The Vemar Zephir is a contender in the sub-$200.00 full face, all-around street helmet segment. It throws a lot of features into the mix, some of which are hard to find all in one place, especially at this price An internal sun visor, provision for a Max-Vision Pinlock and an extra-wide angle of view out the eye port are just a few.
Add to that a surprisingly nice overall finish and comfy interior and you have a fantastic bang-for-the-buck helmet in the Zephir. Of course, that low price has to come with some quirks, right?
That remains to be seen. But it’s off to a very good start, so read on to see how the Zephir measures up.
Vemar may not be one of the more recognizable brands in motorcycle helmets but the company has quite a long history. The company began in Grosseto, Italy in 1975 producing fiberglass tanks for wine, oil, and water. Then in 1987, Vemar established a helmet department, bringing to bear their experience in fiberglass and composite materials.
Eventually the helmet group was spun off into its own company and became Vemar Helmets in 1992. We have reviewed about a dozen different Vemar helmets in the last 15 years or so, but it’s been a while since our last Vemar helmet review.
Overall, Vemar has focused on value, typically offering more features and better build quality than expected at the price point. The new Vemar Zephir is the latest motorcycle helmet to continue that tradition.
Vemar has 5 different categories of helmets, including Racing, Street, Touring, Off-Road and City and the Zephir is the standard bearer for the Street category. Our Zephir is in the “Grey, Black, White” colorway option (Z014). A total of four colors are available in North America, including a “Black, Yellow” (Z016) option.
Other colors are available in Europe, with a total of 11 color and graphic choices.
Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality
The Zephir’s two shell sizes are made from what Vemar refers to as a “lightweight yet incredibly strong Advanced Thermo Material”, which is essentially thermoplastic, which is what I would expect in the sub $200.00 range. The helmet has a very solid feel and the shell also feels stiffer than many other thermoplastic shells I’ve handled in the past.
Creaking and squeaking is very minimal when intentionally flexing the shell and not present when wearing the helmet. The graphics are nicely placed and it is very hard to tell they are actually decals and not paint as they must be very thin or the clear coat very thick.
The clear finish is excellent and it’s polished to a very high gloss. Actually, I am surprised at how smooth the finish feels. The clear coat does have a bit of a wavy finish in spots, which adds some distortion to reflections. But the glossy finish has another benefit besides looking good; it first helps to prevent and then makes it easier to clean things like pollen and bugs that are part and parcel of the motorcycle riding experience.
The operation of the face shield is also smooth and solid with just a touch of flexing and the face shield rotating mechanism is solid and pretty smooth and, I think, better than many other helmets in my experience.
Score: I give the Zephir an overall quality rating an “Excellent” thanks to the very nice finish and overall construction.
Internal Shape, Fit and Liner Notes
Vemar calls the internal shape of the Zephir a “mid-oval” and I would agree, because it works well for my “intermediate oval” shaped head. I feel like the helmet fits pretty evenly throughout the padded areas with no noticeable hot spots.
I have enough room in front of my chin and I am unable to push my chin forward and touch the chin bar, unlike the Nolan N86 (review) or the Arai Vector (review), where my chin is very close to the chin bar which has always made me a little concerned if I had a crash.
I found the fit of the Zephir to be very much in line with most major brands in a size large. I wear a size large in Shark, Shoei, Caberg and HJC and the Vemar Zephir in size large fits very well, much like my current daily use Caberg helmet.
This would suggest that the Zephir in size large should fit the typical 59-60 cm head. The padding is pretty thick and feels snug at first but after about 20-30 minutes of riding it no longer feels as tight and is very comfortable. No one area seems to apply noticeable pressure more than another providing for a nice even fit overall.
I wore my prescription eyeglasses as well as my sunglasses and even reading glasses to evaluate how they fit in the Zephir. The variety of wire frames and thicker plastic frames all seemed to fit easily and comfortably and I didn’t notice any extra pressure that was being transmitted to my head which is good.
Liner comfort in the Zephir is very good although not as plush as some higher end helmets. The material is relatively smooth but not so smooth that my head slides around inside the helmet. The liner uses a “technical fiber”, which like most modern helmet liners is anti-microbial and moisture wicking.
It doesn’t really make an impression in comfort one way or the other. It isn’t scratchy nor is it super soft and it ends up going mostly unnoticed, which in this case is a good thing.
The liner is removable and is washable (as is the chin curtain) and Vemar offers replacement kits for the internal liner also.
Again, for more information about head shapes and choosing and fitting a motorcycle helmet, please see the wBW Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page.
As always, remember that helmet fit is crucial to safety and comfort, so make sure you try the helmet on before buying, and try a variety of sizes. The smallest size that fits comfortably is usually the safest.
