SWEET PROTECTION ARBITRATOR
MIPS HELMET REVIEW
Words by Sourpatch
Photos by Dusten Ryen
With eMTBs becoming more and more popular it seems most brands are pushing their convertible helmet offerings aside for more favorable lightweight full-faces. Who can blame them, I’ve always thought convertibles looked chincy and cheap. That said, Sweet Protection decided to enter the chat with their DH-certified Arbitrator MIPS helmet. In the world of convertible helmets, the Arbitrator flies completely under the radar…and looks damn good doing it.
As mentioned above, the Sweet Protection Arbitrator MIPS is a convertible helmet that is DH-certified. It holds SGS EN1078, ASTM1952, and CPSC 1203 certifications for helmet safety. The Arbitrator has a four-piece in-molded shell that uses variable polycarbonate outer shell thicknesses plus a Zytel (Nylon Resin) frame. The chin guard is comprised of carbon fiber to add strength in crucial areas. The chin guard connects to the main helmet by a pair of located at the front of the helmet and a single latch in the rear. Sweet Protection has employs two types of ventilation technology, DOV and STACC. DOV, or Digitally Optimized Ventilation, is the venting design which promises to ensure that air flows well through the vents and internal channels at a wide range of speeds. The STACC, or Superficial Temporal Artery Cooling Channel, refers to the front vents which feature an internal channel that runs along the temporal artery and promises to cool this area without leaving it exposed to damage.
Moving further into the interior of the Arbitrator helmet, we have an “advanced” EPS liner. This EPS liner has been constructed with a variable bridge and channel volume to optimize impact protection performance. Sweet Protection has spec’d the helmet with soft, molded comfort pads that have been wrapped in an anti-allergenic and moisture wicking fabric. To ensure the end user gets a proper fit, Sweet Protection includes two sets of pads in varying thicknesses. Once the pad fit has been finalized, the overall fit is finished out with the adjustable Occigrip Turn Dial, which is adjustable in both reach and height. In the half-shell configuration, a standard buckle setup is used, meanwhile in the full-face configuration the Arbitrator chin guard strap uses a ratchet style buckle, with the standard buckle straps tucked away.
The Sweet Protection Arbitrator helmet retails for $349.95 and is available in two sizes, S/M (53-56cm) and the tested M/L (56-59cm). The Arbitrator weighed in at 1,004 grams in its full-face configuration and 548 grams as a half-shell on my scales.
When we got the press release for the Arbitrator, we could not believe that the helmet was a convertible…I instantly called dibs and the waiting game had begun. Fast forward a bit and the helmet finally arrived, that feeling of disbelief was still there even after inspecting the helmet. I went through the process of converting the helmet a couple times to become familiar with the steps. It is a fairly quick and easy process overall. Going from full-face to half-shell takes all of 5 seconds: just undo the rear latch; swing it down and slide the chin bar forward out of the view port mounts. Going from the half-shell to full-face setup takes a little more time as there is an extra step. After running the aforementioned steps in reverse, the half-shell straps need to be tucked into the chin guard straps to keep them out the way. This step has proven to be a pain in the butt more times than not, as the buckles need to go in just right to go unnoticed and retain that initial comfort when in full-face mode.
I have spent the gist of my time with the Arbitrator in its full-face configuration with most of the test days being out on one of our favorite eMTB downhill loops, plus a couple bike park days. The helmet is far more comfortable than some of the pedal-friendly full-faces I have worn previously like the Smith Mainline and IXS Trigger, however where it exceeds in comfort it lacks in airflow. It did not take long for me to notice that the helmet runs a bit warm on longer climbs, even when with the goggles off. The helmet’s warmness was not a bother until the temperatures start reaching the 80’s and higher, with added heat coming from the sun beating down on the helmet on clear sky days. Once speeds picked up on descents, the helmet would offer a reasonable amount of cooling, but as soon as I would come to a stop the interior temp would start rising, sometimes prompting a quick removal until riding continued. On warmer days, the helmet was reserved only for chairlift-equipped bike park laps. The Ratchet Chin Guard strap is a nice little addition, way easier to use than the standard D-Ring loop and possibly a little stronger than a standard buckle.
In its half-shell configuration, the Arbitrator still shares many of the pros and cons that it has as a full-face. It is still a notably comfortable helmet, but its warmness is still present. Not as bad with the extra airflow, but I still noticed that the top of my head would get warmer than usual on photo and film days. The Occigrip adjuster does a great job of retaining the helmets fit, I have only had to readjust it a couple times at no fault to the Arbitrator but due to hair cuts and such. While I prefer wearing glasses in this configuration, goggles can be easily accommodated for full endurbro looks.
The Wolf’s Last Word
If you are looking for a good looking, DH-certified convertible helmet, the Sweet Protection Arbitrator may be just what you need at what I consider to be a fair value. The helmet converts to-and-from a half-shell quickly and with ease, with the only real pain in the process being the stuffing of the half-shell straps into the full-face straps. The Arbitrator offers a great fit, is comfortable, and the viewport can accommodate a wide array of goggles. That said, the helmet does run a little warm despite Sweet’s claims about their digitally optimized ventilation. Ideal conditions in my opinion for the full-face configuration would be anything under 75-degrees if you are pedaling/ebiking, or any temp within reason if you are riding a chair lift. The half-shell configuration runs a little cooler obviously but can still be a tad warm.
Convertible helmets offer something other helmets cannot – convenience and value. You only have to spend money once to have a helmet that can cover a variety of riding styles. And if space is an issue for you like it is me, you also only have to worry about storing/carrying one helmet versus two or more, adding real value to the proposition.
Weight: 1,004 g – full-face / 548 g – half-shell
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