HJC pumps out new motorcycle helmet models faster than just about anyone, and it looks like the FS series is set to replace the AC-series of helmets in the HJC lineup.
As far as I can tell, the FS series started with the FS-Max flip-up in Europe, which we reviewed in May 2007 and the HJC FS-10 in North America (reviewed October of 2007).
According to the website of HJC North America, the AC series is no longer with us, replaced by an expanding range of FS series helmets as HJC’s premier line of full-face motorcycle helmets.
The AC designation now only appears in the product list on three HJC open-face helmets and two AC-series motocross helmets.
The AC-12 Carbon, which we reviewed back in July of 2006, is gone, replaced by the FS-15 Carbon shown here. It’s nice to see is that HJC has not abandoned the carbon fiber motorcycle helmet market — we’re surprised actually, because the popularity of carbon fiber helmets isn’t’ clear.
The FS-15 Carbon is very much an updated AC-12 Carbon though, with a kicked-up level of quality.
Some AC-12 Carbon owners have complained about delaminating and other problems with their carbon fiber helmets, and it’s unknown whether this was a consistent problem, an issue with early production runs or an inherent flaw in the design.
But HJC is sticking with the concept, so our guess is that the problems weren’t endemic and they’re forging ahead with new methods of production. I’d bet that HJC is now the largest producer of carbon fiber motorcycle helmets in the world.
We have not experienced any issues with our AC-12 Carbon, and a couple of years of experience surely has improved the process. The initial quality of the FS-15 Carbon shown here is nearly flawless, so we aren’t expecting any problems.
It’s also interesting to note that HJC has expanded their carbon fiber motorcycle helmet line to other helmet types, with the AC-3 Carbon open-face helmet and the AC-X3 Carbon off-road helmet. Can we hope that maybe a carbon fiber flip-up is next?
The FS-15 Carbon
I’m assuming that other than the carbon fiber composite construction and its resulting low weight that any comments I’ll make about the FS-15 helmet are consistent with the “normal” FS-15, which has a fiberglass composite shell.
The specifications for the entire FS-15 line seem otherwise identical, but in the absence of a non-carbon fiber version of the FS-15 to compare weights, I don’t know if the fiberglass composite version of the new FS-15 will weigh less than the similar-looking HJC FS-10 we reviewed.
Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality
This FS-15 Carbon is one beautiful motorcycle helmet. The carbon fiber layup is nearly flawless and I think it really makes the very sleek and modern — but not overdone — helmet shape stand out.
If I get right down there with a magnifying glass, I can find a tiny imperfection here and there in the thick clearcoat. Actually, they’re probably artifacts of tiny air bubbles left over from the clearcoat process), but this is really nitpicking and I had to look pretty hard to find (and photograph) them.
First impressions count for a lot when a helmet is pulled out of the box.
The FS-15 Carbon was — and is — a stunner, with its overall shape, styling and, of course, the very cool-looking carbon fiber.
Besides the impressive carbon fiber construction, the design and operation of the fittings, including the vents and the liner and the visor — all work perfectly. We’ve had some discussion about issues with HJC quality in a couple of our recent reviews, but the FS-15 Carbon indicates that HJC can still get it done.
The FS-15 Carbon is made in Korea (probably at the main HJC manufacturing plant) and perhaps this accounts for the higher quality than we’ve seen on other recent HJC helmets made elsewhere. I guess if the boss is right there looking over your shoulder, you better be getting it right!
I’m not sure how easy or hard it is to make a carbon fiber motorcycle helmet with all the required vent openings and hardware, but I’ll bet it’s not easy to do nor to get right. And then the helmet has to meet all of the relevant safety standards too.
The FS-15 Carbon does it, and it meets DOT safety standards and it’s Snell certified, which is impressive.
By the way, I don’t see a direct equivalent of the FS-15 Carbon on the HJC Europe website, so I’m not sure if this helmet will also be available in Europe and if it will meet ECE 22.05 safety standards.
