Unboxing the Simpson Speed Bandit had me feeling like a kid on Christmas morning, giddy with excitement. Simpson Performance Products dates back to the late 1950s as a safety products company for the racing world. Legends of drag racing such as “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, took early notice of Simpsons products and the company quickly began to flourish.
The basic Bandit look has been a staple of the Simpson lineup since 1979. Many variations of the Bandit model and its unique “Star Wars” style, have been produced. Some popular figures wear Bandits, most notably for me being “The Stig”, from the BBC series Top Gear.
See also: Simpon Mod Bandit review.
Simpson Speed Bandit Features
The Speed Bandit came nicely boxed, and upon opening, I was greeted with a blemish-free shiny black paint job, a basic black cloth storage cover, and… that’s all. Well, that’s fine, I mean this is a sub $300.00 helmet, right? Simpson has been synonymous with racing forever, with such experience I expect to find some quality features in the Speed Bandit. I quickly shake off the tiny disappointment at not seeing any extra pads, or even a Simpson sticker and take a good look at this melon protector.
My first reaction is that this helmet looks great and seems like it’s on the lighter side of average, the DOT sticker shows a weight of 1540 grams but I don’t have a scale to measure it. Simpson ships the Speed Bandit with a clear lens, and I do see it is pin-lock ready. The Simpson website shows a great selection of additional visors to choose from. The visor has a good-sized thumb catch on the front left edge for opening, and a visor lock lever on the back left side. The “Speed Brow” aerodynamics Simpson advertises look good along the top ridge. Simple and clean, with the two large grills for air inlet up front, two more on the forehead area, and one air outlet on the back center of the helmet. Simpson uses a standard double D ring chin strap and has provided openings for adding speakers.
Overall, I really like the look of the Speed Bandit, time to take it to the garage for a better look and to choose which bikes it will work well with.
Construction & Build Quality
The Speed Bandit uses a lightweight thermo-injected polycarbonate shell, a common entry-level construction method but they have taken the extra step to provide it in three shell sizes.
Taking a look at the guts of the Speed Bandit, I am instantly struck by the missing chin curtain and modest neck roll, clearly a design choice so I will reserve my assumptions until I ride with it. The cheek pads are easy to remove. Honestly, they’re too easy to remove! The snaps seem really weak.
The washable liner is a little more firmly fit and the back portion unsnaps properly; when I go to pull the front it feels like the fabric around the clips is about to tear through.
The standard double D ring chin strap is well secured, and pockets for adding speakers are provided. Again, I find it to be an odd omission that Simpson provided no insert to fill the speaker gap for those that may not add a communication system. Two other small details that just grind my gears, the warning label is stitched in crooked, and there is one really poorly stitched seam in the liner right in the center under the label. Once I see it, now it is all I see when I am about to pull this bucket on my head.
The foam core structure has deep channels that should move a good volume of air to keep your head cool, they all lead back to one small rear vent. Looking at the overall design, there is no regulation for the air coming in through the large front grills, and without a chin curtain this probably makes no difference, this helmet is meant to vent.
For weak snaps, crooked label, and average material quality: 3 out of 5 Stars
Simpson Speed Bandit Fit & Comfort
The Speed Bandit is an intermediate oval helmet, I found the sizing chart to be accurate. I have a 23.75” head, and I ordered the XL, this puts me on the bottom of the XL range and the helmet felt comfortable and not tight on top. The lack of a substantial neck roll in the Speed Bandit, and the material in the cheek pads, keep this a softer fit.
This is not like many full-face helmets that tend to apply more squish around the underside of the cheekbone, Simpson seems to have put more emphasis on the chin strap and the crown of the helmet for stability. I suspect that sizing myself down to the large would have created additional pressure to the forehead, without any real gains in the lower portion of the helmet.
The cheek pads and liner come out easily from the Speed Bandit, but I did not come across any options on the Simpson website for fitment adjustments. I found it to be a comfortable helmet, and with the chin strap properly adjusted it moved a slight bit during my standard head shake test, not my ideal fit but for this price point it wasn’t too bad.
For me, the last element of comfort is the helmet weight. The Speed Bandit has a listed weight of 1540 grams, which puts it on the slightly lower side of average, it felt great on my head.
Multiple Shell options, accurate sizing, and general comfort: 4 out of 5 Stars
Visor & Optics
The visor is nice and large, optically it’s nice to look through. Checking out the tool-less system to remove the visor I find it simple to remove, but wow it was a challenge to get it back on. I had to fight with it three times before I got both sides back into the grooves. If I changed visors often this would annoy me.
The detents are positive and hold the visor in all positions without the need to engage the visor lock. Absent is the final snap to seal the visor when it is in the full down position, and the tab to raise and lower the visor is only on the left. The clear visor shipped on the Speed Bandit is pin-lock ready, and they do have multiple tinted visors available.
