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HJC CL-16 Review

HJC CL-16 Review

HJC CL-16 Review Summary
Review Summary
Reader Rating2 Votes
 The new HJC CL-16 continues the HJC tradition of great value with their “bread and butter” CL-series.

The CL-16 is one of the least expensive helmets available that meets both DOT and Snell 2010 safety standards.

It is comfortable, not too heavy and has excellent visibility with an easy-to-remove face shield.

It’s also an excellent bargain and they will probably sell zillions!

I’m not sure what more can be said about HJC that hasn’t already been said on these pages.

The company claims to be the “#1 Helmet Brand in North America” for the past 16 years in a row.

It’s easy to understand why, with helmets like the CL-16.

The CL-16 is the latest in the HJC CL-series and not only does it meet the new Snell 2010 safety standard, it does it weighing two grams less than its predecessor, the CL-14 (review).

We reviewed that helmet in 2005 (we skipped the CL-15; too similar to the CL-14 but we did review the HJC CL-SP).

And, by the way, the CL-16 has a list price that starts at $10.00 less than the CL-14 . How’s that for progress?

This proves that meeting Snell 2010 doesn’t necessarily mean more weight, like a couple of other helmets I can name that were recently reviewed on webBikeWorld…and which cost, oh, about 5 times more.

By the way, as long as I have the bully pulpit here, I’d like to ask this: Why hasn’t HJC capitalized on Ben Spies’ fantastic World Superbike Championship?

Spies wears an HJC helmet (it looks like an FS-15) in what HJC called the “Elbowz” graphic.

You’d think HJC would have been pushing the heck out of a Ben Spies helmet for the masses, but other than a press release, I never did see an HJC Ben Spies replica for sale — and I wanted to buy one. There’s nothing listed on the HJC website about it either.

Very puzzling, and one of the biggest missed opportunities in marketing I can think of. Can anyone explain this?  (Editor’s Note: See the Owner Comments (below) for more on this mystery!)

Anyway, maybe Mr. Spies wears a CL-16 when he’s tooling along on his Yamaha Zumo, so let’s take a webBikeWorld-style look at the HJC CL-16 in the Not Ben Spies yellow “Hellion” graphics.

HJC CL-16 Top View


HJC CL-16 Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality

One thing can be said for sure about the Shoei RF-1100 and X-12 reviewed recently on webBikeWorld, and that one thing is quality.

After ogling, handling and wearing those helmets, everything else looks like…well, just a plain ol’ lid.

The CL-16 will never be confused with the new Shoei designs, but let’s make one thing clear: the CL-16 carries a list price of only $129.99 (solids) and the Hellion graphics shown here will cost you one Hamilton more. This Hellion cost just $92.00.

The point is that this is a lot of helmet for the money, but don’t expect Shoei, Arai or Shark quality. However, the CL-16 is perfectly serviceable and well made.

The Hellion graphics are fine; nothing ground-breaking but colorful and although the helmet is available in a limited palette, the yellow on this one adds visibility to the rider, which is always a plus.

This one does have a few “dust mites” here and there under the clear coat; a few more than normally found even on the inexpensive CL-series, but I can live with that.

The clear coat feels slightly thin also, but again, not a problem at this price. Ditto for the budget-biased material used in the liner.

But, comparatively speaking, the CL-16 is what it is for the price and the overall construction feels sturdy, as does the standard HJC face shield and “Rapid Fire” removal system, which I’ll get into shortly.

Score: I’ll give the HJC CL-16 an “Excellent” rating overall for quality, but the higher-than-average level of dust bunnies under the paint (even considering the price) drops the paint quality to a “Neutral”. See the Summary Table at the end of this page for a description of our rating system.

HJC CL-16 Chin Strap and Chin Bar
HJC CL-16 Features: Comfortable chin strap padding is attached to the chin strap (L). Vent holes through the chin bar are exhausts, not intakes. The hook-and-loop material may be for attaching a microphone (R).

