The Bell RS-1 motorcycle helmet sits between their top of the range Bell Star series of helmets and the more budget orientated Vortex. But the RS-1 loses very little in comparison the Star while saving buyers a lot of money. It’s also one of the best helmets we’ve ever used when it comes to its anti-fogging abilities.
Bell is one of the more well known helmet brands, having manufactured lids for motorcyclists since the middle of last century. In our view, they’ve been somewhat stagnant with their offerings until recently – perhaps resting on their brand name rather than truly innovative products. But competition from both new and established brands means that Bell is lifting their game.
The RS-1 is a good looking helmet, although one might say the choice of graphics is pretty conservative. There’s a lot of solid color schemes on offer which we like, but the more ‘racy’ designs are a bit dated already in our view. The likes of Shark and AGV provide much more modern designs in our opinion.
What isn’t dated however is the quality of the RS-1. All the parts, both internal and external feel like a million bucks. There’s very few helmets in this price range that exude as much quality as the RS-1 does.
Bell seems to have put a lot of thought into the little things with this helmet. First is the quick release system for the visor. If you’re the rare type of individual that uses multiple visors, it will take you only a few seconds to change from one to the other. But for those that don’t need to swap visors, it’s a great and easy system to use so that you can give the visor a good clean – much easier than trying to clean both the inside and outside of the visor while still attached to the helmet.
The lever on the side of the visor also allows you to open the visor fractionally to let air through if fogging is an issue (but in our experience it never is). You can also progressively open the helmet in stages to let as much air in as you want.
The RS-1 uses the tried and tested double d-ring system to tighten your helmet to your head, but they’ve made one small innovation to the snap. Bell describes it as their patented Magnefusion strap – instead of the usual plastic snap that needs to be pushed in place, Bell uses magnets – great for when you’re trying to strap it into place with gloves on. Simple and elegant.
The Bell RS-1 has some of the best (if not the best) anti-fogging capabilities we’ve ever experienced in a helmet. No matter the temperature (inside or outside the helmet), the visor just won’t fog up. There’s no use of pinlock visors here (which we don’t like due to their distortion of vision at night) so we can only think there’s some kind of voodoo magic happening. Even intentionally trying to fog the visor up results in failure.
Bell says it uses what is called NutraFog II Anti Fog Coating. This is a proprietary system of Bell’s and other than its name, there’s little I could find out about it. Whatever its composition or design, it works and it’s probably the biggest draw card for this lid. We’ve tested it in both 30°C (86ºF) plus weather with high humidity (and therefore lots of heat coming from our skulls) and temperatures approaching 6°C (42ºF) and it worked flawlessly.
Air flow is okay, without being exceptional. You do notice more air coming in with the vents open, but only just. What is a little bit annoying is that the non-removable chin curtain doesn’t stop enough air coming up between it and your neck. We would have preferred a larger, removable chin curtain that can be used in winter and discarded in summer. Wind noise is also just okay. It’s about in line with most helmets we’ve used which means you should be using earplugs when doing long stints on the bike.
For those wanting to reduce the glare from the sun, keep in mind that the RS-1 doesn’t have an internal sunvisor – nor can you really wear sunglasses with this helmet – there’s just no room between your head and the internal padding to do so. You can however buy a chromatic visor that automatically tints depending on the ambient light.
Overall, we’ve been very impressed with the Bell RS-1 since we’ve been using it for the past few months. It oozes quality, has exceptional anti-fogging capabilities and we love the simple yet modern looks.
We’ve seen a lot of hype surrounding the next generation of motorcycle helmets. The likes of SKULLY and Nuviz had gotten us excited, only to end up disappointing with delayed launches and the seeming inevitability of vaporware. But now there’s a new kid on the block and the iC-R could actually be the best of the bunch.
The iC-R (Intelligent Cranium) helmet packs a lot of the same technology that these other products do, but what we like most about it is that it actually seems to make an effort to make these features part of improving rider safety instead of just being there for the sake of it. It includes the usual tricks such as HUD navigation, weather updates and so forth but there’s a few really nice additions that are “Why didn’t they think of that before?” ideas.
Firstly is the rear camera. Although it’s actually two rear cameras which give a total field of view of 210° allowing the rider to see a wider view of what is behind him or her; completely removing the need for the rider to take his or her eyes off the road ahead. It almost eliminates all blind spots.
