by Bill C. for webBikeWorld
One of the primary goals of webBikeWorld is to bring you information on unique, interesting and hard-to-find motorcycle products and accessories.
Well, here's a good example.
The name "Osbe", may conjure up images of one of Beaver Cleaver's school mates, but this Italian manufacturer has been in business since 1976.
Osbe started as a supplier of electronics communication equipment for the Italian military, police, fire departments and local security forces.
That business evolved into helmet communications devices for events like the Giro d'Italia bicycle race, motorcycle schools, crane operators and others.
Going with their experience in molding electronic devices, they decided to start making their own motorcycle helmets, ski helmets and other types of head protection gear.
By the way -- Osbe is located in Moncalieri, Italy, just south of Turin. It was only natural then to see the Italian bobsled team in the recent winter Olympics wearing some cool-looking Osbe carbon fiber helmets.
As an aside, I'm told that if you're ever in Moncalieri, be sure to check out the Peyrano chocolate boutique for a couple of bites of gianduiotto, the famous Torino sweet!
Apparently, the Piedmontese were instrumental in discovering the method for turning cocoa into hard chocolate, and this has been a tradition ever since.
But we digress... I'm not sure how I first learned of Osbe helmets; it may have been through an advertisement in one of the British motorcycle magazines we receive.
The "X-Race" version seen here was ordered from a store in the UK.
It carries the British Auto Cycle Union Gold endorsement, in addition to meeting ECE 22.05 standards, which are mandatory for street-legal motorcycle helmets in the UK.
The Osbe X-Race is not DOT FMVSS 218 and is not sold in the U.S.A., but ordering one from Bici is easy, as long as you're willing to pay the shipping.
Our Osbe X-Race is the Anthracite color with the standard X-Race livery. I didn't really know what color to expect when we placed the order, because the photos provided by Bici for this helmet didn't match Osbe's.
But the helmet has a nice overall look, and the quality of the paint and graphics seem very good, if not quite up to Suomy or Arai standards.
But realize that the Osbe, at €179.00 (approx. $314.00), is about half the cost of a Suomy Extreme (review), which lists for £399.00 (~$700.00), so overall the Osbe compares very nicely.
The Anthracite color name is probably a bit misleading, as the darker graphics on our have a very slight green tint, which gives the helmet a different and, I think, sophisticated look.
The graphics work nicely with the helmet's modern shell shape, which eschews the typical garish plastic spoilers and other doodads that lately seem so yesterday.
The X-Race does have a smaller top vent cover and rear exhaust add-on, but they are nicely integrated into the overall smooth shape.
One slight disappointment though -- or two actually -- with the top vent and the rear exhaust.
The vent assembly is a slightly different color than the helmet paint, and the pinstripes don't line up, which is unfortunate. I'm not sure why this is, because the rear exhaust vent appliqué is a perfect match with the helmet color.
The other disappointment involves the way in which both the top vent and rear exhaust are mounted to the helmet shell.
There are some uneven gaps around the edges, and pressing on the plastic creates a few noises that lead me to believe these parts may not have very long lives.
The top vent has another problem. The vent can be opened or closed via a small rocker switch.
While this isn't a bad idea, and the switch is relatively easy to locate when wearing gloves, it needs a much stronger detent to keep it in the desired position.
Ours is much too loose and I fear that what little strength it does have to keep the vents open will quickly disappear.
This may not matter though, because although the liner is very comfortable (see below), it doesn't have enough mesh at the top to allow the air to flow over the rider's head.
This means that it's difficult to tell, at least in the cool spring weather we experienced so far in evaluating the helmet, how much air is actually moving across the top of the liner.
The chin vent is more successful; it opens via a sliding switch located on the center part inside the chin bar. The air enters through a pair of metal mesh covered slits on the chin and flows directly on to the rider's face when the vents are open.
The Osbe X-Race is one of the few helmets that has a simple and effective chin venting system that flows air directly through the chin bar.
You can see through the inside holes directly through to the outside of the helmet, meaning the air flow has no restrictions and can be put to good use cooling the rider's face.
The slider has enough friction to allow the vent to be opened or closed to any position, which helps control the amount of air flowing in.
I'm not sure if the rear exhaust vents actually do anything, but I have never been sure if rear exhaust vents do anything on any of the helmets I've ever worn.
In theory, the air flowing into the helmet is exhausted or pulled out the back by the low pressure at the rear of the helmet.
The Osbe's helmet liner fabric is one of the most comfortable I've encountered, and the liner is also very nicely cushioned. The very bottom of the neck roll is covered in some type of micro-suede fabric, which feels great.
The lining also feels like a finer grade of micro-suede, which is wonderful next to the skin.
Our X-Race was supplied with an extra set of cheek pads, but I'm not sure if these are standard or not. There is no indication on the Osbe or Bici website on whether the helmet comes with an extra set.
The cheek pads cover a large area, going all the way to the back of the helmet, so changing them may make a difference in the way the helmet fits.
The liner appears to be made with care and has the look and feel of high quality, so I anticipate no problems in this area.
The comfortable liner goes a long way to making the X-Race a very nice helmet to wear.
I'd say that it has very close to a round head internal shape, probably very similar to but just a tiny bit narrower than the fit of the HJC CL-SP (review), the Shoei RF-1000 (review) or the Arai Quantum II (review).
