When I was preparing to write this article I took a mental look back through my riding and helmet owning history and realized something; I’ve bought more HJC helmets than I have any other brand. This information wasn’t surprising though as HJC has dominated the low to mid priced helmet market for decades. You’d probably be hard pressed to find a rider out there who hasn’t, at one time or another, owned one.
HJC is targeting the RPHA series helmets (the full face RPHA 10, the flip-up RPHA Max, and the off-road RPHA X) towards those riders who want premium features without the premium price tag. To see what the real world pricing looked like I checked out Motorcycle-Superstore.com who has been a partner with 2WF.com for years and usually has some of the best prices on the net. Since I am reviewing the HJC RPHA 10 I stuck with that model when searching for pricing.
I found that Motorcycle-Superstore.com sells the solid color (at the time of this article) for between $323.99 and $332.99, the graphic schemes between $359.99 and $364.99 and the Spies Replica II scheme between $494.99 and $499.99. While these prices are lower than anything Arai sells they are in line with the base Shoei Qwest and not far behind the Shoei RF1100 (depending on color scheme); not to mention the Bell Vortex and RS1 (Both of which we’ve tested: Vortex here and RS1 here)
Yes, but with a few niggly-bits that need some polishing to be considered “premium”.
Firmly in the “Yes” category is the overall weight of the helmet. I weighed the RPHA 10 on our trusty, highly accurate, “best that one can buy at the dollar store” scale and found a weight of 1534 grams. HJC builds the entire RPHA series using Premium Integrated Matrix (PIM) construction which incorporates carbon fiber, aramid fiber and fiberglass to create a woven blend that is stronger and lighter than conventional helmet materials.
Putting the RPHA 10 helmet on my head revealed that HJC leans towards the mid-oval interior shape; which means if you have a long-oval head (like me) you’ll need to go up a size in order to get it to fit without hot-spots. For a while, HJC was building helmets with more of a round interior so it was nice to put the RPHA 10 on and not immediately feel like someone was poking me in the forehead.
Other than weight, the interior of a helmet is the easiest place to see and feel the difference between a budget and premium helmet. HJC wants the RPHA series to play in the middle ground so I expected the interior materials and feel to be better than basic but less than premium; which is exactly what I found. HJC says the RPHA series (except the X) is equipped with their SilverCool Plus interior which features a special silver antibacterial fabric with a Gingko extract to help fight odor build-up in the lining. In touch and feel the interior of the RPHA 10 comes close to the premium helmet interiors and is superior to the interiors of lower-priced helmets.
Another feature of premium helmets is how they manage the air flowing around the helmet. HJC spent hours testing the RPHA 10 in a wind tunnel, as well as consulting with AMA and WSBK champion, and all around nice guy, Ben Spies to design a helmet that was quiet, had maximum ventilation, low wind resistance and no buffeting. Almost immediately I could tell that the no buffeting/low wind resistance claim was accurate as no matter what speed I was going, nor which way I turned my head, the RPHA 10 felt stable and didn’t allow the wind to “grab” the helmet and move it around.
I also was able to immediately realize that the “quiet” claim was, um, a tad bit optimistic. Call me gullible but when someone says they have made a quiet helmet after hours of wind tunnel testing I expect a quiet helmet. The HJC RPHA 10 isn’t the loudest helmet I’ve worn but it isn’t a quiet helmet. It is certainly a helmet you will want to wear earplugs with while riding – which you should be doing anyway since wind noise is a huge contributor to hearing loss. I also noticed, and this may be motorcycle specific, that there was a whistle that cropped-up from the top right vent at speeds over 45 mph. I haven’t seen any other reports of this so like I said it may be bike specific (FJR1300 with a cut-down “shorty” screen) but I felt I should mention it.
