Review: Helmet shootout: Part 2 - Bontrager Lithos, Giro Xar, Fox Flux

When I go into most bike shops it's seldom I will see a helmet that is not suited to the road or XC purposes. There's countless options of them out there. It's not often you see something with some rear and side support – more focused on the trail and all mountain side of things. I set out to see what I could find that is readily available in South Africa. This is Part 2 of our helmet shootout, focussing on trail lids.
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As mentioned in Part 1, I decided to split the shootout in two parts. The first had a focus on the more all mountain helmets that feature more coverage at the expense of some extra weight. Part 2 here is all about the lighter trail lids. While they may not feature quite as much protection as the AM variety, the trail oriented helmets are lighter weight and will usually be better on a long day's ride or even stage events.

The candidates


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Fox Flux
The Flux hasn't seen many changes over the years. It has been a stable choice for riders that are looking for a reasonably priced helmet that offers more than your typical XC coverage. It's relatively light weight also makes it a choice for some XC riders too, along with its huge vents that provide ample ventilation.

Manufacturer's specs
Deep rear EPS profile for additional coverage
20 large vents for maximum airflow and temperature control
Detox™ retention system to dial in the perfect fit
Removable visor
Weight: 360g (claimed)
Price: RRP R999

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Giro Xar
The Xar is Giro's top of the line trail helmet. It was first conceived to offer the all mountain scene a Giro option with more rear and side coverage. That torch has been taken up by the new Giro Feature (though at a lower price point) and the Xar now sits firmly in the trail side of things. It is light enough to be used by XC and marathon racers and gives enough coverage to use on any trails that don't require a full face.

Manufacturer's specs
P.O.V.™ adjustable visor w/ 15° vertical adjustment
In-mold - EPS liner, polycarbonate shell
Roc Loc® 5 Fit System
17 Wind Tunnel™ vents, internal channeling
Weight: 340g (claimed)
Price: RRP R2490

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Bontrager Lithos
Perhaps not the first name that comes to mind when searching for your next helmet, but Bontrager has steadily being producing helmets for a variety of cycling applications. The Lithos is their entry into the trail/all mountain segment. As with all the helmets featured in the shootout, it has further coverage in the back and sides and keeps the weight down so you can comfortably ride all day with it.

Manufacturer's specs
In-mold composite skeleton
Micro-Manager - Fully-adjustable fit system
AgION fit pads - Moisture-wicking antimicrobial pads
LockDown strap dividers
Internal, recessed channels manage airflow for 19 vents
Removable visor with 10° of adjustability
Weight: 310g (claimed)
Price: RRP R1599

Aesthetics

In contrast to Part 1 of this shootout, these three helmet are not as district in their design as the first three. They certainly have a more traditional look to them, possibly making them more accessible to the majority of riders. While it has been around for a number of years, I still think that the Fox Flux just beats the Giro to the aesthetic win.

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It's the big purposeful vents and more distinguished rear and side coverage that makes it look more built for performance. Now, if it just weren't for that rear spoiler at the top of the Flux; it'd be great if it was a removable feature, because it's a bit garish. Unfortunately with the Giro, we narrowly missed out on getting the much better looking blue colour, and instead got the matte black with green and white decals. It detracts a bit from the shape of the helmet, making it look less solid than it is. I would suggest looking at the solid blue option if you feel the same.

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There is a fairly clear runner-up in the aesthetics here. The Bontrager Lithos is not a looker. The clear coat exposing the foam beneath looks a bit unfinished, like they didn't add the shell to the outside. It is by far the most understated too, which isn't a bad thing. But the squarish shape isn't the most appealing. The Lithos tends to sit fairly high on the head too, where the Giro has more of an XC fit and the Fox makes strides to be more all mountain. I prefer more aggressive designs, and because of that the Flux takes the win.

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Comfort

It was here that the three helmets were most closely matched as all three offered all day riding comfort. The Bontrager grabbed some points here for the most comfort. The padding was the most supportive and had the least hard spots on the head. It was a bit heavier than the others, but the padding more than made up for it. It also sat very comfortably, even if the aesthetics of it weren't that great.

I found the Flux to be a bit of a mission with the straps. It's great that they are not fixed at the back so the clamp can be centred, but you had to make sure the strap was flat before you put the helmet on. If you didn't then it felt like there was something stuck at the top, which quickly got irritating. The Xar was a bit more comfortable than the Flux, with the Fox exposing more hard spots on the head. The Xar did have pretty thin padding, though, which wasn't ideal

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None of the helmets offered any padding for the retainer systems at back, but the Lithos does have a softer plastic that actually helps quite a bit. The retailer on the Flux was particularly hard, not offering the comfort you would like.

Features

There's nothing fancy about these three helmets like GoPro mounts or magnetic do-hickies. They all feature removable padding and retainers system at the back. Stuff you would expect. Only the Bontrager and Giro have adjustable visors, with the Fox only having a removable one.

Let's take a look at those visors. While the Flux may not have the adjustability of the others, it doesn't detract too much from the ride. It was never in the way, and worked well shading the sun. The Xar's visor was adjustable, but wasn't as accurate as the Lithos. Bontrager was smart with this, and instead of making the visor have freedom to move up and down, it uses a guided fixed position system with 4 options. This means that it will stay in places better than most other designs, and that you can feel it moving up to where you want it from the clicks.

