By Gabe Ets-Hokin[This HJC FS-15 Motorcycle Helmet Review was originally published in the March 2009 issue of Rider magazine]
Remember the good ol’ days of helmet shopping? You could get a cheap helmet, or you could get a good helmet, but you couldn’t get a good, cheap helmet. At the top of the shelves, you had big-bucks race replicas. Down lower was an array of horrible things that perched atop your head like scabrous vultures.
Noisy schlock with nonfunctioning venting, face shields that required several hours of labor and a rolling tool chest to remove, and linings that smelled and felt like damp burlap. It’s no wonder that back in the past your average bargain helmet spent most of its days impaled on a sissybar like the severed head of Oliver Cromwell.
In the last decade, HJC and other Asian manufacturers have changed that. The HJC FS-15 motorcycle helmet, the Korean company’s new top-of-the-line lid, is a good example of how they did it. A replacement for the older AC-12 racing helmet, the FS-15 has features you’d expect on products costing twice as much, as well as the fit and finish you’d expect from an expensive helmet. The paint is flawless, and the design looks hand-applied until you look closely. The cheekpads come in different sizes for an adjustable fit, and there’s a removable breathguard to help keep the face shield from fogging.
On the head, the FS-15 has a soft, comfortable interior with the nice new-car smell you’d expect from a good helmet. HJCs seem to run about a half-size large and suit a broad range of head shapes. But, of course, you need to try one on to get the perfect fit for your own unique head.
In service, I found the FS-15 was well-adapted to an all-day ride, despite its intended use as a racing helmet. It was about as quiet at speed as other HJC helmets; better than average compared to other brands. The face shield is outstanding, with optical clarity so good I found myself forgetting it was down. It’s also ridiculously easy to change (with a little practice), even if it’s on your head and you’re wearing gloves. It’s Pinlock-enabled, too: it has pins (out of your field of view) to mount the $30 Pinlock anti-fog insert that successfully prevents fogging.
Do I sound gushy? If this helmet were priced at $400, I wouldn’t be gushing. At 3 pounds, 10 ounces (size small) it’s heavy for a racing helmet, and the moving parts don’t feel as nice as those on some high-end competitors. It’s also drafty around the face shield. But the FS-15’s prices start at $220 for solid colors (the “Surge” graphics scheme I tested runs $240), making it an excellent value and a very good helmet. If you’re a high roller, opt for the $450 FS-15 Carbon; it weighs about 4 ounces less.
For more information: Contact HJC America, (562) 407-2186 or see www.hjchelmets.com