HJC CL-17 Helmet Review
The HJC CL-17 is the latest iteration of the company’s “CL” line of motorcycle helmets, which are probably the world’s most popular helmet type.
The CL-17 improves on almost every feature of the already-excellent HJC CL-16 (review), including a new shell and redesigned ventilation system.
The internal shape best fits “Neutral” to “Round” shaped heads; indeed, it’s one of the few helmets that really works for “Round” shaped heads.
That the CL-17 can be found for as little as $125.00 is the icing on the cake and the helmet even is Snell M2010 certified.
Overall, the HJC CL-17 is an outstanding performer, with excellent ventilation and a real bargain.
It’s a worthy successor to the CL-16, the “World’s Best All-Around Motorcycle Helmet Bargain” and, in fact, taking everything into consideration, there’s basically nothing that beats it for any money in our opinion.
Hyperbole? Read on…
The CL-17 in basic Black, Matte Black, Matte Anthracite, Metallic Silver, Metallic Wine or White has a list price of just $139.99 and a street price of around $125.99. That’s not much of a discounted difference, but margins are razor-thin for helmets in this price range, especially when you consider the handling and shipping charges.
So we’re not expecting Shoei-like quality, but heck — we’re nearly getting it, because the CL-17 definitely punches above its weight.
The Metallic Silver paint on our CL-17 is perfectly applied, with no visible flaws…or at least flaws that matter, anyway.
Yes, if you hold it up to the light a certain way you may see a vague shadow here and there in the paint.
But you’d have to be really nitpicking to find anything and there’s nothing that makes a difference anyway.
The clearcoat is excellent also and it should protect the paint adequately for the life of the helmet.
Any minor flaws and the fact that the (stick-on) label reads “HJC” rather than “Shoei” or “Arai” doesn’t matter when you consider the way the CL-17 performs.
The helmet does more things right than, oh, about 99% of the helmets out there of any brand, type or cost. And by its nature, it doesn’t have the “curse” of a high-end product; that is, when you pay more (a lot more) for a Shoei or Arai helmet, you’re going to expect perfection.
And when you don’t get it, you’re ticked.
But when you spend 1/4 of that on the CL-17 and you get more than you expected, you’re pleased as punch.
You’ll consider yourself a shrewd operator indeed, by outwitting your spendy friends by getting this much helmet — along with its Snell M2010 certification — for the kind of dough that’s not even a down payment on the Shoei/Arai.
OK, so the face shield has only 3 detents (including the small defogging opening), which makes one wonder why HJC and others don’t emulate the fantastic ratcheting system on Bell helmets?
But that first small position for defogging counts for a lot; it’s something very few helmets offer and it’s a very real and very useful feature. The CL-17 face shield is even Pinlock-ready…although the actual Pinlock insert is optional.
The removable liner in the CL-17 is pretty much standard HJC, which translates to comfortable, with decently thick (if somewhat squishy) padding and a plush finish.
The liner is even grooved for eyeglasses, according to HJC, and it works, although there’s nothing special we can see in the liner that makes it so.
The CL-17 has a newly revised shell, with sharp lines and angles that give it a much more modern look compared to the plain ol’ standardly generically roundish “cheap” shell used on the CL-16, CL-15, CL-14 and just about every other sub-$150.00 helmet sold in the last 10 years.
The CL-17’s ventilation system has also been completely revised, with smoothly-operating vents that actually work, believe it or not. Not only do they work — they work well! Seems silly, right?
But too many very expensive helmets have poorly designed vents that don’t work, something we’ve ranted about endlessly in webBikeWorld helmet reviews.
Altogether, the fact that the HJC CL-17 offers this much at this price is the knockout. But the best part is in the wearing, not the looking.
This helmet hits all the right buttons and it does so many things well that it’s simply our favorite all-around helmet of any brand or type, regardless of price.
Score: We give the HJC CL-17 an “Excellent” rating for overall quality. See the Summary Table at the bottom of the page for a description of our rating system.
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HJC CL-17 Helmet Fit, Internal Shape and Liner
Almost all of the recent HJC helmets we’ve reviewed have the same type of internal shape we call “Neutral” to “Round” as defined in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ.
Shoei type heads or Arai “Long Oval” types probably should look elsewhere, but the “Round” heads who have felt abandoned by most of the other manufacturers should be pleased as punch with the CL-17.
This size XL CL-17 fits exactly as expected for an XL, although HJC lists this size as fitting a 61-62 cm head in one document and 60-61 in another. The standard XL sizing of 60-61 seems correct and a 62 cm head would be a tight fit.
