KBC Racer-1 Motorcycle Helmet Owner Report
wBW Visitor “K.S.” from Taipei, Taiwan reports on the KBC Racer-1 Retro motorcycle helmet:
“The Racer is very similar to the VR-1 in many ways. Some of the key differences include styling, and the side shields which must be pulled and spun before the tool-less shield is removed, but after doing it successfully once, it is not difficult at all.
Like the VR-1, it is a composite shell (mostly fiberglass), with a removable liner, Venturi top vents, etc., so it really can be reviewed alongside the VR-1, with little difference between them in features and comfort.
The Retro graphics are very sharp looking, to which I have added a sun shade, third brake light (Signalfly – see wBW review – Editor), and additional vents (see photos). Great helmet, but two major problems for me:
First, since I have a long oval head, and because the KBC’s run SO small, this XXL helmet put a lot of pressure on my forehead, just like my Wolf. Although I used a Tippi hot wire foam cutter to trim the EPS core to solve this, the liner remained a problem, because the polka-dot holes cut in it for air flow (like the Wolf and VR-1 liners) still left chicken-pox-like bumps all over my bald forehead. If you have a hot spot on a bald area with this kind of liner, you’re gonna end up lookin’ diseased!
Furthermore, beneath the “Savoir Suede” surface is a layer of springy plastic open-cell mesh (I think it’s vinyl, not foam), designed to create maximum airflow. However, the wiry edges of the cells can push out through the liner!&s polka-dot holes if you have a hot spot, and on a bald area, the protruding mesh feels rough and irritating.
I guess if the helmet fits you well, you have hair, and add a cushy liner, you won’t feel these problems at all, so I’m not surprised Rick and fellow readers didn’t notice this in the similar VR-1, but for me, with my long oval head and protruding bald forehead, they were intolerable. So I had to do major surgery to replace much of it with brushed cotton cloth, which was worth it because I do like the helmet.
The removable cheek pads, which snap out, also have a separate, triangular section which is separately removable, i.e., it’s attached to the cheek pads with Velcro. This is right in the area where the ear pieces of eyeglasses go, so that by removing them, I was able to create room to put my eyeglasses on. The Wolf has the same feature – very nice!
The second major problem was that all the extra venting, while appreciated, really still doesn’t bring in enough air, at least not enough for hot humid Taipei summers peaking around 97 degrees F (36 C). On my Caberg Justissimo (aka Jarow Mono X2 – Editor), I can feel (and hear) the effect of opening the top vent, but not on the KBC’s.
So I cut extra 22 vent holes in the side jaw area (see photos) with a Dremel, and reinforced them with layers of epoxy, carbon fiber and Kevlar cloth and yarn. (Editor’s note: modifications to motorcycle helmets are not recommended). After building up some thick reinforcement, the helmet is clearly now far stronger in this area than it was originally. (Definitely don’t make cuts like this unless you’re going to do some composite reinforcement, folks!)
I repainted the edges with black and gold to match the Retro, then used a Tippi hot wire foam cutter to scoop an air channel in the EPS from them to the either side of the front chin vent, where I installed two super-light, quiet 50mm 5V fans running on AAA!&s. Now there’s finally enough air flow for our subtropical summers.
Overall, I do love all the features and quality of the helmet, and it looks fantastic! Definitely worth the price!”
wBW visitor “N.P.” reports on the KBC Racer-1 helmet:
“I have been a biased Shoei wearer for many years, having established years ago that I was only comfortable in Shoei and occasionally Arai helmets. At the end of 2003 I needed to replace my aging Shoei RF700, so I did some web research first. After reading your review of the KBC VR-1, I tracked a place down in Sydney that sells KBC and rang them up. The salesman was not pushing any particular brand over the phone, until I asked if he carried KBC – he then got so enthusiastic it didn’t sound like the same guy.
I went in and tried many helmets at all price points including these details that I remember from Arai (last year’s Quantum model, A$750 for a plain colour), Shoei (RF900, plain, last year’s model, A$600 – note that Shoei’s web site shows this model will be discontinued in mid-2004!), Suomy – no sizes in stock for me, HJC King Mingus – ditto. All were OK, but none I tied on had removable linings which I really wanted, as I perspire a lot in the Australian summer heat.
Finally I asked about KBC – as the price was so good, I only tried the top-of-the-line KBC Racer-1 Comet model on. I have a Shoei XL size head, but the KBC in the same size was too small. The shop only had a plain black XXL which I tried on and it fitted me perfectly. It was priced at an unbelievable (and undiscounted) A$400 with a clear visor. I have never liked solid black helmets, but the finish of this helmet was so good I just wanted it there and then. The graphics detailing on smaller model was outstanding, especially when they only add another A$49 to the cost of the lid – Arai and Shoei charge up to another A$150 for a decorated helmet, however I couldn’t wait…..
A gold Iridium visor added another A$59 – how’s that for value when a similar Shoei visor costs A$109!!!
The helmet came with a protective cloth bag, at least as good as an Arai bag. The visor is easy to change, and it looks very sharp as a black / gold combo.
The ventilation is the best I have ever encountered (it’s so good I am wondering if it will be too cold in Canberra’s -5C winter mornings). The fit is exceptional. The linings are easy to remove and, as important, to replace – even the chinstrap has removable, washable comfort covers. It is pretty quiet. The vision is better than the Shoei – it has a wider cut out making peripheral vision broader, and the all important crouch-down vision (I ride a Kawasaki ZX-7R as a commuter bike, carrying a suit and a laptop PC to my consulting work) is much better – I can see more in front at the same neck angle as I could in my Shoei. The helmet even has tear-off fittings on the visor.
I wanted to buy a couple of dark visors and another lining set when I bought the helmet, but the salesman told me that these helmets are so new and also so popular that the distributor couldn’t supply them with enough stock, so I will have to mail order a set.
In summary, don’t bother with Shoei or Arai helmets if they are the right shape for your head – try the KBC Racer-1 instead and I guarantee that you will be knocked out by the quality, fit and finish, and save a wad of money whilst also looking pretty sharp, and best of all, different from the rest of the “me too” pack. I will definitely be buying KBC again. The visors are completely different as the Racer-1 uses side pods like an Arai. I have 2 shields – clear and gold – still with the factory vinyl protection attached. Just so you know, they carry Australian Standards certification (mandatory for road use here) and there is a big fat Snell Memorial Foundation Approved sticker on the back of the helmet too.
The Racer-1 seems to have a different shaped shell – there is no rear “ridge” as on some of the lower models. I had a conversation with my local Kawasaki dealer yesterday (buying summer gloves as it was 35 C here) and they had a top-of-the-line limited edition Shoei for A$1,150. We had a conversation about helmet values, and the sales guy said he owned one of these top line Shoei for track days only, and went on to say that it is no good for extended road use as the lining is too thin and it’s too noisy. Guess what he uses for the road – a KBC Racer-1!
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