The Fulmer D4 has a few unique features that help separate it from other inexpensive helmets.
Fulmer's Air Channel Technology ventilation system really does seem to work.
It also gives the D4 an interesting and smooth shape that also helps control noise.
Strong detents in the visor and an impressive range of graphics and colors make the D4 a helmet to consider, especially in trying economic times.
I read an article the other day in an online newspaper that described changes to consumer trends caused by the recent global economic crisis (or crises, depending upon how you look at it).
The author's conclusion was that the age of "more is better" is over, with consumers now interested in simpler and cheaper alternatives that perform the same basic functions.
He gave several examples of simpler/better products that have been a real hit recently, including the Wii, which is apparently outselling the more feature-laden Xbox 360 video console by a 2 to 1 margin.
Not to worry, of course -- you can bet those suddenly spendthrift consumers will return to their profligate ways just as soon as the Dow starts bumping 10k again.
Which it will hopefully do between now and retirement...
Reading that article was timely for me, because I've been riding with the charcoal-colored Fulmer D4 in the grown-on-me "Evil Spell" graphics, which, I realized, is a perfect example of "less is more".
I slowly came to understand that a helmet like the D4 is perfect for these times, when you might want a new helmet but are reevaluating the need for a $500.00 monster.
I wasn't sure what to make of a helmet with the Fulmer logo at first, even though I'm the type of guy that -- good times or bad -- absolutely loves to find bargain-basement, off-the-wall goodies that perform better than expected.
I didn't have much experience (read: zero) with the Fulmer brand, and I'm not much for dark-colored helmets (or haven't been anyway), and this one is about as dark as it gets, right? So it started with two strikes against it.
But the thaw commenced once I began to appreciate the subtle "Evil Spell" graphics with their contrasting swirly-stripes, and the connection was made.
The Fulmer D4 comes in about a bajillion-and-one colors, but the Evil Spell pattern in the matte black, red or blue color perfectly suits the very interesting and differently shaped helmet shell, with its smooth contours and F-117 inspired exhaust vents.
Let's take a look...
The dark matte charcoal pattern of the Evil Spell adds yet another dimension to the art of photography, but hopefully Burn has tweaked the pixels adequately enough to give you an idea of how the D4 really looks.
The Evil Spell graphics were applied using something Fulmer calls their "Supernatural" technique.
"Fulmer has mastered a difficult to achieve satin black on flat black finish that gives depth to a tone-on-tone look while delivering incredible detail in a subtle fashion", according to their press release.
The D4 Evil Spell graphics also have a UV barrier coating to protect the paint. The surface does not have the "rubberized" feel that seems to be in vogue (and which is difficult to maintain), but the graphics and the paint on this one exhibit high levels of quality.
Fulmer went stealth with their logos and lettering on the Evil Spell pattern, which adds to the mysterious look. This is certainly the darkest colored helmet I've ever owned, but I really like both the color (or lack thereof) and pattern.
The overall quality of the helmet itself is very good to excellent with a couple of glaring exceptions that thankfully don't affect the overall performance of the helmet.
I'd say the quality of the gasket along the bottom of the helmet shell; the paint; the graphic pattern and its application; and the operation of the visor and vents is excellent to outstanding, when judged by our helmet quality ranking (see the Summary Table at the end of this review).
But there are a couple of problems here and there on this example which hold it back from being the outstanding helmet that it could be.
The first problem has to do with the way some of the parts have come out of the mold; my guess is that it's probably a supplier issue because I'll bet that Fulmer buys the vent assemblies and visor from a third party.
The accessory "Zero Fog" visor installed on this helmet (more on that in a minute) has a raised section of very sharp-edged flashing around its outer edges, rather than a nice, smooth edge surface all the way around (see next photo).
Also, the visor has a tiny little tab that on each side that is designed to slide through a channel to hold the visor in place in the rotating mechanism.
This tab is so small and/or the polycarbonate used in the visor is brittle that the tab broke the first time we removed the visor.
There's another mold flashing issue too on the air scoop opening on the top vent. It has very sharp edges, like the mold wasn't correctly aligned (see second photo below).
Both of these quality issues are very easily fixed and this type of problem simply shouldn't occur in 2008, with worldwide quality standards being what they are -- even in a 100 buck helmet like the D4.
