system, aside from the fact that it will try and crush your head if you dial it up too much, I went into Stage 2 with it clearly too tight and when I took a big impact hit from a G-out, it popped the mechanism and loosened the helmet. Not in a disastrous manner, but it taught me that snug tightening was ample.
Part 3 – We always hurt the ones we love
So then, now that we’ve got all the primary school hair pulling out of the way, its time to confess that I fucking love this helmet. That would probably explain why I was so mean to it to start with… I shall now confuse everyone and declare loudly that if you race ENDURO and are in the market for a new lid for 2017 then this is as simple as fuck:
Buy this helmet
Let me try and use my words now to elaborate on why its taken a giant piss on all the other helmets in the Dirty arsenal and moved to the top of the pile. By far its the fully favoured helmet now.
First up, its about the fit. I have a Giro head, so when I finally do finish ripping off my ears getting into its goodness, I am rewarded with a helmet that essentially makes love to my cranium. Granted, hot & sweaty love, but its sensational once on.
Next up, it gives you a reassuring embrace much in the same manner as the Troy Lee D3, but without weighing you down. Unlike the Bell Super 2R (more on this in part 4), it doesn’t feel light and slightly plastic, this is how you want a helmet to feel. Hello goldilocks.
Following on that theme, the feeling of quality with the Switchblade is excellent. Everything about it screams that it has that awesome blend of technology, style and substance. It doesn’t fall apart like the MET Parachute and gives off the same vibe as the D3, but without that weight penalty. I also love the ability to flick the goggles up on the flying bridge, which I actually used in Stage 4 during the neutralised climb. It also comes in super handy in case you nonchalantly run into Nic Vouilloz and he asks for a pic…
And as for pretty much the whole point of this helmet – You absolutely can’t ignore the ability to remove the face guard and quickly stash it as being a massive win. Many full faced ENDU-BRO’s looked on with that ‘cunt’ thought clearly shining in their eyes as they baked their melons in the Finale warmth and I smiled as fresh air massaged my beard.
The days of carrying two helmets around came under threat when the Bell Super 2R arrived on the scene, but for many it wasn’t rad enough. The Switchblade has come in as a second wave and snuffed out any final resistance. I suspect I didn’t see more in Finale due to availability and its release date.
Throw in some MIPS love as well and we’re starting to apply the icing to this ENDURO helmet cake. I’m not sure I want to hang out with non-MIPS helmets these days, so Giro have nailed it with the inclusion in the new Switchblade.
And finally, it just fucking looks cool… I’m slightly suss on the aesthetics without the face guard off, but when its on its a fucking rad helmet and I would say that it pushes the Bell’s face into the pillow in the looks department. Speaking of which, its time we move on to perhaps the most asked question when mentioning these two in the same breath.
Part 4 – The good old shoot out
Ok, so this a bonus section, as the most obvious question people will ask is of course “How does it fucken compared to the Bell Super 2R?” Let’s start out with some super shit and non-professional pics from an Ikea table to set the scene:
As you can see, radically different approaches being taken here and I massively prefer the Giro. The fit of the Bell never really worked for me. Its a good helmet, no question, but most people will nod when I say you either have a Giro or Bell head. Given one owns the other, I’m not sure if this is by design, but I’ve also been a Giro groupie… And for me the Switchblade has it over the Super 2R in every department except two:
- Ventilation – Obviously the Bell lets in more air, due to its lower profile around your head
- Weight – The 2R is definitely lighter, I can’t be fucked weighing them, but you can google that shit on behalf of my lazy ass.
Ultimately you have to make the call on what works best out of the two for you. One is a certified DH helmet that provides you more ventilation for long climbs than a normal DH helmet. One is a trail helmet with a face guard that isn’t certified for full DH.
On the topic of the detachable action, which is probably the most relevant head to head and the Giro is by far the less faff of the two. Ram the metal tabs hard into the slots, click down and bang, you’re done. Except for when you don’t quite manage that and realise 90 seconds before the start of stage 2 that your face guard isn’t quite locked in = PANIC.
Of course, the real test will come in March 2017… I have (hopefully) two events in NZ on the radar where temperatures will be probably high, long days, no shuttling and in for a lot of the time on ‘low consequence’ terrain. Which helmet to reach for from the quiver? How do I draw the line on the horses for courses in this situation?
Will the new and shiny love affair outweigh practicality? Will I be able to resist the radness of the switchblade and put up with a drenched melon? I have 5 months to build up some first world anxiety of having too much choice.
In the mean time, if your 2017 has some ENDURO races scratched on its forward plan, then don’t get caught short and lock in a Switchblade now, allowing you to turn up to a forearm fight with the best knife.