How many helmet reviews have you read that were actually crash tested, and I don’t mean in a lab by a robot? I mean, first-hand by the person who’s writing the review? If you’re like us, then the answer is probably zero. But, we are here to change that. While we fully stand behind lab testing for safety standards, it can sometimes feel like market speak until you experience it in real life. We did just that so you don’t have to.
At the risk of sounding vain, I’m going to go ahead and claim that I’m a good rider, and can hold my own on the trails. However, I always ride with a helmet. Mistakes happen even to the best riders, and I’m not willing to risk increased injury to my brain. I can’t express more on how important a great helmet is to me. I’ve ridden and raced bikes for the last 15 years, and I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve hit my head. It hasn’t been until the last couple years that I’ve really started to pay attention to helmet technology and how safe a helmet is for my head. I’ve finally strayed away from only considering what looks cool and fast, or what is going to match with what kits I have. My primary focus now is on fit and function which equals more safety for my brain.
If you have ever experienced a concussion then you know why I am adamant about helmet usage and quality. A concussion is caused by a heavy blow to the head resulting in the brain impacting against the skull. This results in the brain being bruised, and in some cases this can lead to loss of consciousness or worse. Post-crash symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, impaired focus, and an increased sensitivity to light and sound. These symptoms may take a few weeks to clear up, and there is growing science connecting concussions to other serious long-term brain issues.
When I was asked if I was interested in testing and reviewing 6D’s ATB-1T Evo helmet, I was a little skeptical because I was pretty set on my current helmet being one of the safest options for me. Still, I agreed, but before I even wore it, I made sure to do my research on 6D’s technology found in their helmets. Based on their information, I was feeling more confident in setting my current lid aside, and trying out something new. Who knew that I’d be testing it to its fullest.
Product Design and Build Quality
At their inception, 6D set out to attain a simple, but challenging, goal; to design a helmet that reduces energy transfer to the brain over a much broader range of energy demands. They wanted their helmets to provide class-leading protection throughout the range of low, mid and high-velocity impacts. What they came up with was 6D’s patented Omni-Directional Suspension (ODS) technology. They claim this to be a fully active in-helmet suspension and kinetic energy management system, and lab testing results seem to show that they’ve landed on something good. The cornerstone to this tech is their Elastomeric Isolation Dampers. Inner and outer EPS shells are bridged by these hourglass shaped dampers. This allows them to isolate impact energy from your brain, and to compensate for rotational or oblique forces. The dampers’ shape also provides a progressive spring rate to reduce low and mid-threshold accelerations. This leaves the EPS to handle to handle the high-velocity impacts with the added help of dampers providing more time for deceleration of your head. The name ‘6D Helmets’ came directly from the ‘six degrees of freedom’ of omni-directional suspension.
So, how does it all work? Well, to use 6D’s example, it’s like that egg drop project you did in high school. The goal is drop the egg from the highest point without the shell of the egg cracking. The projects that were successful were the ones that provided ample time to decelerate the egg to a complete stop without overcoming the structural integrity of the shell. Not cracking our shell (the skull) is very important, but we must also protect our yolk (this is your brain). A scrambled brain is not a good thing (80’s commercials, anyone?). While the egg project primarily focused on high speed impacts, 6D wanted/needed to build a product that could protect our brains from a variety of low, mid, and high speed impacts. In the charts below, you can see that 6D helmets are able to increase the time over which acceleration of a rider’s head, angular and liner, occurs in all three cases. Simply, more time is better for the brain.
Helmets have long been designed to ‘not crack the egg.’ They do this by making the helmet out of a fairly hard, but crush-able EPS foam shell. But, recent medical research shows that concussions can occur from low-threshold impacts, primarily ones that cause angular acceleration of the brain. Since the EPS foam of most helmets is designed to protect from high speed impacts, it means that it is not as functional for low speed impacts because the crushing threshold of the foam is not overcome. Some brands are working with dual density foams to improve this, but foam alone doesn’t account for angular acceleration. There are a few differing technologies being developed to solve for this, but 6D’s approach appears to be the most impressive. By combining 2 suspended shells of dual density foam with their hourglass dampers, they create a progressive spring rate of compression that reacts omni-directionally. I’m not an engineer, so I can’t state for fact that 6D wins, but initial independent lab testing by Dynamic Research shows impressive results. Plus, I think it’s great that there is growing competition by helmet brands to claim the safest helmet. This will drive innovation and safety. Check out the videos below to find out more on how 6D’s technology works.
Fit, Performance and Ride Impressions (AKA the Crash)
With 6D paying so much attention to the safety systems of their helmets, it came as no surprise that the build quality of the helmet was top notch as well. Everything had a good fit and finish, with clean lines, and an overall great aesthetic. This, however, doesn’t mean that this is the perfect helmet for everyone. I have a round head, and the shape of the shell fit me quite well without any major gaps. A few other employees tested the helmet on in a few sizes, and those with narrow heads found that they had significant gaps along the sides of their heads in one size, or experienced pressure on the front and rear of their heads if they sized down. This issue is not limited to 6D. We’ve consistently found that helmet manufacturers seem to pick one head type to primarily build around. It would be great to see helmet sizing change to account for more than just head circumference for a more exacting fit. This obviously would require more molds, which would likely drive up costs, but we know many people who would gladly pay a bit more for a better fit.
