Spring Helmet Bazaar

Page 2

It takes a bad-ass MOFO to wear a helmet with this kind of styling, and we can handle it. If no one else out there, MO's has got this one covered. With "street fighter" written all over it, the graphics appear to be swiped directly off of a Vietnam-era F-4 Phantom fighter jet, so watch out for hot gases!

The VR-1 is KBC's high-end sport-touring helmet with many high-end features for a medium-end price. It starts with a laminated composite outer shell that is unfortunately as heavy as the polycarbonate shell on some of the less-expensive helmets we've tested.

We're actually unsure if a laminated shell is the way to go: some shells, like the Scorpion EXO-700's are so stiff that they may transmit too much shock to the EPS foam in the event of a crash. Keep reading MO for a more in-depth discussion of this topic.

Other nice features on the VR-1 include a very nice interior liner that is both removable and washable. It's made out of swanky Alcantara "suedette" materiel that wicks away moisture (aka Fonzie Sweat) to complement strategically located gauze material for maximum cooling. The venting is marginally effective, but the ducts open and close easily with gloves; there is one adjustable chin vent and two top rear open/close toggles - where the gases escape! Another nice feature is the face shield: it locks far above and away from sight in the fully up position and has clearly defined and strong ratchet points, nice stuff for the slow troll through town when it's hot.

On the road, it's not quite as quiet as the Icon Alliance helmet, but that just makes it better for hearing people exclaim how friggin' sweet your VR-1 is! The chin strap has a fiddly-to-use snap on it to secure extra strap that the Icon Alliance lacks, so you won't get neck-whipped on the freeway. Like the Alliance, it is finished with a similar rubbery finish that should resist scratches.

The VR-1 is no longer a current KBC model, but it's still available on clearance. If the price is discounted from the $229.95 MSRP for the warbird paint scheme or the $199.95 solid paint schemes, it's a pretty good deal for a solid, high-quality helmet.

Icon Alliance

Icon is becoming a very popular helmet and apparel manufacturer, and spending some time with their Alliance helmet shows us why.

It's a high-quality helmet with plenty of big-buck features for a pretty reasonable price.

The Alliance uses a polycarbonate shell that is surprisingly light. It also has one of the simplest shield-release systems we've encountered. The Icon is also a pretty quiet helmet at freeway speeds: Fonzie found it to be a little quieter than his three-year old Arai Signet.

The chinbar venting works well, but the easy-to-use push-button vent on top of the helmet doesn't seem to do much. It is easy to open and shut with your gloved thumb, unlike the smaller vent mechanisms on other helmets.

The fit and finish is also very good, with the special "Rubatone" rubberized finish making the helmet resistant to scratching and scuffing.

The Icon Alliance is available in four solid colors and three different graphics schemes, at an MSRP or $189.95 The top of the line "Damnation" features a naked cartoon tushie and sets you back $234.95. You can view all the different colors at Icon's Alliance page.

Yamaha R-Force II

The R-Force II is constructed of Shoei's Advanced Integrated Matrix for superior strength. Technical nuances include Shoei's "T-Ventilation" system (separately controlled intake and outlet vents). Shoei claims this configuration reduces face shield fogging, buffeting and noise, and increases ventilation. An aerodynamic rear lower tail fin acts as a spoiler to reduce drag, helmet lift and wind noise.

The R-Force II did prove comfortable on a variety of different bikes, weather, and road conditions. Face shield removal is easy with Shoei's Quick Release Base Plate shield system.

A trick preset lever acts as a shim to keep the shield open slightly for stop-and-go riding. Kind of a gimmick, but it was actually really convenient, providing just enough ventilation to prevent fogging while stopped. The R-Force II is covered by Shoei's limited 5-year warranty, meets DOT standards, and is Snell M2000 certified. MSRP is $365, and it's available at your local Yamaha dealer.

AGV X-R2 Helmet

With the AGV XR-2 we don't have to compromise anymore.

