In a line: Looks cool and works great with Qwik-Strap goggles and a non-ballistic ride.
What they say The iconic legend has returned! When the original Moto-3 was created back in the late 70s it was a product ahead of its time. Quickly becoming the industry standard in performance and style, today’s Moto-3 is everything it was style-wise, with the added benefits of modern safety and production advancements. From the fiberglass composite shell to the EPS-lined chin bar, we left no detail unpolished. The solid colors use the original style terrycloth liner, which is removable and washable.
What I think:
• Looks cool
• Feels light
• Chin guard not too close
• No visor hinges or other fittings to break
• Works well with Qwik-Strap goggle straps
• Good price, compared to recent X-Lites
• D-rings a bit fiddly
• Not full face protection; the old bug or chip will get through
For years I’ve been mostly wearing a costly open face X-Lite 402 or an inexpensive Bell Mag 9 with full face visors. Best thing is the great visibility and protection plus you leave it on to talk to people (less faff with glasses, too). But sometimes I miss a full face’s ability to be securely cable-locked to the bike via the chin bar (doing so via the D-rings never fooled anyone). And it has to be said thee types lids look good too.
I don’t usually get on with ‘in your’ full face lids like an X-Lite X551 I tried, but after few thousand miles the BellMoto III has suited me just fine. The wide aperture and the fact that the chin guard isn’t right in against your mouth makes it unobtrusive on the road while not feeling too claustrophobic when not on the move. Usually I can’t wait to get a full face helmet off my face.
I’ve been riding a Himalayan with a low screen at no more that 65mph, and at that speed buffeting or neck strain hasn’t been a problem. There’s no annoying bobbing around and the wind noise is what you’d expect when riding a motorbike.
Inside the lining has a nice, towel-like surface (terrycloth they call it) and all of it removed and refitted easily after washing – not all lids manage that. Only the double D-rings can be a bit fiddly – I seem to recall the X-Lite does it better.
I had an original, but beaten up old Moto III in the early 1980s – a nice-looking lid but as cozy as a brick-like inside. Goggles were always a bit awkward to move easily one-handed while riding. Decades later we have Qwik-Straps which I tried in Algeria last year and bought again for the Moto III.
As you can see in the pictures, two short straps fit in your regular goggle anchor slots, then two separate attachment pads glue to the side of your lid. One is velcro (best fitted on the left); the other is a clip-and-pivot stud. Clip the right strap to this pivot then pass the goggles over your face attach to the velcro. Undo the velcro and the goggles swing down to the right. Or – as I got used to doing – unvelcro and swing the goggles over to the back and re-velcro. Goggles are securely out the way but not dangling. It’s a clever system which definitely helped make the Moto III a much better travel lid than I expected.
… 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.
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 myTenere 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.