The greatest innovation however is what is described as interior notification lighting. There are two LED lights (amber & red) that the rider will see at the edge of their vision to act as a warning of cars coming behind from behind. The LED lighting system works in tandem with a warning sound and/or vibration inside the helmet. The soft amber color means “Warning”; which will blink in 2 second intervals when a vehicle gets within 420 ft. This feature is also accompanied by a warning sound and/or vibration (optional) inside the helmet. The red color means “Danger”; which will blink in 1 second intervals when a vehicle gets within 240 ft. Great for every rider who fears being taken out from behind.
There’s a few other unique features as well, including a solar panel on top of the helmet to assist with charging, an open SDK (for custom mobile application development) and an “E-tint” that allows you to turn your visors tint on or off at the flick of a button.
If this comes to fruition, it seems to be the most compelling smart helmet offering so far. If you’re interested in supporting the development of the iC-R, head to the Indiegogo funding page.
The US Motorcycle Industry Council – the industry body that looks after the interests of motorcycle manufacturers, distributors, dealers and retailers of bikes, gear, parts and accessories is launching a a new initiative built around ways to encourage riders to use proper motorcycle apparel.
The official launch will happen during May’s Motorcycle Safety Awareness month. The website is already up but will officially launch this Friday with an online contest featuring nearly $10,000 in prizes and growing.
“Gear Up is designed to be more of a movement than a public awareness campaign,” said Eric Anderson, chair of MIC’s Rider Safety Committee. “We want to inspire a fundamental shift in the way riders think, encouraging them to express themselves and the independent spirit of motorcycling through their riding gear. At the same time, we want to help motorcyclists make educated decisions. It’s not about shaming riders to do the right thing. It’s about providing good information and encouragement to make wise choices.”
According to the Council, Gear Up Every Ride is based on the core principles of education, preparation and inspiration. The Gear Up team believes that informing riders of the latest developments and trends in protective equipment will allow them to make the best decisions about the gear they wear. Gear Up is also designed to better prepare riders for the road ahead, guiding them toward the right apparel to take on the challenges that the road and weather might present.
It’s a great looking campaign and is in stark contrast to the American Motorcyclist Association that continues to hold on to its archaic view on the use of motorcycle helmets. Their official position statement on helmet use includes such gems as, “Mandatory helmet laws do nothing to prevent crashes”. At least the Motorcycle Industry Council realizes that in order for its members to remain profitable, it needs customers that are alive.
Of all the protective gear that you wear, a helmet is by far and away the most important item in order to reduce or even prevent injury. And yet for all the technological advances society has seen over the past few decades, motorcycle helmet technology remains pretty much as it was fifty years ago. But that’s all rapidly changing with a number of new technologies either now for sale or soon available that look set to provide drastic improvement to protecting your brain.
The biggest change coming and one you’ve possibly already heard of is MIPS which stands for Motorcycle Impact Protection System. MIPS is less of a new material and more of an innovation in how a motorcycle helmet should work. In a MIPS equipped helmet, the helmet shell and liner are separated by a low friction layer. When such a helmet is subjected to an angled impact (far more common than a direct impact to the top of the helmet by which most helmets are tested and rated), the low friction layer allows the helmet to slide relative to the head.
The idea behind this system is actually a case of technology imitating what nature already provides. Our brains are surrounded by a low friction cushion of fluid beneath the skull that protects the brain by allowing it to slide around on impact. Thus, MIPS does the same thing by giving the protective layers within a helmet the ability to slide and therefore absorb energy. The video below from One Industries gives a good demonstration of this:
MIPS technology is currently available in these helmets:
Bell, one of the most renowned helmet manufacturers has just released a helmet with very similar technology to MIPS which they call Rotational Energy Management (in fact, it appears so similar to MIPS that we’re wondering if it’s the same product licensed by Bell to use under a different name). But in addition to allowing the inner layers to move independently like MIPS, the Bell Moto-9 Flex has a few other tricks up its sleeve.
The Moto-9 Flex is equipped with three separate layers that are each designed to manage energy from low, mid and high speed impacts. The EPO (expanded polyolefin) layer is designed for low speed impacts, the middle EPP (expanded polypropylene) takes care of impacts at speeds up to 5 metres per second and the outermost layer is made of traditional expanded polystyrene (EPS). EPO is a soft and flexible low-density polymer that when placed between the EPP and EPS layers, dampens low-threshold impacts.
