HJC RPHA 90

Editor Score: 85.50%
Aesthetics 8.0/10
Protection 9.0/10
Value 9.0/10
Comfort/Fit 9.0/10
Quality/Design 9.0/10
Weight 8.50/10
Options/Selection 7.50/10
Innovation 8.0/10
Weather Suitability 8.50/10
Desirable/Cool Factor 9.0/10
Overall Score85.5/100

If you’re here expecting something as witty and biting as John’s review of the Bell Eliminator, I’ve got bad news. First of all, I can’t write anything nearly as witty as Burnsie. Not many can. And second, I actually like the HJC RPHA 90. Like, a lot. Among the MO staff, modular lids are hugely popular and the helmet of choice for most things short of track or dirt riding. However, my personal experience with flip-ups in the past has been checkered. Modulars in my normal size, medium, would fit great with the chin bar open, but when closed the hinge mechanism would slowly put pressure on my temples. I wouldn’t notice on short rides, but one long-distance haul was all it took to come face-to-face with a massive headache. You ever been really far from home with a giant pain in the… head… with no choice but to endure for the ride back? Even if you haven’t, you can imagine the amount of suckage that ensues.

Not wanting to give up on modulars, as I love their practicality, the HJC RPHA 90 was offered my way. Sticking with my natural size medium, the RPHA 90 slid onto my head nicely, the Multi-cool interior and antibacterial fabric feeling plush against my skin. Even with the chin bar down and locked I couldn’t feel any pressure against my temples. Things were looking up, but the real test would come after some miles.

Now that I’ve spent some time with the RPHA 90 and ridden a variety of motorcycles with it on my head, I can say (again) that I like this helmet a lot. It fits my intermediate oval head with the chin bar up or down, the top ventilation scoop and rear exhaust port actually flow a decent amount of air, and the added convenience of having a flip-down sun visor makes this a well-rounded helmet for almost anything.

But let’s back up a bit. Not too long in the past, modular helmets clearly looked bulbous and bulky compared to standard full-face helmets. HJC says the RPHA 90 resembles a full-face lid in both weight and appearance, with the convenience of a modular. While appearances are in the eye of the beholder, to my pupils, it’s hard to tell the 90 is a flip-up when it’s, uh, flipped down. Then again, maybe the Tanisk graphic I have camouflages the split for the chin bar opening, because looking at pictures of the solid color options I’d say it’s pretty clear this is a modular. What’s more objective is its weight. Reading 3-lb, 1oz on my kitchen scale, my medium 90 is basically dead even with other standard full-face lids in my collection. Less so in some cases.

With the helmet in the closed position it’s hard to tell it’s a modular. And that’s the point.

For those who don’t know, HJC’s lineup is pretty substantial. But anything with the RPHA prefix to it means it’s the company’s top-shelf stuff. With the RPHA 90 the helmet’s lightweight is a result of the compact shell constructed of HJC’s very own Premium Integrated Matrix (P.I.M.+) shell material consisting of carbon and carbon-glass hybrid fabric, which HJC says also helps with shock resistance. I don’t know about that last part since I haven’t fallen in it (and I’m trying my best to keep it that way), but I’ll take their word about the material getting credit for the helmet’s weight – or lack of it.

Inside, the RPHA 90 is not a bad place to spend some time. As mentioned before, the interior fabric is plush, and you can remove the crown and cheek pads for washing. HJC makes no mention of the eye port being any wider or bigger than its previous premium modular, the RPHA Max, but the field of view leaves nothing to be desired. Instead, the inner sun visor is now longer and extends lower than before. Although I don’t have the RPHA Max to compare, I do like the coverage of the sun visor, as I’ve never found myself looking through the bottom of the lens hoping for just a little more shade.

The neck roll is fairly substantial, but the short chin curtain could be longer, IMO. Note also the red tab for opening the chin bar.

HJC says the interior has been engineered to reduce noise “significantly.” As someone who wears earplugs no matter how long or short the ride, I can’t say definitively how accurate this claim is. Typically noise reduction is done through beefier neck rolls and/or chin curtains. With the RPHA 90, the included chin curtain is shorter than I’d prefer – I’m guessing to keep it from rubbing the rest of my face each time I lift the chin bar up or down, which I do a lot. As it is, the 90 keeps a decent amount of wind from coming up underneath, even on naked bikes, but depending on the bike, the amount of wind protection it has, your size, or the speed you’re traveling, an annoying amount of air can still find its way underneath the chin bar. A longer chin curtain would go a long way towards making the environment inside calm and serene. Face rubbing be damned.

Speaking of noise, the RPHA 90 was tested with the Cardo the SmartH communication system, but can accept virtually any communicator out there. While I haven’t personally tested this claim, I don’t see any reason why this can’t be true.

The visor latch mechanism is strong and sturdy, just terribly placed. Accessing it with gloved hands takes some fumbling around.

Of course, the real highlight of modular helmets is the ability to lift the chin bar up when you need. Here, the RPHA 90 operates like any other modular. Pulling a red tab at the bottom of the chin bar releases it to flip up, and it slides up or down smoothly. It positively clicks into place at the top, while an audible (and tactile) click at the bottom ensures it’s closed. Almost every time I came to a stop I found myself opening the chin bar instead of flipping the visor open for a couple reasons: First, the added air flow is nice, but second – the latch to open the quick-change, tool-less shield is located directly above the chin vent, making it difficult and annoying to open, especially with gloves on. This is a trait of all RPHA helmets in HJC’s lineup, and one I personally don’t like.

And honestly, that’s my biggest complaint about the RPHA 90. It’s already my go-to lid for normal everyday riding, but adding a smidge more wind protection underneath and relocating the visor latch would make it that much better. Available in XS-2XL, it comes in solid colors, the Tanisk graphic seen here, and even a Darth Vader graphic for the Star Wars fans out there.

Shop for the HJC RPHA 90 here


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