The new LS2 FF394 is claimed to be the world's first Snell 2010 (M2010) certified flip-up motorcycle helmet available for sale.
There's nothing obviously different about this flip-up that makes it apparent that it's Snell certified.
In fact, it's rather ordinary in appearance. Apparently, LS2 took a very conservative route with the design, perhaps to ensure that it would pass the homologation testing regime.
There's nothing wrong with that and, in fact, it has a couple of nice features to recommend.
If a Snell certification (colloquially referred to as "approval") is important to you for a flip-up helmet, then there's no other choice and you can have this one in any color you like...as long as it's black.
And only in size L, XL or XXL.
A webBikeWorld reader reminded me that we reviewed the Zeus ZS-3000 flip-up (review) back in 2009. It is and was the first Snell certified flip-up helmet sold in the U.S.A.
The Zeus ZS-3000 was the first flip-up to meet the Snell M2000 standards. It's also very difficult to obtain, however, and I'm not sure if it is still sold in the U.S. The LS2 FF394 is the first flip-up certified to the Snell M2010 standard - (Editor).
American motorcyclists have been asking for a Snell certified flip-up motorcycle helmet for many years.
It's here -- and although the LS2 FF394 is not, in fact, the first flip-up helmet with Snell certification, it is the first flip-up to be certified to the more difficult Snell 2010 standard.
It's unknown if others have tried, but at least one -- the original Roof Boxer (review) was tested and passed the Snell M2000 tests back in 2003. I have a copy of the independent lab test result that verifies this.
Also, as noted above, the Zeus ZS-3000 flip-up (review) is and was Snell certified since 2009, albeit in very limited numbers (and to the Snell M2005 standard).
In any case, LS2 -- "the fastest growing brand in the world and #1 seller in Europe", according to the company -- gets a big thank you and congratulations on shepherding the FF394 through the design process and getting it out into the retail chain.
LS2 helmets are difficult to find in the U.S. -- yet. We would imagine that will change, although the FF394 is the only LS2 brand helmet we've tried to date.
Fortunately, the LS2 FF394 is available here through the webBikeWorld Amazon.com affiliate link and you even get free shipping anywhere in the United States!
At this time (March 2013), the FF394 is available only in black, for some strange reason, and only in the larger shell size with head sizes L through XXL.
UPDATE: Note that the size Large is not Snell certified at this time.
The size issue may have something to do with the Snell tests; perhaps LS2 is still working on Snell certification for other shell sizes, although the colors shouldn't matter.
Please LS2 -- how about white, red, orange or yellow?
If it weren't for the Snell certification, the LS2 FF394 might not have all that much to recommend, to be frank. The high-gloss black paint on this one is outstanding though; it's perfectly applied with no obvious faults at all.
Actually, the helmet looks pretty good in black and it even comes with an array of ready-made reflective stickers to give it some nighttime visibility.
The design is very conservative otherwise, although the liner and padding also rates very highly with the webBikeWorld evaluators. The liner fabric is comfortable and the padding is generous and it's assembled with care.
In fact, it's one of the better overall liners that we've seen on any flip-up and it rates right up there with the best of the full-face helmets also.
On top of that (or in front, rather), LS2 added an excellent chin curtain. It's thick, very well made and it fits perfectly to the rotating visor portion of the helmet.
We'll even go as far as saying that every other helmet manufacturer should take a look at this chin curtain -- a simple device, surely -- and go back to school. This is how it's done.
That it's attached to a flip-up helmet adds to the mystery of why such a simple device is usually flubbed by most manufacturers.
That rotating flip-up visor works very smoothly and effectively and snaps up and down with authority. A single release slider button is located in the center, just under the chin vent.
Overall, the design and styling of the FF394 doesn't appear at all out of the ordinary.
In fact, we haven't been able to identify a single feature that is "different" than just about any other flip-up helmet that might also indicate why the FF394 passed the Snell M2010 tests and others haven't.
Attention Motorcycle Helmet Manufacturers of the World: If LS2 can do it with this helmet (and charge <$300.00), surely Nolan, Schuberth, Shoei and the rest can do it too.
Score: The LS2 FF394 gets an "Outstanding" rating from us for paint and overall quality. See the Summary Table at the bottom of the page for a description of our rating system.
The FF394 in size XL fits a bit snug, perhaps one size small. So this XL, defined by LS2 as fitting a 61-62 cm head, seems to fit a 60 cm optimally.
The shape feels "Neutral" to "Slightly Round" at the top and the cheek pads and lower sides feel very snug, so it's possible even a 59 cm head would fit.
