Tag Archives: Airoh TR1

X-Lite X402-GT modular helmet review

updated 2018

… 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.

First impressions
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.


Updated 2018
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.


BMW F650 GS SE ~ pre-Morocco test run

Morocco trip report here.

I did a bit more work on the GS then loaded it up and took it out into the countryside for a spin. The last-minute jobs included:

  • Sizing up the Enduristan panniers on the Metal Mule rack.
  • Hard wiring in a 3-socket, 12-volt PTO off an accessory plug under the battery cover.
  • Fitting a larger side stand plate.
  • Fitting an Aerostich wool seat pad.
  • Fitting a couple of thick canvas pouches onto the engine bars.

First discovery was that, at around half a metre long, the velcro straps on the Enduristan Monsoons were too short to throw over the back of the GS. They’d have been barely long enough even if the bike had not had a Metal Mule rack and would have flapped around on the offside as the 650 doesn’t have nice slab-sided sides like bikes of old. I believe throwovers are a throwback to simpler biking days when twin shocks kept them in place. These days, for overlanding I’m not convinced it’s a long-term solution to soft baggage – a rack is needed or they’ll melt on modern cat pipes. And if you have a rack you may as well mount them properly. This has always been my plan with the Monsoon’s for my own bike, after the Morocco job is done. I was offered hard panniers by a couple of manufacturers but turned them down.

Anyway, how to get round the strap shortage. In the end I decided on a solution with minimal intervention and easy field repair, and sewed in an extra six-inch loop with a mini snaplink to slip the Monsoon velcro bit back on itself (pictures below).

On the pipe side I hooked on a full-sized carabiner for the bag’s front location strap which clips to the pillion footrest; otherwise the strap would have melted on the nearby pipe for sure. And on the back of the rack I screwed on some hose clips with R clips to help locate the back location straps (see photos below).

Under the tank there are at least two more 12v power take-offs, assuming you have the right BMW lead (the white plug with three yellow wires in the photo). With a bit of experimenting two of the three wires got screwed onto a 3-plug cig lighter socket jammed on the bars with duct tape and a ziptie. As with many jobs here, if this was my bike I’d do a neater, more permanent job. (Or would I…?) I like bodging for the main reason that it’s quick to do and easy to repair and I like to think there is an art to it.

I read on ukgsers that these OE accessory sockets off the wiring loom are controlled by the ECU and disconnect fuselessly under all but the lightest loads (that’s why my heated vest is wired directly to the battery). I tried my mini air compressor in the plug and sure enough, it tripped after a couple of seconds, but worked after switching off and on (to trip again). Good to know, so I changed the leads on the pump to croc clips to wire directly to a lead I made off the heated vest connection.

Similarly, I didn’t want to be welding bits to BMW’s bike (the voltages could put the ECU in a spin, even with the battery disconnected), so held back from getting a plate welded to the side stand foot. Instead I found a new Touratech screw-on plate on ebay for nearly half price. From my experience in the desert I’d say that this beautifully crafted bit of CNC’d alloy is about half the size it needs to be to support a loaded bike on soft sand. A cynical person could even say it’s a metaphor for the way things are these days: finely made and expensive bling that falls some way short of being functional. Anyway if it’s hopeless or breaks off I’ll remove the stand and get a proper steel plate about the sized of a fag packet welded on by a Moroccan metalbasher for five dirhams.

The Aero sheep’s wool pad went on with a couple of strips of pushbike inner tube (other elastics and hooks were supplied) and it’s certainly soft and furry to stroke; to sit on we’ll find out later. I can see someone nicking it, it looks so nice.

Great thing with engine bars is that you can attach stuff to them. In my case a one-litre, thick canvas army ammo pouch that I think goes back to my very earliest desert bikes. In fact here it is on my Tenere in ’86. This one has a hole in it to take a 1.5 litre water bottle poking out the top. Others use plastic drainpipe with screw on caps, but these pouches made at least 50 years ago if not in WWII) are seriously thick and crash proof and cost next to nothing. I liked mine so much I bought another pair off this guy on ebay for 4 quid each and fitted one on the other side: handy for oil, rags and whatever.

