Helmet research can be confounding. The product language is loaded with acronyms—MIPS, CPSC, EN—safety testing data is limited, fit is subjective and dependent on the shape of a rider’s head, and on top of that, there are factors like weight, ventilation and price to consider. It’s kind of a lot to ponder when purchasing such a critical piece of potentially life-saving equipment.
So when I find one that’s comfortable and checks all the other boxes too, I wear it until the liner pads and chin straps are crusted over with enough grime and sweat to be deemed hazardous waste. And that’s exactly where the Fox Speedframe Pro is headed.
Over the past year, the Speedframe has become my go-to half-shell helmet (and amazingly, it doesn’t even smell that bad yet, thanks to its antimicrobial liner that actually seems to work as advertised). I prefer a trail-style helmet, like the Speedframe, over the fuller-coverage, enduro-style, open-face models, like Fox’s Dropframe. I almost always wear glasses, not goggles, and gravitate toward the lighter weight, comfort and—if I’m being honest—look of a more traditional trail helmet. My dome is small, and I look like a ridiculous bobblehead in a bulky helmet, although if I raced, I’d probably opt for more robust protection. I should note that the Speedframe is compatible with goggles, and its three-position adjustable visor provides ample space for them to rest when not in use.
At 380 grams, the Speedframe is not the absolute lightest in its class, and in fact the two other helmets I’ve been alternating with it, Troy Lee Designs’ A2 MIPS and Giro’s Women’s Source MIPS both have it beat by about 40 grams, but its fit, finish and features have really won me over. I love the Fidlock helmet buckle, which elicits a satisfying “Snap!” when the two magnets click together. It’s a fast, easy one-handed task to buckle and unbuckle under the chin, and feels just as secure as traditional buckle closure. In addition to the 16 vents spaced along the top, sides and back of the shell, there are three more vents at the helmet’s brim under the visor, which aid in airflow, and help abate the sweat that inevitably trickles down your face as the ride heats up. It’s another basic, but nice touch.
For retention, Fox uses its 360-degree fit system. As you ratchet the dial in the back of the lid, the tension tightens around your entire head, not just the back half of the shell. This allows for a nice, tight fit that presumably better holds the helmet in place in the event you hit the deck. There is a MIPS liner as well. MIPS, or multi-directional impact system, is designed to lessen the effects from rotational forces upon impact. Other brands use similar proprietary systems, though MIPS has steadily risen to the top as the primary third-party liner for added brain protection.
The Speedframe has also earned five stars in the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings, which has become a respected test that goes beyond the requirements to garner Consumer Product Safety Commission (there’s that CPSC acronym) certification. That certification is required for every helmet sold in the U.S., but the testing methodology hasn’t been updated in years. The Virgina Tech test analyzes 12 different impact conditions to evaluate a helmet’s ability to reduce linear acceleration and rotational velocity of the head in a crash. Helmets that are deemed the ‘best available’ in reducing concussion risk for those impacts earn five stars, and a numerical score, the lower the better. The Speedframe comes in at 10.8, putting it among the top scorers of the 123 helmets tested (the aforementioned TLD A2 earned slightly better marks, with a 10). And at $170, it’s priced competitively for helmets in this category.
Ultimately, though, so much of helmet choice comes down to comfort, because what good are all the bells and whistles if you’re miserable all day? And this is where I truly appreciate the Speedframe; it fits my head so well. None of the various glasses I’ve paired it with have caused a forehead gap, or pain points because the glasses arms are wedged in a too-small space above my ear and the helmet shell. The retention dial rests lightly and unnoticeably against the base of my skull. In fact, when I’m riding, I’m not thinking about it at all, and that’s the best kind of protection.