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Zeus ZS-806

Zeus ZS-806 Helmet Review

Zeus ZS-806 Helmet Review
by Bill C. for webBikeWorld.com

More:  wBW Reviews Home  |  Owner Comments (Below)  |  wBW Motorcycle Helmet Reviews

Summary:  The Zeus ZS-806 is also new for 2009. With colorful graphics, a lightweight shell and an internally rotating sun visor, the ZS-806 is a nice helmet -- but the competition at this price point is fierce.


Background
This is the third in a series of reviews covering new Zeus Helmets for 2009, starting with the Zeus ZS-3000 flip-up, the Zeus ZS-608 open-face helmet was reviewed next and this Zeus ZS-608 is a new full-face design that is also new to the 2009 product line. We'll have one more to go after this; the Zeus ZS-210C retro-demi-jet helmet.

At a list price of around $170.00, the ZS-806 lands squarely the $100.00 to $250.00 price range, which is the toughest and most competitive segment of the motorcycle helmet market.

Scan the webBikeWorld motorcycle helmet review list for examples of helmets in this price range and you'll find a host of very worthy competitors for the ZS-806.

The list includes helmets like the Fulmer D4 ($125.00); the Xpeed XF-705 ($170.00); the SparX S-07 ($140.00); the GMAX GM68S ($120.00); the very popular Scorpion EXO-400 ($150.00) and even the new HJC IS-16 at $200.00.

Two of those helmets have been webBikeWorld Helmet of the Year Award winners; the Xpeed XF-705 was the Visitor's Choice in 2008 and the GM68S was the Helmet of the Year in 2007.

Zeus would probably argue that the HJC IS-16 is the real competition here because it's the only helmet in that list with an internal sun visor. Whether or not that feature worth about $50.00 or so is an individual decision; if so, then perhaps the ZS-806 is a less expensive alternative to the HJC IS-16.

The Zeus ZS-806 does have some advantages though, with a lightweight shell, the availability of a very nice array of colors and patterns and an internal sun visor. The $100.00 to $250.00 segment is extremely competitive, with a couple of very nice helmets available for less than $150.00, so does the ZS-806 have what it takes?  You decide...

ZS-808 in Chaos white graphics.
ZS-808 in Chaos white graphics, top view.

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Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality
This will probably sound like a repeat from our previous Zeus 2009 reviews, but based on the 8 or so different types, colors and graphic patterns we've seen from the Zeus 2009 helmet line, the quality and the selection of graphics is excellent and one of the distinguishing characteristics of the brand.

The ZS-806 is a good example; both the white "Chaos" and the red "Phoenix" patterns look great and are beautifully applied. So if these two are any indication, the rest of the ZS-806 lineup should make for a difficult "which to choose" decision.

The overall quality of the ZS-806 is also excellent. The moving parts on the two helmets we have on hand function without issue, although, as you will see, the ZS-806 does have some venting and noise control issues that I think are an indication that the styling took preference over function to a certain extent.

One of the hallmarks of high quality in a motorcycle helmet is the way the face shield fits to the eye port gasket. This is a very difficult engineering challenge -- much more difficult than you might think. The face shield must match the angle of the front of the helmet to seal completely around the eye port, yet rotate smoothly. The triangle between the rotating mechanism and the horizontal and vertical axes is crucial.

The face shield on the ZS-806 fits very tightly across the top of the eye port gasket and along the sides at the rotating mechanism, but both helmets have a small gap at the bottom of the eye port gasket, leaving the face shield very slightly adrift at the bottom.

This is definitely a nitpick, because this is a too-common problem with many helmets, and it doesn't affect the performance of the ZS-806, but it's worth noting. The samples we have are probably from the early production run, so perhaps this will be corrected later on -- I think it's a matter of adjusting the final position of the rotators on the side of the helmet to hold the face shield more firmly to the eye port gasket.

Everything else on the helmet has the look and feel of quality that meets or beats what is expected in this price range, including the liner, which is comfortable, removable and has a smooth-feeling fabric.

