Pilot ST-17 Helmet

Editor Score: 85.0%
Aesthetics 8.5/10
Protection 10/10
Value 9.5/10
Comfort/Fit 8.5/10
Quality/Design 8.5/10
Weight 8.0/10
Options/Selection 7.5/10
Innovation 7.0/10
Weather Suitability 9.5/10
Desirable/Cool Factor 8.0/10
Overall Score85/100

“So, if I’m going to go with you fellers on this 2017 Superbike Street Shootout, I’m gonna need a new helmet since all of my roadie helmets are so old they’re practically petrified.”

Those were my exact words to MO Editor-in-Chief Kevin Duke… Well, exact words paraphrased, redacted, revised and/or extended for the record. Fact is, all my new helmets have been off-road models. I hadn’t needed a new street helmet in quite some time.

“No problem,” Duke replied. “I’ll have Evans call Pilot and see if they can get you one of their new ST-17s. We want to try one out anyway.”

“Pilot?” I replied. “You mean like Pilot, the leather people? What do they know about making helmets? Is it going to be made out of leather?”

Actually, no. And, although the Pilot ST-17 isn’t the highest-tech helmet on the market, it offers some nice features in a D.O.T- and ECE R.22.05-certified helmet that can be yours for the paltry sum of $100 MSRP. That’s right, just one C-note buys you a very functional helmet.

The ST-17’s injection-molded ABS shell looks sleek, and its interior does a pretty good job of keeping road noise to a minimum.

The ST-17’s injection-molded ABS shell looks sleek, and its interior does a pretty good job of keeping road noise to a minimum.

Manufactured for Pilot in Vietnam by Gao Jin Industrial, a company with 20 years of experience in motorcycle helmet production, the ST-17 features an EPS inner liner and an injection-molded ABS outer shell. Unlike other bargain helmets, the ST-17 doesn’t scream “I’m cheap” right out of the box. Fit and finish are pretty impressive, and it’s nice to know that the helmet meets or exceeds safety standards.

Not that the ST-17 would be the first helmet I’d strap on if I wanted to go roadracing, but street riding or sport touring? Hmmm, maybe. Because one thing that you notice about the ST-17 right off the bat is that Pilot has put a lot of effort into making its removable, washable interior comfortable. Its padding errs rightly on the plush side, and the fabric used on cheek pads isn’t coarse or scratchy. The ST-17 is held securely on the wearer’s head by the usual chin strap and double D-ring layout, but there’s also a nylon snap to keep the chin strap from flopping around in the wind. While there’s so much more to choosing a helmet, I’ve often rejected some models if this snap was so chintzy that I couldn’t lock the chin strap in place while wearing my riding gloves. I’m happy to report that the snap on the ST-17 was easy to locate and made securing the chin strap a painless operation.

Rear view shows the three exhaust vents that make up part of the ST-17’s Venturi Intake & Exhaust System (VIES). The system flows sufficient air to help keep the interior cool and dry on warm days.

Rear view shows the three exhaust vents that make up part of the ST-17’s Venturi Intake & Exhaust System (VIES). The system flows sufficient air to help keep the interior cool and dry on warm days.

After putting a few miles on the ST-17, I also noticed how surprisingly quiet it was. That’s an important feature to me, as I’m often too lazy to slap in a set of earplugs, even for long rides. A helmet that can rebuff excess wind noise is always a plus, and the Pilot does a pretty fair job of silencing the roar.

Operationally speaking, there are some features of the ST-17 that I like and others that need a little more refinement. I’d place the the ST-17’s clear polycarbonate shield and mechanism in the like column; the shield mechanism’s detent offers five clicks of adjustment, so you can raise or lower the shield to any one of five positions to satisfy the amount of wind you want in your face. Like most quality helmets, you can also swap shields without needing any tools.

The intake vents can be opened and closed, but despite their traction ribs, they can be hard to manipulate with a gloved hand.

The intake vents can be opened and closed, but despite their traction ribs, they can be hard to manipulate with a gloved hand.

I’d also place the ST-17’s Venturi Intake & Exhaust System (VIES) ventilation in the like category. Even in warmer weather, the ST-17’s three intake and three exhaust vents pass just enough air through the inner liner to effectively limit sweat in a manner that even some of the big boys in the marketplace still haven’t figured out how to do properly. My only gripe with the VIES had to do with the intake vents on the top portion of the shell. While I had to remind myself that the ST-17 is a $100 helmet, opening the top vents proved to be difficult while riding because their action is pretty stiff. I had no such issue with the vent mounted on the chin bar. So, list the ventilation in the Like category, but the ventilation ports in the “needs refinement” category.

Also in need of refinement is the action of the ST-17’s drop-down tinted polycarbonate sun visor. I remember when I used to giggle at this feature when it first started appearing in helmets, but the more you try to stuff your sunglass arms into a tight-fitting helmet interior, the more you realize just how valuable the supplied interior shading can be. The sun visor offers just the right amount of tint to make riding into the sun easy on the eyes, and it is easy to activate via the mechanical rocker switch located on the left side of the shell. However, retracting the sun visor is not as easy. It takes a lot of leverage on the switch, and the process just feels awkward.

The switch on the right of the visor extends and retracts the ST-17’s internal sun visor. The switch makes it easy to lower the visor into position, but retracting it is awkward.

The switch on the right of the visor extends and retracts the ST-17’s internal sun visor. The switch makes it easy to lower the visor into position, but retracting it is awkward.

Even so, at the end of some rather long days I truly appreciated just how comfortable the ST-17 is. Its shape fit my round-profile head without creating any stiff or hot spots, and its aforementioned VIES system did a good job of keeping my head cool on 100+ degree days in the San Joaquin Valley of Southern California. (Evans notes: I have a long oval head and could not even get my normally XL mellon past the eye-port of an XL ST-17 – that’s how round the headform is.)

Is the Pilot ST-17 the perfect helmet? I don’t know, except to say that I’ve worn a few, and I only found out that they were perfect after I’d suffered a biblical head blow, and yet I’m still here today to write this helmet review rather than suffering from the effect of a brain injury. Still, I have no reason to believe that the ST-17, with its D.O.T. and its ECE R.22.05 certifications, is anything other than a safe and sound motorcycle helmet. Pilot backs the helmet with a two-year warranty that covers premature failure or manufacturer defects.

As for the items I can judge – comfort, ventilation, wind noise abatement and the like – the ST-17 punches way, way above its $100 price tag. In fact, if you’d have told me that the ST-17 cost $200, I probably wouldn’t have batted an eye because it would still be a good deal.

Pretty nice lid!

The Pilot ST-17 is available in sizes XS, S, M, L and XL, and in four colors: Black, Matte Black, Silver and White. For more information, visit www.pilotmotosport.com.

After spending a few days inside the ST-17, we can report that it is a very comfortable helmet, so long as your head shape is round. Riders with oval-shaped heads might not find that to be the case.

After spending a few days inside the ST-17, we can report that it is a very comfortable helmet, so long as your head shape is round. Riders with oval-shaped heads might not find that to be the case.