And now for something completely different. The 6D ATR-1 helmet incorporates omni-directional suspension – small dampers that sit in-between layers of traditional expanded polystyrene. It is this array of isolation dampers surrounding the entire liner, combined with the air-gap, that affords the free-motion suspension capability of their omni-directional suspension.
Like MIPS, this split liner system allows the inner and outer shells to shear omni-directionally within itself to provide improved performance against oblique impacts and angular acceleration demands. But in addition to this, the dampers function with specially designed frusto-conical (their words, not ours) ramping chambers within the ODS system to produce a rapidly escalating spring rate under compressive load. In other words, the system can absorb and dissipate energy far better than traditional EPS alone while at the same time, reducing the rotational forces that MIPS does.
The overall effect is probably similar to that of the Bell Moto-9 Flex, but with a different approach. The 6D Helmets are definitely more elaborate whereas Bell approaches the problem by using different materials of differing densities. Both go a long way to reducing injury from low and mid speed impacts which traditional EPO isn’t so great at.
Probably no other company has moved motocross safety forward so much in recent times (perhaps ever) than Leatt and its founder, Dr Chris Leatt. The physician developed what is now known as the Leatt Neck Brace after witnessing a rider die from a neck injury in 2001. Since then, his company has developed advanced body armor, sophisticated knee braces and is now close to releasing what appears to be one of the most advanced helmets ever produced – the GPX 5.5 and 6.5 (the latter is made of carbon while the former uses a composite shell).
Features so far known about the helmet are that the shell is smaller by between 11 and 25 percent than other helmets which reduces impact forces. Leatt states that a 10% smaller shell transfers 22% less torque and rotational energy to the head and brain. The GPX also includes what they call ‘turbines’ which act not only as a damper but allow the inner and outer layers to slide – an approach that looks very similar to 6D Helmets.
Where it really stands out is in the creation of the shell and the energy absorption layers. Where traditional helmets have distinct layers, Leatt has combined them. Looking at a cross section of the helmet, the outer and inner layers are actually combined in a zig-zag pattern. Effectively the shell and the foam is one integrated part.
The Leatt GPX 5.5 and GPX 6.5 are currently available for pre-order from here and at around $360 have a massive price advantage over the competition.
Koroyd isn’t a helmet – it’s a new type of material that has found its way into bicycle and snowboard helmets and hopefully will find its way into motorcycle gear in the near future. Koroyd is made up of tens of thousands of co-polymer extruded tubes, thermally welded together and can be molded into various shapes and sizes.
It’s claimed that Koroyd is far better at energy absorption in comparison to EPS and foams. Upon impact the cores crush in a completely controlled manner, decelerating the energy from the impact and reducing the final trauma levels. Another advantage is that large gaps aren’t needed to create airflow. Because Koroyd is made of thousands of small tubes, airflow comes naturally meaning there’s more total surface area for impact absorption.
How much better is Koroyd? Some are claiming that the technology provides up to 30% more energy absorption than the same helmet with foam – which is a massive difference. The image below is taken from a trade catalog and shows that a Koroyd equipped motorcycle helmet reduces peak G’s in testing by 32% and HIC (the Head Injury Criterion as used by SNELL which is an involved calculation based on the entire time history of the acceleration pulse transmitted to the head) by a massive 58%.
Koroyd is currently in talks with helmet manufacturers and we will hopefully begin to see motorcycle helmets featuring this material in the next few years.
All of the above technologies are great if you’re in the market for a new motocross helmet. But what if you’ve just bought a new lid or want a road helmet? There is one product that may be of interest.
That product is by Unequal Technologies which has found huge support in the American NFL as a way to reduce and prevent head injuries. The padding which is about a quarter of an inch thick can be placed (and trimmed to size) inside a helmet and features three layers:
Acceleron – An elastomer with amazingly durable cushioning qualities. Multiplies shock absorption capabilities dramatically in patented combinations with Kevlar
Kevlar – A patented fiber used in law enforcement and the military that, when woven into a sheet, is 5-times stronger than steel. Delivers virtually unmatched strength and flexibility.
