Well, there goes another theory out the window. Did I once say that fewer helmet appendages would mean lower noise levels?
I hereby disavow ever making that statement! Read on and you’ll learn why.
Based on the intelligence I gathered at the 2006 Dealer Powersports Expo in Indianapolis back in February, I predicted we were in for a new trend: appendage-free motorcycle helmets.
Several well-known manufacturers were showing new 2006 and 2007 models that reversed the “boy racer” look that had become so prevalent over the last few years and replaced them with much cleaner and smoother-looking designs.
The Suomy Vandal, which is now known as the Suomy Superbike in the UK and Europe, was the poster boy for the new trend as it sat demurely on a corner shelf in the Suomy booth at the show.
We took several photos and wrote an introduction to the helmet, and this turned out to be the very first news release of the Suomy Vandal on the Internet.
The Vandal looked radical at the time (which was just a few short months ago), with its “less is more” minimalist approach to venting. Suomy claims that the design is based on extensive MotoGP and World Superbike racing experience.
The idea is supposed to be that the low profile vents and the “rippled” surface along the back of the helmet would provide better aerodynamics and lower noise levels.
The bottom line is that I can’t comment on the effectiveness of the aerodynamics because I probably ride at 1/3 the speed where this becomes a functional issue.
But what I can say is that the Vandal is loud — one of the noisiest helmets I think we’ve ever tried. Otherwise, if you simply must have the latest and greatest and want to look just like Troy (Bayliss, that is), the Suomy Vandal or Suomy Superbike is for you.
Let’s start with the Suomy Vandal’s most noticeable feature: its weight, or lack thereof.
Now it’s important to note that the Vandal shown here, in Troy Bayliss graphics, is not a DOT-approved U.S. version. Our size XL helmet is a European model that we purchased in the UK. It meets the ECE 22.05 and BSI Gold safety standards (BSI 6658 Type A).
Our size XL helmet weighs in at only 1486 grams (3 lbs., 4-3/8 oz.), which is actually less than the size XL HJC AC-12 Carbon fiber helmet we reviewed recently.
OK, so the Vandal is only 3 grams less, but we’re talking about the difference between a “normal” helmet shell and a complex shape made from hand-laid carbon fiber. This is pretty amazing, and it means that the Vandal is one of the lightest weight helmets we’ve ever reviewed.
Suomy currently states that the Vandal helmets sold in the U.S.A. will meet DOT and BSI approval, so they should theoretically weigh about the same.
Suomy also claims that the Vandal will be released for sale in the U.S. in the Fall of 2006. It’s amazing how long it must take to design, develop, manufacture and distribute a helmet, because the photos at the bottom of this page of production-ready helmets was taken in February of 2006 and the helmet has been available for sale in the UK for about 6 weeks as of this writing.
To see how the Vandal stacks up against the competition, see the wBWMotorcycle Helmet Weights page for our helmet weight comparison table and chart, with over 50 other helmets from our database of reviews.
Maybe some day there will be some a new type of Star Trek material that will make helmets weigh even less, but until then, it’s hard to believe that a non-carbon-fiber helmet can get any lighter. The lack of mass is really noticeable when you handle the Vandal (hey, it rhymes!) and when riding.
Notice the rear “anti-rumble” strips on the back of the helmet.
I’d swear that Suomy and HJC used exactly the same headform for the Vandal and the AC-12 Carbon, they’re that similar. Based on our example, the Vandal fits a round head shape and is very slightly narrow along the sides.
It probably has just a shade more internal roundness than the AC-12 Carbon, but it doesn’t seem as round as, say, the Shoei RF-1000 or the King of the Roundheads, the Arai Quantum II. On the other hand, the internal shape is not as narrow as the Shoei X-11.
Matching your head shape to the helmet’s internal shape is crucial for both comfort and safety; see the wBWMotorcycle Helmet FAQ page for more information on finding the right fit.
Based on our experience with other brands, we’d expect that the Vandal will have the same basic internal shape no matter what size is ordered.
Helmet Fit and Comfort
The Vandal is available in sizes XS to XXL. Based on our example, my feeling is that the helmet runs maybe about 1/2 size smaller than expected, with the XL feeling slightly bigger than a size large. I’m not sure if this holds for their other sizes as well but I’ll bet it does.
I can’t figure out what makes one helmet liner comfortable and another feel scratchy. Sometimes the most plush-looking liner materials are nice and comfy and other times they feel like burlap.
I think some parts of the human head are pretty sensitive to touch, and even a tiny little imperfection in the fabric, the stitching or a slight lack of padding over a bump in the liner can become excruciatingly painful over time.
That’s one of the things that makes choosing a helmet so difficult — it’s very rare when a customer can or will take the time to wear the helmet in a bike shop long enough to learn where the “hot points” are. And this is impossible when a helmet is purchased sight unseen over the Internet.
But even if the potential owner tries on the helmet in the shop, it can (and probably will) feel completely different during a ride, with wind pressure pushing bouncing the rider around.
Look inside the Vandal and you’ll find another example of minimalism: the liner. It doesn’t look like it should be comfortable, but it is. I think it’s a combination of the nice, soft, plush material that Suomy uses and attention to detail in the way the padding has been designed, assembled and sewn together.
The Vandal has no lining up around the top other than a section that covers the crown of the head. This doesn’t seem to make a difference with regards to comfort — although we’re speaking in relative terms here.
