by "Burn" for webBikeWorld.com
Visitor feedback tells us that KBC helmets are ultra-popular -- every time we review one, you ask for more.
But that wasn't enough; now you want the Force RR!
No Problemo! But...I'm not sure why there are so many KBC fans out there.
My feeling is that KBC is so very close, but until they kick up their quality control just one more teensy notch, they're going to remain in second-and-a-half place.
What do I mean by that?
Well, the way we figure it, Shoei, Arai, Shark, Suomy and probably a couple of others are the top dogs.
Arai better watch their step, because our experience with five different Arai helmets tells us they're resting on their laurels and they're slipping fast.
The second string is led by HJC, who, in our opinion, make the best price/value helmets on the market today and it's no wonder they're the #1 selling helmet in the U.S.A.
Their quality control is excellent, they know the market and they make exactly the right product for their customer base.
In the third string are the companies like Scorpion and Icon, who are relatively new to the game and seem to spend quite a bit of time and effort on marketing, which leaves me a bit suspicious.
I may yet be convinced, because they have some brilliant designs that we feel are almost there and they may move up a rung or two someday.
Fourth stringers? Fuggedaboudit helmet brands that usually sell for less than 100 bucks.
I'm sure there are plenty who will argue with us about this, but remember, webBikeWorld is all about opinions and ours is that we're not interested in the fourth stringers, not when you can get an excellent helmet like an HJC for only a few bucks more.
We'll keep reviewing them to see if any progress is made, and every once and a while we're pleasantly surprised (Hint: wait for the $89.00 helmet that we'll report on soon) but we don't have our hopes up.
So what was that about second-and-a-half place? KBC fits that suit pretty well. They're just so close to Big-Boy quality and their helmets have promise, but the entire helmet line seems too familiar, with the VR-2, VR-3 and now the Force RR seemingly designed off the same shell.
Again, we don't know that for a fact, and there's something to be said for economies of scale, but c'mon guys and gals -- the basic shape seems to have remained unchanged since the VR-1 of...how many years ago was that? 6 or 7?
But the biggest problem that keeps KBC that half-notch off the leaders is quality.
Our experience with the brand has led us to believe that there are always just a few quirky problems on their helmets that could so easily be fixed, if only they tried just that tiny bit harder.
They had the chance with the new Force RR, but is this helmet really anything more than a gussied-up VR-3?
You can't prove it by us.
Our Force RR has the same strange vent levers as the VR-3, the same "teeth" on the visor chin vent with the cheesy-looking mold flashing showing on the plastic edges, the familiar dust specks and pockmarks under the paint in one or two spots and the same wide gaps and misfits around the vents and other plastic geegaws.
C'mon KBC! We know you can do it, and that's what's so frustrating!
OK, now that we have that out of our system, what about the helmet? I could probably stop right here and simply link you to our KBC VR-3 review and just say "ditto", and you'll know everything you need to know about the Force RR.
I'm sure KBC would argue with this, but our opinion is that in most regards, the Force RR is not different enough to mention.
With that said -- and I'm sure our KBC fans will think we're coming down awful hard on the brand -- but after all that, it's still a really nice helmet. As was the VR-1 and the VR-2 and the VR-3. So I figured we'd take a real quick look just to compare the Force RR to the recent VR-3 and see which of the features are different.
This size XL fits just about like an in-between L and XL. It's slightly tight for an XL but slightly bigger than a size large. That's about identical to the VR-3, which also seemed about a half-size small.
The Force RR weighs in at 1705 grams vs. 1653 grams for the XL VR-3 (3 lbs., 12-1/8 oz. for the Force RR compared to 3 lbs., 10-1/4 oz. for the VR-3). I'm not sure what the difference is; probably 50 grams or so is within manufacturing tolerances.
For more information, see the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for a chart comparing the VR-3 with the other helmets we've reviewed.