Finally I had a look around the bike to see what extra tools are needed. No great surprise to find that the 4-piece toolkit (right) clipped to the seat base has a limited range – though I’m still not sure what that 17mm is for; certainly not the front or back wheel which needs your own 24- and a 12mm to adjust the chain. There are plenty of those Torx fittings all around. I have to say Torx are probably not just a way to make you buy new sets of tools but better than Allens and of course much better than the mushy cross heads and hex bolts of old.

Shake down
Sunday morning I set out to follow a 33-mile pushbiking exercise loop I occasionally do, from south London out into Kent past Darwin’s house, Biggin Hill aerodrome and along the course of the Pilgrims Way – the ancient route from Winchester to Canterbury which follows the base of the North Downs – and back north into London.

I was trying out a lot of new stuff that had just turned up: a chunky Aerostich Falstaff jacket (like a Darien but in waxed cotton), an X-Lite X402-GT modular helmet (right; I decided the Airoh TR1 was just too noisy). I was also wearing my Kanetsu hot vest (the right way round and inflated this time) and had a Nuvi on the ‘tank’ top under a net to see if it worked there (it didn’t). They’re great in cars but I’m not sure I can see me getting into these satnavs while motorbiking. I could be wrong (I was…) but it takes too much concentration to focus on it, let alone fiddle with it (I have no recall but I suspect this crash 9 years ago was caused by scanning the GPS while riding). Still, at very worst it will be a handy map to whip out of a pocket when needed and perhaps a high bar mount will work better. On this morning’s ride I knew where I was going, and across Spain I’ve managed for 30 years with maps and route details prepared or memorised in advance. We shall see – perhaps I will become a convert (I did).

Does my bum look big in this?
The bike rode fine enough – the K60 tyres are still not as secure as the originals (only 40 miles old) but ought to prove their worth on the piste.
My payload was about 21 kilos including 5kg of food; the departure weight will be a little more (50lbs), plus water. Not too bad, but heavy enough all hung out the back. I tried to set the bags as far forward as possible, but jeez this gear is wide. Probably even a little wider than the Tenere set up on TTech Zegas or a GS12’s barrels. I swear when this job’s over I am going to make a luggage system on a platform rack for my own GS: same roll-top principle with a stiffener inside, but long, set low and slim, not short, high and wide.
I’m sure sticking out stuff influences handling and aerodynamics at high speed. At least it’s soft enough not to damage whatever it knocks into. The huge silencer is partly to blame; Metal Mule (and I bet Jesse Luggage too) sell an alternative pipe that tucks in better and takes a slimmer rack. You do wonder why silencers are round; maybe it’s cheaper that way.

Nothing flapped, melted or fell off and the stiff back shock works a bit better with the weight, so other than trying not to knock off the Sunday morning drop-bar and lycra brigade, I was more pre-occupied with the performance of my cushy new X-Lite and Falstaff jacket which needs a good airing to get the pong of wax out of it. Another re-pack and all is set for the month’s run to Morocco in a couple of days.

I don’t think I can face blogging out there – I like to get away from that stuff once in a while – so the full trip report on the 650 is here.

Airoh TR1 (J106) modular helmet review

See also my similar but better XLite X420 GT and also Bell Mag 9 reviews

Original modular design but a bit plasticy and; since copied by several quality helmet manufacturers (see below).

Since, gave it away to a charity shop.

Light, vented helmet with integrated sun visor. Converts to open face by removing the chin bar.

Off-road riding in Algeria and Morocco in 2008.

Was something like £100 on ebay – ordered from Germany. A replacement visor is £20. I see now they’re as little as £60 on ebay in the UK in odd sizes.

