Troy Lee Designs is one of the most desirable mountain bike helmet manufacturers in the market and the Grail, their first helmet without a visor is aimed at gravel riders. It comes in four colours, 3 sizes and weighs in at under 300g. It has Mips protection and costs under £100 but is the TLD name enough to get it into our best Gravel Helmets shoot-out?
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Troy Lee Designs Grail W/Mips helmet - Technical details
Troy Lee Designs (TLD) are best known for making full-face helmets for motocross and mountain bikes and their now famous A-series of open-face trail helmets. Their quality has always been super high as has the level of protection on offer. The Grail, the first non-mountain bike-specific helmet TLD has produced, is no exception. The helmet is made from thick EPS foam with a fully wrapped, in-mould constructed outer shell perfectly sandwiching all the edges and undersides of the exposed foam.
We have the Orbit Black version which has almost no graphics except for a very small Troy Lee Designs signature on the rear below the Mips logo and the small brand name in matt silver on the sides. It's not one of TLD’s more usual flamboyant designs.
The Grail has 14 vents for airflow with eight of them for incoming air and six for expelling air and heat at the rear. Two of the vents are horizontal slots across the leading edge of the helmet that channel air onto your brow. Inside the Grail, the EPS has been sculpted to increase airflow around the head and towards the rear exhaust ports. The all-black Mips liner is moulded to match the airflow channels and avoids blocking any of the vents.
The helmet is adjustable for size via a standard easy-to-turn rotary dial cradle system which is also height adjustable with three positions available for best fit. The yokes under the ears are easily adjustable and the chin buckle is a traditional clasp affair with a strap keeper for the loose end.
The Grail is also available in Red, White and Forest Green all with Mips protection.
Troy Lee Designs Grail W/Mips helmet - Performance
The Grail helmet is a large helmet by traditional gravel standards which of course don't actually exist. Most gravel riders use a road helmet or a cross-country mountain bike helmet if they want a visor. A few riders use their larger trail-focused helmet either because that's all they have or because they like the feeling of more protection at the rear. All of these helmets will have passed the same safety standards so the choice is purely down to the fit and individual's style and budget
So where does this new gravel helmet from Troy Lee Designs sit?
Well, it’s a big trail bike helmet with the visor and the visor’s holes removed and whilst I’m not 100 percent sure if it is identical to their Flowline trail helmet, it looks close enough that others have mentioned it. I'm going to call it and say that it is.
The low number of vents makes the side of the helmet look a little slab-like and whereas some road helmets have a low vent count for aero reasons their streamlined design looks much better on the head.
The EPS material across your brow and especially around the temple is thicker than many of the helmets I’ve used recently making the helmet look a little awkward in this area. It also covers a lot of the rear of your head and sits low on your forehead with the bottom of the helmet clearly in view as you look forward, let alone up.
It’s most definitely not a svelte fast road or XC-looking design by any means, but maybe that is the point. Troy Lee Designs are known for their high levels of safety and when you think about it, having extra EPS material right next to your temple is a sensible idea. Unfortunately, the overall look is a bulbous one and a little unevenly proportioned on the head. With the visor fitted, the Flowline looks balanced and pretty smart. With it removed the back of the helmet is too heavy for the design of the front.
For comparison purposes, I removed the visor from an Abus Moventor 2.0 I’ve recently tested and due to its slimmer design and greater number of side vents, it looks a lot neater and better proportioned than the Grail.
My test helmet is size M/L, designed to fit 57-59cm head sizes and it's a good fit on my fairly standard 57cm head. I say standard but all head shapes vary so trying one is always the best option for size and feel. The sticker inside the Grail says it weighs 320g but my Park Tools scales and my kitchen scales come in under that at 295g.
That's pretty hefty compared to a road helmet such as the 22-vent, £210 Lazer Genesis that Tom Pidcock rode to Olympic Gold but looking at them side by side it's easy to see the extra thickness of EPS in the Grail especially around the temple area - about 1cm and the much greater coverage at the rear. Plus fewer vents mean more material so therefore heavier.
In use on a hot day the Grail was a sweaty experience, probably one of the sweatiest I've had in a long time, and not only because of the temperature, which was only mid 20˚C's, but because at low speed and climbing hard, the helmet doesn’t offer enough venting to let the air flow in or the heat out. I definitely felt that my head was unusually hot which was less than ideal. On a cooler early morning trip out to Salisbury Plain and riding fast on the gravel and up the steep road climb, the brow vents worked well with cooling air spreading around the forehead cooling you down.
One point that is always true of warm helmets is that they come into their own when the temperatures drop and we head into Winter where having a slightly warm, less open, helmet is a huge benefit and puts off the day when you need to wear a cap or buff to stop your head freezing.
Troy Lee Designs Grail W/Mips helmet - Verdict
£100 for a Troy Lee Designs gravel helmet will be enough for some riders especially those from the mountain bike background looking for a helmet brand they know and trust. The Grail is especially well made with a high-quality finish, but there are many other helmets at this price point some of which are also from mountain bike specialist brands like the 100% Altis Gravel helmet (£90) Matt reviewed and thought was pretty comfortable with nice design features but was also warm and a little heavy at 325g. Smith's Persist scored well weighing in at 300g and with a premium feel, generous ventilation, and high levels of adjustability.
From the road market, we have Lazer's Sphere helmet at £120 which is slightly lighter than the Grail at 280g, and Kask's Sintesi helmet which is much lighter at 237g and scored very well for comfort, stability, and ventilation.
The Grail offers riders more protection simply by being larger, having a thicker EPS shell and covering more of your head. So if you run a cool head, like the profile, and want more coverage, then the Grail is a good helmet to look at. It’s not that heavy, coming in at a full 25g under the specified weight and it’s exquisitely finished as you would expect from Troy Lee Designs.