BLUEGRASS VANGUARD CORE ENDURO
FULL FACE HELMET REVIEW
Words by Robert Johnston | Photos by Sam Howard
After Bluegrass teased us with some images back at Eurobike 2022, we were filled with excitement for their first full face enduro helmet. The result is the Bluegrass Vanguard Core; a MIPS-equipped breathable full-face helmet that carries a five star Virginia Tech rating with downhill and e-bike safety certifications, and looks pretty damn sweet too. We were excited to get one in for testing on the local trails in the UK, and it didn’t disappoint.
The Bluegrass Vanguard Core is one of the most recent offerings in the enduro-style, lightweight full face helmet market, tipping the scales at 725g for a size medium. Exceeding the requirements to obtain certification to the downhill ASTM F1952 and e-bike NTA 8876 standards, and unsurprisingly being awarded with a Five Star rating by independent helmet testers, Virginia Tech, the Bluegrass Vanguard Core is a helmet that should do a stellar job of protecting your head in a crash. Inside its composite shell is a MIPS C2 liner to offer rotational impact protection which is not typically considered in helmet testing standards but requires the Bluegrass helmet to go through MIPS independent certification protocols. The EPS protective shell with in-mold PC outer is given 24 vents to manage airflow and keep the head cool, with the vent at the mouth being equipped with a removable plastic grill to tailor the preference of protection and breathability.
Inside the EPS shell is a Safe-T Heta 360° fit system, with a dial at the rear of the helmet adjustable between three vertical positions to let the user get the fit inside the helmet dialed in. There are two thicknesses of cheek pads included with the helmet, with two different mounting positions to further tune the fit, and they are given a “C” shape to promote airflow around the head. On the chin strap you’ll find a Fidlock magnetic buckle for ease of operation; and the fixed visor is flexible with a breakaway system to ensure it has minimal impact on the head and neck in a crash. The Bluegrass Vanguard Core is available in a choice of three sizes to fit heads from 52-61cm, with four color options and a retail price of €330 / $350. There’s a cheaper option – called the Vanguard – which foregoes the mips protection liner and saves $60.
My 56cm head is fairly oval in shape, and in the size Medium Bluegrass Vanguard Core with the fit system wide open, I had a small amount of space inside the shell on the sides of my head. There was minimal wiggle room fore and aft without any sort of pressure points. In the grand scheme of lightweight full-face helmets, the inside of the Bluegrass lid feels slightly more cushioned than average – far from a dedicated downhill full face, but still quite comfortable. The chin bar is fairly short and stout, with minimal space inside for my long chin, in a similar fit to the original Fox Proframe. The opening is vast on the front of the helmet, with no impact to visibility and plenty of space for just about any goggles…or glasses if you forget them like I did on this photoshoot.
The fit system is one of the best I’ve used in a full face, with great wrap around the head and evenly distributed tightening. The two positions of the cheek pads are very close together and had me thinking they were unnecessary, until I tried the rearward position and instantly felt less comfortable. But for some riders, it could offer a more comfortable fit and is a very nice small detail. Once you’ve got the fit dialed in, the Bluegrass Vanguard Core is a mid-weight offering with a secure fit that makes it feel reassuringly safe. You still get a little of the classic MIPS “loose” feeling unless you crank the fit system down to the point that it’s crushing your head, but it’s certainly not going to fall off of your head because of this. The Vanguard Core makes less noise on your head than most when riding, with only the occasional mips “creak” creeping in.
Pedaling in the Vanguard Core is slightly cooler than average in the enduro full face realm – that’s to say you certainly feel the heat more than an open face trail lid, but given the extra protection it still moves air to a good level. The removable grill makes a big difference to breathability when you’re pedaling, instantly freeing up airflow and removing the “hot breath” sensation. However, it is nice to have it in there for lower effort, muddier or colder days, so the fact that it snaps in and out with ease and can be stowed in your pocket makes it a nice option to have. I am a big fan of the Fidlock buckle system on the strap and appreciate the small detail of the plastic piece in the end of the loose part of the strap to prevent the strap tidy from sliding off the end of it – flappy straps are a thing of the past with Bluegrass lids.
I like the looks of the Bluegrass Vanguard Core and it’s received numerous compliments on the trails, and the quality is very high too. Given that it’s about average in the price spectrum for a premium enduro full face lid, I’d say the value is reasonable too, so I think it’s safe to say that Bluegrass has knocked it out the park with this one overall.
The Wolf’s Last Word
I’ve been very impressed by the Bluegrass Vanguard Core enduro full face helmet. The fit system works well, the details are all well covered and overall there’s simply been nothing to complain about. Sure, it could always be cheaper, but helmets aren’t a place to skimp.