Abus Cliffhanger MIPS helmet review – well specced but a bit bitey for baldies

Can Abus’ premium trail/enduro helmet match the established brands for performance protection?

Abus Cliffhanger MIPS helmet
(Image: © GuyKesTV)

Bike Perfect Verdict

Well made, reasonably ventilated MIPS lid with optional ‘alert chip’ and three sizes, but rear cradle loosens easily and can chomp bald heads. High RRP too.

Pros

  • +

    Decent headspace ventilation

  • +

    Magnetic buckle and ear clear straps

  • +

    Plays nicely with glasses and goggles

  • +

    Optional crash alarm

  • +

    40% off crash replacement

Cons

  • -

    High RRP (but often at sale prices)

  • -

    Height adjuster moves very easily

  • -

    Rear cradle can bite bald heads

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Bike security specialists, Abus, also produce helmets including a new MTB range including  full face enduro to trail/XC options with or without MIPS protection. The Cliffhanger MIPS is the flagship all-rounder of the family and has an extensive feature list to prove it. Official pricing is on the high side though and the pony tail-friendly cradle can bite baldies.

Abus Cliffhanger MIPS helmet from the rear

The Cliffhanger gets a three-piece, three-color hardshell arrangement (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Design and specification

The Cliffhanger build is relatively complex in that there are three hardshell elements (upper, lower/mid and exhaust bar) moulded onto the EPS inner. It also has twin ‘ActiCage’ bars embedded in the foam, but it only has a single EPS density (some lids are dual density).

The 14 vents are mid sized but open into tall vaulting inside the helmet, so there’s plenty of space for cooling air to circulate above the MIPS liner. You can also add Abus’s QUIN chip for automatic impact notification to a loved one to come and scrape you up if you properly bin it.

The straps get a wide, fore and aft adjustable ‘TriVider’ (Abus love a buzz name) splitter to keep them well clear of your ears and a Fidlock magnetic buckle. The ‘Zoom Ace MTB' cradle sits on a notched ‘zip-tie’ style section to give 18 different vertical positions.

The peak has three soft notch positions and you can just about see the edges of it in the lowest position so it has a vestigial purpose in terms of sheltering your eyes from the sun. There’s enough space for goggles underneath when flipped up too but despite Abus’s claims, of all the glasses I tried, only one really slotted in securely from the back of the head.

Abus Cliffhanger MIPS helmet interior

Edge mounted straps and vaulted design help convenience and cooling (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Performance

At 361g for a medium, the Cliffhanger is comparable to other top spec trail/enduro helmets like the Specialized Ambush. Three sizes make it easier to fine tune basic fit and the amount of height variation in the cradle looks like a win at first. Though, it didn’t take much riding for the notches to start slipping if I hunkered down through a compression, or otherwise flexed my neck hard when riding. The hard edges of the dial also dug into my occipital lone (the lump on the back of your bonce) painfully, though that won’t be an issue if unlike me you’ve still got hair.

Otherwise, ventilation is decent, with the amount of headspace particularly helps increase heat dissipation past the MIPS cradle and reduce sweating on slow, hot climbs. There’s enough connected flow through to induce a cooling breeze when speed picks up too, though not as much as a dedicated XC or gravel/road lid. Having the padding in a single piece makes it easy to remove, wash and refit too.

The magnetic closure and straps mounted on the edge of the lid (rather than inside) are also a real convenience win when putting the Cliffhanger on. Having flat straps well away from my ears made it a quiet helmet overall and underlined the top quality vibe. You also get 40 percent off crash replacement to help sweeten the deal.

Abus Cliffhanger love bite on back of a bald head

The rear cradle can slip under load and bite painfully into bald heads (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Verdict

The helmet market is pretty crowded now, but the Cliffhanger is well worth a look as a well made all-rounder with more accurate sizing splits and better designed strap array than many. If you shop around you can get it at a more reasonable price than it’s high RRP too.

It definitely suits ponytail owners more than baldies though and the increasingly insecure cradle height adjust is a concern.

Tech specs: Abus Cliffhanger MIPS helmet

  • Price: $199.99 / £179.99 / €199.99
  • Sizes: S (51-55cm), M (54-58cm), L (57-61cm)
  • Options: Grey, Copper (tested), Black
  • Weight: 361g M (tested)
Guy Kesteven
Technical-Editor-at-Large

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since launch in 2019. He started writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.

Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg