Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Helmet with a (rear) view

I don't know about you, but one of my recurring gripes about motorcycles - any motorcycle - is about rearward vision or, rather, the lack of it. On every bike I've ever ridden, whether my own or bikes I've borrowed for road tests, I've always spent a good five to ten minutes fiddling around with the mirrors in order to get a satisfactory view of what's behind my back - indeed, many a time I've been known to whip out the toolkit in order to find the best adjustments possible (OK, so I might be just a tad obsessive about it, but I really like to know what's going on behind my back). But at the end of the day, I have to admit that try as I might, a fair proportion of both mirrors is taken up by my shoulders. I mean, I wouldn't mind if I was narcissistic, but I'm not - anyway I'm pretty sure that my shoulders aren't the best part of me (don't ask me what is, I haven't the foggiest; but I digress...). To date, the best compromise I've found are the bar-end mirrors on the Triumph Thruxton; the only downside is that they make the bike rather wide, which can cause problems when it comes to lane-splitting.

Over the years, various solutions have been dreamed up, from small convex mirrors that you stick into the corner of the stock item, to little brackets that offset the mirror stalks a bit. But trying to make sense of the distorted image in a tiny convex mirror can be a bit confusing, whilst extender brackets aren't very pretty and can't be fitted to some bikes.

However, at last year's EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, I was introduced to what might just be the best answer yet to the quest for all-round vision on a bike. I'm talking of the Reevu MSX-1 crash helmet, which incorporates a rearview mirror. Basically the Reevu system works on the principle of the periscope: there's a window on the back of the helmet that leads to a light-reflecting channel that goes over the top of the helmet. The image is reflected onto a small adjustable mirror in the upper part of the eyeport. The result is that you can see exactly what's going on behind your back, with a surprisingly wide field of vision. In theory, when combined with a half-decent set of mirrors, you should get something approaching all-round vision, with just an upward flick of the eyes needed to check the helmet's built-in mirror. And despite what one might expect, the whole rearview system takes very little space indeed, which means that the MSX-1 is barely bulkier than your average helmet - good news for your neck muscles and for those of you who store their lid in a topcase or under the seat of their maxiscooter.

Unfortunately, I was only able to try the helmet for a couple of minutes at the Reevu stand in Milan, so I don't know what the helmet is like to wear when actually riding a bike, or whether the rearview system is effective when riding a sportsbike; all these questions and more will be answered soon when we road-test the helmet.

All photos courtesy of Reevu helmets