Excellent value for the money. Meets DOT, Snell 2000 and the tough Euro EC22/05 or BS6658 Type A ACU approval standards.
The VR-1 is comfortable and lightweight at 1621 grams.
Airflow through top of helmet is slightly weak and the helmet is also a bit noisy.
The latest issue of a well-known motorcycle magazine devoted to sportbikes and racing arrived in the mail recently.
I glanced down at the cover and noted that the big feature of the month was a test of motorcycle helmets.
It’s kind of funny but also sad, I thought, because I instinctively knew what the result of the test would be. What else, but surely the Arai RX-7RR would come in first, closely followed by the Shoei XSP-II and the Suomy Gunwind.
My instincts proved correct — the test turned out just as I had predicted. It made for pretty boring reading. I chalk it all up to snob appeal — after all, no self-respecting street poseur would be seen in anything less that the “best” equipment, right?
And the “best” has to be whatever the magazines say it is. So, my rebellious character immediately told me that webBikeWorld’s job is to prove ’em all wrong, right??
Here’s the facts: there are definitely some great helmets out there that will do the same job and don’t cost anywhere near the five or more C-notes that you’d have to pay just to have the latest-in-cool logo on your brain bucket.
And I’d guarantee that if there was a blind test, where the users didn’t know which brand of helmet they were wearing, the results would be much different than if they first saw the logos.
Alternatively, I bet that if you put a Suomy logo on a KBC VR-1 helmet and told them that it was a new model and that the list price was $549.99, they’d think it was the greatest thing since lubeless splines and they’d immediately go reaching for their wallet.
I was introduced to the VR-1 at a local motorcycle dealer’s open house. The dealer is a custom shop that focuses on radical sportbike creations; he sells Suomy helmets and he just started carrying the KBC VR-1.
I picked up a VR-1 and immediately noticed that it had that lightweight feel of high-end racing helmets. It’s got a fiberglass/Kevlar composite shell, which brings the weight down to a light 3.4 pounds.
Turning it over, I was surprised to see something really different. The liner is definitely unique, both in look and feel. It’s something that KBC calls “Savoire Suede” — it has a really soft feel, almost like a cross between fine suede leather and microfiber (see photo below).
The liner uses the KBC “Aqua Plus” moisture control system, which is similar to Cool Max; it’s designed to wick away moisture and to keep your head cooler.
I always use a helmet liner anyway — either a silk liner or Balaclava in the cooler weather, and a Cool Max liner in the summer, but it’s nice to know that the standard liner helps pull out as much moisture as possible.
What’s really nice is that the liner is removable and there are separate cheek pads that are removable also.
This feature is very rare or virtually non-existent in any other helmet at sometimes twice the price — even the more expensive Shoei RF-900 doesn’t have a removable liner or cheek pads.
Sizing and Fit
I put on the size large VR-1 and it fit me like it was custom made — it was immediately very comfortable and the liner felt really nice next to my skin. I must have a super-sensitive scalp, because with many helmets I find that I can feel bumps or pressure points inside the liner; some, like the SCHUBERTH flip-up, are intolerable…and inexcusable at any price.
I like a helmet to fit over my head with a complete, overall snug feeling of firmness that doesn’t reveal any lumps. Unfortunately, many of the VR-1’s competitors, even the very expensive ones, don’t give me that comfort. I’ve used several different types of helmets recently, and I find the VR-1 to be more comfortable than either the Shoei RF-900 and TZ-II or the HJC AC-10.
The VR-1 meets all of the highest standards for motorcycle helmet safety; i.e., Snell M2000, DOT and the very tough European EC22/05 or BS6658 Type A ACU approval. These are the same standards that most of the other premium brands of race-type helmets are designed to meet.
So I contacted KBC and asked for a VR-1 to review. They sent me this VR-1 “Euro” model, which has new graphics (pictured) for 2002. I guess I should have asked for a favorite color, because they sent along the green Kawasaki model, which doesn’t really match any of my clothing. Hey, you do have to be stylin’ while you ride!
But the graphics, the color, the paint and the finish are so nice, that I’ve actually come to like this color. It’s a bit hard to tell in the photo (left), but both the green and blue paint have a really nice metalflake sheen.
The quality of the finish seems equal to any of the other helmets I’ve used, so it should last a long time. Hopefully, the bright green and blue will ensure I’m noticed by dozing cagers!
The first thing I noticed after putting on the VR-1 is how much visibility it offers through the business end, both in width and height, compared to my other regular helmet.
The lateral edges of the visor opening are all the way to the very limits of my peripheral vision. This makes a huge difference in the ability to see — and sight is so important when riding and especially when strafing the apexes.
