HJC CL-SP Review
by "Burn" for webBikeWorld.com
Summary: Excellent quality, comfortable liner, quiet, good air flow.
Lots of chin room. New face shield design works well, is easy to remove and replace but only has two opening positions.
webBikeWorld visitors wanted us to follow up with an evaluation of the "new for 2006" CL-SP, the latest helmet in HJC's CL series, so here it is.
HJC helmets are divided into three distinct product lines.
A new addition to the AC series for 2006 is the AC-12 Carbon (review); we're intrigued by this one and have it on order and it will be featured in an upcoming review.
The "CL" series is claimed by HJC to be "the most popular helmet series in North America for over a decade". CL helmets have a polycarbonate composite shell and are both Snell and DOT FMVSS 218.
The CL series has many of the features often seen in much higher priced helmets but they are offered at a much lower price point.
The "CS" series represents HJC's value line; these meet DOT only approval and they use a thermoplastic shell. We plan on reviewing a CS-series helmet in the near future also for comparison.
Using this three level approach has apparently been very successful for HJC; it's apparently responsible for their claim to be "the #1 selling helmet in the U.S. for over 10 years".
Walk into just about any motorcycle shop anywhere in the U.S.A. and you'll probably see an HJC helmet display. This could be because of an excellent distribution system, but after evaluting the SyMax, the CL-14 and now the CL-SP, we think there's another reason why HJC has been so successful.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say right up front that I think the CL-SP equals or surpasses any helmet I've ever tried at any price level. And believe me, that's a lot of helmets -- with many costing well over five C's.
Other than snob appeal, what more could one want in a helmet? The CL-SP is both Snell and DOT FMVSS 218. Our example, purchased anonymously, has flawless quality inside and out. It's one of the quietest helmets we've tried; it has an easy-to-remove visor, it has very good air flow with positive off/on and easy-to-use air vents, a very comfortable liner and it's a perfect fit on my round noggin.
I only have two minor nits to pick, as you'll see.
Our CL-SP in size XL is slightly on the heavy side at 1713 grams (3 lbs., 12-3/8 oz., see the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for a comparison chart listing the weights of all of the helmets we've reviewed). The weight is distributed evenly, and the simple but effective aerodynamics seem to work, so the extra heft isn't noticeable to me when riding.
1713 grams means that the CL-SP is about 9 grams (1.25 oz.) heavier than the CL-14 and it puts it in the neighborhood of our old Lazer Century and Shoei Syncrotech Police Helmet we recently reviewed, which includes a battery pack, switches and an LED light. But the CL-SP is lighter in weight than our XL Scorpion EXO-700, which weighs 1733 grams (3 lbs. 13 oz.).
The CL-SP uses HJC's new "next generation" face shield closure mechanism. This is supposed to provide more tension to both keep the visor closed and to provide a better seal against the gasket on the eye port. The visor can only be opened to two positions: half open and full open. It also includes a rocker switch on the left-hand side near the pivot area that allows the visor to keep the visor locked when it's in the closed position.
When the visor is shut from the half-open position, it closes with a positive "snap" against the gasket. And the seal that the "next generation" system provides probably contributes to the low sound levels on the CL-SP, but I miss the ability to raise the visor just a touch to let cool air flow on to my face.
Motorcycle helmet manufacturers, especially at the lower end of the market, usually find it hard to keep the tight tolerances necessary for a proper seal and smooth visor operation.
This is one of the first things we check when evaluating a new helmet, and poor quality in this area is a sure sign of a helmet to avoid. Frequent webBikeWorld visitors will recall that we've had some visor problems recently on helmets we've reviewed and the problem seems to be getting worse, not better, even with some expensive helmets.
Visor quality issues usually fall into one or more (or all) of these categories: poor sealing between the visor and the eye port gasket; visors that are too thin or poorly designed, leading to too much flexion when they're lifted and closed; inconsistent or poorly designed visor rotating mechanisms; and poorly designed visor removal systems.
Oh, and there's one more -- some visors do not meet flush with the sides of the helmet, have gaps or are otherwise poorly designed. Any one of these problems can be a turn-off to a potential owner and can also cause problems with the operation of the helmet, including increased noise levels due to improper sealing or gaps that can catch the air flow.
