Monday, 9 October 2017

Gear Report: LS2 Spitfire OF599 helmet

When I got confirmation that I would be riding an Indian Scout Sixty at the 2017 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride in Barcelona (full road test here and DGR report here), I soon realised that wearing either a track-oriented full-face helmet or a a modular "flip-up" lid just wasn't going to cut the mustard. No, what was needed was an open-face crash hat. I looked at my scuffed, scratched and battered road-weary Airborn, but soon realised that it was now probably well past the end of its useful life (I've had it since 2007). I was left with only one option: to go on the blag for an open-face skull bucket.

So which manufacturer should I go to, cap in hand, to be lent a helmet? I thought of approaching one of the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride global sponsors, Hedon, but realised that it was probably too short notice. I also thought about reaching out to Davida, but there again, time was at a premium. Finally, as I was taking a break from a particularly tedious translation, I checked my browser history to see which manufacturer's website I had last visited. And so I ended up surfing LS2's website. Almost immediately, I saw the answer to my problems: the brand-new Spitfire helmet. I saw the name as a good omen - guess what my favourite warbird is - and in due course I sent an email to David Foschi, their design guru; a few days later a courier knocked on Thruxton Towers' portcullis and I unboxed the Spitfire.

Now with a name like Spitfire, you' be forgiven for expecting loads of luxurious leather inside and out, along with some built-in RAF pilot goggles. Umm, no. The Spitfire is a slightly modernised version of the classic "jet" helmet shape (think Bell Custom 500 or indeed LS2's own "Bobber" helmet); as such the aft part of the shell (made in HPTT polycarbonate and available in two shell sizes) is slightly stretched backwards, with a small upswept lip at its base, giving it a sleeker more dynamic look. This is highlighted on the "Sunrise" version that we received, with its rootbeer metalflake colour and the very early-Eighties inspired stripes that snake round the helmet. As the helmet has a securing loop at the back for a goggle strap, I quickly fitted my 100% Barstow "OSFA by Dimitri Coste" goggles to it; with their own powerful "neo-Eighties" design vibe, they complement the helmet nicely, as well as providing top-notch eye protection. As I observed the Spitfire coiffed with the Barstows, I suddenly had the impression I was looking at a ski helmet; in fact, between its fashionable Eighties revival look and its light weight (the manufacturer announces a weight of 1,050 g, though I reckon it's nearer the 1,000 g mark), I reckon you could actually use it as a ski lid.

Courchevel or Bust...

You don't have to wear it with goggles, though. One clever design feature of the Spitfire is its cable-operated drop-down sunshield, which has two positions to accomodate for more or less protuberant noses. When you retract the sunshield it tucks away into the helmet shell with a click; this ensures that it stays out of your field of vision when you don't need it. Deployed, it provides adequate enough cover to prevent air getting past it and making your eyes water; however, once past 100 kph, you might want to wear a pair of shades or clear-lensed glasses underneath to avoid unpleasant draughts (these will also come in handy if you have to ride past sundown). Our only gripe is with the tabs on the sunshield, which are a bit too small - with gloves on I found I had problems locating and getting a good enough fingerhold on them to deploy the 'shield. However, this also means that if you're wearing this helmet with goggles, the tabs won't get in the way when you raise the goggles. Another nice touch - and a surprising one given this is an open-face helmet - is the ventilation system. The front part of the fully removable and washable comfort liner, where it fits into the helmet, has air vents that lead to a series of channels in the EPS liner.

Or should I go to St. Moritz and do the Cresta Run?

Unlike a more classic "jet" helmet, the Spitfire's fit is aimed at oval-shaped heads; this is probably due to its somewhat more streamlined shape. In any case I found it very comfortable and, due to the helmet's light weight, totally unobtrusive. There are no unpleasant pressure points and the field of vision, as one would expect from an open-face helmet, is excellent. When deployed, the optically-correct sunshield provides ample cover and protection at urban speeds; it's sufficiently tinted, although in strong sunlight some people might want to add a pair of shades underneath. If you get caught out by nightfall in an urban environment with streetlights and other light sources you can see through the tint without without losing too much visual clarity, although personally I preferred to retract the sunshield and wear a pair of clear-lensed glasses. This is definitely a helmet that could benefit from a photocromatic sunshield so as to be able to use it and maintain that "fighter pilot" look by night as well as during the day.

The chinstrap features a micrometric buckle, which is par for the course for most contemporary urban helmets. It's well-designed and unobtrusive; however, the comfort liners on both ends of the chinstrap are a bit on the short side. This wasn't a problem for me, as I have a full beard, but it may be uncomfortable for clean-shaven guys or lady riders.

All artists like to cameo in their work

As one would expect from most open-face lids, this is a fairly noisy helmet. This isn't a problem in urban environments, where hearing what's going on around you can be a bacon-saver, but once you're on the open road at speeds above 100 kph, the wind noise becomes unpleasant after just a few kilometres On the stretch of motorway into Barcelona, I regretted not having taken a pair of earplugs. At speeds above 90/100 kph, I also detected an intermittent creaking noise that unnerved me at first. It took me a while to track its origin down - I checked and double-checked the buckle and the sunshield - until I fitted the goggles to the helmet. It turns out that the creaking came from the  rigid plastic air vents built into the front part of the comfort liner: at speed, the air rushing into these vents makes this part of the comfort liner move about very slightly, hence the intermittent creaking.

Globally I was fairly impressed by this helmet, particularly liking its subtle update on the classic jet design and the Eighties-themed Sunrise paint job. I also appreciated the presence of a goggle retaining loop and the drop-down sunshield. I was somewhat less impressed by the wind noise above 100 kph; then again bear in mind that this helmet is primarily designed for urban use - if you do want to take it out on the road, a good pair of earplugs does bring the noise down to more comfortable levels. The LS2 Spitfire will be retailing around the 100€ mark which makes it really great value for money; the various solid colours and graphic options ensure that you won't have to fork out a big chunk of your hard-earned to have a stylish lid.

What we liked:

· Funky and fashionable Eighties-inspired graphics and metalflake paint
· Sleek compact & lightweight shell
· Comfortable, unobtrusive fit
· Two-position drop-down sun shield
· Goggle strap retainer
· Wide field of vision

What we liked less:

· Excessive wind noise above 100 kph
· Occasional creaks from the air vents
· Short tabs on the sun shield


Bike: Indian Scout Sixty; Goggles: 100% Racing Barstow "OSFA by Dimitri Coste"

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