In any case, the carbon fiber and clearcoat give the helmet a real 3-D effect, which we’ve tried to capture in our photos.
I’ll have to assume the same care has been taken on the fiberglass composite FS-15 helmets, and there are some pretty cool-looking graphics available, with an FS-15 “Prism” graphic that looks like a sort of holographic pattern.
In fact, I struggled a while to decide whether to get a Prism or the Carbon for this review.
Everything else about the helmet gives the appearance and feel of high quality and excellent construction. The vents are perfectly aligned and operate smoothly and positively; ditto for the visor; and the liner is very comfortable and perfectly aligned.
So overall, our FS-15 Carbon is a good example of the HJC strategy: provide high-quality, very functional helmets at a great price.
Score: I’ll give the HJC FS-15 Carbon an “Outstanding” for excellent quality, beautiful carbon fiber and clearcoat and excellent overall fit and finish. See the ratings descriptions in the summary table at the end of this page.
The FS-15 Carbon shown here in size XL has a comfortable fit that is just to the round side of neutral. It should fit a wide variety of head shapes.
The top part of the helmet from the brow up feels round and I don’t feel that long-oval empty space (my head is more round shaped on top) above my head or in front, so I’m not sure if it will fit extreme long oval types, but most neutral to round heads should be fine.
The helmet shown here, in size XL, runs about 1/2 size smaller than expected, so if this is true for the fiberglass composite FS-15 helmets also, then my feeling is that the XL should fit about a 60-61 cm or 60.5 to 61.5 cm circumference head.
HJC has a generic fit chart and their size XL shows 61-62 cm, but I think a 62 cm head, depending on its shape, might be a slightly tight fit in the FS-15.
I’m struggling a bit to think of another helmet that fits like the FS-15 — it’s not as fully round as theArai Quantum II (review) and also not quite as round as the Shoei RF-1000, but similar.
It’s also not on the long oval side of round like the Shark RSX (review). I think the FS-15 fits maybe like a Suomy Spec 1R Extreme (review), except the sizing in the FS-15 is a little more generous than the Suomy in the same size, perhaps because the Suomy uses a medium shell size for the size XL helmet.
As always, make sure you try the helmet on before buying, and try a variety of sizes.
The smallest size that fits comfortably is usually the safest. For more information on choosing and fitting a motorcycle helmet, please see the wBWMotorcycle Helmet FAQ page, which also includes a discussion on head shapes.
Liner and Comfort
The cheek pads feel wide and they fit exactly along the bottom of my jaw line. The padding used in the chin vents is slightly stiffer what I consider to be average and I can feel a tight radius at the edges of the front of the chin pads pressing against my cheeks.
This is probably a fit vs. head shape issue rather than a fault, but something to be aware of when you’re trying this one on.
The helmet does seem very slightly narrow or tapered inwards along the lower part of the liner, which may also add a slight pressure to the cheek pads.
But this is better than being too loose and I really don’t feel anything obvious in the way of pressure points when I wear the helmet for a couple of hours at a stretch.
The rest of the internal padding is on the thick side and also feels slightly firm, but the lining material is a very comfortable material that feels like a cross between fine polar fleece and flannel. This very much helps make the helmet feel very comfortable overall.
HJC calls this their “SilverCool Interior”. The liner is removable and claimed to be a “moisture-wicking and odor-free interior with advanced silver anti-bacterial fabric”. This is an interesting concept — silver is, in fact, used in a type of anti-bacterial cream called Silvadene, which is used on burns.
I once got a pretty bad burn from a motorcycle exhaust, and when it became infected, the Doc gave me a tube of Silvadene and it cleared everything right up, so perhaps there is something to HJC’s use of silver in the fabric as an anti-bacterial agent.
The FS-15 Carbon also has a deep helmet vertical shape without too much of the “fishbowl” effect. The bottom of the helmet is slightly tapered and the generous padding and neck roll helps prevent much of the unwanted air and noise from entering the helmet.
