Helmet Reviews: Scorpion EXO-900 Transformer & Shark Evoline Modular (Updated)

Scorpion EXO-900 Transformer Helmet
Scorpion EXO-900 Transformer Helmet

I’ve used a Scorpion EXO-1000 full-face helmet as my daily hat for two years now.  It’s a fairly heavy helmet, but I’ve liked it a lot, as it has a lot of premium features, like the adjustable air bladder to custom fit it, the fuller chin and jaw coverage it provides, and the overall comfort of it.

But, it’s getting a bit old and banged up from daily use, so I decided to buy another.  Since I sometimes wear glasses on the weekend, I always have to use my old modular HJC Sy-Max when I ride.  I don’t like the Sy-Max as much.  It’s not a bad helmet, it’s just not at good as the Scorpion. So, I decided that to replace both of those helmets, I’d get the modular Scorpion Helmet, the EXO-900.

At first blush, it seemed perfect.  The fit was snug, but comfortable, and it has all the premium features of the EXO-1000.  In the shop, it felt great when I tried it on before purchasing it.  You also have the option fo removing the face shield and replacing it with a visor. I also loved the color, Hi-Vis yellow.

It seemed perfect.

What I didn’t notice, until I actually used it during my daily commute to work, was that the ear section on both sides has no padding around the top and rear of the ear. So, the cartilage of your ear sits directly against the hard foam of the helmet impact shell.  After about 30 minutes, turning or moving your head becomes painful, as your ears get constantly crushed against the helmet shell.

After three days of this, it got to be unbearable.

So, sadly, I had to return the helmet today.  It was almost exactly what I wanted, but was just too uncomfortable to wear.

Shark Evoline Modular Helmet
Shark Evoline Modular Helmet

Since I’d worn it for a few days, Cycle Gear wouldn’t give me a refund, of course, but they did offer me an exchange for any helmet in the store.  Ultimately, I chose the Shark Evoline Modular Helmet.

The Shark Helmet is significantly more expensive than the EXO-900, coming in at $425 retail.  But, it is a top of the line helmet.  And as you can see from the image, it does one thing that most modular helmets do not: The face mask doesn’t just tip up, it slides all the way back to the rear of the helmet for a more aerodynamic shape.

The inside is far more comfortably padded than the scorpion, however, and it seems to be a better quality helmet all around.  Which, considering the price difference, it should be.

I haven’t had a lot of experience with it yet, since I’ve only had it for 9 hours at this point.  But, so far it’s very comfortable. And it’s also very quiet.  Unlike a regular modular helmet, it doesn’t have a seam on both sides where the face-shield joins the helmet. The wind doesn’t whistle through that seam, so it’s as quiet as a full face.

Hopefully, I’ll like this helmet much better than the EXO-900.

UPDATE (8/9/10):

After a couple of days with the Shark Evoline helmet, I’ve decided I quite like it.  It’s super comfortable, and not too heavy.  I really like just flipping the face guard completely out of the way.  The flip-down, smoked,  inner sun visor cuts bright sunlight acceptably. And it’s fairly quiet.

It does have one feature that I can’t decide if I like or not, and that’s the venting/airflow. I couldn’t tell, really, if the top vent was open or not. It didn’t get too hot, as I kept it open most of the time, so I’ll assume it’s working.  It’s the vent in the face guard that’s a bit different than what I’m used to, though.

In all my other helmets, the face guard vent redirects the air up and toward the clear face shield. The airflow over the face shield helps keep it from fogging. In the Evoline helmet, the vent blows straight back towards your lower face. So, this morning, when it was 62°F and foggy, I noticed that the bottom of the face shield started to fog a little bit, and that was with the vent open.  If it had been closed, It probably would have fogged a lot more. Raising the face shield to the first notch solved the problem. I’m not sure I’d want to do that if the temps were in the 40s, though.

So, I think I’ve found the one drawback to the helmet, which is that airflow management could do a better job of keeping your breath from fogging the inside of the face shield.  It wasn’t a problem at all in the 80°F ride this afternoon.  In fact, I kept the face shield completely closed. And the breeze coming through the vent was very pleasant. I think the fogging issue might be a problem in cooler weather though.  I guess I’ll know for sure in a couple of months.

Other than that, which is a relatively minor issue compared to the overall goodness of the helmet, I like the Evoline helmet a lot.

Castiglioni completes his rape of Harley-Davidson

It seems like only yesterday that Carlo Castiglioni sold the iconic MV Agusta brand to Harley Davidson.  Now, two years later, he’s bought it back–for less than he sold it to Harley-Davidson.