The Force RR feels like it has the same "round head" internal shape as the VR-3, with a slightly tight fit on the cheeks. The liner is comfortable and removable and seems to be made with relatively high quality materials, although it is a bit thin in some places and the harder parts of the shell can be felt.
The ear pockets are unlined and might be a good candidate for speakers.
Our Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page has more information on fitting a motorcycle helmet and a discussion on head shapes.
The visor on the Force RR feels smooth as it goes through its up and down motions and it does not have the interference problem we experienced with the visor on our VR-3.
The Force RR visor also has a nice touch that sets it apart from our VR-3. Dimples are molded into the sides of the visor, giving it a nice look and feel. Who knows, maybe they provide some kind of aerodynamic advantage?
The visor release mechanism also seems to work better than the one on our VR-3. Raise the visor, pull down the lever and the visor pops off the bollard. Nice, and much better than Arai's fussy and idiosyncratic design.
The Force RR visor also has a rib molded along the top on the inside. The rib apparently catches the eye port gasket to help the visor seal along the upper edge.
The bottom of the visor does not seal tight against the gasket, leaving a 1 mm or so gap when the visor is closed. This allows the visor to remain slightly loose and I can make it rattle if I drum on it lightly with my fingers.
The KBC Force RR is very quiet, much like the VR-3. I'm not sure why it's as quiet as it is, but this is a pleasant surprise. The helmet just doesn't seem to transmit much noise and the vents do not whistle like many other helmets.
Remember 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.
Your experience with noise levels may be different, depending upon many factors, including your head shape, motorcycle configuration, prevailing winds and more.
The Force RR has a venting system that appears to be nearly identical to the system on the VR-3, with a small chin vent and smaller top vent.
The dual chin vents direct the air through the same style chin vents and up through the same saw-tooth opening behind the visor. This air is directed up in front of the breath guard and up on to the back of the visor.
The vents are small, just like the VR-3. The weird little sliders that open and close the vents are nearly impossible to find with heavy gloves and again like the VR-3, it doesn't seem to matter much whether they are opened or closed.
The chin vent lever moves the sliding cover only about 5mm from left to right to open and close the air flow, which just isn't enough to make a difference.
Like the VR-3 (are you getting tired of hearing that yet?) the Force RR has a relatively short front-to-back dimension and my chin nearly touches the back of the chin bar.
Our Force RR does not have the built-in wind blocker that is standard on the VR-3.
Our KBC Force RR is the "Speed Demon" model in Gold. The graphics are very cool and sinister and the design is a real standout. The skull with burning eyes peers out from behind a speedometer that is marked to 300 KPH, or 186 MPH.
The paint has a few dimples and some uneven spots but overall it seems higher quality than the VR-3 and the graphics do not look like a simple decal sprayed over with clear coat.
The Force RR is both DOT and Snell approved in the U.S. The helmet is also available in Europe and meets ECE 22.05 safety standards.
The Force RR uses a nice D-ring attachment system and has a nice snap for securing the loose end of the chin strap.
The KBC Force RR, like the KBC VR-3, is a solid offering. We're impressed by the cool graphics and the low noise levels. It's comfortable although it does feel slightly tight at the cheeks. Like the VR-3, the venting and the vent levers are a disappointment.
Overall, it's a nice helmet and probably won't disappoint, but it's just not our cup of tea.
To perk up our jaded appetite for motorcycle helmets, KBC will have to move beyond the one-trick-pony shell shape and take a chance with some out-of-the-box thinking. I think the current design trend has run its course and we await KBC Version 2.0.
From "J.M." (2/09): "i have a KBC "Airborne" helmet. I think this refers to the graphics, and I'm not sure what model it is.
I bought it 2 years ago and use it for racing (I'm a 53 yr old vintage flat tracker). I've found it to be excellent in pretty much every aspect, except the visor.
Minor problems occur when changing - the visor sometimes pops off its connection points, but with firm persistence, stays put. The main problem I have is the visor doesn't seal to the gasket, which isn't a problem, unless the track is dusty.