I’ve mentioned in other tests that good equipment can help make you a better rider, and it’s definitely true here also. I can see so much more of everything around me without cranking my head in small increments like I have to with other helmets, and I honestly feel that this had the immediate effect of helping me to ride more smoothly.
Also, the quality of the visor is very high — it is crystal clear with no distortion. You literally feel like you’re riding without a helmet, because your vision is almost completely uncluttered by opaque helmet bits in your peripheral vision.
I’m also a stickler about noise. I always wear earplugs (see the wBWHearing Protection and Earplugs page), because I’m trying to save what hearing I still have — I lost a significant portion of it through years of abuse and ignorance.
On my BMW K75 standard with the awful BMW windscreen (this windscreen creates a huge amount of buffeting; see the wBW article “BMW K75 Windscreen Buffeting Fix“), the VR-1 isn’t the quietest helmet I’ve ever used, but it’s much quieter than my other helmets.
On this bike, due to the buffeting, there’s an interesting interplay of noise in two layers. At about 40 mph, there’s a higher pitched rustling wind noise that seems to come from the top of the visor, but doesn’t seem to change much in intensity as the speed increases.
If there are crosswinds, you get a much lower, deeper buffeting sound that probably comes in from under the neck. But both are at a frequency and volume that is easy to live with and overall, the helmet is pretty quiet, so this shouldn’t be a problem.
On a “naked” bike without the windscreen buffeting problem, I find the VR-1 to be nice and quiet. As I mentioned, I always use earplugs, so your results may vary, but on a naked bike, at any speed that I’ve tried, there is just a very quiet, mellow rush of wind noise off in the distance, which isn’t a problem at all.
There’s a fairly big vent just underneath the visor over the chin that can be opened or closed. This lets in a good amount of air up onto the back of the visor and into the helmet, and has a positive closure that shuts down the flow when required.
The bottom of my chin comes even with the bottom of the helmet, so there’s a bit of air that comes up through that area. This is welcome in the summer; it remains to be seen if this will make the helmet too drafty in the winter.
There is a complex system of venting and scoops for the top of the helmet — a vent on either side at the top rear of the helmet can be opened or closed. The air is supposed to flow through the front of the channels, and the vacuum created at the rear is supposed to pull the air through the top of the helmet. There are many perforations in the liner, which should allow the air to flow through.
To be honest, I really don’t feel any difference whether the vents are open or not, so my opinion is that the venting along the top of the head could be better. Although my head didn’t get as hot as it does in other helmets, you really don’t feel any air movement up there, which is a bit disappointing.
There are also two bottom vents at the rear of the helmet, although I can’t tell if they’re doing anything to move any air also. So overall, I rate it as pretty good in terms of air movement on the face, but it could have better venting along the top of the head.
I don’t feel any buffeting from crosswinds, so the distinctive shape must be doing its job. The lightness of the helmet, combined with the wonderful ability to see through the visor without restriction, makes you feel like you don’t have a helmet on at all. It’s almost kind of eerie, moving along with this beautiful clear panoramic view, but without the wind in your face and noise in your ears that are the inevitable result of riding without a helmet.
The VR-1 has most of the other features you’ll find on any modern helmet. The visor is very easy to remove; you pull down the spring-loaded lever (yellow arrow in photo at left) on each side of the helmet, push up on the visor, and it comes right out. It couldn’t be easier.
There’s also a small breath guard inside the helmet; I’m not sure how well it works, because the summer temperatures mean that there hasn’t been any visor fogging.
Also, the VR-1 has the D-ring type attachment for the , which is de rigueur on race-type helmets. It has a welcome snap to attach the extra length of helmet strap to prevent flapping.
One last feature — the VR-1 has EPS, or expanded polystyrene, in the chinbar, which is a protective feature that good full-face helmets should have.
The VR-1 comes in solid colors and the Euro model has the colorful graphics shown in these photos available in various color combinations. I’ve seen the VR-1 for as low as $179.99 in solid colors and right around $200.00 for the Euro version.
By the way, you also get a nice helmet bag as part of the deal. All you have to do is get over the fact that the logo may not be hot with the crowd down at the local squid hangout, but you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank! I get a much bigger kick out of getting my money’s worth than I do by trying to keep up with the latest trends.
By the way, the VR-1 weighs only 1621 grams on my scale; so far, this is the lightest weight helmet we’ve reviewed.
My opinion is that this is an incredible helmet for the price. It has all of the features you’ll find on the top helmets, and with the exception of the top venting, which could be better, you won’t find a better helmet for less, and you could certainly pay a heck of a lot more and not get any more comfort or features. It meets all of the world’s toughest safety standards, so what are you really getting when you pay two, three or even more times as much for a helmet?