Score: Overall I feel the Zephir earns an “Outstanding” for fit and comfort. For my head size and shape this is one of the best fitting helmets I’ve put on at any price.
Vemar describes the Zephir eye port as “Ultra-Wide” and it does have a wider opening than most. The only other helmets I can think of that offer a similar view are the Shark Vision-R and Race-R series.
The Zephir eye port does have a tall opening that is well suited not only to the touring and sport touring crowd, but should also provide good visibility for the sport- and super-sport riding positions. The nice thing is that it isn’t so tall that it becomes a liability in morning and afternoon sunshine.
In comparison, the super tall opening on my Shark helmet offered a spectacular view but the top edge couldn’t be used to block the sun when it was low in the sky but the Zephir isn’t so tall as to be an issue here. The Zephir’s horizontal field of view is also excellent and pretty much covers the limits of my own peripheral vision.
Suffice to say one will not feel “closed in” with the view offered by the Zephir.
The clear face shield on the Zephir is optically very good, with minimal distortion apparent across the view. It’s also thick and there are two large lift tabs flanking the center point. The size and thickness of the tabs makes them easy to find and grasp to raise and lower the shield, but they also have another purpose that involves locking and releasing the face shield.
There are five detents that hold the face shield and they all seem to hold firmly, with the top-most setting requiring a little extra shove to get it into position. There is a locking tab in the very center of the front of the face shield and a deliberate, solid shove will make this tab “lock” the face shield firmly in the closed position.
When the face shield is down but not locked, it will stay in a position where it is just open a millimeter or two. This is perfect for defogging or just letting some extra air through.
Defogging may not be necessary however, as the face shield is prepped for an (optional accessory) Pinlock MaxVision insert. A nice feature of this particular implementation on the Zephir is that the face shield isn’t dished or molded where the Pinlock will be placed.
Face Shield Removal
Removing and installing the face shield is pretty easy, once you get past the fear of putting too much pressure on the mechanism.
To remove it, rotate it up enough to allow access to the lever to release it. To reinstall, line up the tabs and carefully but firmly push the pivot back into place.
Eye Port Gasket
When the face shield is closed and in the locked position, a very firm seal is made all around the eye port gasket. Our “leak-down” test confirmed that water is not going to find its way through the eye port when the shield is locked in place.
Internal Sun Visor
The Vemar Zephir is fitted with an internal sun shade visor and the mechanical operation is very good; a sliding actuator on the lower edge of the left side of the helmet is used to open and close the sun shade. The actuator mechanism is nicely integrated into the lower edge surround of the helmet giving it a nice clean look.
In use, the actuator moves smoothly and requires deliberate effort to move into the fully open and fully closed positions. This extra effort, I assume, is to make sure over time that sun the visor control won’t loosen up and start dropping down unintended.
The sun visor has good coverage for the larger-than-average eye port and it also has about the average amount of tint. However, it would be nice to have a darker tint but the amount of light transmission is limited by various laws. The optical quality has some room for improvement but it’s about average compared to other internal sun visors I’ve used.
The nose cutout in the lower edge of the sun shade seems unnecessarily large to me and it has a rolled edge with a very distinct outline.
Combined with the large size of the nose cutout, this adds some distraction, especially if the sun visor is raised slightly.
Score: I’ll give the Zephir an “Outstanding” for vertical and horizontal visibility and an “Above Average” for the visor and eye port.
The top vents in the Zephir are fantastic, period. I had a feeling they would be when I first opend the large vent covers after unpacking the helmet and that proved correct.
Two long sliding covers open to reveal a large opening covered with mesh.
The covers themselves are smooth, so there isn’t much to grab but they are large and the big surface area makes them easy to open and close and have a nice sturdy feel.
There is a stop halfway in the cover travel to adjust the air flow, but in practice I can’t tell much difference.
It’s easy to see why the top vents provide such good ventilation; shine a flashlight through from the outside of the shell and you can see a clear channel for the air right down through the EPS and into the helmet.
I can actually feel air flowing through these vents when I’m riding, a rare feature. The Zephir’s vents make a noticeable difference, just in time for summer riding.
Like the top vents, the chin vent uses a sliding cover that is easy to open and close and has a solid feel.
The chamber behind the vent cover flows a lot of air onto the back of the face shield. There are no holes directly through the chin bar but the system works very nicely overall.
The rear spoiler on the back of the helmet has a sliding cover for the exhaust vents. Underneath is a large space with dual exhaust ports.
There are channels in the EPS that direct the air through the exhaust vents and the system also works well.
