Mutant head helmet review, part 1

I have a gear review that will apply to no one else on earth: a comparison between an XXS Shoei and a Small/Medium HJC CL-14 Youth helmet.

I still need to take some photos and get more miles in with the HJC, but here are my initial impressions.

safety first.
First off, how safe does the helmet feel? Now, I know that this is largely subjective, but I’m the kind of person who would feel very nervous were I to strap a cereal bowl to my head and call it a DOT-approved helmet.

The Shoei feels very secure; very safe. The padding is sturdy and the helmet gives the impression of mass — that’s mass that’ll come between your skull and the curb, for those playing along at home. I’ve never crashed in my Shoei (or any other helmet, for that matter), but when I’m riding, the thought of my brains leaking out of my head post-accident doesn’t occur to me.

The HJC feels a little less serious. The websites I’ve read say that the youth helmet has the exact same features as the adult model, and I’ve never worn an adult model, but this youth version feels a little flimsy. If I remember correctly, it’s DOT-approved but not SNELL, which doesn’t make much of a difference to me, but it might to some. I’m going to have to keep riding with this helmet to see if I become a little less nervous.

Winner: Shoei.

The Shoei has decent enough ventilation, but the shield still fogs up on cold mornings. It’s pretty easy to crack the visor just a teensy bit and clear that up, though. On hot days, the helmet is pretty closed-up, making for a sweaty rider and a helmet liner soaked in blue hair dye.

Obviously, I haven’t ridden in hot weather with the HJC, but it was pretty chilly on my way in today and the helmet fogged up almost instantly. To be fair, I may not have fiddled with all of the vents properly, so I’ll have to keep playing around with those. Keeping the visor cracked open just a titch was easy to do. Somehow, despite the helmet fogging up, I felt a lot of air flow inside of the helmet while riding at freeway speeds — my cheeks were a little windburned after only 15 miles of commuting. This might be because the helmet comes to the bottom of my chin (the Shoei practically sits on my chest) so I may need a scarf to cover my neck so cold air doesn’t come up through the bottom.

Winner: Tied for now until I see how the HJC works in hot weather.

weight and size.
For some utterly insane reason, the Shoei XXS has the exact same physical shell size as the Shoei XXL. The only difference is in the amount of interior padding (this is probably why the Shoei feels as though I could fall off a building in it and still remain intact). The downside is that it’s way. too. huge. I have no neck when I wear my Shoei. It literally sits on my shoulders. I look like Bug Woman from the planet Egghead. It’s heavy and huge and gives me neck and shoulder pain.

The HJC is like a big huge breath of fresh air in this department. The outer shell is physically much smaller than the Shoei (yeah, I have to take photos) and weighs only 2.6 pounds. This morning, I put on my winter jacket, donned the helmet, and moved my head. Yes, you heard me — I moved my head around on my neck. The novelty!

Winner: HJC.

I wear earplugs whenever I ride, so keep that in mind. The Shoei lets in a bit of engine noise, but it takes a few days of all-day riding before my ears are ringing when I go to sleep at night. When I’m wearing the custom iPod earbuds, the wind noise is practically nonexistant.

The HJC is a bit louder. To be fair, I only had my foam earplugs today, not my custom ones, so I won’t condemn the helmet until I can do a fair comparison. That said, it was really darned loud. I think it has to do with the “less padding” issue that also makes it feel less safe (but a lot lighter!) — there was more space between my ears and the padding than I’m used to. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — for example, my earrings didn’t hurt when I got to work — but it does make for a slightly noisier ride.

Winner: Shoei.

So, with one measly commute down, the Shoei is ahead by a nose. The lighter weight really makes a huge difference for me though, so the HJC might be the better helmet for commuting overall.

This begs the question, though, of WHY Shoei makes all of their helmet shells the same physical size. This whole shebang would be a complete non-issue if the XXS size were smaller on the outside than the larger models. I can’t be the only small person out there who gets severe neck and shoulder pain from carrying around almost 4 pounds of behemoth on their heads for hours at a time.

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11 Responses to Mutant head helmet review, part 1

  1. stephanie says:

    I thought Shoei only used one shell because they have to pay snell for every different size shell to get it approved. Of course, if memory serves me right, I learned that tidbit when I was being sold my Arai, so grain of salt and alll…

  2. Colin says:

    Even Shoeis can have different weights and levels of padding over time.
    I started with a Shoei RF800 that had was fairly heavy, had a soft liner, and full padding over the ears. As a result, it was very quiet but made it difficult to wear earbuds.
    The updated version, the RF1000, is noticeably lighter, has a rougher liner, and has no padding directly over the ears. The lack of “ear” padding makes the helmet louder, but it’s more comfortable to wear earbuds as there’s more room for them to stick out.
    Can’t help you with the shell sizes, that’s a drag.

