The market for motorcycle helmets has drastically changed over the last few years. A much bigger variety of helmets at a very competitive price range is available to us. Scorpion EXO, which started producing quality helmets at a reasonable price in 2002, has been ably serving this market.
Now, the question is, are those lower-priced helmets really as good as expensive lids?
I got the chance to test the Scorpion EXO-700, which is not only DOT-approved, as a requirement for the U.S. market, but also has Snell certification. There are lots of inexpensive helmets on the market which don’t achieve Snell certification. It puts my mind at ease to know that the only thing between my head (which I need for several reasons) and the asphalt in a possible high-speed crash has been tested and approved by two different organizations. And that’s not different than a double-the-price helmet.
The EXO-700 uses a fiberglass/Kevlar shell for strength and light weight. I have to admit, when wearing it, the EXO-700 doesn’t feel heavier than its pricier competition. However, it is quite a bit larger, not only by circumference, but it is also taller and comes further down to my shoulders, and so interferes with a jacket every once in a while. After a few rides, I realized that it is also sitting too low on my head. When riding uphill in a tuck, I had difficulties seeing the street, and was basically looking into the vents on the top of the shell interface. Adding a 3/8” foam pad in the top of the helmet, under the liner, did the trick to make it fit right.
The fit of a helmet is extremely important. Again, it protects your brain. A helmet should fit tight, actually a little too snug when brand new. The padding will break in over time, and the helmet will so get looser. I got the impression the EXO-700 is shaped for rounder heads, since the XS is not really snug on my rather narrow head. However, it still fits well and does not move around.
The EXO-700 has a fully removable, washable, and replaceable liner and cheek pads, which can only be found in the pricier competitions’ top-of-the line helmets.
Scorpion’s KwikWick liner pulls moisture away from your head and face and keeps your head cool in warm weather. It is attached with a few snaps and so is very easy to remove and to put back into place. Replacement liners come in six different designs, including “Checkers” and “Leopard” prints, that retail between $29.95 and $34.95.
The stock clear EverClear No-Fog Face Shield is apparently optically correct and has anti-scratch hardened coating. I purchased a dark smoke replacement shield in order not to get too many wrinkles on my face, and the anti-fog actually works on both. It’s great not having to open the visor in cooler weather conditions to be able to see. The face shield comes in clear, light and dark smoke as well as mirrored, which all feature anti-scratch coating as well as no-fog technology. Scorpion also offers reflective mirrored replacement shields in five different colors. The replacement shields retail from $35.95 to $49.95.
The SpeedShift Quick-Change Shield System makes it easy to quickly change the visor. I couldn’t do it in the claimed “less than 10 seconds,” but this system is one of the easiest shields to change on the market. However, changing the visor is not as easy for me as it is supposed to be. The visor has to be opened to its highest position to turn the Twist Grip opening mechanism on both sides. Then you feel the visor pop out, but it still seems to be stuck and requires some wiggling to completely remove it. To put it back in, you simply need to find the right position to push the visor down into place.
If I’d change the visor often enough, I would get faster and smoother. However, I am not sure of the durability of the system. When popping the visor in and out, I can hear plastic pieces creaking, which makes me fear a piece might break off or the mechanism would wear out over time.
I really like how easy the visor opens and closes. It requires minimum effort, compared to other helmets, which I think is great, especially when riding, where you don’t have time to fumble around with the visor and vents.
The EXO-700’s ventilation system seems to be a bit exorbitant. There are four air intakes and four outlets. There is the chin vent, which directs air onto the inside of the visor. Some air intakes on the top of the shell interface, inside the visor, to direct air through the liner over the rider’s head. On the outside of the helmet above the visor are two air intakes to the left and right, which open and close in three positions with sliding covers. These sliders are really easy to adjust, even while riding. And in the center above them is another air intake, which opens and closes by slider in three different positions as well.
There are two air outlets at the rear which can be closed and opened with sliders, plus three additional air holes between them. On the bottom of the helmet to each side are two more outlets. During 100-plus-degree rides, I expected a little more air moving across my head with that many vents. In cold weather I didn’t realize a big difference between vents open or closed either.
The Scorpion EXO-700 also comes with an aero skirt and a breath guard. I am not sure what the breath guard’s duty is, since the visor doesn’t fog up anyways. But, I guess it’s still good to have it. There is a series of replacement accessories available, like SpeedShift twist grips and vent sliders in different finishes to match your helmet.
The EXO-700 with the Black Dahlia graphics retails for a very reasonable $219.95, and it’s available in sizes XS to 2XL. I have to agree with Scorpion: “For the money you won’t find a finer all-around helmet.” There are some advantages a pricier helmet has over the EXO-700. But, come on, for double to triple the price?!