I’ve been in need of a helmet upgrade for quite some time now. Over the years, I’ve often leaned towards modular or sports-touring lids but circumstances have changed somewhat, and I found myself wanting something a little more sports-focused. As luck would have it, the good folks at Scorpion were looking for someone to test out their latest EXO-R1 Air full face helmet, and I jumped at the chance.
Scorpion is a new brand to me. Previously, I’ve stuck with tried and tested AGV or Shoei helmets for high days and holidays, and cheaper HJC units for the daily grind. Never anything fancy, and mostly in any color so long as it’s black. So, when Scorpion gave me the choice of a Fabio Quartararo or Alvaro Bautista race replica, I knew that my riding days were about to become a little more colorful.
I opted for the Bautista because as much as I love seeing Fabio battle for the title in the MotoGP, I thought Bautista was more interesting to watch on the Honda in last season’s WSBK.
What’s more, I didn’t just get the standard Bautista replica either. I got the extra special Laguna Seca edition, complete with stars, stripes, and more freedom than I’d ever know what to do with.
Scorpion sent me the helmet fairly early on in the year, and it took an unnecessarily long time for the weather to get good enough for me to really put the Bautista through its paces, but finally, I’m confident enough to give an honest review about this rather excellent sports helmet.
About Scorpion Helmets
Scorpion Sports USA is a subsidiary of Kido Sports, which is a Korea-based motorcycle helmet developer that has been in the helmet business since 2001. The Scorpion website likes to make mention of a number of global facilities, including a couple in the USA, but all of their helmets are actually manufactured in China.
But don’t be put off! They’re designed by an international team of helmet engineers from Korea, Europe, and North America, and manufactured to strict tolerances. Given that they’re the official helmet supplier to many global racing stars, don’t let the China connection bother you. Let the quality of the helmets speak for themselves!
If you want to know more about Scorpion EXO, I highly recommend taking a look at the sub-brand’s page on the Kido Sports website.
Scorpion EXO-R1 Air Bautista First Impressions
When the box arrived, I was pretty keen to see what a Scorpion helmet would look and feel like, and boy, was I pleasantly surprised. What surprised me was just how light it was, but more about that later. The box included the helmet wrapped in a padded carry bag, an additional visor (also wrapped in a protective bag), and a tech manual. Standard stuff. Out of the bag, the helmet looked fantastic. We’re talking bright colors, with an expensive-feeling finish.
Fit and Finish
Straight out of the box, it’s clear that this isn’t a budget-focused helmet. Granted, it’s a limited-edition model, so it should be something special. And it is. The race-replica graphics are striking and well-applied, with a mixture of sparkle and matt colors. Even a tea-drinking Brit like me found it hard to fault just how good those stars and stripes look.
The visor was unblemished and scratch-free, but I found the action to be a little clunky for my tastes. The chin-bar vent switch had a very smooth and intuitive action, but the top vent switch felt a little cheap and loose. In the right hands, it’s probably not an issue, but I’m quite heavy-handed and not particularly gentle when it comes to these kinds of things and I can see that breaking if I give it a slide with too much enthusiasm.
Overall, it looks great, it feels great, and the only minor problems are pretty…minor.
The sizing of the EXO-R1 Air Bautista is spot on. I’ve got an intermediate oval head with a circumference of about 57 cm depending on how unruly my hair has gotten. I opted for a medium size, and the fit is exactly as I expected: snug and secure. The cheek pads are just in the right place and it hugs your face in a nice and fitting way.
Long-headed riders should have no problem with this helmet either. The titanium double D-ring fastener comes with a fairly generous amount of strap to keep things safe and secure. For me, I actually thought the strap was a bit long and out on the road, I did find the excess to be a bit annoying, even after being popped down, but hey, that’s a small gripe.
Scorpion-EXO helmets also come with an AirFit Liner Inflation System. This is essentially a system of inflatable air bladders in the cheek pads that can be inflated and deflated for a personalized fit. Like Reebok Pumps, but for your cheeks.
If you’ve got a wide jawline, you probably won’t need to use it, but I found it added a nice bit of security, and it was fun to play with. It’s by no means new technology, but it’s always useful to see, especially if you often find your head is in between sizes.
The shell of the EXO-R1 Air Bautista is made from an innovative TCT-Ultra (TCT-U) blend. It uses a special blend of fiberglass that promises increased strength, improved impact force dispersal, and a lighter overall weight. And it certainly is lightweight!
The secret behind the EXO-R1 Air Bautista’s TCT-Ultra blend is five layers of special materials, which includes two glass fiber mats, an interwoven fiber mat, a high-performance organic fiber mat, and aramid.