We do think a 61 cm head would need the next size up; it just doesn't feel like a 61 would fit inside our XL anyway...
The padding and neck roll feel like they curve slightly inwards towards the bottom, and this gives a good and snug fit but on "square" heads/jaws, it does get a bit tight after 1/2 hour of riding or so.
The ear pockets in the LS2 FF394 are adequate and unlined and although this might be good for attaching speakers, the absence of padding does seem to allow more wind noise than we'd like into the helmet.
The chin strap padding also gets kudos; it's thick and wide and it would probably be perfect if the two sides were about 25 mm longer.
When the chin strap (double D-rings, thank you) is attached, the padding just doesn't reach across the center under the neck.
And finally, the straight temples of the Randolph Engineering Aviator sunglasses (review) fit with no problems in the FF394. By the way, the gasket around the bottom of the shell should not interfere with most intercom mounts.
Overall, we rate the LS2 FF394 as very comfortable and it should fit the majority of head shapes.
NOTE: As of the date of this review, the size Large FF394 is not listed as certified on the Snell website.
More information on helmet fit can be found in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page, along with the chart that lists the helmet weights of webBikeWorld reviewed helmets and also by shape on the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.
Score: The LS2 FF394 gets an "Outstanding" rating for comfort and liner materials and padding and a comfortable fit.
The visibility out the eye port on the on the FF394 is outstanding in the horizontal plane and better than average in the vertical plane, so no complaints there.
The optical quality of the face shield is good and it's marked as meeting the VESC-8 spec but it also has a curious engraved note that reads "Not warranted shatterproof".
The face shield unfortunately has just two detents: half-open and fully open. There is no first position for defogging and it could use one, because the face shield doesn't appear to have any anti-fog coating and it fogs fairly quickly.
Fortunately, the chin vent works well enough to clear the mist from the back of the face shield, but only if the helmet is in the air stream.
Otherwise, the face shield feels tight and it seals against the thin eye port gasket.
That gasket does not fully surround the eye port however and although it's theoretically possible for some water to leak in along the sides, it would be a rare instance for this to happen.
The removal system is overly fussy. It involves a disk that must be removed, then the face shield can be released. Re-inserting the face shield and disk is more difficult than we'd like. This is illustrated in the video below.
The FF394 face shield (as provided with our example) has Pinlock anti-fog insert (review) posts attached, although a Pinlock insert was not included in the box.
The FF394 does not have an internal sun visor.
Score: The LS2 FF394 gets an "Excellent" rating for the overall quality and operation of the face shield; an "Outstanding" for the outward visibility but a "Poor" for the removal and replacement procedure.
The FF394 has a basic ventilation system -- too basic, actually. This may have something to do with the Snell certification; it's possible that LS2 needed to have a minimum number and size of vent holes through the helmet shell.
The chin vent works well enough, but does not flow air directly through the wide and tall chin bar.
The air flows on to the back of the face shield and the system works nicely enough and the air can be felt when the chin vent is snapped open, so not much of a complaint there.
The top vent is very small, however, and the assembly seems rather cheap...as in, it looks and feels like something that would be found on a hundred-buck flip-up.
The actual vent opening is tiny and the thick liner prevents any air from flowing directly on to the rider's head anyway. Opening or closing the top vent seems to make no difference in ventilation.
The weak upper ventilation is likely a direct effect of the Snell rating for the helmet with regards to shell integrity. The FF394 does not have a rear exhaust ventilation system, which doesn't help either.
A rear exhaust system might help to pull air through the helmet, but unfortunately we'll never know.
The large and wide chin bar has plenty of room and it's backed with a hard plastic lining.
Score: The FF394 upper ventilation system gets a "Poor" rating with an "Excellent" for the chin vent.
Here's where it gets complicated. When riding a motorcycle without a windscreen or fairing and with the helmet in the open air, the FF394 is actually relatively quiet and transmits only some wind noise to the rider.
But ride behind a windscreen and the noise volume increases dramatically.
We haven't been able to identify just what's causing the noise -- a loud wind rushing "air blast" noise that seems to affect the lower half of the helmet.
By all rights, the helmet design should control wind noise around the lower portion of the helmet, due to the thick neck roll and wide chin curtain.
But any air coming off a windscreen seems to greatly increase the overall noise levels around the FF394.
This is especially noticeable when riding the BMW C 650 GT scooter (blog) and the difference is dramatic compared to (of all things) the HJC CS-R1 helmet (review) worn by Rick because it fits him and is quiet when he's riding the scooter.
