Akuma R3 Apache
Akuma R3 Apache Motorcycle Helmet Review
Then there's the Akuma Stealth (review), styled as a takeoff, if you will, on the F-117 Stealth fighter. And the original military-themed helmet from Akuma, the Ghost Rider (review); its graphics are evocative of the F-14 Tomcat fighter of the U.S. Navy.
I have a feeling that some motorcyclists may think these helmets a bit of a gimmick, and I'll stay neutral on the concept of the military themes, but one thing's for sure: the graphics on these helmets are very nicely executed with regards to their artistic and technical appearance. But is the helmet underneath the graphics good enough to stand on its own? That's what this review is all about.
Most of the Akuma helmets include the company's "IPS", or Integrated Power Supply, an internal rechargeable battery system that powers the red LED lights in the rear of the helmets and a white LED light built into the liner. The IPS and the LED lights first appeared on the AFX FX-11 "Lightforce" helmet reviewed on webBikeWorld and the IPS also powered an internal fan in that helmet.
We haven't seen another helmet with an internal fan, so apparently the concept didn't get very far, which is too bad, as the idea had potential, albeit at the expense of weight.
But the outrageous paint, graphics and internal wizardry wouldn't be worth a plugged nickel if the helmet didn't perform. Look beyond the graphics and you'll find that this one is actually pretty good helmet. I suggest Akuma should take the next step and reach beyond the military theme gimmickry and make a helmet that stands on its own merits. Perhaps a "Stealth Civilian" or "Undercover" version of the Apache for motorcyclists who want the features in a plainer package?
Akuma R3 Apache
Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality
The graphics are beautifully applied and they have a three-dimensional look and the helmet is loaded with detail, from the dirty jet exhaust in back to the "Danger" arrows, rivets and little warning labels. The coloring and design is based on the Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopter, thus the Apache name chosen by Akuma. I've never seen an Apache helicopter, but the color and graphics on this helmet sure look real to me.
The surface of the helmet has a rubberized feel that is actually a bit sticky or tacky, so it does attract some lint and dust. But a quick wipe with a damp cloth (not a paper towel) makes it all as good as new, and this is also the best way to clean road grime and bugs from the helmet surface.
The moving parts on the Apache work well, especially the face shield, which I'll describe in a following section. However, the central top vent slider on this helmet has a loose feel that appears to be related to the design itself, not just a quirk of this particular helmet. I've been treating it gently and I don't think it will be a problem, but I'll keep my eye on it.
Also, the drilled hole for the top vent is offset by about 30% from the hole in the vent slider, which may have an affect on the amount of ventilation. The hole in the helmet shell is blocked by some fiberglass matting residue, which may be able to remove by judicious scraping with a small tool. So I'd suggest that some attention should be paid to this area by Akuma.
The helmet liner is removable and although the fabric feels comfortable to the hand, it isn't quite as comfortable against my face. This seems to be a common complaint on too many helmets manufactured today, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps the latest "moisture wicking" fabrics aren't as comfortable as they might be for some reason.
Otherwise, the liner installation is good, except for the strip that lines the top of the helmet inside, over the rider's head. It almost appears to be the wrong type for this helmet, because it blocks two of the absolutely huge vent holes through the EPS liner. A judicious application of an X-Acto knife would probably fix this, but since the Editor is expecting this helmet back uncut, I'll leave that to theory.
In general, the parts on this Apache function acceptably, if not all at the same levels of quality. After handling two of the older Akuma helmets, my feeling is that the Apache has improved their level of quality, but it isn't equivalent to Shoei, Shark or Arai levels.
Score: Overall, I'll rate the Akuma R3 Apache as "Outstanding" for its graphics and paint, dropping to an "Excellent" overall for quality. See the Summary Table at the end of this page for a description of our rating system.
Akuma R3 Apache Slide Show
Akuma R3 Apache Helmet Fit, Internal Shape and Liner
The top of the helmet has a slight fore/aft oval shape, which leaves a half-finger's worth of space in front of the brow of round-headed riders; a shape very similar to the new Shoei Qwest I have also tried. The sides of the Apache are fairly neutral in shape, with a slight inward curvature towards the bottom. So the helmet should fit most riders, with the possible exception of the very round of head.
