Tag Archives: Product Reviews

Bell Rogue Helmet Review

Let’s be honest; the Bell Rogue is not a helmet that appeals to everyone. When it showed-up in our office our Managing Editor, Bryan Group, took one look at it and started screaming and flailing his arms about. He claims it wasn’t caused by the helmet but because a bee had apparently gotten into his shirt during his morning ride into work; we’re not sure we believe him. I, on the other hand, kind of like the helmet.

It’s not just people in our office that had that type of response either as most people I met who saw the Bell Rogue either liked it or hated it; and there weren’t many who fell in between those two extremes.

Bell seems to make two helmet shapes; their full face helmets are built for a long-oval head shape while their Custom 500, half helmets and the Rogue all lean more towards a mid-oval head shape. This becomes important if you own a Bell Star/RS-1/Vortex and decide that you like it so much you’ll buy a Bell Rogue to wear while riding your new cruiser; may not fit you as well as your Bell full face.

The Bell Rogue looks like a ½ helmet but offers a comfort level more in line with a ¾ helmet due to a foam pad that extends out below the rear and sides of the composite shell. That shell comes in 4 colors, btw; Solid Matte Black, Solid Black (gloss), Solid Army Green and Solid Gunny (a tan/khaki-ish color). I wouldn’t say that the Rogue offers the same levels of protection that a 3/4 helmet will because those foam extensions are softer and don’t have a “hard candy shell” protecting their soft innards.

All this is interesting of course but the calling card of the Rogue is the detachable muzzle. Why a detachable muzzle, you ask? Looks? Protection against flying debris? Protection from inclement weather? Looks? Wait, did I say looks twice? Yeah my guess is that, for all their talk about protection from the elements the Rogue muzzle was mostly a designer’s wet dream that went into production. And that’s not a bad thing. I wish more companies would let their designer’s have free reign to design and build what they want….the world would be a more interesting place.

The muzzle attaches to the helmet by something called the “Fidlock Magnetic Connection”. What the hell is a “Fidlock”, you ask? Don’t feel bad as I had to Google it myself. Turns out that Fidlock is actually the name of a company that makes some unique fastening systems for different companies. In the case of the Rogue the connector is magnetic and holds the muzzle firmly in place. As a matter of fact the magnets are strong enough that if you get the male end close enough to the female end the magnets attract strongly enough that the two ends just click together.

To remove the muzzle all you need to do is slide it up and the magnetic connection is broken. Since the muzzle isn’t intended to provide any protection at all if you dismount and bash your face into the ground, having it only held on by magnets isn’t a negative. Also the muzzle straps are adjustable for both length and angle so you should be able to find a fit that works for you.

The first time I put the Bell Rogue on and tried to fit the muzzle into place I looked like I was trying out for a sequel to Aliens; lots of grabbing and twisting and pulling and tugging on this thing that looked attached to my face – just like the Alien eggs/cocoons/whateverthehelltheywere attached to the peoples faces. Eventually I figured out how everything went together and from that point forward it was pretty easy to get the muzzle attached to the helmet while wearing it. Here’s a hint: One side at a time makes the process much easier. Just click in and go.

After getting it on my face and doing the obligatory 5 minutes of “Luke, I am your father” (yes I know that is not exactly what Vader says….it’s poetic license so give me a break) until someone threw a stapler at my head (I think it was Mr. “There’s a bee in my shirt!”) , I headed outside to get a feel for what it was going to like wearing the Rogue while riding. Actually I’m a bit ahead of myself as right before I went for a ride (but after the “Luke, I am your…..HEY NO THROWING STAPLERS IN THE OFFICE!!! incident) I realized that the muzzle was very uncomfortable. I tried adjusting it a bit more, then a bit more, then bit more before realizing that the part that was pressing into the bridge of my nose was removable. Yes the muzzle has a removable inner liner that would be great on colder rides but which I could never get to stop touching the bridge of my nose and driving me insane. Since it is held in with Velcro it’s easy to remove; which I did. Problem solved and off to ride I went.

I’m not sure what I expected the Bell Rogue to feel like when riding but I’m happy to report that it was pretty uneventful. There is no buffeting caused by the muzzle nor does it funnel air directly into your eyes. If anything I found less air hitting my eyes with the muzzle attached than I did when I rode with it off. I enjoyed the fact that with a simple slide up I could remove the muzzle and get some more air on my face whenever I chose. I ride with a full face helmet so often that I forget how enjoyable it is to feel the air on your face that comes with wearing ½ and ¾ helmets.

I think the only thing that would make the Bell Rogue even better would be a slide-down visor; preferably in dark smoke. Not only would that look insanely awesome it would also provide wind, rain and sun protection for your eyes. And did I mention how cool it would look?

The Bell Rogue has an MSRP of $249.95 which may seem high for a 1/2 helmet, or even a 3/4 helmet but you are paying a premium to look cool. And to be able to walk around saying “Luke, I am your father”. Which, when you really think about it, is the exact opposite of cool.

To purchase your own Bell Rogue and support 2WF.com please click here: http://www.motorcycle-superstore.com/3/11/98/56287/ITEM/Bell-Rogue-Helmet.aspx?SiteID=IA_2wf&WT.mc_ID=54011

For more information on the Bell Rogue click here: http://www.bellhelmets.com/powersports/helmets/street/rogue

 

Schuberth C3 Product Review

Words and Pictures by Kenn Stamp

Schuberth C3Full disclosure: I was fully prepared to dislike the Schuberth C3 before I ever received it. I mean come on: It costs $700, when you pick-up the helmet for review you’ll get an hour long briefing about what makes Schuberth different, and the helmet has an owners manual that, even discarding the pages filled with the languages you don’t speak, is still thicker than the owners manual that came with my new TV. This all smacked of pretentiousness and I was fully prepared to dismiss the Schuberth C3 as just a mediocre helmet banking on the “German precision” marketing hype.

I was wrong. Really, really, wrong.

Before we get into the details of the helmet itself I’m going to put the info learned in that briefing (I had mine via Skype since I don’t live in LA) to good use and give you a wee bit of background on Schuberth and how they do things today.

Schuberth, being a German company, started making crates for breweries in 1922 (I was shocked to learn that Germans drank beer <cough, cough>). Some time later they branched out and started making soft leather linings that later became linings for head protection products. Since no detail is given about why they decided that leather linings were a good thing to make or what head protection products used them, I’m going to guess they made linings for military helmets leading up to and used during WWII. But that’s just a guess.

Their next venture was making hard shell mining helmets in 1952 which led to them making motorcycle helmets in 1954. Schuberth started making helmets using thermoplastics soon after and then branched out (again) and made helmets for European armed forces. Today Schuberth continues to make all types of protective head gear for everyone from a motorcycle rider, to firefighters, to soldiers and more.

Schuberth introduced its first flip-up style helmet in 1980 in a partnership with BMW that lasts to this day.

