Club, Endurance and Isle of Man racer, been riding bikes since 1970 something, got the bug sitting on the back of my dad’s 400 Four. First ride was an Italjet followed by RM80 and YZ125 dirt bikes, current bikes range from agricultural to exotic. Writing about bikes for four years.
Your helmet is a very special thing. It's also a big investment to make along with the rest of your protective gear and your choice is huge. Once you have left the shop the one thing you can't return is a helmet. Today the choice of helmets is as big as it’s ever been, so we decided to bring five of the best together and put them through their paces.
Developed with Rossi, uber carbon and Italian styling. If you have the budget and looking for a race thoroughbred, spending most of your time with your head on the tank then consider this helmet. Everything is optimised for riding in a tuck position. It is not the lightest carbon but lighter than most. It screams Italian style and offers a great compact fit.
The X-Spirit III is really comfortable; I would go as far as to say one of the most comfortable helmets I have worn. The interior has well placed modular pads and it felt super snug straight out of the box. Vision above the eye line is great, you can see further ahead Shoei’s latest race helmet – hence the aggressive, distinctive styling and bright graphics.
Understated performance helmet. The SR2 looks and feels like a quality product. The graphics are simple and tasteful. The helmet fits well and is really comfortable with a coolmax lining, this helmet offers uber forward and peripheral vision.
The S2 is the touring shell which is less compact, the SR2 has the race profile but also works well riding in a ¾ or upright position.
Bell have a long standing traditional brand, they have developed their helmets on the race track, both on and off road. The new unique safety Flex technology is something to write home about. The Race star is carbon, but heavier than competitor carbon as it has the flex tech. This helmet is more of an all rounder with the less aggressive compact race optimised shape.
They are available at a competitive price point.
Another all rounder, my historical helmet of choice. This helmet does everything it says it does on the tin. It is comfortable, great airflow stable and safety assured. There is a new pinlock ready visor removal and lock system. Less vista view but improved over the RX-GP. Arai always offer great after care service.
With almost identical variants and tested over the last twelve months. All the helmets were tested in all weather conditions. All 5 were used at extreme speeds on track and testing grounds including Bosch's high speed oval in Frankfurt.
Considerations were: Safety elements and innovation, Visibility, Comfort, Ventilation, How stable and easy is the helmet at high and low speeds, How easy is it to operate vents and visors on the move. All of these helmets performed well, some performed better but on balance these helmets did everything better than their competitors so they were chosen as our top five.
All 5 are in a similar price ranging from £599 to £995
AGV Pista GP R – Carbon
The AGV Pista GP R the apex predator helmet has been developed and tested by Rossi.
Full 3K carbon thoroughbred, meant for aggressive riding, i.e. track days or racing. The profile is designed for chin on the tank riding.
This helmet has an aggressive wind slicing angular front end with a sleek wind tunnel developed shell. Super light and extremely strong with styling from Italy. It has a price tag to match.
Visibility - Field of view left and right and the up and down view is the most any helmet offers. The Pista should be renamed Vista View. Alternatively, skylight. (degree upper view angle)
One click visor lock mechanism in the centre making it easy to use for left and right handed. Operation is really easy and can be done with wearing gloves. You simply push a large button and lift.
Locking the visor down has no fiddly buttons you just close the visor down and it locks. There is a stop gap, with an intermediate stage gap allowing you to ride with the visor cracked open. To lock down you just push the visor down and it locks. The visor is a class 1 optical which gives perfect clarity, removal is is effortless and simple. You pull down on the spring loaded tab on either side and at it pops off. The new visor has been increased from 3mm to 5mm, it has a Pinlock recess and comes with the tear off tabs as standard.
Shell Shape - Intermediate oval head shape. This shape gives high speed stability and zero buffet but also makes it a touch harder to turn your head at extreme speeds.
The R has a new increased stability spoiler reduces drag by reducing the vacuum that is created behind your head that pulls your head back at speed.
Ventilation – Ram Air High Ventilation, very little adjustment on the move. (Rubber rain grommets) There are big cutaways in the EPS (multi density) which facilitates the airflow through and over the head.
Comfort liner has adjustability to get your custom fit. The components are modelled around the shape of your head. They use dense foam for a snug fit that will stand up to high speed wind resistance without the helmet moving around on your head.
The seams have been moved off the liner for more comfort and less resistance and wear from your head. The lining is removable and washable keeping the helmet fresh.
There is a neoprene skirt on the bottom reducing wind noise and buffet and there is a chin skirt.