The shell is available in three sizes, and for those wanting an even more lightweight experience, it’s possible to get a standard EXO-R1 Air (non-Bautista style) with a carbon composite shell instead.
The outside of the helmet is obviously designed with racing in mind, featuring an aerodynamic shape with a tidy rear spoiler, and unobtrusive, low-profile top vents.
Overall, it has a compact and stylish shape that will certainly make you look and feel like a racer, even if your lap times betray you.
On the inside, the Bautista comes equipped with the usual removable and washable liner that you’d expect from a modern helmet. This one uses KwickWick III fabric which is held in place with a series of snaps. It’s soft, hypo-allergenic, and doesn’t leave red marks on your dome. My forehead generally attracts sweaty red marks after even the shortest of rides, but not this time.
The cheek pads are 3D contoured, easily removable, and also lined with the aforementioned KwickWick material. They’re supplemented by the Scorpion AirFit Inflation System if you need a bit of extra comfort. This system is inflated using a small pump in the chin bar and deflated using a small bleed button next to it.
Behind the cheek pads, there are speaker pockets for riders who have speakers with a size up to 40mm. I don’t have a Bluetooth device, so I can’t tell you how comfortable and secure it is. However, the EXO R1 Air review should answer your questions.
Underneath, the EXO-R1 Air Bautista has a comfortable and well-designed neck roll, with an emergency-release system, that keeps excess noise to a minimum and stops unwanted drafts from creeping in. There’s also a removable aero skirt.
But back to that emergency-release neck roll for a second. It’s easily marked and well-signposted for first responders, and while many emergency professionals prefer not to remove helmets in serious situations, having something easily removable without any unnecessary fiddling around is always useful.
Now, the emergency cheek pad pulls are fairly ubiquitous and standard on most modern helmets, but this particular one is easy to use and can certainly be removed by anyone in the event of an accident. More importantly, it’s easy to replace too.
The helmet is secured in place with a titanium double D ring chinstrap, with really soft padding on both straps, with the usual snap to secure the excess.
So far, so good. But no helmet is 100% perfect and there’s one feature of the interior that I’m not crazy about is the eyeglass channels. The channels seem to be in slightly the wrong place for my face. If I wear glasses, the arms seem to align in the wrong place. It could be that I’m not wearing the right glasses.
It could be that my nose has been broken too often that I’m a rare case. But I’ve asked around and a few other riders have experienced the same thing with the EXO-R1 Air units. Again, it’s nothing major and it’s still an eyeglass-friendly helmet but be warned, this might annoy you.
The face shield is arguably one of the most important features of any helmet. For the EXO-R1 Air Bautista, the wide port is protected by a PinLock Ready MaxVision face shield. Two shields are supplied as standard, a clear visor, and a dark smoke visor. Since this is a race-ready helmet, the shields feature tear-off posts as well as anti-fog inserts.
The shields are kept in place with an Ellip-Tec II Ratchet System for quick and painless shield changes. Changing visors is an easy task and takes about a minute or less with this system, but the Ellip-Tec also helps to give the visor a sturdy seal when it’s fully closed too.
Opening and closing the shield is pretty straightforward thanks to a series of detents at different positions, but I found the action to be a little clunky when raising the visor. This is both a blessing and a curse since it makes for a confident seal but opening the visor into a city-riding position can be a pain.
As for the actual view, the shields were crystal clear and blemish-free and didn’t fog up, while the port offers a good peripheral vision.
Since this is a race-spec helmet, there aren’t any fancy drop-down sun visors or any other comforts, as expected.
The Scorpion EXO-R1 Air Bautista is DOT and ECE certified. While some riders might be put off by the fact that it’s made in China, I think that you should look past that. You can watch Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo and Honda’s Alvaro Bautista wear these exact same helmets over race weekends, and endure high-speed crashes, and if that’s not enough to convince you of their quality, then nothing will.
Noise management can make or break a helmet. Even the ones with the best specs can be borderline unwearable if there’s a hint of a whistle or unnecessary wind noise. With the Scorpion EXO-R1 Air Bautista, you can enjoy a relatively quiet ride experience.
Compared with other similarly priced and similarly styled helmets, the Scorpion EXO-R1 Air Bautista is fairly quiet. Noise volume can be fairly subjective and sure, things like the fit of the helmet and even your riding position can alter how a helmet handles noise, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this one. There are a number of factors that help to insulate the noise, and these include the AirFit cheek pads, the larger neck roll, and the aero skirt.
