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Review

Giro Merit Spherical Helmet & Smith Bobcat Glasses

Words Deniz Merdano
Photos Deniz Merdano - Unless noted
Date Mar 24, 2022
Reading time

My pre-ride checklist can be long considering all the gear I need to drag with me. But the list always starts with Helmet, shoes, gloves, glasses. The helmet selection will depend on what ride is on that day's menu but if it's a from-the-door pedal, a half-lid and some clear glasses will suffice.

To set the scene, I have a size medium head with a 58cm circumference. Most of that matter resides on my forehead and what a forehead it is! A forehead nicely shields a brain that constantly assesses risk factors on the trail; whether lines will be walked or ridden, and if they're being ridden, at what speed and style. All of these calculations happen without my awareness, many times a ride. I treat the possibility of a crash involving my head seriously and like to wear a decent helmet. I also value the shit out of my eyes. Without them, there would be no joy and I do not ride without glasses... ever.

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Giro Merit.

Giro Merit Spherical Helmet

Giro's Merit Spherical helmet was destined to be reviewed by another member of the NSMB party but an unfortunate accident sidelined our brimless hero. Having similarly-sized heads, I took on the challenge. Of course I'd rather not have my friend sidelined but I was happy to step up to help out.

The Merit is second from the top of Giro's line of 5 half-shell trail helmets. Which means it packs plenty of technology to help justify the 300 CAD price tag. For its Spherical MiPS tech, Giro reimagined the concept of rotational impact protection and separated the rotation from the fit and adjustment elements of the helmet. I know riders who have sworn off MiPS helmets mostly due to fit issues. Some hate the hair-grabbing yellow nubbins of the system even though, they may make for a safer helmet.

When my uncle climbed on his motorbike without a helmet, he told me it was because he didn't want to survive a big crash knowing what the after math would have been. Some nut jobs will take death over severe injury. I personally will take more protection in helmet technology any day if it means I get to read one more Min/Max article.

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When I consider crashes involving the head, I think of 3 consequential impacts: First is the helmet hitting the ground, second is your skull hitting the inside of the helmet, third is the brain hitting inside of your skull and then rebounding to the opposite side. Full stop. If we can create a 4th layer that is Spherical MiPS, the potential to slow down the deceleration by turning it into rotation, we may get the ticket to walk away from some crashes that are destined to cause brain bruising and concussions. The helmet features a multi-density construction for protection from high and low speed impacts. An EPS layer is designed for high-speed crashes while the EPP layer is designed for lower speed impacts.

The Giro Merit has a slim design that is a lot less bulky than my go-to POC Kortal lid. The POC had my attention when I purchased it due to its bulky reassurance. I figured that the more helmet around me, the greater the security blanket. That may not be a proven theory, but at least it's not disproven. When I put the Giro on my head the first time, I was delighted with the fit and feel of the shell. No pressure points, no weird rubbing, and light as a feather. The dark blue/grey colour scheme wasn't as offensive as some of the other options and I was glad the green one was not the review piece for the sake of the photos.

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MiPS Spherical hidden.

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MiPS Spherical peek-a-boo.

The rear fit dial has a solid feel and size, and is easy to turn in either direction, even with gloves on. The pads are soft but come in 6 separate pieces. This will make washing them quite the chore and I will lose one in the process for sure. I have to give the TLD A3 helmet the edge for the pad game. At the same price point, it comes with a whole spare set of pads and visor hardware. That's a bingo and a half!

The Merit is comfy as hell and has been accompanying me on many rides in the past few weeks. Even though I have been making an effort to wear my full face a lot, it is nice to feel protected with a lightweight half shell on pedal-prominent rides. The ventilation seems to be spot on and air flows through the helmet even when speeds are lower. I could not find an easy way to slip the Smith Glasses into this helmet for uphill riding, which is a bit of a bummer. The more expensive Giro Manifest has glass grabbing rubber feet for this purpose.

The Giro Merit Helmet retails for 300 CAD.

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135mm Lens width and 59mm lens height.

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Adjustable nose piece.

Smith Bobcat Glasses with Photochromic lenses

While the Wildcat might be Smith's best selling riding glasses, my face (as I mentioned earlier) along with my personality don't fit well with their size and presence. Lucky for me, Smith made a smaller, slimmer version of the Wildcats; the Bobcat. Until the Bobcats showed up at my door, I was happily staring at the world behind Smith Ruckus photochromic lenses. Angular in design, they are a great sport glasses that are suitable for on or off-road adventures. I am a big fan of photochromic lenses and even though the transition from light to dark is not instantaneous, I find the convenience hard to resist. Unless I am in the alpine all day, I do not need the mirrored lenses. In the dead of winter, clear lenses do overtime as the woods are dark and deep around these parts. Luckily, Smith has a variety of lens retention designs that allow for quick lens swaps.

The Bobcats' photochromic lens has a VLT (Visible Light Transmission) rating of 20-85% which works well for full sun all the way to overcast days in the woods. A clear VLT 95% lens is great for the darkest and rainiest Shore days. The adjustable nose bridge and featherweight design makes the Bobcat a great all day choice which won't hurt your nose after 5 hours on your face. All Smith eyewear comes with a hard case and 2 lenses. One feature lens (photochromic, mirrored, Chromapop) and one clear or lightly tinted low light lens.