HJC seems to have the quality issue nailed; the visor on the CL-SP could have been a potential source of problems because of the new visor closure system, but it isn't. There's somewhat more initial resistance to overcome when opening and closing the CL-SP's visor, and a poorly designed visor would probably twist like a pretzel in the owner's hands. But HJC's designers did a great job on this system; it's solid, simple and it works.
Price doesn't necessarily buy quality or good design, as we've found over and over again during our helmet evaluations, and as I hope our readers have also come to realize. The CL-SP has what we consider to be one of the best visor removal systems we've seen in any helmet at any price.
It's simple, it has a quality feel with positive action and it seems very secure. This is quite a contrast to the concerns we had with the visor removal system on the Icon Mainframe helmet that we evaluated recently.
To remove the visor, the the rocker switch visor lock on the left-hand side must first be switched off (locking the visor is optional and I haven't really been using it). Raise the visor, push back the lever towards the "OPEN" position engraved on the mechanism and the visor pops right out. The process is reversed to insert the visor. It's fast, simple and it really does work with no fuss.
We were surprised at the comfort provided by the CL-14, especially considering its price.
The CL-SP is even better. The liner seems cushier than the CL-14 (but not quite as soft or thick as the Arai Quantum II) and the quality of the fabric and the construction is excellent.
Comparing the inside of the CL-SP with any other helmet on the market demonstrates that there probably isn't a better looking liner anywhere.
It's much better than most or all of the high-zoot helmets we've tried.
HJC has even backed the liner's vent openings with a mesh fabric, where other manufacturers leave an open hole with a view of the cheesy white foam shell liner.
The removable helmet lining (remember when removable liners were only available on high-end helmets?) has a slightly different texture than most, with a smooth finish reminiscent of satin.
This adds to the comfort and also makes it easier to slide the helmet on and off.
The liner's fabric is made from something called Nylex "bioceramic" fabric, which has anti-bacterial properties and is designed to wick moisture away from the skin.
The CL-SP has a round internal head shape similar to the CL-14, which, in turn, is similar to the Arai Quantum II. The CL-SP in size XL fits my round head and it also has lots of room in the chin.
Note that the internal shape of the CL-SP seems more biased towards round-shaped heads, unlike most helmets that are designed to fit the more common longer or oval head shape.
So the CL-SP may not fit those with oval or long oval heads.
Many motorcycle riders purchase helmets on emotion rather than reason and many also don't realize that not all helmets -- and heads -- are alike.
If a helmet's internal shape doesn't match the owner's head shape, the mismatch will probably cause discomfort. See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page for more information on fitting a motorcycle helmet and a discussion on head shapes.
We've been ranting about the clumsy "aerodynamic" junk that litters many recent helmet designs. The vast majority of these just don't work, they add higher noise levels due to the turbulence they create and they're the first things to break or crack if the helmet is dropped.
So why are they popular with motorcyclists? Again, it's emotion over reason.
The CL-SP bucks that trend and proves to us what we've been saying all along: simpler is better. The CL-SP has a simple open/close vent on the chin bar. It has a positive feel, better than most, if not all, of the helmets we've used. It snaps open and it snaps closed without the flimsy feel that most of the contrived vent switches and levers provide.
The air from the chin vent flows directly on to the rider's face via two round holes on the back of the chin bar. The holes are covered with a plastic mesh. Some of the air is diverted up on to the back of the visor, and up through some horizontal vents in the top of the liner at the top of the eye port.
The CL-SP has two simple top vents. Each vent uses a sliding cover which moves back to expose the vent hole and forward to close it. These covers are simple to use, easy to find when wearing gloves and they work. We did not anticipate that the two small top vents would let in much air, but they seem to work well. Again, it proves that simpler is better.
The helmet does have a small vestigial spoiler at the rear. It covers two exhaust vent holes that can be seen by looking up inside the helmet at the top of the liner. It's almost impossible to tell if the exhaust vents on any helmet actually do anything, although one of these days, we're going to put a helmet in a home-made wind tunnel and run some smoke over and through it to see what happens.
