Giro Switchblade Helmet
By James Sharp

Giro Switchblade

Everyone who rides bicycles should wear a helmet. Any helmet bought in a bike shop, since march 10th 1999, will be approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). This means that no matter how much you spend, you will end up with a helmet that will protect your noggin. So, when shopping for a helmet, safety isn't the question. The question is one of features, number of vents, retention device, and weight. The helmet with about the most features is the Switchblade by Giro.

Lets talk about features. Here is a helmet that has vents (24 of them to be exact). It has one of the most refined retention systems in the business, the Roc-Loc 3; a fabulous visor, the Point-of-View, that is adjustable over a 15 degree arc via an internal clutch mechanism; and, get this, a removable face guard! That's right, this helmet is essentially a Hammerhead with a removable face guard.

The face guard is held on with three screws on each side of the helmet. They are driven with a 3mm hex wrench (included) and the screws stay attached to the face guard when it is removed so there is no chance of losing the screws. The hardware and mask adds some weight. The Hammerhead weighs in at 305g while the Switchblade weighs 665g. Is it noticeable? Yes and no. Since the face guard is below the rest of the helmet it doesn't feel like there is a lot of weight on the top of your head, compared to a "normal" full face helmet, it is very light.

Ventilation is good as well. Though it is hotter than a normal helmet while climbing, the vents in the face guard provide good ventilation at higher speeds. The ventilation in the rest of the helmet is top notch. In fact, this was the first helmet that I could feel the air being pulled out the vents in the rear.

Fit was good, though I feel that Giro helmets in general tend to favor a more round head shape. This fit me fine fore and aft, but had a little too much room on the sides. I was able to take up some of this with the included stick-on pads, but I don't have to do that with Bell helmets. It just depends on what shape your head is, and mine is probably too oval. Try on a few different brands in the shop before deciding on a helmet, they all fit a little different. The Roc-Loc 3 really helped me get the helmet to fit with moving around on rough terrain. Roc-Loc 3 is different from versions 1 and 2 by being able to micro-adjust the tension while riding. I found this to be one of the best (if not the best) feature of the helmet. As my hair became matted during the ride, I could tighten the fit of the helmet just a little to keep it from shaking on rocky descents. Very nice.

Alas not all was bliss. The elastic straps that hold the Roc-Loc tight are held to the helmet with Velcro, like most other retention devises of this type. On one ride, I had the Velcro patch on one side come off. I know, it sounds like a little thing, but this is a retention device. If the retention device on a helmet fails the helmet isn't as secure and might not fit as well. After emailing Giro, they sent me some new Velcro, and that took care of the problem. On a helmet this expensive it shouldn't have happened. Fortunately that was the only problem that I had with the Switchblade, it is a very nice helmet over all.

Summary: At $180 the Switchblade isn't cheap, but you do get a lot for your money. If you are into technical riding you might want to consider purchasing a Switchblade. If you like cross-country, but indulge in the occasional shuttled run, definitely take a closer look at this helmet. Think of it as buying two helmets, one for XC, one for enjoying the local ski lift in the summer. In that way, this helmet is a bargain. Besides, how expensive are teeth?

James Sharp is a contributor to GearReview.com specializing in mountain biking

For more information contact:
Giro USA
380 Encinal Street
Santa Cruz, California 95060
Phone: 800-294-6098

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