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Abus AirDrop vs. CliffHanger: Which is right for you?

Lightweight full-face compared with oversize half-shell

Mountain bikes are in a bit of a heyday. There are few bad options out there and even an average bike will have you riding faster, and often going bigger, than it would have just a few years ago. While that means riding is more fun than ever, it also means what we expect from our helmets should shift to match. German helmet brand ABUS has two options that take two very different approaches to providing more coverage in a trail-ready helmet. The CliffHanger and the AirDrop.

The two ABUS helmets both provide good coverage but prioritize different elements of safety and design. We’re looking at the full-face AirDrop and the more standard-looking half-shell CliffHanger to show the highlights of each style and, hopefully, help you figure out which design works best for your riding style.

ABUS CliffHanger MIPS

Starting from the traditional half-shell design, ABUS extends the CliffHanger down the back and sides of the skull to provide more coverage suitable for faster riding and harder trails. The open design keeps the CliffHanger feeling light (a medium is 350g) while eight entry ports and six large exit ports keep air moving through the EPS foam and hard shell. The helmet is designed to work with sunglasses or goggles, including an adjustable visor that moves up enough to keep goggles in place while not in use.

A Fidlock magnetic clasp is easy to use and secure. If you do fall, a MIPS liner provides rotational impact protection. ABUS also designed this half-shell to work with QUIN, its crash detection chip sensor / app combo. The CliffHanger comes in three sizes: Small, Medium and Large.

Riding the CliffHanger

The CliffHanger is immediately comfortable. The large fits on the bigger side but, with suitable range on the fit system, it was easy to get it to sit right. I tend to sit between medium and large helmets, depending on brand, and the extra coverage on the CliffHanger did occasionally bump up against some larger sunglasses (think 100%) or goggles. I could easily have sized down and still felt comfortable with the coverage and fit.  Some versions of MIPS liners can catch hair but, even with longer hair, ABUS’s design was always comfortable.


A more recent addition for ABUS, the AirDrop is the German brand’s first fixed-chinbar full face helmet. This brings the brand from trail into the realm of enduro race, downhill and eMTB. Really, anyone that wants more coverage and protection of the additional chinbar.

Designed to work with goggles or glasses, the AirDrop is, as its name suggests, a lightweight version of a full face helmet that aims to appeal to a wide range of riders. A small/medium is a very pedal-friendly 795g. ABUS includes “ambient sound channels” in the design to improve spatial awareness. There are 11 air ports in and six letting air out. The visor is adjustable, as is the Zoom Ace FF fit system. Like a traditional full face, though, the AirDrop uses double D-ring buckles.

ABUS only offers two adult sizes in the AirDrop, Small/Medium and Large/XL, though there is also a AirDrop junior (which uses a velcro visor for less careful youths).

Riding the AirDrop

While the AirDrop visibly provides similar coverage to the CliffHanger, the L/XL split size actually felt smaller on my head, like it wasn’t extending as far down the back of the skull. It was hard to get the fit dial to sit comfortably and hold the helmet in place without digging into the back of my head. If it didn’t do that, it would probably be a more familiar intro to full face helmets for riders crossing over from half shell designs. In that case, though, a Fidlock or buckle might have been nicer than the D-ring clasp. The AirDrop also didn’t play particularly well with larger goggle designs.

The AirDrop’s light weight did make it nice to pedal in, especially with ample space and ventilation around the chin bar. Like some other lightweight designs, though, there was some creaking from the helmet shell while riding.

CliffHanger vs AirDrop

After spending time with both helmets, the CliffHanger has quickly joined my regular rotation. The additional coverage makes it a go-to any time I’m heading out for trails on the upper limits of my abilities and it is both comfortable and cool enough that it was fine on hot summer days.

Since the AirDrop’s fit system created a persistent pressure point that I couldn’t get rid of, it hasn’t seen as much use. If it did fit comfortably (and helmet fit is very personal), it would be great for shuttle days or hitting a bike park on a trail bike. With its light weight, it’s also a reasonable option of you’re pedalling to trails on the edge of your comfort zone where you want more protection. It’s not as light as a half-shell but, since it doesn’t rely only on padding to stay in place, it can have better ventilation than some other full face helmets. The fit dial will be more familiar for anyone crossing over from a half-shell design. It is ABUS’ first swing at a lightweight full-face and, though there are some fit issues, it shows good promise for that purpose. It just won’t be great for everyone.

In Canada, the CliffHanger MIPS retails for $300.00, putting it on the premium end of the scale. The added protection of the AirDrop MIPS is $435, making it competitive with other lightweight fullface options.