We all know that crashing sucks and as the pessimistic adage says: “there are two types of bikers, those who have been down and those who will go down”. After 20 flawless years of riding, last Sunday I graduated to the elite group of the scrapped and bruised but still riding.
At Beantown Baggers we aren’t proponents of helmet laws. This piece won’t recommend what you do with your head in any way. If we were going to put any energy into your bean, we would be more apt to write an article against mullets rather than head protection as mullets can negatively affect all who encounter them.
There is really no way around this. When you go down, your best outcome is bike damage, a banged up lid, some tears in jeans and new character on your leather. Likely you’ll spend the night picking small rocks out of your hands and icing whichever appendage cushioned your fall. For the less fortunate, our sympathies go out to you – a bad accident is absolutely no laughing matter. Below is a picture of my HD-HJC full face that took the brunt of my 20 ft slide at 40-50 MPH. The helmet clearly preserved my face from becoming road-pizza (funny to say that out loud) but if it had fit a little better I may have avoided the concussion resulting from the impact. Separate but related, you’ve gotta hate freezing rain on oil-slicked off ramps. Worse yet, I’ll approach an off ramp in poor weather the exact same way next time!
As mentioned above, I was wearing a Harley Davidson modular helmet. Historically I haven’t felt compelled to do much more than put a string on a piece of tupperware and stick a fake DOT sticker on the back – not street legal but nobody seemed to care. Short of that, I would use a novelty helmet with enough stickers that might slightly cushion a fall.
Other iterations of headgear have included a Bell 500 open face helmet. This proved useful during a cross country trip but caught enough wind to make it feel like I had done a few sets of 700 LB shrugs.
I’ve used an HD Full face helmet, a cheap bluetooth helmet I found on Amazon (abandoned in Canada) and now that I’m down one HD Modular helmet, I use a Schuberth C3 Modular full face (as of yesterday). Below we’ll compare the HD Modular to the Schuberth and a Shoei Naetech.
Why a modular: Earlier this year I began to wear a full face to keep me a bit warmer on a trip to Canada. I thought this wasn’t a bad idea because one of my friends and a very experienced rider of 30 years was comfortable in his modular helmet. In the event that we hit freezing temps or brutal rain, a plastic front would definitely keep out the elements better than a bandana that normally protected my face from the elements. The flip up face shield made it a bit more tolerable at slow speeds, on back roads and at stop lights. I could actually enjoy the ride on the highway and not get overheated at the stops.
After riding a few thousand miles in the HD modular helmet, it became pretty comfortable. The flip up feature made me feel like I was riding in a bell 500 and actually caught less wind than the open face. The closed highway stance was a lot more enjoyable than getting pelted by 40 degree rain at 90 MPH. The only problem with this helmet is the constant need to tighten screws on the wind screen. Additionally, the plastic face guard fogs up a lot and even FogX didn’t help. Overall a pretty good helmet for $250.
Shoei Naotec: The Shoei was comfortable and the shell was around the same size as the HD but felt a little bulbous on my head. I wasn’t able to stretch my neck forward or back, likely due to the oversized shell. All Shells are the same size on this helmet regardless of your size unlike the C3 below. The Shoei cost $699, definitely at the top or out of of any helmet buyer’s budget.
In terms of hardware, the flip up lock was great – it felt like the hinge was securely locking into place and would take a good tug to get the screen to come down. The pads were very big and washable but didn’t feel like the right fit, maybe due to the extra weight versus the C3 below. The shoei also used a strap and double “D Ring” securing the helmet under the rider’s chin. This is much more traditional than the method Schuberth uses. In all, it was a great helmet but didn’t fit quite right for me.
After trying the Shoei I tried the C3. At first the helmet seemed a bit tight around the jaw bone but as I adjusted the helmet it fit nicely under my jaw and chin. Additionally, the shape of the shell coupled with the smaller shell size (they adjust the shell size for Xs-S, M-L, Xl-2XL) I was able to move my head more freely than with other modulars. I’ve also read independent tests that have weighed the C3 as 1/2 LB less than the Shoei which doesn’t sound like much but is a huge deal if you’re out for a 700 mile day!
The Schuberth C3 comes with an interesting inner shield that creates a double-paned window function removing fog from the rider’s face. I’ve heard that Shoei has this too but after testing the Schuberth on Sunday, I can say that this function definitely works and is incredible. The fit was great but this is a matter of preference depending on the shape of your head. One great piece of advice was when the guys at GBM had me wear the helmet around the shop (yep, felt like an idiot) for an hour before they let me walk out with one. Helmets create pressure headaches on long rides if they aren’t properly fit for the rider… the shop guys wanted me to properly test the product before leaving with an un-returnable item. Much appreciated as it became a much smarter purchase.
My choice: I ended up choosing the Schuberth C3 for a few reasons and bought it from Greater Boston Motorsports in Arlington. Besides the fact that it was $140 off the original price of $699 (expensive but worth saving a noggin), it had a lot of comforts I didn’t find with the Shoei and definitely didn’t find in the HD helmet.
Final word: Fit is everything! If you don’t like the way a helmet feels (or looks), you’re likely to go with something more comfortable and potentially less safe. If you have decided to go with a modular helmet, the three outlined above will all protect your face and head to a point. Modular helmets all have a vulnerable spot at the hinge – impossible to avoid unless you buy a Full Face without modular capability. The price is definitely an important factor as $250 is a lot easier to swallow than $700 – again, it’s all about the rider’s preference. If you want a much more detailed review, please visit the JC Motors review here. Beantown Baggers is not associated with JC motors but the review was helpful for us.
Regardless if you choose a helmet to look legal, stay warm or actually protect your head, we hope that this review has helped you narrow your search for something that will make riding more enjoyable and potentially a little safer. No matter the outcome, stick a Beantown Baggers sticker on that helmet and ride hard!
Other helmets referenced above: