Thursday, 13 June 2013

Biltwell Gringo: The Road Test

Back in mid-May we introduced Biltwell’s new-for-2013 Gringo full-face helmet, saying that we hoped to bring you a full test sometime in the near future. Well thanks to the guys from Biltwell in California, we’ve been able to put a Gringo through its paces and give it a few appropriate prods, pokes and sniffs to see just how well built it is (see what I did there?).

I don’t think I’ve ever been so impatient for the postman to deliver a helmet-sized parcel. When it finally landed on my desk here at Chateau Thruxton, I was like a kid on Christmas day, hastily opening the box to see what was inside. As I unboxed the helmet, I was struck by how light the package seemed to be; indeed at one point I wondered if the lads from Murrieta had mistakenly shipped out an empty box! But indeed there was a Gringo in there, much to my delight and relief. I have yet to actually weigh it, but it is much lighter than my X-Lite X801-RR, despite not having a carbon fibre shell.

Another thing that surprised me pleasantly was the colour. In the photographs I had seen, the flat titanium colour looked a bit dull and boring, but the photos don’t do it justice because in the flesh it is really fantastic. Combined with the total lack of branding, it gives the helmet an air of sophisticated, sleek minimalism. And just like the metal it’s named for, the paintwork seems to change hue slightly depending on how the light falls on it. In a word, classy.

Hola, Gringo!

Moving along to the inside of the crash hat, we find a black brushed Lycra lining with orange stitching and two orange mesh inserts on the crown. The lining is also where Biltwell have chosen to place their branding with a neat looking tag sewn onto the rearward part of the liner. There again, everything is spot on, giving the Gringo the look and feel of a helmet twice its price from one of the “big name” brands. The only criticism I can make is that the lining isn’t detachable so that you can hand- or machine-wash it. The cheek pads are detachable, but that’s more to be able to renew them when they get old and worn. Perhaps this is a point that Biltwell could take into consideration for next-gen Gringos. One interesting touch is the quilted padding on the inside of the chin bar, also done in black brushed Lycra with orange stitching. It’s a totally gratuitous but nonetheless very pleasant touch.

Anyway, that’s enough greasy fingerprints on the helmet, let’s put the damn thing on and go burn some rubber! For the dynamic test, I tried it out in various configurations: without a visor and wearing sunglasses, with a bubble visor, with goggles and finally with the tinted visor from my trusty Airborn open-face lid.[...]