Fulmer needs to get on their suppliers and tell them this is not an acceptable level of quality. After all, the other $100.00 or so helmets we've reviewed recently have been nearly flawless, proving that it can be done at this price point.
And one more thing: the gasket around the eye port seals very tightly, and the visor on the D4 has one of the closest-tolerance fits we've seen on any helmet at any price.
But the gasket somehow became deformed in one area along the top of the eye port, where it's bent downwards, and it has remained in this position since the helmet arrived.
Again, this should not happen and it's a very easy fix, making it puzzling why Fulmer doesn't go the one little tiny step further to do it right.
Now you may think this is nitpicking on a $100 helmet, but the competition is fierce, and hey -- we're here to nitpick for you, right?
Fortunately, none of these issues affects the performance of the helmet and, in fact, a piece of 200-grit or so wet/dry sandpaper will quickly solve the flashing problem.
Now to a certain extent, you don't have to worry about getting a helmet delivered with these problems.
That's because Fulmer is sticking with their "dealer only" sales policy, which at least means that if you want a D4, you'll be pawing through the dealer's stock and hopefully you can inspect it closely before forking over the cash, now that you know what to look for.
Fulmer claims that the dealers are the only ones who can help the customer get a properly fitted helmet, but come on -- I haven't been in a motorcycle dealer yet with a sales person who knows anything about proper helmet fit.
And it's not like we're talking about Arai levels of complexity here, with head shapes, shell shapes, multiple cheek pads and liner shapes -- even Arai quickly abandoned their dealer-only foray when they realized how much it hurt sales.
Anyway, I've gone on quite a bit here, but the bottom line is that the Fulmer D4 lists for around $125.00 (and I've seen it as low as $89.00) but I still think it's a great bargain, all things considered. One can overlook a lot at this price.
Score: I'd honestly have given the D4 an "Outstanding" for paint and overall quality, but the few minor and easily fixable quality quirks unfortunately drops it a couple of levels down to a "Very Good", considering the price of the helmet.
See the ratings descriptions in the Summary Table at the end of this page.
This Fulmer D4 in size XL feels like it fits one size small -- it definitely fits more like a size large, in my opinion.
The helmet shell is very robust and stiff, more so than many other helmets we've had come through here recently.
I'm not sure if this is good or bad -- some say that a more flexible shell might absorb more energy in a crash, but obviously there are many factors to consider when determining the levels of protection that a helmet might offer.
The combination of the stiff shell, the smaller-than-expected sizing and the shell profile, which is somewhat tapered towards the bottom, makes it a bit difficult to pull the D4 on or off over my ears.
I couldn't find a sizing chart on the Fulmer website, again something to do with their dealer-only sales policy no doubt. But I'd say this size XL would fit something like a 58.5 to 59.5 cm head.
This is about one size less than the norm for a motorcycle helmet in size XL, which typically ranges from 60 to 61 cm.
I didn't think it would be comfortable on my roundish shaped head, but it is, and I'm pleased to say that I can wear it for quite a long time without bother.
For more information on choosing and fitting a motorcycle helmet, please see the wBW Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page, which also includes a discussion on head shapes.
The removable and washable liner has about average levels of comfort. The padding feels slightly stiffer and the fabric feels ess plush than the Shark RSX or the typical Arai, but it's not bad at all.
The helmet also fits me nicely around the bottom, which helps keep the air from blowing in from underneath and helps keep things quieter than they might be otherwise.
As always, remember that helmet fit is crucial to safety and comfort, so make sure you try the helmet on before buying, and try a variety of sizes. The smallest size that fits comfortably is usually the safest.
I wish the D4 had a built-in chin curtain underneath, because I think this would help keep some of the air flowing from up under the chin bar and might make the helmet even quieter, but I guess you can't have everything at this price.
Score: I'll give the D4 an "Excellent" for a comfortable fit and a relatively comfortable and nicely made liner. Make sure you try it on though to determine the correct sizing -- one of the benefits of Fulmer's policy of selling only through dealers.
"Air Channel Technology" is the name Fulmer has adopted for the D4 venting system, and it does seem to work.
Why I'm surprised, I don't know. I guess it's because so many other helmets -- regardless of price -- fail miserably when it comes to ventilation.
The shell on the D4 is shaped quite differently than the average motorcycle helmet in this price range.
Note the absence of tchotchke-esque vents and wind-catching doodads on the helmet -- the shell instead features unique curves and those F-117 reminiscent exhaust ports in the rear that actually function very well.
