Today seems like as good a time as any to review the performance of my regular kit, after the thorough testing I gave it last week. I hope it is of some use to someone, but bear in mind this is only my opinions and not in any way a scientific or balanced assessment. On the positive side, I have paid for all this stuff with my own money (with one exception, thanks Endo) and so anything I say will be unbiased and as objective as I can make it.
First off, the brain bucket that kept my head dry and the bugs out of my eyes - my 'main' helmet, a three-year-old Shoei XR1000.
It's often said that you either have an Arai-shaped head or a Shoei-shaped head. I have never actually owned an Arai, but long experience has shown me that Shoei fits me fine. I came back to biking after a break of a few years in 2007. I had kept my old Shoei and wore that for a while, but the lining had gone mis-shapen and it was very uncomfortable. I bought a cheap Caberg as a stop-gap, but only until I could get a new Shoei. I finally found one on eBay at a price I could afford. It was brand-new-in-box, but was last year's graphics and was therefore offered by this seller at a huge discount over the then-current prices. I think it cost me £245, when new ones with the latest designs were nearer £400. I'm not a fashion victim and I quite liked the look of the thing anyway, so a deal was done.
For me, it's very comfy to wear. I can wear it all day (say three hours at a stretch and nine hours total), and by the end of the day there is only a slight discomfort around the ears where the ear cups have started to rub. It's reasonably quiet - certainly quieter than most helmets I have had, but I have never used something like a Schuberth which are reckoned to be the quietest around, so I can't compare it with those. I have never known any helmet's ventilation system to work, and the XR is no exception. I can slide all of the little buttons and flaps, and it makes not one iota of difference. Perhaps if I were planning to ride a lot in a hot country I might consider something with a cooling airflow, but there's no rush living in a temperate climate.
The best feature of the helmet is the visor. For one thing, it is easy to remove without tools, and the mechanism is robust, so there's little chance of being stranded somewhere with a useless helmet because of a bit of broken plastic. Rotate the visor to a marked position, flip a lever on either side, and the visor lifts off. The visors are not cheap - about £30 - but they are anti-scratch coated and made to take a Pinlock insert, more of which in a moment. Using one for daily commuting, the visors last me about a year. I could probably make them do for a lot longer, but I am very fussy about being able to see where I am going. I get mine from Race Visors, who are based in Guernsey and seem able to supply everything from standard clear to black, unlike mainland-based suppliers. I usually go for the 'light tint', which is road legal but has just enough of a tint to cut the worst of the glare (the photo above shows a clear visor). On long trips I carry a clear spare (usually the one I have previously retired), but in fact last week I wore the tinted visor all the time, and riding in the pitch black and rain was no problem. The eyes adjust very quickly.
I can't speak highly enough of the Pinlock system. This consists of a clear insert which attaches to the inside of the visor with two pegs. The insert has a soft seal around the edge, and creates a layer of dry air next to the visor, a bit like double-glazing. This goes a long way to preventing misting, and I believe the inserts also have a coating on the inside face that further prevents the formation of condensation on the inside. I have always had a problem with fogging visors, and with my previous Shoei I had got used to riding with the visor permanently open one notch for six months of the year. My eyes watered with the cold air on every ride. With a new Pinlock, I can sit at traffic lights in the pouring rain in January, with the visor fully closed, and not get any misting at all. You are looking through four air/perspex interfaces instead of two, and this does mean that oncoming headlights create slightly more starring than a plain visor, but it's no big deal, and is vastly outweighed in safety terms by the ability to ride in heavy traffic with your eyes on the task and not blinking from the cold air. Unfortunately, the Pinlock inserts don't last indefinitely, and after about a year with me they start misting over - although a lot less than with no insert at all - and I replace them. Maybe I wipe the coating off when I clean the inside of the visor, I dunno. But one a year doesn't seem a huge cost, when set against the enormous benefits in comfort and safety of being able to see clearly whatever the weather. (The Caberg I bought, which is a fine helmet in other ways, mists up on a warm day in June. Perhaps I should learn to stop breathing.) I will never buy another full-face helmet without a Pinlock insert. They are that good.
The fastening is a traditional double D-ring, and I am very happy with that. It's a little fiddly, but the advantage is that you adjust the fit every time you wear it. My open-face helmet has a seat-belt type clip, and while that is marginally easier to use, it needs constant adjustment of the buckle if it is to remain properly tight. The Shoei's strap has a dinky little stud that fastens the long end onto itself after you have tightened it, to stop any annoying flapping at speed. It works.
The XR1000 only gets a 3-star rating on the SHARP website. It's rated 'very good' for impacts to the front, crown and back, but 'fairly poor' for side impacts. The newer XR1100 gets five stars, and is rated 'good' for side impacts as well as 'very good' in the other places. That's a significant improvement, but it doesn't put me off the XR1000. It may be short-sighted of me, but comfort and useability (like the anti-fogging) come much higher up my list of desirables than a notional safety rating based on lab tests. If you're in an accident where the helmet is being tested to that extent, then you're in big trouble anyway. Better to have a helmet that allows you to concentrate on your riding in comfort, and avoid the situation in the first place. I'm not knocking the SHARP system, but it's only part of the function of the helmet. The XR1000 is ECE 22.05 certified, and that is enough for me.
The helmet is starting to show its age now. A bit of vigorous cleaning one day snapped the little plastic vent cover at the back, and that is now permanently open. It makes no difference, and I am in no hurry to fix it. It still looks smart and it will do me another couple of years at least. With most things, I am slightly pleased when they wear out or break, as this gives the opportunity to buy something different, but I will keep the XR until it falls apart. No rush.