Higher degree of wind noise but better than the previous model.
The R is equipped with a removable hydrapack tube and big bite valve from Camel Pack.
Shoei X-Spirit 111
The X – Spirit III is Shoei’s latest race helmet – hence the aggressive, distinctive styling. The styling is designed to offer controlled airflow and the ‘wings’ and spoiler are meant to boost stability.
The wings function is purely aerodynamic and when riding at higher speeds they keep the helmet really stable and free from buffeting although I found it took more effort to turn my head at speed.
Under braking turning my head was very natural and the X-Spirit III feels happiest in a high-speed tuck position.
There is a small lower air spoiler at the front of the helmet which helps control the airflow over the front. It seemed to deflect some wind from my neck as well. The ventilation system is adequate, the X-Spirit III doesn’t offer the extreme airflow that some race helmets offer – the benefit of this being that it’s a much quieter helmet, both with and without ear plugs. Wind ingress is less than other helmets I have tested over the last couple of years by some margin and the six closable vents meant I could easily modulate airflow and temperature, although the vents are a little tricky to operate while wearing gloves.
The visor opening mechanism is very simple to operate using one finger and wearing gloves. The visor is similarly easy to change - you simply push a release button on each side and it pops off and a light push on each side clips back on. I think this will be the helmet of choice for riders that need to make a quick visor change in their pit stop.
Vision above the eye line is great, you can see further ahead without giving yourself neck strain keeping your head up when tucked in. Like the AGV Pista it feels like the helmet is fitted with a skylight.
The X-Spirit III is really comfortable; I would go as far as to say one of the most comfortable helmets I have worn. The interior has well placed modular pads and it felt super snug straight out of the box. The fully removable interiors will help keeping it box-fresh (with the occasional wash), while the different size interior thicknesses are available should you need a custom fit. The fabric is a quick drying and the liner can rotate by 4 degrees up or down so you can get more vision in the tuck position.
The X-Spirit III is fitted with the Emergency Quick Release System.
£649.99 (£549.99 pain colours)
The SR2 replaces the SR1 and has a number of new features and upgrades. The SR2 is the latest race helmet – hence the aggressive, distinctive styling and graphics. This Helmet delivers class-leading performance.
The SR2 has an updated easily removable Coolmax interior, revised venting system, a Strong Fiber shell in 3 sizes, a redesigned tear-off equipped 2D Pinlock face shield, push button shield removal system and a longer EPS liner that helps prevent roll-offs.
Developed using Schuberth's in-house wind tunnel testing facility, the SR2 has a completely redesigned shell shape to maximise stability at speed and a venting system capable of moving 10 litres of air through the chin vent alone. Built for the racers and track rats of the world, the SR2 delivers unrivalled performance during extreme riding conditions.
An improved single piece spoiler ensures that the head stays calm in the wind especially at higher speeds. - Moving my head from side to side at speed I felt no drag or buffeting at all. There was no discernible lift either.
A completely revised race visor: The new visor of the SR2 is a 2D racing visor, just like in Formula 1. Improved for the use of tear offs. The new larger anti-mist screen is responsible for keeping the mist at bay. Furthermore, it allows in racing situations a clear view. The visor is an optical class 1 lens which gives your crystal clear vision no matter what type of road is in front of you.
The visor has finger tabs on both sides. This makes it possible to operate the visor with either the right or the left hand. The visor opening mechanism is very simple to operate using one finger and wearing gloves. It is really easy to change.
Vision above the eye line is great, you can see further ahead. Another that feels like it is fitted with a skylight.
Ventilation - A new breath deflector is integrated into the new SR2 ventilation system. Increased amounts of fresh air and an improved concept for the removal of exhaled air make for the best possible circulation. The higher ventilation means that there is more wind noise than that generated by a touring helmet. The vents on the top and front of the helmet are large and easy to use with gloves.
Comfort – I found this helmet to fit my head shape perfectly, much like the Arai shape. The interior has well placed modular pads and it felt super snug straight out of the box. The distributor offers a full fitting The fit feels safe and secure and there was no movement at speed. The aim of the SR2 is that it conforms to the shape of your head.
The fully removable Coolmax interiors will help keeping it box-fresh (with the occasional wash), while the different size interior thicknesses are available should you need a custom fit. The fabric is a quick drying
The SR2 fitted with the Emergency Quick Release System. There is also a system that ensures the helmet stays on your head in case of an accident.