Compared to the Shoei GT Air (review in process) that we swapped back and forth during some recent rides, the difference is also dramatic when riding behind the windscreen of my big BMW tourer.
So overall we rate the LS2 FF394 as louder than average when behind a windscreen but quieter than average when it's in the open air!
Note that our helmet evaluations are a combined effort of several riders over time on different types of motorcycles with and without windscreens.
Evaluators wear correctly fitted, high quality ear plugs (even when evaluating motorcycle intercom systems).
Always protect your hearing when riding a motorcycle. See the wBW Earplug Reviews 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 rider's clothing.
For more information on helmet noise, visit the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Noise page.
Score: The LS2 FF394 gets a "Poor" rating for noise control when worn behind a fairing that directs air at the helmet and an "Excellent" rating when it's worn when riding a motorcycle with no windscreen or fairing.
The Snell certification doesn't seem to have affected the overall weight of the FF393.
In fact, the helmet is actually relatively light, considering this is the larger shell and a size XL. So this is one more puzzling fact that makes one wonder why other helmet manufacturers haven't released a Snell certified flip-up.
This FF394 in size XL weighs 1655 grams (3 lbs., 10-3/8 oz.), which is lighter than many flip-ups of both size L and XL. The helmet has a balanced feel and the comfortable and well-fitted liner helps also.
The FF394 also seems to have good aerodynamics and we haven't noticed buffeting or other issues when riding or in cross-winds.
Note also that all of the helmets reviewed on webBikeWorld have been weighed and the weights are available on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page, along with a chart that lists the helmets by weight and shape on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.
Score: The LS2 FF394 gets a "Very Good" rating for its weight and its good balance.
The FF394 has a double D-ring chin strap retainer. LS2 provides a 5-year warranty on the helmet.
The FF394 is labeled as meeting the DOT standard and Snell M2010 certifications in the U.S. and the helmet meets ECE 22.05 when sold in Europe.
|webBikeWorld Overall Opinionator: LS2 FF394|
The new LS2 FF394 is a conservative but solid design that seems about worth the asking price. We're not sure how much the Snell M2010 certification adds to the cost, nor is it known how the certification will affect sales of the helmet.
LS2 definitely gets a big thank-you and congratulations on bringing this helmet to American motorcyclists. It really makes one wonder why other manufacturers either haven't done it or can't do it.
Doubly so after you look at the FF394 and it doesn't appear to have anything special that is instantly recognizable as something that made the difference in the Snell tests.
Not even the weight, which is very reasonable and lighter than many other flip-up helmets in various sizes.
The FF394 liner is especially noteworthy and it feels like something found in a much more expensive helmet (although 300 bucks isn't cheap).
The helmet also provides excellent outward visibility, a safety factor and something that is sometimes a factor on flip-up helmets.
So if you like black and you wear a size XL (fits like an L) or XXL and you're looking for a flip-up helmet with a Snell certification, the FF394 is currently the only game in town, because the Zeus ZS-3000 is special order only.
The size L is not currently listed on the Snell website as Snell certified.
|wBW Product Review: LS2 FF394 Helmet|
|Manufacturer: LS2 Helmets||List Price: $299.99|
|Colors: Gloss black only.||Made In: China|
|Sizes: XL-2XL Shell Sizes: Unknown||Review Date: March 2013|
Rating Scale is subjective: Unacceptable, Poor, Neutral, Very Good, Excellent, Outstanding.
From "F.S." (March 2013): "Thanks for running such a consistently informative website. I have been a reader for a number of years now.
Just to add some background to the recent LS2 review. I live in the UK and am also half French. I have never heard of LS2 helmets and their marketing spiel about being a #1 selling brand in Europe is tenuous at best!
When selling a personal safety product, I would suggest they be careful about the wording of their marketing materials lest it completely undermine the product."
From "M.K." (March 2013): "Two years ago I asked the Arai rep why they did not have a flip up. He responded that Arai would never sell a non Snell helmet and Snell would not certify Flip Ups. Arai - time to join the rest of the major manufacturers!"
From "W.E." (March 2013): "Glad to see your review of the LS2 modular helmet. According to Snell, they haven't had any flip front (modular) helmets submitted for review as of the last time they updated their FAQ."
Editor's Reply: The Snell website is notoriously out of date and looks like something from 1998.
But, the LS2 FF394 is indeed listed, just go to their list of certified helmets and you'll find it. Screen capture below. Note that only the XL and XXL sizes of the FF394 are Snell certified.