The helmet also includes a large wind block under the chin, made from the same comfortable fabric as the liner.
The ear pockets are slightly larger than normal and they’re fully padded on the outside.
I think the FS-15 would be a good candidate for speakers and a microphone. The bottom of the ear pocket does touch the bottom of my ear, but this is probably an individual fit issue rather than an overall fault.
Score: I’ll give the HJC FS-15 an “Excellent” for an internal shape that should fit the majority of head types. The helmet is also very comfortable with generous padding and the liner material is also very comfortable.
HJC didn’t give the FS-15 any type of new ground-breaking ventilation system; just a refinement of a proven design, which seems very similar to the vent system on the FS-10 we reviewed, along with other HJC helmets of recent vintage (although the vent switching assemblies are all different).
The top vent, chin vent and rear exhaust assemblies are made from a sort of rubbery finish matte black painted or covered material, and they fit perfectly and look great against the grey carbon fiber — not clashing with it, but enhancing the overall look.
The top vent is simple: push the easy-to-find, dimpled tab towards the rear and it opens the dual vents. They can be closed completely, half open or fully open, although fully open still leaves a bit of the air splitter covering the vent.
The EPS foam liner has large hole shaped channels molded in, and the air from the vents does have to circulate past some material in the top of the helmet liner, but overall, I’d say the vents do a good job.
During a recent 50-degree (F) temperature day, I had to close the top vent because it was getting too chilly up there.
The chin vent is equally as simple: snap it down to open and up to close.
There are two circular holes covered with grommets and screening on either side of the inner part of the chin bar, which is the preferred location if a microphone is going to be installed in back of the chin bar.
Some of the air from the front vent is directed through the chin bar vents, but most of it is channeled to the back of the visor, up through the small breath guard.
Even with the rather large chin curtain underneath, the FS-15 Carbon does seem to push a lot of air up under the front of the helmet, at least when riding behind a short windscreen.
Both the top and chin vents work positively and feel firm and secure. The helmet also has always-open, screen-covered vents on either side of the chin bar and always-open exhaust vents in the rear.
All in all, the ventilation system does seem to do a good job — not the best I’ve ever experienced, which would be, say, a 7, but this one gets a 5 or 6.
Score: I’ll split the difference here and give the FS-15 a “Good” for air flow, and an “Excellent” for nicely constructed switchgear, positive opening and closing vents and for the way the entire system is integrated into the styling of the helmet.
The main benefit of carbon fiber is the weight reduction, and the HJC FS-15 Carbon doesn’t disappoint.
This size XL weighs in at only 1514 grams (3 lbs., 5-3/8 oz.), which puts it way down at number 16 of the 102 full-face and flip-up helmets we’ve reviewed as of this date.
The FS-15 Carbon definitely feels light; I could tell as soon as the FedEx guy handed over the box. 1514 grams puts the helmet in some excellent company — there are only 5 full-face, size XL helmets lighter than the FS-15 out of the 102 we reviewed.
The next lightest full-face helmet in size XL is the “full race” Nolan N94 Casey Stoner Replica at 1499 grams (3 lbs. 4-7/8 oz.), and the next heaviest is the AGV Stealth we reviewed not long ago at 1536 grams (3 lbs. 6-1/4 oz.).
So the carbon fiber really does the job here, although the FS-15 is 47 grams (2 oz.) heavier than the HJC AC-12 Carbon in size XL at 1489 grams (3 lbs. 4-1/2 oz.).
The AC-12 Carbon may have sacrificed a bit of carbon fiber and clearcoat though, so if the FS-15 stays healthy, the extra couple of ounces you can’t notice won’t matter.
What weight there is in the FS-15 Carbon is very nicely balanced, giving me that “where’s the helmet” feeling when I’m riding with it that only a super-lightweight helmet can provide.