Along with Giovanni Castiglioni, the company will be headed by Mr. Massimo Bordi, a well known Italian manager. A 62-year-old engineer, Bordi took Ducati to success during the years when that company was owned by the Castiglionis and continued to manage it successfully under the ownership of Texas Pacific Group. Since 2003 Massimo Bordi has been the CEO of Same Deutz Fahr, contributing largely to the success of the company. Massimo Bordi commented that “MV Agusta has full capacity to once again become a major player in the high luxury brand motor bikes, this brand is one of the most recognized worldwide. We will implement a number of reorganization and managerial actions in the near future.

So, essentially, Castiglioni pawned off MV on Harley, so they could dump money into it for a few years, then bought it back as a stronger company for less than he sold it. Why H-D bought it in the first place is still an unanswered question.

Oh, and how hard did Castiglioni screw H-D?  Pretty hard.

Harley-Davidson bought MV Agusta for $109 million back in 2008 (most of which was bad debt), and now just a little over two years later is making a tidy profit of…well, nothing. After wiping the books clean, investing in new infrastructre, and getting MV Agusta back on track with an all new model line-up (with a bike on the way), Harley-Davidson saw a paltry sum of €1 cross its desks.

€1 is about $1.25.

So, Harley paid for the privilege of getting MV back on its feet, paying off the debt, bankrolling a new product line, then essentially gave it back to Castiglioni.  Who is, after all, the guy who was running MV into the ground before Harley-Davidson rescued it.

So, now we’ll get to find out if Castiglioni will run it into the ground again.

Along with Giovanni Castiglioni, the company will be headed by Mr. Massimo Bordi, a well known Italian manager. A 62-year-old engineer, Bordi took Ducati to success during the years when that company was owned by the Castiglionis and continued to manage it successfully under the ownership of Texas Pacific Group. Since 2003 Massimo Bordi has been the CEO of Same Deutz Fahr, contributing largely to the success of the company. Massimo Bordi commented that “MV Agusta has full capacity to once again become a major player in the high luxury brand motor bikes, this brand is one of the most recognized worldwide. We will implement a number of reorganization and managerial actions in the near future.

Protective Gear Reviews

August has arrived, and that means that, here in Southern California, it’s about to get hot.  Barring a few warm snaps here and there, earlier in the summer, August and September are usually when San Diego gets blazing hot, with an intensity that won’t let up until sometime in the first two weeks of October. That’s always a quandary for riders because, while you wish to wear effective protective gear, you don’t want to die of heat prostration.

Fortunately there’s some gear out there that gives you the protection you want, but won’t break the bank, and will help you stay a bit cooler.

First up is the 661 Vapor Pressure Suit.

661 Vapor Pressure Suit
661 Vapor Pressure Suit

The Vapor is made of snug Lycra and mesh, over which is layered perforated biogel soft armor, and over that is hard plastic armor.  CE certified, this armor also includes both a chest protector, as well as a segmented–and removable–back/spine protector that’s held in place with an integral kidney belt.

It offers pretty full coverage with the armor: Back, chest, shoulders, upper arms, and forearms.

Ventilation is really good for that much armor, as both the biogel and the hard plastic is perforated, so it allows a lot of air through.

Velcro straps are fully adjustable and hold everything in place.

It’s surprisingly comfy to wear, and comfortable on your wallet at only $100.

Next is the Fox Titan Race Knee-Shin Guards.

Fox Titan Racing Knee-Shin Guards
Fox Titan Racing Knee-Shin Guards

These are pretty cheap, at $30, and fit very well.  They also have a low enough profile that they can be worn under your jeans or work pants.

Once again, they are hard plastic, backed by a layer of biogel foam for impact absorption.

The neat thing about them is that the velcro straps are very long, allowing for a lot of adjustment, and they hook on with easy release catches on the sides, so you can pop them on and off pretty fast, even under your pants leg.

They do have the down side of only having calf straps, not knee straps.  As I wear them under my pants, that’s not a big problem, but if you’re going to strap them to the outside of your jeans, you need to be aware of the possibility that they might slip and leave your knees unprotected. They can be tightened pretty snugly, but the possibility is there.

Finally, there’s a product I really want to love, but can’t, due a strange design decision: The Icon Motosports Field Armor Leg Guards.

Icon Field Armor Knee-Shin Guards
Icon Field Armor Knee-Shin Guards

Almost everything about these are first rate.  Generous foam backing.  Extensive knee and shin protection, Fuller coverage of the leg.  Velcro knee straps.  They almost have it all.

Almost.

The thing is, that the three velcro straps that close them up along the back of the calves have ridiculously short lengths.  I can’t even touch velcro to velcro on the top strap, and the second strap just barely does.  I can’t see how any average-sized man can wear them.

I’m sure they’re great for women, or smaller men–or, at least, men with pencil-thin calves.  But if you have muscular calves, forget it. they just won’t fit you. Theyre a potentially fantastic product, made hard to use by poor strap design.

That’s a shame, because they are rather pricey at $69.  If they fit me properly, they’d be well worth the price. If you have smaller calves, don’t overlook these, though, because they are very, very nicely made.

