A Buyer’s Guide to Modular Helmets

Flip It Good

There’s a good reason modular helmets remain an extremely popular piece of motorcycling gear. For one, you can’t beat the convenience—flip-up helmets let you raise the facial section, so you can to eat, hydrate, or simply have a chat without going through the hassle of removing the entire hat. Secondly—whether it’s true or not—modular helmets are often perceived as having the benefits of an open-face and the protection of a full-face helmet.

They may earn bonus points for versatility, but modulars are usually heavier than their full-face cousins, due mainly to the pivot and locking mechanisms. There are other drawbacks, too: Most modulars skimp on EPS foam in the chin bar, which means they don’t have the same impact protection to the face. The chin bar mechanism may also fail on impact, so most companies offer metal-to-metal locks to minimize failure.

We assembled several of the newest offerings on the market to compare features. Every helmet here meets the basic DOT standard, and some meet the European (ECE) standard (which has EPS in the chin). They all feature a sun shade of some kind, and most have removable liners.

**AGV Miglia II $179.95 **

Weight: 4 lbs.
Certification: DOT
Shell: **Thermoplastic Resin
1 year

The Miglia II brings solid construction, a long oval shell shape, and the only external sun visor here. That accessory visor seems to be the only difference between the original Miglia and the II model; both offer plastic shell construction, metal latches and DOT certification.

While the silver metallic paint on the Miglia II isn’t blingy, the clear coat is plenty thick. On our usually medium noggin (a 22.5 inch circumference), the Large Miglia felt roomy at the top, though the neutral-ish shell shape should work for a majority of riders, and the removable liner is fairly plush for the price point; even the ear pockets look generous, so stuffing speakers in there should be a snap.

Flip the visor, and you’ll feel a solid motion as it rotates, metal hooks engaging metal posts with a reassuring snap. The face shield isn’t a quick-release style however; you’ll need to remove plastic screw inserts with a coin. The external sun shield mounts over the clear shield, and rotates independently. That simple setup makes for easy operation, though it tracks roughly.

While overall visibility is good, the eyeport gasket is a foam-like strip that doesn’t appear to seal tightly at the top. AGV claims the face shield has an anti-fog coating, but this one fogs easily. The well-positioned chin vent alleviates some of that by shunting breezes up the shield, but the top vent is barely adequate, and the slider is difficult to operate with gloves.

The Miglia II has a balanced feel, though we’re not crazy about the fussy microbuckle chin strap. Overall fit and finish is solid, however, with quieter-than-expected noise levels. There’s nothing revolutionary about it, but the Miglia II is a more than adequate modular, even before you factor in its sub-$200 asking price.

Bell Revolver $199.95 – $209.95

Weight: 3 lbs., 15 oz.
Certification: **DOT
Warranty: 5 years

The new-in-2010 Revolver is Bell’s first flip-up, and the most stylish modular we’ve seen in awhile. The Revolver’s shell is a polycarbonate alloy that holds contoured cheek pads and a removable inner liner that’s adequately comfortable, though hardly plush. Our medium helmet felt snug in the temples and cheeks (on our round head).

The Revolver’s integrated sun shade drops down via a contoured lever at the bottom of the helmet. That shade is one of the taller ones here, offering good coverage and coming down past most noses, but there is substantial mechanical noise along the way.

A robust button lets you open and close the tall chin bar with one hand, and the metal latch-on-metal post solidly engages when closing—though the breath guard contacts the top of the eyeport when rotated, so the action isn’t seamless. Bell’s ridiculously easy-to-use shield system is a nice touch however, and lets you swap the anti-fog, anti-scratch and UV-protected clear shield with a dozen other options.

The Revolver’s ventilation consists of top intakes operated by sliders (with matching exhausts). They’re easily accessed, but don’t feel that effective. The chin vent, on the other hand, flows air well; it’s one of the few here that channels breezes clear through the chin bar. Unfortunately, the Revolver has a large bottom opening and no chin curtain, making the helmet draftier and noisier than it could be.

The Revolver is a good-looking lid with some nice features that might warrant a closer look—if you can live with some rough spots.

At press time, we were informed that Bell had just released an improved version of the Revolver. We’ll have more info on it in the next issue.

HJC SY-MAX III $299.99 – $314.99 NEW 2011

Weight: **3 lbs., 13.5 oz.
Shell: Fiberglass
Warranty: 5 years

The Sy-Max III was released as a major redesign last fall, and features substantial upgrades, including a fiberglass main shell and a revised latch mechanism.