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There are two different types of retainer systems used in these lids, a ratchet style and a twist style. The Giro's is the most accurate and offers the most adjustment, but the knob is quite small and the twist is pretty hard. Tightening it with gloves on could be fiddly at times. The Bontrager Lithos' system was much larger, but not quite as accurate. I found that it never quite got tight enough so the helmet was totally secure and wouldn't move on my head.

Unfortunately for the Flux, these twist-type systems completely outshone the ratchet system it uses. It was difficult to get the ratchet to evenly use space from both sides, as it usually would take up all the slack from one side, then from the other. It made for a fairly uneven adjustment at the back.

In the end

This matchup was far more closely contested than Part 1. The Flux, Xar and Lithos are all very good helmets and each holds its own. Styling wise, it was a close call between the Xar and the Flux, with the Flux just beating the Xar to it, though other testers thought otherwise. In the comfort department the Lithos took the cake. It's padding sits a lot better on the head with minimal hard spots to be felt. There wasn't any one feature that stood-out against the rest for these helmets, but the Giro's retainer system worked the best, even if it was a bit fiddly to use.

All in all, it's quite difficult to make a solid decision on a winner. All of these helmets suit their purpose quite well and it really comes down to personal preference to make a decision. That the Fox Flux is less than half the cost of the Giro Xar and a whole lot less than the Bontrager too, makes for a very tempting proposal. The retaining system and straps may change your mind though. If comfort is your main priority then the Lithos is your choice. While, if you're looking for a more XC oriented lid and price isn't a factor, the Xar should be high on your list.






20 Comments

Bibi, Jul 28 2014 03:01

Fox Flux is by far the best option specially considering the price.
It is also the best looking helmet out of the 3.
"Best Buy" is the Flux

Iwan Kemp, Jul 28 2014 03:16

Where would you throw the 661 into the mix?

braailegend, Jul 28 2014 03:20

That "rear spoiler" of the flux is awesome to keep goggles in place on muddy DH days

CAAD4, Jul 28 2014 06:08

I'd be concerned that the exposed, unprotected styrofoam on the top of the Bontrager would be prone to dings and damage very easily...

udxcob, Jul 28 2014 06:43

Where would you throw the 661 into the mix?



PART 1

Kranky, Jul 28 2014 08:21

I'd be concerned that the exposed, unprotected styrofoam on the top of the Bontrager would be prone to dings and damage very easily...


I believe there is a (very) clear coat of plastic over the styrofoam to protect it but it may mean that it's thinner than most.

drkbstr, Jul 28 2014 08:30

Flux fan myself, the new line of Scott trail/AM helmets launched recently will hopefully also find their way to our shores

Claudio, Jul 28 2014 08:33

Where would you throw the 661 into the mix?


The 661 EVO AM is the most comfortable out of all 6 helmets tested for the shootout, is competitive with weight and offers more coverage than the 3 tested here. It's also competitively priced at R2000.

roskii, Jul 28 2014 08:48

Just picked up the 661 Repeater from Dial'd. Light and comfortable! Would be a real contender in this lineup.

Iwan Kemp, Jul 29 2014 08:32

The 661 EVO AM is the most comfortable out of all 6 helmets tested for the shootout, is competitive with weight and offers more coverage than the 3 tested here. It's also competitively priced at R2000.

:thumbup: Thanks

PART 1

:ph34r:

remfactor, Jul 29 2014 02:15

What about the Urge Enduro-matic?
Was it also in part1?

Batmann2, Jul 30 2014 04:08

So where can one buy the Fox flux in cape town.. Any ideas?

Claudio, Jul 30 2014 06:18

So where can one buy the Fox flux in cape town.. Any ideas?


There's a Fox store in Canal Walk. And I'll get a list of retailers for you too.

Borborygmi, Jul 30 2014 06:51

Online store for the fox??

Batmann2, Jul 31 2014 08:36

Hi

There's a Fox store in Canal Walk. And I'll get a list of retailers for you too.


Hi claudio

Thanks for that, will be great to get the list

Claudio, Jul 31 2014 09:26

Hi

Hi claudio

Thanks for that, will be great to get the list


Here is their store locator: http://www.foxhead.com/locator/?co=za

Batmann2, Jul 31 2014 12:36

One more question, is the fox fluc UCI approved, can i use it in a MTB race

splat, Jun 29 2016 01:41

I am in Cape Town and cannot find a shop that has a Large Giro Xar in stock

Canal walk is a mission for me to get to for the Fox Flux

And so few places stock the Bontrager range

IXS is out of stock @ Evo Bikes and I don't know who/where else to try.

So, I am really finding it hard to find a helmet to try on before I buy it.

 

Any suggestions?

ALLMTB, Jun 29 2016 02:03

I am in Cape Town and cannot find a shop that has the Giro Xar in stock

Canal walk is a mission for me to get to for the Fox Flux

And so few places stock the Bontrager range

IXS is out of stock @ Evo Bikes and I dont know who/where else to try.

So, I am really finding it hard to find a helmet to try on before I buy it.

 

Any suggestions?

http://www.cwcycles....giro-xar-helmet

splat, Jun 29 2016 02:11

Sorry. I mean to say that I need a Large.

(and I was there on Saturday, they didn't have any)