All I can say is that the CL-SP's simple vent system works. That it's also easy to use is a plus, and the positive feel of the vent mechanism adds to the quality ambience of this helmet.
The combination of a close fitting visor that has a positive seal and the simplicity of the helmet shell design of the CL-SP seem to help make it a quiet helmet. Low price used to mean high noise levels, but apparently this is no longer the case; that is, as long as proper attention is paid to the details.
The CL-SP doesn't seem to suffer from the CL-14's low frequency "booming" noise that is caused by turbulence around the typically poor fit between liner and neck. There is some slight buffeting apparent around the neck, but overall, my feeling is that the CL-SP is very quiet. Note again that this may not be the case for those with oval or long oval head shapes; helmet fit is one of the most important factors in noise reduction.
Note also 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 that your experience with this helmet's noise levels may be different, depending upon many factors, including your head shape, motorcycle configuration, prevailing winds and more.
Here's an MP3 recording of the HJC CL-SP from 0 to 60 MPH, recorded behind and outside the short fairing on our 1998 Triumph Tiger. See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Noise page, which has other MP3 helmet sound recordings for comparison.
The CL-SP uses the tried-and-true "D" ring system. It has padded chin straps and a snap to secure the loose end of the retention strap.
HJC claims that the CL-SP has a "built in communication system speaker cavity", but I'm not sure what that means and I don't see anything that looks unusual inside the helmet.
The HJC CL-SP is available in an expanded range of sizes from XS to 3XL. Believe it or not, the list price of the solid color CL-SP like the yellow version shown here is only $159.99.
We often hear from visitors who are looking for helmet bargains, and are sometimes willing to compromise on safety and quality. Hey -- this is your head you're talking about! When you can buy a helmet like this for a street price of around $145.00, don't even bother with the eBay stuff.
We continue to be amazed at the products that HJC is turning out. It's no wonder they're the biggest selling brand in the U.S.A. My feeling is that the CL-SP has higher quality and works better than the vast majority of helmets we've tried.
|wBW Review: HJC CL-SP Helmet|
|Available From: HJC Helmets||Suggested Retail Price: Solids: $159.99; Metallics: $164.99; Patterns: $169.99 to $174.99|
|Colors: Solids and patterns.||Made In: Korea|
|Review Date: February 2006|
From "J.W." (November 2011): "After reading the CL/SP review in wBW, I happened across one (in my unfortuntely-large XXL size) at a local dealer at a "blowout" price. Bought it, and having lived with it for a while, I've been very satisfied.
It fits me just fine, not a small consideration as a too-small helmet gives me raging headaches. The ventilation works just enough to where I can feel a little something at speed, but it's nothing to write home about.
The faceshield mechanism allows for easy removal/cleaning, and remounts with no problems. The "half-click" stops are at full open, lowered to the next you can see under it, and I can close it without it sealing completely shut, just a slight gap at the gasket which makes up for the lack of easy ventilation from the vents, and unfogs the shield quickly if required.
Not too heavy, not real noisy, I'm very pleased with this helmet.
Bought a matching second one at a close-out online, so I have one with the clear shield, and the second with the black-tinted shield. Purchased both for less than $100, could not be happier. No, HJC is not an Arai or Shoei, but I can not see where they are four times better at four (or more) times the price."
From "DV" (July 2011): "Please be aware that the sizing on this particular lid is 1 to 2 sizes larger than may be expected. Also, the helmet shell itself looks over-sized and feels heavy.
Noise deadening is OK. Internal Comfort is good, except for neck ache experienced from the weight of the helmet. Venting is OK. Aerodynamics is OK. Quality and craftsmanship is good.
Overall, I would not recommend buying this helmet over the internet before trying it on (no matter how low the price tag is) due to the incorrect sizing and weight."
From "C.W." (6/10): "My CL-SP has been in use about 6 months of riding weather during last fall and this spring/summer (The winter season is not riding weather for me).
Over 2,000 miles and I still think it is a great helmet at a great price. My longest ride was a little over 200 miles with many rides being about 100 to 150 miles. I had no problem with discomfort. I can't really comment on wind noise since I wear earplugs when on the road.