Impactshield – A patented polymer layer added to some Unequal® protective pads to maximize shock suppression and dispersion in a much-desired low profile.
In addition to adoption by American Football players, its found support from a number of other high profile athletes including Winter Olympics and X Games gold medalist Torah Bright. Unequal claims that their product can reduce G-forces generated at impact by up to 25 per cent. While not marketed towards motorcycle riders, there’s no real reason why it can’t be adopted for road helmets – although the legality of ‘modifying’ your helmet by placing an additional layer of padding inside it may vary from country to country and state to state.
It sounds great in theory but at this stage, there’s no real scientific peer-reviewed evidence of the benefit of Unequal’s product. Curiously, Unequal has changed it’s naming of the product over time. Initially the technology was labelled as ‘concussion reduction technology’, then changed to CRT and now is called ART which stands for ‘acceleration reduction technology’. Take out of that what you will…
After decades of stagnation it’s great that we’re finally beginning to see real advances in helmet technology. Until recently, the motorcycle helmet you bought contained simple styrofoam – whether it was a cheap $100 helmet from some unknown brand or a top of the line Shoei that costs ten times as much. Higher end helmets offered no real increase in safety – just better quality, lighter weight and better ventilation. But now new materials and new ways of integrating existing materials into helmets are becoming readily available and will hopefully become mainstream (and therefore affordable) sooner rather than later.
Announced late last year and now arriving in stores (at least in Europe), the BMW Motorrad GS Helmet is a Dakar inspired lid with features, technology and materials that means it differs little from what is used in professional competition – and few are tougher than Dakar. In fact, the helmet was worn by Simon Pavey and his son Llewellyn during the 2015 Dakar race
The enduro helmet’s shell is made of 100% carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic which provides high quality impact absorption while keeping down weight. The GS Helmet comes in at a pretty impressive 1,500 grams and BMW assures us that this weight doesn’t impact on rider safety. The inner shell comprises five sections of varying density along with integrated neck bands which keeps the firmly in place.
The GS helmet is equipped as standard with 3D curved pinlock double glazing with an anti-fogging inner face. The outer face has a scratch-proof coating on both sides. The visor can be easily removed and replaced without the need for tools. For maximum air flow when riding off-road, the chin flap is removable. The integrated screen then provides protection against foreign objects and acts as a dust filter. The the peak (or beak) of the helmet is removable as are the chin pads and inner liner for washing.
The helmet is also compatible with BMW Motorrad’s neck brace system – devices which are quite popular in the off road motorcycling scene. The BMW GS Helmet is retailing for between ₤400 and ₤450 in the UK, though we expect it to hit other international retailers shortly.
Coming just a week after AGV announced their battery operated solution to sunlight, SHOEI has released details of their visors incorporating photochromic technology from Transitions Optical which will create an adaptive face shield that adjusts to outdoor light and weather conditions – changing from clear to very dark and everything in-between.
At this stage, the visor which will be called the CWR-1 adaptive face shield will fit only the full-face RF-1200 helmet. “Our retail customers as well as our dealer-distribution network have been asking us for a top-of-the-line adaptive shield for years,” said Moichi Tsuzuki, SHOEI Safety Helmet Corp, president. “We are excited for the added value the Transitions shield will bring to our customers and for the enhanced visual experience they will now have while riding. Being able to see perfectly in all lighting conditions is optimal for both safety and for a more fun, enjoyable ride.”
The shields, developed using Transitions’ state-of-the-art photochromic technology, automatically self-adjust from clear at night and in low light conditions to dark gray in bright sunlight. They eliminate the need for motorcycle riders to carry and switch out multiple shields. The shields also protect against wind and debris, and like all Transitions® technology, block 100% of harmful UV rays.
This isn’t the first time SHOEI has announced this product – in fact it was announced over a year ago that these were ‘coming soon’. Let’s hope this time they aren’t vaporware and that the visors will be made for other SHOEI helmets as well.
Finding a way to shield your eyes from the strong glare of the sun hasn’t always been a simple process. The simplest no doubt is wearing sunglasses, but they don’t always fit well inside a helmet (or they constantly need adjusting while riding, meaning you need to flip the visor up to do so). Some helmets include a flip down visor, but there has been some concern (without any factual evidence, mind you) that making room for a flip down visor comprises helmet safety. Of course, you could always carry both a tinted and clear visor, but that’s probably the worst solution of all.