Score:  I rate the Zeus ZS-806 "Outstanding" for graphics and appearance and "Excellent" for overall quality. See the ratings descriptions in the Summary Table at the end of this page.


wBW Flash Slide Show:  Zeus ZS-806 Helmet

Helmet Fit, Comfort and Internal Shape
Zeus has apparently developed a "corporate" fit for their 2009 helmets, all of which seem to have about roughly the same neutral internal shapes

The ZS-806 feels very similar to the ZS-608, with a neutral fit that should fit a majority of owner head shapes. The sizing in the ZS-806 though feels about 1/2 to 1 size smaller than expected. The white helmet shown here is a size XL but it feels similar to some size L helmets I've worn in this price range, while the red ZS-806 in size L feels about 1/2 size small.

Note that sizing is dependent upon owner head shapes, especially with regards to a neutral internal shape. So owners with head shapes tending towards narrow may find that the ZS-806 sizing is spot-on, while owners with round shaped heads may find the sizing to run slightly small.

Otherwise, the ZS-806 is comfortable, with a smooth-feeling lining material but the padding is probably just a touch thinner than average. The plus is that the shell size doesn't feel overly large and the ZS-806 avoids that "fish bowl" feeling of a small head in a too-large shell.

webBikeWorld Helmet Internal Shape Estimator for the Zeus ZS-806
Narrow Med. Narrow Slight Narrow Neutral Slight Round Med. Round Round
      X      
Helmet Internal Shape Benchmarks (from the Motorcycle Helmet Weights page)
Arai
Profile
Scorpion EXO-700 Neon KBC
Tarmac
AGV
Stealth
Icon
Mainframe
Shoei
RF-1000
Arai
Quantum II

The shell comes in one size to span the XS to XL range, according to Zeus, so the shell was probably designed to be as small as possible so that it wouldn't look too big on an XS sized head.

I can fit a pair of wire-framed sunglasses inside the ZS-806 with just a little bit of adjusting. This helmet doesn't seem to be as eyeglass-friendly as the ZS-608, but it's not bad and the match of the owner's head to the internal shape will affect this.

For more information on head shapes and helmet fit, see the wBW Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page.

Score:  I'll give the ZS-806 an "Outstanding" for this category. It is comfortable and it has a fit that should work for many riders.

Zeus ZS-806 helmet liner.
Zeus ZS-806 helmet liner.

Zeus ZS-806 visor removal mechanism.
Zeus ZS-806 visor removal mechanism.

Zeus ZS-806 Face Shield and Internal Sun Shade
As mentioned above, the clear face shields on both of the ZS-806 helmets shown here fit very tightly except for a tiny amount of play at the bottom.

Otherwise, the clear face shield feels solid. It has a generously-sized lifting tab at the lower left and it has a small first opening useful for defogging, along with 4 other lifting detents to hold it open.

My feeling is that the eye port provides slightly less outward visibility than normal towards the front, perhaps due to what I think is a trim shell size. Side-to-side visibility seems average.

Zeus knows how to design internal sun visors, and the visor on the ZS-608 and this ZS-906 are probably the most useful I've tried. This one comes down far enough to stay out of my line of sight and it has good optical qualities.

It is operated with a lever on the left-hand side, as seen in the photo above. The uppermost position is a sort of lock; the lever makes a loud click when it's in this position. When the lever is rotated down, it moves the visor into position. A push up on the lever pops the visor back up into the helmet via the internal spring.

The disadvantage of the spring-loaded system is that the visor can not be placed in an intermediate position to shield the sun from above, for example. The spring in the lever only allows the visor to be in the fully up or down position.

Score:  All things considered, I can give the ZS-806 an "Outstanding" rating for this category for the face shield and good coverage and operation of the internal sun shade.

Zeus ZS-806 top vent.
Zeus ZS-806 top vent.

Zeus ZS-806 chin vent.
Zeus ZS-806 chin vent.

Zeus ZS-806 side pod and rear exhaust vent.
Zeus ZS-806 side pod and rear exhaust vent.

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ZS-806 Ventilation and Air Flow
The ZS-806 has what I think is about average ventilation for a helmet in this price range. Unfortunately, "average" air flow means, well, not very good -- a common problem with most motorcycle helmets, and too common in this price range, in my opinion.

