It’s easy to think of helmets as just-in-case gear. Their real payout is when you take a good slam, and your head remains unscathed, right? Sort of. The Giro Montaro MIPS is among a number of mountain bike helmets these days that aim to offer excellent protection, comfort, and a number of other relevant features that make the whole ride better. In testing the Montaro, I found myself picking and choosing.
Giro Montaro MIPS Features:
- MIPS technology
- Roc Loc 5 Air fit system
- Goggle-compatible P.O.V. Plus visor
- Ionic+ Anti-microbial padding
- Weight: 13 oz
- MSRP: $150
A Mid-Tier Trail Helmet
The baseline ask of any helmet is for it to consistently and effectively protect the wearer’s head in a crash. The Montaro answers that call accordingly with MIPS technology and with coverage all the way down to the base of the skull in the back. Over the past few years, MIPS has become the standard in bike helmets for its ability to reduce brain injuries associated with oblique impacts. To over-simplify a bit, MIPS disburses impact forces using a shifting helmet liner. Cycling News put out an excellent article recently that goes into greater depth on the technology than I will in this review. Suffice it to say, Giro checked a major safety box by including MIPS on the Montaro.
After general safety, the logical next question for a new helmet is whether or not it can be forgotten about while riding. That is to say, is it breathable and comfortable enough to disappear? The Montaro is more than breathable enough when riding in spring and fall. With that said, I run hot, and the Montaro didn’t cut it for me on the long summer climbs. The 16 vents the helmet has weren’t able to keep my head cool in the way I’d hope them to. I’d really like to see a couple larger vents in the front of the helmet to get my momentum working to my benefit in the ventilation department.
The Montaro is hit or miss in the comfort department. The Roc Loc 5 Air system allows adjustability of the circumferential fit with a well-located dial. Adjustability of the head-height fit is done with an internal notched plastic ladder. Getting the initial fit just right with one hand while wearing the helmet was a breeze. For circumferential fit, the Montaro knocked it out of the park.
By comparison, the head-height adjustment of the Roc Loc 5 Air has not performed nearly so well. On technical, choppy terrain, the internal notched ladder sometimes slips to higher positions, scooting the helmet down my forehead as I ride. It’s a distraction and requires readjustment after aggressively-ridden rock gardens and rooty sections, slowing me down while breaking my flow. The fact that the issue comes up when I ride more demanding, higher pressure sections of trail makes the problem worse. Upon close inspection, I’ve found that excess foam is blocking the mechanism from seating properly, allowing the helmet to slip from one height adjustment to the next. This kind of thing really should be caught in quality control.
Other than that issue, the Montaro is quite comfortable. The padding is low-profile and amazingly absorbent. I climbed up Bellingham’s Galbraith mountain trails on many 80-90 degree days this summer, and was very pleased with how well it kept the sweat off my face. After all those sweaty days, everyone near me can be glad that the padding is antimicrobial. The helmet also accommodates a variety of sunglasses and safety glasses quite comfortably (the latter of which I wear in the forest in spring for bugs’ sake, for those who may be curious). The arms of the glasses fit underneath the helmet’s front strap quite naturally in fact, and the helmet doesn’t put any undue pressure on them.
There are a couple extra add-on features that make the Montaro special – both a visor that does the job beautifully and a clever topmount for a camera or flashlight. The visor is adjustable with 3 angle settings. I’ve been very happy with how it blocks glare from overhead light. Consequently, my Summer riding has been much easier on the eyes. Going into winter, I’m looking forward to putting the topmount to use with a flashlight to extend those post-work sessions. The topmount is designed to break off in the event of a crash, a clever touch, and plugs into the top vent hole of the helmet. It’s a nice-to-have feature, certainly, but it makes significant rides in the PNW’s darker months easier, and I’m all about that.
- MIPS inspires confidence
- Accommodates glasses comfortably
- Visor cuts glare effectively
- Top mount is versatile and well designed
- Not ventilated enough for long Summer climbs
- Tends to shift forward on choppy terrain
The Bottom Line: Giro Montaro MIPS Helmet
The Giro Montaro aims to do a lot with its various features, and it succeeds in most arenas. The Montaro’s safety and bonus features all pay off, but some aspects of its comfort could use workshopping. Ventilation could be improved for hot days, and the Roc Loc 5 Air system for head-height fit has shortcomings.
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