Anyone who thinks weight doesn’t matter in a motorcycle helmet should try one of these — you’ll be amazed!
Score: The HJC FS-15 Carbon gets an “Outstanding” rating from me for its light weight that is also well balanced.
The FS-15 Carbon uses HJC’s now-perfected “RapidFire” visor removal system.
Sure, it has a few more moving parts than some others, but one of the secrets of HJC’s success is their ability to stick with a design — whether it’s a ventilation system, liner material or visor removal system — and perfect it.
See our video for a demonstration of how it works, but all I can say is it’s as easy as can be. Lift the visor all the way up until the two arrows line up; push the trigger and the thing pops right off. Putting it back in is maybe a hair trickier, but this has to be one of the easiest and most positive systems around.
Plus, the visor comes with HJC’s locking system; push in the rocker switch on the left-hand side and the visor will lock shut, for racing or riding at extra-legal speeds.
Visor clarity is very good and the range of visibility is average in both side-to-side and top-to-bottom dimensions.
The visor has a slightly larger than normal lifting tab on the left-hand side, which is very useful. The visor shuts positively and seals perfectly around the entire eye port gasket.
HJC says the visor provides 95% protection from UV rays and it’s coated with an anti-scratch and anti-fog coating. HJC has also included Pinlock studs on the inside of this visor, so the Pinlock anti-fog system (review) can be used as an option.
The standard clear visor seems to be relatively fog resistant once air is moving over the helmet and through the chin vent, where it filters up on to the back of the visor for defogging.
Note that there are gaps on either side of the visor, along the very edges, where there is no eye port gasket material by design.
So it may be possible that some water can enter the sides of the visor, but I haven’t found a helmet yet that’s waterproof — if it is, it will also probably be so foggy inside you wouldn’t be able to see anyway.
The visor can be cracked open very slightly, maybe about 3 or 4 mm, for defogging. The next detent is at the half-way point and the only other detent is at the fully opened position.
All I need is fully open and the ability to slightly open the visor for some fresh air or defogging when necessary, so I’m happy.
And finally, I can wear wire-framed sunglasses with the helmet.
Score: I’ll rate the visor clarity, operation and visibility of the HJC FS-15 Carbon as “Very Good”.
The light weight and the carbon fiber do not mean that the FS-15 Carbon feels flimsy or isn’t able to attenuate noise as well as a helmet with a shell of different construction.
In fact, I’d say the helmet is quieter than normal, both when riding behind a short windscreen and on an unfaired bike.
There is a slight wind rushing noise from the top vents which can change in pitch slightly when the head is moved side-to-side, but overall, the FS-15 is relatively quiet, in my opinion.
The generous padding around the bottom, or “neck roll”, the chin curtain and the slightly tapered fit of the shell, along with the overall sleek shape with nicely integrated vents seem to help make the helmet slice through the air with relative quiet.
The turbulence-induced noise around the bottom of the shell is controlled better than the average helmet.
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 wBWEarplug 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.
Score: I’ll give the FS-15 Carbon a “Very Good” rating for noise control.
wBW Video: HJC FS-15 Carbon Helmet
The HJC FS-15 helmet line in fiberglass and carbon fiber composite meets both DOT and Snell safety standards.
The FS-15 Carbon uses the preferred D-ring attachment system and the chin strap padding is quite good. The end of the strap is secured with a large metal snap. The chin strap seems more comfortable than average.
HJC provides a better than average, lined helmet bag with the FS-15 Carbon; it looks like a duffle bag and it has pockets for an extra visor. I don’t know if this same type of deluxe helmet bag comes with the standard FS-15.
The FS-15 Carbon has a 3-year warranty, according to the documentation in the helmet box.
The HJC FS-15 Carbon is a very impressive helmet, combining great looks with sleek, modern styling that isn’t overdone, along with very light weight, a comfortable interior and high-quality fittings.
I can only assume that everything I’ve said here, with the exception of weight, goes for all of the other FS-15 helmets.