15 vents to help cool you down as much as possible
While big, it doesn’t look disproportionate.
- Patented Omni-Direction Suspension Technology
- Polycarbonite Shell
- Modular ODS Carrier System
- 2 Suspended Dual Density EPS Foam Shells
- Replaceable Inner EPS
- Safety Certifications: Exceeds EN 1078, CPSC 16, CFR 1203 Approved
- 1-Year Limited Warranty
- For XC, All Mountain and Enduro Use
- Weight: ~368g
- Progressive Spring Rate Protection
- Protection from Omni-Directional Impacts
- Effective in Low, Mid, and High Speed Crashes
- 15 Air Transfer Ports
- Adjustable Fitment System
- Moisture Wicking / Washable / Anti-Bacterial Comfort Liner
- Adjustable / Removable Visor
- Glasses and Goggle Compatible
Magnetic Fidlock is so simple and secure
Quickly adjustable to fit snug and comfortable
Performance and Ride Impressions
My first impression of the helmet coming out of the box was that it looked a little heavy and bulky compared to other half shell helmets, and I was concerned that I would feel like a bobble head on the trail. However, after putting the helmet on, I was surprised on how light the helmet felt. I couldn’t even tell that it was bigger than most half shell helmets, and it also felt close to the same weigh as my current helmet. While the helmet is more voluminous due to it’s unique construction, it did not translate to a poor feel or experience out on the bike. In reality, it kind of felt just like any other comfortable helmet.
While it is a comfortable lid, I did noticed that the helmet didn’t breathe as well as other helmets I’ve had in the past. This is something to consider when living in warm climates, but the safety of my brain outweighs the bit of extra water I have to drink to compensate for some sweat. The plus side was how light the helmet was considering all the safety tech involved. This translated to a boost in confidence during my riding, knowing that my dome was wrapped with what is arguably the most comprehensive safety spec available. And, that’s where things took a turn for the worse… though that’s definitely not the helmet’s fault. At Jenson USA, we have monthly shop ride, and I wanted to try the helmet out with a light mounted on top. About 45 minutes into the ride, and after a regroup, I was feeling dialed on my riding and I took off first down one of the more fun descents in Sycamore Canyon. Long story short, I sniped a rock with my pedal going as fast as I could and hit my head harder than I have ever hit it before. As far as I know, I was never knocked out cold, but my bell was rung hard. I rolled over to everyone asking if I was okay, but their voices sounded like I was under water. Right then, I knew I was concussed. The next day, Ryan, our 6D rep, came in to take a look at the helmet, and right away could tell I had it my head hard enough to severely damage the EPS. He called for the retirement of that helmet on the spot.
[The ATB-1T Evo] has to be, hands down, the safest half-shell helmet I have ever put on my head. The crew at 6D are revolutionizing the standards of safety, and I can tell you first hand they are doing it right.
Now, I know I just got done touting all of the concussion reduction measures that this helmet has, and yet I had experienced one while wearing it. But, I fully believe that if I were wearing any other helmet there is a high likelihood that I would have been sitting in a hospital right now instead of writing about my crash and the helmet that helped me to ride away from it. I try to explain to everyone I know that safety comes before fashion. This is not a sick jersey that will look cool while you’re out riding, this could literally be a life or death situation, and making sure your head is safe should be of utmost importace to you.
Another test rider, Scott, testing out the helmet for riding and not crashing while I shot photos.
The Final Spin
How does it stack up against the competition?
This helmet has to be, hands down, the safest half-shell helmet I have ever put on my head. The crew at 6D are revolutionizing the standards of safety, and I can tell you first hand they are doing it right. I hope to never have to test out another helmet to this extent, but I will be keeping my dome covered by the ATB-1T Evo at least until 6D comes out with even more innovative safety features.
We rarely, if ever, give a product 5-star reviews because there is always room for improvement. And, this helmet does have room to improve. I’d like to see the cost come down, the fit refined for various head shapes, and the volume slightly reduced. But, the negatives of this helmet are so heavily outweighed by the positives, especially where safety is concerned, that I am going to claim the full 5 stars for this helmet.
Literally everyone who rides mountain bikes, and is looking for a half-shell helmet. They do also offer a full face variant for our gravity crowd. I say, if this helmet fits your head shape and your wallet, then you should buy it. And remember, an expensive helmet is a whole lot less expensive than a visit to the hospital.
What we loved:
- SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY
- Good weight, especially considering the safety tech
- Looks (I know I said it didn’t matter, but it doesn’t hurt)
- Magnetic Fidlock is awesome!!!
- Comfortable and stable while riding
- Goggle compatibility
What we didn’t like:
- Didn’t breathe as well as competitors
- Voluminous look
- Fit wasn’t perfect for all head shapes
- Price is hard to swallow, but R&D is expensive