The Montrailer ACE MIPS is Abus’ new helmet and sits at the top of their off-road performance tree. It’s highly specced with excellent safety features, though the shape might not suit everybody and nor will its weight.
Abus has an enviable reputation for making excellent bike locks, but it's also been making helmets since 1992 and they're now the fourth largest helmet manufacturer in the world. They might not be a household name in the mountain bike market in the UK yet, but in the road market, they have a much higher profile.
The Montrailer a striking looking helmet and if you have a fondness for old US motorcycle cop shows you might recognise the styling cues. The Montrailer has a larger and more rounded shape that covers more of the lower underside of your head with a wraparound design that nearly comes back around to your ear. There is also cut away at the back to allow those with a ponytail to wear the hat without it pushing forward or being uncomfortable.
I’m normally a medium helmet wearer but I’ve been testing the large. This need to go up a size is down to the added MIPS protection system which takes up some valuable real estate inside the helmet. MIPS stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System and it's a sliding liner inside the helmet that's claimed to give just enough movement of your head inside the helmet in a crash to reduce the risk of damage to your brain.
In the non-MIPS version, I could comfortably wear the medium helmet and I could actually get the medium MIPS on, but it pressed around my temples. As fit is very individual and everybody’s head is different we would recommend that you try the hat on at your local ABUS dealer to check the sizing.
The Montrailer ACE MIPS has some excellent features. I especially liked the Fidlock magnetic buckle which after two goes became second nature and a brilliant way of doing the straps up. Another is the smoked transparent visor which gives better visibility when looking up. Not being a solid slab of plastic, it allows some light through without blinding you meaning that you don’t get that dark shaded area under the visor so everything looks a little brighter. I have to admit I was skeptical but it works and is a neat idea. The visor also clicks up and down into place with a reassuring feel and stayed still without issue or wobble.
Speaking of airflow and heat – for all its bulk and low 12 vent count I did not find it hot in Italy which was impressive considering the temps were pleasantly above our British summer norms. Abus says that it has designed the 12 large external vents and the internal shaping of the EPS core to create forced ventilation which is something they have taken from their award-winning Gamechanger road helmet. Back home, although it’s not been as hot, I can confirm that the vents work well to remove the unwanted heat. Several hours of riding in 22-24°C on the exposed Penhydd with Scar trails left me without a hot head.
The goggle retention system works by using a concave rubber gripper on the back of the helmet which Abus calls the Goggfit. It snags the goggle straps and prevents movement and when not in use, the visor can be pushed up high enough to mount them beneath it. The ACE MIPS version also comes with an action camera or light mount in the box which they call Bracktech. It's a pre-molded plastic clip which perfectly fits the top of the helmet with a tough specifically shaped O-ring clip that sits in a special channel in the inside the hat. Neat.
All the helmets feature a retention system which is not fixed to the back of the lid as per most other helmets. The rear cradle floats from two anchor points, one in front and one behind your ear and can be adjusted to ‘cup’ that back of your head. This allows for multiple head shapes and is also ponytail friendly.
I found I had to dial in a lot of adjustment to achieve a secure enough fit to stop the large lid from wobbling, possibly due to having to go up a size but after initially thinking it was going to be too tight, I had no pain or pressure issues from the cradle system after a full days riding.
It’s a different feel and takes a little getting used to as you put the helmet on, you pull down that slim cradle cup over the occipital bump at the rear of your skull and wind it up. It works well and the helmet doesn’t wobble if done up properly.
The helmet features an internal structure within the EPS core called Acticage which helps hold the helmet together in light of a serious impact as well as providing anchorage points for the straps and visor. It adds weight, but Abus reckons this adds security for your head. All three levels of Montrailer helmets have this feature thus making them all heavier than the competition but safer, according to Abus.
Talking of weight, the Large ACE MIPS version clocks in at 513g. That’s a lot of bulk and makes it the heaviest enduro trail helmet that I can find without a removable chin guard. The medium weighs in at around the 430g mark which is closer to the competition but still heavier. For me, the necessity to have to go up a size was a shame as it meant that I had to wear a larger and heavier helmet than I was used to. My current benchmark Smith Forefront in medium is 333g which is almost a whole hat lighter - although it does do without MIPS.
We asked Abus about the weight and they said "It was never our aim to create a superlight helmet with the Montrailer – we wanted more protection and deeper head coverage for downhill focused enduro riders. Those seeking minimal weight for XC use can choose either an Aventor (Jolanda’s Neff's choice) or the Moventor". A fair comment; the weight is never an issue when wearing the helmet, I noticed no increased neck ache, only when picking it up.
The Montailer comes in three different models and a range of four colours. The top of the range model is the £150 Montrailer ACE MIPS I tested. It features the Fidlock magnetic clasp and its outer hard shell is constructed of five separate polycarbonate pieces, which is said to add protection from impacts.
The £130 MIPS version only has a three shell construction and it also does without the magnetic buckle and the action camera/light mount. The £110 version does without MIPS, the magnetic buckle or the action camera mount. All have the translucent visor and the very user-friendly and excellent divider straps which prevent the straps from twisting or getting in the way of different ear shapes and positions.
So does the Montrailer ACE MIPS hit the mark in one of the most crowded parts of the mountain bike market? Overall I think it’s very positive, with the only fly in the ointment being the overall weight and the fact I had to go up a size to accommodate the MIPS option; although this might not affect you. It’s a very tough, good-looking, well-vented helmet with a lot of rear coverage, well thought out details, some unique features and is available in a decent selection of colours from an expert in safety. If you like the way it looks, it fits your head and the weight does not matter then it might be for you, especially as you won’t look like everybody else on the trail.
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Photo Credit: Jacob Gibbins