Why is any of this important and why did you just waste seconds of your life reading the above paragraphs? Simple; Schuberth’s history, both ancient and recent, inform and shape their corporate thinking and, by extension, their products. This is most evident in how Schuberth views themselves, not as a helmet manufacturer but as a manufacturer of head protection gear. The importance of this distinction will become a bit more clear a little later in the article.

Schuberth helmets have been available for years in the USA through a typical “custody chain” that one finds with foreign goods (manufacturer – importer/distributor – retailer – customer). After they and their customers were burned by the importer/distributor, Schuberth decided to sell dealer direct – which they started doing in 2010. That decision allows Schuberth to train their retailers to not only know how much a helmet costs but to also know exactly how to properly fit, care for and adjust them. Obviously this level of knowledge will be a huge asset to potential customers at the point of sale.

This direct line of training and communication also allows Schuberth to offer a complimentary 3-year service plan – allowing a customer to register their newly bought Schuberth helmet and then, any time within the next 3 years, take the helmet and certificate to a Schuberth dealer who will inspect, adjust and clean the helmet to return it to factory specifications (this does not include replacement of any worn parts although the customer will be advised if there are any).

Another cool feature of the plan is the Mobility Program. If a rider has an accident and damages their registered Schuberth helmet (within the 3 year period), they can return the helmet with the program certificate, purchase receipt, proof of motorcycle endorsed license and a copy of the police report from the accident and Schuberth will authorize a replacement of the damaged helmet with a new one of the same model for 1/3 the retail price. Seems like a lot of work I know, but we are talking about replacing your damaged $700 helmet with a new one and you only spending $230(ish) to do so. Not so much work now, eh?

By now you are either asleep, got bored and wandered off or are sitting there thinking, “what does any of that have to do with how the helmet works and why, for the love of all things holy, does it cost $700!!!???). OK, OK, enough with the history lesson then and on to the actual review.

I decided to go with the Schuberth C3 in the World White color to be different as I usually pick black helmets….and because Schuberth didn’t have my first choice (World Black) available. Once I received the helmet I was glad I chose the white as, with the gray globe graphics, it is quite a looker. There is also enough clear coat that there are no discernible ridges where the graphics are applied.

As an interesting note: other than the paint/graphics being applied by robots, the only other automated part of the C3 build process is the water cutting of the eyeport, vent holes and chinbar; everything else is done by a real live person. That fact may not inspire confidence if the tag said “Made in China – by unwilling, low-paid, conscripts who barely eat enough and have no access to health care or anything resembling human rights”, but Schuberth is a German company with German employees (whose healthcare pays for them to take ski trips when they feel stressed – at least that’s what I’ve been told) so having their little fingers involved in most of the building process is a probably a good thing.

Schuberth creates the shell of the C3 using fiberglass, Kevlar and Dyneema (a polymat material that resists penetration) and weaves them all together into sheets to create a fabric they call S.T.R.O.N.G.. These sheets are then cut into two 2-pieces and pre-formed before going into the helmet mold.

This process means that there are no issues with one part of the helmet shell being denser than another, which can happen with the hand-laid/blown fiberglass method of construction used by other helmet manufacturers. Since the fiber weave is the same density throughout the helmet it allows a consistent absorption of the resin that is poured into the mold; resulting in a uniform shell thickness. This uniformity is tested by placing a powerful light into the shell to ensure there are no brighter (indicates a thin spot) or darker (indicates a thick spot) areas in the shell. This technology is one of those areas that is a carry over from Schuberth’s other lines of business – when you make military and police helmets that are designed to stop a bullet, making sure there aren’t any thinner or thicker spots in the shell is of utmost importance.

It’s this ability to maintain a uniform thickness in the shell that allows Schuberth to keep the exterior shell size of the C3 to the bare minimum. This was made evident when I compared the C3 to my Bell Star; the C3 is a lot smaller in every external dimension – and I was comparing a Large C3 to a medium Star.

These smaller dimensions, coupled with that tightly controlled building process, means that the C3 isn’t very heavy either. Weighing in (on our trusty postal scale) at 1595 grams means that, compared to other full face helmets, the Schuberth C3 is a verifiable lightweight. Actually, unless you look at carbon fiber race helmets, the weight of the C3 compares beats a lot of full face helmets on the market too.

Another thing that contributes to the overall weight of the helmet is the interior. Schuberth has developed a way to create a multiple-density EPS liner in one piece rather than the separate pieces that most other manufacturers use to create their dual-density EPS liners.

The interior lining of a helmet, that part that touches your skin, is the area I use to really judge whether a helmet is truly a premium helmet – or just an overpriced wanna-be. I can say, without reservation, that the Schuberth C3’s interior is just about the nicest I’ve ever had the pleasure of sticking my head into. It’s one thing when the fabric used feels soft to your fingers but another level entirely when you can actually feel how soft it is on your forehead.

While Schuberth doesn’t put any sort of fabric or at least mesh between the padded panels to hide the EPS foam liner (Schuberth claims they don’t do that because it hampers airflow) they do cover the EPS itself with a fuzzy, velvety-type material (like those old flocked toys/Christmas decorations) which looks a LOT better than the raw EPS you’ll find in many helmets – premium or otherwise.

I was told by the Schuberth rep that one of the complaints they often hear about from new C3 owners is that the helmet is too tight. Apparently, and I’m just going by what they told me, due to the types and quality of the materials they use to build the interior, a Schuberth helmet takes longer to break-in than other brands.

When I ordered-up the C3, I did my usual and got a size larger than I really am because most helmets aren’t built to my exact head shape. I was glad I did because, for the first few rides I took that lasted longer than 30 minutes, I was getting a pressure spot at the middle of my forehead. This was due to Schuberth building the C3 with a mid-oval head shape while my head is a long-oval.

Usually this pressure would be a deal-breaker for me and I would pass along the helmet to someone else once the review was done – I’ve learned that those pressure spots don’t ever seem to go away. I liked the C3 so much though, and Schuberth said the helmet would break in, so I gave it some more time and now……no more pressure spot. This has to be due to their EPS foam manufacturing process because I’d never had a helmet that gave me pressure spots stop giving me pressure spots; no matter how long I wore it for.

Another bullet point in Schuberth’s presentation dealt with helmet quietness. Schuberth claims a decibel rating of only 84dB(A) at 65mph on an bike with no fairing. Having just tested the HJC RPHA 10 helmet and seen how HJC’s definition of “quiet” vastly differed from mine, I was hesitant to believe Schuberth’s definition would any closer. Turns out that the C3 is pretty quiet. I don’t have a decibel meter but I will say that the C3 is the first helmet I’ve ever worn that doesn’t make me feel I HAVE to wear earplugs or risk immediate hearing loss from wind noise.

