When I first learned that Troy Lee Designs was working on a lightweight full face helmet, I assumed it would have a removable jaw, similar to a Giro Switchblade. That turned out to be incorrect. I also assumed it would be super lightweight and look very elegant. Those assumptions actually would eventually prove to be true. So, when TLD set out to make “The Stage”, they wanted it to be lightweight and breathable, but refused to give anything up in terms of safety. That’s a tall order, but somehow they pulled it off; despite being a featherweight 690 grams (making it the lightest full face helmet on the market) the helmet also managed to be downhill certified.
It also turns out that TLD brought a handful of other innovations and new technologies to the table as well. As far as this review is concerned, it’s worth noting that the helmet didn’t endure any major crashes. We’re sorry to say, but that really is the goal with any protective wear reviews. Anyhow, here’s how the Stage has been treating us…
- POLYLITE Shell construction with fiber reinforcement
- DUAL DENSITY EPS co-molded with EPP combine to safely manage high and low-speed impact energy (PATENT PENDING)
- POLYACRYLITE injected chinbar with EXOskeleton reinforcement
- 11 High Flow air intakes and 14 Open Core exhaust ports with deep max air flow internal channeling
- FIDLOCK magnetic buckle system
- MIPS brain protection system reduces rotational forces to the brain in certain crash scenarios
- EXCEEDS CERTIFICATIONS: CPSC 1203, CE EN1078, ASTM F1952, ASTM F2032, and AS/NZS 2063-2008
- 690 grams (1.5 lbs) size M/L (Ours tested at 698 grams)
- 3 Year Limited Warranty
- $295 US
At this point, it should surprise precisely no one that the Stage uses MIPS technology. It’s the yellow plastic liner inside the helmet. You can read up on it here, but in short it helps to prevent brain injuries cause by “rotational impacts”. It’s light, discrete and serves as an added layer of safety.
The helmet straps have reflective tape for increased visibility in the darker hours, but the real story is the “Fidlock” quick release buckle. The clasp uses a magnet to keep it secure, and it’s much easier to connect and disconnect, particularly with gloves on.
The pad that cradles the base of your skull can be swapped out simply by giving it a yank…
To dial in a custom fit, there is a 15mm and 25mm version of this pad. It anchors into the lid with four plastic tabs.
Providing even further options for fitment and customization, you can swap out the cheek pads, which range from a 15, 25 and 35mm thickness. Between these pads and the ones mentioned above, the Stage gives you a great deal of options within each size. Heads come in all shapes, proportions and sizes, and this lid should fit a very broad array of them quite well. Lastly, the helmet ships with everything above as well as a pouch.
On the trail
Most of the riding I do in the Santa Cruz area is in a half lid, but these days, the bikes that we pedal up (read: no chairlift or shuttle) to get our kicks have gotten better and better. This has allowed us to push well into DH level riding that warrant a full face. So – for some of my gnarlier rides I made a point to wear the Stage, and I’ve got to say, right away I just felt more at ease. It’s worth noting that this is the first helmet in this category that I’ve ridden extensively. First off, the fit is not only accurate, but the helmet and its liner materials are extremely comfortable.
Breathability and ventilation are likely the Stage’s strongest suit. I was completely floored by how cool it runs and how well air moved through it from front to back, even at low speeds. In all honesty, I was expecting to just leave the lid on my handlebar on long, grinding fire road climbs, but there truly was no need, even on fairly warm days. The jawpiece strikes a nice balance between hugging you just enough to stay in place and not feeling claustrophobic. Side note: since there is no mesh screen, you can spit through the big hole in the front. It’s also quite easy to shoot water through there and into your mouth with a water bottle, which is pretty handy. The downside is that debris can come flying through the hole, and at one point in my testing, I choked on a rather large chunk of loam flying off of a friend’s back tire.
The visor (and its hardware) is excellent – it’s quite thick, meaning it likely won’t explode after a minor crash. It also offers loads of adjustability with room for goggles underneath. The goggle strap lays nicely and doesn’t cover any vents. Another small thing worth noting was that the Fidlock buckle, although foreign at first, quickly became intuitive. It’s definitely superior to anything else out there, and adds an element of safety in case of a truly bad crash involving a neck injury, where a friend or medic needs to carefully remove your lid. Let’s not think about that though…
On the descents, the Stage provides quite a bit more peace of mind than your average half lid, but it’s still freakishly light and doesn’t bounce around or make you feel like a bobblehead. Riding in it, it’s almost hard to believe that it’s actually DH certified. This could be in part due to the fact that you can hear very well as there are large vents on the sides by your ears. As I didn’t have any crashes in the Stage, I can’t make any comparisons to DH lids, or others in its category, so you’ll have to make those inferences yourself. In my opinion, it nestles nicely between the A2 and the D3 in terms of weight and duty.
The Stage offers a massive range in fit and adjustability along with freakishly good breathability and ventilation for a Downhill certified helmet. On the climbs it’s hard to believe that you’re wearing a full face, but it certainly gives you added confidence on the gnarlier descents where you might be getting out of your comfort zone. I hate to use the “E-Word”, but on rides where you find yourself pushing your limits on a bike that you pedaled up the hill, this helmet is most likely the best option around. In the protective wear world, most gear falls under the “Safe, Light, Breathable; pick two” adage. Well, the Stage most certainly provides all three and does a damn good job of it.