All of those helmets in comparison fit round shaped heads best.
Based on our size XL Osbe X-Race, my feeling is that the helmet may run a half to one size smaller than those helmets also.
It also feels like it may be slightly shorter in the top-to-bottom dimension than other helmets, although this may change over time as the liner breaks in. I feel like my chin is very slightly lower than the bottom of the helmet.
See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page for more information on choosing and fitting motorcycle helmets and for our description of human head shapes as they relate to motorcycle helmet fitment.
The X-Race has another quirk that I think can be characterized under the Helmet Fit section; the eye port seems shorter and narrower than the eye port on other helmets.
I can see the inside of the helmet on each side in my peripheral vision when I'm looking left or right when making a turn. The eye port also seems shorter from top to bottom than normal.
This doesn't bother me that much and I'm getting used to it, but some motorcyclists have indicated to us in emails that helmets with smaller eye ports are a problem for them.
Oh, and one more thing: the breath guard has a loose friction fit into the space between the shell and the liner (see photo).
If the little raised tabs on the breath guard were just a bit bigger, I think they would fit better and keep the breath guard from coming loose.
As it is, at least on our helmet, the breath guard keeps falling out and I think the cause is that the manufacturing tolerances to hold it in place are not held close enough.
This Osbe X-Race in size XL weighs 1601 grams, or 3 lbs., 8.5 oz. This is a tie with the Shark RSR (review) and is right about in the middle of the range of all the helmets we've reviewed.
The Osbe feels good and does not feel heavy or like it has a lot of mass. I have not noticed any problems with lifting or pressure when riding.
See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for a chart comparing all of the helmets that have been reviewed on webBikeWorld.
The sleek and modern shape of the X-Race helmet shell has lots of potential for low noise. I can usually tell within the first 100 meters or so how a helmet will perform, and the Osbe was very promising in this regard.
And although my first impression proved true; that is, the X-Race does seem to have very low overall noise levels, there is one annoying exception.
The top vent causes some turbulence over the top of the helmet, and, for some reason, this causes a very high-pitched whistling noise at speeds over about 30 MPH or so.
It isn't coming from the vents; it's coming from the design.
Turbulence is the primary cause of most helmet noise, and it's amazing how it can affect a helmet. The Osbe is a great example of the vagaries of helmet turbulence.
I can hold my hand about 150mm above the helmet, in the field of turbulence which I can feel with my fingers, and the whistling noise immediately stops.
I can move my hand closer and farther to the helmet and actually play the noise like a Theremin, making it louder and softer.
The noise is most apparent when turning the head slightly side to side, or when riding in a crosswind. Now you'd think someone from Osbe would have noticed this and would have changed the design to eliminate this problem.
I suppose there is a small chance that this may only be a problem with our helmet, but I don't think so.
It's not like there's a loose part or something up there; the noise doesn't change when the top vent is closed, so it must have something to do with the design of the helmet.
Overall though, the Osbe X-Race is still a relatively quiet helmet. The thick neck roll and the standard chin air curtain underneath the chin bar help to prevent turbulence induced noise in this area.
The noise levels are about the same whether the helmet is in or above the turbulence zone of a fairing.
For what it's worth, here's an MP3 file illustrating the noise levels of the Osbe.
Towards the end of the sound file, I announce when I move my hand up above the helmet and you can hear the whistling noise stop. See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Noise page for more information and for a sampling of other helmet MP3 files we've recorded.
Note that we always wear earplugs and a helmet liner 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.
The Osbe has a nice, clear face shield that seems like it possesses high quality. It has a full seven detents or positions from fully closed to fully open, which is a nice feature.
The face shield uses a quick release mechanism that looks and operates much like those found on Shoei helmets. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if I found that these parts and the visor were sourced from Shoei.
The eye port has a relatively thick rubber gasket, allowing the clear face shield to seal and helping to eliminate noise from this area.
The sbe X-Race uses the classic and proven D-ring chin strap system. A plastic snap on the end of the chin strap acts as a retainer for the extra length. The strap has two padded flaps that keep it from chafing the rider.
II think the Osbe X-Race is a comfortable and relatively quiet helmet even considering the whistling noise problem mentioned above, which isn't as obtrusive as, for example, the low-frequency "booming" noise common to many helmets.
With a bit more attention to detail, like the fit of the plastic vent covers and the breath guard, this could go from being a good helmet to a great one.
It's almost sort of frustrating, because the liner and paint and the gasket around the bottom of the shell seem to be made with care and show very high quality, but it's just missing a couple of the details that would help it go all the way.
I really like the overall shape of the helmet; it's modern and sets itself off from the "Speed Racer" shapes that are thankfully becoming a thing of the past. In this regard, the X-Race is ahead of the curve.
Its shape is similar to some of the new crop of helmets we'll see in 2006, including the Suomy Vandal and Shark RSi, both of which we hope to evaluate soon
That said, if you're looking for a helmet that will be unique, the Osbe X-Race may be the one.
|wBW Review: Osbe X-Race Motorcycle Helmet|
|Manufacturer: Osbe Helmets||List Price (2006): £179.99|
|Colors: Many color combinations.||Made In: Italy|
|Review Date: March 2006|