That level of quiet comes not only from the design of the helmet and padded acoustical collar (the neck area is where most wind noise comes from) but also from small “turbolators” molded into the faceshield. These “turbolators” cause the air hitting the shield to spin in such a way that it goes smoothly over the top lip of the shield – thereby reducing both turbulence and noise. Schuberth is able to do all these little fine-tuning bits because they have the second quietest “aero-acoustic” (can test for both wind noise and aerodynamics) wind tunnel in the world.

Schuberth’s face shields are rated optical Class 1 which means nearly distortion free vision. They might be “nearly” distortion free when tested in a lab, but in the real world I’d say the were “completely” distortion free as I can’t find any distortion no matter how I move my eyes or tilt my head. Those same distortion free qualities also seem to carry over to the tinted integral drop-down sun-visor (which is cable driven for better reliability and smoother action).

The only thing I’m not wild about is the center “lock” on the shield – really just a little plastic “latch” on the helmet that snaps over a small tab on the shield. While there are no buttons or levers to manipulate, it can take quite a push to get the shield into the full down and “locked” position because you have to both push in and down to get the tab to go under the latch. Besides letting in cold air on cold days, leaving the visor resting on top of the little plastic latch also increases wind noise by quite a lot. I really find center “locking” visors to be, for the most part, just a pain in the ass and the one on the C3 is no exception.

Schuberth equips the C3 with their patented AROS (Anti Roll Of System) which, basically, consists of additional straps that are riveted to the base of the shell and connected to the chin straps. During a crash this system helps assure that the helmet will not cause an injury by rotating forward, nor will it come off the riders head.

The chin straps themselves are connected not with the good ol’ D-ring system but with a micro-lock ratchet system. I’m not crazy about the micro-lock ratchet system only because it’s bulky and hits you right in the Adam’s Apple; and I don’t have a large Adam’s Apple. You really only have limited adjustments that can be made because the chin straps are tethered to the back of the helmet by the AROS – so you can’t just slide the chin straps forward and further away from your throat. Unless you’ve got a large Adam’s Apple, or a low-tolerance for something touching your throat, you’ll eventually get used to it though. I can’t help but feel however, that the micro-lock ratchet system seems to be one of those areas where the typical German “we can build it better” attitude has created a problem where a good old D-ring set-up wouldn’t.

OK, OK, I know…longest……helmet…..review…..article…….EVER!!!! One more thing and then it’ll be onto the summary and class will be dismissed.

Last thing to talk about is airflow; both around and through the C3.

Because Schuberth didn’t create the C3 to be used on the track its outer shell is devoid of fins, strakes, spoilers, wings or any other “go fast” part that you’ll find on most full face helmets (this smoothness also contributes to how quiet the C3 is). Even without all those air-modifiers stuck to it and at speeds that would have caused any traffic cop to immediately drop their doughnut and spill their coffee on themselves, I never felt any buffeting. No buffeting, no wobble, no wiggle and no feeling of drag – even when I turned my head from side to side. This stability can be directly attributed to the hours of wind-tunnel testing that Schuberth does.

Another benefit to having your own wind-tunnel is being able to properly tune your helmet for ventilation. When I saw that the C3 didn’t have exhaust vents on the top rear of the helmet, only one intake vent on top and one chin vent, I thought “Oh this one’s gonna be a hot helmet”…….and then those pesky German engineers and their wind-tunnel proved me wrong.

The top intake vent lets in a good amount of air all by itself and the grooves cut into the EPS foam channel that air over your head and out the hidden exhaust vents at the bottom rear of the helmet. But the real magic comes from that chin vent. It’s a mystery how a small vent that only only opens from the top a little bit (next to the shield) can let in so much air. Most chin vents allow a gentle breeze to gently waft across your hot, sweat laden nose. The chin vent of the C3 is more like opening all the windows of your home during a hurricane – completely eliminating any sweat. I’ve honestly never felt a chin vent move as much air as the one on the C3 does.

This amount of airflow wasn’t solely designed to cool you down though, it was also designed to reduce the carbon dioxide levels in the helmet (from you exhaling); the reduction of which helps reduce fatigue and keep you feeling refreshed on long rides. This carbon dioxide reduction goal is why, even with the vent in the closed position, a small amount of fresh air is allowed through – good for CO2 reduction, bad for keeping your nose warm on really chilly days. If it bothers you buy a 2-hole balaclava and your nose will stay toasty warm.

While the Schuberth C3’s $700 price tag might be pricey, the build quality and attention to detail quickly makes it seem a reasonable price to pay. The C3 is impressive not only due to the overall size and weight but also by those small details that lend a certain air of class to any product. Simply by holding a C3 in your hands or by putting one on your head you immediately can tell you are dealing with a quality product; much the same way you could tell you were sitting in a BMW or Mercedes rather than a Chevy or Ford, even blinfolded, simply by the feel of the materials you can touch.

Is the Schuberth C3 a perfect helmet? No; but then nothing can be perfect for all people. The Schuberth C3 is, quite simply, a helmet built to a higher standard.

P.S. (you thought I was done didn’t you) – The Schuberth C3 available in the USA is both DOT and ECE certified. Our helmets have an extra layer of Dyneema due to the DOT having a penetration standard which the ECE doesn’t have – hence the Stateside version of the C3 weighs a smidge more that the European version.

P.S.S. – By the way…did you know that in order for a helmet to obtain and keep ECE certification 150 out of every 3000 helmets built must be randomly chosen off the line and tested to destruction? Yeah I found that to be quite amazing as well.

OK I’m really done now. Seriously I am.

Remember, you can help support 2WF.com by purchasing your new Schuberth C3 from Motorcycle Superstore after clicking this link:

http://www.motorcycle-superstore.com/14/67/905/1/0/0/DEPARTMENT/Street-Motorcycle-Helmets-Mens-Riding-Gear.aspx#&&Back=0-0-25%2c975-0-834-0-0-0-24-1-1-1?SiteID=IA_2wf&WT.mc_ID=54011

Pro’s

  • The materials used feel high-end
  • The small physical dimensions
  • The lack of weight
  • The airflow

Con’s

  • The cost – no matter how justified it is it’s still a lot of money
  • The chin-strap buckling system
  • The center lock on the shield

 

The Harley in the Barn and How to Rebuild & Restore Harley Davidson Big Twins

Every so often we are sent books to review that are centered around motorcycles. Recently two such books arrived in the mail and I thought I’d share them with you.

The first book, and certainly the one that will have the broadest appeal, is called “The Harley in the Barn”. No the book is not some motorcycle themed rip-off of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” but rather a collection of short stories about finding classic motorcycles stuffed away in old barns.

Everyone, be they lovers of cars, bikes, or even planes, has that dream of finding a classic, lust-worthy machine partially hidden under a dust covered tarp in some old barn somewhere.  The Harley in the Barn is 38 (by my count although the publisher says “more than 40”) short stories of people finding bikes in just such places. Unlike the name suggests though it isn’t just about Harley’s so lovers of old Triumphs or other classic bikes will enjoy reading the book as well.