Part of the problem with the ZS-806 is that it appears that the styling took a preference over function, leaving the top vent with a very small opening underneath a very narrow slit at the back of the "U" shaped vent cover on top.

Under the cover is a single hole and the lever on top opens and closes a cap over that hole to let in air. Two matching side covers on top towards the rear channel air through and out the back, where two similar exhaust buttons open or close tiny caps over holes designed to pull air out the back into the low pressure zone.

A separate small exhaust is covered with mesh and located in the rear of the helmet and there are two holes covered by black plastic at the lower rear that also serve as exhaust vents.

The chin vent has a cover that is pushed on the bottom to open and pushed on the top to close. The top lip only opens forward slightly and it doesn't allow a direct air path into the helmet; instead, the air has to travel up and over the top lip of the vent cover.

The helmet also does not have air vent holes directly through the chin bar, so any air that does come through the chin vent is directed on to the back of the face shield through a few small slits in the vestigial breath guard. The chin bar has a small curtain underneath.

The EPS has two large holes in front under the partial mesh helmet liner and there are two smaller holes in the rear of the EPS, but it doesn't look like these holes match up with any of the vents, so any air that enters or leaves the helmet has an indirect route at best.

The system just doesn't provide much air flow, unfortunately, and the top of the head can feel a bit warm, although once up to speed, there is some air flow that can be felt coming up through the top of the breath guard.

Ventilation is generally a problem in the vast majority of motorcycle helmets, and the ZS-806 is about average or maybe slightly below in my estimation.

Score:  I'll rate the ZS-806 as "Good" for air flow and overall ventilation, which is effectively a "neutral" according to the webBikeWorld rating scores.

Small rear exhaust vent covered by mesh.
Small rear exhaust vent covered by mesh.

Noise Control
The good news is that the small vent openings on the ZS-806 keep vent noise levels low and the air seems to flow smoothly along the top of the helmet.

The styling and the smaller overall shell size comes into play again though; the bottom of the helmet is shaped in a slight arc or curve from the front to back along the bottom of the helmet shell. This causes some of the air along the bottom of the liner to be pushed towards a split in the neck roll about 3/4 of the way back, which then becomes a source of noise.

The neck roll is slightly thicker (i.e., extends farther down) in the front 3/4 than it does at the separate section at the rear of the helmet, and I think a combination of the way the air is directed under the shell and the split in the padding at this high/low interface area doesn't block enough of the wind noise.

The sound is a fairly constant mid-range wind rushing noise. It's not the loudest helmet around, but I think it could have been a lot quieter with a different design. The reason I think it could be improved is that I can place my hand underneath under my ear and the noise decreases significantly.

It's taken years for helmet designers to decrease the higher frequency noise levels created by air vents, which used to be the most common source of helmet noise.

But there's still a lot of work left for them to do to decrease noise levels around the base of the helmet, mostly by paying careful attention to the helmet shell in this area and also the neck roll. Now that helmets in general are quieter up top, noises from below are more noticeable.

A shell can only curve inwards only so much before it becomes too difficult for the owner to put on the helmet, thus the neck roll is crucial for blocking wind noise and certainly a more generous neck roll that also fits tighter could help.

Again, this isn't just a Zeus-only problem, it's unfortunately a widespread issue for many helmet manufacturers.

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 Earplugs 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 wBW Motorcycle Helmet Noise page.

Score:  I'll rate the ZS-806 as "Good" for overall noise control.

Helmet Weight
This ZS-806 in size large weighs 1620 grams (3 lbs., 9-1/8 oz.) and the XL weighs about the same at 1623 grams (3 lbs., 9-1/4 oz.). This is excellent, and this is where the smaller shell pays dividends, because the ZS-806 is comparatively a lightweight helmet, especially considering that it has an internal sun visor, which generally adds a few ounces.