And, if you have larger calves, you could always make velcro strap extenders, I guess.  But, at that price, you really shouldn’t have to.

Anyway, here are some products to keep in mind if you want to stay cool, and still have a good level of impact protection.

2011 Triumph Adventure Bike

2011 Triumph Adventure Bike Teaser Image
2011 Triumph Adventure Bike Teaser Image

We don’t know much about it, but as of today, at least we know that the new 2011 adventure bike from Triumph will sport a three-cylinder engine.   A look of utter shock and surprise fails to cross my face at this news, since Triumph’s premier engine is the 675 or 1050 triple.

That’s about all we know, though.

Triumph fails to release any hard details about the engine, aside from vague descriptions of it having a long stroke. Rumors put displacement at around 800cc, to line it up with the popular F800GS.

More details will have to wait, as Triumph seems keen on teasing everyone about this one.

That’s irritating.

The next release of information–such as it is–will be about September first.

After 107 Years, Will Harley Leave Milwaukee?

The big feature story from the AP today–which I won’t quote from due to their insane copyright policy–is that Harley Davidson is sending executives out to scout potential production locations in other states.  If company can’t come to some sort of agreement with its work force in Milwaukee, H-D will be shutting down production there, and transfer it to assembly plants elsewhere.

Only the Corporate HQ and the Harley-Davidson Museum would remain in Milwaukee.

In many ways, this parallels the problem that US automakers have had, and which led to GM’s bankruptcy. In the case of GM, the union benefit agreements the company made with the UAW, as far back as the 1970s, simply became too difficult to maintain, financially.  As the cost of those benefits increased, GM reached the point where they couldn’t sell a car for the the price that would cover GM’s cost to make it.  GM had net negative cash flow every month, and it burned the company to the ground

Oh, and by the way, despite the happy talk we’ve been hearing, GM, even after bankruptcy, still has a negative cash flow. ALthough, if you’re an American taxpayer, you’re covering that bill.

The MoCo is trying to avoid becoming GM.  So the question for the Milwaukee workforce is whether or not they agree that a somewhat less highly compensated job is better than no job at all.

2011 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra

The Road Glide has always been my favorite Harley-Davidson.  I really don’t like the bat-wing fairing on the other big tourers, mainly because I hate the idea of an extra 50 pounds riding on the forks. But the Roag Glide, with its fixed fairing is the best-handling of the big Harleys I’ve ridden–with the exception of the Road King–and I absolutely hated the Electra Glide Ultra.

2011 Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra
2011 Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra

For 2011, Harley has introduced a new Ultra version of the Road Glide, with all the touring amenities of the Electra- Glide Ultra.  Dain Gingerelli at Motorcycle.Com got his hands on one and was able to take it for a spin.  You can read his review at your leisure, but the thing I found interesting was that he highlighted the fact that for 2011, the MoCo is now offering a Power Pak package, the centerpiece of which is not the venerable TC96 powerplant H-D has produced for years, but a new 103ci motor, with increased torque and–to the extent that it matters on a big touring cruiser–horsepower.  And the Power Pak does seem like a pretty good value for the money, considering that you get more than just the engine:

Now for the even better news: the optional Power Pak costs $1,995, a bargain when you consider that the cost for upgrading a standard 96-cubic-inch engine is about that for parts and labor alone. Think of the ABS and security system as a bonus. Ditto for the engine ID emblem.

And the 103ci mill is a big improvement, with 102 ft-lbs of torque at 3,500 RPM. That’s just shy of a 10% increase over the TC96’s output.

However, you should probably be aware of this, before you buy:

Which begs the question: why doesn’t Harley-Davidson equip all of the Big Twin line with this bigger and better engine? Good question, and when asked, one Harley spokesman merely smiled.

The TC96 is not a bad engine, at all.  But a 1574cc engine for a big cruiser when the Big Four are running 1800cc – 2000cc mills–with signifigantly more power–in their competing bikes makes the TC96 a comparatively underpowered engine for such large bikes.  Even Victory has switched their entire model line over to a 106ci mill for their 2011 models. And by comparison, the 2011 Victorys’ engine will put out–depending on the factory options you want–up to 113 ft-lbs of torque, or nearly 10% more than the Harley’s 103ci mill does.

The TC96–despite being unveiled in 2007–is just a bit long in the tooth, in the sense that it produces torque and horsepower that reflect the standards of an engine generation ago. It’s better than the 93ci mill it replaced, but it still isn’t on a par with the big Japanese cruiser motors, or the motor that will grace this year’s Victory motorcycles.

I think that smile on the H-D representative’s face indicates that H-D is gearing up for another change to the engine line-up in the next model year or two.  With Victory doing so this year, I suspect that makes a change at Harley inevitable in the near future.

So, your question has to be, “Do I want the bigger engine now?, Or can I wait a season or two until it’s standard equipment, and most likely cheaper?”