Sweet Protection's Falconer MIPS is the latest iteration of its high-end road helmet, and while it lacks the snazzy, magnet-attached infills of the older Aero version, it gains valuable crash protection from MIPS. It's a light and noticeably well-ventilated lid that's comfortable and secure, though it sits pretty high – as does the price.
- Pros: Good fit, cool and light, understated style, beautifully made
- Cons: Coverage doesn't come down far, expensive
While the Falconer lacks an actual 'II' anywhere on it, Sweet Protection lists it as an official sequel, available either with MIPS or, for £20 less, without. It has the same sharp styling you may recognise, which is to say it combines large, futuristic slashes of venting with understated matt/gloss paint. Better still, it never looks any less sharply excellent no matter how closely you peer... as well it should for the price.
Sweet Protection loves a good acronym and claims this features both DOV and STACC ventilation, but doesn't tell you what those mean. So I'll tell you: firstly, that it digitally modelled airflow to make sure it worked, and secondly there's a hole above your ear leading to an internal channel. This is to cool the blood in the superficial temporal artery – the one on the side of your head that pulses angrily at times like this – and, quite frankly, it works. This helmet is breezy.
The test period has been between chilly and cold, so I can't comment on summer clime conditions (if only), but the Falconer was noticeably colder than other helmets, to the point of requiring a hat when the others didn't. Then again, it also sits higher than many, which is good for glasses wearers – it's way above interfering – but less good for coverage. That surely helps with cooling too.
To be fair, my 57cm head is right on the upper limit for this Medium shell, so it's possible the Large would sit a little lower. Nevertheless, I found it a good shape and a snug but comfy fit, and in fact thought during the first ride that it was loose – only to discover, on tightening the easy-to-use clickwheel, that even a single click more was way too tight. It's testament to the cradle's comfort that it didn't feel fully tightened when it was. Tragically, Sweet Protection hasn't thought of an acronym yet.
That loose sensation (which soon went away) is down to the MIPS liner, which allows your head a few degrees of twist within the shell itself. The idea – developed by brain surgeon Hans von Holst – is to reduce the rotational forces that actually cause a lot of brain injuries. (Read more here.) Certainly the Falconer MIPS is both pleasingly cool and light (if not as light as the 280g claimed, by 11g), so it's hard to see a downside beyond the £20 premium.
The cradle adjusts at the rear for excellent comfort and grip – it's easy to position right beneath the curve of your skull – and while the broad plastic spreaders below your ears are a faff to tweak, they certainly do the job of preventing any pressure spots.
In addition to the two shell sizes there are two further colours (white or blue), and helmets arrive with two thicknesses of pad for personal fine tuning. It's all very lovely. As well it should be.
At £200 you've got your pick of the market, though you can still spend more if you like – the excellent Giro Aether MIPS being a case in point at £260. But it's not hard to find serious competitors at lower prices, such as the £150 Bontrager Velocis MIPS, the £130 Bell Stratus MIPS we recently judged 'nearly perfect,' or the £115 Bontrager Circuit MIPS.
If it's all this but deeper coverage you're after, then the Oakley AR05 is worth a proper look at the £200 point. However, while looks are subjective, it's hard not to think that Sweet Protection's Falconer II MIPS is a premium helmet that's got them all beaten for style if not, by any vast degree, substance.
High comfort, safety and style – for a price that's higher still
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sweet Protection Falconer MIPS helmet
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Sweet Protection says: "The Falconer II MIPS Helmet is a top-of-the-line helmet for fast-paced cycling." The finish, features, design and price all suit that statement well.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The company is keen on acronyms, and explains them like this: "Special features include STACC ventilation, easy adjustment with Occigrip turn-dial and comfort pads. This model is equipped with the MIPS Brain Protection System, a low friction layer solution designed to reduce rotational forces transferred to the brain."
Neat, sharp edges where materials join, lovely matt paint and obvious attention to detail. It all adds up to a quality feel.
Comfy, secure and good for cooling.
Excellent build bodes well.
Slightly heavier than claimed at 291g (Medium), but feels light in use.
Well-shaped, adjustable cradle is secure without being constrictive.
With MIPS helmets starting at a quarter of the Falconer's price, it's hard to justify this from a pure protection point of view. The high quality, style and cooling come at a premium.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Stays put comfortably, doesn't interfere with glasses, gives good cooling and promises strong protection.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The overall quality.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Sits very high, leaving the back of the skull a little exposed.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There are more expensive choices, but many more helmets with matching or similar features go for significantly less.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe – at a discount.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is a very good helmet, so giving it less than an 8 seems unfair – the price is high, yes, but some are higher still. Also, the detailing and quality of finish are very much in keeping with its premium positioning. You're getting what you pay for.
About the tester
I usually ride: GT GTR Series 3 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mountain biking