Bell introduced a nice solution by way of photo-chromatic visors that automatically adjusts the tint to lighting conditions – although when you go in and out of tunnels, it probably adjusts a little too slowly for our liking. But AGV have just announced a very cool (albeit expensive) solution titled AGVisor.
Debuted just a few days ago at SWISS-MOTO (Switzerland’s annual motorcycle expo), AGV says that their system is fast, efficient and doesn’t compromise helmet safety. As you can see in the video below, the function works instantaneously by pressing a button on the left side of the helmet. It’s basically the same principle behind Bell’s photo-chromatic system, but instead of adjusting by sunlight, it changes by electric current.
When powered on in tinted mode, the battery will last for around 12 hours. In standby mode, total battery life before charging is 55 hours. However, AGV have included a mechanical backup that allows you to change the visor tint from dark to clear if the battery runs flat.
It’s no doubt a very cool and clever system, but we’re not sold on any piece of technology that requires regular charging in order to work as it’s just another thing you need to keep on top of. Then there’s the price. It’s been announced that the visors will cost €200 each, or about $223. Considering a Bell photo-chromatic visor is about $120 and a cheap pair of sunglasses costs $20, that’s a huge amount of money for essentially the same thing (although with a quicker tinting action).
Initially, the AGVisor will be made available for the GT Veloce helmet, with other models such as the Corsa Pista and GP to follow.
I’m a bit of a motorcycle accessories addict and the Icon Airframe Ghost Carbon Helmet is probably one of my prized possessions. Living in Thailand where most things are so cheap allows me to splurge every now and then and I think a helmet is definitely a motorcycle accessory worth splurging on. And while you can certainly buy cheaper helmets that offer just as good protection, I personally think the Icon Airframe Ghost Carbon is worth every dollar.
Icon can make some pretty gaudy gear, especially some of their jackets that look like dirt bike gear converted for street use. Bright and tacky in my view and while i wouldn’t call the Airframe Ghost Carbon understated in its appearance, it doesn’t yell out, “Look at me” like some teenager with an unhealthy dose A.D.D . In fact from a distance it really looks like a plain black helmet (albeit with a tinted yellow visor – more on that later). Up close however and you can see this is a helmet with a lot of attention to detail.
I think the carbon looks great. It looks modern yet I think will date well. And while the design does look aggressive, to me it’s still a matter of function over form – there’s nothing unnecessary about what Icon have implemented here. The air intakes and exhaust ports may look comically large on first glance but you grow used to them and after wearing the helmet for a while, you’ll appreciate their purpose. That carbon used on the shell means the helmet only weighs a smidgen over 3 pounds (1.5kg) and it really helps reduce neck fatigue on long rides.
The name Airframe may give you a clue as to what this helmet excels at and that is air flow. Damn, it’s good. There are two massive vents on the top of the helmet and they really do a great job of keeping the temperature down at speed. The downside is that you also get a fair bit of wind noise because of that, but it’s a compromise I’m happy to make in a tropical climate. Just put in ear plugs. Icon go a step further and line the helmet with a quality wicking material called HydraDry. It’s removable and washable and not only helps keep the sweat off you, but reduces that lovely helmet smell we all endure.
Despite that noise generated by the helmet when riding fast, I was surprised at how stable the Icon Aiframe Ghost Carbon is at high speed. I’ve generally found that a noisy helmet equals a helmet that tries to rip my head from my body at anything above freeway speeds. But no, it’s surprisingly aerodynamic. Icon has really designed the air vents well so that the air flowing through does so in an efficient manner. Kudos to them.
The yellow visor is another great feature and not as gimmicky as I thought it would be upon purchase. Unlike a tinted visor, the yellow optical visor can be used both day and night. It cuts down glare in the day like a tinted visor and actually enhances your vision in darker light. You’ll probably still want to wear sunglasses in extremely bright conditions but I gotta say I’m a convert – no more tinted visors for me if I can help it.
At $500, it certainly isn’t cheap and considering the normal Airframe helmets cost almost half as much, you could still get a great helmet and save yourself a few hundred bucks. But as I said, I like to splurge and I have no regrets with the Icon Airframe Ghost Carbon.