Helmet noise is often the product of ventilation; the more air a helmet moves through its vents and around your head, the louder the wind noise. I would rank the airflow from the HJC RPHA 10 as being in the top 75% of helmets. You won’t feel gusts of air blowing your hair around but you will feel a breeze – which in the world of helmet ventilation design means a huge thumbs-up to the designers and engineers for a job well done. My only complaint about the ventilation system (other than the whistle mention above) is that I dislike HJC’s wheel adjusters on the top vents. Sure they offer many different options for how much the vent is open or closed but this just seems an overly fussy set-up for a vent. I’m all for progress and new ideas but the old “open or shut” vent slider mechanism has been around for ages and works because 99.9% of the time you either want air or you don’t. But even though it annoys me it wouldn’t be something I’d decline buying the HJC RPHA 10 over.
HJC invested in new technology that allows a level of graphics detail that is amongst the best on the market – and certainly looks premium. The graphics on the RPHA 10 Evoke in black we requested for this review were indeed very nicely applied with beautiful depth and shading to them. Right now HJC offers the RPHA 10 in only a few grown-up looking graphic designs; Evoke (in black or white), the Cage (white/red/gray/black or white/blue/gray/black) and the two Spies Replica’s (I or II). Wild graphics do sell helmets though so I’d expect to see more designs hitting the market soon.
There is just one small thing about the helmet that I truly don’t like: the center mounted shield locking system.
I know that HJC wanted to design a helmet that would be great to wear on the track….and I’d say they mostly hit their target goals; lightweight, near-premium interior, good airflow and minimal buffeting. And all that’s great but they then went a bit too far with the track bias and stuck this center-locking shield mechanism on the helmet.
If you don’t know what a shield lock is for it’s to keep the shield from opening while you are riding at ludicrous speed – which usually happens while one is on a racetrack. Another benefit to a shield lock is to minimize chances of the shield popping open in a crash and your helmet filling with gravel or grass and dirt depending upon the surface you have chosen to crash upon.
Most helmets that offer a shield lock place it on the left side of the shield/helmet. Focusing on the track, the center-locking system on the RPHA 10 will provide a more secure latch than a side-locking shield; good for keeping it shut at speed – even better for keeping it shut while tumbling along like a tumbleweed.
The downside to the center-locking design on the RPHA 10 is that you always have to secure it to get the shield to sit against the helmet seal and not stay open a crack. This wouldn’t be bad if it was an easy lock to engage and disengage but that’s not the case. It takes a firm push right in the bottom center of the shield to engage the lock – and sometimes it takes more than one push to get it to engage. To disengage the lock you have to press the release and lift the shield. Sounds easy (and looks easy in the picture) but I constantly had trouble finding the release (you can only cross your eyes so many times without giving yourself a headache) and, once I found it, I had trouble toggling it while wearing my gloves.
None of these complaints are issues on the track – but on the street, where you’ll probably be opening and closing your shield numerous times every ride, you may find the shield lock a bit fiddly. On the bright side HJC has made the shield Pinlock ready to help combat fogging issues better than any anti-fog coating ever could.
Whenever a manufacturer starts making claims like “premium features at a mid-level price” I start to get skeptical but HJC seems to actually have been telling the truth. The RPHA 10 is, once you get passed the “too focused on the track” shield lock, a helmet that offers premium class weight and aerodynamics, a near premium interior, and premium levels of ventilation for a price that places it firmly in that mid-level helmet price category.
- Paint and graphics look great
- Shield comes Pinlock ready
- Above average ventilation
- Comfortable interior
- Helmet is a bit noisy for the manufacturer’s claim of “quiet”
- The shield locking mechanism – oh how I dislike thee.
By clicking the link and buying, you not only get a great deal on the HJC RPHA 10 Evoke but you also help support 2WF.com – a Win-Win situation! – http://www.motorcycle-superstore.com/14/67/905/46377/ITEM/HJC-RPHA-10-Evoke-Helmet.aspx?
For more information on the RPHA 10 and the entire HJC RPHA lineup click this link: http://www.hjchelmets.com/