  • Looks cool; no naff graphics
  • Light
  • Removable chin guard: versatile
  • Integrated sun visor
  • Ratchet chin strap
  • Inexpensive
  • A bit plasticy and flimsy, especially the chin bar fitting.
  • Not exactly a velvety interior. My more recent lids by X-Lite and Bell are much comfier
  • The thin foam seal on the top of the chin bar sealing the visor soon came away.
  • Noisy.

I liked the TR1 and its clever features as soon as I saw it. It reminded me of an old Royal Navy helicopter pilot’s helmet (left) I used to wear in the early 1980s while despatching in London.
And let’s not forget the Yamaha TR1 V-twin – always liked the idea of them too, and as you’ll see from the link some people have done great things with that motor.
I especially like the Airoh’s good visibility – even with the chin on you can see down to your hands – and the removable chin bar idea which I didn’t think anyone else did at the time (see below).
I don’t really go for those flip-up lids which look as elegant as a ferry bow door, heavy and I’m sure can’t be sustained flipped up while riding due to wind drag. On a long, cold, wet run you want the face protection, but bumbling around off road in Morocco it was nice not to have anything in your face or hanging over your eyebrows. Handily, the bar comes off in a few seconds and is a more or less a right angle shape so tucks out of the way in the corner of a pannier. The sun visor is not bad at all, and saves you having to fiddle with shades as the sun sets – or wearing shades at all. I like the muted design too.
The vents, I never can tell if they’re working or just adding noise. I generally ride no more than 70mph on the XT with a tall screen which actually made wind noise worse until I fitted an extension. I don’t wear ear plugs but may give them a go one time. The chin bar sits pretty close to the mouth and feels like it wouldn’t give much protection in an impact. And if you grab the chin bar to remove the lid it creaks and may even come off.
There are lots of innovative ideas on the TR1. What would be nice is to see a quality helmet manufacturer like Arai or Shoei copy and improve on it and adding a bit more plush padding. A solid chin bar mounting would be worth a little extra weight.

UPDATE March 2012
Just took a two-day late-winter ride and my impressions are pretty much the same as a few years ago: great viz, nice and light, great visor features but jeez, this thing is noisy! As a round town lid it’s just the job but may have to tape up some vents and try ear plugs or get something else for long rides. Airoh still make it as a J106.

Just had a quick look, plenty of cumbersome flip-lids but can’t see any removable chin-bar, twin visor alternatives by other manufacturers.

A few days later I looked again and saw that Nolan make an Nolan N43 Air with just about all the same features as the Airoh but hopefully better quality. The 2011 model is pictured left in all it’s modular glory. The 2012 model is going for around £200 and has a bit more of an ‘air dam’ on the chin guard and a different visor rachet. And then I see there’s also the X-Lite 402-GT – same thing but reassuringly more pricey at around £320 and a Caberg Hyper-X  too. I’ve also just learned that X-Lite is to Nolan what Lexus is to Toyota – the upmarket arm of the same company. The Arai-esque X-Lite logo must be trying to say something.

Looking a bit more closely at pictures of these two lids (left), the X-Lite GT does seem to have a smoother exterior with less conspicuous venting and hardware which one would hope may make it quieter. And you’d also hope your paying for a better made, more comfortable helmet in composite. Here’s a cool promo vid of the GT and in fact. I bought the X-Lite for Morocco in March and have been using it since: review here.

Great visibility – the less I feel like I’m wearing a helmet the better.
Chin bar close to the mouth and a bit flimsy.
Chin off and it’s a nifty open face with a drop down visor.
Deploy all visors! I generally don’t like sunglass/shades, but the sun visor has it’s uses.
On the road with the sun shade fully down; it doesn’t come right down like a visor.
Side view. It’s a crash helmet.
That’s the Oued Ziz running past Erg Chebbi. You don’t see that every day. Oh, and a TR1.
The chin bar packs away quite neatly.