by Bill C. for webBikeWorld
We've been compiling the list of our picks for the best motorcycle products of 2005.
That article will be posted soon.
But unlike last year, there will be no "Motorcycle Helmet of the Year" award for 2005.
This year, there's really no standout helmet, like the Shark RSR (review), named as our pick for 2004.
Interesting, you may say, but what does that have to do with the Nitro Helmets N1200-VX shown here?
Well, when I opened the box after it arrived during the last week of December, I thought that this might be "The One".
The Nitro is is a real featherweight.
It ties the flimsy M2R MR10 (review) as the lightest full-face (size XL) helmet we've tried at 1426 grams (see the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for a chart comparing all of the helmets we've reviewed).
But the Nitro is light years ahead of the M2R in everything from styling to paint to comfort, and it has a quality look and feel that, in our opinion, is also far above the M2R.
Nitro includes a cool backpack as well as a helmet bag, and the backpack can be used for lots more than simply storing the lid. They even throw in a really cool, high quality Nitro hat for good measure.
So what's the problem?
Although the Nitro is a nice helmet, it just doesn't stand out from the crowd with enough difference to make it a webBikeWorld Helmet of the Year pick.
There are rumors of some exciting new breakthroughs at the upcoming (and huge) 2006 Dealer Expo in Indianapolis, and we'll be bringing you another live report from that show, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here's my report on the Nitro N1200-VX.
We'll start with the air vents on the Nitro N1200-VX, because they're probably the most noticeable design feature of this helmet.
The chin vent is located right at the lower edge of the face shield, and the bottom of the face shield actually meets the top plastic vent surround.
An easy-to-use lever folds the vent down to open or up to close, but the vent only opens about 45 degrees towards the front (see photo below).
On close inspection, it looks like the vent should open wider, to 90 degrees, but it doesn't, and the result is that about half the air that could flow in through the vent is potentially blocked.
The vent is backed by what looks like a stainless steel or aluminum mesh screen to prevent the ingress of bugs, but it's recessed back about 10mm, and our guess is that it will be a real pain to clear out any bugs that do end up in there.
It's hard to tell where the air goes after it comes through the chin vent.
There is no opening directly in the back of the chin bar and there are no obvious vents along the bottom of the face shield opening that could allow air from the chin vent to flow up on to the back of the face shield.
Inside the chin bar are two mesh covered circular openings, located on either side, about equal with the rider's lower jaw, and just in front of the removable cheek pads.
These holes appear to act as exhaust vents to allow the air to flow outward, but why this is necessary in this particular location remains a mystery.
The sides of the chin bar have two "shark gill" vents on the outside, backed by the same screen mesh (see photo below). They're covered by a slightly tinted clear plastic cover that is open at the rear.
When looking through the helmet from the inside, I can see the shark gill vents directly through the circular vents inside the chin bar.
The bottom line with the chin venting system on the Nitro N1200-VX is that I can't tell where the air flows once it enters, and I'm not sure what purpose is served by the complex system of exhaust vents on either side of the chin bar.
The cold temperatures we're experiencing lately make it hard to distinguish where the air is coming from as it flows into the helmet.
Helmet venting is usually more important when the weather turns warm, when it's easier to evaluate the effectiveness of the air flow. I don't really notice a difference whether the chin vent is open or closed on the Nitro.
The helmet has a brow vent, located just above the top of the face shield. A nearly flush, centrally located switch can be pushed back to open and forward to close the vents, which are located on either side of the vent appliqué.
This switch is hard to identify at first when wearing thick motorcycle gloves, but once its location is determined after some trial and error, it's fairly easy to slide open or closed.
When the switch is pushed towards the rear, two small horizontal bars move back about 45 degrees, allowing air to flow in through the vent.
They're open in the photo above. As with the chin vent, it is not obvious to me where the air goes once it enters the brow vent.
There are no holes on the inside of the helmet that I can see that would direct the air on to the rider's brow or head from the brow vent.
The Nitro also has a couple of circular mesh covered openings on top of the helmet, situated in one of those aero-type appendages that form a sort of airfoil over the top and back of the helmet.
Each channel has its own button, which are labeled "Open" and "Close". The channels appear to allow air in the front and then out the back via another pair of circular mesh covered holes.
There are two very small (about 3mm) holes in the top of the helmet inside that channel air up into the top exhausts.
Finally, the back of the helmet features two very small mesh covered exhaust vents that cannot be closed.
I can feel a sort of channel along the lower jaw section of the helmet on each side that leads from the circular internal exhaust vents on either side of the chin back to these tiny rear exhaust openings.