It doesn't seem to be any different than the Bell or Shoei helmets I have owned in the past as far as comfort or noise. I would buy it again.
A heads up on my comment about removing the HJC sticker. Mine was not under the clearcoat and was easy to remove. My daughter has a HJC with lots of graphics and the HJC sticker is under the clearcoat. If your sticker is under the clearcoat, I would leave it alone."
From "S.L.B." (5/10): "I replaced my 5 year old HJC CS-12 with their CL-SP based on your review. The CS-12 fit my head near perfect and I was hopeful the CL-SP would also. Your comments that the newer helmet is well ventilated was the tipping point for me, as I live in south Texas and ride year round.
I just returned from a 3 day camping trip on my bike, using my new helmet. I found it much more quiet than my CS-12, except when the face shield on CL-SP was at the half inch opening. Closed and half open, the ride is very quiet and more enjoyable than with the older helmet. The temperatures were in the low 90s with lots of clouds, so I was unable to determine if the ventilation is noticeably better - I hope so.
The fit is better than I expected as this helmet fits my noggin a bit tighter than my CS-12 and seems to be less susceptible to wind turbulence. All in all, a better helmet, which I found at a killer price... Many thanks for your review."
From "C.W." (8/09): "I just purchased one of these in part because of your review. Thanks. One thing I notice on my new one is that the face shield does have a stop that leaves about a 1/4" gap for ventilation. It has the 1/2 way and full open detents you mention as well. Maybe HJC read your original review and added the detent. I've only had the CL-SP a few hours and about 150 miles and so far it has been everything you said it would be.
One other thing: The HJC billboard above the visor is not under the clear-coat and is easily removed. Use a little care and all the adhesive residue comes off with it. I didn't do anything with the small stickers since they really weren't too noticeable."
From "J.S.": "I've had my CL-SP for well over a year and about 4000 miles, city and highway. It has a nice finish, a comfortable fit, and the visor mechanism does work well. However, I'm itching to replace it anyway.
I beg to differ with you about the noise. I find this helmet very noisy. I went to this helmet from a Shoei that was several years old and was a "gimme" with my old bike, I can't even remember which model it was. However, the very first time I rode with the CL-SP, the increase in noise was readily apparent.
I couldn't believe there could be that much difference, so I went back and forth on the same route several times, switching the two helmets several times in case my ears were deceiving me. They weren't. If I were guessing, I'd say A.B. is right about the helmet being shorter than other helmets, because there is a strong rushing noise directly below my ears.
Part of the problem is buffeting from the windshield but the Shoei didn't have this problem behind the same windshield. Originally the wind noise would drown out the engine by 45 mph. Maybe it is the gap between the cheek pad and the front piece behind the chin guard that B.M. said was causing him this problem. I've already stuffed every other cavity I could find, to no avail.
Anyway, after going to a 24" windshield, I've reduced the noise a lot and I can still hear the engine up to 55 or 60 before the wind drowns it out. That's a new area for me to try to fix. Another problem I had was that the clear visor had an optical distortion. I took it back to the dealer, who examined all the available visors and admitted that they all had the same problem. They informed HJC customer service, who told me they would replace it with a different visor when a new version came out, but they never did. I'd also echo the comments about rain getting in through the top vents. All in all, it's an OK helmet but nothing special. I doubt I'd buy another HJC."
From "L.S.": "In my continuing quest for noise reduction and a good thermoplastic or polycarbonate helmet, I bought another model on closeout, the HJC CL-SP Osiris model, which can be had on closeout at New Enough for $114. As you wrote in the wBW review, this is one fine helmet.
The visor removal mechanism on the HJC is great (altho not quite as convenient as the best mechanism I've seen, which is on the Shark helmets). The paint in beautiful. The liner is very comfortable. All the parts and vents are robust.
The CL-SP flows plenty of air -- way more than the Scorpion EXO-400, which seems to me to be it's major competitor (New Enough has one model of the EXO-400 on closeout for $104), and also more than my previous helmet, a Shark RSI. In neither of the latter did the upper vents flow any amount of air that I could feel. In contrast, the vents on the CL-SP really do the job, and seem more than adequately robust. And wearing the CL-SP with my earplugs, the low frequency noise coming up from under the helmet was just about gone, same as with the EXO-400.