CL-16 Helmet Fit, Comfort and Internal Shape

The CL-16 fit hasn’t changed much from the CL-14, with a comfortable shape that is just a touch to the neutral side of round.

It’s a fairly neutral shape that should fit a wide variety of heads, and I will classify it as a “Slightly Round” shape in the webBikeWorld helmet fit classification system.

More information on helmet fit can be found in the chart that lists the helmet weights of webBikeWorld reviewed helmets and also by shape on the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.

HJC lists the size XL as fitting a 61-62 cm head, and I think that’s just about right, so I will assume that the rest of the sizes run true.

I don’t know how many shell sizes are used in the CL-16, but the helmet is available in sizes ranging from XS to 3XL, with the 3XL meeting DOT standards only.

It’s possible that a single large shell size is used for the XXXL only, which would mean perhaps a small shell for XS-M.

The next shell would be for L-XXL and a third shell for the XXXL. But I’m not sure it would make sense to have a single shell size for the XXXL, so the shell sizes will remain a mystery.

HJC CL-16 Shape

The shell used in the size XL does not feel oversized at all and the helmet seems very well proportioned to perhaps even slightly petite, compared to other helmets.

The removable liner is actually pretty comfortable and the padding feels adequate with no hard edges poking through. There’s a very slight amount of room in the forehead; this is the slight nod to neutral as I described above.

Also, the helmet does feel slightly tight just in back of my ears; maybe this is why they call me a blockhead…

The vinyl material used around the bottom of the helmet neck roll does look and feel like it came from the sale bin, so let’s hope it holds up.

I’m taking a little extra care in laying the helmet down on the concrete and such to make sure I don’t tear or wear the vinyl, seen in the next photo.

Score: I’ll give the HJC an “Excellent” rating for overall comfort and fit.

HJC CL-16 Helmet Liner
HJC CL-16 Face Shield Remval System
The HJC “Rapid Fire” face shield removal system. The bottom orange arrow indicates the molded plastic point that holds the face shield open for defogging. The upper two orange arrows indicate the upper two indents that hold the face shield in the half- and full-open positions. The red arrow at the bottom points to the Rapid Fire trigger release, seen just below and to the left of and surrounding the screw.


CL-16 Face Shield

One way to save money is to standardize, like when GM uses the same turn signals and controls on a Cadillac as they do on a Chevrolet.

This may bother some Cadillac owners, but the Chevy owners can rejoice in the fact that they’re using the same switchgear in the $50k car.

The same goes for the CL-16. HJC has pretty much standardized on a face shield and removal system, called the “Rapid Fire”. It works great, as you can see in the video (below).

It’s probably one of the easiest to use face shield removal systems going, and another bonus of standardizing is the face shield lock, implemented by a rocker switch at the lower left-hand side of the shield.

HJC CL-16 Chin Curtain
HJC CL-16 Chin Curtain
Don’t forget to buy the optional $5.99 HJC CL-16 chin curtain! It works really well and adds a lot to this helmet.

Another benefit of this standardization is that HJC has added Pinlock anti-fog insert (review) posts to the CL-16 face shield and a Pinlock anti-fog insert is included with the helmet.

This is the third helmet manufacturer (although I’ve lost count) recently who has apparently given up on even claiming an anti-fog treatment for the face shield and instead has gone to the Pinlock system.

We have mixed feelings on this. Although the Pinlock system does help to defeat fogging, the question is, why can’t the same be done to the face shield?

The Pinlock system can be a bit tricky to install and extra care must be taken to clean it. Also, it does slightly degrade the clarity of the lens and some owners report hazing or dazzling from oncoming traffic at night.

Back to the face shield rotating mechanism on the CL-16…

The downside of the system is the same two-position HJC lift mechanism with the “sometimes it works” defogging opening. Some HJC owners find that the first position works and some don’t.

However, it works more securely on this helmet than on other HJC face shield I’ve tried, but the problems that some owners report with this tell me that perhaps the tolerances on the molding aren’t as tight as the should be.

