Tag Archives: modular touring helmets

Mid-winter rain gear report


On the way down to the storm-lashed West Country (left) to pick up my new X Country (first impressions here), I knew I’d be getting drenched so I waxed my Altbergs and rolled up my Rukka one-piece, along with some Armr WXP8 gloves, my X-Lite helmet and the Kriega R30 backpack. I should have taken my Kanetsu electric vest but wasn’t keen on wires dangling out of my sleeve or neck and didn’t want to hole the one-piece just yet. With just a shirt and merino cardy, the Rukka was a bit skimpy for the non-stop 280-mile ride back at 6-7°C during which I was periodically pelted with hail. It got to that point where you can’t handle the bike so precisely through roundabouts as the limbs numb down.


I like my Bell Mag 9 cheapie but took the similar X-Lite X402 GT this time. The long visor comes right down past the chin (removable chin section MIA), but rain drops eddy onto the inside surface or just run down from the top. Result at night in the rain: visibility as bad as a car with broken wipers – same as it ever was on a bike. Maybe flashier full face helmets seal better. Then there’s the deafening racket at some positions/speeds – I really ought to get into ear plugs. But I like the smoothly operating giant visor and pull-down sun shade. For my sort of riding and speeds, modular helmets do the job.


Kriega R30: Fail
I expected the outside pockets to let rain in, but hoped the white proofed nylon liner might do its job. Actually, I didn’t trust it at all, so put my Airbook and Kindle in an Enduristan isolation bag (right) for insurance.


Even then, you’d think that sitting on my back the bag would be out of the direct line of fire, but after three hours in the rain, on arrival in Cornwall the bottom of the bag was soaked like it had been sitting in a pool of water. And inside the white liner had let water through to the Isobag which lived up to its name. Not altogether surprised, but now I know. I wonder if Kriega Overerlander owners are finding the same?
In future I’ll have to take a spare Ortlieb PVC dry sack if using the Kriega in the rain. Proofed nylon or polyester fabric with taped seams are just not as reliable against leakage compared to heat-welded PVC. In all other ways the R30 makes a good if rather heavy, overcomplicated and pricey backpack that’s designed to sit securely on your back at 190mph. £139.
(Since sold and replaced with a more conventional old-model, PVC Over-Board 30-litre backpack, right)


Rukka one-piece PVC: Pass
Good old Rukka, I knew it wouldn’t let me down but I was pleased to finally put it to the test. How could it leak, it’s lush, tactile, dolphin-unfriendly PVC! Even then it’s pretty amazing that sat for hours at 70 against unscreened rain, nothing gave way, neither a seam in the backside nor the double storm-flapped front zip. With a snood neck thing, nothing came through there either. At least thirty years old and going from £30 quid on ebay. Make sure you buy big enough ‘EU’ sizing is confusing (see link above).


Armr WXP8 gloves: Pass-ish
The Armr gloves I also expected to succumb to the torrent, even though they were protected behind hand guards. On arrival the insides were damp but not outright soaked. A complex shape like a glove must be a nightmare to seal securely with a cheap membrane. The smart answer is those naff looking handlebar muffs or hippo hands. If I was riding each day in winter as I used to, that’s what I do. Other than that, the Large size has fingers a bit too short for me, the velcro strap seems redundant against the larger velcro flap but I guess is there to keep the glove on in a heavy crash. £40.

X-Lite X402-GT modular helmet review

updated 2023

See also:
HJC i30
Bell Moto 3
Bell Mag 9
Airoh TR1

… 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.

In 2023 I replaced the X-Lite with an HJC i30.


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.