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HJC CL-XS Review

HJC CL-XS

HJC CL-XS Dual-Sport Helmet Review

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by "Burn" for webBikeWorld.com

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Background

"Enduro" styled helmets continue to attract interest from a dedicated but relatively small group of Adventure Touring bike owners.

The HJC CL-XS shown here is the fourth Enduro helmet we've reviewed, only one of which is legally available for sale in the U.S.A. (the Arai XD.

The others are European models that are technically illegal for use in the U.S.A., but which can be purchased and shipped here by enterprising riders.

However, the shipping costs alone are outrageous, and the weak U.S. dollar-to-Euro (or GBP) exchange rate surely doesn't help matters.

We have four of these helmets in the webBikeWorld inventory and I've worn them all. Here's my honest opinion: unless you absolutely have to own one for the cool factor, the helmets have too many compromises to justify the cost.

I'd wait for the next generation of Enduro helmets -- if there is one. The manufacturers have stuck a toe in the water to test demand, and only the sales figures will tell them to either continue the evolution or make the beast extinct.

My feeling is that the manufacturers haven't really sunk a heck of a lot of money into the development of this style helmet yet, so we'll see what happens.

The shipping cost to bring the HJC CL-XS shown here from the UK to the U.S.A. was 70. That's $135.48 at today's exchange rate -- not including the bank or credit card fee. That's a huge chunk o' change, considering the helmet itself cost "only" cost 120 ($233.00).

Then for some reason, the box got stuck in U.S. customs and it cost another $30.00 in duty fees to bail it out. I'm not sure what that's about, because we receive items from outside the U.S. all the time that were purchased for webBikeWorld reviews and this is the first time we had to pay a duty fee.

So let's call it an even $400, including the bank and credit card exchange fees, just to get the helmet in the door. Some will think that's way too much for a helmet, while others may feel that it's acceptable.

I'll leave that up to you to decide. But the problem is that you've basically just paid 400 smackers for a helmet that's worth maybe $200?  Because the CL-XS appears to be similar the the low end of the HJC helmet line. Again, the desire for coolness may allow your wallet to take the hit, but what happens when cool wears thin?

My feeling is that the HJC CL-XS just isn't a $400 helmet, no matter how you slice it. Let's take a look...

HJC CL-XS - Top View

Helmet Weight

Our CL-XS in size XL weighs 1697 grams (3 lbs., 11-7/8 oz.), almost exactly the same as the Arai XD Enduro (the only one legal for use in the U.S.A.) and the HJC CL-14 full-face helmet. This is neither heavy nor light, but just about right for this type of helmet. See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for a comparison chart listing the weights of all of the helmets we've reviewed.

The CL-XL seems slightly short from top to bottom; that is, it feels like my chin is sticking out slightly at the bottom of the helmet, so it may be that the 1/4" or so of shell which was eliminated in the design is affecting the weight

The helmet does feel very slightly top heavy, but it rides well and the weight is unnoticeable under most road conditions.

Helmet Fit, Internal Shape and Comfort

The HJC CL-XS has a slightly narrow round internal shape. I'm glad we ordered an XL; I normally take a size large, but the XL sure seems like it runs one size small to me, because our XL fits just like a size large full-face helmet. Since the proportions are usually the same for the entire helmet line, you may find that you'll have to order one size larger than normal throughout the entire range.

HJC claims that the lining is removable and washable, but it's rare for us (as in never) that a liner becomes dirty enough to have to send through the washer, so this isn't relevant one way or another to me. Since we share a lot of helmets, we always wear a silk or Coolmax helmet liner, which prevents dirt and grease from sullying the lining material.

The liner is relatively comfortable for a round head; I'd say that it's slightly below middling for comfort. The lining fabric feels a bit scratchy to me and the smallish shell and internal shape means less padding than I'd like. But overall, it's acceptable.

The extended motocross-style chin bar offers plenty of room for those of Leno-like jaws, but there's never as much room as I think there should be in the Enduro styled helmets.

See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page for more information on fitting a motorcycle helmet and a discussion on head shapes.

HJC CL-XS With Side Plates Removed

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Face Shield

I'm not pleased at all with the clear face shield; HJC seems to have slipped from its usually high quality standards on this. The face shield seems thin and too flexible compared to a good face shield on a quality full-face helmet.

The face shield also does not have a molded-in lifting tab and HJC also did not mold an indent in the shell under the lip of the face shield so that the rider could at least stick a finger under it somewhere to lift the face shield up. I sort of have to scratch around under there with my gloved hands to lever it up high enough to raise it, then I have to grab the face shield itself to lift it up.

The face shield on our example creaks when it's lifted and makes a cracking noise as it reaches the widest opening, which isn't a good sign. The too-thin plastic flexes as the face shield is lifted or closed, although maybe not quite as bad as other inexpensive helmets we've tried. But the CL-XS isn't inexpensive, remember?

