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Hands-on Gear Review
Giro Feature Review
Cons: Chin strap is not adjustable fore/aft
The Giro Feature earns our Best Buy Award for mountain bike helmets by scoring highly in all of our tests while retailing for just $75. The Feature just edged out the least expensive helmet in our test, the Bell Stoker, which retails for $5 less at $70 and is also a great helmet. The thing that sets these two affordable helmets apart is the adjustability of the visor. The Feature's visor pivots on two adjustable screws and can be locked in place by a large thumb screw underneath the visor while the Stoker's visor loosely pivots on horizontal snaps which do not hold it firmly in place.
We didn't expect too much from the Feature due to the low retail price, but our opinion quickly changed as we found this secure fitting helmet to be packed with features, including one of the best visors in our test as well as one of the most secure and comfortable retention systems. Giro kept both the weight and price down on the Feature by using very lightweight webbing for the harness and skipping fore/aft adjustment hardware on the yoke, as well as skimping on shell material along the bottom edge of the helmet.
The Feature has a simple appearance which doesn't draw attention and currently comes in five trendy colors, including the bright green that is so hot right now. Previous releases of this helmet were available in other solid colors as well as some prints and can be found at deep discounts online.
Like most of the helmets we tested, the Feature is available in three sizes. Our size medium test helmet fit very similar to the Giro Xar as well as to the Giro helmets we are testing in our upcoming road bike helmet review.
RELATED: Our complete review of mountain bike helmets
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The Giro Feature is an affordable and lightweight mountain bike helmet with increased rear coverage. It has a very well designed and easily adjustable visor which is fixed in place by a large plastic thumb screw beneath the visor. The rear retention band delivers a secure fit and is both comfortable and easy to adjust with one gloved hand.
This helmet has the perfect amount of padding, which makes it surprisingly comfortable. All of our testers instantly liked this helmet once they put it on. We find it to be nearly as comfortable as our Editors' Choice winner, the Troy Lee A1, which is the most comfortable helmet in our test. Both helmets stay comfortable even when they are cranked down tight for high speed runs through chunder. We find that a secure fitting helmet improves our confidence, which then improves our riding when flying through rocky terrain. Helmets that bounce around distract us from our line. The Feature allowed us to quickly forget about it and concentrate on sending it instead.
The Feature has the most minimal harness of the helmets we tested. The harness is made from a very lightweight flat webbing as opposed to the tubular webbing found on most of the helmets in our test. Our Editors' Choice winner, the Troy Lee A1, also uses flat webbing for the harness. Our testers found that flat webbing reduces the amount of material around your face and makes the harness less noticeable while wearing. The Feature's harness also forgoes hardware to allow for fore/aft adjustment of the chin strap. Both increase the comfort of the helmet.
The Feature uses Giro's simple but effective In-Form fit system to keep the helmet in place as opposed to the Roc Loc 5 found on Giro's more expensive half shell dirt lids. The In-Form system consists of an excellent rear adjustment band with a good sized click wheel which can be manipulated easily with one gloved hand. We found that tightening the wheel gave the helmet a very secure feel, cupping the occipital lobe rather than just cramming the forehead into the front of the helmet. All of our testers agreed that this band was one of the most comfortable as well as most secure of the helmets we tested.
The In-Form band can be adjusted up and down in three increments via small plastic snaps. These adjustment snaps, which are similar to many of the helmets we tested, don't seem durable enough to handle repeated snapping and unsnapping. This isn't a big deal since you are likely to only adjust them when initially fitting the helmet and then never adjust them again unless your head and neck change in size considerably or you share it with a friend.
The Feature is the only helmet we tested which lacks fore/aft adjustment of the chin strap via adjustment hardware on the yoke. Normally we dislike any type of helmet with a chin strap which is permanently fixed to the yoke. With other helmets we've found that this lack of adjustability usually feels like the chin strap is choking us. With the Feature, however, we found the position of the chin strap to be perfect and didn't miss the adjustment. Instead we enjoyed the lack of plastic against our faces. If you are on the upper edge of the size range, have ever played nose tackle in the NFL, or have an especially thick neck, you may want to consider a different helmet since the chin strap is unlikely to be positioned as optimally as it was for our relatively average-sized testers.
