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.

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.

Photochromic Visors on the Way

If you’re like me, you sometimes get irritated by bright sunlight when riding, so you want a darker visor.  But, as soon as you stick a dark visor on your helmet, you have to ride at night, or in heavy overcast, and you need to switch out for a clear visor.  Why can’t you have one visor that does everything?

Well, maybe you can.  ShieldTech LLC is partnering with Transitions–the people who make those eyeglasses that get darker as the light gets brighter–to release a new line of helmet visors (PDF) with the Transitions technology.  So, in dark conditions, the visor is clear, but as the sun climbs in the sky, the visor will automatically darken.

So, by summer, you should be able to get a photochromic visor for your helmet, as long as it’s a Shoei (RF1000, TZ-R, X-Eleven, Multitec), Arai  (Quantum, Profile, Corsair, Vector), or Akuma (Phantom) helmet.

Maybe it’s time to think about a new helmet, too.

New Safety Standards, New Lids

It’s now November, which means that the new Snell M2010-standard helmets should have reached the stores.  Among them are two offereings from the premium helmet makers Arai and Shoei.  The Arai RX-Q and Shoei RF-1100 should run you between four and five bills, retail.  Motorcycle Daily has the full write-up on the new helmets.

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Snell Updates Helmet Standards

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When you buy a motorcycle helmet, you usually look for the big DOT sticker on the back, since most states with helmet laws require the helmet to be certified by the US Department of Transportation.  But of you’re really serious about trying to keep your noggin in one piece, you look for the sticker from Snell, or as its formal name is, the Snell Memorial Safety Foundation.

But, for a while now, there’s been a conflict between Snell and the DOT–and the international ECE 22-05–safety standards.  Both DOT and ECE use a variety of different dummy head sizes and weights for different helmets in promulgating their approval.  Snell on the other hand, uses the same 11-pound dummy head weight, irrespective of the size, and they’ve repeatedly said that there’s no indication that different head sizes have significantly different weights.  So, they’ve said graduated head weight standards don’t provide adequate protection to an 11-pound head.

Now, this is kind of an important argument.  You see, if you have an 8-pound head, and your helmet is designed to cushion an 11-pound head, then the helmet may be too rigid to properly protect your head.  Sure, it’s great for the melon-heads, but the pinheads might get their skull scrambled, because the lower weight of your pinhead is too small to make the cushioning give enough.  The reverse is also true.  If you’re a melon-head, then a pinhead’s helmet will be too soft to protect you, and the helmet will come apart like an old shoe, and you’ll bump your skull on the pavement.

Either way, the end result is a Bad Thing if the helmet size and your head’s weight don’t match.

Well, now, after years of argument against the DOT and ECE standard, Snell is saying, “Never mind.”  In the brand new M2010 standard, Snell has looked at actual studies of the head weights of actual dead people, and decided that DOT was right after all.  Different sized heads do have significant weight differences.

So, as of the M2010 standard, Snell has adopted pretty much the same head profiles as ECE.  In addition, Snell has also lowered the number of gravities the helmet is allowed to transmit to your skull from 300 g’s to 275 g’s.  Both moves offer greater head protection, although, unfortunately, that also means that if you’re a pinhead with a Snell M2005 sticker, you’re helmet fails the M2010 standard.  You might as well just whack your skull with a hammer right now for all the good that helmet will do you.

So, important helmet buying tip:  The new M2010-standard helmets will be hitting store shelves on October 1st, 2009. But, manufacturers can make M2005-standard helmets for another couple of years, and sell them for…ever.  So, you have to be sure that you look for the Snell M2010 sticker on the helmet if that’s what you really want.

On the bright side, this now means that a Snell-certified helmet will also meet DOT and ECE standards right across the board, no matter what size of melon you’re sporting.

Unless, of course, you’re buying a modular helmet, which, as far as I know, don’t exist in Snell-certified form.

Kawasaki Goes High-Tech

Kawasaki is reported to be working on some high-tech additions to the Concours14/GTR-1400 for the upcoming model year.

Kawasaki HUD System
Kawasaki HUD System

They won’t be officially unveiled until later this year.  I don’t know when.  It was supposed to be at the Paris Motorcycle show in October, but that event has been canceled.

Anyway, the new additions include an infrared night vision system, and a heads-up display for riders.

The heart of the system is a pair of infrared cameras mounted on the front of the bike. They allow the rider to “see” about 300 meters ahead of the bike, which is well beyond the viewing distance provided by the headlights. Not only will the system be able to find a heat signature before the rider is able to see it, but it will also provide an audible alarm to the rider. This will keep focus on the road rather than the gauge cluster.

Aside from the night vision the Kawasaki Engineering team is also working to design a helmet mounted heads up display. If they are successful, it could be mean riders will rarely have to look away from the road to check their speed or whatever they are monitoring at the time. The current design is mounted on the exterior of the helmet, rather than being part of it, meaning it could quickly become a popular aftermarket accessory.

It’s also supposed to have a bluetooth hookup to the helmet HUD, so there won’t be any annoying wires or whatnot.

Maybe I should reconsider an earlier post.  If you’re gonna have the heads-up display, and the infrared night vision, you might as well spring for the Batman suit after all.

Modular Helmet Testing Results

I’m one of those people that needs to wear a modular (flip-up) helmet.  I have two of them, a Harley-Davidson Stealth, which is OK, and an HJC Sy-Max II, which I like a bit better for the lower wind noise.  Unfortunately, I have to wear glasses or contact lenses, and, even with my contacts, I’m kind of light-sensitive, so I need to wear sunglasses.  A full-face helmet makes that a bit difficult.

But there’s always been some controversy as to how well modular helmets poerform in a crash.  This is kind of important, since about a fifth of crashes involve the biker taking one to the chin.  I’d kind of like that bit protected,  since chicks dig guys with chins.

So, I am interested to learn that, over in the UK, SHARP is testing modular helmets for crashworthiness, and rating them.  They’ve already started putting ratings up, so you may want to amble over and see if your helmet appears, and how it did in testing.

If you are wearing a KBC FFR, or a Duchinni D601…well…you may want to go to the dealership and see how much a BMW System 5 helmet or a Caberg Trip will set you back.

I’m just saying…