I would usually refrain from judging a product too heavily before I’ve received it, but the stock images of the Blade Polyacrylite helmet left me with a distinctly low-quality impression. I was then rather surprised as I pulled it out of the box to find a nice looking and well put-together lid, almost feeling ashamed of myself for being so dismissive initially. I had informed them of my head circumference as usual, which led to them supplying me with the appropriate size Small helmet to fit my 56cm head. This does not however take into account the shape of my head, which is very tall, as such the shell is perhaps a touch on the short side, leaving my jaw dangerously close to protruding below the chin bar (and my beard dangling freely below). Assuming that most riders of the same head-height would end up on the larger-shelled medium and above sizes, it’s relatively safe to assume I’m in a small proportion of people who would struggle with this, and it’s not the only helmet that I’ve experienced this with.
Aside from my long chin, the Blade Polyacrylite is otherwise a typical comfy downhill helmet, with a good amount of “cush” to the padding that makes your head feel extra safe. As it goes on, the chunky cheek pads need a bit of a push to get over your ears, but once on it really wraps around your head and feels as secure as can be. The Fidlock buckle is somewhat rare for a full-face lid, and may divide opinions, but I am a fan of its easy operation, especially when gloved. The weight on your head at 1220g is firmly in downhill helmet territory, as is the general heat around the head, until you begin moving when the ventilation is on the better side for its category, and the amount of “hot breath” sensation is limited. That said, I would still be cautious about climbing with the Blade on my head, as things do begin to heat up quickly at lower speeds. There is a lot of padding going on in the area around the ear, and although there is a gap for an ear to theoretically find its way into, more often than not mine would sit directly against a thick piece of padding. This would lead to a distinctly muffled acoustic, which may not be a problem to all riders but isn’t a favorable trait to me, leading to a loss of speed perception and balance. A bit of handiwork with some scissors remedied this, at which point the sound levels were as you would expect from a heavy hitting lid.
Vision is nearly fully unimpaired, with only the very tip of the peak and chin bar being visible in the extremities of my peripheral, and ample room for even the biggest of goggles (such as the B30) to sit nicely. Speaking of which, there’s a large recess in the back to let a goggle strap sit into, which you’d imagine would keep a strap in place through just about any situation. As you would expect, the Blade sits nicely with a neck brace if that’s your preference. Thankfully, I’ve not had to test out the crashworthiness of the Blade, and it does feel solid both on and off the head with a decent amount of material between brain and shell, but a lack of rotational impact protection as standard plus the missing downhill rating are minor flags that suggest there may be safer helmets out there. Nonetheless, it’s a decently high-quality lid for the money, and I really like both the shape when on the head and the colorways on offer.
The O’Neal B30 goggles are similarly high-quality in construction, with a striking edge-to-edge lens that exudes luxurious vibes. The frame is generally stiff and sturdy, with the outrigger system allowing this rigidity to go independently from the fitment on your face, and the removable nose guard follows suit. This fitment is similarly very good, avoiding any major hot spots whilst ensuring there is no gaps, and not relying on an ultra-tight strap to keep them sitting happily in place. The strap is highly stretchy but a touch on the short side I would suggest, with even the largest setting being on the tighter side of acceptable from new, and only bedding in slightly over time: acceptable for my head size, but a potential issue for those with bigger brains.
The Blue Mirror lens tested is high quality, with great undistorted optics and a subtle yellow tint that takes the sting out of a bright sky without becoming unusable in overcast conditions or in the woods until the light really begins to dwindle. In the name of testing, I climbed a few pinches wearing the B30’s to test out their fog resistance and came away quite impressed. After several rides in the slop, this performance did fade as the anti-fog coating was rubbed off, but this is quite standard. The lenses remained scratch free during normal riding, including contact with branches and shrubs, but did suffer from some micro-scratches after a brief roll around on a gritty uplift-van floor. Exchanging lenses is quite tough initially due to the stiffness of the frame, but a little bit of extra persuasion and the process is the same as any.
Reasonably priced equipment that performs and looks good is always a winner in my book, and O’Neal have done exactly that with their Blade Polyacrylite and B30 goggle combo. Some minor fitment niggles may make it worthwhile to try them before you buy, but otherwise there’s very little to complain about.
Price: £149.99 /€189.99 (Helmet),
£69.99 /€69.99 (B30 Goggle)