The bottom line on the Nitro's complex venting system is that I just can't determine whether it provides more or less venting than other, simpler venting systems, like those on my current favorite helmet, the Arai Quantum II, or the Shoei X-11.
Look at the photos in our Shoei X-11 review to compare the size of the chin vent opening and the vents on the chin bar that flow air up on to the back of the face shield and compare it to the photos of the Nitro N1200-VX and I think you'll see a dramatic difference.
There seems to be a strong correlation between the number of air vents on a motorcycle helmet and its noise levels.
Although the Nitro N1200-VX isn't what we'd call a quiet helmet by any means, the vents don't appear to be a major contributing factor to the noise levels. This must mean that Nitro has done its homework in the wind tunnel.
However, the helmet seems to generate a lot of turbulence-induced noise from up underneath the neck area.
Place the Nitro on a flat surface, and you'll see that the helmet has a "scooped" shape, which draws the bottom of the helmet shell up in the middle and down at the chin and rear.
While this may look cool, because it gives the helmet a streamlined look, it could be the cause of the noise, because it disrupts the seal around the rider's neck.
My size XL Nitro feels short from top to bottom, and this may be partly due to the scooped shape of the lower part of the shell.
The neck roll at the bottom of the liner is not able to effectively seal the air space around my neck and jaw, which allows too much air to flow up underneath the helmet.
This has a twofold effect: first, it seems to allow too much cold air to blow up on to my face in our recent winter weather, and it is also seems to cause most of the helmet's elevated noise levels.
The noise emanating from this area is about the same when riding behind a fairing or with no fairing.
For what it's worth, here's an MP3 file illustrating the noise levels of the Nitro. See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Noise page for more information and for a sample of MP3 files of other helmets.
The Nitro N1200-VX is a good candidate for a wind blocker, such as the Windjammer helmet or the NOJ Quiet Rider. I can put my finger along the neck roll of the Nitro and stop most of the noise, and that's usually a good sign that the helmet can use more padding or a better fit around the neck.
Note that we always wear earplugs when riding a motorcycle. It is extremely important to wear high-quality, correctly fitted earplugs to help prevent hearing damage, which is permanent and much easier to get than you'd think.
Please see the wBW Earplugs and Hearing Protection page for more information on choosing and fitting earplugs. That page also has links to our many earplug reviews.
As mentioned above, the Nitro seems very short in the top-to-bottom dimension, and my chin feels like it's hanging out underneath the helmet. This is partly due to a mis-match in my head shape with the Nitro's internal shape.
Our opinion is that the N1200-VX will fit oval head shapes best.
See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page for more information on choosing and fitting motorcycle helmets and for our description of human head shapes.
The N1200-VX feels like it has head room at the very top, but then slopes down on either side, above the rider's ears. It then has a narrower fit along the sides of the helmet.
The apparent slope on either side near the top of the helmet prevent it from fitting comfortably on my round head, and it feel like I have to keep pushing the helmet down on top of my head to get it to fit correctly.
This is not necessarily a problem with the helmet; it's simply not a fit that works for me.
However, I have been able to wear other oval shaped helmets successfully, and I'm still of the opinion that the Nitro is extra short in the top-to-bottom dimension, so I got out my Starrett metal scale to see what I could find out.
This is an unscientific experiment, because of the different internal dimensions and shapes of each helmet and also because the soft liner padding makes it difficult to take a measurement.
Nevertheless, I compared the Nitro N1200-VX to the Arai Quatum II to see if there was a difference. When I sat the two helmets on a flat marble table, the Nitro measured 10.25" from the table surface to the highest point on top of the middle of the helmet.
The Arai measured 10.50". I also measured the internal height, and the Nitro measured about 8.00" of clearance, while the Arai, with it's thicker and softer padding, measured about 8.50".
So the Nitro does seem slightly shorter than the Arai (which is also a size XL by the way). Again, this is a completely unscientific experiment. But I wonder if the Nitro engineers, in their quest to make the ultimate lightweight helmet, designed the shell to be the absolute minimum dimensions.
The Nitro has the standard quick-release helmet face shield, but the face shield does seem slightly thinner and more flexible than normal. My feeling is that the tab to lift the face shield is too small, making it difficult to locate and to lift the face shield.
The face shield on my helmet flexes (twists) too much as I lift it upwards, and the flexing of the shield makes it difficult to close it securely. The face shield just doesn't feel like it closes tightly enough, and I have to press on the front of the face shield each time I close it to try and get it to seal.
The Nitro N1200-VX ties the much less expensive M2R MR10 helmet as the lightest size XL full-face helmet we've tried. No problems here, and for those looking for the lightest helmet available as their primary criteria, this may meet your requirements.
This Nitro N1200-VX is the Steve Plater replica, and it has outstanding graphics and paint.
