Gear Review: Biltwell Gringo Helmet
Story and photo by David Owens
For Christmas, I gave myself a new helmet. I’ve been alternating between a skid lid type half and a 3/4 helmet, but with some recent incidents during my commute, I decided it was time for a full-face.
A good chunk of my ride to work is on a raised highway that crosses over a river and some swampland. The road has concrete “Jersey barriers” on each side to keep folks from driving off into the muck below. Debris on the road tends to build up, because there’s nowhere for it to go. It just bounces back and forth between the barriers. The road is also heavy on truck traffic so all that debris gets flung up in the air a good bit. A couple of recent near misses to the face told me it was time to add a full-face helmet to my riding gear.
I decided to go with a Biltwell Gringo, coupled with a Biltwell bubble shield. The choice was easy - I just like the retro look of the helmet. The Gringo is designed to mimic early full face helmets and its stripped down look is matched by its bare bones features - no vents or built-in visors. However being from Biltwell, the fit and finish are perfect. Despite the old school looks, the helmet benefits from modern materials including “a seamless injection-molded ABS outer shell, shock-absorbing EPS inner shell and a hand-stitched comfort liner with open-cell foam and brushed Lycra construction.” These modern materials help the Gringo to weigh in at less than three pounds. In addition to being light, the helmet is super comfortable and fits like a glove (if you were to put a glove on your head I guess). Anyway, I read some reviews that said the Gringo runs small, but the sizing chart at biltwellinc.com was right on for me.
The polycarbonate bubble shield completes the retro package while providing some extra protection. Bubble shields are definitely an acquired taste - there are many haters out there. Thankfully the Biltwell doesn’t reek of plastic or chemicals, which has been a complaint of many who’ve worn bubble shields. It does create some drag when turning my head, but so far has not been ripped off by the wind, which some folks have also complained about.
All in all, at $24.95 list for the shield and $159.95 for the Gringo, you get a well-made, lightweight and comfortable DOT helmet that looks really sharp. The Gringo is lacking many of the bells and whistles of modern helmets, but instead of being a negative, that’s really the point isn’t it?
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