The small molded plastic tip, shown in the photo above, holds the shield in the defogging position. But there’s nothing to hold it from moving up to the second position (a rather useless half-open setting) other than the indents on the Rapid Fire mechanism.

Thus, the face shield remains slightly loose when it’s just cracked open a notch.

Nevertheless, it works, although I wouldn’t want to trust it at speed. The bottom line is that the face shield opens for defogging, then half-way, then all the way for a total of two (three counting the defogging opening) positions.

The face shield on this helmet is labeled as meeting VESC-8 standards and we measured it as 2.12 mm thick.

The eye port on the CL-16 actually provides slightly better than average visibility from the sides and top to bottom.

The chin bar seems lower than some other helmets and it allows a good view of the road and the instruments. Otherwise the face shield quality is also better than average.

The locking mechanism will keep the face shield closed, when the shield is lowered all the way and the lock is engaged.

The eye port gasket works and it passed the water evaluation, but the gasket is open on either side of the eye port so it is possible for water to enter the helmet through the sides.

By the way, the CL-16 does not have an internally rotating sun visor, which would raise the cost, weight and complexity. HJC offers a wide variety of tinted and mirrored face shields to fit the helmet.

Score: I’ll give the overall system an “Excellent”, just shy of an “Outstanding” if only the defogging position was slightly firmer.

HJC CL-16 Top Vent
HJC CL-16 Chin Vent

HJC CL-16 Ventilation and Air Flow

The CL-16 has a basic ventilation system that at least looks promising but unfortunately doesn’t deliver.

The chin vent works well with a standard slider for opening and closing. It appears to let in a lot of air, and if I blow into the vent opening I can feel the air through the vents in the top of the chin bar.

The chin bar has two holes on the inside, covered with mesh. Air can be felt coming through these by pressurizing the outer exhaust vents on either side of the chin, so apparently these chin bar holes are for exhausting air and not for air intake.

However, most of the ventilation in the helmet comes from under the chin bar and the helmet does not have a chin curtain, so the need for a chin bar exhaust system is questionable.

This is one helmet that really needs a chin curtain, and I’d strongly suggest to HJC that they spend the extra 20 cents or so and include one with the helmet.

I’m not sure if the design of the helmet is at fault or the weak chin venting system, but a lot of air (and noise) comes in from underneath.

In the meantime, owners may want to invest in a Windjammer helmet wind block (review) or aQuiet Rider (review) similar, especially for winter riding sans fairing.

I tried the Windjammer and although it doesn’t seem to change the ventilation levels, it makes a significant difference in lowering noise levels (next section).

HJC CL-16 Ventilation

The top vent operates via a tiny rocker switch on top that is very difficult to find when wearing winter gloves. The air is supposed to enter into a small opening and travel through a single small hole in the EPS foam liner, then to ventilate the top of the rider’s head.

But the hole through the EPS is at right angles to the top vent and the forehead liner covers the hole through the EPS anyway, so very little air can enter the helmet.

We pressurized the top vent and felt no air at all coming through the hole in the EPS, so it may be blocked, which sometimes happens in final assembly.

The helmet has exhaust vents at the lower rear and behind the slim exhaust cover at the top rear, but as with most helmets, it’s difficult to determine if they do anything.

Score: Overall, I’d have to rate the air flow in the CL-16 as “Poor”. The system has potential but needs more fine-tuning by HJC and we don’t think it would take much to make it work much more efficiently. We’d also like to see the inclusion of a chin curtain.

HJC CL-16 Rear Exhaust Vent


HJC CL-16 Sound Levels

The absence of a chin curtain as mentioned above and the overall shape of the CL-16 seems to cause higher than average noise levels from underneath the helmet.

The helmet seems prone to the “booming” low-frequency noise, especially when riding behind a short fairing.

Otherwise, the helmet seems quiet enough — about average I would say — but it’s difficult to tell because of the higher than average levels of noise coming from underneath.

A Windjammer wind block definitely helped me in lowering noise levels, which confirms to me that a chin curtain would be a good feature to include.