This helmet is a size XL and I think it fits perhaps 1/2 size smaller than expected, so a 60-61 cm head should be ideal. The Akuma size chart is buried in the "User Guides" section of their website as a .pdf file, and it lists the Apache XL as a 61-62 cm, but my feeling is that 62 might be pushing it for owners whose heads don't exactly match the internal shape.
The liner material has a soft touch to the hand but for some reason -- and it my just be my particular skin type -- it feels slightly less smooth than I'd like when I'm wearing the helmet. Wearing the helmet in outside temperatures of 90-95 degrees seems to make the liner feel not as comfy as I'd like, but this is the case with most helmets I wear.
The breath guard on the Apache touches my nose about half-way up, just like the Arai RX-Q (review) I've tried, and all of the riders who have worn both helmets say the same.
This one's a tough call, because I do think the Apache straddles the "Slight Narrow" and "Neutral" categories, but I'll place the "X" in the Neutral box.
The chin strap on the Apache is nice and long, as are the chin strap padded chafe protectors. As long as one takes the time to line everything up and tuck in the padding, there shouldn't be an issue with chafing.
More information on helmet fit can be found in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page, along with the chart that lists the helmet weights of webBikeWorld reviewed helmets and also by shape on the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.
Score: I'll give the Akuma R3 Apache an "Excellent" for an internal shape that should fit a wide majority of head shapes.
Top vents are located on the side channels and in the center of the helmet.
The chin vent flows a good volume of air up through the breath guard.
Akuma R3 Apache Face Shield,
Eye Port and Visibility
The face shield snaps smartly into the desired first small opening for defogging or city ventilation, which is a real plus and something missing from too many other helmets.
The face shield and the mechanism are also very nicely designed to allow almost no torque or twist as the shield is raised or lowered using the wide lift tab on the left-hand side. So overall, I'd say this is one of the best face shield systems I've used in terms of its operation.
The removal system works well but it's not quite as smooth as some other helmets; a small price to pay for the excellent lift feel. There are two plastic tabs that must slide into receivers, and I guess these help give the secure feel to the overall lifting mechanism. So when the face shield is removed or installed, the lever is pulled back and the two tabs must be pulled simultaneously. This is illustrated in the video.
Accessory face shields are available for the Apache, including the Akuma Aegis hydrophobic face shield (visor), which is specially treated to repel moisture and dirt. It was featured in a webBikeWorld quick look and video when it was first announced in 2008, along with the Akuma Gemini electrochromic battery-operated "Tint on Demand" visor (also described in that article). The Gemini is supposed to finally reach production in 2011, along with an Akuma flip-up helmet.
The weather is too warm to evaluate the anti-fog capabilities of the face shield on the Apache, but we have found that the Clarity Defog It (review) coating works very well on helmet face shields.
The only downside is the sealing of the face shield on this helmet, which is poor. The face shield does not touch or seal against the eye port gasket, which ironically runs around the entire perimeter of the eye port. There are two screws on each side of the helmet that hold the plastic rotating mechanisms in place, and these can be loosened so the mechanisms can be re-adjusted, but it's not certain whether this will always resolve the problem. The bottom line is that the face shield will leak water but is otherwise unaffected by the gap.
The eye port in the Apache has better-than-average side-to-side and top-to-bottom visibility. It's not as good as the best, but better than average.
Score: I'll give the Akuma R3 Apache an "Excellent" for its combination of functionality and above average outward visibility. The score would have been "Outstanding" but for the sealing problem.
Rear exhaust vent system includes painted stains.
Ventilation and Air Flow
As I mentioned earlier, the holes through the EPS in the top of the helmet are huge, but the center hole is completely blocked by what appears to be an incorrect liner for this helmet. Also as mentioned in the Quality section above, the top vent slider assembly is slightly offset from the hole through the outside of the shell, so it's possible this is reducing air flow.
Nevertheless, the helmet has a pretty decent level of upper ventilation. I can't feel air directly flowing over my head, but I do sense that the air is being vented up there, which is a good sign.