Despite having a click wheel and three visor adjustment screws, the Feature is still one of the lightest helmets we tested. At 11.8 ounces it is only 0.1 ounces heavier than the Bell Stoker and only 0.5 ounces heavier than the lightest helmet in our test, the Giro Xar. The heaviest helmet in our test was the Bell Super at 14.6 ounces. The 2.8 ounce difference between the Feature and the Super is a noticeable one when the helmet is on the head. If you count every gram, then the Xar is the helmet for you, but if you want to save weight while "savings the moneys" then the Feature is a great way to go.
With just twelve vents, the Feature has the lowest number of vents of the helmets in our test. However, number of vents isn't everything when it comes to how well a helmet allows heat to escape while you crank uphill. We found the Feature to be slightly better than average when it comes to preventing your brain from cooking. This is partly due to less coverage in the temporal area than some of the other helmets in our test.
There are vertical channels molded into the inside of the Feature's polystyrene which Giro claims promotes heat to radiate up and out of the helmet through the vents near the top of the helmet. None of our testers could actually perceive these channels doing anything, but they never found the Feature to be overly hot either. This may have also had to do with the fact that our test helmet happened to be all white and likely absorbed less radiant heat from the sun.
If ventilation is your top concern in a helmet, we recommend you check out the Giro Xar which has not only a higher number of vents, but a much larger percentage of open space for air to flow through and heat to escape.
We think Giro named this helmet after terrain you are likely to ride while wearing it rather than it's list of extras, but none-the-less the Feature has many, um, features. The most notable of which is the visor which is our third favorite behind the Bell Super and the Troy Lee A1 both of which cost considerably more than the Feature. The Feature's visor pivots on two screws at either side of the helmet and is locked in place with a large thumb screw beneath the visor, which is easy to operate with gloves on. We found that we could use this thumb screw to either lock the visor in place or use it to vary the amount of force needed to move it while on the fly by leaving it slightly loose. The Feature's visor is far superior to the visor found on it's closest competitor in the bargain category, the Bell Stoker. While the Stoker is also a good option, we think that the Feature is worth the $5 more just based on the visor.
If you are looking for a helmet packed with extras besides just ability to protect your skull and it's contents, then you should check out the Bell Super which wins our Top Pick Award for being the most feature clad helmet. The Super not only has the amazing visor we mentioned above, but it also comes with a GoPro mount as well as screw on goggle guides which take the place of the visor should you want to run goggles and no visor at all.
Durability is one thing that the Feature lacks most. Like other less expensive helmets, the polycarbonate shell does not fully cover the lower edge of the polystyrene. This leaves the foam exposed to damage when the helmet is off your head. For this reason, the Feature scored the lowest in our durability tests. Our test model acquired some small dings in the exposed foam during the course of our review. The lack of shell coverage shaves a tiny amount of weight, but is most likely just a cost saving measure by Giro.
The other concerning thing with the lack of shell coverage is that the harness is anchored to the foam in very small foam tabs which protrude from the exposed foam. The tabs are thin and are not protected by polycarbonate shell. We are sure that the harness attachment is plenty strong when the helmet is new, but could become compromised if the tabs are exposed to excessive wear and tear. We would prefer the points at which the harness is anchored in the foam to be protected by the shell material like on the Giro Xar, Troy Lee A1, Fox Flux, or POC Trabec.
The Feature is a great helmet for any type of mountain biking that falls between cross-country and all but the gnarliest Enduro courses. We also think it would make a great helmet for most 24 hour cross-country races, as the vents are conducive to attaching a headlamp.
The Feature wins our Best Buy Award and is the very best value of the helmets we tested. It just edges out the Bell Stoker because the Feature has a much more adjustable visor. The Stoker, which is the same price as the Feature, is slightly lighter, slightly more durable, and would also be a great buy. If you are looking for a the most helmet for your money, either of these two helmets are excellent choices.
The Feature is a great fitting helmet which inspires confidence in our riding. It is one of the least expensive helmets with added rear coverage on the market, and we feel that it is well worth the money. The Feature's visor is as good or better than visors found on helmets costing nearly twice as much.
— Luke Lydiard
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: August 20, 2014
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