The ZS-806, even with the internal sun visor, weighs below the median for all of the helmets we've reviewed and sits in some pretty good company, as you can see in the chart below, taken from the Motorcycle Helmet Weights page:

Zeus ZS-806 L 1620 3 lbs. 9-1/8 oz. N
Bell Apex XL 1620 3 lbs. 9-1/8 oz. N
Bell Zephyr XL 1620 3 lbs. 9-1/8 oz. NA
Zeus ZS-806 XL: 1623 3 lbs. 9-1/4 oz. N
OGK FF-3 L 1623 3 lbs. 9-1/4 oz. R
Arai Quantum II XL 1624 3 lbs. 9-1/4 oz. R
Akuma Stealth XL 1631 3 lbs. 9-1/2 oz. SR
Icon Mainframe XL 1632 3 lbs. 9-1/2 oz. SR

Also, for comparison, some of the other helmets in this price range we've reviewed include the Xpeed XF-705 in size L, which weighs 1611 grams; the Fulmer D4 Evil Spell in XL, weighing 1576 grams; the SparX S-07 in XL at 1569 grams; and the URBAN N20 Astro in size L weighs 1511 grams. The Scorpion EXO-400 in size XL weighs 1785 grams.

So the ZS-806 at 1620 grams, including the internally rotating sun visor, is very competitive in terms of its weight.

Also, the fit and internal shape and what feels like a slightly smaller than average shell size allows the ZS-806 to cut a smooth profile at speed, thus it feels very stable with no buffeting or lift that I can perceive when riding.

For comparison purposes, see the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for a listing of all of the helmets we've reviewed along with their weight and internal shape.


w
BW Video:  Zeus ZS-806 Helmet (in YouTube HD!

Miscellaneous
All of the Zeus helmets for 2009 sold in North America have a double D-ring attachment system. The padding under the chin strap of the ZS-806 is generous and comfortable. The chin strap does seem longer than average but it has a snap on the tip to secure the loose end.

Zeus said that they offer a one-year warranty on North American and European helmets. The ZS-806 has an ABS shell in a single size and meets DOT, ECE 22.05, AS 1698 (Australian) and CNS (Taiwan) motorcycle helmet safety standards.

Conclusion
I like the Zeus ZS-806, especially the quality of the graphics and the color choices, the well-designed internal sun visor and the trim and lightweight shell.

The ZS-806 has the unfortunate task of competing in the most hotly contested part of the market. I think its relatively light weight and a nicely designed and useful internal sun visor give it an advantage over many other $100.00 to $250.00 helmets. However, it's still very difficult to choose a helmet in this category, which includes some very well-known helmet brands that are also widely distributed and readily available, at least in the U.S. market.

The other 2009 Zeus helmets, like the Snell-approved ZS-3000 or the good-looking ZS-608, have unique features that compel prospective owners to go out of their way to purchase one. The ZS-806 does have the sun visor and lighter weight, but is that enough to persuade potential owners to do the same?

If the ZS-806 was substantially quieter than the rest, or if it had much better ventilation than average, or if it was much less expensive than the competition (perhaps $150.00 or less), then I think there would be no question.

I'm afraid Zeus may have some difficulty gaining traction with the ZS-806 in this market segment, especially with their limited distribution and lack of direct sales capability. But if you're looking for a sub-$200.00 helmet that offers a nice selection of graphics along with a very functional internal sun shade, the ZS-806 may be the only game in town.

Zeus is still in the process of developing a North American distribution for the helmets. More information for dealers or customers is available by contacting Mr. Elvis Mak, the Zeus representative in the U.S.A. at elvismak@hotmail.com.


webBikeWorld Review:  Zeus ZS-806 Motorcycle Helmet

Manufacturer:  Zeus Helmets List Price:  $163.00 to $172.00
Sizes:  XS to XL  Shell Sizes:  1
Colors:  Colors: Metallic Black, Yamaha Blue, Dark Blue, Silver, Dark Silver, Red, Wine Red, Yellow, Orange, Green, Titanium, White, Matt Colors.
Made In: Taiwan
Review Date:  September 2009  Note:  Helmets provided by Zeus for this review (more). Zeus says that as of the date of this review, only the patterned ZS-806 helmets are available (no solid colors) in limited quantities in the U.S.
Ratings Scale:  For reference, our ratings scale is subjective and ranges from Unacceptable to Poor, Good, Very Good, Excellent and Outstanding.

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