With a neutral shell shape, the medium Sy-Max offered an outstanding fit atop our roundish head, with a snug seal. The padding and moisture-wicking liner feels better quality than average, and offers removable crown and cheek pads. The Sy-Max III has a single-button release at the edge of its chin bar, allowing the flip-up section to rotate seamlessly with one hand. Closing it is a snap too; unlike some high-end flip-ups, it’s effortless to click-lock the Sy-Max’s metal latches.

Visibility is excellent, and swapping out the new shield is simple once you get the hang of it. The shield itself seals well, though you have to urge it to seat closed. It comes with Pinlock insert studs included—but no insert, strangely. HJC doesn’t say the face shield has an anti-fog coating, though it does have an anti-scratch coating.

The Sy-Max III’s integrated SunShield deploys via a slider atop the crown, and can be set to three positions. In its down position the shade covers part of the eyeport (but we’d prefer it went even lower), and retracts with a touch of a button.

The top vent button can be difficult to locate, but the narrow scoops let in a fair amount of wind. The snap-open chin vent directs air to the back of the shield only and there’s no chin curtain, so breezes flow in from below. Thanks to the new shell and more padding at the bottom, however, the Sy-Max III is appreciably quieter than previous models, though noise from air under the chin is noticeable. There’s no question a curtain is needed.

The Sy-Max III also comes prepped for the Chatterbox XBi2-H Bluetooth system. And with its improved build quality, high comfort levels and attractive price, HJC’s newest flip-up is a strong contender for premium status.

Nolan N90 $299.95 NEW 2011

Weight: 4 lbs.
Certification: DOT
Shell: Polycarbonate
Warranty: 5 years

Originally meant as a mid-line helmet when released in 2010, the N90’s build quality and feature menu distance it far apart from the cheapie lid set.

The first thing you notice is the company’s “Hi-Brite Protective Hard Coating”—a hard, glass-like finish that adds to the perception of quality. The black gloss paint on our medium N90 was top notch, and the polycarbonate shell felt solid and stiff.

The N90 fit us more snugly than others, but the interior felt nicely padded, a step up than you’d expect at this price point. We didn’t notice any defined ear pockets inside, so installing speakers might prove challenging.

The anti-scratch shield can hold a Pinlock insert (included), and is easily removable with just the snap of a button. The rotating visor also has a smooth, secure movement through its range, and opens and locks solidly—once you figure out Nolan’s exclusive squeeze-and-pull safety feature. To lift, pull a tab under the chin bar and another tab below the chin vent, and squeeze. With heavy gloves, it can be awkward, but the system works to prevent accidental opening. Visor latches, however, are plastic. The internal sun visor (with a very effective 80-percent tint) deploys smoothly and precisely via a slider on the side of the helmet, and can be stopped in any position.

The N90 has two push-button top vents, with a pair of similar chin vents below. Both provide better than average airflow, with a large exhaust vent out back. Even better is the removable chin curtain, which, combined with a redesigned neck roll, helps keep noise levels low. The optional N-Com communications system (for Bluetooth device integration) fits into a small recess in the shell. The build quality, feature set and price make the N90 an excellent mid-line choice.

Nolan also just released the new N104, an evolutionary design of the popular N103 model. The higher-end N104 is said to be lighter and more streamlined.

Schuberth C3 $699

Weight: 3 lbs., 9 oz.
Certification: DOT/ECE
Shell: Fiberglass
Warranty: 5 years

The C3 modular marks German helmet-maker Schuberth’s re-entry into the U.S. market, and frankly, it’s not a bad way to make an entrance.

The premium, ECE/DOT-approved flip-up helmet comes with a combination fiberglass/resin shell, and the paint on our white medium unit was flawless. Stuck onto our moon-like skull, the Medium C3 felt pretty neutral, with a touch of tightness at the temples. The plush Coolmax-lined interior has a quality feel, and all padding is easy to remove, but front-to-back dimensions aren’t especially roomy. Ear pockets too, are shallow.

The C3 has a flip-up visor that locks metal latches onto metal posts. You’ll hunt for the nearly flush button to release the visor, but its upward motion is smooth, precise and rock- solid. When lowering the visor, we had to use two hands to work the large chin curtain over our chin. Locking it was no picnic either; a good amount of pressure is needed to fully shut it. We’ve had the helmet a year now, and we still need both hands.