The book is written/compiled by Tom Cotter who has written about many things automotive related, including finding them in barns, and now rounds out his writing resume by tackling neglected motorcycles.

Published by Motorbooks you can find your own copy of The Harley in the Barn at Amazon.com or by clicking this link: http://qbookshop.com/products/194723/9780760342343/The-Harley-in-the-Barn.html

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The second book is a bit more focused and has an annoyingly long title: How to Rebuild & Restore Classic Harley-Davidson Big Twins; 1936-1964

I have a confession to make; I didn’t really read this book. First because there really isn’t anything to “read” and second because I’m not currently in the process of rebuilding an old Knucklehead or Panhead. And I get bored easily.

However, flipping through the pages like a 2 year with a book full of pretty pictures, I will say that if I were working on a classic big twin motor from Harley, this book would be a valuable reference. The pages are chock full of pictures and text both showing and telling you exactly how things are going to go horribly wrong if you don’t put piece “A” into slot “B” before putting widget “D” through hole “F”; valuable information if you don’t want hours of hard work to go up in a cloud of smoke accompanied by loud clanking and wifely shouting.

How to Rebuild & Restore Classic Harley-Davidson Big Twins; 1936-1964 is also published by Motorbooks and can be found on Amazon.com as well as by clicking this link: http://qbookshop.com/products/194921/9780760343401/How-to-Rebuild-and-Restore-Classic-Harley-Davidson-Big-Twins-1936-1964.html

HJC RPHA 10 – Product Review

HJC RPHA 10 Left SideHJC RPHA 10 – Product Review

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)

HJC RPHA 10 InteriorSo does the HJC RPHA 10 deliver a premium helmet experience on a mid-priced helmet budget?

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.

HJC RPHA 10 Right SideAnother 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 HJC RPHA 10 Backmention 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.

HJC RPHA 10 Shield LockMost 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.

Highs:

  • Lightweight
  • Paint and graphics look great
  • Shield comes Pinlock ready
  • Above average ventilation
  • Comfortable interior

Lows:

  • 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?SiteID=IA_2wf&WT.mc_ID=54011

For more information on the RPHA 10 and the entire HJC RPHA lineup click this link: http://www.hjchelmets.com/

Mark Gardiner’s Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia – 2WF Book Review

When Mark Gardiner emailed me about his new book, Mark Gardiner’s Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia, I thought; “I like motorcycles and I like reading in the bathroom (what guy doesn’t?) – I’ll have a copy sent to review.

Once you get passed the cover art (if one can ever truly get past an image so visually disturbing), you’ll find 365 days of interesting trivia just waiting to be read. Some topics include:

Best places for motorcyclists to live”….Mark apparently bases his criteria for “best” on places that have racetracks, “hip” bike nights, and a even a bike rally or two. In other words I agree with none of his choices; but maybe you will.

Most beautiful” ….The MV Agusta F4 and 1937 Triumph Speed Twin are on the list….other than those two Mark apparently chose the other 8 “most beautiful” bikes after forging a Rx for medical marijuana. Of course beauty is subjective so what do I know.

Lessons, Track Schools and why you need them” …. An interesting chapter where Mark lists reasons why you need help along with a number of places who are willing to offer that help for the right price.

No matter what kind of bike you are into Mark Gardiner’s Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia has something interesting to impart. Such as:

Did you know that Harley Davidson copied BMW during WWII and developed shaft-driven machines with flat-twin motors?

Or that Arthur Davidson (of Harley Davidson fame) used to wear his wife’s clothes to parties, sit on men’s laps and kiss them on the cheek? (Harley built the motors and Davidson built the trannies?)

How about the fact that John Surtees is the only man to ever win the top class in motorcycle racing (he won several Grand Prix championships in the late 50’s) AND Formula One (he won driving a Ferrari in 1964).

Besides trivia Mark also talks about things like the greatest rivalries in racing; for example: the 1989 Le Mans race featuring Lawson, Schwantz and Rainey. Or Edwards vs. Bayliss at Imola in 2002.

With such a broad range of topics neatly broken down into easy to digest bites, Mark Gardiner’s Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia is certainly a book that I heartily recommend for any motorcycle enthusiast. Even better, I recommend the motorcycle enthusiast’s spouse buy them the book for Christmas or whichever holiday you celebrate this time of year.

Mark Gardiner’s Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia now available. 244 pages, $12.95 (more info at: www.bikewriter.com)

The book is available at www.bikewriter.com (Signed copies, free postage to U.S. and Canada.) Also available at Amazon.com. Or, get it delivered to your Kindle or compatible device in minutes, for just $5.99.

 

Cardo Scala Rider G9 Product Review

Cardo Systems Scala Rider G9 Powerset Review

http://www2.2wf.com/http://www.2wf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/_MG_7752-2.jpgThousands of years ago, if you wanted to talk with someone you had two choices; yell from a distance or get off your hairy Neanderthal ass and move closer. Imagine then how shocking it was the first time a Neanderthal watched a skinny, mostly hairless Homo-sapien walk by chatting with his mother on a cell phone. This, I believe, was the real reason Neanderthals went extinct; they lost the will to live since they couldn’t grasp the concept of speaking over long distances using electronic devices.

That’s all rubbish of course but it serves to illustrate the main difference between humans and other life-forms on the planet; we love to talk to each other and can do so no matter where we are or what we’re doing. “Hi Becky. Hi Michelle. What’s going on? I’m getting a bikini wax. What are you doing? I’m going the bathroom. Cool. Hey did you see Jenny’s shoes yesterday?…….”

 Helping facilitate this driving need to communicate are a number of companies who make bluetooth headsets specifically designed for motorcycle riders. Probably the best known is Cardo and their Scala Rider series of Bluetooth communication devices.

A few years ago we tested the Scala Rider Q2 Multiset. Last year we tested the Scala Rider G4 Powerset. This year we have the Scala Rider G9 Powerset in our grubby little hands. This many new models in almost as many years is quite overwhelming and a bit akin to how software designers ply their trade; buy a new piece of software and before you get it out of the box the company has released an “all new” version. If all Cardo did was upgrade a bit of code in their products then I’d say they were trolling for money from their unsuspecting customers – but they actually incorporate real improvements into their new products; something a LOT of other companies should take note of.

You can all read a press release (and probably have) but lets take a moment to look at what the G9 can do that the G4 can’t.

http://www2.2wf.com/http://www.2wf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/_MG_7753-2.jpgHot dial: When connected to your cell phone you can dial one pre-programmed phone number just by quickly pressing the A and B buttons on the side of the unit. This, I think, is pretty cool and is something I can see being useful if you need to call ahead and order pizza to be delivered before you get home.

