Sunday, 23 January 2011

Long-term Test: Scorpion EXO-900 crash helmet

I had been toying with the idea of getting a "flip-front" crash helmet for quite some time, but could not find it in me to part with my hard-earned for one. You see, in my mind, flip-fronts were either for the serious pipe-smoking beardies who ride BMWs, or for motorcycle coppers; I didn't feel - and still don't - that I had much in common with both groups. Also, I am more used to wearing classic-styled open-face helmets. Not to say that I didn't see the advantage of flip-fronts: when they're closed, you're effectively riding with a full-face lid, which is much safer at high speed than an open-face with aviator goggles! Unfortunately, every time I perused the marketplace, I never found the flip-front that would convince me to take the plunge.

And then Scorpion brought out the EXO-900. It was as if they had been reading my mind; I have long since decided that the ideal helmet for me would be a full-face that I could easily turn into an open-face, and finally somebody out there had done something about it! Last October I finally reached for my wallet and in exchange for 250 Euros (the RRP here in Spain) I became the proud owner of a gloss black Scorpion EXO-900.

That plant could do with watering...
Photograph © Marc Michon/The Thruxtonian, Jan 2011

When I extricated my new possession from its packaging, I found it to be fairly good-looking for a flip-front, much more so than suggested by the photographs I had seen so far. In fact I think that it's probably one of the nicest-looking flip-fronts on the market, certainly better than a Nolan or a Schuberth. A design touch that I particularly like are the chromed surrounds on the air vents; instead of being really bright chrome, which always looks tacky in my opinion, they are slightly "smoked", which gives them a much classier aspect. Closed, it has a swoopy, dynamic line to it, and would not look out of place on a sports bike. It even looks fairly good once it's open, because unlike many flip-fronts, the "fascia" locks open in a completely vertical position.

The garden furniture looks good, too
Photograph © MarcMichon/The Thruxtonian, Jan 2011

Plunging my hand into the box, I then pulled out the element that enables you to turn the  EXO-900 into an open-face helmet. Turning it from a classic flip-front into an open-face lid is a very simple operation. With the fascia locked into its open position, you pull down on two little "triggers" on each side of the helmet, which disconnects it from the main body of the helmet. It's much like removing the visor from a Shoei full-face helmet. Once the fascia is removed, just clip the "peak" into place, and lower it until it fits into place. Simples! You now have an open-face helmet.

Still hasn't watered that plant...
Photograph © Marc Michon/The Thruxtonian, Jan. 2011

When I had first seen photographs of the EXO-900 in open-face mode, I thought it was a bit naff; I've never really been a fan of peaked "jet" helmets, you see. But in the flesh, it isn't as ugly as I originally thought: the actual size of the helmet gives it a substantial air, and the peak is very well designed to blend well with the shape and design of the main helmet shell. In fact, with the internal sun visor flipped down, it does give you a certain "Judge Dredd" look, which isn't bad!

Once you have it on, you do notice the extra weight compared to a classic full-face, but Scorpion's bespoke "Air-fit" system (basically an air bladder in the neck cushioning that you inflate to "fine-tune" the helmet's fit) does alleviate that to some degree, since it gives the helmet an extra support point around the back of your neck. The chinstrap is of the micrometric variety, which makes it quick and easy to close, even with gloved hands.

On the road, it is a very comfortable helmet to wear. The interior padding is pleasant and quite soft. The EXO-900 is a fairly quiet helmet, too, although I do notice a slight whistling noise, which I think might be caused by the slider that activates the internal sun visor, but it isn't too intrusive and I soon forgot about it. I should point out that I don't wear earplugs so I would have thought that this little whistling noise would be almost entirely cancelled out by a good pair of 'plugs. The outer visor has two little tabs - one on each side - to lift it up, but generally I find that I only use the left-hand tab. These tabs are a bit small, though, particularly if you're wearing thick winter gloves. The outer visor has several positions, although I find that in only a few months of use, the little indents on it have worn away quite a bit, so I suppose that I will soon be having to buy a new visor or two. However, the lowest position is ideal to ensure that a little bit of fresh air enters the helmet at low speed or at a standstill if you don't want to lift up the fascia. 

Speaking of air and ventilation, I find that the ventilation on the Scorpion EXO-900 isn't anything worth writing home about; then again that isn't anything new, since I could level that same complaint at many other ventilated helmets currently on the market. The vents themselves are fairly easy to open and close, although the chin vent can be a bit fiddly with thick gloves on. Despite the rather mediocre ventilation, the visor does not fog up easily: Scorpion have obviously hit upon a pretty good anti-fog coating on the inner surface, which means that I haven't really found myself missing the pinlock as fitted to my old Shoei Raid II. However, I have noticed that in certain cold and damp conditions, the left-hand side of the visor does fog up just a little bit; nonetheless, I ascribe that to the fact that the  microphone of my Cardo Scala G4 intercom might be interfering with the residual airflow that, in combination with the anti-fog coating, does an otherwise sterling job. This does mean that I have to sometimes crack the visor open to its first position, which is not always much fun in winter.

The internal sun visor is very good. It is fairly easy to operate, although intercom units might get in the way. The visor deploys downwards quite far, and is tinted just enough to be efficient, although if the sun is really strong, you might want to wear a pair of shades - the helmet padding has two slots designed to accommodate the stems of shades or prescription glasses. My only complaint about it is due to my striking physique: the tip of my Cyrano-like proboscis does often come into contact with the visor, but this is really a minor complaint and is not a source of annoyance or discomfort.

In its open-face guise, the Scorpion EXO-900 is great as an urban helmet, particularly if your bike has a decent-sized windscreen. The main visor disappears (it mounts onto the removable fascia), and you have to make do with the internal sun visor. This visor does a fairly good job of keeping the wind out of your eyes until about 80 kph if like me you ride an unfaired bike, which means that having a good pair of clear-lensed glasses on underneath is a good idea. I have a pair of Davida WRS-74 shades with yellow-tinted lenses, and they work a treat: I can even maintain motorway speeds without welling up. For those of you who might be thinking of making intensive use of the EXO-900 in its open-face mode, I suggest that you replace the sun visor with the clear version, and have a pair of shades handy.

After a few months' worth of testing I can say that the Scorpion EXO-900 is not a gimmick but two good helmets in one. It is obviously designed mainly with touring bikes or maxi-scooters in mind, but nonetheless makes a good helmet for riders of unfaired machines too. I find it particularly great for touring: for long-distance work you wear the helmet in its flip-up guise, and once you're at your destination you can fit the peak (which is made of a very flexible polycarbonate, so that it can even be packed into soft luggage) and cruise around with an open-face lid. Given the fact that it really is two helmets in one, the price tag (250 € here in Spain) means that it really is worth taking into consideration if you're looking for an ultra-versatile and comfortable flip-front helmet. You can visit Scorpion here.


  1. I want to purchase a second hand helmet, I had a sports bike and I think this helmet is best for it.

    Open Face Helmets

  2. I have bought this helmet just few days back, it is comfortable to wear, and when i go for long drive, i must wear this. Because of this i feel my head is protected in case of any accident.