Smith also includes a lifetime warranty which is insane for glasses. I've seen a few accidentally broken Smith glasses get warrantied with no questions asked.

Smith Bobcats are 250 to 280 CAD depending on your selected lens.

Over 600 CAD for this combination is a lot of dough to shell out no doubt. I purchased a similar combo - the POC Kortal and Smith Ruckus - not so long ago and felt that the technology and warranty were worth the investment.

As I said I will not ride helmetless or naked eyed. I will also not look through shitty optics. DO your research and pick your protection wisely.

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Comments

craw
Cr4w
6 months, 1 week ago
+4 Pete Roggeman Andy Eunson Vik Banerjee Timer

Quality eye protection is a must! I do a lot of dumb stuff every day but riding without glasses is not one of them. Admittedly it took a while to find some that I liked, had great optics and good fog performance and then even longer to agree to pay for them. But I've worn them on every single ride in the last few years and wouldn't think of going out without them. For me it was 100% S2s but whatever works, use them.

Reply

denomerdano
Deniz Merdano
6 months, 1 week ago
0

Fog performence is a tough one. Smiths do fog up with their single layer optics, But seem to clear fast enough as soon as there is air flow.

Reply

craw
Cr4w
6 months, 1 week ago
0

My S2s do really well. If I stand around too long sure they fog up a bit but under use they've been great.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
6 months, 1 week ago
+2 Timer Cr4w

If you go from high output to low/no output in damp conditions when you're sweating, you have to take 'em off until you start moving again. True of all glasses - I just don't think we can get around that in our conditions.

Reply

Timer
Timer
6 months, 1 week ago
0

I sometimes use anti-fog liquids meant for diving goggles on my riding glasses. Doesn't entirely eliminate fogging but reduces the need to take them of quite drastically.

Reply

craw
Cr4w
6 months, 1 week ago
0

I've solved it by generally not standing around for too long. But if we do I slide them right down my nose to let lots of air flow. Luckily they're decently vented and are clear moments after I get going again. Definitely the first glasses I've had that fit well and generally very manageable for fogging.

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
6 months, 1 week ago
0

100% agree. I have some Oakley's with photochromatic lenses that work well in all conditions during the day. No issues with fogging even on wet days if I keep moving at least walking pace. I feel naked if I am riding and not wearing them [forgotten at home once in a while].

Reply

mrock
Mike Rock Smith
6 months, 1 week ago
+1 Deniz Merdano

At least for myself, I've come to the conclusion that there is no pair of glasses out there that doesn't struggle somewhat with fogging given the conditions we deal with here on the Shore. Three quarters of the year will be in conditions where you are likely to experience some kind of fogging on any pair of glasses.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
6 months, 1 week ago
+1 Deniz Merdano

I agree with the first part - in the truly wet conditions we can get, any set of glasses will struggle. But I don't think that's true for 3/4 of the year. In my experience it's truly bad Oct-Feb, more or less. YMMV of course.

I'll repeat what I've said many times regarding glasses and fogging:

1) As we just said, your expectations have to be reasonable. If it's really rainy and mild and you're working hard, it's hard to avoid some fog. To combat this, I don't wear them while climbing, and pull them out of a dry pocket or bag at the top. I also try to keep a lens cloth handy, but in a dry place.

2) Fit is so important. The temptation is to go big (great for protection and sight lines) but if it fits 'too well' then it may be creating a seal which is a bad thing - you need some airflow to help clear that condensation. Look for a secure fit so it stays on your head, but not necessarily one where the lens or frame contours perfectly to the shape of your face.

Reply

denomerdano
Deniz Merdano
6 months, 1 week ago
+1 Pete Roggeman

Lens cloths! keep the glasses in them in a bag away from your back on the way up and pop them on on the fast descents. 

That is the only way I have fully managed to cope with this myself.  On a more pedally ride that I wasnt eyewear on I just deal with some fogging.

Reply

andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
6 months, 1 week ago
+1 Pete Roggeman

The costly Oakley glasses with the advancer thing works pretty well for me. I can fog them if I wear them xc skiing on a damp day but not on the bike which for me, is really impressive. I can fog those Ryders with the anti fog coating.

Reply

khai
khai
6 months, 1 week ago
+1 Deniz Merdano

I'm pretty sure that Bell pioneered this style of inner/outer ball/socket rotational protection in their moto helmets.  The mid tier ones had (traditional) MIPS and the top tier had their own homegrown (or at least not labelled MIPS) solution.  Seems pretty clever and eliminates a lot of the issues that people had with the original yellow plastic liner - primarily the hair catching and the squeaking.  Not sure if it's heavier, and from the looks of this doesn't add bulk - another big win.  Your idea of "thicker is better" makes some sense but there's also a line of thinking that (all else being equal) a smaller helmet is superior for protection as there's less leverage applied on glancing or non-direct blows.  Kali is a big proponent of this (along with the belief that most helmets are too hard).  

