Helmets are notoriously difficult to get right and it can be a costly quest to find the lid that perfectly fits your dome, offering adequate protection and of course, sleek style. What's more annoying is that the diversity of mountain biking often requires a different helmet for different types of riding, wouldn't it be great if there was an all-in-one option?
Unlike road and commuting, wearing a helmet for off-road adventures is a given and a minimum requirement at most trail centres. The thought of wearing a bicycle helmet often comes with some horrific cringe-worthy flashback to a childhood full of bobble heads as your mushroom cap lid swallowed your head whole.
Fear not, intrepid rider because helmets have come a long way since then. There's more protection, an improved fit and not to mention, badass styles. One helmet to 'rule them all' is the new Fox Proframe full-face and after world-wide marketing hype, we tested to see if it was all it cracked up to be.
Fox Proframe: Tech Info
There have been many convertible MTB helmets coming to the market in recent years like the Bell Super 2R and more recently, the Giro Switchblade. These helmets have a detachable chin bar that allows the helmet to act as both a trail helmet for climbing and more relaxed rides and a full-face helmet for more gnarly techy rides. If that sounds like too much faff for you, then Fox have unleashed the Proframe, the full-face trail lid.
There are two striking features that set the Proframe a part from the rest. Firstly, it's light and I mean, really light. A medium size Proframe weighs in at just 750g whereas a Giro Switchblade carries an additional 230g in mass.
The second striking feature is the cut-outs along the chin bar which promote airflow throughout the helmet whilst riding. Along with 21 other big bore vents located around the helmet, the Fox Proframe is certainly designed to keep you looking and feeling cool.
The inside of the helmet is layered with Varizorb EPS dual density liner which helps spread the forces from impact over a wider area. Coupled with MIPS technology which helps reduce rotational movement of the brain from angled impacts, the Proframe meets and exceed European safety standards for mountain biking.
So it's lightweight, well ventilated and it's oozing with safety, so how does it ride?
Fox Proframe: Testing
When I first got the Proframe, it was indeed the weight which first came to mind. It is really light, and the smooth matte blue and black design almost had me thinking it was too nice to ride in - almost.
I don't know about you, but I struggle with full-face helmets. With minimal room for adjustment, you have to really find the right shape and size for your head so it's always best to measure before buying as brand sizes do vary. I also suffer from a horrific case of 'hamster cheeks' and full-face helmets tend to accentuate the fact that I look like I'm squirrelling trail mix in my face. So needless to say, I was apprehensive about the cut-outs that would surely expose my embarrassment.
The lightweight lid was a relief once on and fitted comfortably. I didn't feel off-balance or like a bobble-head when I moved my neck. I was able to talk, and more importantly, HEAR people (some full-faced make it impossible to hear riders coming up behind you).
Although the Proframe is downhill safe, it's viewed as more of an enduro all-mountain helmet because of its breathing capability and ability to be worn comfortably whilst riding uphills. The only way to test it was to tackle the Beast of Burden at BikePark Wales and ascend the mountain on a muggy and humid day.
As my heart got pumping and my climbing settled into a rhythm, I found my body temperature rising to a state of 'why am I doing this, the uplift is over there". However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my head didn't pop like the top of a thermometer. This was down to the vents which indeed kept airflow circulating around my face and head.
I learnt that there are a number of benefits to the hollow cut-outs in the chin bar: It makes it easier to talk to people and for them to hear you clearly. They make it easy to eat and drink through!
When it came to the downhill sections, the Proframe felt secure and comfortable without any annoying wobble. The fixed visor helps to channel the airflow through the big bore vents at the front and going at speed just showed how well the Proframe breathes.
Fox Proframe: The Verdict
I don't need to comment on how rad this helmet looks because you can see this for yourself and what's better, is that you can buy the Proframe in seven awesome colours.
The lightweight design feels comfortable to wear, especially on the descents. It's firmly held in place by the adjustable Fidlock clasp under the chin, and the plush internal padding provides cushion protection.
Breathability on the Proframe can't be matched either. Because it's light in weight, it doesn't feel suffocating and the giant cut-outs keep the air flowing throughout.
However, while the cut-outs are great for general communication and hydration, they do evoke a slight feeling of vulnerability. Without the bug-catching mesh lining the vents, you are more exposed to getting splatted in the face by bug-guts. Furthermore, with more of your face exposed, there's an increased chance of getting poked in the face if you take a nose dive over the bars.
You can buy the Fox Proframe for around £215 placing it at the higher-end of the full-face price scale. It's more expensive than most others in its category, but you're paying for the technical features and endless miles that have gone into its research and development to make it a lightweight all-mountain full-face helmet.
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