A removable chin curtain is pre-installed in the Zephir and it does a decent job of reducing air from drafting up into the helmet from underneath. It also helps reduce low frequency noise as the helmet moves through the air. The chin curtain is positioned below my chin, so it doesn’t interfere at all when I’m wearing the helmet.
Score: The ventilation in the Zephir well above average, not just for the price range but compared to most helmets I’ve worn.
The Zephir is about in the middle of the pack when compared to our previously reviewed helmets, and I mean that literally. It weighs 1648 grams and although it felt somewhat heavy to me when I first picked it up, after wearing the Zephir for a few rides I didn’t notice the weight much.
The helmet is very stable at highway speeds and I don’t notice any lift or movement when doing head-checks on the interstate.
For more information, be sure to visit the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for charts comparing the weights of all of the open-face, full-face and flip-up helmets we’ve reviewed.
Score: We rate the Zephir as “Average” for its weight and balance and good aerodynamics .
Vemar Zephir Helmet Video
You might think that those huge vents on top would be a source for whistling noise but I’m pleased to say that the Zephir is relatively quiet. The noise levels from wind rushing over the top are about average to louder on our rating scale.
There is some noticeable wind rushing sounds in the mid-range frequencies that can be heard around the sides of the helmet. This increased in volume when the windscreen is in the highest position.
Booming low frequency noises are minimal and opening or closing the vents doesn’t seem to make a noticeable difference. Note that I wear custom fitted earplugs from my local audiologist (even when evaluating motorcycle intercom systems).
Note that our helmet evaluations are a combined effort of several riders over time on different types of motorcycles with and without windscreens. Evaluators wear correctly fitted, high quality ear plugs (even when evaluating motorcycle intercom systems).
Always protect your hearing when riding a motorcycle. See the wBW Earplug Reviews for more information on choosing and wearing earplugs. Note also that perceived noise levels will vary, depending on the individual.
Noise can be caused by many factors, including helmet fit, the type of motorcycle and windscreen, wind speed and direction and even the rider’s clothing.
Score: I’ll give the Zephir a “Very Good” rating for noise control.
Intercom and Speaker Fit
The gasket along the bottom of the Zephir’s shell means it will be a challenge to install a clamp-on intercom mount. However, Vemar has provided a small port in the side of the helmet below the left side visor pivot. Removing the cover from the port reveals a hole through which you can insert wires for an intercom without having to locate them on the outside of the shell.
This makes for a cleaner look and one that is likely more secure as well and it’s a novel idea. Of course, you’ll need to mount the intercom on the outside of the shell using the double-sided tape method. The helmet also has shallow cutouts for speakers and paths for wires to run between the padding and the EPS of the interior.
Overall, Vemar has done a nice job here of designing the Zephir to accept various Bluetooth intercom systems. Note that your intercom headset module needs to have a removable cable to insert through the port opening and not all will fit.
Also, if the port cover is removed, you have a large opening in the side of the helmet with the wires going through, so there are some water entry issues. You might be able to trim the cover to just allow space for a wire and perhaps use some silicone sealant to waterproof the hole. It may be possible that Vemar has a communication device in the works that would fit directly into the space but I don’t know.
Intercom port cover on the Vemar Zephir helmet.
The Vemar Zephir meets both the DOT standard in the USA and the European CE 22.05 standard. The Zephir uses two shell sizes to span the head sizes range of XS to XXL. The helmet has a 5 year warranty from manufacturing date, which is impressive, considering the list price.
The Vemar Zephir is a lot of helmet for the money and it has many of the features now expected in a sport- or sport-touring helmet. The internal sun shade, the provision for an intercom and the locking face shield, all for a list price of $169.00 is impressive.
In addition, the overall build quality of the Zephir is very impressive. The solid operation of the vents, the comfortable liner and the very nice overall finish leaves one with the impression that this might be a $250.00 or more helmet.
All is not perfect, however, and I’d wish for a smaller nose cutout in the sun shade. Also, the damaged pull tab on the buckle didn’t set a good tone when I was unpacking the Zephir, but that’s probably a one-off problem.
The Zephir may be one of the best deals in sub-$200.00 motorcycle helmets right now, especially when parts and Pinlock inserts become available.
Overall, I can highly recommend this helmet to my fellow intermediate/mid-oval head riders.
From “B.C.” (June 2017): “Interesting helmet. I’m currently repairing the control knob on the sun visor for my Shark Speed-R (Series 1) for the 6th time. It keeps coming loose from the piece of metal that rides the track up and down. I haven’t found a glue that doesn’t break off. This helmet provides most of the features of the Shark, but at a much lower price. I might put up with the additional weight to avoid the hassle.”