The chin vent works well. The helmet comes with a large chin curtain, which helps to block air from coming underneath the chin bar and a chin curtain usually helps to make the chin vent more efficient. There are no air vent channels cut directly through the chin bar, so the air from the chin vent comes up through the top of the breath guard, but it can be felt on the rider's face and closing the chin vent slider creates a noticeable reduction in air flow.
I can't see inside the dual exhaust channels located on either side of the helmet, but apparently they have intake holes towards the front and possible exhaust holes at the rear, helping to account for the 6 vents claimed by Akuma. These channels each have a slider, separate from the central top vent, with an imprinted "Open" and "Closed".
The problem is, there is nothing to indicate which is open and which is closed. Is it when the slider is moved back, or forward? I can't tell if I have the vents open or not.
In general, the system does seem to provide slightly better than average air flow, but I think a few small modifications might make the system even more efficient.
Score: I'll give the Apache a "Very Good" for ventilation with a "Neutral" for the operation and quality of the moving parts.
The face shield rotating mechanism works very well.
Liner material used in the Akuma R3 Apache isn't quite as plush as it might be.
Akuma R3 Apache Sound Levels
The design of the Apache, with its large top venting assembly and rear spoiler, seems a bit dated to me. This was a popular style used on many helmets of a few years ago, but most of the newer helmet designs are forsaking the big spoiler assemblies for a sleeker look. However, the assembly on the Apache houses the rear-facing LED lights, so there's a tradeoff.
The combination of my head and neck shape and the helmet's shape leaves a slight gap underneath, behind and below my ears, and this is the source of some wind rushing noise. I can stop the noise by placing a hand in this area or by sticking a thumb in between the liner and my neck. This is a common problem with many helmets, and the next frontier for helmet manufacturers has to be more attention paid to the neck roll area, one of the primary sources of helmet noise.
Score: I'll give the Apache a "Neutral" rating for "Old School" style noise from the top vents.
wBW Video: Akuma R3 Apache Helmet
Compare it also to the Vemar VSREV (L) at 1748 grams, which some say is the basis for the Akuma helmets and the Caberg Konda, a flip-up (in size large), at 1755 grams. And don't forget the also-brand-new Arai Corsair V (XL) at 1758 grams.
The Apache does feel slightly top heavy, probably due to the upper vent/exhaust/spoiler assembly. This also adds surface area to the side of the helmet, and I can feel the difference in pressure when I swing my head side to side when riding.
Score: I'll give the Akuma R3 Apache a "Very Good" for relatively low weight compared to other helmets.
The lighting system consists of two red LED lights at the rear, in the exhaust ports. The helmet also has a white LED buried in the left side of the front of the helmet liner, facing outwards through the eye port. These are turned on and off with a pair of flush-mounted pressure switches (buttons) inside the chin bar.
Press the right button to turn the front LED on and off, and press the left button once to turn the rear LEDs on solid, then press again to turn them on blinking, then once more to turn them off.
It isn't possible to tell what state the rear lights are on when wearing the helmet, so the owner must be careful to count the presses. Also, it may not be legal in some locations to ride with blinking lights; be warned.
The front LED is more useful, in my opinion. It becomes a very handy flashlight at night, when searching for something in a tank bag, counting change, looking for keys, etc. I'd be happy with a plain colored Apache and the front LED light only.
The Apache comes with a wall charger and the recharging receptacle is well hidden towards the front in the liner of the helmet. It is very tiny and does not interfere with normal helmet operations.
The Apache meets DOT and ECE 22.05 safety standards in the U.S. and Europe. The shell is constructed from a fiberglass and Kevlar mixture, according to Akuma. The helmet has a double D-ring attachment system with very good padding underneath the longer-than-average chin strap. The helmet has a one-year warranty in the U.S.A.
But the military theme may have played itself out, even though Akuma promises one more -- a U.S. Marines themed helmet. The real test will be if Akuma is able to sell helmets based on their own merits and not just because of the graphics and light show. There's a danger of relying too much on image rather than the substance, and the shell and overall design of the Apache is starting to seem a bit dated compared to some of the latest helmets released in 2010.
Can Akuma reach beyond the gimmicks and compete with the rest? I think they can, and I'd like to see it.
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