HJC Cool-Max and Shoei Duo-Tech Product Reviews

From: Greg Roberts <gregroberts@globalcompinc.com>
Date: Tue, 27 Jul 1999 18:38:16 -0500

Product reviews: my comments on the HJC Cool-Max helmet liner and Shoei Duo-Tech helmet.

HJC Cool-Max helmet liner

My motorcycling background is primarily off-road and dual sport. My helmets got filthy and stinky often enough that Debbie didn't pay much attention when she'd come into the bathroom and find a helmet hanging on the shower head, where I had taken it in the shower with me and shampooed the liner.

When I started riding street bikes, I continued the practice of taking the helmet in the shower with me for a while. Then we got an intercom, and I had to start pulling the headset out to wash the helmet. I sweat a lot, even for a fat boy, and have a lot of natural skin oil, so this was at least a monthly deal.

When I bought Debbie a full-face helmet, on the advice of some other women riders, I bought Deb a Slik™ helmet liner to keep her hair from getting as mussed. Debbie liked the comfort it provided, as it also kept her head from itching under the helmet, as well as helped with her hair. She suggested that I should get one, but I didn't for a long time. Finally, I noticed that I wasn't having to wash her helmet, so I tried out a simple helmet liner, made from a cloth bandanna. This did lessen how often I had to wash the helmet, but I still ended up with a soaking wet head after most rides. I also didn't like the fit, as it would bunch up under the helmet.

On a fluke, I ordered an HJC Cool-Max helmet liner. List at most m/c shops is under $10, locally I found one for $7.50, figured I couldn't go too far wrong. This past weekend I tested it out for the first time, Saturday and Sunday under my old AGV MX-style helmet, yesterday under my new Duo-Tech (review to follow.) Conditions ranged from bright sun to partially cloudy, temps from 87-98 degrees, humidity from 80-100%, speeds from stop & go city traffic to extended stops on the interstate and on up.

I'm really impressed with the Cool-Max liner. Normally around town, even with the very open design of the AGV helmet I'll quickly have sweat dripping down the sides of my face. With the Cool-Max, this doesn't even begin to happen. Even after several hours of riding without removing the helmet I didn't drip sweat, when I finally did remove the helmet my hair felt almost dry, and the Cool-Max was barely damp. Surprisingly, the padding in the helmet was very damp, but not dripping. I wear glasses, and hate having to take them off remove the helmet, then remove them again to put the helmet back on, so I frequently will go through a couple of gas stops without taking it off. Even in hot, very humid conditions my head seems much cooler when riding, and definitely much dryer when I finally stop and take the helmet off.

The only tradeoff is that the material is somewhat stretchy (which makes for a comfortable fit) but this makes putting the glasses on after I have put the helmet back on very difficult. The earpieces don't want to slip under the Cool-Max. A slight aggravation that I think is cured by the Duo-Tech.

I think this is an excellent addition to my personal comfort doo-dads. It should help keep the helmet's lining from getting nasty as quick, and keeps my head more comfortable with the wicking action of the material. It works much better for me than a cotton helmet liner, and is a great improvement over Debbie's Slik™.

Shoei Duo-Tech Helmet

Yes, they have been discontinued, replaced by the Synchro-Tec, so this is an "initial impressions" review of an item that will be hard to find.

As some of you might have guessed from questions on the list, I have been trying to find a replacement for my aging AGV MX-style helmet for some time.

I really like the AGV helmet. It fit my head well and was very comfortable. The chin bar is an integral part of the helmet for strength and protection, it was far enough from my face that I could easily eat candy and munchies while on the road, plenty of room for my Camelbak drinking tube, or even soda and water, if the soda was in a bottle rather than a can. The eye opening was designed so that off-road goggles would fit easily, so there was no problem with clearance for my oversized glasses frames. When built it met the highest safety standards. It also had decent ventilation, and a visor that I found very useful in shading my face from mid day sun, plus I could lower my head a bit and block out the rising and setting sun, and keep a lot of rain from hitting my face. I installed a J&M Full-Face headset with very little trouble that worked adequately well.

Downsides to the AGV were that there is no shield for eye protection, so unless I wore my goggles (which I carry in the trunk), my eye protection consisted of the Wing's windshield (which I look through) and my safety prescription lenses. In hard, driving rain, dusty conditions, or high crosswinds I'd wear the goggles for supplementary protection, but they aren't comfortable for all day riding.

Looking for a new helmet, I didn't want a regular full-face helmet. I had used Debbie's HJC CL-10, and while comfortable, it was inconvenient for my glasses, and I could only drink using the Camelbak's flexible tube. Eating was out of the question, and it was also difficult to spit while wearing the helmet. John Harrison made a Shoei RF-700 available to me, and after some changes were made to the padding I decided that it had the same shortcomings for my use as the HJC full-face helmet.

I really wanted to be able to wear the new Nolan N-100 flip-up helmet, but it just wasn't to be. Though I don't have much of a chin, apparently I have more than the Nolan designers expected, as my chin hit the inside of the chinbar. I didn't feel like I would be able to wear the helmet for long stretches without rubbing a raw spot.

Since I don't live in snowmobile country, the Bombadier Ski-Doo helmet wasn't a realistic option, and I just didn't care for the Orbit helmet (like the French police use).

The field was narrowing. The Alabama state BMW dealer recently closed, so that took the option of the BMW System helmet away. As far as flip-face helmets, about all that was left was the Shoei Duo-Tec, and its replacement, the Synchrotec.