Update on the VR-1 Loose Face Shield Problem
wBW Visitor “J.O.” wrote about a problem with the VR-1’s visor coming loose at high speeds under certain conditions:
“I managed to track down KBC in California today. A Very helpful person named Pete took the call and is supplying me with a slightly re-engineered helmet ratchet system free of charge.
I have two shields for the helmet and they both blow up when I turn my head. Pete said there has been a few reports of this problem and they have made changes to the ratchet they are sending me… I am sure the improved ratchets will fix the problem and if you get any similar feedback just refer them to Peter at KBC 818-526-7771. Thanks for your time.”
From “C.”: “I once had a KBC VR1 helmet, and found it a good value for the money, but not particularly impressive. Once the VR3 came out, I thought its low price made it worth trying.
The claims of low turbulence seem subjectively to be correct. It is less turbulent than my Suomy, and my head is not bobbing around as much. It is a bit heavier than the Suomy, but not objectionably so. Fit is good for my long oval head, with just a touch of forehead pressure. The interior is mostly soft and comfortable, particularly in the cheek area, although the breath guard is a bit close to the nose.
The only real drawback to the interior is the perforated material in the forehead that leaves you with a waffle-head after a ride! The helmet does actually seem a bit quieter overall than the Suomy. Venting is accomplished with a good chin vent that clears the visor fairly well, though the visor is not as fog proof as high-line helmet ones. There are also top vents and a rear vent, which does seem to increase flow and lower pressure inside the helmet. Finish is quite good, although mine is silver and I haven’t seen the graphics. A nice touch is the ability to peel off all the logos! All in all, the VR3 seems a better value even than its predecessor.”
From K.W.: “I read your review of the KBC VR-1 helmet. I completely agree with your sentiments on the snobbish attitude of bike mags and many riders. I’m tired of being told that if I don’t spend $500 dollars to get an Arai or Shoei that I’m doing my head a disservice. I love my new KBC VR-7 (very similar to the VR-1, the main difference being the chin venting) and the “Dark Chrome” finish is way cooler than anything Arai, Shoei, Suomy, Shark, etc… has on the market right now. I’m constantly getting comments on it, with people assuming I paid 4-5 hundred dollars for it. (I actually paid less than 100) Thanks for not buying into the name brand attitude of mainstream bike mags.”
From D.M.: “Based on your review and other reading that I had done I added to KBC VR-1 helmet to my list of helmets, even though I couldn’t find a personal recommendation from anyone. This helmet is really comfortable. I tried on just about every model out there and this just was comfortable from the onset. Light weight, good fit and finish – looks great and the liner feels better than anything else I’ve worn. Great venting – kept me cool when riding during 95+ degree days. Less wind noise than my older HJC and no buffeting even at speed.. The 2004 models also have almost every international helmet approval out there.
Only issue is that the thickness of the finish is a bit thin. Helmet dropped out of my bike’s &^^%(*^! helmet lock onto an asphalt surface and it took off the finish on a 1/8 in area. Size seem to run a bit small – had to bump up to an x-large when most of the other helmets I tired on were a large. Great looking/feeling/functional helmet at a really great price. Fantastic value overall. Thanks again for the heads up on this helmet!”
From R.S.: “I originally was looking for a helmet to wear during the summer which can be hot where I live…. I found that my Shoei RF800 was not very well ventilated at all, and was very uncomfortable on the hot days. After reading reviews on the the VR-1 on webBikeWorld, I included the VR-1 on my list of helmets to look at. I found it to a perfect and very comfortable fit.
It was light weight, the visor ratcheting system works very smoothly, the ventilation was much better than the RF800, and while not super quiet, the noise is acceptable even without earplugs for short trips, but since I too wear earplugs, its no problem at all. I now wear it all year round and I haven’t used the RF800 since I got the VR-1 (I’ll probably sell the RF800 on eBay since it’s just taking up space).
The removable lining and cheek pads is a real bonus on a helmet in this price range (particularly when you have hot summers), and I doubt you could find a better helmet for the money. I really have nothing bad to say about it.
One thing I did notice is that the ventilation seems to work even better when the somewhat thick and raised KBR emblem was peeled off the front of the helmet (it just peels off with no damage to either the helmet or the emblem), which I assume could have something to do with better/smoother airflow getting to the top vents?
Thanks for reviewing it on your website and giving me a clue.”
From “W.”: “I just bought a VR-1 Black Chrome model. I noticed a lot of noise at first too. It was a high-pitched whistling sound that was driving me nuts. The visor came loose on the way home, I put it back on (I got both the clear and the mirror visor; the mirror visor was installed during this occurrence) and guess what: noise stopped.
I bought mine in July ’03, so mine may have the updated ratchet mechanism mentioned below. If so, this upgrade may help the noise problem. Also, FYI, the sizes on the KBC run just a bit small (not as small as HJC do though). For reference, I wear a large in Arai, Shoei, and Suomy, a small in HJC, and a medium (which is a bit snug, but still comfy) in KBC.”