Bell Race Star - Carbon
Bell’s Star Series helmets includes a comfy new internal structure designed to dissipate impact forces
The carbon-fibre visible on the Race Star is a good indication that this is one of Bell’s top-of-the-range road helmets. An all rounder.
The Panavision field of view on the helmet is good, There is a 5mm cutaway in the port on the lower sides which offers more side view.
The forward view offers more visibility over previous Star models. (best forward vision in an aggressive riding position consider the AGV Pista, Shoei X-Spirit 111 and Shuberth SR2)
The Pinlock ready visor is an optical class 1 lens which gives your crystal clear vision no matter what type of road is in front of you. With with tear off tabs. This is a nice touch on a standard visor.
Simple visor with large opening tab sits in the middle so easy to operate by both left and right handed riders. Easy and fast to remove and replace the (spring loaded) visor, its all done on the touch of a button. No incremental visor positions.
‘Flex’ technology – a protection system that’s made up of a three-layer impact liner designed to manage energy transfer so impact forces are limited from reaching your head.
The core protection is made up using three layers designed to absorb impacts in different ways according to speed and features a mix of low-density polymer (called Expanded Polyolefin), expandable polypropylene and expanded polystyrene.
Alongside the layered structure is a rotational energy management system, intended to protect the brain from becoming injured from knocking against the inside of the skull, so when you take an impact in this helmet, there is a subtle movement between the inner and other layers which is designed to dissipate energy from an impact.
The helmet is comfortable as I had the right size cheek pads fitted. These are fitted with to the magnetic ‘eject system’. They also offer cooling to the cheeks as they are wicking and have a cooling property.
The layered construction has another advantage it sets the helmet up nicely for an adaptive fit. When you pull the helmet on the segmented construction conforms to the shape of your head making the helmet very comfortable.
The removable interior is made of anti microbial virus liner which is cooling, and inhibits bacterial growth so it means the interior shouldn’t get stinky.
The Race Star is well ventilated.
The Race Star has a profile developed in the wind tunnel for reduced drag and stability, good drag coefficient and stability.
Available at a competitive price point, £599 vs the Pro Star and the AGV Pista GP R at £995. (The non carbon helmets are circa £699)
Arai RX 7V
The successor to the RX-7 GP.
There is a new visor for locking system mechanism borrowed from Formula 1. The new system unlocks and lifts the visor with one simple upward movement.
There is an all new variable axis visor system, so when riding the single lever visor operation is simple to use even with a glove and clicks back into place effortlessly.
The RX- 7V is Pinlock ready and comes with a Pinlock in the box.
I really like the recess within the Arai visor to house the anti-fog insert. This allows for a larger insert to be used offering more peripheral vision and is another improvement on the previous models. The RX-7V offers excellent field of vision. The vision above the eye line is great, you can see further ahead.
The central air intake is now 20mm longer increasing airflow. The opening controls on the front have been changed, the buttons are bigger and they now operate as a slide system making it easier to operate when you're wearing gloves. The eight adjustable vents mean you can moderate the airflow and temperature.
I have owned and worn an RX-7GP for three years. I've loved it and have worn it for sports and track riding, especially when I wanted to keep cool the new RX-7V has 11 per cent more airflow (at 100kph) from the top duct and 19 per cent larger intake scoops.
I can report, the airflow is better through the helmet but without any increase in wind noise.
I tested the helmet with and without ear plugs and the wind noise is certainly louder than a touring helmet. The helmet has really well placed pads over the ears which makes it more comfortable and further reduces wind noise. For me, the increased airflow outweighs the disadvantage of extra noise. I always use earplugs when I ride.
The new shell offers slightly more room around the chin area than the previous designs, 3mm to be precise.
The old RX-7GP was comfortable, the new RX-7V more so. The cheek pads are well positioned, combined with the extra chin space I could chew gum without knocking my chin on the front and without biting the inside of my cheeks.
The interior has a new design and feels super snug straight out of the box. The fully removable interiors will help keeping it box-fresh (with the occasional wash), while the different size interior thicknesses are available should you need a custom fit.
The RX-7V has a rounder shape with a stronger shell. The shape aids aero dynamics,
A trick feature is the pull-down chin spoiler, designed to reduce wind noise and turbulence. The GP has this feature but the 7V has an extra fabric section that further reduces noise and turbulence. There is also an air wing between the air vents to fine tune the drag on the helmet.
The replacement visor system does improve the structural integrity of lid. On first appearance it’s as complicated as on previous versions.
£599.99 (£100 extra with graphics)
For crash test data take a look at www.sharp.dft.gov.uk