Rick has an in-between size head with a 60.5 cm circumference that’s widest at the temples and the CL-17 in size XL is his favorite lid.
The CL-17 helmet shell feels very stiff, as it should with its Snell M2010 certification.
There are pros and cons to the Snell cert but it does give an extra measure of confidence to some owners. Not that it has anything to do with the internal shape, however…
The HJC “SuperCool interior” fabric used to line the helmet feels comfortable and the padding is thick, which completely insulates the wearer’s head from feeling any hard points inside.
The ear pockets in the CL-17 are adequately sized and lined at the bottom. The helmet easily fits a standard intercom clamp because the base gasket around the bottom of the helmet is the thin type.
All told, there’s nothing cheap at all about the inside of the helmet and it’s yet another feature that looks and performs better than the helmet’s price would indicate.
More information on helmet fit can be found in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page.
Score: We’ll give the HJC CL-17 an “Outstanding” rating for shape, comfort and thick padding.
HJC CL-17 Face Shield, Eye Port and Outward Visibility
We’ve pretty much covered the face shield features already, but just to recap, it has three detents, one of which is a small first open position for defogging.
The first position isn’t quite as accurate as the others, so you have to lift the face shield up via the tab on the lower left while not pushing too hard, which will pop it into the next full detent.
Then sort of guide it open and it stays there, resting 15 mm up from the lower edge of the eye port of the helmet shell.
The CL-16 does the same thing but it’s loose enough that air pressure or buffeting from a windscreen can push the face shield closed again. The CL-17 does it a little better and holds it more firmly, although it’s still not perfect.
All they’d need would be a more defined indent in the plastic molding of the rotating mechanism on the side to make it hold firmly.
The side-to-side visibility out the CL-17’s eye port is outstanding and we’ll call it excellent in the vertical plane. In back-to-back rides with the Arai RX-Q (review) handy, the CL-17 beats it in every way, believe it or not.
Slipping into the RX-Q after wearing the CL-17 is like going back in time; the Arai’s liner feels scratchy, the view out the eye port is greatly reduced and the noise is dramatically louder than the CL-17.
And to top it all off (hey — sort of a pun?), the CL-17 has better ventilation.
Did I mention that the CL-17 costs $449.96 less than the RX-Q? That means you could buy four CL-17’s and still have enough change to get the optional Pinlock insert.
OK, so you’re thinking — are these rubes really comparing an HJC to an Arai? Crazy as it sounds, the answer is “Yes”.
The CL-17 face shield passes the webBikeWorld water torture test, with a fully surrounding and tightly sealed eye port gasket. Not only that, but the chin vent, brow vent and top vents lock up pretty tight when closed, preventing any water from entering.
The face shield removal system on the CL-17 is a doddle.
Open it all the way, press the lever and the shield pops out. You don’t even need to hold the lever to replace it — simply push it in and you’re done (illustrated in our video below). And by the way, the face shield measures 2.11 mm thick, which is thicker than average.
Score: The HJC CL-17 face shield and outward visibility gets an “Outstanding”.
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HJC CL-17 Ventilation and Air Flow
The CL-17 has a completely redesigned ventilation system, with dual top vents covered by low-profile sliders and a single chin vent slider that opens a wing-shaped channel just above.
The top vents work exceptionally well and the reason is that you can look down into the vent and see a clear tunnel right through to the inside of the helmet. The air passes unimpeded by the liner or anything else, and this makes a difference.
The chin vent doesn’t have a direct channel for air through the chin bar, but it does flow the air up through the top of the chin bar and on to the back of the face shield.
So the chin vent isn’t quite as successful as the top vents, but overall, the system works better than most. And the CL-17 now has a brow vent, which operates via a single slider in the center that opens a slider on either side.
It doesn’t really seem to do much; the air pressure flows in and down across a gated vent system along the top of the eye port, which is strange. But, it’s there and something unexpected on a helmet in this price range.
There are three small slots in the bottom of the chin bar for a chin curtain, but it wasn’t available at the time of purchase and it still isn’t available from HJC even now, about 3 months or so since the CL-17 was first announced.
The rear exhaust event assembly is fairly basic but also effective. Two holes, one on either side, flow air through the back of the upper part of the helmet directly out the rear, under the diffuser.
Overall, the ventilation system in the CL-17 performs better than average, especially the top vents.
Score: We’ll rate the ventilation system of the HJC CL-17 as “Excellent”.