 Group signal: By double tapping the voice command button you can send a message to every rider in your group you are paired with (up to 8 other riders). Is this cool? Yes but it is predicated on everyone in your group having a G9 so is slightly less useful than it sounds. Although if peer pressure reigns supreme in your world then this feature will be handy as, after you get your G9 and all your friends then buy their G9’s, you’ll be able to tell everyone in your group that you have to pee. This, as I’m sure you’ll agree, is a very important feature if you need to make a pit stop and don’t want to be left behind; or if you are female and need company while you use the restroom.

Flash Pairing: If you are like me you are headset pairing impaired. No matter how I try I can never get two headsets to pair up like the book says. “It’s easy”, says the book. “#$@*&”, says I as I throw the unit across the room. Cardo, who has apparently been secretly watching me throw a tantrum, has created this flash pairing thingy. It really is simple; turn on two G9 units, press one of the channel buttons on one unit, press the same channel button on the other unit, bump the two units together (gently) and hold them together side by side. If the pairing is successful a purple light appears for two seconds and baby G9 units drop out of the bottom of one unit. OK I made the last bit up.

Cardo Community Platform: Think social network for Cardo junkies. Want to ride this weekend but none of your loser friends can make it? If you have a G9 you can go online and make new friends who WILL want to ride with you this weekend instead of painting their girlfriend’s toes. This is also useful if you are riding out of town/state and want to hook-up with a local (rider not prostitute) to show you a good time. I think we all suffer from SNOD (Social Network Overload Disorder) but this is an actual social network that seems useful.

http://www2.2wf.com/http://www.2wf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/_MG_7759-2.jpgVoice Command: Basically this is pretty simple; say you are paired with 5 other buddies all riding along enjoying the road, the weather, and the view. Now say you want to tell Bill something. Just say his name and presto!, a channel will magically open in time/space and allow you to speak (in full duplex no less) with Bill. OK so there is some pre-programming needed to allow this miracle to happen but it’s still a cool useful function. Not as useful as being able to say “unicorn!” and a having a magical unicorn appear but it’s pretty close.

So those are the high points of the software changes Cardo built into the G9 but what about physical differences with it’s older brother the G4? If you’ll direct your gaze away from the hugely entertaining text I’ve written to the pictures I’ve placed on this page you’ll notice a few changes.

While the actual control unit is the same size on the G9 and G4 units, control unit and dock together appear decidedly smaller on the new G9. This, in fact, is not the case. The only dimension where the total G9 unit is smaller than the G4 is in height; and then not by much. This slight difference in height is achieved by Cardo moving the microphone boom mounting point from the bottom of the docking unit to the “back” of the docking unit (the part closest to your helmet).

A side effect of mounting the mic boom on the back below the helmet clamp is that the entire G9 unit now sits lower on the helmet. This isn’t a huge issue but it does mean the helmet is resting on the G9’s dock and not on the bottom edge of the helmet itself (on one side obviously). A plus to mounting the mic boom under the clamp is that it is much easier to route it under the edge of the helmet than with the G4’s boom placement.

 Speaking of size; get a load of how much smaller the mic is on the G9 compared to the G4! This makes placing the mic in the helmet much easier and doesn’t take-up as much “chin space” in the helmet. I heard this was designed with Jay Leno in mind but that’s probably just a silly internet rumor (ba-ding-cha! Cheap Jay Leno shot – sorry Jay).

The buttons to make the G9 do it’s thing(s) are both easy to find (even with gloves) and easy to push. The only complaint I have, and maybe this is because I’m getting old and my brain doesn’t work as well as it used to, is that it can be a challenge remembering what all the buttons do. I mean the basic functions are easy, volume up/down, change radio channels, etc.. but once you get past the basics and want to do something more advanced it get a bit harder to remember how to accomplish it.

http://www2.2wf.com/http://www.2wf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/_MG_8598-2.jpgOne area that was lacking with both the G4 and the Q2 was sound reproduction. Music sounded great as long as you defined great as “sounds like listening to music that was recorded in a trash bin”. “Tinny” was an understatement and bass reproduction was such a foreign concept it needed a 24 hour plane ride, and 3 layovers to get to you. This wasn’t a huge drawback though for one reason; Bluetooth headsets for motorcycles are “communicators” – devices made to facilitate communication between two or more people – and were never meant to be Hi-Fi stereo devices. There are other options on the market for those riders who value musical sound quality over the need to talk to anyone.

As you can see in the picture, the speakers are much larger on the G9 than they are on the G4. Musical sound reproduction still isn’t as good as you’ll get with a $1000 set of headphones but, again, it’s not meant to be. Bass response is much better on the G9 than the G4 (and Q2) although it still doesn’t deliver a bass heavy musical experience. If you enjoy dubstep or bass music you’ll be disappointed (you could always strap a pair of 12” subs to your helmet and see how that works for you) but for all others the additional bottom end the G9’s speakers deliver is a welcome addition.

One word of advice concerning the speakers: They MUST be placed as close to your ear canal as possible. In my case with my Bell Star, I had to move them forward and down a bit from where Bell as installed the speaker pockets. I also had to pad out with foam behind the speaker to get them closer to my ear. ALL speakers from any communication device will have to be treated the same way so this isn’t a knock on the Scala Rider G9. Once you do this then all sound from the speakers becomes much clearer and audible even at speed. The volume during phone calls seems a bit lower than the intercom, radio, and music from your mp3 player/phone though, but this may be just a setting I have yet to set properly so I’ll update this if/when I get it figured out.


So it all boils down to one simple question; If you currently have a G4 is it worth you upgrading to the G9?

http://www2.2wf.com/http://www.2wf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/_MG_7760-2.jpgFirst let me say that if you don’t have any system and are trying to decide which Cardo Scala Rider system to get – get the G9. If you currently have a Q2 (or older system) and are thinking about upgrading – get the G9. If you have the G4 and are thinking about upgrading – stop trying to justify the purchase and get the G9. If you didn’t want it you wouldn’t even be giving the upgrade question any thought at all. No aspects of the G9 offer less performance than the G4 and there are numerous upgrades (see above list if you missed it earlier – or suffer from short term memory loss. If it’s the latter then you owe me $5 for lunch today – you should pay me now in case you forget).

People who should buy the G9:

  • People who want to upgrade from an older Cardo system.
  • People who want a Cardo system who currently have another brand
  • People who have no Bluetooth communication device but want one
  • People who have an irrational fear of unicorns popping into existence whenever they say the word unicorn

People who shouldn’t buy the G9:

  • Anti-social people
  • Deaf people
  • People who like to listen to bass music while they ride instead of talking to other people
  • People who want unicorns to appear every time they say the word unicorn.

http://www2.2wf.com/http://www.2wf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/_MG_8601-2.jpgIn summary, the new Scala Rider G9 from Cardo takes the idea of the Bluetooth communicator, adds in the concept of social networking, mixes in a pinch of better sound reproduction for you audiophiles and wraps it all up in a convenient to use package that just flat works. 