By the way, I was able to easily fit the Scorpion Aero Skirt into the lining of my HJC CL-SP. I rode with and without it. Putting the Aero Skirt into the CL-SP made no difference in the noise level. However, the Aero Skirt does reduce the amount of air that flows into the face area. In hot weather, I rather ride without it. I've always worn my Scorpion EXO-400 with the Aero Skirt, so haven't yet tested the noise level without it on that helmet.
As I did with the Scorpion, I made sure to get the smallest CL-SP that would fit me. In the case of the HJC CL helmets, this is a size small(!), even though in most other helmets I'm a high medium. In fact, even with the size small HJC-CL-SP, there is still plenty of room in the cheeks, so I ordered a larger set of cheek pads, which might further reduce noise. The forehead/crown padding is perfectly sized though, so I wouldn't fit a size XS.
I've only ridden with the CL-SP once, in dry weather, so can't comment yet about the two problems reported by a couple of your other readers, namely the leaking in the rain and the glue coming off the liner. Time will tell. I certainly hope those weren't manufacturing problems that lead the model to go on closeout.
Lastly, two more notes: First, the more I ride my BMW K1200R (a 2006 model), the more it blows me away. Smoothest bike I've ever been on. Makes Ducati look primitive. And second, the Icon Field Armor Shorts have made a major difference in my riding comfort. Totally changed the experience of riding the bike -- SO much more comfortable. Every day, I can't wait to get on the bike. The Icon shorts are probably the biggest single thing I've done to improve my riding experience."
From "A.B.": "I bought this helmet based on the excellent review. Overall, it is a very nice helmet but I also have a few comments-one of them nearly a showstopper.
- The HJC CL-SP sizing is not standardized. I normally am a solid Medium, in this case a small CL-SP fits me best but even that feels less than snug. I tried on 3 medium CL-SP helmets and each felt a slightly different size before I settled on the small.
- This helmet is a full inch shorter (in height) than my medium Arai Quantum/f and medium Nolan N41E (probably cause the HJC is a small!). Additionally, the bottom opening is quite a bit larger which makes donning much easier but also contributes to the helmet being less than snug. I don't think it's less safe as the D-Ring keeps the helmet snug, it's more of a different feeling.
- The D-Rings themselves don't stay aligned; at first I struggled a few times trying to either get the strap tight or get it undone as the D-Rings weren't aligned. I now hold them aligned when I first feed the strap through, it's not a big deal, but I've never had to do that with other helmets.
- The HJC tinted visor leaks in the rain. It doesn't really stream in, it just seeps in and down the inside of the shield which is a minor annoyance. It's also not optically correct, and worse, the part that's not optically correct is just to the left of center view, again an annoyance. No such problems with the clear visor.
- The near showstopper: the top vents leak in the rain! It's pretty warm now, but in a few months when the weather turns I may have to find another helmet. It's nearly unacceptable for ANY water to enter through the vents in the rain. It only takes a light, steady rain for the water to find it's way in and that really sucks!
All the other comments are spot on! The visor removal process is the envy of my friends as is the overall level of quality (at this price point).
If I was an executive at Shoei and Arai, I'd be working 24/7 on technology and innovation as HJC has proven building quality helmets is not rocket science and doesn't have to cost as much! Thanks for the reviews!"
From "B.M.": "I just wanted to add something to the HJC review. I agree with the review and purchased it. I have had it as my main helmet for 5 months. I washed the liner and the "glue" began to come off on to my head. It lost some tension and routinely unsnaps itself when I put it on. The wash was Dove soap in warm water in the sink, a very gentle wash.
There is a small gap between the cheek pad and the front piece behind the chin guard. This gap allows air to run straight to my ear. High speed travel gives me a real good case of tinnitus (I know, wear earplugs). Additional cushioning would eliminate this direct air stream to the ear. Just wanted to add to the review. I am shopping for another helmet. Keep up the good work."
Editor's Note: Here's a reply from a retailer, FWIW. "If you heard of some riders having the glue separate in the styro, and it turned out to be a manufacturing error that affected that helmet model, rest assured it would've been pulled from the market by HJC."