There were probably more helmet manufacturers on display at the 2011 Dealer Expo than any other type of motorcycle product.
I'm not sure why; perhaps there only appeared to be more helmets due to the paucity of clothing manufacturers who attended the event.
I do know this -- I'd hate to be a helmet manufacturer in this competitive market. It must be very tough, because there are way too many brands ready to grab market share, especially at the low end.
The problem is that some of their goods are pretty good and getting better all the time.
From the consumer's standpoint, it's getting more and more difficult to justify slapping down that extra Franklin or two for a helmet (or jacket or boots or gloves...) from one of the big guys when you can get what seems like 90% of the quality for 30% of the price.
So how does a helmet company compete? One way is to figure out how to offer just a little bit more than the next guy. Something different, something useful, something unique. A different take on design or something that adds that little extra to performance.
That's what it takes to survive in a commodity market: unique, distinguishing characteristics. Some call it the "value proposition".
Nothing new here, by the way; merchants in teh village square were basically doing the same thing 300 years ago. But sometimes you have to go back to the past to re-learn the lessons that will allow you to move into the future.
Bell Helmets (2011 Bell Helmets Dealer Expo report) has this figured out, and so has Caberg. They both have some very unique helmets with interesting design and engineering tweaks that set them apart from the crowd.
For example, take a look at the Caberg HyperX (review) or check out the Caberg HyperX First Look, and also see the Caberg Ego First Look and video from the EICMA show. Both of these helmets have useful features not found anywhere else, along with style and quality that separates them from the rest.
The Caber Ego is definitely a helmet chock full of those "unique characteristics". It has a huge waterproof "roll top" vent that peels back most of the top of the helmet to expose a big perforated stainless steel plate for ventilation. The good news is that Caberg would very much like to sell the Ego in the U.S.
If you read the Caberg HyperX helmet review, you also read the announcement that Caberg was planning on re-entering the U.S. market.
Here's the good news: Caberg would like to bring both the HyperX and the Ego to the U.S. The helmets are currently undergoing DOT standards testing at the helmet certification labs and initial reports are indicating that very little will need to be changed to make a DOT version of the Caberg Ego. The diameter of the perforations in the stainless steel may need to be reduced, but so far it's looking good, according to Caberg.
Caberg plans a careful approach to the U.S. market, fully understanding the byzantine distribution system in this country and the vast distances, geography and climate differences. I emphasized the importance of after-sales service and support, which they also understand.
It takes a lot of time, money and patience for a motorcycle helmet manufacturer to enter the U.S. market and it isn't a given that there will be a return on that investment. Even established brands can have problems and motorcyclists have seen several helmet brands come and go over the years.
Plans may change, depending on the distributor that Caberg partners with, but it looks like they may also start their U.S. efforts with the Caberg Konda flip-up (review) and either the HyperX or the Ego or both. If everything goes well, they may also bring their top-of-the line Caberg Sintesi flip-up (review).
In the meantime, enjoy the photos in the slide show and we remain interested in hearing your thoughts on Caberg helmets for the U.S.A.
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