For me information and technical specs please click on this link (no unicorns will appear, I promise): http://www.cardosystems.com/

As always you can help support 2WF.com by making your G9 purchase here: http://www.motorcycle-superstore.com/1/4/62/46048/ITEM/Cardo-Systems-Scala-Rider-G9-Powerset.aspx?SiteID=IA_2wf&WT.mc_ID=54011

Scala Rider G4 Product Review

Cardo Scala Rider G4

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The Scala Rider G4 box

Our society is more connected now than at any time in the past. Think about this for a moment: More people have cell phones today than the earth had people in 1980! (4.6+ billion people have cell phones – world population of 4.5 billion in 1980)

For some people riding a motorcycle is a way of escaping that information stream (or can it be called an information river now?) and having some alone time with your thoughts. Other riders like the idea of being able to chat and share their experiences with others while they ride.

If you are one of the latter types then the Cardo Scala Rider G4 bluetooth headset is worth looking at. We tested and have been using the Scala Rider Q2 bluetooth headset for a little while now and we like that unit quite a bit. I was interested to see then if the G4 was just a visual upgrade to the Q2 or if there were some real changes made.

 

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Size difference between the G4 and the Q2

On the visual side the first thing you’ll notice is that the G4 control unit is slightly larger than the Q2. This extra size pays dividends in one crucial area: Button size. The buttons on the G4 are larger and placed in much easier to find locations than on the older Q2 model.

A quick look at the unit shows three buttons on top with the middle button (the on/off/phone button) set lower than the other two. This allows for you to quickly ID what button your finger is resting on even while wearing gloves. On the side you’ll see two more button that are separated by a raised bit. This raised central area is where the status light is and it serves the same purpose as the lower button up top – a distinct divider to allow you to know what button your gloved finger is about to push.

Also on top of the unit you’ll find an antenna that can either be folded down or, by pressing lightly towards the helmet and letting a spring do the work, can be flipped-up. Cardo says this will help the G4 achieve the maximum range of up to 1 mile (we did not test this at the time of this publication but we will test this and update the article).  This is the only part of the G4 that felt cheap to me as when the antenna is in the up position it feels loose and a bit wobbly.

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G4 on top – Q2 on the bottom

Finally, on the rear of the Scala Rider G4 control unit, you’ll find a rubber plug that covers the Mini-USB port. Yes the G4 can be plugged into your computer (with the supplied USB to Mini-USB adapter wire) for updates and for charging. You can also use your computer to adjust such settings as mic sensitivity, preset your FM radio stations, how to answer calls, etc..

So the G4 offers certain advantages over the Q2 in terms of the user interface but what about performance? Will the G4 be able to tune all the local radio stations in? Will it offer enough volume to allow two people to talk while hurtling down the interstate at warp speed (or 65 mph) wearing earplugs? Will Batman be able to foil the latest nefarious plan by the Riddler? Tune in next week, same time – same channel, to find out!!!!!

 

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G4 mounted on a helmet

OK just kidding….I’ll talk about the performance now instead of leaving you hanging (but the Batman question has me on the edge of my seat!). You were worried there for a bit, weren’t you? Just say yes; it’ll make me feel better.
First thing I checked was the FM reception since the Q2 would only pick-up two stations. I programmed in some stations while the G4 was hooked-up to the computer, disconnected the G4, put it on the helmet and voila!, I could tune in every one of those stations.

While testing out the FM reception feature I noticed another really nice feature of the G4: AGC (Automatic Gain Control) which raises or lowers the volume of the speakers based on ambient (wind) noise. Go faster and the added wind noise will cause the G4 to increase the volume of the music/voice – go slower and the volume goes down. This, as you can imagine, is a wonderful thing to have as it does allow the volume to get loud to hear your mates or music while traveling at interstate speeds and wearing earplugs.

 

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All the goodies

Since the G4 is a Bluetooth device you can pair it up with your other Bluetooth enabled devices (phone, mp3 player, GPS, etc..) to receive directions, play music, or talk on the phone to your non-riding friends. I tested the Bluetooth hook-up by talking on the phone to my wife and by streaming music from my Bluetooth enabled phone. Both worked fine although I didn’t notice the AGC stepping in as my speed changed as much as I did while listening to the FM radio. You can also plug in a standard 3.5mm cord if your mp3 player isn’t Bluetooth enabled; although it appears that you lose all AGC functionality when you do this.

This brings me to the weakest point of the G4; the speakers. While they are fine when used for talking to someone, either via a phone call or by intercom, they fall woefully short of offering anything resembling decent sound quality when listening to music. Playing music at a volume needed to overcome wind noise and actually be heard (while wearing earplugs) causes quite a bit of distortion.

 

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It’s so neat it’s like a display case

To be fair I noticed this mostly when streaming music via the Bluetooth connection from my phone – so this may be due to the Bluetooth connection or the phone’s mp3 player capabilities more than the headset. I could not replicate the effect when hooking my iPod Nano up directly to the 3.5mm port because I couldn’t seem to get enough volume out of it. Of course that meant I could barely hear any music at speed when hooked-up in that fashion so that isn’t a fix. I will attempt to do additional testing in this area and hopefully be able to report back that it was my phone and not the G4 causing the issue. Rest assured though that I would purchase the Scala Rider G4 without reservation even knowing about the speaker issue when streaming music from your phone.

Cardo sent us a G4 Powerset which means you get two G4 units that are factory paired to link-up together with no extra effort on your part. The G4 can also be used in a three or four intercom like call between other G4 users and can also be paired with Q2 or some older Scala Rider headsets.

Plus, for you social butterflies, you can now set-up your G4 to do something called “Click to Link”. See that rider sitting a few lanes over in traffic who also has a G4 on their helmet? You can double-click a button on your G4 unit and it will send out a request to connect so you can talk their ear off.  Luckily you can turn this feature off if you don’t want to be bothered by some stranger incessantly chatting in your ear.

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Ooohhhh…looks like carbon fiber

With its up to 1 mile range and easy to use button layout, Cardo has once more shown why they are the leaders in Bluetooth headsets for motorcycle riders.

Pros

 

  • Ease of use
  • increased range
  • click to link feature

Cons

  • speaker quality at high volume levels (this is a maybe-con as we are still testing this)

Komodo Advanced Armor Jacket

Komodo Advanced Armor Jacket
By Dean Devito, Associate Editor
Photos By Jarred Anthony

.You always have on enough gear until you crash, and since we never know when that is going to be riders need to do our best to emulate the Boy Scouts…that is to always be prepared.  If you’ve never read the acronym ATGATT, it means All The Gear, All The Time.