Good optics and a nice field of view, not a fan of the visor lock: 4 out of 5 Stars
I have noted already that the Speed Bandit appears to have been designed intentionally to move a lot of air. The great-looking grill-style vents on the lower front do not have any type of control to regulate the air intake, so as the speed climbs so will the airflow. The lack of a chin curtain and tight neck roll allow air under the helmet unrestricted, my first thoughts were this would create a lot of lift at speed, but combined with the front vents being unrestricted the pressure is balanced and I got no lift.
The brow of the helmet has two ports for intake of air, these do a good job of flowing air over the head and out the single rear port, Simpson also left these open and provides no ability to close them.
Yes, it is well ventilated, but no control of that flow: 3 out of 5 Stars
First out of the garage I took my 2016 KTM SuperDuke GT, the Speed Bandit has the sort of look that just suits the menacing nature of the Beast. I didn’t bother to swap over a communications system to the Speed Bandit, and I also did not start with any earplugs (which I am a firm believer in) I wanted to see if this helmet would be as loud as I suspected from its design.
The SuperDuke GT has an aggressive but still mostly upright riding position and I tried the fairing at both the lowest and highest positions. I am 6’ tall so the fairing adjustment will alter the airflow from my center chest to just the top of my helmet at highway speeds. The shape of the lower fairing allows for airflow that causes some turbulence right in front of my chest.
From the moment I left the garage, the open pockets meant for speakers, acted like echo chambers for my exhaust note. Combine that with the dirty airflow off the fairing and this Speed Bandit was unbearable without earplugs.
The temperature was 17 C / 63 F and clear skies, and the airflow was plentiful through the Speed Bandit, zero sweat developed. A few sprints up over 100 kph / 60 mph were enough to know that this helmet was not happy in turbulent airflow, it was brutally loud and would pull around with every head turn to shoulder check.
I didn’t even make 20km before I was back in the garage to change bikes. Next, I took my 883 Sportster out.
The Speed Bandit is such a nice-looking helmet and I liked the look paired with the low riding Harley. Instantly I knew this helmet was far happier in the open air. Simpson understands aerodynamics and the clean air made it feel totally different. It is still loud under the shell and the echo from the empty speaker openings persists, but the overall wind noise dropped with the smooth movement of air over the helmet.
I made a good ride around many of my favorite urban cruising areas and overall came to conclude that this is what this helmet is best at: city speeds in moderate to higher temperatures. If I had earplugs in, I would still rate the Speed Bandit as a louder helmet but I would be content with it in the city. When I hit open roads at over 100km/h again the aerodynamics felt good, and the head pulls when shoulder checking was gone, the helmet felt balanced at all angles in clean air.
I cannot get past the volume levels though, this is not a helmet I would want for a long road trip. The noise levels and volume of air coming in make judging the visor seal irrelevant, but I did keep wondering how it would do in the rain, best educated guess is not well.
It is just way too loud, and only good in warm weather: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
Simpon Speed Bandit Safety
The Simpson Speed Bandit is FMVSS 218 DOT approved, ECE 2205 certified.
These certifications basically show that Simpson delivers you a product that meets both American and European standards. I did check to see if it had been through a SHARPs test, but the Speed Bandit is quite new and as yet does not show up on that testing. Simpson traditionally has a reputation for safe products, and there was nothing that stood out to me to doubt that heritage with the Speed Bandit.
It meets European and American standards, but nothing higher: 4 out of 5 Stars
The Simpson Speed Bandit is a Gorgeous Full-Face Lid That Might Give You Tinnitus
I will admit, I do not shy away from being honest and vocal with my opinion on riding gear, and especially so when it comes to helmets. When turning over hard-earned dollars for the protection of my head, my criteria is not just around impact protection. I want to feel a positive impression from the moment I hold a helmet in my hands.
In order to be fair to manufacturers, I try to pay attention to what the design goal may have been and if they are giving consumers good value with the product. The Speed Bandit drew me in with its good looks, and then it all began to fall apart.
There is certainly a large group of riders that log all their miles in moderate climates, and for them, the lack of control of the airflow likely won’t matter; for the rest of us who will ride in anything above freezing, that just won’t work. I understand that the intentional omission of the chin curtain works in conjunction with the aero design, but I would have preferred the neck roll to be better bolstered and to have the speaker pockets get removable inserts, this would certainly improve the noise levels.
This helmet based on price makes it the entry-level offering for Simpson. Priced at $279.00 USD, there is a huge amount of competition to consider. Brands such as AGV, Bell, Icon, Shark, and Sedici all have similar options and potentially better value. The little details stick with me like a burn off of an exhaust pipe! Crooked labels and sub-par padding become my focus each time I go to put on the Speed Bandit. If this helmet was under $200.00 I would be more forgiving. Sorry Simpson, but I know you can deliver better.
At the retail price for me, the value is just midpack: 3 out of 5 stars.