Combined, these features help to keep out the worst of the noise, making for an enjoyable riding experience. Wind noise is inevitable and the Bautista does very well to keep it to a minimum. If I were to place it on a scale between one and ten, with one being absolute silence and ten being like performing a drum solo onboard a Chinook, the Bautista would get a solid four.
As for any annoying whistling, I thought I’d be able to tease one from the top vent, but it wasn’t having it. Not even a hint of one to be heard!
The EXO-R1 Air has great ventilation. The airflow is powered by two main vents: one located on the top of the helmet, and one in the chin bar.
The top vent draws air in through a wide but aerodynamic intake that feeds into the EPS keeping the forehead cool. It’s controlled with a large slide that has a stiff but positive action. You’ll know that you’ve opened it or closed it, but the actual switch—or rather, the sides of the slider—feel fragile and a little loose. I’ve mentioned this before, and while it’s not a huge deal at all, it’s a shame. It lets down an otherwise expensive-looking lid.
The other main vent on the chin, however, doesn’t suffer from that problem at all. The chinbar vent features two large mesh-covered openings, controlled by a large sliding switch. Unlike the top slider, this slider feels strong and sturdy and offers really positive feedback. The chinbar vent airflow can be directed in two directions thanks to a small internal switch. Located on the inside of the chinbar, riders have the choice of having air directed towards the face, or towards the visor.
Overall, the airflow is great but you do need to be traveling faster than 40 mph to really get it going. However, for lower speeds, you’ll be better off with your visor open anyway.
On The Road
At this point, I’ve managed to give the Bautista a fair workout in a wide range of weather conditions, from freezing rain to warm early-summer days, and it works exactly how I imagined it would. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold, it doesn’t steam up, and while there have been reports of whistling noises from European reviewers, I was unable to make it sing.
The noise level was quiet enough and I really think that most riders, especially ear-plug wearing riders, will find it hard to find fault with the volume.
Despite the aerodynamic design, it does have a tendency to lift when you’re giving it some, but it’s not enough to give it a minus point. It is noticeable, but it’s not distracting and it certainly isn’t significant.
It is a racing helmet so it offers all of the benefits that you’d expect from a piece of high-performance gear, but it also makes compromises. If you’re looking for a helmet to commute to and from work on, or as a daily rider, this shouldn’t be your top choice. It will do it, but it lacks a lot of commuting comforts.
However, if you’re looking for something that will protect you in fast and sporty environments, where you can be more focused on lap times than the weather, then this is a fine and affordable helmet option. Even better if your surname happens to be Bautista and your racing number is “19.”
Note: By absolute coincidence, my father purchased the Scorpion EXO-ST1400 Carbon recently. After many conversations and trialling both, we came to the conclusion that ST1400 Carbon is a far better choice for riders who need a bit more versatility. It still boasts many of the same features as the R1 Air, but with the drop-down sun visor, it’s worth sacrificing the sports performance. Though, the ST1400 Carbon is noisier than the EXO-R1 Air, if you want our humble opinion.
In conclusion: the Scorpion EXO-R1 Air Bautista helmet has the fit and feel of a more expensive helmet from brand names that carry more weight. It proves itself on track for stars of the MotoGP and World Superbike Championships, and it will prove itself for regular riding from regular riders too, at a price point that everyone can afford.
Negative points were few and far between, and to be perfectly honest, the negative points that I’ve listed here are more for the benefit of presenting a balanced argument. Yes, the top vent slider felt a little cheap, but I’m probably not going to break it.
Yes, the visor action could be a little smoother when opening, but more expensive helmets can also suffer from this problem. And yes, the eyeglass channels could be better. It’s clutching at straws really. This is a great helmet with a premium feel for a relatively cheap price.
If you can justify paying the extra for a sports-inspired race livery and tear-away posts, then this is a great helmet for sport riders and track racers. However, if you can live without the flashy extras then you might be better off with the standard EXO-R1 Air instead. It’s just as good! But then again, this is a limited-edition unit, and paying a few dollars more for that extra exclusivity is always a sound investment.
- Eye-catching, race-inspired livery
- AirFit inflation adjustment system
- Titanium double D-ring closure
- Very comfortable to wear
- The top vent slider feels flimsy
- The visor action is a little clunky
- The eyeglass channels are a bit off for some glasses
- Manufacturer: Scorpion USA
- Made in: China
- Price as shown: $459.95 (as found here at Revzilla)
- Sizes: XS/SM/MD/LG/XL/2XL
- Colors: Red/White/Blue
- Safety Designations: DOT, ECE2205
- Warranty: 5-year manufacturer warranty
- Review Date: April 2021