Tested: NOW XFlow Helmet
Now Helmets was founded in Southern California in 2014 to build cycling helmets for everything from urban to road riding. Its newest venture is in the mountain bike world with the new XFlow helmet. While the company may be young, the founder of Now has more than 12 years of design experience in the motorcycle helmet world, working with companies like HarleyDavidson, Fox, Scott and more. Now brings that experience to the cycling world to push R&D and protection technology to keep riders safe.
Tech info: The XFlow helmet is Now’s first (and currently only) mountain bike helmet. It’s an in-molded EPS model with what Now calls its “Microshell” outer. The helmet comes with a spiderweb airflow channel system that uses 26 vents and a series of channels inside to keep the air flowing and the rider cool. The XFlow also comes with a detachable visor that has two preset adjustable angles, a quick-dial fitting system and an anti-bacterial cooling liner that’s washable. The XFlow is available in five different colors and two different sizes. We tested the larger “large/extra-large” size, and our test helmet weighed 323 grams. All Now helmets are available through local bike shops, as well as directly through www.nowhelmet.com. The XFlow retails for $128.
On the trail: Out of the box, the XFlow feels like a more expensive helmet than it is. It’s lightweight and offers some of the design features of helmets twice the price. The in-molding and shell fit together perfectly. The visor is just the right length and easily adjusted, and the graphics are sharp. There are more colorful as well as more muted options available as well, which means most everyone will find something they like. Once the helmet is on, the straps are easily adjusted and fit right where they should. While there is nothing fancy about the harness, it works as well as that of most helmets. The shape of the helmet is fairly neutral and worked well for nearly every test rider who tried it on. A couple of our testers were in between the two sizes, so another middle size would help. That said, very few will have problems with fit. The quick dial is designed to dial in the fit. While it works reasonably well, the mechanism feels slightly flimsy. The adjustment also only wraps around half of the helmet, which is less effective than the full 360-degree adjustments available on other helmets. Still, we were able to dial it in for the ride thanks to the three-position adjustment that allows you to fit it to just the right part of your head.
Once dialed, the helmet stayed in place very well. We took the Now helmet out on a hot day and were immediately impressed with the ventilation, especially compared to some other enduro or trail helmets we’ve tested. The shape is on the large end of the spectrum, but not to the point where it bothered us or we felt like bobblehead dolls on the trail. We’re guessing the ventilation channel system required this slightly larger profile, and if it keeps us more comfortable, the trade-off is well worth it.
Fortunately, the helmet does not come down quite as low as many other trail helmets, which means it was compatible with every pair of glasses we tried with it. Those big vents also make for a very angular shape that some may not like, but we’re not here to make your fashion decisions for you. The XFlow comes with solid aesthetics and functions very well. The only piece of the puzzle missing seems to be the inclusion of additional coverage for low-speed or rotational impacts. Helmet technology has improved by leaps and bounds in the past few years with innovations like MIPS that work to prevent concussions in the case of smaller impacts. The XFlow does not have those features. That said, these technologies cost more, and with this helmet priced at $128, Now certainly has some room for the second-generation XFlow to include an option for a MIPS-type system.
Bottom line, this is a very refined helmet, especially for the price. The comfort and ventilation are top-notch, and it is a better value than many other helmets. The addition of a low-speed or rotational impact protection system would be welcome, but that may be available soon. For $128, you’d be hard-pressed to find a helmet with more or better features than the Now XFlow.
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