Helmet snobs…I hate helmet snobs. They offend my inner cheapskate, and my engineering brain favours function over form most of the time (although I certainly do appreciate sexy gear). Let’s face it, fit, finish and materials can make the price of a helmet skyrocket in a hurry but safety is mostly controlled by the test ratings of the big 3 (D.O.T., Snell, and ECE). The rating systems don’t change with the brand name or price category, they are a constant. Brand loyalty I understand, when you find a brand that fits your head shape (my wife tells me that mine is square), your wallet and your safety requirements you stick with it, but for some reason there are a few names in the industry that seem to carry more…cachet.
HJC has long been associated with the “value” segment, and helmet snobs be damned, I like them because they always fit consistently on my oddly shaped melon, they’re my “go to” lid. Mid-range helmets at entry level prices, what’s not to like about that? In recent years HJC has entered the high-end market and has listened to feedback from customers, testers, and racers to produce what I believe to be their greatest creation to date, the RPHA 11 pro.
The RPHA 11 pro checks off all the right boxes: Light and aerodynamic, D.O.T. and ECE certified, sexy (especially if you go for the incredibly cool graphics options), the best ventilation of any helmet I have personally strapped onto my pumpkin and the best part… In Canada, retail pricing of the RPHA 11 starts hundreds of dollars cheaper than the nearest competition and yes, I’m referring to the Shoei RF1200.
So, I’m painting a rosy picture here, does that mean I’ve discovered the helmet unicorn? Perfection? Well, no… But I must say that HJC is on the right track. I do have some relatively minor gripes that keep the RPHA 11 from achieving full helmet nirvana.
First problem is the visor, specifically the pinlock pegs. Visibility is very good vertically, as this is primarily a sporting/racing style helmet, lots of visor real estate there. The problem is that the pinlock pegs at either side of the visor are just out of my peripheral vision but seem to reappear occasionally when shoulder checking or scanning intersections and for the first little while can be rather distracting. A minor redesign of the visor would do wonders here. Second, is the volume level inside the helmet. It’s not bad but there is room for improvement here. If you wear earplugs (and you should) this is basically a non-issue, but the “premium” helmets have really set a high bar and is definitely a goal that HJC should consider. My final gripe is: Why do the ultra-cool graphics like Boba Fett and Lightning McQueen (officially my new favourite graphic ever) make the helmet almost double in price? I understand licensing and royalties etc. but damn! That makes my inner cheapskate get all uppity again.
So here I am bitching and moaning about minor issues, but what do I like about this helmet you ask? Literally everything else! In true HJC fashion the value factor is astounding, this is truly a premium lid at clearance sale pricing. The venting is nothing short of miraculous, opening the vents unleashes a vortex of fresh air that should keep you cooled on even the hottest summer day. Even in size 2XL to fit my giant cranium, the RPHA is impossibly light and the aerodynamics are spot on, I experienced almost zero wind buffeting. And did I mention value? HJC includes two visors, one clear, one tinted with perhaps the best quick change visor system in the business, as well as a pinlock antifog insert. The inner liner is pure premium here, removable and washable anti-microbial fabric and emergency release cheek pads, breath deflector and chin curtain as well. Helmet snobs…This is one sexy helmet, and the “premium” manufacturers had best take note, there is some new competition in town and they’re on a roll.
Big thank you to Molly @ HJC USA for sending me this sexy gear to test
Questions/comments, always welcome
Bike Guy / Cynical Prognosticator