KBC Tarmac Radiation Motorcycle Helmet
by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
Owner Comments (Below) |
Summary: The KBC Tarmac is
the most basic helmet offered by KBC, but it's
comfortable and it includes some interesting features.
It also feels solid with good build quality. It meets both
DOT and Snell safety standards, rare at this price.
It's New Year's Eve and this will be our last helmet
review of the 2008. We've really
been pumping 'em out this year, and I can easily
say that webBikeWorld.com features more detailed
motorcycle helmet (and other motorcycle product) reviews
than any other website, print magazine or other source
of information in the world.
Thanks to all the hard work by our
evaluators for their contributions during the year, and
thanks also to our loyal visitors! Without your
support (and your support of our sponsors!), none of
this would be possible. Best wishes for a healthy
and prosperous 2009 to all!
KBC is a curious company. We first reviewed a
KBC VR-1 way back in...2001? And, believe it
or not, that helmet is still available. Sure, it
has a different paint scheme and probably a few tweaks
here and there, but the profile is unmistakable.
I guess there's nothing wrong with that,
but it sure seems to me that KBC has taken one or two
basic helmet shell designs and, well, milked the heck
out of 'em.
KBC did release a flip-up helmet a
couple of years ago, the FFR. But other than that, the KBC strategy appears to be based on
modifying existing designs with new colors and graphics.
For example look at the chin vent on
this KBC Tarmac. The same basic
design has been used for years and appears on just about
every KBC helmet we've tried.
I'm sure the KBC folks would disagree,
but I'll leave it up to our readers to decide. And
one more thing, while we're on the subject: our opinion
remains that KBC quality leaves something to be desired.
We've reviewed several KBC helmets, and every one of
them has one or more minor quality issues that are
frustrating because they could easily be fixed by paying
more attention to the small details that separate the
good from the great.
So the bottom line -- and I guess I'm
getting way ahead of myself here -- is that I think KBC
needs to step it up a couple of notches. Sure, new
paint and graphics is cool, but we'd like to see some
innovation and the flawless quality that motorcycle
consumers expect in 2008. Or make that 2009...
The KBC Tarmac
With that said, you're probably thinking the KBC Tarmac
is a bust, right? Wrong.
We've said it before: Price definitely
has an effect on a helmet review. It's just
natural -- surely you're going to hold a $700.00
Schuberth to different standards than a $109.95 KBC
Actually, I have a confession to make.
When this KBC Tarmac arrived about 5 weeks ago, RevZilla
was running a special sale, and the helmet was priced at
$79.99. The price is what caught my attention,
since webBikeWorld visitors are always interested in
learning about good helmets at reasonable prices.
So I ordered one in the wild "Radiation"
graphics, but I've been having too much fun wearing it
and I never did seem to have the time to write about it.
Which brings us to New Year's Eve, and here I am at 5:30
am trying to crank this one out to end the year.
The Tarmac is an interesting helmet, and
still a good bargain at the current sale price of
$109.99, or even at the list price of $149.95. But
it has one very curious feature, as you'll discover...
Paint, Graphics and
Let's agree on one thing -- the "Radiation" graphics may not be for everyone.
webBikeWorld visitors are AC/DC on this issue, either
hating or loving wild colors and patterns on their
I tend towards the wild stuff. I
dress pretty conservatively in "real" life, so the
anonymity of a helmet and a motorcycle outfit allows me
to express my inner self (Did I just say that??).
If you don't like the Radiation
graphics, the Tarmac is also available in a white and
black "Hammer Head" graphic design with a nice, big
skull and crossbones on the back and with your choice of
a red, green
or yellow stripe down the middle!
Somehow, I have a feeling that the
people who don't like the Radiation treatment (get it?) won't be
very fond of the Hammer Head either. I love 'em
In any case, the Radiation graphics are very
nicely applied, with no obvious flaws as far as I can
tell. The surface of the helmet has a
semi-rubberized feel that's
maybe not quite as rubbery as an
Urban N20 Astro (review).