Here's the biggest surprise: look through the top of the helmet and you can see two big -- and I mean big (for motorcycle helmets anyway) -- vent holes that, surprise surprise, actually have a clear passage to the outside!
The air comes in through what seems like a very narrow slit in the top vent at the front of the helmet and it flows into two brow holes that are uncovered and unhampered by the liner (another surprise!).
The air flows through and out the back of the Air Channel Technology ports, and overall gives very good to excellent ventilation.
Here's a photo -- check this out, you can see the big holes right through the EPS liner:
The top vent opens and closes via a simple sliding tab at the back that is unfortunately not that easy to locate or feel when wearing gloves.
The chin vent opens with authority -- a big sugar scoop thing that captures a lot of air. Unfortunately, there are no direct air channels through the back of the wide and tall chin bar (that is also fully padded with EPS, according to Fulmer, and also lined).
The air is instead directed on to the back of the visor, which is fine, because it works well and may have something to do with the excellent defogging capabilities of both the Zero Fog visor and the helmet design.
All told, this is a surprisingly simple venting design that really does work. It's pathetic that most of the other helmet manufacturers can't get this right, even at 2-3 times the price!
Score: I'll give the Fulmer D4 an "Outstanding" rating for air flow and ventilation.
Another surprise, especially considering the sturdy helmet shell, is the low mass of the Fulmer D4. At only 1576 grams (3 lbs., 7-5/8 oz.), the helmet is relatively light and feels very good on the head.
This weight puts it with some very good and expensive size XL neighbors: the Shark RSI at 1565 grams; the Vemar VSR at 1566 grams; the inexpensive SparX S-07 at 1569 grams and even the Suomy Extreme Spec-1R (XL) 1570 grams.
Fulmer doesn't say what material is used to construct the shell, but we suspect the stiffness and light weight means that it has to be some type of composite, rather than a polycarbonate?
To compare the D4 with other helmets, visit the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for charts comparing the weights of all of the open-face, full-face and flip-up helmets we've reviewed.
Score: The Fulmer D4 gets an "Outstanding" rating from me for its light weight and good balance.
In terms of operation, the basic clear visor that comes with the Fulmer D4 functions identically to the optional Zero Fog visor that we installed on the helmet, so my comments would be the same for everything except the remarkable ability of the Zero Fog visor to stay clear.
The visor fits very close to the gasket and helmet shell on our example, which is excellent. The visor fits so close to the shell that the seal remains tight even across the deformed section.
The eye port on the helmet has slightly above average top-to-bottom visibility, and about average side-to-side.
The chin bar seems taller in the vertical dimension than other helmets, but I measured it against a KBC Tarmac we're also in the process of evaluating (review coming soon), which is the same class of helmet, and both chin bars are identical in height at about 100 mm.
I'm not sure why the chin bar on the D4 feels or seems more massive. This is good though, because it at least seems like it offers better protection.
In fact, it's my understanding that wider/taller chin bars are more likely to pass that part of the new SHARP helmet rating system (article) in the UK. As I mentioned above, the chin bar is fully padded and lined.
The visor has good optical properties, and the detents are commendably strong, holding the visor open in any one of 5 positions, including a small opening for ventilation. I really like the detents on the D4 and I wish more helmets were as good.
The Fulmer Zero Fog visor really does seem to work; I'm not sure what type of treatment or coating is used, but it hasn't fogged up in the cold and damp weather we've been having.
I have not worn it in an extended downpour though, so I can't comment on that.
The only problem with the visor is mentioned above (see photos).
The mold quality isn't great, resulting in sharp edges and flashing from the mold along parts of the visor. Also, I mentioned the small tab that helps rotate the visor, which broke the first time we tried to remove it.
The tab is too small for the function, which I think puts too much load on it. And the polycarbonate used in the visor does seem more brittle than usual, for some reason, adding to the problem.
But I think now that you know this, if you're very careful with removing and replacing the visor (not something that is done very often anyway), you should be fine.
The visor removal mechanism works adequately; it's not the easiest or smoothest system we've tried, but far from the hardest to use either.
I did put a tiny dab of silicone grease on either side on the bearing surface where the visor touches the rotating mechanism, because the visor fits so tight to the helmet that it was rubbing slightly. This helped make the visor rotate more smoothly.
