Protecting our heads is big business. So, it’s no surprise that there’s a truckload of options out there right now. That said, full coverage helmets outside the full face zone are still relatively new to the MTB world.
Be it cross-over offerings ala Giro’s Switchblade, Bells Super3R or more pertinent to this review, the much lauded Fox Proframe full face. A helmet that defied boundaries, bringing the breathability of an open face with the protection of a full face to the world. That same design team that brought us the Proframe had another helmet in the works, and over three years, finally brought us the new Dropframe. In some ways an open face Proframe, but more so a new helmet offering more protection and coverage than most trail oriented helmets on the market today.
Words // Matt Holmes Photos // Matt Staggs
If you were to listen to my $0.02, the bulk of MTB helmets available offer very basic protection for only a minimal part of our head. Always in favour of minimal weight, air flow and in our case here in Aus, meeting the old chestnut of an Australian Standard. This combo has led to a lot of helmets out there offering average protection for the bulk of real world, off road MTB scenarios. Of course, I can only base this on my own bell ringers (I’ve had a few) and those I’ve seen go down (I’ve seen more than a few thanks to all who participated…) firsthand. Anyways, that’s why the new Dropframe caught my attention, and is the subject of this test.
Strangely enough, unlike any helmet test I’ve done before, it actually got tested in a real world scenario. What are the chances!
Harking back to the look and feel of old school moto and BMX helmets from the 70’s and early 80’s, Fox’s Dropframe is a somewhat reimagined version of those for the here and now. Some might even say the future? It’s almost viral release into the wild was as understated as you can get, especially considering the hype machine surrounding the Proframe upon its launch.
Its design has polarised many. A futuristic take on that trials/moto open face lid mentioned, makes it a striking helmet whether you love it or hate it. Fixed peak, massive vents and of course the Mandibular Occipital REinforcement Guard that surrounds the ear is unmistakable. And it’s this M.O.RE. guard along with the deep rear of the helmet that sets this lid apart from so many in its ability to offer increased protection to more of your skull. Especially the bits most likely to be damaged in a more minimal lid. Its dual-density EPS liner brings improved spreading of impacts and those 8 massive air intakes up front matched with the fixed position visor channel air inside to where it’s needed. At 450 (ish) grams (for the medium tested) it’s no lightweight lid, but protection is its modus operandi. The team at Fox have advised this helmet has received a massive update for 2020 and a new name – the Dropframe Pro, and it now comes with MIPS for all your rotational impact protection needs. However we’re testing/talking the standard model.
All in all, it’s a helmet aimed at the demands many trail riders pushing their limits on bikes that go a hell of a lot faster in burlier terrain than any XC lid was ever meant to deal with.
“The design of the Dropframe was inspired by the groundbreaking Proframe Full face trail helmet. The same demand for additional coverage in a modern trail helmet which drove that revolutionary design was the impetus behind this new model. It’s the perfect helmet for riders of all levels looking for more coverage, more confidence and more fun on the trail.”
– Chris Blum, Fox MTB
Fit and Feel
First things first. It fits hell of a lot differently than their lighter weight Flux Mips lid, definitely more rounded in shape than long oval, so a bit of pad switching and fiddling was necessary to fit my scone. And this took a couple of rides to get right. Once sorted, and with a week of sweating in it with the right combo of pads, there’s not many helmets that have felt as secure on my head as this one. Even being that it lacks a retention system ala most DH lids. Between the lower rear coverage, plus the cheek padding, it stays put even through the roughest trails which had my head bobbing like a dashboard ornament. Complete with goggles hanging off the back of it. Oh yeah, goggles sit so well on them when worn appropriately, that square back keeps ’em in place. Magnetic buckles? Bring ’em on, no pinching when putting it on and I can’t tell you how easy it is to take it off even when your hands are fried from descending gnar! Definite tick of approval. Also, of note, those big open ear holes don’t obscure your hearing at all and allow headphones without any pressure once in, that’s if music is your vibe when riding.
“In a lot of ways, this helmet looks and feels more MTB than so many of the road inspired helmets that have come before it. In years to come this helmet, along with the Proframe may define a move to helmets designed for MTB rather than just cross over models. Only time will tell.”
On the trail
I hear your questions. Why the Dropframe over a Proframe, or even proper DH Lid? Here goes… I was never completely sold on the Proframe, figuring if I’m going full send, then it’s a proper full face going on my head. That said, having broken my eye socket and cheek bone multiple times in the traditional (now I think just plain shit) XC style lids perched on the top of my skull, the extra protection of the Dropframe as my day to day trail lid becomes a no brainer. A long time fan of the Giro Switchblade sans chin piece (think I’ve only used it twice, Skyline QT does make your jaw a ‘lil hesitant to be exposed), this lighter offering from Fox definitely brings something worthy to the table. For the majority of trail crashes I’ve had in my life, I’m pretty confident I turn my head and shoulder into the ground just enough to have the Dropframe’s Mandibular Occipital REinforcement area take the hit.
It’s here’s where the Dropframe differs from any helmet review I’ve ever written and backs my ideas on this helmet… It was actually impact tested, in the real world of all places, with a bar impact on a tree at speed and subsequent ejection across the trail sans bike. Upon stumbling back to get my rig off the trail, I knew I’d taken a big impact. My left hand throbbing with that dreaded feeling only broken bones can give along with a dazed view of the world and burning sensation on my face.
Upon pulling the helmet off, scrape marks along the M.O.RE. area showcased its ability to protect my cheek and eye-socket area, with only superficial grazes on my face in front of where the guard ends and only a minimal headache rather than concussion, or worse KO. I’ve no doubt that I would have been not only getting my hand rebuilt with titanium upgrades that following week, but my face as well.
Not sure what else I can add other than a big thanks to the Fox design crew for making a helmet that has kept my brain and face in one piece and suits my riding (plus crashing) style to a tee.