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.

ventilation.
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.

noise.
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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