One knock against convertible mountain bike helmets is that they have traditionally been much hotter and heavier than their open face and even full-face counterparts. While companies like Bell and Leatt have closed those gaps to the point that they are more or less meaningless, the Giro Switchblade remains… hot and heavy.
At over 1100 grams, the Giro Switchblade is not a light full face helmet. This is made worse by the fact that the bulk of the Switchblade’s weight comes from the helmet itself, which weighs over 800g without the chin bar, making for a very heavy open face helmet, nearly double the weight of the 6D Helmets ATB-1T EVO, which the heaviest helmet in our open face mountain bike helmet review.
Likewise, the Switchblade’s 20 vents do little to keep your head cool when the chin bar is removed. However, it is actually fairly well ventilated compared to other full-face helmets.
All of this relates to the fact that the Giro Switchblade is the only convertible mountain bike helmet to retain over the ear protection, sort of like an open face motorcycle helmet, when in open face mode. The reality is that most of what makes a full face helmet hot is not the chin bar. It is the extra material against your face, trapping heat in and keeping air from the surface of your skin. There is just no way to overcome this from a weight or ventilation standpoint, and the Giro Switchblade suffers here because of it.
The full-time ear coverage of the Giro Switchblade makes the helmet hotter and heavier than the competition, and I don’t think that I have ever heard a good word said about its looks. However, for all the damage the ear coverage causes everywhere else, it puts the Giro Switchblade in a league of its own when it comes to protecting your head from all angles as an open face helmet. Not even the Bell Super DH, sans chin bar, or the ultra high coverage 6D ATB-1T Evo can match the Giro Switchblade in half shell coverage. In fact, I would refer to the Switchblade as a three quarter shell helmet, rather than as a half shell.
This also changes how the chin bar of the Giro Switchblade attaches, because it attaches to the cheeks of the helmet, rather than providing the cheeks of the helmet. Two buttons and a lift of the chin piece easily mounts or removes the Switchblade’s chin bar, making it the easiest to install or remove of any convertible mountain bike helmet on the market.
Like everything else about the Giro Switchblade, the chin bar is heavy duty, and mounts to the helmet via stainless steel hardware mounted directly inside of the EPS foam shell of the helmet.
The Giro Switchblade MIPS also uses the standard MIPS insert to protect against rotational impacts. While we think that the Switchblade could stand something a bit more innovative, like POC’s Spin tech or Bell’ MIPS Spherical, the Giro Switchblade still claims high marks for safety, owing mostly to its strange three quarter shell design.
The visor of the Giro Switchblade is not too far behind our favorite, found on the Bell Super DH. It features a screw on each side, that can be tightened or loosened by hand, and easy one-handed raising and lowering of the visor, which accommodates goggles on your face and stashed out of the way for climbing.
Better still, Giro includes an extra visor with every Switchblade helmet, so you have a replacement on hand should it break. This is also where Giro’s camera mount is located, on the underside of the visor. This is innovative and unique, but it requires you to run your visor in a high position, in order to keep your camera from blocking your field of view.
The Switchblade also features an extremely effective and easy to use Roc Loc retention system. In keeping with its heavy-duty nature, the Giro Switchblade utilizes a motorcycle style D-ring closure for the chin strap. While this is no doubt effective, it is much more of a pain to get on and off than traditional buckles and much more difficult than the Fidlock system found on most high-end helmets. This strap is also thickly padded, which is comfortable but adds to the hot-headed nature of the Giro Switchblade
The Giro Switchblade is an extremely unique and heavy-duty convertible mountain bike helmet. It offers the best open face coverage of any helmet that we have reviewed. However, it is so hot and heavy without the chin bar attached, that we would probably opt for a lighter and cooler full face helmet if we wanted full-time cheek protection.
The Switchblade occupies a very unique niche, but with convertible helmets like the Bell Super DH matching it for safety, and full-face helmets like the Leatt DBX4.0 providing lightweight and cool full face options, there is less room for a helmet like the Switchblade than their once was.