The Tarmac finish
feels slightly harder and it also is relatively easy to
clean, unlike some of the other rubberized helmet
finishes in our experience.
The surface also has a matte finish,
which helps make
the yellow Radiation warning labels really stand out,
which I figured was an excuse to buy the helmet because
the yellow would be more visible. It certainly is
more visible against the rest of the gray/black design
The Tarmac helmet shell is a simple and
and the fittings and bits and gaskets all appear to be
of very good quality and it all fits together very
nicely, with the exception of the clear visor.
The only quality issue on this helmet is a slight gap where the visor does not meet the
eye port gasket on either side, and in fact the visor
seems slightly loose. I can push on the visor and
it moves around more than I'd like.
Fortunately, this hasn't affected the
performance of the helmet and it doesn't seem to have
made a difference in the noise levels.
The liner is very comfortable,
especially for a helmet in this price range, and KBC
claims that it's removable, washable and that they even
have different sized cheek pads available, a surprise in
this price range.
Score: I'll give the KBC
Tarmac an "Excellent" rating for overall quality, with
the exception of the visor. See the Summary Table
at the end of this page for a description of our rating
Helmet Fit, Internal Shape, Liner and Comfort
This Tarmac is a size XL and it fits very close to
actual expected size. It has a neutral to long
oval internal shape, and the XL will probably fit a size
60-61 cm head circumference.
KBC lists their size
XL as a 61-62, and while it's possible that a 62 cm head
that tends towards a long oval shape may fit, I'm pretty
certain that a 62 cm round head will find the XL a tight
The liner is comfortable and feels relatively
substantial, which helps blend the fit to a wide variety
of head shapes. I'm not sure what I can compare it
to. The Tarmac is slightly more round than the
Fulmer D4 we just reviewed, but like the Fulmer, the
Tarmac fits something like the
RSX (review), the a
Scorpion EXO-700 (review) or
(review) or maybe even the
To learn more about head shapes and choosing and
fitting a motorcycle helmet, please see the
Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page, which also includes a
discussion on head shapes.
The Tarmac liner looks to be very nicely constructed
and although the fabric isn't as plush as the liners
used by Shark or Arai, it definitely does not feel like
a typical $100 helmet liner material, so kudos to KBC
Now that I think about it, KBC has always offered
comfortable liners; if I recall, the original VR-1
had a unique and comfortable liner with a material that
felt like soft suede or chamois.
The helmet fits my round head very nicely all the way
around, and the bottom of the helmet shell ends just
under my chin. The breath guard that KBC installed
on the Tarmac is nice, but the top of it just touches my
nose. I haven't removed it yet (the breath guard,
that is!) but might do so.
The Tarmac does not have a chin curtain underneath
the front, so like many other helmets, a lot of air
comes up from underneath. In fact, this is the
main source of ventilation on this helmet, because, as
you'll learn in a minute, the Tarmac as a...let's call
it a unique venting system.
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.
Score: I'll give the Tarmac an
"Outstanding" for a comfortable fit, a nicely
constructed and comfortable liner with comfortable liner
KBC Tarmac: Note the metal inserts at the top of
the shell and above the visor.
Venting and Air Flow
Look at the photos included with this review and you may
notice something that I didn't when I bought the helmet:
there are no top vents on the Tarmac.
I'm not sure if KBC is guilty of some
obfuscation regarding the venting system on the helmet,
because instead of stating it outright, their
promotional material for the Tarmac states only that the
helmet has "Twin open/close air intake vents in the
front with rear air exhausts".
By "the front", they mean the chin vent. If you didn't know any better, and
haven't actually handled the helmet, and just glanced at
the photos -- like I did -- you wouldn't realize this
translates to "No top vents".
But aside from the ethics of the
advertising materials, the absence of an upper venting
system doesn't seem to make much of a difference.
So far anyway -- it's winter, and I may be singing a
different tune come summer.
Let's face it -- the vast majority of
helmet venting systems are nearly worthless anyway, so
in a sense, KBC is admitting the obvious.