This means that HJC is back, with the value + quality equation that they’ve been known for and which, we think, may have been missing from some of their other recent helmet designs.
The best part of the deal is the outstanding HJC pricing structure — the FS-15 Carbon has a list price of $449.99 in the U.S.A., which is a screamin’ deal for a carbon fiber motorcycle helmet of this quality.
But a basic solid color FS-15 (and you can get one in bright safety yellow!) is $219.99. The graphics and metallics range from $224.99 to $269.99, which we also think is a bargain.
From “N.P.” (04/11): “Wanted to add my $.02 regarding my new FS-15 Carbon helmet. Spring has been VERY slow arriving here so I’ve only had one chance to use it. Last Sunday the temps hit 85 F and I got to enjoy a 100+ mile ride.
Based on that one ride I can say the new HJC fits perfectly and is very comfortable. 85 F is warm enough to test the ventilation and it seems to do quite well.
What really impressed me is how light and quiet it is. Much quieter than the KBC Force RR it replaces. The other thing I noticed is how stable the HJC is a super-legal speeds – the KBC was trying to lift off my head at the same speeds.
HJC claims this helmet is “Wind Tunnel Tested” and that appears to be the case.
The face shield is optically perfect – none of the lines/distortion mentioned by another owner. And did I say it is beautiful, to boot? My wife said that carbon fiber is to men what shoes are to women. I relied to a large extent on your review in deciding to purchase this helmet and am not disappointed.”
From “A.P.” (04/11): “I’ve only had my Carbon a couple weeks, but I’ve used it enough I can compare it to my old SparX helmet.
The most noticeable upgrade is the weight, very light and feels “barely there”.
Also much more stable than the SparX, and for me at least it seems easier to turn my head and look over my shoulder. I don’t know if this is due to the lighter weight, aerodynamics, or maybe a different shape giving me a greater field of vision.
The ventilation is also very good, at least compared to my old helmet. I can definitely feel a great difference between having the brow vents open and closed, and I also notice a difference between the chin vent open or closed.
Overall it is a beautiful helmet and seems very well made and very comfortable, and I would without a doubt buy another one. This is now the 4th piece of gear I have bought after reading a webBikeWorld article, and I have found that all four reviews were on the mark and truthful.
I just wanted to add, for anybody interested in buying one of these there currently seem to be 2 price levels, brand new ones and closeouts.
I emailed HJC and asked if the older, Snell 2005 helmets are different than the newest Snell 2010 rated ones and the response I received indicated that it is the same helmet, just with a newer rating.
I am taking HJC’s response to mean that even the older Snell 2005 helmets meet the newest standards, if anybody has any information to the contrary I’d like to know.”
From “J.D.” (1/10): “Thought I would add some comments on the FS-15. I do not have the carbon fiber, but the regular style. It is my quietest helmet so far. I purchased one on sale for $129 a few weeks ago.
I just recently bought a Shoei RF-1000 on sale for $180 thinking it might be quieter than the HJC – wrong. The HJC is a good bit quieter. I had to get a XL in the Shoei, but a Large in the HJC. I have three motorcycles that I ride – ’08 ZX-14, ’04 ZZR1200 and ’08 Suzuki Bandit.
My third helmet is a SparX S-07. It is the loudest of the three.
I could ride the ZZR and Bandit without ear plugs if I wore the HJC. It is that quiet. Neither of these bikes have the OEM windscreen. The ZX-14 screen puts a little too much wind at helmet level to ride without plugs.”
From “G.B.” (1/10): “I got a non-carbon FS-15 (Surge) today as my existing HJC AC-11 isn’t bad – just old and ratty.
FS-15 compared to AC-11: Better: Fit, looks, ventilation, finish, visor quality (distortion), visor fit, ease of visor.
Worse: Noise – way worse. Noise filters much of the low tones but wind noise is very loud. Whistling. The tones it does let through, makes the v-twin sound strange; it de-emphasizes what you want to hear. I didn’t expect this on a (bike without a windscreen).
