07 December 2010

Motorcycle Gear: The Helmet

The HJC Lesson.

At the beginning of the year I got a new helmet for the first time in 3 years.  My old Icon Mainframe was falling apart and needed replacing.  After some research, I settled on the HJC CL-SP.  It had good reviews and a popular name.  I found a good deal at Competition Accessories and bought it along with my first pair of motorcycle specific boots, Vega Touring Boots.

From the start, I had issues with the helmet.  The thing was a lot louder than I was accustomed to.  The fit was all right but the Icon Mainframe didn't fit as well as the Icon Alliance it replaced had so I thought that was just about as good as it would get and I'd adjust.  I didn't really adjust to the HJC in my season of ownership and by the end of the last trip, I decided it needed to go.

I was a little disappointed because I'd hoped it'd last at least as long as the Icons had, about three years.  What had been a good deal based on price was turning out to be just the opposite based on performance.  In the season I used it, I had to buy a third shield when I scratched the smoke one right in the line of sight!  At least I got a discount for it.  So, what was the problem with the helmet?  It's loud.  It's heavy.  It never seated properly on my head.  The shield leaked in the rain.  Did I mention it was loud?

This time I decided I shouldn't buy a helmet with color as a close first in criteria.  I consulted with a comparison chart to find out the shape the last good fitting helmet I wore (the Alliance) then limited my lists to helmets with the same shape.  The HJC lesson also taught me not to limit my choice by budget.  I'd select the helmet then find the best deal on it.  I sort of did that with the HJC but I had a price ceiling that I refused to exceed.  This time, I raised the ceiling in favor of comfort.

I did try on the CL-SP before I bought it but I didn't leave it on long enough to find those places where it and my head did not get along.  With my list of slightly round helmets, I dragged Daddy to the bike store so I could try on whatever they had on the list and some based on suggestions I'd gotten from forum discussions.

Seven Zero Seven Vendetta 2 Helmet
Going to the stores revealed two things.  First, local stores basically carry the same shit.  Second it re-kindled an old dream to open my own motorcycle shop that had an extensive selection of gear, a place to shoot the shit, stalls for working on your own bike with or without a mechanics supervision, mechanics that know what they're doing, etc.  I didn't linger on the second and tried to take the little bit of knowledge I learned from trying on helmets and apply it to my virtual shopping.  I decided to get the Cycle Gear Seven Zero Seven helmet but I wanted to learn more about it.

I looked for everything I could find out about it then found more helmets that were known to have similar fits so I had a larger pool to choose from.  It was nearing the Holiday Shopping season so I decided to bare with the HJC for a little while longer.  The helmet was fine on day rides it was longer trips or back to back days where it's flaws really became unbearable.  I expected to get coupons and discounts from the various places I'd shopped at during the year and I wasn't disappointed.

Cycle gear sent me their Black Friday book with a $20 off coupon attached.  The Seven Zero Seven went on sale and I decided I'd make my purchase soon.  Then competitionaccessories.com upped the ante when they sent me an email advertising up to 76% off of helmets.  A quick glance revealed a brand that was comparable to the Seven Zero Seven for as low as $40 and as high as $60.

Xpeed XF706 Phoenix Helmet
It was suddenly looking like the Seven Zero Seven wouldn't make it into my gear closet after all.  I was still leaning towards the Seven Zero Seven though because in addition to the fit, the feel of the liner stood out above all of the other helmets I put on that day, or ever for that matter.  At $60 (plus another $25 for a smoke shield and $12 for shipping) the Xpeed XF706, as ugly as I thought it might be, was winning the battle between my wallet and my brain.

This time I decided if it sucked I'd send it back the same day and not adjust to anything.  I found a coupon code and ordered the Xpeed last Thursday.  It was on my door step Monday afternoon and on my head ten minutes later.  The liner felt just like the Seven Zero Seven and the fit was better than I remembered any helmet feeling since that Icon Alliance that I wore cross country.  An added bonus was that it was not nearly as fugly as I thought it would be.

When I got it, it was in the middle of an "arctic blast" that had made the temperatures unseasonably low combined with blustery conditions.  I'd just finished my gloves controller the previous weekend and needed to test it out too.  Once the helmet arrived, I couldn't wait for the wind to lessen or the temps to warm.  I needed to know right away if I'd made a good choice.

I wore it for about an hour before I finally got up and dressed for the conditions.  I put the glove controller onto the bike, put on all of my gear (except the balaclava which it seems I'm destined to forget until the cold wind hits my neck), and went to the store--despite my mother's and brother's best argument against it.  It wasn't the coldest conditions I've ever ridden in nor was it the windiest.

I knew as soon as I got to the stop sign near the house that I was overjoyed at the overall feel of the helmet.  It was very light.  I had nothing blocking my peripheral vision like with the HJC.  It felt great!!!  After a quick jaunt to the store and the long way directly home, I am pleased with my purchase.  That short ride revealed the sound a helmet should have and not the turbulence filled monstrosity the HJC was.  Here are a few more pics because when I searched the net after I ordered it, I couldn't find anything other than the stock photos.

I'm looking forward to a helmet worry free riding season for the first time since I was in California!

thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer

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