The integrated visor deploys via a slider at the lower edge of the helmet, rotating down smoothly and offering the best coverage in the group, dropping well below our line of sight and blocking 80-percent of light transmission. The excellent faceshield is a breeze to remove, and Schuberth includes a Pinlock anti-fog insert.

The top vent allows a good amount of air to flow through, though we found the vent slider balky at times. The chin vent was much easier to operate, and also provides good ventilation.

Schuberth says it designed the C3 for low noise and high comfort at speed, and there’s plenty of evidence of that. Two fabric skirts under the chin, one around the neck and a double neck roll seal noise out exceptionally well. The ratcheting chinstrap is convenient, though it takes some getting used to.

At $699, the C3 is super-spendy, but it’s also the quietest and lightest helmet here. If your wallet can stand it, this feature-rich modular should make your short list.

Scorpion EXO-900 TransFormer $269.95-$279.95

Weight: 4 lbs., 2.5 oz.
Certification: DOT/ECE
Shell: Polycarbonate
**Warranty: **3 years

Introduced in 2009, the EXO-900—or TransFormer—gets its name from the fact that it can be converted to a full-face, flip-up, or open-face helmet with included parts.

The paint and shell surface have a nice finish, with good overall build quality and a clean, functional style. The polycarbonate shell feels stiff for a flip-up, and meets both DOT and ECE helmet standards. The fit on my medium head felt a touch narrow, but the TransFormer offers Scorpion’s inflatable AirFit cheek pads and neck roll—so fit can be customized. Although the helmet felt slightly top-heavy, there’s a good amount of padding on the EXO-900, and it feels pleasant, if not necessarily plush. The interior liner wicks moisture and is removable.

The EXO-900 has a fairly quiet operation, though there is some creaking. Raise the chin bar by pushing the button on the leading edge—easy to open but sticky when trying to close—pull a couple of levers and the EXO-900 converts to an open-face helmet.

The rocker-type chin and top vents are easily manipulated and look like they’d be fairly effective (a sliding wing out back uncovers exhaust vents). Ventilation feel, however, seems only moderate, though noise levels were just about average.

The retractable sun shade is activated by an accessible sliding lever outside the helmet, though the visor comes down with a clunk, and can hit your nose. Like many of these internal shades, we felt it didn’t drop down far enough. But, both the clear face shield and sun shield are removable, and have anti-fog coating—nice bonuses.

All those features add up, and the EXO-900 weighs in as one of the heaviest hats here. There are detail issues too—our year-old model’s bottom trim is becoming unglued. It’s got some noticeable warts, but if all that versatility and a cool feature set appeals to you, the EXO-900 should be a more than adequate road trip companion.

Shoei NeoTec $649 – $663 NEW 2012

Weight: 3 lbs., 14.5 oz.
Certification: DOT
Shell: Fiberglass
Warranty: 5 years

Shoei says the long-awaited successor to its Multitec was designed for a sleeker style and improved airflow. Although it has a fiberglass shell, the Neotec clocks in at about average for weight in this group. Guess that’s the price for feeling so solid: the Neotec’s build quality and fit and finish is superb. We’ve always been fans of Shoei’s simple shield removal system, and the new one continues in that vein (though it’s not the simplest here). The UV-blocking and anti-fog, Pinlock-equipped shield is slightly taller than the previous CX-1V of the still-available Multitec, and the eyeport offers excellent views and tight, even sealing all the way around.

The interior is ultra-plush, removable and replaceable, with separate pad components that match the shape of your head. This meant an exceptionally comfortable fit with a snug seal for our medium shell, which also felt extremely well-balanced on our head.

The chin bar uses stainless steel jaws that connect to steel pegs to secure the EPS-lined chinbar in the down position. Rotation is eerily slick and precise, and the helmet’s latching mechanism is so smooth and quiet—no clunking—I found myself checking to see if it was fully engaged when down. A large slider moves the non-locking tinted inner shield, which has a nice dark tint and drops down for good coverage. Operation, here too, is extremely quiet and refined.

The Neotec’s noise suppression is second only to the C3’s—not a lot leaks through that super-snug fit (which also rivals the C3 in comfort). The large, simple, and easily operated top vent allows a welcome stream of coolness to the head, but the lower flip vent only directs air up to the shield. Ventilation is really quite good; in our opinion, it’s probably the best in the group.