From J.D.: “My first helmet; bought a black one. I tried on a SHOEI RF900, an ARAI and some other one that started with ‘S’. The most comfortable was the KBC. It felt perfectly snug and the price was absolutely great, about $300 Canadian.
I couldn’t understand why the dealer was pushing this model when they could have sold me the SHOEI for about $800!!! Now I know. An honest salesman and an excellent product. I don’t have any other helmet to compare it to with respect to the noise or view.”
From R.J.: “After reading your article I decided to buy a KBC VR-1 Euro, my wife has a Shoei RF 800 and I had a low end helmet whose name I will withhold. The first thing I noticed with the KBC was the vision through the visor was crystal clear and the field of vision was quite broad.
I had to take it on the highway to check the buffeting effects, wow what a difference between a well designed helmet and the cheap ones. For the price how can you beat the KBC’s, they meet all the highest standards, are packed with features and look good to boot. Forget the snob appeal try one of these bad-boys and save your cash.”
From D.B.: “Hi there – never heard of the company, but bought because it fit nicely (I have a really big head…); and the price was right. I did try on the big buck brands and quite frankly, felt that the KBC felt just as good (and if not better) than the others. After reading above review, I’m glad I bought it. I agree that it does get a bit noisy at higher speeds. Great visibility.”
From D.M.: “I just purchased a VR-1 and really like it for the most part. I only noticed it to be a little noisier than usual and the shield fogs up quickly here in the mountains of North Carolina. I just couldn’t pass up the price and all the features it has. you just can’t touch a helmet with these features for the price, period.
Though I’m still wanting an Arai or a Racer-1 (if I can find one to try on) this will work just fine. A very good value for sure! Thanks for the article to help with my decision.”
From S.V.: “VR-1 SOLID. Rode it home today, 36 degrees, bare bike, expressway/backroad mix. In my first 60 miles with this helmet I learned some things: If you leave the top vents open your head freezes, close them and you’re nice and warm from mid-chin back. Use an anti-fog spray, I had to stop at the first open dealer I found to get some but its worth it. Very quiet (no earplugs) – if it seems to noisy you’re probably wearing one size too large, they are snug but comfortable when fit right. Good visibility. Very light, overall very good except for putting it on where my large ears got folded.”
From J.L.: “Rick, I finally broke down and took the plunge. $145 delivered from Helmet Shop; worth close to twice that! Fit and finish well above expectations, with good comfort. It is a bit noisy, even with earplugs, but not disturbingly so. A real bargain, and webBikeWorld deserve credit for leading me to it! Thanks JL”
From S.W.: “Just wanted to let you know that I bought a KBC VR-1 helmet from a local Honda/Ducati dealer in (S.W.’s home town) area after reading a review on the webBikeWorld site. I appreciate a review without the hype generally associated with big brand-name coverage in magazines.
The VR-1 is excellent. I was replacing a seven-year-old Arai Quantum that I paid over $400 for, and which was a great helmet. But the KBC seems just as good, is more comfortable, and cost me a heck of a lot less “cake.” Thanks!”
From P.J.S.: “Hi Rick: I purchased a KBC VR-1 helmet after reading your review on webBikeWorld.com . Very impressed with the helmet. I wish there was a little more information in the packaging about removing the liner, but aside from that, a great value.”
From “R.”: “Hi – Just wanted to let you know that I bought a KBC VR-1 Euro due in part to your review. I had been trying on various helmets looking for the “right fit”. During a visit to an area shop, the retailer handed me a KBC to try on. It fit very well…much better in fact than some more $$$ helmets. I left the shop and jumped online to do some research on the KBC VR-1 Euro and can upon your review….so thank you for your help. I have only worn the helmet for a little while but it is great.”
From “R2”: “I have one , and I find it to be VERY noisy. Whistle from the vents on top, noise on the sides too. It’s so disturbing, I’m shopping for another helmet. I have a 15 year old Arai with side panels ( supposedly noisier), and top vents that is much quieter than this one. I do not normally wear earplugs.”
From G.W.: “KBC VR-1 Helmet: When I bought my first bike this summer, I needed a helmet, since I had borrowed a beater from a friend to get me through the mandatory state Motorcycle Riders’ License training course. I wanted a full-face helmet and bought the VR-1 mostly because it was the one that best fit my face.
It’s light and cool and the visor has a nice ratcheting action, which is good for those of us who live along the Atlantic coast who ride on weekend mornings. Visors and sunglasses fog up in an instant once you hit a fog patch and it’s pretty scary when your visibility goes down to 3″ in a millisecond.
Cracking the visor helps clear this problem right up on all but the dampest mornings. The helmet is a great value for the money.”