Innovation is what we look for when we hand out our Gear of the Year Award and the Giro Switchblade has heaps of it and more. Not only do you get a full face and half shell helmet in one, but also quality design, comfort and the highest safety possible. Your noggin’s worth the best and that's what Giro offers with their new Switchblade MIPS helmet.
The Backcountry Skiing Canada Team.
What’s so special about Giro’s new Switchblade MIPS helmet? The big story is that it converts from a full face to a half shell by removing the chinbar and is also ASTM downhill certified in both configurations. Yup, it’s a big deal. Giro used several stainless steel hooks, internal anchors and other hardware which has been molded right into the EPS foam of the Switchblade to ensure it’s extremely solid and robust. The chinbar however, is still easy to remove (after a few training runs) and you can perform this function while you are wearing it. To remove the chin bar simply push the two lower buttons, rotate the chinbar up and pull out. Voila, you now have a half shell helmet for the ride up. To install, just do the same process in reverse.
The Giro Switchblade MIPS Helmet comes with additional padding and a visor with built in GoPro mount.
To ensure a solid fit, Giro has used the new Roc Loc Air DH fit system, which has a dial at the back of the helmet to give your cranium a snug hug. The dial is surrounded by a bumper which prevents accidental adjustments. To further ensure comfort hydrophilic padding is placed around the interior of the Switchblade MIPS Helmet at strategic locations where you need it most to limit contact between our skull and the helmet. Since the padding is hydrophilic it can absorb up to 10 times its own weight in water. This helps you manage sweat that may accumulate while riding and keeps it out of your eyes where it’s not wanted. Since sweat starts to stink over time, Giro also used an antimicrobial X-Static lining in the padding which helps to reduce odour and keep your helmet fresh. A big part of keeping sweat to a minimum in the first place is the strategic placement of vents in the Switchblade, after all without airflow you may as well wear a bucket on your head. There is a total of 20 vents integrated into the design of the Switchblade MIPS Helmet and their only job is to move air through the Switchblade helmet to cool you down as you heat up. If you remove the chinbar, the Switchblade becomes infinitely more breathable since more air can now get to your face. Wind tunnel cheek pad ventilation directs some of this extra air back to your ears and lower head/neck, which is a welcome feeling on long climbs. While the Switchblade MIPS Helmet is warmer than a traditional half-shell helmet, it's still much cooler than a full face.
Given the robust design and how much technology Giro had to pack into the Switchblade MIPS Helmet, you’d think it would be a whole lot heavier than 975 grams for a size medium. The in-mold construction is responsible for most of the weight savings and thanks to the Switchblade’s extended coverage over the ears compared to a regular half shell. The Switchblade feels very balanced on your noggin and not top heavy like others can be. For comparison, the Cipher helmet which is Giro’s high-end full face is a full 200 grams heavier which makes the Switchblade that much more impressive. So while could just purchase the Giro Cipher instead of the Switchblade MIPS Helmet to save some cash, you’ll lose the versatility of being able to have the half shell helmet option for those who want to ride enduro, bike parks and XC.
To further ensure the Switchblade has the ability to keep your head in one piece, Giro has added MIPS technology. MIPS claim to fame is that it helps reduce the consequences of impacts with rotational forces. With out MIPS a helmet is only really designed to protect you from direct impacts. Although all Giro helmets are designed to reduce as much energy as possible while meeting and exceeding stringent safety standards, MIPS is just one more way to protect your brain.
The Switchblade helmet comes with two visors, the installed POV Plus visor and the optional visor with built-in GoPro mount. The advantage of the GoPro mount visor is obvious and a huge benefit if you wish to capture your rides on video. This additional visor, however, lacks the adjustability of the POV Plus visor as it cannot pivot up and out of the way to accommodate goggles which can nest under the visor and rest on the brow of the helmet when not in use. There are three visor positions fro riding plus the high position for goggle storage. The visor mechanism is also easily to adjust with one hand while riding.
In addition to the 20 vents in the helmet, there is also one in the chin bar to help improve ventilation.
Over the years as my riding progresses I find myself riding more difficult trails with bigger stunts and consequences. This gets me thinking about my personal safety and how much I value it, as a half shell helmet really doesn’t provide any protection for your face from rocks and trees and they are much harder after all. The decision to start wearing a full face helmet came after riding a few bike parks and realizing that it only takes a split second to really injure myself. The idea of a full face helmet made a lot of sense but I wasn’t quite sure I wanted just any full face. After a bunch of research I decided that the Giro Switchblade MIPS helmet offered the protection I wanted but also the flexibility to use it for more than just enduro and bike park riding.
The Switchblade fits solid and feels secure thanks to it’s Roc Loc Air DH system which is made up of the rear adjustable ratchet system for fine tuning your individual fit. It does take some getting used to putting the Switchblade on and off as it’s really tight over my ears when the Chin bar is attached. Having the ratchet system fully open helped facilitate things and once on, it was really comfortable. The full face enclosure provided a sense of security and confidence, knowing that if your head hits anything it’ll be protected and specifically your face and teeth. The Built in MIPS technology provides extra safety when it comes to side glancing blows which is a huge plus as I wanted to maximize my safety.
With the chinbar removed the Switchblade MIPS helmet feels similar to your average half shell, only difference is that your ears are covered. This didn’t prove to be an issue with hearing anything or anyone and felt more secure than a traditional half shell, however I was not as stoked on the look of it.
The 20 integrated vents and strategically designed chin pads flow air over your head and ears so while it is warmer than traditional half shells it’s not prohibitive. As long as you are moving air is cooling you but on really hot days you are going to still sweat.
The conversion from full face to half shell with the removal of the chinbar is fairly simple once you give it a few tries. It’s nice that you don’t have to take the Switchblade off in order to remove or add the chin bar as well. I have been riding the Switchblade with sunglasses but if you prefer goggles then the visor easily moves up and out of the way so that you can store your goggles on the brow while you climb or just store the complete helmet in/on your pack.
While you can purchase a cheaper full face I found that the added versatility of the Switchblade was a ‘nice-to-have’ option when you want to ride the park and then perhaps get in a cross country loop the same day. While the Giro Switchblade MIPS helmet is not going to replace my every day half shell as it’s more of a niche helmet, but if you are going to buy a full face why not get one with all the comfort and safety but also with the versatility to convert it to a half shell and therefore allow you to get more use out of it.
If you are interested in what Giro's road biking helmets look like, click on over here to read the review of the Aspect helmet.
Price: $340CAN / $250US
Weight: 975g (size medium)
Sizes: S, M, L
Colours: Matte Olive, Matt Black/Gloss Black, Matte Lime/Black, Matte Vermillion Purple, Matte dark Slate/ Maroon, Matte White/Grey
Warranty: 1 year
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