Then my face fills up with dirt in short order. I remedy this with a bit of duct tape (matching color, of course), but this isn't the best look. When you consider the price, (about $180) this seems like a minor complaint.
I also have a Shoei RF-1000, but it is so bloody noisy at speed, I only use it for trips on my street bike to the grocery store.
I tried on an Arai profile which fit wonderfully- and 90% of dirt trackers wear 'em so I'm thinking there must be something good about them, but after reading your review, I'm now not so sure...
Guess I'll keep reading your reviews and trying on lids, in the meantime, thanks for all the info."
From "J.A.": "I have been wearing a Force RR in the Airborne edition for a few years now. While I can agree that the minor details such as trim could be improved, on the whole these are great helmets.
I have (or still) own(ed) Arai RX7-RR4 & XD, Shoei
Hornet, HJC, Scorpion EXO-700 & 400.
Of all those listed, the Shoei is far and away the leader in comfort. In a near second place is my KBC Force-RR.
I used to like the Arai line, but
their quality control seems to have dipped in the last
few years and competition such as KBC and Scorpion have
really increased the level on the playing field.
Yesterday (3-23-08) I had the unfortunate opportunity to test the Force-RR in a 90+ mph low side with an airborne launch from the curb gator on VIR North during a WERA race.
I am typing this letter largely due
to the fact that it saved my head from any level of
injury and I am impressed with the way it faired
KBC may need to address some aesthetic bits on their
line, but the safety and function is second to none.
They work, they are affordable and they have a unique
look. I'll keep mine, thanks.
Your reviews are invaluable and I truly appreciate such a site for real perspective on motorcycling products. Keep up the great work."
From "P.H.: "I recently purchased
a KBC Force RR Top Gun as my daily helmet and you guys
are spot on with your analysis and criticism of it.
In any case, here are some of my observations:
Weight: Not exactly light weight (I have an L size) compared to my Arai Rapide OR (not sure of US equivalent) or Suomy Explorer, but not too bad compared to the AGV Titech (size XL).
Ventilation: I can feel a breeze coming from the side vents (right in front of the cheeks), but other than that, I would say the other vents are kind of useless. I can't really tell the difference between when the other vents are fully closed or fully open.
Internal shape: Fits me OK, but not quite as comfortable as my other helmets (AGV TiTech, Arai, or Suomy Explorer). I can feel some pressure on the "corners" of the head (where the horns might be if I were to have any!) after half an hour or so, but that just might be down to the shape of my head.
Noise: It sure is noisy because there is a large hollow space for the ears (compared to the AGV where my ears are squished flat).
Also, probably because of the shape of that space, I have a hard time positioning my glasses and feel they are never sitting quite properly on my face as they should be (I already have glasses that have very slim and flat ear stems).
Shield: The optical quality of the shields aren't really up to par with the major players, with the smoke shield having a layer of "haze" when looking out from the inside.
Also, not sure if because the shield is not rigid enough or what, but it doesn't close completely when using one hand. I have to use both hands to make sure that it seals tightly.
However, the most disappointing thing is the shield mechanism. When I first got the helmet, the shield would pop loose on the left side at the top-most position. So I returned to my local dealer to exchange for a shield plate.
The new one lasted just 1 week before it broke off from the screws. I returned to the dealer again and exchanged for another, which lasted another week (the tabs holding the shield broke off this time).
By now the dealer has ran
out of replacement shield plates so I am left with a
helmet without a visor - which is not entirely a bad
thing as it really improves the ventilation!
There are good points however - the graphics and the
price. The graphics are really very well done and
it turns heads wherever I go. And for the price
available locally (approx. USD100), I can't complain.
So in conclusion, given the price and the intended
purpose of the helmet, I can live with the faults.
But come time to purchase another helmet, I would
probably go with the other more established players such
as HJC or Nolan (the N62 is priced very reasonably
Keep up the great work!"