When it comes to dual sport riding or adventure touring, the type of helmet you choose is very important. We put four of the top helmets in the segment, head-to-head in our adventuring touring helmet shootout.
Motorcycle-Superstore front man JC Hilderbrand takes a look at four of the more popular adventure touring/dual sport helmets on the market and breaks down the pros and cons of each in this Dual Sport Helmet Shootout. Which helmet is lightest? Which is easiest to work on? Which one gives you the best bang for your buck? Hear his thoughts and then weigh in with your own. The ultimate buying decision up to you, but we thought it would be helpful if we shared a few facts and opinions on the subject. Let’s take a look at the contenders in this dirty little lid comparison.
On the high-end of the spectrum is the Arai XD-4: This $600 +/- helmet is billed as the cream of the crop because they are hand-built, have a reputation for excellent fit and finish as well as a racing pedigree that is appealing to many riders. The look is very basic and traditional so it often polarizes opinions as much as the price tag when it comes to the discerning dual sport crowd. Although the Arai literature claims this is an easy to swap face shield, it seems to give people problems until they figure out the very specific routine. Fortunately, the venting system is excellent and the liner is easy to remove and reinstall with emergency-release cheek pads and the softest, most comfortable liner material of the four helmets in this shootout. This is what you’d expect from a high-end helmet.
The next helmet on the list based on price is the Shoei Hornet DS: With a price tag in the neighborhood of $500, the Shoei Hornet is competing directly with the XD-4 for your hard-earned dual sport or ADV dollars. The roost visor is the most durable of the group thanks to its third mounting point, and the eye port is massive. A high-quality face shield is time-consuming to change but it provides excellent clarity with little distortion. The vent controls get stubborn as the dust builds up, but this helmet flows plenty of air to keep you cool when riding hard. Similar to the Arai, the Hornet DS also sports a relatively bland styling, but we’re most concerned with the rougher fabric on the interior. If you are a Shoei fan, desire SNELL safety ratings and enjoy a conservative design then you’ll definitely want to take a look at the Hornet DS.
AGV offers the AX-8 DS as a cutting edge, high-quality helmet: The AGV AX-8 DS comes in with an MSRP right at $400, which is no small chunk of change. What makes it different than the two more expensive lids is the edgy, modern look that would be right at home in the woods or on the road. The AX-8 is easy to work on, shield changes only require removing two plastic screws and the venting is solid as well. The biggest complaints about the AGV helmet is the angular face shield gives a distorted view when you try to ride with it at the half-open position, and the liner doesn’t have cut-outs for your ears so it bothers some riders, particularly if you’re trying to install a communication system. The pads also break down relatively quickly so it’s a good thing they are easy to replace. That’s a short list of minor quibbles considering this helmet is the lightest in the group and looks like it is going fast, even at a standstill.
Here we have the $350 Icon Variant: This is not your old man’s dual sport helmet. No, my friends, this is a high-tech, state of the art piece of urban survival equipment that is targeted at sport bike and street bike riders more than it is aimed at the dual sport market. But there is no mistaking the fact that this is a cross-over design that works very well for dual-sport and adventure touring. It looks like a lid the villain would wear, but the fact is, this is a great, comfortable helmet that offers a very distinct, aggressive look. It’s on par with the Arai and Shoei in terms of how complicated it is to change the shield but like the other two, it’s just a matter of taking the time to figure it out. The vents are built into a stylish peak visor system, but we’ve found it is easier to break than the other visors. Icon also advertises this as a long-oval head shape, but our unofficial fitment tests are show more of an intermediate-oval. This helmet offers the wildest looks and quality performance for the least amount of money. Sure there are things to complain about, but that’s a small price to pay in order to stand apart from the crowd.