One more issue: the lifting tab for the visor is located on the lower left hand side, but it is very small, sticking out only about 1.5 mm from the visor itself. This makes it difficult to find and grab when wearing gloves.
The visor fits so well on the D4 that I'd suggest that Fulmer use a centrally-located tab and make it wider, thicker and larger.
Score: I'll rate the Zero Fog visor with an "Outstanding" for anti-fog capabilities and the strong detents; a "Very Good" for optical qualities and overall visibility; but a "Poor" for build quality and the design of the rotating tab that broke.
The combination of the D4's smooth shell, close fit and somewhat tapered vertical shape helps keep noise levels slightly less than average.
The top vent can whistle slightly under certain conditions during over-shoulder traffic checks, but otherwise the noise levels seem fairly well controlled.
I've worn the D4 when riding several bikes, and there is some of the usual "booming" noises caused by turbulence spilling off a short fairing windscreen and hitting the lower portion of the helmet, but even that seems more controlled than other helmets I've worn.
So overall although I wouldn't classify the D4 as a quiet helmet, but it's better than average for me.
Note that we always wear correctly fitted, high quality earplugs and an extra helmet liner when riding, and we strongly recommend that you always wear hearing protection also. See the wBW Earplugs and Hearing Protection page for more information on choosing and wearing earplugs.
Note also that your experience with this helmet's noise levels may be different, depending upon many factors, including your head shape and the way the helmet fits; motorcycle configuration; prevailing winds and more.
Score: The Fulmer D4 gets a "Very Good" rating for noise control.
The D4 has a padded chin strap that feels comfortable. It has a double D-ring attachment system with a snap for the extra length. The snap is up above the D-ring, making for a slightly tight fit to get my fingers up there and snap the end.
The D4 meets DOT safety standards.
My feeling is that the Fulmer D4 is an excellent helmet for the money, especially when it can be found at discount.
With just a little more effort to improve a couple of the minor quality issues, this helmet could be a contender and I'd bet they could charge another $$50.00 to $75.00 for it and no one would complain -- especially if they installed the Zero Fog visor as original equipment.
But overall, it proves that good doesn't have to mean complex.
The D4 definitely meets my criteria for a bargain, and it has the combination of unexpected "surprise and delight" features and low price that make me feel like I'm in on a secret.
|wBW Product Review: Fulmer D4 Motorcycle Helmet|
|Manufacturer: Fulmer Helmets||List Price: $125.00|
|Colors: Evil Spell Black, Ghost Red, Ghost Blue. Other colors available.||Made In: Taiwan|
|Sizes: XS-2XL Shell Sizes: Unknown||Review Date: December 2008|
Rating Scale is subjective: Unacceptable, Poor, Neutral, Very Good, Excellent, Outstanding.
From "D.R." (1/09): "Excellent review on the Fulmer D4 helmet. The Fulmer D4 is an excellent value for the money. It's a very comfortable helmet without excess liner to shift around and become bothersome.
It also is one of the very few helmets I've tried that actually allows me to wear my glasses without bending or distorting them.
For me, however, air flow through the helmet vents has been unnoticeable. I can't seem to notice any difference between the vents open or closed, unlike my RF-1000. I have had none of the QC problems with mine.
All edges are smooth and lack any sharp edges to cut or chafe.
I also have to disagree with you about the visor. I've also tried a number of helmets by Scorpion, HJC, KBC, Shoei, and a few others, and the Fulmer seems to have a visor as good as any of the others if not better.
It's not as flimsy as visor on some much more expensive helmets and at least as good as my Shoei.
The adjustment mechanism and detents are also fantastic. A couple Scorpion helmets I checked out had visors that opened way too easily and could open or change position with just the slightest touch.
If I place my Fulmer visor in any position (up, down, or somewhere in the middle) is stays locked there securely but still allows easy up or down adjustment. Removal has always been fast and easy with never a broken part like you experienced.
However, my Fulmer is quite noisy with strong buffeting and a slight turn of the head to the left generates significantly loud high-pitched noises. So far I have been unable to locate the source.
I've ridden 7500 miles with the Fulmer D4 and would highly recommend it to other riders for a cheap (but very good) option to the (other) helmet choices today. Hell, it even placed 2nd in the infamous Motorcyclist Online helmet test.
Thanks for the reviews and keep up the good work."