Peel away the line and you'll see that
the Tarmac does have a couple of small holes punched in
the EPS foam liner, but they don't appear to connect to
any type of helmet shell venting channels. But the top of the helmet shell has a
brownish-colored metal plate instead of a vent assembly,
and where you'd expect to perhaps find a pair of vent
holes in the brow, just above the visor, you'll see that
KBC incorporated metal plates instead.
The metal actually works fairly well and
adds a different styling touch to the helmet. I
suppose the helmet would look strange if those areas
were just left blank instead.
The chin vent on the KBC has been seen
before -- many times. It should look familiar, as
it appears to be the same vent used on just about every
KBC helmet and other brands that possibly are
manufactured under license.
The biggest problem with this vent is
the on/off switch, which is a little lever or tab that
moves horizontally to open or close a sawtooth opening
just in front of the breath guard. You'll have to
memorize which way is open and which way is closed,
because a horizontal switch will never be as intuitive
as an up/down arrangement.
Not that it makes much difference
anyway. With all the air coming in from under the
helmet and the tiny openings in back of the visor at the
top of the chin bar, it's nearly impossible to tell
whether the vent is open or closed.
The helmet has small screen-covered
permanently open intakes on either side of the chin bar,
and these direct air through the chin bar to the lower
portion of the rider's face, and seem to be more
effective than the lever-operated chin vent.
Score: This one's tough,
because we haven't been able to evaluate the Tarmac in
hot weather. I'll give it a "Good", which, for all
practical purposes, equates to "Neutral" or "No Opinion"
in our rating scale.
Helmet WeightFor the sake of
comparison, the XL Tarmac at 1643 grams is very close to
the Shoei X-Eleven
at 1635 grams; the
FS-10 at 1641; the KBC
VR-2 and the
VR-3 Stealth (natch) at 1652 grams; and the
at 1657 grams.
The absence of a top venting system doesn't seem to
help (or hurt) the Tarmac. This size XL weighs in
at 1643 grams (3 lbs., 10.0 oz.), which is just about
the average helmet weight for the 106 helmets we've
reviewed to date (1639 grams).
Be sure to visit the
Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for charts comparing the
weights of all
of the open-face, full-face and flip-up helmets we've
KBC claims that the Tarmac's shell is "constructed
using an advanced alloy resin, resulting in a high
energy absorption helmet".
Score: The KBC Tarmac gets an
"Excellent" rating from me for its relatively
weight and good balance.
Other than the slight gap problem noted above, the visor
on the Tarmac works very well. It snaps open and
closed with authority and moves tightly through four
detents from closed to open. It has a nice-sized
visor lifting tab on the lower left that can be easily
found when wearing gloves.
The visor has a 5 mm molded section that runs across
the very bottom that is at a different angle than the
rest of the visor. As this section passes through
your vision when the visor is raised or lowered, or if
the visor is raised for ventilation, some distortion may
be visible. But it remains out of sight when the
visor is closed.
The top of the visor has a molded section that acts
as a lip that fits over a narrow ridge in the eye port
gasket; KBC's "RIB" system.
I believe this is designed to prevent water from
running down through the top of the visor. In
fact, just for kicks, we poured water down the front of
the helmet, dripping it down above the brow, and this
visor lip does prevent the water from entering the top
of the visor.
So the combination of no top vents and this visor lip
system may actually be of great value to motorcyclists
who ride in the rain -- many of whom have written asking
about "waterproof" helmets. I can't say that the
Tarmac is waterproof, but it does have all the makings
of a helmet that will resist water from above better
than many/most other helmets.
The visor also has a unique styling element on either
side, with golf ball type dimples molded around the area
that covers the visor removal mechanism. These add
a nice styling touch and who knows -- they may even help
The visor is very easy to remove; open it up, pull
down on the lever and the visor pops right off.
The visor also has very good to excellent anti-fog
capabilities and optical clarity.
By the way, the eye port seems average in
side-to-side visibility and slightly narrow in the
vertical plane. The top of the chin bar seems to
intrude into the rider's line of sight. It's not
bothersome, just noted.