The Vandal isn’t as plush as, say, the old Shark RSR, with its extra padding, but it’s really not bad at all, especially considering the minimal amount of “Ultralure” liner used to save that last couple of grams of weight. Suomy also claims that the liner material is hypo-allergenic.
I’m not sure if cheekpads of varying thicknesses will be available. I did not find a listing of accessory cheek pads in Suomy’s marketing collateral at the time the Vandal was introduced.
Troy Bayliss version of the Suomy Vandal
Quality, Paint and Finish
If there’s one thing you can say about Suomy helmets, it’s that their paint and graphics are second to none. They have some of the coolest designs on the planet, and they all seem to be done to perfection with the highest standards of quality.
The Vandal in Troy Bayliss livery shown here is no exception. The clearcoat looks a mile deep, and the paint and graphics are phenomenal. I’m waiting for Troy to come knocking on my door asking for his helmet back!
There’s no question in my mind that this helmet is as good as they get. Everything about it is perfection with regards to its fit and finish.
Here’s where the Vandal sets itself apart from the competition, for better or worse. The top venting is a new design, using two very small button-like clear knobs that turn 360 degrees to allow air into the top vents, which are holes that flow air directly into the helmet without interruption (Suomy calls them “antennae”).
Each button has a scooped shape; the maximum amount of air flows in when the “scoop” is pointed downwards. When the button is rotated so that the scoop points backwards, the hole is still open but very little air flows in. It’s possible that very high speeds are needed to push enough air through with the scoops in the reverse position.
The buttons have detents at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. The problem is that the buttons are rounded on top, making them very hard to grasp and difficult to rotate. I have to put a metal pen in mine to get them to turn.
So until they either loosen up after a breaking-in period or unless I can find a lubricant that will help, there’s simply no way I can get adjust them when riding. I hope it’s the former…
The rear exhaust vents are clear plastic appendages that are placed close to the helmet shell. They have an on/off switch that opens and closes the vent, but I wonder why. Most rear helmet exhaust vents can be open all the time, summer or winter, to let the low pressure exhaust the air out the back. Nevertheless, the switches work with precision.
The chin vent is relatively conventional, with an up/down action for opening and closing. The vent opening goes directly through the chin bar and directs the air on to the rider’s face, which is a nice feature. There’s a bit of screening that works to dice up the bugs before they hit the rider’s face.
The entire venting system works relatively well to flow air on to the rider’s head. The front/top button vents don’t seem to be as efficient as others I’ve tried, but they’re not bad. The helmet also has three “ripples” molded in along the top and back, which I assume help reduce buffeting.
Here’s where things get complicated and where my original theory that a smooth profile would equate to low noise levels is thrown out the window.
My Vandal is one of the noisiest helmets I’ve ever tried. The noise seems to come from everywhere and in several different frequencies: low, mid and high. Most annoying is a high-pitched whistling noise that comes from…somewhere; I can’t figure out where.
Try as I might, I have not been able to isolate the source of the whistling noise. It doesn’t seem to come from the front/top vent buttons, which would be the most likely source. The roar that I experience when wearing the Vandal is very tiring and stressful; after about 1/2 hour of riding I feel like I’m exhausted.
The noise is about the same volume whether I’m riding behind a half fairing or none at all. The only time it’s acceptable is when I’m riding behind a barn-door fairing like the one on Burn’s BMW K1100.
We did not record an MP3 sound file for the Vandal. We haven’t received a single email regarding the usefulness of those files, so I figured they’re probably more trouble than they’re worth. For more information on the causes of motorcycle helmet noise and for a sampling of MP3 motorcycle helmet noise files, visit the wBWMotorcycle Helmet Noise page.
Remember also that we always wear correctly fitted ear plugs when riding. See the wBWEarplugs and Hearing Protection page for more information on choosing and wearing ear plugs and for a list of ear plug reviews.
The Vandal has a unique face shield removal mechanism that is similar to the system that Shark uses on the Shark RSRand the new Shark RSI.
The Suomy system is nice, but surprising because you’d think that a face shield removal system like the one used by HJC on the AC-12 or CL-SP would be lighter in weight.
The metal handle on the outside must first be flipped up to remove the shield. This lever is very stiff, so I have to use a coin to open it up. Once it’s open, the little plastic latch that holds the face shield starts to turn as the metal handle is also turned. The face shield pops right off once the plastic latch moves off the face shield, as shown in the photo above.
It all works well and better than most, but the it seems overly complicated and surely must weigh more than necessary. I bet 4-5 more grams could have been saved if the rear exhaust switches were eliminated and the face shield removal system was simpler.
The face shield has a snap closure at the lower left corner that holds it tight against the eye port opening when the face shield is closed. This helps prevent the face shield from lifting at high speeds. But it only lifts in two positions: middle and fully open. I prefer a face shield that can be cracked open just slightly to allow fresh air circulation.
The eye port is slightly smaller than I expected. The face shield itself is nice and clear and seems of high quality; Suomy claims that it is anti-scratch and anti-fog treated.
The chin strap seems slightly short and I’m guessing that some riders with thick necks may find it too constraining. Other than that, it works fine and uses the preferred D-ring attachment method.
It has adequate padding and a plastic snap that secures the loose end.
The Suomy Vandal is a beautiful helmet with a very nice design. Ours shows very high quality in its construction. It’s also surprisingly comfortable. Only the noise levels let it down; in my opinion, the noise is severe enough to be a real problem for some.
What I Like: Paint, graphics, quality, liner, chin venting.
What I Don’t: Noise levels.