Functionally and operationally, the Shoei Neotec is one of the most impressive helmets here. It’s probably no surprise that it comes with a sky-high price tag; only the Schuberth is higher (and both are unreasonably so).

Vemar Jiano EVO TC/Night Vision $375/$450

Weight: 4 lbs., 3 oz.
Certification: **DOT /ECE
Fiberglass/Kevlar composite
Warranty: 5 years

If you’re looking for a solid feature set without the stratospheric price tag, the Jiano might be your ticket. This mid-line,fiberglass composite Vemar helmet combines robust construction, top-shelf fit and nice detailing with a price that won’t make you wince.

The Jiano Evo TC claims a mid-oval shell shape, which fit my round head snugly side-to-side, and it meets ECE as well as the DOT standard—a rarity in this group. With CE certification, chin bars are also tested (and contain EPS), so the added protection is nice. A removable plush padding and liner offer great comfort, with no hot spots or fitment issues.

The faceplate release button is recessed up and in, making it unlikely to be deployed in a crash, but also making it harder to locate with gloves on; when wearing winter gloves, the built-in chin curtain makes the hunt especially difficult. The rotating motion of the visor itself however, is smooth and solid, and the injection-molded plastic chin has a firm detent to lock it in the raised position. Latches are plastic.

A scratch-resistant, quick-release clear shield is standard, and is supplemented by an inner sun shade that rivals the Schuberth for best coverage. The 50-percent tint interior shade is operated via an easy-access lever and drops down easily. Ideally, we’d prefer a tint darker than 50-percent, especially on sunny days.

The ventilation system features five intake vents on top and front and two exhaust vents in the rear. The chin vent sends in a focused stream of air, but the top vent can be a struggle to open and doesn’t offer as much cooling. A standard chin curtain keeps some of the lower breezes at bay.

The Jiano is plenty comfortable and extremely solid, but draftier and noisier than the Shoei and Schuberth lids. The Evo TC is the heaviest helmet here but the excellent fit and finish makes it feels well balanced, and it’s got a nice feature set for the price. The Night Vision version brings a cool safety aspect, with its glow-in-the-dark shell , and Vemar also offers a Bluetooth version of the Jiano Evo TC, for $595.

XPeed Roadster $299

Weight: 4 lbs.
Certification: DOT
Shell: Fiber-reinforced polymer (plastic)
Warranty: 3 years

The Xpeed is a good-looking modular, with nice build quality and lots of attention to detailing. It feels heavy when picked up, but more balanced on your head. The paint is nicely applied and the thick, hard clear coat gives the helmet a glossy look and premium feel. The interior liner might not feel plush, but it’s removable, and it snugs onto your face without hotspots. Sizing seems a bit large; our medium felt generous all the way around.

The Roadster’s chin bar latch mechanism is smaller and positioned a bit inboard, and thus takes some getting used to. You have to pull the tab down, then out to open, and visor motion is sticky throughout the range. Flip it down and it clicks firmly into the closed position, though a little additional persuasion is needed from the other hand to guarantee that reassuring click. Once you get the drill down it engages positively, and the visor locks solidly in the up position.

The large external slider for the sunshield is easy to operate but the shield itself, while offering good coverage, and an effective tint, drops down a touch too close to the face. It does slide down smoothly, however, and can be set in any position, thanks to its friction-based operation.

The Xpeed brings some nice details and finishes, though we’re not sure why the vents (one exhaust, two top and two chin units) are so complicated; each one is independently operated, which seems like overkill. Venting is just about average, but there’s a chin curtain included that calms some of the dirty air coming from below.

From an overall standpoint, you could do much worse than the Roadster. It’s a solid, well-built modular with nice details and a good feature set. If you can live with a few over-designed bits, it’s a fairly decent mid-level choice..


AGV Helmets
1645 Superior Avenue
Costa Mesa, CA 92627 USA

Bell Sports

HJC Helmets
HJC America
16918 Edwards Road
Cerritos, CA 90703

Nolan USA
CIMA International
1585 Beverly Court, Unit 118
Aurora, IL 60502

Schuberth North America
27111 Aliso Creek Road, Suite 175
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656

Scorpion Sports USA
25921 Atlantic Ocean Drive
Lake Forest, CA 92630

Shoei North America
3002 Dow Avenue, Suite 128
Tustin, CA 92780

Vemar Helmets /Motonation
10225 Prospect Avenue
Santee, CA 92071

Xpeed Helmet Inc.
1656 W. Orange Grove Avenue
Pomona, CA 91768