Words Lester Perry
Image Cameron Mackenzie
RRP $350
Distributor Southern Approach

Creating a helmet sure is a break from tradition for a company that has always designed and manufactured security solutions. Beginning with padlocks in 1924, and moving on to high-tech security and smart home solutions, these days Abus bike locks are some of the finest around – you’ll even find their locks securing many eBike batteries into their frames.

Beginning their helmet design journey with road helmets, protecting some of the pro peloton’s fastest racers, we’ve recently seen their range expand to offer a wide variety of MTB models. The range has been designed in conjunction with feedback from freeride legend, Richie Schley, and downhill fast-and-funny guy turned commentator, Cedric Gracia. Abus’s Cliffhanger MIPS takes no shortcuts. It leads their trail helmet range with its tech, and style that leans more towards Enduro or gravity riding than light trail or XC. The Cliffhanger incorporates familiar tech you’ll find across many other high-end helmets.

The Cliffhanger’s in-mould shell brings together the outer shell and the inner shock-absorbing foam (EPS) and bonds them as a single piece. The shell has eight air inlets and six exhaust ports which, when coupled with the effective internal channelling, gives the wearer a substantial amount of venting even on the hottest days. Cool air in, warm air out – simple.

Take a saw to the shell and you’ll find the ‘ActiCage’. This is an internal structural reinforcement which not only helps distribute impact force and hold the whole helmet together during successive impacts, but offers additional reinforcement allowing for the use of ample-sized front vents. All edges on the shell are encapsulated by the in-moulded outer shell, adding to the durability of the whole package.

Out front, as with any helmet designed to be worn with baggy shorts, you’ll find the peak (not that there are rules, but IYKYK). In the lowest of the three vertically ‘notched’ adjustments, the peak’s lines flow almost seamlessly onto the main helmet but, once you raise it through the other settings, the lines aren’t quite as smooth. However, it still does its job just fine. In the highest position, there’s plenty of room to house your goggles during a climb if you’re so inclined. I’ve found the middle position suits me best as, when it’s in the lower setting, there’s just a touch too much of the peak visible at the top of my view – maybe that’s just me, though. If it were a couple of degrees higher, without having to go the next click up, it would be spot on, and that second click up just disrupts those smooth lines I mentioned. I’ve seen peaks that snap onto a shell in a similar way to this, which have seemed quite flimsy and wear out after being taken on and off a few times; the Cliffhanger’s snap-on system is well designed and of a quality that appears it will easily last as long as the rest of the helmet, so no need for concern there.

The meat in the three-layer sandwich between helmet padding and EPS foam, is a pared-back MIPS liner. It appears the designers have trimmed the liner, removing any excess or areas which may disrupt airflow. The padding is minimal but comfortable. It feels soft to the skin and wicks sweat well; there’s not much padding at all but, overall, the helmet feels perfectly comfortable. I put a lot of this down to a well-designed helmet shape. The minimalist padding may potentially mean the lid doesn’t fit some as well as others, although with tight 4cm size ranges this may be alleviated. Our test helmet is a Medium at 54-58cm; Small measures 51-55cm; and Large comes in at 57- 61cm – so a decent sizing spread is available.

I’m impressed by the weight of this helmet. It felt light on the head, and I confirmed this by weighing it on a digital scale. It measured in at just 352 grams – at the lighter end of the scale when compared with similar helmets of comparable coverage and equivalent features.

A Fidlock closure takes care of the chin strap and holds the whole helmet comfortably in place. Abus’s TriVider strap system gives a level of lateral adjustability and sits nice and flat next to the skin – a lot lower profile than some of the competition. Out the back, there’s a Boa-esque dial to easily adjust and get the fit just right. The cradle has ample vertical adjustment to help avoid any lumps and bumps, and there’s a nice gap through the centre to let a ponytail flow free, unhampered. The overall silhouette provides ample coverage all around; the deep drop in the back of the helmet hooks forward, hugging comparatively close to the ears and offering loads of protection.

There’s a lot of subtle tech packed into this lid and its looks appear to draw inspiration from several other high-end helmets. It could be said that Abus have taken the best of a whole bunch of helmets and carefully combined elements of each to come up with a really solid competitor in the trail helmet category.

I’ve been loving the Cliffhanger. It’s comfortable, airy, hyper-adjustable, feels secure and solid on the head, and has unique yet strangely familiar looks. I’ve had a hard time trying to pinpoint something I don’t like with this helmet and, while it’s drawing a long bow, all I can find is that, for me, the three adjustments in the peak height just aren’t quite right. I’ve gotten used to it now, but if I had my way they’d all sit a few degrees higher than stock, meaning the peak is never in view… but maybe I’m just picky.

This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #112

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