Easy enough, right??  But then summer arrives, and with its high heat and humidity riders can get a bit lazy with the gear they choose to wear.  This is especially true during off road rides as crawling through the woods challenges even the toughest deodorant and often riders choose to leave their armor at home.  Based out of Texas Komodo knows a bit about hot summers and wants to change how riders balance protection versus comfort.  

They have crafted their Advanced Armor Jacket to do just that, and begin with CE level 1 armor on the chest, elbows, shoulders and forearms, as well as CE level 2 protection for the spine.  All hard shell armor is lined with a soft padding to increase comfort, and the chassis of the jacket is a light stretchy nylon material that flows air easily while holding the CE armor in place snugly against the rider.

.There are straps on the chest and forearms, as well, that allow you to further customize the fit and hold the pads in place more securely in the event you decided to do your own soil testing.  A wide Velcro kidney belt holds the back protector where it should be and anchors the jacket on the rider.

Like most back protectors on the market, it easily bends forward with the rider, but Komodo has added a bit more here as their back pad sports a hinge in the lower back area so it can bend laterally as the rider moves.  This is a nice feature when it is attached to the Advanced Armor Jacket as it allows for a greater range of movement while still remaining in place.

The back pad is also easily removed with two zippers and can be used by itself underneath any piece of riding apparel.  This is a nice feature that adds to the value of the jacket.  However, the lower back hinge allows the back pad to shift when it is removed from the Advanced Armor Jacket and worn underneath another piece of gear.  

Komodo states that the rider’s jacket will keep the back protector in place.  While this may be true for tighter fitting track apparel I found that when worn alone underneath looser street jackets, like my AeroStich Darien, the back protector can often be felt leaning one way or the other.  It is still over the spine and ready to absorb any impact, but it makes wearing the back pad more awkward than needed.  It seems adding shoulder straps could have rectified this, but they are absent on the Komodo back protector.

.On the trail wearing the jacket underneath an off road jersey or a large T-shirt is remarkably more comfortable that wearing a full riding coat in the heat and is more than likely increased protection from what you are wearing now.  The armor is well placed, and the nylon chassis flexible enough that the CE pads don’t bind up and move with you.  For all of the armor, the jacket does a good job of staying out of your way when you wear it.  When the weather cools back down, it can be worn underneath your jacket, as well, so you can still have CE approved protection underneath your climate control or foul weather gear.

Despite being primarily considered as an off road product, the biggest surprise is how much use this jacket has received behind the fairing FJR.  It is functionally as cool as a mesh jacket, but with the advantage of CE armor in all impact areas.  Additionally, it can be easily can be crammed into a saddlebag when off of the bike.  

Due to the odd looking arrangement (think Robo-Cop in black) some may over look this as a viable option for street work but it is some of the most stout impact protection for warm climates.  It isn’t as confidence inspiring as a good ol’ perforated leather jacket, but the coverage of the impact areas is good enough that for in town duty it offers a considerable level of protection.  Obviously the light nylon would not hold up in a slide, but the armor is abundant enough that riders should feel confident enough in this jacket’s ability to be effective in hot weather duty.  Summer gear always seems to be a compromise, and Komodo is banking on the desire for wearable impact protection when the mercury rises.

.The jacket lists for around $135, and for that you get a crash protection that can be worn by itself, underneath your off-road jersey when it is hot or layered beneath a jacket when it is cold.  You also get a quality made CE approved back protector that can be worn with anything you already own.  Head to Komodo’s website to learn more.

PROS

• CE approved armor everywhere
• Fit allows for use underneath gear
• Good hot weather performance
• Good Value at $135

 

CONS

• Back protector moves side to side when used alone
• Styling may not suit everyone

THE VERDICT

Wear it alone in the heat or under a coat in the cold, it is proven CE certified protection all over in a lightweight, breathable & affordable package.  Even though it squeezes on your tummy a bit you’ll look tough as nails.

 

 

 

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Bell Custom 500




1 They say, if you wait long enough, everything old becomes new again. Or is it that

Advertisement:
Bell Custom 500 Helmet

everything new becomes old? Or maybe it’s all about looking old but feeling new, or vice-versa. Whatever.

In 1954 Bell founder, Roy Richter, created his first helmet out of fiberglass and called it the “500”. In 2010 Bell Helmets has recreated the look of the original while updating to modern safety and comfort features; they call this helmet the “Custom 500”. Hence, everything old becomes new again.

Now most ¾ helmets are big, round affairs that make you look like an extra from the movie “Spaceballs”. Not so with the Custom 500. Bell created the Custom 500 with a low profile design to keep little kids from pointing and asking their mommies why that man over there is wearing a giant golf ball on his head.   As you can see from the picture the Custom 500 does have a lower profile than most ¾ helmets on the market.

Being firmly in the full-face helmet camp, I was a little leery of the offer to review the new Custom 500, but I figured that it would be, at the very least, horizon expanding and interesting. Looking through the available colors and designs I chose the RSD Speed Soul helmet although the Orange Flake color was a close second. I was a little surprised to see that there are no plain white, black, or gray colors available.

2 Immediately upon receiving the Custom 500 I was impressed by the overall fit and finish of the helmet as I have been with all of Bell’s new helmets that we’ve reviewed. The finish is very smooth with the transition points between graphics and base paint resulting in only the most minor of ripples. And yes the graphics are all laid down under a layer (or two) of clear coat.

The interior of the Custom 500 looks like pillow-stitched leather in some pictures but is, in fact, a soft almost satiny material. This lends a very high-end/retro look to the Bell Custom 500 that is lacking in most other ¾ helmets (or helmets of any design).

The helmet strap is well placed and is, and I use this term lightly, “padded” with a faux leather (vinyl? Pleather?) piece that fits between your skin and the nylon strap. I would have liked to have seen a softer material used in this area but the current material isn’t irritating at all. Bell also went away from their magnetic strap-end holder and instead went with the tried and true “little red snap”. Of course, D-rings are used to secure the straps thereby keeping the Custom 500 firmly on your head should things go awry.

For someone accustomed to wearing a full face helmet all the time, wearing the Bell Custom 500 is, well, scary. To be fair any ¾ helmet would feel the same as it’s all about your face hanging out in the breeze that feels so weird. Once I got over the feeling of being exposed I quickly came to enjoy the additional breeze on 3 my cheeks while riding in 90+ degree weather here in God’s waiting room (or as the rest of the country insists on calling it; Florida). The Custom 500 has 3 snaps right on the brow of the helmet so you can attach a visor or shield to the helmet if desired.

One thing I did notice is that, unlike the two full-face Bell’s we have recently tested ( Star and Vortex) which have a neutral to slightly long-oval interior shape, the Custom 500 has more of a round shape. This puts a small bit of pressure on my decidedly long –oval head shape.

Bell has proven that you can get a helmet imbued with classic style without giving up modern protective technology like a fiberglass shell and specially designed EPS foam. Combine that with the slim profile, light weight (34.9oz) and the available “custom” paint schemes of the Custom 500 and you’ve got a helmet that will certainly turn heads.