HJC CL-16 Noise Levels

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: I’ll give the CL-16 a “Neutral” score for noise control for higher than average noise levels.

wBW Video: HJC CL-16 Helmet

HJC CL-16 Helmet Weight

The CL-16 at 1702 grams weighs 2 grams less (negligible, I know) than the CL-14 we reviewed in 2005. This is a surprise actually and puts to rest the rumors that meeting Snell 2010 standards would mean heavier helmets.

At 1702 grams (3 lbs., 12-0 oz.) the CL-16 isn’t a lightweight, but it’s a reasonable weight for this type of helmet and it’s right in line with a couple of its peers, the Bell Sprint (review) at 1688 grams (3 lbs. 11-1/2 oz.) or the KBC Force RR (review) at 1705 grams (3 lbs. 12-1/8 oz.) and the HJC CL-SP (review) at 1713 grams 3 lbs. 12-3/8 oz.

The shape of the helmet and the fit work very nicely together however, and the CL-16 feels perfectly balanced in use, so no complaints there.

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.

Score: I’ll give the CL-16 an “Excellent” rating for reasonable weight, considering the safety standards it meets, and good balance.

HJC CL-16 Opinionator


The CL-16 has a better than average chin strap and the chin strap pads are attached (sewn) to the chin strap itself, so they always stay in place. Why didn’t I think of this?

And why don’t other helmet manufacturers do this?  Actually, I hadn’t thought of it before and have complained about chin strap pads that work their way out from under the chin strap. The system on the CL-16 is simple and it works.

The helmet a lightweight double D-ring attachment system and a plastic snap to retain the extra chin strap length.

The vestigial breath guard at the top of the chin bar includes three small hollow tubes that must serve some purpose, but I can’t decipher it.

(UPDATE: See M.C’s comments below).

Also, the inside of the chin bar has a wide swath of the “loop” part of a hook-and-loop system. I’m guessing this is designed for a microphone attachment?

The ear pockets are lined and are slightly shallow but thin helmet speakers will fit.

And finally, the CL-16 carries a one-year warranty from HJC. (Edit: Corrected from three years).


All I can say is that the HJC CL-16 s definitely a bargain, even with the few shortcomings mentioned above.

Any time you can buy a name-brand helmet, now meeting the latest safety standards, for less than 100 bucks with a Pinlock system included and a three-year warranty, you have a certified deal.

Add in a comfortable liner and fit and better than average visibility with a nice face shield and removal system and all told it will be difficult to beat the CL-16 in 2010.

More: Is the HJC CL-16 the World’s Best Helmet Bargain?

wBW Review: HJC CL-16 Helmet
Manufacturer: HJC Helmets List Price (2010): $129.99-$144.99.
Colors: Varied Made In: China
Sizes: XS-3XXL. Shell Sizes: Unknown Review Date: January 2010
Rating Scale is subjective: Unacceptable, Poor, Neutral, Very Good, Excellent, Outstanding.
Note: For informational use only. All material and photographs are Copyright © webWorld International, LLC since 2000. All rights reserved. See the webBikeWorld® Site Info page. Product specifications, features and details may change or differ from our descriptions. Always check before purchasing. Read the Terms and Conditions!


Owner Comments and Feedback

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From “D.M.” (July 2014): “My first helmet was a GMax 68S (review) and although it took awhile to get broken in, the plastic vent unit on top was crap and its mounting broke. Using epoxy to fix it didn’t hold. What I did like was the ventilation and the built-in chin curtain.

I now have a CL-16 that I got on sale. I can’t afford a helmet that I have to take a loan out on. I realize it’s insurance but…

I bought the chin curtain and the fighter pilot nose cover which was a pain.

There was no way to mount both at the same time. I got the nose cover because it was said that the visor fogged up when sitting still. Well, I always open the visor when stopped anyway.

I removed the nose cover to put in the chin curtain which caused difficulty when putting on the helmet. They were both a waste of money since I ended up throwing them both away and just used the helmet as is.

