… full face visor protection without the ‘in your face’ visibility issues
I’ve never seen one in use but I’m a fan of the Airoh TR1 (now called a J106) modular helmet which came out in 2008. But as you can read in my updated review of it, I rather hoped someone would come along and make a plusher, less plasticy version with the same features. Well Nolan (above right, white), X-lite (upmarket brand of Nolan, left; black), Caberg and others did just that.
What is a modular helmet?
The way I see it, it’s a full-face lid with a removable chin piece, and specifically not one that hinges up ‘like a ferry bow door’ (left), as I say in my Airoh review. The appeal is you get the protection you want on fast roads, but can unclip and stash the small chin piece to have an elegant open face helmet with a proper visor for whenever it suits you: in town or on dirt tracks. I prefer open face any day but recognise the advantages of full face.
I’ve only worn it for an hour (on an F650GS with a low Metal Mule screen), but first impressions are that it’s clearly better made than my £100 Airoh – and so it should be at nearly £300. Cushiness seems on a par with velvety Arais I’ve owned in the past, and although I wasn’t belting along motorways as I have been recently with the Airoh, it does seem quieter, which was the point of getting it.
Part of that must be down to the big, flat visor as on the Nolan N30, a less complex shape than the Airoh moulded visor so making less turbulence. That, and the much softer, enveloping interior puts it on another level. The noise is a bit like the inside of a cruising airliner; it’s there but not a deafening roar. I don’t use earplugs.
On the way back I removed the chin piece and stashed it (it detaches much more easily than the Airoh’s creaky, jam-prone fittings) and immediately recognised the full-viz appeal of open face, but with a crystal clear (for now) brow-to-chin visor. At <50mph there seemed very little extra noise.
Looks-wise I’d say the Airoh still takes the prize, probably because it’s smaller at the cost of having the sculpted chin piece a little too close to the mouth. Both helmets have the integral sun shade with drops down using a left side lever, but a quick try of the X-Lite’s sun visor today proved it was much clearer, quality lexan and came right down to the nose too, not halfway like the Airoh, although the leverage is a bit inadequate (see below).
Across Spain the X-Lite was fine considering I don’t use ear plugs. Once I got to Morocco I removed the chin guard (which soon got nicked), and was very comfortable using the helmet in open face mode. The visor cleaned easily without scratching, and coming back across Spain at higher speed and downpours, I didn’t miss the chin bar that much, it can exacerbate steaming up.
The dark visor was great too at times, though you do feel that the leverage on the slider is a bit short and it might fail one day (it did). Also it sure would be nice to have the ratchet clip or the Airoh than the old style double D-ring buckle.
The vents worked pretty well without contributing to the noise, with a sweaty head you can briefly feel the cooling effect.
As mentioned, the dark visor lever on the left has become stiff to the point that I feel it would break if pushed hard, so I just pull it down by hand. But very often when the low sun comes out it is handy to have it there rather than grope around for shades. I still don’t miss the chin piece, but do miss a peak for low sun angles. D-ring is a fiddle but I suppose could be modified. Best of all: it’s got the full face visor protection without a full face helmet’s poor visibility.
So there it is, X-Lite modular, a versatile touring and off-roading lid that means you can take it off less because it lacks the annoying ‘in-your-face’ element of a full face lid. Not as snazzy looking as the Airoh, but much better made and more comfortable too.
Five years on I’m still wearing it for most trips. I gave up on a replacement chin guard but don’t miss it. I prefer the wide view over the dash and the road ahead, plus the easy flip up. Great for work too (jotting down notes, fiddling with camera or GPS while logging routes, but just noticed the slide-button for the sun visor (right) had broken off. 7/10
I recently bought a full face X-Lite 551 GT. Didn’t get on so well with that one.