Lid. Brain bag. Skid Lid. Crash Helmet. Whatever you call it, this is probably the most important bit of kit you can buy for your 2 wheeled adventures and, as these colloquial terms serve to remind us, they are there primarily to keep our grey matter where it belongs should physics get the upper hand.
As mentioned in my recent Cadwell Park blog, I highsided at the Hairpin which resulted in me landing straight down on my head so I can legitimately claim to have tested this particular helmet to destruction. My main take out from this blog, was that fit is everything.
There is no point getting the flashest, most expensive helmet if it doesn’t fit you like a glove. And knowing if you’ve got a good fit is a little more technical than just measuring the size of your head and buying one that matches off the sizing chart. A helmet needs to not apply any undue pressure to the point where prolonged use causes any discomfort (such as around your temples, forehead or that little nubbin at the base of your skull) but it also need to make good, even contact around the whole circumference of your head and down your cheeks and, most importantly, NOT lift off the back of your head if you pull downwards on the chin bar. If it can do this then there is a risk of it pulling off your head in the event of an impact - which would be catastrophic.
There are a fairly well known handful of motorcycle helmet manufacturers - you’ll likely be familiar with Shoei, Arai, AGV, HJC, Shark, Bell, Nolan and a few other slightly more obscure ones. All are quality manufacturers that have been proven time and again in elite motorsport. Each manufacturer (and often specific models within those manufacturers ranges) has a different internal shape. You’ll sometimes hear people say things like “i’ve got an Arai shaped head” or “AGV’s fit me best” but even if you think you know what brand you need from reading a few reviews online I would implore you to actually go and try some on - Ideally in a proper bike shop where you can get some guidance from an expert OR as a minimum, from an online retailer who provides free returns like Sportsbikeshop.com, so you can try on at home and return if it’s not right.
When I walked in the shop 4 years ago I had in the back of my mind that I might come out with an Arai’s because of the reputation and they look pretty cool but when I tried them on they just weren’t right. I’d previously come from an AGV K3 which was my ‘starter helmet’ so I then tried on a few more from their range and almost settled on a K5 but the guy in the shop said, “try em all.”... so I did. And each time I tried a new one on he checked it for fit and gave me advice on where it was fitting well/less well.
Eventually we came to the Shoei’s. I tried the GT Air first, which was a little more touring focused - superbly comfortable but I felt it was a little heavy and the visibility in a ‘tucked’ position wasn’t as good as my previous AGV. Then he handed me the Shoei NXR.
The first thing I noticed was just how light it was -The NXR is a light helmet anyway, but because I have a tiny pin head I get an extra benefit as the XS size shell I fit into is naturally lighter than the larger sized ones (some manufacturers use just 1 or 2 shell sizes with only internal padding dictating the final ‘size’)The NXR range has 4 different shell sizes giving a good fit/flexibility regardless of whether you’re like me or you’ve got a big’ed with its own gravitational field.
Now it can get pretty hot and stuffy in a helmet, especially when you are wrestling 100+ hp round a circuit so good ventilation is really important to keep you fresh and sharp. The NXR has got ventilation in the chin bar and a couple more large vents on the top, with 6 exhaust vents round the back so stale air gets sucked out pretty quickly keeping your forehead, cheeks and hairline cool. Even on a really hot summer day I never felt over-heated in this helmet.
I also found the helmet pretty quiet - the aerodynamics have been designed in a wind tunnel to minimise wind noise and reduce drag at speed (it’s got a cool little integrated spoiler) and frankly, all the little curves and ‘body lines’ look nice and it seems to have worked pretty well. Lots of other reviews I have seen comment on how quiet this particular helmet is too. As with any premium helmet it also comes with a chin curtain (to further reduce noise).
Visibility is really good - the NXR is a sports focused helmet so when tucked on the tank you can see out of the top of the visor aperture well. The supplied clear visor is ‘‘pinlock’ ready and it comes with a pinlock insert and a breath guard. This is a must if you are using the helmet in cooler conditions or for commuting as it eradicates fogging brilliantly.
As I found out when I crashed in the NXR it has got EQRS (Emergency Quick Release System), which is basically a fancy system for first aider's to remove the cheek pads in the helmet in the case of an accident, meaning the helmet can then be removed more easily, without disturbing the riders neck. I was put on a spinal board when I was assessed just in case and being able to take the helmet off in this way was priceless.
The NXR also has a double D ring fastening (I don’t trust those plastic clip lock things!) and it is of course ACU Gold sticker’d so can be used on trackdays and in competition.
So, for me, £400 for a piece of kit that has saved me from some serious trauma, kept me cool, comfortable and confident when blatting it round some of the best circuits in the UK, along with a few log distance road trips over the last 4 years is a no-brainer. (pun intended)
I’ll be open minded when I go to the shop to replace it in a few weeks (it’s done its job and, after a crash landing like the one I had at Cadwell, i’m not going to chance putting it back into service - i’ll stick it on display in the garage instead) I may well have another NXR, but i’ll be sure to try a few others on, just to make sure nothing else has been developed over the last 4 years that provides a better fit.
QUALITY - 9/10
COST - 8/10
PERFORMANCE - 10/10
TOTAL SCORE - 27/30