Unfortunately for me, none of the dealers I checked with over the course of several months of looking had a Duotec or Synchrotec for me to try on. LDRiders came to the rescue, though! Tonya Grace allowed me to try on her Duotec at Jerry and Debbie's BBQ. She wears a size small, but even being such a tight fit, I had adequate chin room. A week later Joe Zulaski let me try on his Syncrotec at the Marietta checkpoint of the BL5K. He wears the XL, so my head was rattling around like a BB in a bucket, but there seemed to be enough chin room, so I was down to the two Shoei helmets.

Will Lee told me of Ft. Worth Suzuki having a close-out sale on the Duo-Tec, so I gave them a call. They had just one Large left in stock, and though I couldn't get it in white, it was a gray silver metalflake, which I found acceptable. It arrived last Thursday, and seemed to fit all right in the living room.

Saturday Debbie and I rode for a few hundred miles. I hadn't changed the headset out, so I wore the AGV, and on one leg of our travels I forgot to put my earplugs in. Sunday I rode up to SC and back, but wanted to have the CB available, so again wore the AGV. These rides gave me recent baselines for comparison to the Duo-Tec. Monday evening I again had a chance to ride, this route was all two-lane, so I decided to let it be the test ride for the new Duo-Tec.

I wore my new Cool-Max liner, and was able to slip the helmet on without removing my glasses!! This was one major hurdle cleared, as glasses really are a bummer on a bike.

I eased out of the driveway and took a long-cut (opposite of a short-cut) down a chip seal back road. My initial impression was one of overwhelming noise! I couldn't believe how loud the road noise was. It seems as if the helmet was focusing the road noise straight up into the helmet to my ears. The whine of the straight-cut gears in the engine also seemed slightly louder than usual. Surprisingly, the exhaust noise appears to be dampened quite well, and unfortunately, so does the sound from my fairing-mounted speakers for the FM radio.

But the road noise on the chip seal road seemed greatly amplified. Definitely bad news.

I continued on over to some good asphalt two-lane highway. The road noise was still considerably louder than what I was used to with the AGV, but was at least down to where it wasn't annoying.

The AGV helmet was designed for off-road use, utilizing an upright riding position. Apparently the Shoei is designed with sportbikes in mind, as the back of the neck of the helmet is cut at a pretty good slope. I also noticed this with the RF-700. You had plenty of room to lean forward and crane your neck up. Great for a sportbike, not so good for my Wing with its straight-back chair ergonomics. I did notice that the Duo-Tec doesn't seem to be as radically cut as is the RF-700. But I will have to remember to use sunscreen on my neck. The Aerostich collar and the AGV were enough cover for the back of my neck so that I never did have to worry about sunburn there. The Shoei leaves a pretty good gap above the collar.

After riding for about an hour I reached my destination. Rode with the shield up and down, and with the chinbar in both positions, just checking things out. With the shield up, the wind noise was on par with the AGV. With the chinbar up, the chinbar acted as a bill of sorts, but I'll certainly miss the AGV's big bill stuck out and shading my face.

With the chinbar and shield down, my face was in a VERY still pocket of air. Since the temps were in the mid to high 90s, I was sweating a bit. The air dam under my chin would pass some of the air that was coming up my sleeves and out the neck of the Stich, so it wasn't too bad. My eyes, with the shield up or down, stayed moist with no trouble. The smaller eye opening, combined with the chin dam, kept the air from swirling around my eyes.

Though the eye opening is smaller than that of the AGV, it is taller. My glasses barely fit under the top of the AGV, but there is enough room to look out over the top of my glasses with the Duo-Tec. This also means that more sunlight will get in, so I'll soon be adding a strip of tape, or some window tinting, to the shield.

Standing up on the pegs to get my head up in the windstream with everything closed off I experienced no buffeting, and a very acceptable amount of wind noise. Opening the vents on the front of the helmet resulted in a very noticeable air flow through the helmet, much more than Debbie's HJC or the RF-700.

It seems like the chin strap is a bit too short. I barely have enough to get started threading it through the D ring, but there is enough to snug it down OK. Just something I'll have to get used to.

I still need to make some small changes to the helmet. There is some pressure on my forehead, so I need to do a little "creative shaping" as Jan Cutler would call it, by bumping on the forehead area with my hand.

I'll also have to crush back the edge of the Styrofoam around the eye opening. The bottom inch of the hard foam liner presses against the temple pieces on my glasses, which quickly becomes uncomfortable.

Coming home that night the helmet had already started feeling more like it fit me. The road noise was still there, and I have to turn the FM radio up one more notch to hear it, but otherwise I think I'll like the helmet in the long run. The big plus is that I can now put the helmet on and off without having to fool with my glasses. I now have the advantage of easily being able to eat or drink while on the road. Also, with the chinbar flipped up, I won't be quite so intimidating to clerks at gas stations late at night, or to small children in the mid-afternoon.

Once I get the "adjustments" made to the forehead area and where the temples to my glasses go, I think it will fit fine.

Next step will be to install a headset and see if the road noise is still so intrusive. I have the J&M full-face headset that will be coming out of the AGV, I just hope I can figure out some way to route the microphone wiring so that it isn't stressed with the opening and closing of the chinbar. Otherwise, I might have to go with a headset designed for an open-face helmet and use the boom to position the microphone.

Overall, I think I'm going to like it. It has several up sides, the biggest of which are not having to remove my glasses, additional eye protection, and ease of eating and drinking. Down sides are the amplification of road noise and leaving the back of my neck exposed. The short chinstrap is something I'll quickly get used to, and the fit at the forehead and temples can easily be remedied.

Oh, and another big plus is since the helmet is being discontinued, the price was just $150 plus shipping, less than half the price of the Syncrotec. The face shield is used on other Shoei helmets and should be available for many more years.

Greg Roberts      KB4PDU     Wadley, AL

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