We as trail riders have a slight tendency to ride frames and parts a lot longer than we really should. It’s nothing for someone to show up in the woods still rocking a frame with an American bottom bracket and press fit headset, (Shawn Shoener, I’m looking in your direction). The thing about it is that both frames and parts really should be replaced every a few years. No one wants to find themselves in a twisted ball of metal and flesh because something catastrophically failed due to fatigue. Take a second to think about the forces and stress that riding trails puts frames and parts under. Also take a second to think about the ramifications of say your head tube blowing off while going full speed through a section. I’ve seen it happen before, and it’s not pretty. At the very least you should be diligent in checking your bike over for cracks and other tell tale signs of fatigue. If you do feel it’s time to replace that relic of a frame you’ve been trusting your life to with something new, we’ve assembled a list of seventeen frames that we’d consider worthy of doing the job.
Over the last few years there has been a quite a noticeable increase in helmet use at the trails. In the early to mid 2000s it was pretty rare to see someone rocking a helmet. These days it’s the exact opposite. I don’t think head injuries were something that was on the radar of most people back then. Mike Aitken’s crash in 2007 opened a lot of people’s eyes as to the dangers of head injuries. I had just been chatting with Mike in Vegas a couple weeks beforehand and then came news that he had crashed and was fighting for his life. That was definitely a wake up call for me, and I’ve been doing my best to wear my helmet ever since. Wearing a helmet was just the first step though. The next and one I’ve been resisting for a long time was wearing a helmet that was designed to handle the types of impacts a bike crash can produce. With riding trails comes the inherent danger of a high speed crash from a significant height that could potentially result in a rider’s head impacting the ground with a shit ton of force. Even with that in the back of my head it still took another rider battling a head injury to inspire me to get my ass in gear and get a proper helmet. I knew all along that it would be a much better idea to wear a CPSC/CE certified hard foam helmet as opposed to their soft foam counterparts. Vanity always won out though over safety. The perception that I had about certified helmets was that they were bigger and nowhere near as comfortable as the classic soft foam Pro-Tec I had grown accustomed to.
Over the last several years we’ve seen quite a few new certified helmets hitting the market. They’ve definitely come a long way from the ones available back in the last decade. I decided to round up as many half shell certified helmets as I could and compare them all. I was personally curious as to the different options out there, and hopefully this guide will help you to be able to make an informed choice the next time you’re helmet shopping. While no helmet is guaranteed to protect a rider from every crash scenario, it can’t hurt to wear one that is better suited to protect you. Every one of the helmets that I tested meets the CPSC and CE’s safety requirements for bicycle helmets intended for riders age 5 and over.
Before we get started I do want to mention that this buyers guide isn’t like the majority of ones you’re used to seeing on other sites or in the magazines. To be completely honest with you, most of those are total bullshit. They’re either done to appease current advertisers or are done to try to persuade companies on the receiving end of them to advertise. That’s not a game I play. I actually wore each and every one of these helmets during various sessions over the past year. Every review on the helmets in this buyers guide is my 100% brutally honest opinion! Hit the jump button to get into them!