by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
UPDATE: As of December 2010, Urban Helmets is apparently no longer in business.
UPDATE: September 21, 2007 - Photos and information on the DOT safety standard versions of the URBAN N20 Astro and N350 Moto helmets!
The N20 shown here retails for only $199.95 in Matte Black and $229.95 for graphics. The N350 Moto retails for $179.95. The helmets available in the U.S.A. are now DOT safety standard!
Also see the wBW review of the Craft R2 and RX6 helmets sold by SMF Cycles).
URBAN Helmets are a completely new brand in the UK. They're made in Europe and based on what I've seen so far, the helmets possess excellent quality yet they're priced very competitively.
There's an interesting story behind the development of the URBAN brand.
Apparently, the motorcycle helmet market in the UK and Europe has recently been flooded with many low priced, poor quality motorcycle helmets. Motorcyclists may not like the quality, but they're jumping on the low prices.
Thunderchild, the importer and distributor for Ixon clothing, Falco boots and ROOF helmets decided to fight back by developing their own line of lower priced motorcycle helmets.
The plan was to create high quality helmets that could be sold at a competitive price point.
They first attempted to find an Asian manufacturer to develop the new helmet, but the end result didn't meet the standards of the company owners, who are also motorcycle riders.
They told us that no matter how low the price, the helmets had to be something that they'd wear themselves with 100% confidence.
So they started knocking on the doors of European helmet manufacturers, looking for someone who shared their vision.
Most turned their nose up at the plan but Thunderchild eventually worked out an arrangement which allows them to leverage existing European hardware and technologies to create the new URBAN brand motorcycle helmet lineup.
The helmets are completely sourced and manufactured in Europe, using European parts and labor exclusively.
The URBAN helmet lineup currently consists of the N20 Astro full--face helmet and the N350 Moto half-helmet (which will be featured in an upcoming webBikeWorld review). Thunderchild sent us one of each in size large.
Locating the parts and manufacturing the helmets in Europe doesn't automatically create a winner. How do the URBAN helmets stand up to webBikeWorld scrutiny? Let's take a look...
We have a bajillion helmets laying around here to use for comparison, which has given me something of a sixth sense to very quickly determine whether a helmet is going to do it for me or not.
First impressions count for a lot and as soon as I started to open the URBAN N20 Astro box, I sensed a real find. The helmet is simple and honest and the first touch and feel gave me good vibes.
I'm only looking at a sample size of one here, but the quality is really first-rate.
There isn't a thread out of place and all of the bits line up perfectly. The N20 has a soft-touch, slightly rubberized matte finish and the lack of a shiny surface really works with the graphics.
The stars on the helmet seem to pop out with a 3-D shadow effect but everything ties together pretty well from a graphic design standpoint.
While the chin and top vents are relatively simple, they're tightly faired in to the helmet shell with a tight fit and very small gaps.
And the band that runs around the bottom of the shell is also nice and tight and it's thick enough yet subtle, which adds to the design, making it more than just a bump guard.
Overall, the helmet gets high marks for fit and finish, especially in this price range.
I usually take a size XL but the size large N20 Astro fits me, although it is slightly tight. Its neutral-to-round head shape makes the difference.
I have a round "earth" shaped head and the cheek pads on the size large N20 Astro feel slightly tight, but I haven't noticed any discomfort when wearing the helmet for extended periods.
For more information on selecting and fitting motorcycle helmets, see the wBW Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page.
The N20 Astro does fit nearly perfectly from my ears on up to the top of my head. So overall, I'd say that based on this example, the N20 Astro should fit most head shapes except maybe an extreme long oval.
Compared to other helmets, I'd say that the N20 Astro has a fit similar to the ROOF RO10 LeMans or maybe the HJC AC-12 Carbon. It's definitely not as round inside as the Shoei RF-1000 but it's also not as long-oval-ish as the Arai Profile or Arai Vector.
The liner in the URBAN N20 Astro is another pleasant surprise. It looks and feels a couple of steps above what one would typically expect to find in a £99 (list price) helmet. The fabric is soft, feeling something like a cross between flannel and suede.
Something about the liner looks nice; I think it's a combination of the cut, the fabric, the colors and the stitching.
The bottom of the liner is covered with a nice pebbled grain vinyl and this all conspires to make the bottom of the helmet look as good as the top.
The vinyl continues with a separate section under the chin, helping to block some of the turbulent air that might affect this area.
It's unusual to see this much effort spent on making the underside of a motorcycle helmet look good!
The liner is also removable and washable and it's claimed to be hypo-allergenic and it also has an anti-perspiration treatment.
The N20 Astro has two simple vents. The chin vent has a sliding cover with a molded-in ridge. It's very easy to find and to open it by sliding it down, even when wearing gloves.
The top vent is also a slider, it can be pushed back to open the vent. The slider also has a ridge, making it easy to find and to operate. Both vents are nicely integrated into the overall helmet design and shape.
Unfortunately, I have to report though that I don't really notice much of a difference whether the vents are open or closed.
