With trail riding getting more and more technical, we have to make sure that our personal protection can match the capabilities of our bikes. There is a new generation of helmets that offer much greater protection and coverage than the trail lids of old, extending down further over the rear of the head, allowing us to rider harder without resorting to a full face. One of the current range of high end helmets is the new £139.99 Sweet Protection Bushwhacker. We have been riding in this helmet for the last few weeks to see how it performs.
For me, a helmet has to offer protection, good fit, cooling then value, in that order! Being gifted with an odd shaped head, not all helmets fit very well, with many feeling like they are perched on my head. When presented with the Bushwhacker I was immediately impressed with the fit, the helmet has a deep moulding that ensures that you feel very enclosed. I was also very impressed with the build quality, the outer shell extends under the brow and sides and looks very well put together. The orange colour I was testing is certainly bright, and with its gloss finish really stands out (the helmet is available in a good range of colours)! I was keen to see how it performed.
The Occigrip retention system is effective, simply pop the helmet on the head and cinch down the two rear adjusters. The cradle is height adjustable, it says 4 ways, but effectively allows you to adjust the height to stop the straps from rubbing the top of your ear, and as with all helmets you can adjust the cradle circumference. The system is low profile and very comfortable on the head, silicon pads cushion the harness and the helmet is very secure on the head! However, despite working well, the Occigrip adjuster looks a little clunky for a helmet at this price point and sometimes the adjusters jam a little. It is not a big problem as it is only set once per ride, but there are smoother adjusters out there!
Sweet protection state that ‘Extensive digital simulations and field tests have been performed to optimize airflow and heat extraction’ and the Bushwhacker features 17 direct air vents (5 deep internal airflow inlets, 8 direct outlets and 4 vertical extract vents). When up to speed the air is channeled well through the helmet, however when climbing or cruising, the helmet is quite warm. A helmet with this level of protection is never going to be as cool as an XC lid, but it was certainly warmer than some of the competition. It was no issue at all in Scotland, but it may be a little warm for more exotic locations! The pads do a good job of absorbing any sweat, but it could be a factor for those who seek out maximum ventilation.
The chin straps are well thought out, exiting from the shell, rather than running inside the helmet! This helps avoid uncomfortable tangles when fitting the helmet in a hurry. Another neat feature is that the polycarbonate shell features different thicknesses, reinforcing key impact areas, up to 30% thicker in places. The visor is non-adjustable and the helmet sits quite low on the head, you can see the visor when riding but it does not interfere with the field of vision.
When riding the helmet is very secure on the head and inspires total confidence, I was happy to give it full gas between the trees in this lid! The coverage is excellent over the rear of the head and you feel like you are very well protected. I really like the deep fit of the helmet, coming down nice and low on the forehead and the build quality makes you feel that it would handle a big hit, should things go wrong! The non-MIPS version we were testing weights in at 320g, so is lighter than some of its direct competition. The sizing seems more generous than the numbers would suggest, I am normally a L/XL, but the M/L Bushwhacker fitted perfectly, this is certainly a helmet to try on first!
The Sweet Protection Bushwhacker is a confidence inspiring helmet, offering excellent coverage and protection in a stylish package. Despite being a little warm, it has become my go-to helmet for aggressive trail riding and enduro racing. There are certainly better vented helmets out there, but none that offer the same feeling of security. At £139.99 it is expensive, but if you ever need it, it will be money well spent!
For more information check out the Sweet Protection Website
Words and Photos: Trev Worsey