Is the fit of this lid oval, or more rounded?  It looks kind of oval from the pictures, but you also referenced the TLD A3, which is one of the few helmets I've tried on that fits my round head AND doesn't drop down over my eyes when I do the "shake test".

Everyone has their own financial limitations but having recently suffered a concussion, I'll pay more for features that I think will help to keep me safer.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
6 months, 1 week ago
+2 Deniz Merdano OldManBike

There is something to that - Bell and Giro are owned by the same parent co., after all, and MiPS Spherical is proprietary. A few of Bell's MTB helmets also have MiPS Spherical tech.

Reply

Heinous
Heinous
6 months, 1 week ago
0

The Giro spherical MIPs has my attention. My TLD is great, but in large g outs, drops, the occasional badly gauged square edge the helmet rotates forward on the mips liner enough to be very distracting and get in field of vision. It’s 1-2 times a ride.

It’s become a bit of a deal breaker.

Reply

kcy4130
kcy4130
6 months, 1 week ago
+3 Chad K Andy Eunson danimaniac

Ah yes, when trying on helmets in a bike shop always remember to shake your head every which way like a demented bobble head to make sure the helmet isn't prone to undesirable shifting around. Plus it makes the highschool student who just started working for the bike shop silently wonder if you're buying the helmet for biking or just for walking along on sidewalks.

Reply

andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
6 months, 1 week ago
+4 Pete Roggeman kcy4130 JVP Cr4w

And bring your ridding glasses along to check for fit. For me, a lot of helmets will interfere with the glasses.

Reply

JVP
JVP
6 months, 1 week ago
+1 Andy Eunson

Clack! Clack! Clack!  The sound of one particular pair of glasses banging against the bottom of my helmet over every bump. They were switched to urban/commuter duty. I can't do the big glasses that are so trendy (they also fog too much).

Reply

craw
Cr4w
6 months, 1 week ago
0

Plus actually try them on. I had a pair of Smith glasses that fit great and over the summer I had a crash where I banged up my nose and after that the glasses never fit right again. I had a slight change to the width of the center of my nose the glasses would only fit above this new notch (too close!) or below (too far!).

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
6 months, 1 week ago
0

That sounds like you need to size down. And for sure that would be a deal breaker.

Reply

denomerdano
Deniz Merdano
6 months, 1 week ago
0

Does your TLD helmet have a 3-4 step shell adjustment inside?

towards the back of the helmet. YOu may want to adjust it so that the resting position put the front of the helmet higher up. Just a thought.

Reply

Heinous
Heinous
6 months, 1 week ago
0

Yes. I’ve tried this in different settings and had similar helmet adjustments in the past. I’m going to run a tiny Velcro dot between the two layers to manage it until the merit arrives.

Reply

denomerdano
Deniz Merdano
6 months, 1 week ago
0

I figured you may have tried this already.

Velcro would effectively be a Mips damping! kind of cool. I've heard of people running packing tape between Mips and shell layers to quiet down squeaky helmets. Go for it

Reply

kos
Kos
6 months, 1 week ago
0

So no annoying yellow plastic MIPS liner with the Spherical MIPS system, right? Apologies if I didn't read closely enough.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
6 months, 1 week ago
+1 Kos

Correct. MiPS Spherical is entirely different. Think instead of inner and outer layers of an onion but they're both parts of the helmet. Giro calls it ball and socket and the interface btwn the two layers is like that but I think socket in socket is more  accurate. 

I wrote about it here: https://nsmb.com/articles/evolved-protection-mips-spherical/

Reply

AverageAdventurer
AverageAdventurer
6 months, 1 week ago
0

This is a helmet that they took direct advice from people who saw the manifest and improved it. The spherical mips aspect of this helmet includes the entirety of the outer shell where the manifest omits the sides and bottom rear of the helmet. If a portion of your impact zone has no mips coverage at all is it even worth it? 

In the same vein I have been wondering if in full face helmets mips has as significant of an effect. If the mips liner stops prior to your cheek pads which play a critical role in fit; in what scenarios is a mips full face better? I've been hard pressed to find any studies that address that directly. 

Despite all that all of my helmets including full faces have mips but the new poc full face without it has me wondering.

Reply

GiveitsomeWelly
Karl Fitzpatrick
6 months, 1 week ago
0

Nevermind the cost of mtbing in general let alone optics, I sweat too much no matter the conditions for any glasses to work. The sweat ends up dripping on the inside of the lens then its all over. Experimenting with glasses that cost this much is just not realistic so a decent mudguard is best solution I've found that works.

Reply

Timer
Timer
6 months, 1 week ago
0

If the style police will let you, you might try goggles with dual-lenses.

Reply

olaa
olaa
6 months, 1 week ago
0

Agreed, same here! For winch-and-plummet riding a good fastening solution for the glasses is a godsend. That way I can sweat tons on the way up, dry off a touch at the top and then have fresh glasses. 

Another sweat issue that can happen with spherical (i have the Bell Super air) is that sweat gets between the shells. You don't notice it when the helmet doesn't move too much, but when heading down that sweat is released when the shells start moving a touch. Pretty scary to have a flood on the inside of your glasses 10 seconds into a descent.

Reply

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