A really good fitting, top-quality lid in a cool color scheme is the best thing since trockenbeerenauslesen in an EZ-pour screw top bottle. For Martin, top shelf AGV's have nearly always done this right out of the box. With earlier AGV models, we've had to live with a slight weight penalty and a little more noise for an exceptional fit. With the AGV XR-2 we don't have to compromise anymore.

The XR-2 continues AGV's successful X-Vent design and combines it with a more comfortable and aerodynamic shell shape. The carbon-Kevlar composite shell was developed using a wind tunnel and is shaped to eliminate buffeting at high speeds- and it works. The shell features new SSL carbon-Kevlar construction in two sizes for a better range of fitment, core system technology and the X-Vent System with both air intakes and extractors. The padding and liners are removable and washable with both Coolmax and Drylex bits. The shield is an XQRS flat race shield that is highly scratch resistant, filters UV, has an anti-fog treatment, two posts for tear offs and attaches with a quick release system that allows quick and easy shield changes without tools. The XR-2 meets or exceeds both SNELL M2000 and DOT standards.

The XR-2 is very light and more importantly feels light at high speeds because of its superior aerodynamics. Wind buffeting at racetrack speeds is a huge factor in rider fatigue and this helmet slips through the wind very well, especially when it's in the turbulent zone behind the windscreen that you have to duck in and out of during a race.

On the street it is completely plush but perhaps a smidgen noisier that the best Arais. Comfort is exceptional and the field of view is great. The visor locks down with a very positive "click" and all of the controls are both intuitive and easy to work with gloves.

The XR-2 comes in four standard graphics schemes of Yellow/Silver/Gunmetal, Black/Silver/Gunmetal, Blue/Silver/Gunmetal and Red/Silver/Gunmetal at the MSRP of $474.95. There are also three Rossi graphic models, the Rossi Moto GP and the Rossi 500, which carry a suggested retail of $499.95, and the Rossi Limited Edition, priced at $549.95. The Rossi 500 and the Rossi World Champion are limited editions of 500 helmets each. All of these helmets are available while supplies last at your nearest AGV dealer.

Arai Signet GTR

Arai has a long and distinguished history as a top-quality producer of hand-made helmets. Their Signet "long-oval" helmets finally allowed those of us with ovoid noggins a comfortable lid. Nowadays, Arai makes several different headforms, from the "round" Quantum series, through the modified "semi-oval" RX 7RR and Astral series to the "long-oval" Signet. If you possess a long head from front-to-back, with comparatively narrow (but not narrow-minded) sides, you owe it to yourself to try a Signet, as you'll likely find more room for your pointy head and fewer red "pinch" marks on your forehead after a long ride.

This latest version of the Signet, the "Signet GTR" includes a removable and washable liner, complex laminate construction, Arai's improved FFS venting system, retractable under-chin spoiler, and eleven color/pattern variations. All Arai helmets include a five-year warranty. One thing you won't find on the spec sheet, is that Arais enjoy the best reputation in the business and their overall quality is self-evident when you examine them side-by-side with other helmet brands. Think that's just hype? Arai has been ranked highest in the JD Power & Associates Customer Satisfaction Survey for the last six years running. (Shoei is 2nd and Nolan is 3rd).

If fits Sean's funny-shaped head like a glove, needing a minimum of pad juggling and thumb-molding before he claimed it was "perfect".

The Signet GTR you see here is the "Springer Replica" design and its paint finish is flawless. If fits Sean's funny-shaped head like a glove, needing a minimum of pad juggling and thumb-molding before he claimed it was "perfect". Sean praised the helmet's effective venting and noted a significant change in head temperature with the vents open. However, that extra airflow does create extra noise, so if you ride long distances in cool or cold climates, you might want to consider a quieter lid.

Shield changing is quick and easy with trained hands, but beginners will find themselves frustrated with the creaking and popping noises that are sure to accompany their first shield removal. Overall, Sean awards the new Signet GTR with 4 1/2 stars, stating that it would be perfect, if it was just a bit quieter.

The Signet GTR is available in 11 different color schemes, from "Mr. Safety" white to Sean's super slick "Springer Replica No. Two". Prices range from $496.95 for plain vanilla to $614.95 for the Racer Replicas.

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