ABUS will be 100 years old come 2024; the family-owned German company made its name in security, manufacturing locks for buildings first, followed by locks for securing motorcycles and bicycles. It’s only since 1994 that ABUS has been in the business of head protection, producing bicycle helmets first, followed more recently by the production of helmets for equestrian sports, too.
While not fully comprehensive, the brand does offer a good range of bicycle helmets across road, urban and mountain biking sectors, with helmets for children and toddlers in there, too. While some of ABUS’ high-end road helmets are made in Italy – like the AirBreaker and GameChanger – all of their off-road models including the lid reviewed herein are manufactured in Asia.
Here’s our take on the brand’s top-level offering for trail riders; the ABUS CliffHanger MIPS.
ABUS CliffHanger MIPS
In terms of its coverage, the CliffHanger is ABUS’ most comprehensive open-face helmet. It is aimed at trail and enduro riders who can’t bring themselves to wear a full face helmet, for whatever reason. It has a multi-shell in-mold construction; meaning, its three outer shells are bonded directly to the EPS liner, the latter being the shock absorbing element. Additional structural reinforcement can be seen bracing across the vents at the front.
Externally, the CliffHanger’s outer shell wraps the EPS entirely giving it a premium look and feel. Adding to that is a three-position peak, a retention cradle with plenty of vertical height adjustment, a magnetic Fidlock buckle, and the so-called TriVider webbing spreader; ABUS’ fancy name for the dividers that bring together the two arms of the chin strap just underneath the wearer’s ear lobe.
The CliffHanger conforms to EN1078:2012+A1:2012 requirements: the European standard set for bicycle helmet safety. It has not yet been submitted to Virginia Tech for independent testing, nor have any of the brand’s helmets, for that matter. There are two models to choose from: a standard model retails at £159.99, while the MIPS-equipped model retails at £179.99. We review the latter here.
A growing number of helmet manufacturers offer an integrated crash detection device that can be configured via an App to notify friends and family if the helmet suffers a blow while you’re out on a ride. ABUS is one such manufacturer, offering the QUIN Sensor for this purpose. Not only does it notify your chosen emergency contact of a potential crash, it also sends them your GPS coordinates, a cool feature which could prove to be life-saving.
The CliffHanger MIPS is sold at £179.99 without QUIN; a recess at the back of the shell can accommodate the sensor should you wish to part with a further £56.99 for the added peace of mind on solo rides. For a review of the QUIN Sensor’s functionality, check out Steve Fisher’s review of the QUIN-equipped MoDrop helmet.
Our Impressions of the ABUS CliffHanger MIPS
The ABUS CliffHanger MIPS is available in three sizes; S (51cm-55cm), M (54cm – 58cm) and L (57cm – 61cm). With a head circumference of 54cm, I opted for the size small. On my Park Tool scale, it weighs in at 333 grams – a lot lighter than the advertised 390 grams.
Putting the helmet on, it feels plenty deep enough to provide good coverage. My head being on the larger end of the spectrum for the size small, it does feel quite narrow, though not so much as to be uncomfortable. Those with a broader temple region may want to consider up-sizing. That said, if you can, it’s always best to try before you buy.
The CliffHanger’s chin strap can be adjusted both in terms of its length, and its lateral positioning. The TriVider allows the wearer to feed some of the strap through from either side to get it to sit exactly underneath the ear lobes, where it is intended to be. It’s a little tedious to adjust, but it gets the job done. This design, in my opinion, is better than those dividers that clamp the straps into position – in the past, I have found these to accidentally pop open while riding.
The peak has three indexed positions, and a decent amount of force is required to move it between them. So, the peak doesn’t shift positions under the g-force experienced while riding. Visibility is great no matter the peak position; the lower-most position isn’t so low that it occludes any view of the trail ahead, even on the steepest fall line trails.
In its top-most position, there is plenty of room to place googles or sunglasses underneath. A ridge at the rear of the helmet does a good job of preventing a goggle strap from wandering up. Recesses underneath the peak allow sunglasses to be stowed securely.
The CliffHanger helmet works really well with my Smith Squad goggles; vents at the forehead region encourage airflow in this area prone to sweat accumulation.
The retention system’s cradle cinches down nicely, tightening from the rear. Despite being near the top end of the size scale for this one, I do need to cinch the cradle down to its absolute tightest position in order to feel secure in it.
The cradle’s position can be adjusted vertically, too, over a 4.5 cm range. This is a ratchet-style adjustment, wherein a tab slides through a notched mechanism to determine the distance the cradle sits from the base of the helmet body.
I have to say, this style of vertical adjustment isn’t the best, in my opinion. While it often allows for a wider range of adjustment, and is quicker and easier to dial in fit, it isn’t as secure as more traditional mechanisms of vertical adjustment, such as that seen on the Fox Speedframe Pro, for example.
On the CliffHanger, I find the ratcheting-style mechanism offers up too little resistance. It is too easy to accidentally push it away from my preferred position, especially when fitting, adjusting or removing googles, or even just carrying the helmet about.
On more recent rides, I have actually noticed that it has clicked away from its original position over the course of a fast, rough descent – but only by one or two clicks, which I deduce equates to less than half a centimeter of change at the forehead – not enough for me to consider it a safety concern, as such. I simply find myself readjusting it before I drop into the next trail.
While riding, the ABUS CliffHanger is largely unnoticeable in that it provides plentiful comfort and great ventilation, with six vents at the front, two on each side, three on the top and four at the rear. Inside the helmet, I can see that the three front-most events actually extend all the way to the exhaust vents at the rear, allowing for a continuous flow of air from front to rear – something riders with a lot less hair than I will be best-placed to appreciate.
I will say, the MIPS liner is a little creaky so you can hear it rubbing against the EPS as it moves during riding. This is not unique to the ABUS CliffHanger; I have found most MIPS-equipped helmets exhibit this property.
- Good coverage
- Fantastically well-ventilated
- Retention system is ponytail-compatible
- Great compatibility with goggles and sunglasses
- Vertical adjustment of cradle could offer more secure indexed positions
The ABUS Cliffhanger MIPS is an impressively lightweight helmet given how good the coverage is. It is also well-ventilated offering plentiful comfort for long days in the saddle. Personally, I also think it has a pleasing aesthetic. However, it is a little let down by its retention system adjustment.
Overall, I feel it is a bit over-priced, especially when you consider the fact that comparable helmets such as the Fox Speedframe Pro, Bluegrass Rogue Core MIPS and Scott Stego Plus are all a fair bit cheaper.