At high speeds, it makes an unsettling airplane-engine noise
The A1’s great achievement is that it turns full-coverage head protection into something that’s light and breathable enough for hard-charging uphill efforts. It’s nearly perfect gear for all-mountain biking.
Whereas some helmets grip the head unevenly—with gaps here, pressure points there—the A1 feels uniformly snug throughout, from the temples to the crown to the base of the skull. This results in all-day comfort, so that even after epic rides, testers didn’t itch to yank it off.
There are 16 ventilation holes in the reinforced polycarbonate shell. But apparently, those holes do more than act like chimneys for your head’s heat. Like intake manifolds, the front holes suck cool air in; only the rear channels pump heat out. The system seems to work, because despite the A1’s full-coverage design, this helmet proved cool enough for August afternoon climbs in the Rockies and October rides in Moab. However, something about the ventilation chambers or the helmet’s shape creates a strange, unusually loud noise at high speeds, when the A1 sounds like a prop plane in takeoff.
The single-piece liner is removable, so you can wash it when needed. The visor is more prominent than some all-mountain and enduro models, making it especially effective at blocking low-angle sun. Three height settings let you choose your preferred visor tilt, and once you choose it, it stays put—the visor doesn’t self-adjust on bumpy terrain. The helmet’s overall tightness is also customizable, via a dial that locks in three retention settings. Coverage extends to the nape of the neck and across the forehead, which is more expansive than most mountain helmets. This provides good peace of mind, knowing that there’s not much of your head exposed to blunt trauma. In testing, the only downfall to this feature was that due to the coverage, it was difficult to scratch my forehead or wipe away sweat, because the shell started right at my eyebrows.
There isn’t one winning head shape that best suits the A1. Everyone who tried it loved the comfortable, uniformly head-wrapping feel; this versatility is unusual in a helmet.
Looking at the A1, you’d expect it to feel heavy in the hand and clunky in action. Not so: Weighing 11 ounces, it’s lighter than many all-mountain options, and it rides that way too. It feels balanced and unobtrusive in all situations.
Priced like a mid-pack performer but good enough for uncompromising riders, the A1 Drone is a killer deal.