When the clear face shield is lifted all the way up, it interferes with the underside of the sun shade face shield. This has left some wear marks on the clear face shield over time.

Finally, the face shield doesn't have a locking or snap mechanism to hold it closed. It is held in position only by the friction that is placed on it from the side screw tightness (see photos below). Although the face shield seals against the full-circumference eye port gasket, the friction-only mechanism doesn't allow it to seal very tight and since there's no snap or detents to hold it shut, there's really no way that it could seal it correctly.

Sun Shield Peak

The side screws also hold the sun shade "peak" (don't know what to call these) to the helmet by friction. It seems like a flimsy and cheap arrangement -- if the screws are tightened too much, the visor won't lift.

But the screws have to be pretty tight to hold the shade. If the screws aren't tightened enough, they can back out; it happened to me. That may be why HJC provides an extra set of screws in the box...although the screws are at least made from metal.

The sun shade peak that gives the helmet its Enduro styling is pretty much unnoticeable when riding, until speeds reach about 70 MPH or so, when some lift can be felt. I've been surprised at how little the sun shades seem to affect helmet lift on the Enduro helmets that I've tried. I guess the air doesn't have too much of a problem flowing under and through the peaks.

The helmet also lacks a center support for the sun shade, so the two screws on each side are the only devices that offer holding power. It just seems like an altogether flimsy arrangement compared to the other Enduro helmets we've reviewed.

By the way, the helmet can be used without the sun shade and HJC provides some side plates to cover the sides when the sun shade is removed, but the helmet looks too dorky to consider in this configuration.

HJC CL-XS Side View With Plates Installed

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Venting and Air Flow

The HJC CL-XS has an "always open" chin vent. The air flows through the chrome plastic opening at the tip of the extended chin bar and on to the rider's face through some holes in the back of the chin bar. The back of the chin bar is lined with some hard plastic material.

But that extended chin means that plenty of air comes up from underneath anyway. This probably is not the helmet to wear in the winter, because there's simply no way to close off the huge amounts of air flowing up from underneath.

The helmet also has two intake vents on top and two exhausts in the rear. All four are non-closable. So much air comes in the front that it's hard to tell if any air is coming in from the top.

But overall, the helmet is definitely cool enough and would probably be a good solution for hot weather or desert riding.

Noise Levels

I'm actually surprised at the relatively low noise levels in the CL-XS. There's always going to be some wind rushing noise in a helmet of this type, due to its design. But the CL-XS doesn't seem to have any unusual vices like "booming" or "whistling" from the vents. Understand though that the overall noise level is probably about half-way between a full-face and open-face helmet.

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 also that your experience with this helmet's noise levels may differ, depending upon many factors, including your head shape and how the helmet fits, your motorcycle's configuration or windscreen, prevailing winds and more.

Chin Strap and Miscellaneous Features

The CL-XS has the European style and oxymoronic "quick release" buckle. Why anyone would pay extra to fit one of these as an option to a nice D-ring unit is beyond me, but there you have it. The first time out, the rider will have to fuss with the thing to get the chin strap to exactly the right length. Just hope that you don't have to adjust it after that -- it's a pain. The chin strap has a fabric loop sewn on for the extra length to tuck under.

The HJC CL-XS is available in sizes from XS to XL, but as I mentioned above, I think the XL fits like an L, so if this holds true for the entire size range, then the range may actually be equivalent to XXS to L.

The helmet is available in the Anthracite and Silver color with the "Vapour" graphics shown here and as far as I can tell, it is the only color that is actually for sale. The paint and graphics are typically good HJC quality with no orange peel or dust underneath and the decals are covered with a nice clearcoat.

The CL-XS meets the ECE 22.05 European safety standard but it is not DOT FMVSS 218. I've seen claims on some of the UK websites that the helmet is also meets the ACU Gold standard for track use, but there's no ACU Gold sticker on ours.

Conclusion

I'm just not that thrilled with Enduro helmets in general. Yes, they look great when you're riding a GS or KTM 990, but not so cool when on an R1 or Ducati 1098. The helmets have been designed for a niche market and it's not clear how the manufacturers view the future of this type of helmet for American riders. Thus, they don't seem to be as committed to perfecting this type of helmet as they do for some of their other models.

We've been big fans of HJC design and quality in the past, but the CL-XS doesn't really seem to do anything exceptional. Combined with the high cost of getting one to the U.S. and the anxiety over wearing a non-DOT FMVSS 218 helmet, I'm not sure it's worth it.

More wBW Motorcycle Helmet Reviews  |  Helmet Weights  |  Motorcycle Helmet Shapes

wBW Review: HJC CL-XS Helmet Review
Manufacturer: HJC Europe List Price (2006): £120 + £70 S/H
Colors: Silver/Anthracite "Vapour" graphic. Made In: China
Review Date: January 2006  

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