Score: I'll give the visor system an
"Excellent", including operation, removal and
visibility, anti-fog capabilities and clarity. If
it fit tight on either side, I'd have given it an
Now you'd think that the absence of top vents, which can
sometimes generate noise, would help to make the Tarmac
a very quiet helmet.
But its about average -- not too loud, not too noisy
under a variety of conditions, bikes and clothing
options. There's no much more I can say about the
Tarmac's noise levels -- "average" is the only word that
comes to me.
Note that our helmet evaluations are normally a combined effort
of several riders over time, on different types of motorcycles with and without
windscreens. Evaluators wear correctly fitted, high quality earplugs (even
when evaluating motorcycle intercom systems) and (usually) a helmet liner. It is strongly recommended that hearing protection is used when riding a motorcycle.
See the wBW
and Hearing Protection page for more information on choosing and wearing earplugs.
Note also that perceived noise levels will vary, depending on the
individual. Noise can be caused by many factors, including helmet fit; the
type of motorcycle and windscreen; wind speed and direction and even the type of
clothing that is being worn. For more information on helmet noise, visit the
Motorcycle Helmet Noise page.
Score: The Tarmac
gets a "Good" rating for average noise control.
The Tarmac has a comfortable padded chin strap with a
double D-ring attachment system that includes a snap for
securing the loose end. The chin bar is padded,
with EPS, according to KBC. The Tarmac is
available in size XXS, which may fit young riders.
The helmet meets both DOT and Snell safety standards
and KBC says that it's also available in versions that
meet ECE and Australian standards.
The Tarmac is an interesting helmet with a different
style, good quality and it meets both DOT and Snell
safety standards, all at a very reasonable price.
We reviewed several very good and inexpensive helmets
in 2008k, and Tarmac may be near the top of the list,
although we don't think it edges out the
which has a nearly identical list price and near
Review: KBC Tarmac Motorcycle Helmet
BUY IT! Get your
KBC Tarmac with this link to RevZilla and help support webBikeWorld!
List Price: $149.95 (unconfirmed; street price approx. $79-$100).
|Colors: Radiation and Hammer Head
graphics (yellow, red, green).
Sizes: XXS to XXL
For reference, our ratings scale is subjective and ranges
from unacceptable to poor, good, very good, excellent and
outstanding. Review Date: December 31,
Note: For informational use only. All material and
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page. NOTE: Product specifications, features and details may
change or differ from our descriptions. Always check before purchasing. Read
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►Your Comments and
Please send comments to
Comments are ordered from most recent to oldest.
Not all comments will be published (details
). Comments may be edited for
clarity prior to publication.
From "D.S." (1/10): "I would have to
agree with your review of this helmet. I found a
medium for $29.99 at Motorcycle Superstore and had to
buy it as it was only $7 more than a new shield for my
My FFR is a medium so I figured the Tarmac would be
about the right fit in medium size. The fit is
definitely snug but not unpleasant due to the
comfortable inner liner, however I have noticed just a
twinge of pressure on my forehead after about an hour of
riding, I'm thinking this will improve as the helmet
I'm an eyeglass wearer and find I am able to get my
glasses on properly with this helmet, compared to my
Arai where I find it quite difficult to seat the
eyeglass properly due to the liner. On the Tarmac
this probably has something to do with a fairly open fit
around the ears despite the overall snug fit which you
would expect create a pretty quiet environment, but
again I have to agree with your review, helmet noise is
My Tarmac has a nice finish with no flaws detected. I
definitely fall into the category of loving the bolder
graphics. Lastly, I was scratching my head at the
lack of top vents and I suspect this will not be my go
to helmet in the hot months out here.
On the other hand, the combination of the close
fitting breath guard and claimed anti fog shield work
perfectly and I have not needed to raise the shield for
venting on chilly night rides. This is now my
second KBC helmet and I have to say I'm becoming a fan.
KBC offers a good product with great graphics, light
weight and quality that belies it's reasonable price.
To me that makes the Tarmac a solid choice for a street