For more info on the Bell Custom 500 and the entire Bell line go to http://www.bellpowersports.com/main.html

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intro

Drift Innovation X170

Video

  Click picture above for video

.To say that video has become ubiquitous in our daily lives would be an understatement. One only needs to see how far reaching YouTube, Hulu or LiveLeak have become and it’s clear that we as a society are being defined by motion pictures. Whether that means sharing video of Rocky who’s your pet 80 lb. German Shepherd chasing Bullwinkle (your tabby cat) around for hours on end or your child’s first baby steps, we love shooting and sharing video.

Those of us who want to combine our interest in both video production and motorcycles will need more than just the standard point-and-shoot camera. I for one easily fit into this category and while I won’t be the next James Cameron who makes a $2 billion film I still want to capture the action sequences I participate in none the less. This is where Drift’s X170 video camera comes in.

The X170 is ideal for extreme sports videos so if you not only ride but also ski/snowboard, mountain bike or attend track days more frequently than work then I guarantee you’ll be shooting video on a daily basis. Yes, it’s that addicting. Especially since the X170 is so easy to use but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, first a little background.

Drift’s action camera is quite compact for a video camera as its measurements are: 5.2” (L) x 1.9” (D) x 1.2” (W). With a weight of only 4.5 oz. this is one light camera and packs a lot into its chassis. It features a 170° wide angle lens (aptly named and able to rotate 300º), 1.5” color LCD screen, built-in microphone and speaker and is waterproof to 1.6 ft.

.Having all of those attributes are certainly all well and good but a video camera should have (and be extremely good at) one purpose and one purpose only: shooting video. While the X170 will take still images at a 5 MP resolution (which is a nice benefit) the obvious question is “what does the video look like after it’s been taken?” Although the X170 doesn’t capture video in HD the video resolution is more than acceptable at 720 x 480 pixels at 30 fps and the format can be either 4:3 or 3:2 (selectable via its menu system). Video compression is AVI, MJPEG AVI or MOV. I used the standard AVI format and the raw video looked great. Even after scaling down the file size to upload to our YouTube channel the video still looked good. One thing to note: on Windows Vista an additional codec may be required to view the MOV files but on Win7 it’s not.

Capturing all that video (even compressed) takes up space which is why the X170 allows for the usage of external SD cards. It supports memory cards up to 16 GB and I used a generic 2GB card with no ill effects. I by no means filled up the card but if you’re going to string together some lengthy rides or a full day at the track then a large capacity SD card is the way to go. To put that in perspective a 4GB card should provide about 2 hours of footage, 8GB 4 hours and 16GB 8 hours depending upon which compression method you selected.

The best feature of the X170 is the ability to view what you’re going to record as opposed to hoping you got the shot only to find out when you D/L it to your computer you have 30 minutes of looking at your turn signal (if it was mounted on the side of your bike). The LCD screen takes all the guess work of what you’re going to record and the menu system to select all of the options is straightforward and easy to use. And by easy I do mean easy. The large icons depicting a video camera, still camera, gear and double arrow (firmware upgrade) couldn’t be simpler to understand.


 

.So now that you can see what you’re going to record the question then becomes “how am I going to mount it?” Drift’s already ahead of you as they include a multi-sport mounting package that includes a handlebar grip, goggle grip, helmet grip and if none of those work you can use the supplied Velcro strips as a universal mount (stick and mount). One option that I would’ve liked to have seen included would’ve been a suction cup mount. By no means the end of the world as the aftermarket Panavise 809 will apparently fit (I decided to go the Home Depot/Lowes route to “jury-rig” a suction cup mount which worked for me) but having this type of mount standard could really provide some unique shots as well as leaving the roll of duct tape at home.

I used the included handlebar and helmet grips for mounting and they worked as they should – flawlessly. Vibration was kept to a minimum and after a few hours of trying to get the perfect shot it was back to the bat cave to see the fruits of my labor.

If you’re not into video editing and just want to view your video on your 50” Plasma (now I know where I’m going to be to watch the super bowl) then all you have to do is attach the included AV cable and you have instant playback. I opted to do some video editing so after a quick D/L to my laptop I used a combination of Power Director for editing the video and Sony Sound Forge for the audio. The AVI files are somewhat large in file size (~600 MB for 30 minutes of video [20 MB/min.]) so if you’re low on space this may be of some concern. My suggestion is to delete/backup the videos in your “special folder”, clear out your recycle bin and make room for your action packed videos starring yourself.

The included wireless remote will also come in handy if you start getting creative with your video shots (e.g. swingarm shots, rearview from the rear hugger, etc.). Since the remote is RF based you don’t need to point the remote at the camera. As long as the remote is within 16 ft. of the camera, the camera will pick up the remote control signal and you’ll be able to stop/start recording. I attached it to my wrist as I found that this is an elegant solution to an otherwise laborious multi-step process when trying to shoot video on a motorcycle: start recording, get on bike, start bike/ride; stop bike, stop recording, find new location and repeat process.

.Since the X170 does have a built-in microphone careful placement of the camera is required otherwise the microphone will pick up a lot of wind noise. There is a setting to reduce the microphone sensitivity (high, medium and low options are available) so if you’re experiencing a lot of extra background noise I’d change this setting to “low”. If you’re still having an issue and can’t eliminate wind, engine noise or some mysterious sound you hear and have no idea where it’s coming from, well that’s what video post-production is all about anyway right?

Battery consumption is always a concern when dealing with digital devices and the X170 is no exception. The pro to the X170 is that it takes two AA batteries so if you’re in the middle of nowhere you can buy batteries and continue on with your video journey. The con is that the X170 goes through more regular (alkaline) batteries then the cookie monster eating cookies. I was supplied with Energizer’s Ultimate Lithium (at $5.99 for just 2 they’re not cheap but they’re still going strong [good bunny!]) but easily would have bit the bullet and bought them since normal batteries are only going to give you about 20-30 minutes of recording time. After you’ve gone through a few pairs of these types of AA’s you’ll then understand my empiricism. To extend battery life you should make sure to use the menu option to turn off the LCD screen after a certain time limit (I set it to 1 minute). Still, I’d definitely put some money aside for either one off replacement batteries (the lithium kind) or a charging station with a set of high quality rechargeable batteries (e.g. 1800mAh NiMH). The second is probably the best option as you can re-use the batteries in your other electronic gadgets as well as taking part in the “green” solution.

Drift’s X170 is a video camera capable of bringing home those shots that other bulky and non-sporting cameras seem to miss. Its simple design, easy menu system and wide angle lens make the X170 an excellent choice for those of us who live an active life style. At $199 it’s competitively priced and if/when they release an HD version it will surely take aim at its rivals and give them cause to upgrade or be left behind. Visit Drift’s web site for more info: www.driftinnovation.com.