If the FS-15 had the noise level of my AC-11, it would be very good. I will try foam in ear areas to reduce noise. I will have to get ear plugs to wear this one if I can’t control the level.
Cheers and thanks for the reviews.
Editor’s Note: We recommend always wearing a good set of ear plugs when riding.
From “M” (9/09): “Thanks for another great review! This helmet does feel lighter than my Shark RSR, Suomy Extremes, and Arai RR4.
Fortunately, the shields I purchased (dark smoke and silver) did not have any lines of distortion. However, the size small helmet has a generous fit, which required me to place additional padding in the back…still too loose for a racetrack environment.
For those who usually wear a size small, you will want to buy a size extra-small for a proper fit.”
From “P.K” (7/09): “I must agree with your evaluation of the Carbon fiber FS-15. Absolutely the best fit of any helmet I have had on my round head. Finish is very nice, liner is very comfortable and it flows a good amount of air and it’s quiet (with earplugs of course).
Overall I would give this helmet five stars except for the 1/2 star substandard shield, I am so disappointed that a four hundred dollar helmet built this well would have this piece of crap shield.
It’s not just the one that came on it either, I bought a dark tinted shield at a Honda dealership and ordered another from BikeBandit, two are the 3D and one was an anti-fog 2D, all three have lines of distortion directly center and on both sides.
I checked my other helmets, two Nolans, an old Bell star II, and my wife’s Vega, none of these have any distortion in the shield. I emailed HJC, they said all their shields were distortion free, BS, I’m going to try and sell this helmet and never buy HJC again.
Please let others know, if distortion does not bother you, I have a med FS-15 with 3 shields I’ll let go of cheap. Thanks.”
From “C.F.” (2/09): “I was looking for a helmet and knew absolutely nothing about them since I am new to riding. Your reviews are the best hands down!
I was looking for a quality helmet without the Arai price tag. I read a review on the AC-12 CF helmet and decided that it would be my next purchase.
I went to the shop to purchase it and the gent let me know that the AC-12 CF is old hat and the FS-15 is the replacement, so I purchased it anyways. I now realize that there have been huge improvements from the AC-12 to the FS-15.
I’ve had this helmet for 5 months now and I would still say this helmet was by far the best bang for buck investment. Design, air flow, safety, fitting and overall quality are above top notch.
It’s comfortable for long rides and also pleasant to use as an everyday commuter. The aerodynamics of the helmet also assist in windy conditions.
Let’s not forget to mention the glossy CF detail of the helmet. As you can see I am very pleased with my purchase and have no one else to thank but the great writers at your website. THANK YOU!!!!
PS Woot, The FS-15 tied for 2008 Helmet of the Year!”
From “DJW” (11/08): “I’ve been considering a CF helmet for a while as I wanted something lighter than the well-worn Shoei Multitec I have. I’ve always preferred Shoei helmets and they’ve always fit my round XXL head best.
I looked for a while at the AC-12 Carbon Fiber and it didn’t really fit well. While at a recent motorcycle show, I tried the FS-15 and it was an improvement over the AC-12. There is also ample room for me in front of the chin bar – more than the Multitec in fact.
And the Pinlock visor is a plus as I’ve grown to like this with the Shoei.
I was worried the FS-15 in XXL would run small, but it is just fine. Although so-far I only have a couple hundred miles on the FS-15, it seems to me to be a very quiet, very light, well-built helmet with good ventilation. I like it.
I may go back to the flip-up Multitec for our blistering Texas 100++ summers (gasp! Open the barn door!), but the FS-15 Carbon is a keeper and not all that expensive if you shop a bit. Keep an eye out for coupons and sales during the holidays is a tip I’d pass along to your readers – this tipped the scale for me.
Fingers crossed for a light Carbon Fiber flip-up someday soon from one of the round-head makers.”