It's hard to see in the photos, but some of the red painted sections include lots of nice, big metal flake bits that make the helmet a real standout.
My only complaint is a misaligned stripe where the spoiler meets the helmet shell on the left side (see photo). It seems strange that the right side is perfectly aligned, while the left side is not.
Nitro uses the classic (and much preferred) "D" ring chin strap, and the end of the strap has a plastic snap keeper. There is sufficient padding used under the chin strap also.
The N1200-VX has a Coolmax removable liner. It is a fairly comfortable fabric, but the liner seems very thin compared to other helmets. Again, this may be due to the designer's quest for a super-light helmet.
The padding at the top of the helmet is extremely thin, so there's not much between the rider's head and the foam inside the helmet shell.
The N1200-VX is ECE 22.05 approved and also meets the British ACU Gold specifications. We purchased our helmet directly from the U.K. and it is not DOT FMVSS 218.
Light weight goes a long way towards overriding other helmet idiosyncrasies.
The Nitro N1200-VX seems to possess high quality; it has a very nice finish and graphics; and they don't get much lighter than this and still have ECE 22.05 and ACU Gold approval.
My feeling is that the fit is a bit peculiar, so this may definitely be a helmet you'll want to try on first. Make sure you check the fit at the top and see how it fits under your chin.
There's no doubt that the Nitro is one of the coolest-looking helmets around.
Nitro claims to be the "biggest helmet brand in the UK", but I'm not sure what "biggest" means. They do have several other helmet lines at what seem to be reasonable prices.
By the way, I've searched all over the helmet, the box it came in and the tags that were attached to the helmet and can not find any indication as to where the helmet is made. This is a disturbing trend that we've noticed lately; many products have no country of origin label.
We're very surprised that there isn't some European Community regulation regarding this. UPDATE: wBW visitor "L.L." tells us that the helmets are made in China (see comments below).
|wBW Review: Nitro Helmets N1200-VX|
|Manufacturer: Nitro Helmets (UK)||List Price (2006): £199.00|
|Colors: Many color combinations.||Made In: China|
|Review Date: January 2006|
From "Spider Man": "I checked out your review of the Nitro N1200-VX that you got from Britain for GBP199 (which I guess would translate into ~US$300), and I think I may have some additional information to contribute.
I'm a Canadian who now lives, works and rides in Hong Kong.
Earlier, I have purchased a second-hand Nitro N1000-V from a local fellow for HK$250 (or ~US$32 @ HK$7.8=US$1, the pegged exchange rate between HK$ and US$), and the item looks almost exactly the same as the Nitro N1200-VX that you've reviewed.
I asked the original owner of my helmet, who bought it first-hand, and he told me that he got it from Mongkok (a district in Hong Kong that teams with motorcycle-accessory shops) for less than HK$1,000 (or US$130) about half a year ago.
Ten days ago, I went along with my friend to the "Luo Chong Wei" district of GuangZhou (Canton), China, where there are an open-air distribution market and a mall filled with shops peddling motorcycle parts and accessories.
Whilst there, I notice that there were helmet models of identical shape and outlook available for sale there, but under unknown or generic brands with different graphics and tags on them.
I didn't bother asking about their selling price, but I'd assume that it wouldn't surpass the equivalent of less than ~US$130 that my helmet's original owner paid in Hong Kong.
I guess the lessons that I'd draw from this, would be:
1) Always be on the lookout for helmets that seem to share similar layout - they may well be made by the same OEM manufacturer (for example, in the Taiwanese rider's thread, a respondent said that he got a very similar if not identical helmet under the "Rafale" brand, which I suppose would be this one);
2) Price doesn't necessarily correlate to quality in a linear fashion - whether or not my N1000-V is identical to the N1200-VX that you reviewed, it's still got ECE approval (despite not getting DOT or Snell ones) and ECE is not that easy to pass as you noted in your article about it; and
3) I'd think thrice and do extra research before buying helmets from outside Greater China, now that I learn of the huge price difference for probably the same helmet that I can get here.
On the other hand, I suppose for those of you from Europe and North America who may come to this part of the world, a visit to the local bike accessory shops may give you some very pleasant surprises.
So bring more cash with you (they generally don't like taking credit cards here, because of the steep commission rates that the card companies would charge).
And, don't worry about exchanging your monies before flying, because Hong Kong is one of the biggest global financial centers and its banks offer very competitive rates - I generally find the exchange rates offered here better than almost anywhere else I've been."
From "J.S." (Follow-up; see below): "Thought I would write the following "follow up" to the Nitro N1200-VX full face helmet discussion...
