The original Troy Lee Designs A1 helmet has been around for a few years now and has been widely considered the most popular “All Mountain” helmet for more than a few reasons. As soon as it hit the market it became the go to helmet for anything between cross country and downhill. A few months ago TLD added MIPS to the A1 and sent us a sample to test out. Here’s how it has been treating us…
- Reinforced polycarbonate shell in-molded with the EPS liner extends down the sides and back of the head for maximum protection and durability
- 8 pressurized intake passages draw in cool air for maximum ventilation
- 8 rear vacuum vortex outlets help exhaust and draw heat from head
- Triple position adjustable retention system allows customized fit for various eyewear, head shape and riding styles
- Single piece, ultra plush, removable and washable comfort liner made of anti-microbial moisture wicking material for a dry, comfortable feel
- Full spectrum adjustable moto inspired visor with anodized aluminum hardware
- Race inspired styling
- 3 sizes : XS/SM – MD/LRG – XL/XXL
- ~400 grams (MD/LRG)
With this new version of the A1, the only major change is in the lining and its addition of MIPS. One other small point is that this year’s case the “drone” is now offered in matte black which we highly applaud.
In short, MIPS is a set of standards for helmet linings which help prevent rotational impacts. These impacts typically occur when the head is struck by a glancing blow, generally at an angle. The MIPS liner acts as a low friction buffer between the helmet and the sweat liner. Under impact it can slide(to a certain extent) in any direction thus “lowering rotational acceleration by up to 39%.” Without getting into too much technical babble, it’s basically an added layer of safety which weighs virtually nothing and doesn’t affect comfort.
A rapidly growing number of companies are implementing MIPS into their latest models and it’s broadly used outside of the MTB world(snow, skate, moto, etc) as well. In any case, the theory and purpose remain the same regardless of application.
The fit and sizing haven’t really changed so we opted for our M/L and it fit as wonderfully as we’d expect. That is perhaps one of the best things about the A1 – it suits a broad variety of head shapes and cradles your dome quite nicely. The retention system is spot on with clear detents and a dial that’s easy to grasp even with cold, wet hands whether they’re gloved or not. Compared to most half lids on the market the A1 has a very sturdy visor; it’s also secured with metal screws as opposed to vaporware plastic hardware.
On the Trail
From the beginning we found the A1 MIPS to be as comfortable and secure as ever. We didn’t notice any perceivable differences caused by the new liner although when we grabbed our helmet firmly and shifted it around we could feel it moving slightly. Fortunately for us, we didn’t have any huge crashes in this helmet but that does mean that we can’t really report how it handled impacts compared to models from years past. We’re quite content leaving that sort of research to the labs and their dummy models. The retention straps are comfortable and easy to adjust; we’ve also found the helmet works nicely with a variety of glasses and goggles.
The A1’s only weak point is that it does run a little bit warm and as the shell itself hasn’t changed, neither has the ventilation. When you factor in the added coverage and safety in comparison to a lighter duty lid, it isn’t all that bad. So while we feel it could be better, on our more rowdy rides we’ll always opt for the extra confidence and deal with a bit of sweat. On the spectrum of mid duty helmets of this nature the A1 MIPS falls in the middle somewhere between here and here, but looks much better than both.
Where does this helmet stand? We think the best just got better. The idea behind MIPS seems sound and unless dozens of mountain bike companies are all simultaneously drinking the kool aid, it should increase safety. It’s hard to quantify the value but we feel comfortable in suggesting that if you’re in the market for a new lid, you may as well buy one with MIPS. We certainly don’t think it can cause any harm. As for the A1 in particular, it’s an all around stellar helmet provided you aren’t overly sensitive to heat. It has excellent safety, super comfortable with a high degree of adjustment and great style. And now it finally comes in black.