Fox Racing Dropframe Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Dual-density EPS shell, extended coverage, large visor
Cons: No fit adjustment, sub-par ventilation, no rotational impact protection system
Manufacturer: Fox Racing
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Our Analysis and Test Results
-Fox Racing's roots in motocross mean they're no strangers to making beefy, highly-protective helmets, so they were positioned perfectly to take advantage of the rapidly-evolving mountain bike helmet market with the Dropframe. Recently the lines between half-shell trail/XC helmets and full-face downhill helmets have been blurred. These days you can find convertible full-faces with a detachable chin bar, lightweight enduro full-faces, and, most recently, open-face helmets like the Dropframe. Released in 2019, the Dropframe was one of the first of a wave of open-face helmets to hit the scene, so we were excited to get our hands on it and see what it had to offer.
Protection is the Dropframe's greatest strength. On a continuum from lightweight cross-country helmets to full-on downhill lids, this model lands further towards the downhill side of things. The EPS shell is comprised of dual-density, impact-absorbing foam and provides far more coverage than your standard trail helmet. The shell extends far down the back of the head and drops down around the ears to provide extra protection from side impacts. Fox's M.O.RE. (Mandibular Occipital Reinforcement) guard design is meant to keep your ears, jaw, and occipital lobe safe. On your head, this helmet feels similar to Fox's Proframe full-face model without the chin bar.Our test model, the standard Dropframe, doesn't include any kind of rotational impact system, but for a small upcharge, the Dropframe Pro includes MIPS to help protect your head from rotational forces during an impact. We were a bit disappointed to see MIPS
not included in the base model, since it is quickly becoming a standard feature on any trail helmet worth its salt.
Overall, the Dropframe is a comfortable helmet. The EPS shell is well contoured to fit a variety of head sizes, and the thick internal padding is well-placed. The ear-covering sections of the EPS shell flex to fit over your head as you pull the helmet on and help accommodate slightly for different head sizes. Out on the trail, we didn't have any nagging issues with pressure points or headaches.
During testing, we found that our size large Dropframe fit slightly smaller than other helmets we tested of the same size, and our biggest complaint with this model is the lack of options to adjust the fit. Our large-headed testers found that the ear-coverage sections of the EPS shell squeezed their heads a little bit tight, and their only recourse was to swap to the second, thinner set of pads that Fox provides with each Dropframe. Even after fiddling with the pads, a few of our testers found they couldn't get the fit dialed in just right for their heads.
Inevitably, as the Dropframe tries to strike a balance between downhill crusher and lightweight trail helmet, it gives up some ground in the airflow department. Even with eight large intake vents in the front and seven exhaust ports in the rear along with the open-ear design, this high coverage helmet doesn't facilitate airflow as well as the best trail helmets we tested. The interior front-to-back channels in the EPS foam are small, and the thick padding means things can get balmy quick at low speeds.
That being said, we think that the Dropframe vents well given its designed purpose. If you're spending most of your time ripping technical descents and aren't trying to break any records on the climb back up, this helmet does the job admirably. Even on hot days, we never ran into a situation where we had to stop and take the helmet off for relief like we would with a full face. We wouldn't want to wear it in our next XC race, but that's not what the designers at Fox had in mind.
The base-model Dropframe is no-nonsense, and doesn't include much in the way of gadgets. The visor is fixed in a single position to optimize airflow, the only fit-adjustment option is pad swapping, and there is no rotational impact protection system included. It does include some of the staples of a modern, high-end helmet, however. The interior liner is made of antimicrobial, sweat-wicking material, the EPS shell is comprised of dual-density foam, and the M.O.RE protection system flexes to provide a slightly larger range of fit.
We were happy to see that Fox included the Fidlock magnetic buckle over the traditional buckle as well. Despite our early skepticism over the magnetic system, we became big fans throughout our test period and discovered that Fidlock is especially convenient in gravity applications when you're typically wearing thick, dexterity-hampering gloves. We're thinking that more helmets might start going the way of the magnetic buckle in the future.
Given its size and level of coverage, we were pleasantly surprised when we threw the Dropframe on the scale. It comes in just over one pound at 499 grams and is actually lighter than a few of the standard trail helmets we tested. For reference, the lightest helmets in the test came in right around 350 grams, and the only other full-coverage, open-face helmet we looked at, the Giro Tyrant MIPS weighs a whopping 718 grams.
The designers at Fox did a great job of making the Dropframe protective enough for serious terrain while keeping the weight down at a reasonably pedal-able level. Out on the trail, the helmet doesn't feel cumbersome on your head. As long as the weather isn't too hot, it can trick you into thinking it's a standard trail helmet, but at the same time, it provides peace of mind when you're on the ragged edge in gnarly terrain. This balance is where we think fox nailed it with the Dropframe.
Like most Fox products that we've gotten our hands on, the Dropframe is a well-put-together product, and we think it will last as long as you can avoid hitting the deck. As with any EPS foam-shelled helmet, this one should be replaced after an impact, but if you can avoid it, the materials and construction will last. The outer shell is fused to the EPS in the mold, so there's no chance of separation over time, and the shell leaves no EPS exposed in vulnerable areas to chip away over time.
The Dropframe is on the cheaper side when compared to other high-coverage gravity helmets out there, and it falls right in line with some of the high-end trail helmets we tested. If you're looking for a little bit of added protection in a lightweight package, we think this one is a good place to look. If you're not worried about weight, though, we feel that the Giro Tyrant MIPS is a more versatile option that includes a rotational impact system.
We found a lot to like and a little bit to gripe about with the Dropframe. We were a bit disappointed with the lack of a rotational impact system, and we were hoping for a little bit better ventilation from a helmet that touts itself as a trail/enduro lid. On the other hand, we were impressed with the lightweight, high-coverage combination that Fox cooked up.
As previously stated, Fox also offers a Dropframe Pro for an additional $20 that comes equipped with MIPS.Fox also offers a line of true half-shell trail helmets, including the Speedframe, which we also reviewed and loved.
— Zach Wick