HJC CL-17 Sound Levels
OK, so we’ve been singing the praises of the CL-17 and here’s yet another verse. The CL-17 is very quiet, a combination of the generous padding, stiff Snell certified shell and the low profile top vents.
The vent on the CL-16 is one of the cheap single black plastic scoop types with the old-style HJC tiny rocker switch. It actually works pretty well also, but it can create some whistling noises, especially if you’re riding behind a windscreen.
The CL-17 has none of that and the top vents are very quiet.
The good sealing around the bottom of the helmet also helps, as does the helmet shape apparently. It might be even better when/if the chin curtain arrives, but in the meantime, the CL-17 is among the quietest motorcycle helmets we’ve reviewed.
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: We’ll give the HJC CL-17 an “Outstanding” rating for noise control.
This CL-17 in size XL weighs 1754 grams (3 lbs., 13-3/4 oz.), which is about mid-pack for an XL helmet. The weight is distributed evenly.
Other size helmets in this weight range include the Shoei RF-1100 (review) in size XL at 1746 grams; the Shoei GT Air (review) in size XL (with its internal sun visor) at 1757 grams and the Arai Corsair V (review) in size XL at 1758 grams.
Note that all of the helmets reviewed on webBikeWorld have been weighed and the weights are available on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page, along with a chart that lists the helmets by weight and shape on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.
Score: We rate the HJC CL-17 as “Excellent” for its reasonable weight and good balance.
The HJC CL-17 has a double-D ring chin strap attachment system with a plastic snap to hold the excess.
The padding under the chin strap is very nice and thick, long and comfortable and better than any Arai helmet we’ve reviewed (as one example).
The CL-17 meets the DOT standard and it’s Snell M2010 certified in the U.S.A. It is available in a huge size range, from XS all the way up to 5XL (XXXXXL). Helmets from 3XL to 5XL are DOT only.
We’ve been gushing about the HJC CL-17, so certainly you know by now we’re huge fans. In fact, Rick likes it so much (and is so happy he finally found a helmet that fits his round noggin) that he bought two of ’em.
You just will not find a helmet with this much goodness at this price, period. It does it all and as long as it fits your head shape, there really isn’t much more we could hope for or ask for at this price. Except that chin curtain…
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Owner Comments and Feedback
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From “S.F.” (October 2015): “Read your review and used the link on your page to buy an HJC CL-17 size XL (my usual in a helmet).
Unlike some of the others who have commented, I find it lives up to review: good quality, quite comfortable I have a round head and face), well ventilated and very quiet. Glad I got it.”
From “H.S.” (June 2015): “Noise: On me, wearing a Large that had the best fit (per recommended procedure yadayada), there is a virtual hurricane going on in the helmet above 65 kmh.
Wearing earplugs is no help because the wind inside the helmet blows across the ears. The best analogy is someone blowing across a microphone.
This is a common failure amongst the several helmets I have, but this CL-17 is the worst of the bunch on my head.
I think that the large helmet shell being used for smaller head sizes contributes. It is a physically larger helmet than the KBC VR-1 helmet it replaces on my head.
But where I was hoping for a quieter helmet, it is a disappointment.
I should say, my head is not round, yet this helmet fit the best in the store where I bought it. And, that I ride naked bikes. Yet, my handlebars are by no means flat; that is, no need for rearsets, etc.!
I note that this wind I complain about is mitigated when the rider’s head and helmet is perfectly level as it might be on a cruiser-style bike. But not everyone is riding “sit-up-and-beg”.
Inserting a chin curtain or closing the vents has no effect on this internal vortex worth noting. What does help, is a full tight fitting neck skirt to stop this breeze which enters at the straps and the rear.
Ventilation: All the above is on the plus side for someone wanting a well ventilated helmet especially, I suppose, behind a windscreen and /or navigating city traffic.
Liner: As to “very comfortable liner” of the review, I would say “Not especially”. The fabric used can irritate and cause an itch. Thank you for the forum.”
From “L.F.” (April 2014): “I read your review of the CL-17 and agreed with most of it. The top vents are another story. After using several HJC helmets for the past 6 years without problems this one has a design issue. The top two vents leak like they are open when they are closed. I can draw a breath through the closed vent.
On a cold morning this can be unpleasant and somewhat of a distraction as well. HJC made the CL-15 with nearly identical vents and they worked well.
It seems they have changed the material in the moveable part of the vent and it is too thin or too malleable in the wind. Whatever the case there is a significant breeze coming through at highway speeds.”