The cheek cushion was also an aggravation keeping me from closing my mouth squeezing my cheeks. I had to do surgery, cut the cloth and remove a section of black foam in order for it to become comfortable.

I have to get another visor since it got scratched at home while I was away.

The visor stays up all the time now since my ST1100 windshield does a good job of deflecting air over me. My dream, so to speak, helmet was an EXO-900 that I was able to try on at my local dealership and it fit perfectly with my glasses on. Next time.”

From “T.C.” (June 2012): “I have owned the HJC CL-16 for almost a year now. Loved the helmet at first. It’s comfortable and the price was right.

The visor mechanism has been troublesome. The tiny piece of plastic that keeps the visor fully closed broke after only a couple months use. Now when I turn my head the wind opens the visor slightly.

The visor has started to get stuck lately and will not open fully without some force. I have not owned many helmets, but this one seems loud at highway speeds.”

From “M.C.” (10/10):  “You mentioned this in (the) HJC CL-16 helmet review, “The vestigial breath guard at the top of the chin bar includes three small hollow tubes that must serve some purpose, but I can’t decipher it.”

The purpose of the tree hollow tubes are tabs to secure a breath shield in place. It’s an option for the CL-16, but it comes standard with other higher end models. I have a FG-15 and it comes standard with it.”

From “E.S.” (9/10):  “I purchased an HJC CL-16 (in size) XXXL in June 2010. I obviously have a large (oval) head, and am returning to long hair, so the extra space was welcome!

I travel summers in Oregon and winters in Nevada, so there is quite a temp difference, and climate also. I have the flat black solid rubberized model, as I drive a Harley with a small windshield and no fairing, and just won’t do the skid lid thing, even if it isn’t stylish.

You see, I love American iron; but I love my life also!  I even wear armored clothing!  So it is full face for me!

I rode in some harsh rain this summer and had no leaks, no fogging due to the Pinlock system. In Nevada, I rode on a 107 degree day and found the ventilation lacking but adequate.

I keep the visor polished with Novus No.1 and debris (bug juice) seems to come off easily, and it works on the rubberized outer surface also!  I feel I get good visibility with the Pinlock visor, and there is ample room for sunglasses or prescription glasses.

The noise level seems good to me, but I think I will spring for a chin curtain for this winter. I use a waterproofed fleece balaclava for the cold. That may be sufficient, we shall see.

Overall, I am very satisfied with this helmet. My shorty windshield and the aerodynamics of the CL-16 work together well to reduce neck strain at interstate speeds even when I sit tall in the saddle and get into the slipstream.

The only con would be the visor mechanism, in that, as good as it is, above 50 mph the wind closes the visor from the vent position. Not a biggie, but I would like it to be a bit stiffer and stay open particularly on a hot day!

Your website is really well done, and I shall refer others to it in the future. Great product reviews…thanks!”

From “B.B.” (7/10):  “I recently purchased an HJC CL-16 because it fit my head perfectly. For some reason I had to buy it in size XL after always wearing a size Large in every other HJC helmet I have ever owned.

I wanted a different helmet but I bought the CL-16 because it fit me the best of all the helmets I tried.

I do agree that the ventilation on the CL-16 is below average but I must disagree that it is loud. It is one of the quietest helmets I have ever owned.

I was very surprised because I ride with a small windshield and my previous helmet (AC-11) seemed really loud by comparison.

I do have a chin curtain for the CL-16 but I ended up not using it because it actually seemed to increase noise levels especially around the back of the helmet.

I love this helmet, I just wish it came in yellow. I have always owned a yellow helmet but bought the CL-16 in silver based on fit which is most important.”

Editor’s Note:  The CL-16 we reviewed is yellow. Also, as we state in each helmet review:

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.

From “J.A.D.” (2/10):  “This is my first full face helmet. I typically wear a 3/4 Bell with a Balaclava and glasses (I’m a cruiser rider).

