Sunday, April 1, 2018

Review: Icon Variant vs. Shoei Hornet X2

People with high foreheads and narrow faces have what the helmet industry calls a "long oval" or "intermediate oval" head shape. Finding an ADV helmet that fits can be challenging, as not all models with desirable features are available in this shape. And there's no point in pretending otherwise--as I learned a few years ago. The Nolan modular helmet I had bought for its great features felt comfortable in the store. But after about an hour of riding, it caused an unbearable pressure on my forehead that was dangerously distracting, requiring frequent stops to remove the helmet for relief. The Nolan's shape simply didn't fit my head. Reluctantly, the helmet got relegated to the "loaner" shelf and the search for replacement began--about as much fun as filing taxes.

The Icon Variant proved to be a decent alternative. Although I chose basic white to keep my noggin cooler in the sun, the Variant's styling is good and there's a wide selection of graphics to choose from. Now that I've ridden in the Variant for a few seasons, I can attest to its comfort for long-oval heads. Other commendable features include the visor, which has decent optical properties and an excellent hydrophobic coating that causes all but the heaviest rain to bead off--almost as good as windshield wipers on a car. Ventilation is good, although the vent mechanisms can be a little sticky at times. The roost guard is effectively positioned and has surprisingly good aerodynamics at highway speeds.
On the negative side, the visor does not open fully, so wearing goggles isn't an option (although not a requirement for me). Also--and although I replaced the visor last season after the original became too scratched--the seal around the visor is less than stellar and the slight mismatch in shapes creates a gap that allows some rain to leak in. This, coupled with other aspects of the design, result in a somewhat noisy helmet, which require me to wear foamies for any rides longer than half an hour. But the last straw for me was integrating a Sena headset, which would require shaving some of the foam around the ears to fit speakers. While this probably wouldn't significantly affect the overall safety of the helmet, combined with general wear and tear, it was time to put this helmet on backup duty as well.

Back to the filing taxes thing. What ADV helmet would fit? Previously I had ruled out Shoei, as my understanding was most of their helmets are aimed at rounder heads. But the Hornet X2 is aimed at medium oval, and fortunately my head is just within the range of its fit. Measured across my brow, my head circumference is 58.5cm and there's not much remaining hair to interfere with that measurement. This translates to a medium for the Hornet X2. It's tight, but not painfully so, and should loosen up slightly as the foam breaks in.
Since all the specs for these helmets are readily found online, there's no need to repeat them here. However, I will point out that compared to the Variant, the Hornet X2 is a massive upgrade. The Hornet's quality of construction, materials, and attention to detail are all noticeably superior to the Variant's, for not that much more in price. I paid about $500 for the Variant in solid white, and the Hornet in solid white was $629 (fancy graphics add about another $150). But for that price, the Hornet includes a pinlock shield, which isn't available for the Variant.

What's more, the Hornet is a lot quieter, there's less turbulent air in your face with the visor closed (meaning fewer bugs ricocheting up into your eyes from the chin region), the peak has even better aerodynamics, and there appears to be room for speakers without modifying the foam. Having now ridden in the Hornet for a few hours (at -2C to +5C, where you really notice the wind!), I'm happy to say it offers great visibility and performance, and probably higher overall safety given the quality of construction.

So far, so good. Hopefully it remains comfortable over the long term.  

1 comment:

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