The back of the chin bar on the inside is covered with a nice, thick and semi-soft lining (possibly EPS?), which is also unusual for a less expensive helmet.
But the chin bar isn't isn't vented, so no air flows directly on to the rider's face.
The air is directed up through a small and narrow horizontal vent on to the too-large breath guard, but by time the air gets up there, most of the pressure seems to be lost, making it hard to sense any air at all.
The top vent isn't very effective either. The slider doesn't move back very far so there's not much of an opening for air to flow through.
The venting system does not appear to have a direct channel through the liner and on to the top of the rider's head and the lining on our example is glued to the foam liner anyway, which would prevent any air from reaching the rider's head in any case.
I haven't used the helmet in warm weather, so I don't know whether the minimal venting will be a problem or not in the summer.
The URBAN N20 Astro is relatively quiet. The visor seals firm against the eye port gasket, although the gasket is unusual because it feels like hard plastic rather than the typical soft rubber.
Also, the visor is a wrap-around flush-fitting type and it looks and operates very similar to the Shoei visor. It is claimed to have an anti-fog and anti-scratch coating.
The visor has about 8 strong detents, or stops, when it's lifted up. It snaps shut for a good seal and it also has a relatively large tab on the left hand side for lifting. The visor also uses a very nice quick release mechanism.
A small loop is pulled down to release the visor. This type of system is found on many helmets today and it's one of the best, simplest and most efficient visor release mechanisms around. Take note, Arai!
The vents don't seem to generate much noise, probably because they fit nearly flush with the helmet shell. There is a rushing noise that emanates from the back of the helmet at the bottom.
This area could stand a thicker lining to help seal the area between the helmet liner and the rider's head and neck.
The wind rushing sound starts at around 20MPH and continues as speeds increase, although the sound doesn't seem to get any louder with speed.
This is true whether riding with the helmet on an unfaired bike or behind a small fairing that creates some turbulence.
The noise isn't too bothersome, just a bit disappointing because it seems like it would be easy to resolve.
Otherwise, the helmet seems to handle turbulent air relatively well and I don't notice any undue noises. Note that "quiet" is a relative term; no motorcycle helmet is truly quiet -- they're loud and louder.
We always wear correctly inserted earplugs when we ride -- see the wBW Earplugs and Hearing Protection page for more information on choosing and wearing ear plugs.
For more information on helmet noise, visit the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Noise page.
The N20 Astro in size large weighs 1511 grams (3 lbs., 5-1/4 oz.). This makes it a very light weight helmet, lighter than the Shark RSI, the Vemar VSR (review) or even the Suomy Extreme Spec-1R (review).
The weight is nicely distributed and I haven't noticed any undue buffeting or lifting at speed.
See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for a chart that compares the weights of all of the helmets we've reviewed.
The N20 Astro uses the oxymoronic "quick release" buckle latch mechanism, which I don't care for, but that's a matter of taste.
The helmet meets the ECE 22.05 safety standards and carries an ACU Gold sticker.
UPDATE: The helmets sold in the U.S.A. are now DOT safety standard. Since the helmets sold in the U.S.A. are the exact same helmets sold in Europe, the URBAN N20 can now be considered to meet both DOT and ECE 22.05 approval.
The URBAN marketing materials say that the N20 Astro is the first helmet to use the "oblique impact system". We're not quite sure what that means though. The helmet has a thermoplastic shell.
The eye port does seem slightly shorter in height and side-to-side than other size large helmets. This doesn't bother me but others may have a different opinion. The front-to-back dimensions inside the helmet seem slightly shorter than I expected.
My chin doesn't touch the back of the chin bar, but it's close.
Pricing is very competitive; the basic Matte Black helmet is $199.95 in the U.S.A. and £99.99 in the UK and the graphic designs retail for $229.95 in the U.S.A. and £129.99 in the UK. The helmet is available in sizes XS to XXL.
The N20 meets the DOT safety standard in the U.S.A. and meets ECE 22.05 and BSI ACU Gold safety standards in Europe. Since the helmets are identical, helmets sold in both markets meet both standards.
The URBAN N20 Astro starts with a very good first impression and follows it up by delivering the goods. I'm especially fond of the liner's construction and feel and I like the graphics.
Unlike some helmets costing hundreds more, everything fits and the tolerances seem tight. This is a lot of helmet for the money and I'd say that it meets all of the original design goals set for this project.
|wBW Review: URBAN Helmets N20 Astro|
|Manufacturer: URBAN Helmets (UK)||List Price (2007): $229.95|
|Colors: Matte Black, Pink, Blue, Red, Silver.||Made In: EU|
|Review Date: February 2007|
Note: Item provided by a retailer, distributor or manufacturer with these Terms and Conditions.
From "T.F.": "I purchased my (URBAN N20) helmet right after I read the review, the price was right. I have since ridden just about every day with no issues to speak of.
I have hit speeds over 150 mph with no drag or bobble , the strap stays tight, the visor stays down and the helmet is extremely comfortable considering it is a helmet. I have to say this is a great helmet for the price."