  3. Pat says:

    If you want to spend a fortune, I believe the Shoei X11 has different sized shells for different helmet sizes.

  4. Kim says:

    Not that I ever actually, uh, ride a motorcycle anymore, but I have a different impression of my XXS Shoeis after my previous XS Arai Signet GT. With the Arai, I definitely had that feeling that the helmet was too tall for my head; I don’t have that feeling with the Shoei at all (maybe I’m cueing off the internal fit rather than the external shell, who knows). I definitely had more of that exposed-neck feeling with the Shoei.

  5. Doug Adler says:

    FYI – the reason that helmets are produced with fewer outter shell sizes, is the cost of the mold. A high quality, outter helmet shell mold costs between $75,000us and $100,000us to make. So, it’s much cheaper to make one outter shell size and just change the thickness of the EPS foam liner inside.
    Better helmet makers usually use at least three outter molds, one for youth, one for xs-m and a third for l-xxl.

  6. carolyn says:

    > Better helmet makers usually use at least three outter molds, one for youth,
    > one for xs-m and a third for l-xxl.
    I’m having a hell of a time finding youth full faced helmets at all — does anyone know of any other than the HJC?
    I’ll have to check out the high-end Shoeis and see if their XXS shells are smaller. I didn’t think they were (but mine’s a TZ-1 — not the bottom of the barrel, but not the super spendy model, either).
    Incidentally, I did figure out the vents on the HJC, and both the wind noise and the odd ventilation issues are fixed now. πŸ˜‰

  7. Ratz says:

    First of all, kudos to “..I’m the kind of person who would feel very nervous were I to strap a cereal bowl to my head and call it a DOT-approved helmet.” That really cracked my up. I totally agree that the ‘quality’ of the helmet does concern a lot of rider out there, hence the DOT and Snell etc. Have to agree with Tony that cheaper helmets (DOT approved) may sometimes perform better than the more expensive ones (Snell whatever, whatever certified). Have worn several helmets over the years myself – from the cheapest (no-brand helmets) to AXO and Shoei helmets (yet to try an Arai). Had a pretty bad accident (some 10 years ago) with the cheapo $20 helmet which threw me off like a human cannon ball -> resulting in a huge dent on the rear RHS of a taxi and totalled my FZR400. Hey, the cheapo worked pretty well during then πŸ˜‰ Cracked the chin piece of my Shoei Duotec (yeah, Duotec) in another accident on my Vmax some 7~8 years back in SF area which made me doubt the safety of a flip-up helmet. All in all, if we’re ever caught in an accident, a helmet helps to minimize injuries (hey, it may even save lives!) but sometimes it depends on how the rider has been hit. If the impact is so great that requires differentiating between a DOT and Snell certification, chances are, rest of the body is pretty much beaten up and in questionable condition. So long as one feels reasonably confortable in a helmet (within BUDGET, wind noise, comfort, weight etc), that’s the one for you. So long as we have one (ha! no such requirements in TX – where I am now – but I still wear one whenever I ride). Am still wearing my (replaced) Duotec as it was the only flip-up helmet I could find and afford during then (years back – yeah it’s HUGE and HEAVY).
    Ride safe ppl!

  8. Matt says:

    I think to be fully fair, you should compare price of the two lids you tested. They are aimed at such different sectors of the market, it seems.
    I know there are people who argue if you can afford a $5,000-$10,000 bike, you can spring for a top dollar helmet. I just happen to disagree that a top dollar helmet is necessarily a better helmet. therefore, being able to buy, say two HJCs for the price of one Shoei, while not a safety factor, should overcome the nominal advantage the Shoei had, no?
    Look forward to your response.

  9. carolyn says:

    > I think to be fully fair, you should compare price of the two lids
    > you tested.
    The HJC was $89.99 plus S&H, so roughly $100. If I remember correctly, I got the Shoei on sale for about $125, so the prices are pretty comparable. One of the nice things about having an XXS head is that it’s pretty easy to get Shoeis for cheap when stores/websites have closeout sales (no one buys XXS).
    If we assume that the Shoei is at least double the cost of the HJC, though, as it definitely would be for two normal adult sized helmets, then yes, you’re absolutely spot-on.

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