I bought the CL-16 helmet at a local shop purely for the way in fit my bulbous, 7.5 inch diameter head. I would have spent much more but I put on an HJC CL-16 size XL and it felt like it was made for me. Nothing else fit. Arai, Shoei, Shark, Bell, etc.

The fact that it was $118.00 OTD and Snell 2010/DOT FMVSS 218 was an added bonus. I got some real sticker shock that day in the shop — $750.00 for a helmet….Really?

It was in the forties the day I purchased the helmet. Riding home I noticed a huge draft coming up in the front of the helmet by my chin. I had to stop and look and that’s when I noticed there was no padding or mesh around the chin bar.

Researching I found your site and helmet review. Based on review comments I installed a NOJ Quiet Rider Basic wind blocker (review) and all is well. No more draft, ventilation works great and the Pinlock system has kept the shield clear on 35 degree morning commutes for up to 1/2 an hour.

After that I crack the shield to the vent detent, clear the shield and motor on. While on the road the shield doesn’t fog.

I ordered the breath box for a CL-16 and the breath deflector for a CL-15/IS-16 (New Enough checked and the deflector fits the CL-16). With one of those in place, the helmet will be complete.

Nice review site. I wish I would have found it earlier. Based on your reviews my next helmet will be the HJC IS-16 (review) or its upgrade. It seems like it has all of the items I had to buy separate along with the cool dro- down shades.”

From “D.L.” (1/10):  “I really like the Yellow helmet!  Good review. The Velcro is likely to attach either the universal breath guard or breath box.

I would also suspect if you pick up a chin curtain for a CL-15 that it will work. I had to dig around but found one in their parts catalog for the cheap CS-R1 that I have. Really cuts the sound down.”

From “G.R.B.” (1/10):  “Just for your info – the CL14 was replaced by CL-15 then the CL-SP (a great helmet for the price, I rate it better than the newer FS/FG-15).

The CL-16 looks and sounds (by the review) to be an evolvement of the CL-15 but that chin strap and pads is found also on the CL-SP.

I understand the CL-15 and CL-SP may not have been made available to all countries. Great review as always.”

Editor’s Note:  We also reviewed the HJC CL-SP some time ago.

From “E.H.” (1/10):  “I just … wanted to let you know that there are in fact Spies replica helmets. Not one, but two, of both versions of his helmet, but neither of them are the CL-16 🙂  The first is the HJC FS-15 Elbowz II with the old livery, the blue camo and the longhorn skull. The second is also the FS-15 Trophy. This is what he wore this year in WSBK.”

From “D.M.” (1/10):  “In the beginning of the article you mention there is no Ben spies replica helmet, but if you look it up on their website, it shows, it is called TROPHY and the last year version is called ELBOWZ.”

From “N.O.” (1/10):  “They (HJC) don’t mention it simply because it is not a Ben Spies Replica! The FG-15 Ben Spies replica has a different Shell called “Prepreg”. It also is slightly lighter than ordinary FG-15.

It also has a race visor with tear-off preparation and similar visor locking system as Spies’ helmet. It is exactly same helmet that Ben Spies drives with all modifications that he has. This information was on the hang tags when I bought the helmet.

So it seems to me that there is no FS-15 Ben Spies Replica at all, only an FG-15 for European markets. The FS-15 Trophy is only an ordinary FS-15 with same graphics as the Ben Spies Replica. Thanks for great reviews and greetings from Finland!

Editor’s Reply:  Here are the FS-15 “fake” Ben Spies replicas on the HJC website. It is strange why HJC has not capitalized on this!

From “B.C.” (1/10):  “If HJC replaced the CL-14 with the CL-16, then what is happening to the CL-15, which I own, and appears to be on closeout everywhere?  Thanks for the review. I really appreciate the noise and helmet shape charts.

Someday, it would be wonderful to go to a spot on your site be able pick a helmet shape and see what has been released the last year or so.

So far, every piece of gear that I have purchased after reading your review has been spot on great!

Editor’s Note:  We didn’t mean to imply there was no CL-15. We didn’t review a CL-15 on webBikeWorld.