Well I have completed the riding season using the Nitro as my "Lid" of choice...In all warm climates it was cool (well ventilated) and very light to wear (comfortable).
Whenever the weather transitioned from Summer to Fall, I switched back
to my older SHOEI due to it's lack of vents and quietness (warmness).
The Nitro's quality has been more that acceptable (my standards) and the face shield system works as well as any helmet I have owned (both vision clarity and ease of replacement). I still like this helmet and intend to use it extensively.
My opinion is that the Chinese have come a long way in improving Quality/Process control of this product and are probably on an accelerated path to becoming a dominant force in this market...and I think you will agree that they might be already there?."
From ";J.S.“: "I have been riding motorcycles for approximately 35 years and I have ridden with quite a few different helmet configurations.
The most comfortable, aerodynamic and edgy helmet I have ever worn is my new Nitro N1200-VX full face (let me explain in more detail).
I am presently riding a 06 Honda VFR with an opportunity to use a choice of four full face helmets: Arai Quantum II, Shoei TZ-1, OGK FF-4 and Nitro N1200-VX.
Mmy normal riding conditions are all weather, commuting (100kms each work day) and weekend touring (approx. 300 km).
My experiences with all the aforementioned helmets have all be good, but with the Nitro, I feel less fatigue after each riding event.
The wind noise is acceptable (ear plugs in), the aerodynamic stability is “rock solid” at any speed, the comfort is excellent, and cold/hot weather operations have proven uneventful.
After comparing all four (back to back, same conditions) I have to declare the Nitro N1200-VX a hands down winner!
I purchased the helmet this winter from a chap in Australia.The helmet is EC approved but I believe not Snell 2000 or DOT FMVSS 218.
I have physically compared all my helmets with the Nitro and have found very little differences in quality, only with the Arai having the thickest and plusher lining.
As you can tell my experience with this product has been very positive and I would recommend the N1200-VX to anyone that cares to listen!"
From "H.K.": "I am writing in regards to your review of the Nitro N1200V helmet.
Well, I spotted a Recall notice from MCN for a Nitro/NT100 (Soaring Helmet Corporation) so I called up the supplied # 425-656-0683 (which is Vega Helmet's phone #) and asked about the model N1000 (model I have) and N1200 if they are being recalled as well."
Editor's Note: The remainder of the comments reflected H.K.'s attempts and frustration in obtaining the correct information on the helmet recall.
According to this National Highway Traffic Safety Administration motorcycle helmet safety testing report for 2006 (.pdf format), the Nitro N1000, not the 1200-VX we reviewed, has been recalled under "Recall No. 07E-016: Multiple penetration failures, Labeling failure".
Here's a copy of the NHTSA report (.pdf format) for that helmet.
Response from Vega Helmets: "In clarification to the above: the Nitro helmet pictured (in the webBikeWorld review article) was manufactured for a European company variously known as Lloyd Lifestyles or VSJ.
This company holds the rights to use the Nitro and Nitro Racing name in Europe.
The helmet is manufactured to the relevant European standards. Our company, VEGA Helmet, holds the rights to the Nitro and Nitro Racing name in the US. We carried a similar helmet in the past, albeit with different graphics.
The helmet manufactured for us was manufactured to meet US standards, both DOT and Snell. At the time our company was selling this helmet, both helmets were manufactured in China by the same manufacturer.
We have, however, moved our manufacturing to another factory and thus no longer have access to new inventory of this model.
I am not familiar with marking requirements in Europe, so I do not know if or exactly how country of origin is required to be marked on helmets.
In the US, both US Customs (for packaging and Customs declarations) and the USDOT (for helmets) have very specific marking requirements, including country of origin marking as well as manufacturer name and date information. All VEGA Helmet products conform at all times to these requirements.
The helmet involved in the recall was the VEGA NT100.
This was an open face helmet with a flip shield, and is not in any way related to Nitro 1000 or any of the other helmets mentioned in (the webBikeWorld) article or by the caller.
If any of your readers have the VEGA NT100, they are encouraged to contact us and get return authorization to return the helmet and receive an NT200 in replacement.
I regret I was not in the office to speak with the caller and clarify matters for him immediately. We have been in business since 1994, and have always conducted our business with the utmost concern for quality and honesty. I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight."
jeannedemund @ vegahelmet.com
From "L.L.": "I read the review of Nitro Helmet N1200-VX on your web site. You mentioned in the review that you couldn't find the country of origin for this helmet.
Well, here's the answer: All Nitro helmets are made in China and I am positive about it coz they are selling these helmets here in Taiwan and does have the label of Made in China on it.
Guess they are trying to avoid the bad image of Chinese product qualities, that's why the company took off any thing that's related with China. Hope this info will be helpful to you."