From “M.H.” (January 2014): “I just wanted to thank you for the great resource your website is for motorcycle gear. I have recently tried a Shoei RF-1100 (review) and while it is a very nice helmet it just didn�t fit my head right.
Anyway it turns out I am a neutral (to) round and after reading your review, I decided to try out a HJC CL-17. What a pleasant surprise it is. If Shoei build quality is a 10, this helmet is a solid 9.
Mine even came with the Pinlock lens in the box as well. I doubt I will ever use it though, because I shoveled snow for 20 minutes in -15 weather and no fogging at all.
If it had the plushness of a Shoei it would be almost perfect (I wear a head sock so that isn�t all that important to me). Anyway thanks again.”
After a down hill, gravel road, high side on a GS1200 under hard acceleration, the finish didn’t look so good.
Retired that helmet from active duty, although I still have it around to remind me what happens when enthusiasm exceeds talent. I’ve heard this should happen less as we get older.
Thanks to my Rev’it Sirocco jacket (review), Rev’it mesh (Solar?) gloves, Bohn under armor, Klim pants, and Sidi boots, only scrapes on the gear and some bruising on me.
Not bad enough to keep me from riding out the next three days of my “adventure” ride. Since all but the Klim pants were purchased after reading webBikeWorld reviews, thank you for the education/suggestion.
I’ve been messing with the pads on the NEXX for a while but just can’t seem to get it exactly how I like, but the light weight and large eye port makes up for it. I go-to the RX-Q more often because I don’t think about how to adjust the pads to make it perfect
Prior to the RX-Q my go-to’s were a string of Arai Quantums: E, F, and 2 (all size large).
When you commented on your preference for the CL-17 over the RX-Q, I had to find out for myself. Anyway (again), in the review you comment “This size XL CL-17 fits exactly as expected; HJC lists this size as fitting a 60-61 cm head and that seems exactly right.
Rick has an in-between size head with a 60.5 cm circumference that’s widest at the temples and the CL-17 in size XL is his favorite lid.”
My round/earth head is 60.2-3 cm as close as I can measure. So I figured an XL would be the right size for me.
Using the link you provided I was off to MotorcycleGear.com to order an HJC CL-17 size XL.
Had it in my cart, went back to check the colors again and noticed that MotorcycleGear provides a link to a HJC .pdf specific to CL-17 titled “Detailed look into the all new CL-17″, that includes sizing information.
On this documentation size LG is listed for 60-61 cm and size XL is listed for 62-63 cm. Looks to me like there might be a discrepancy in sizing information that I thought you’d like to be aware of.
Also, I was a little disappointed to find out that, according to this document, there are only two shell sizes. One is used for XS, SM, and MD (54-59 cm), and the other is used for the remaining SIX sizes, LG – 5XL (60-70 cm).
Wouldn’t have minded as much if the smaller shell went up to 61 cm, but it is what it is. If it works for me as well as it has for you, who cares?
I ordered a size large. Having dealt with MotorcycleGear/NewEnough I’m confident they’ll work with me if I got it wrong. Started out thinking this would be two sentences, oh well.”
Follow-up From “M.M.” (December 2013): “Received my CL-17’s today, a White/L and Silver/XL. The L fits me snug, the XL not as much, as you would expect. One of my basic helmet fitment checks is to shake my head left to right without the helmet strapped.
This was my first indication that the XL was not right for me. Even when strapped up the XL does not touch my face/cheeks and wobbles more than I like. For me the L is right, but I do like a snug fit.
I was concerned that the L might be too snug and be uncomfortable on a long ride, as it was very snug when compared to the XL. But, when I compared the CL-17/L to my comfortable Arai RX-Q/L (purchased from webBikeWorld), the RX-Q was noticeably more snug.
So, I guess it’s all relative and I really won’t know until I’ve had a chance to ride with it for a while. An overcast 40 degrees here today, so the on-road test will have to wait.
By the way, the Sizing Chart on page 3 of the CL-17 Owner’s Manual that came with the helmet lists L as 60-61 cm and XL as 62-63 cm. Interestingly it only lists sizes up to 2XL. Bottom line, I have a HJC CL-17 that fits, thanks to your review.”
Editor’s Note: We had two different documents from HJC showing different sizes. 61-62 cm for the size XL seems off; we think about a 61 cm “Round” head would be the largest size to fit comfortably in an XL.
Although as always, it depends on other head shape factors. The sizing information in the review has been corrected.