Sweet Protection Bushwhacker MIPS Helmet – Review
If like us you enjoy the feeling of your brain remaining in one place within your cranium then a decent mountain bike helmet has to be top of your list when thinking about investing in new gear. The Bushwhacker MIPS helmet from Norwegian extreme sports brand Sweet Protection is aimed at ensuring that your noggin remains intact and you avoid seeing little birds circling around your head when you inevitably hit the dirt.
We have been lucky enough to get our hands on the soon to be released 2017 Bushwhacker MIPS helmet and have been testing it out on the trails throughout the summer. Our test helmet was a size medium in white. The 2016 Bushwhacker MIPS retails at around £170, though we understand the redesigned 2017 version will set you back around £190, so we have been keen to ascertain whether this lid lives up to its premium price tag.
The first point to note is that, like many of the premium helmet offerings, this helmet comes with MIPS technology built in. MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, so you can see why they came up with an acronym at the outset. MIPS is designed to reduce the rotational forces on a riders head at the point of impact by inserting an additional layer within the helmet. This additional layer allows the helmet to rotate slightly in order for it to absorb more of the force involved in a crash. My physics knowledge is limited to say the least but the technology was developed in Sweden by scientists and medical professionals, it would appear that the technology looks set to have a positive impact on helmet technology going forward. If you want a more technical introduction to MIPS technology you should check out the BHSI’s report here.
It appears that it is only in the last few years that scientists are beginning to understand the real impact of significant blows to the head, such as those suffered as a result of bike crashes. Recent articles like Dan Koeppel’s in Outdoors magazine highlight that such impacts may have been a contributing factor in the symptoms of depression which ultimately led to the untimely death of BMX legend Dave Mirra. Whether you agree with the arguments, it is fairly clear that bike crashes will have some impact on the body, and a good helmet can help reduce the effects.
Whilst my knowledge of the science behind MIPS is lacking, we can tell you that wearing a MIPS helmet certainly feels different at first. You can feel the plastic insert inside the helmet, particularly when you use the glove-friendly dial on the back of the Bushwhacker to tighten it to the desired setting. After a few minutes of riding we barely noticed the MIPS insert anymore and given the helmet’s overall light weight it is genuinely easy to forget it is on your head.
The helmet is undoubtedly a smart design. It is actually five different pieces which make up the shell helmet, each designed to reinforce the inherent weaknesses in our skulls. The Bushwhacker has 17 outlets and vents, which certainly contribute to the light and breathable feeling when wearing the helmet. Having tried out a number of open-face helmets over the last few years the Bushwhacker is certainly the lightest and airiest. The Whilst we did not need to make use of them, the helmet comes with two sets of padding in order to make adjustments within the different sizes.
Like any self respecting enduro or trail helmet it covers the back of the head well and includes a decent space for a pair of goggles, whilst the visor at the front is sturdy but short enough not to get in the way too much. The four way strap is well designed and the move towards a dial rather than a pinch system has improved the ability to adjust the helmet on the move and better avoid those eye-wateringly painful ‘trapped hair’ moments
The 2017 Bushwhacker MIPS helmet will come in Red or White in March 2017, though there are other colour options available for the other helmets in the range; the more economical Bushwhacker and the premium Bushwhacker Carbon MIPS as used by Tracey Moseley. Given that, despite evidence to the contrary, male and female brains are apparently the same Sweet Protection aim their Bushwhacker series at both men and women. They haven’t included a ‘female friendly’ version, though in our experience that just involves painting the ‘male’ version pink, making it heavier and increasing the price so this is no bad thing in our opinion.
If you’re looking at helmets in this price point then you may want to be comparing it against others like the POC Trabec Race MIPS (£180 approx) or the Troy Lee Designs A1 MIPS (£160 approx). We know that a number of recent reviews of the Bushwhacker have focussed on the price point. Whilst £190 is always a lot of money to drop on something you hope you are never really going to have to use properly, it appears to us that the Bushwhacker MIPS is in a similar price range to similar premium MIPS-based helmets. Whilst helmet preference can often come down to the fit and feel of the helmet, we don’t think that the price of the Bushwhacker MIPS should count against it.
We have ridden this helmet on all day trail rides and bike park sessions and found that it was confidence inspiring in both scenarios. It’s light enough and well vented enough to ride all day in, whilst the construction of the helmet has left us reassured that if the worst was to happen we would stand the best chance of getting back up to ride another day (in a replacement helmet of course). Buying a premium helmet such as this is a big decision and it is worth giving your options a test out before parting with your cash. Overall our experience of the Bushwhacker MIPS has been positive and it will remain the helmet to bring for pretty much all our riding adventures in the future.
October 13, 2016