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There's no denying the importance of a great motorcycle helmet. It's the one piece of gear that just about every cyclist is bound to have in common, at least in terms of simply having one. The kind you own may be completely different than someone else's, mind you, since there's such a wide range of variety in terms of helmet shapes, styles, colors, designs, etc. With helmets out there that can match just about any personal preference, how would you best narrow down which one is right for you?
Simpson Ghost Bandit
4 lbs 3 oz
Lightweight Carbon Fiber
2 Year Warranty
Simpson Outlaw Bandit
4 lbs 4 oz
Lightweight Carbon Fiber
2 Year Warranty
Simpson Street Bandit
3 lbs 6 oz
2 Year Warranty
Simpson Model 30
Free Stop Pivot System
2 Year Warranty
Simpson Model 50
Cell 5 / 5
If you're anything like me, you'll want to try a bunch of them out, and with that in mind I recently decided to set out to see which was best Simpson motorcycle helmet out there. I hadn't heard of them before, but figured it was high time for a Simpson motorcycle helmet review to find out more.
Though there's still some debate on the matter, most people are pretty hip to the fact that getting a modular or full faced helmet is going to be their best option. Though they're a bit heavier, the modular and full face helmet models offer the best protection since they can cover a rider's jaw and chin, and keep their face shielded from wind, rain, and other pesky environmental factors.
Simpson, for their part, seems hip to this fact, as an overwhelming majority of their helmets that I looked at were full faced models. That being the case, what you're going to want to consider first is what material you want your helmet to be constructed from.
Also known as composite laminated, these helmets are constructed from thermoplastics (plastic polymers that become pliable above a specific temperature) that are known for being tough and easy to mold into just about any shape desired by a manufacturer. Though it's true that they have high levels of resistance to impact, they are not scratch resistant, and must be treated oftentimes with a special coating to keep them from getting scratched up.
Due to their high strength and ease to work with, they are used widely for motorcycle helmet shells. Of the composite varieties today, studies have shown that laminated composite shells produced from polyester/glass woven fabric and glass fiber mat provide the highest level of protection, comparative to those composed with polyester/polyamide shells, while still maintaining reduced weight and thickness.
These are a newer material, consisting of solid metal arranged in an interconnected open or closed cell framework, which simply means there are spaces between the solid pieces of metal, which up close look like a porous foam. This construction allows metal foams to be ultra-light, while still maintaining a great deal of strength.
Manufacturers have started using metal foam for motorcycle helmets because of their high energy absorption properties, relational to their low specific weight. Impact experiments have shown that compared to various laminated composite helmets, metal foam helmets provided greater levels of protection while still maintaining lower weights and thicknesses.
Kevlar has long been known as highly durable fiber and has numerous applications as a woven material ranging from armor and personal protection, to use in musical instruments and underwater ropes. Using it for protective motorcycle gear seems like a no-brainer, and you can find many different jackets, pants, and pads that have Kevlar sewn right in to increase their toughness.
As a material for helmets, they are exceptionally durable and lightweight. Many full faced motorcycle helmets constructed from Kevlar weigh in at 4.5lbs or less. Kevlar is so desired, that it is often combined with other materials when used in sporting goods, such as...
Extremely strong, very lightweight, carbon reinforced plastic. Expensive, but highly valued for the high strength-to-weight ratio. As mentioned above, other fibers, such as Kevlar, can be added to the mix to alter some of its properties. Most of the helmets for sale billed as “carbon fiber” or “Kevlar” are actually a blend of both materials. When applied in helmets, the result is a fabulously strong piece of gear that, while it might run a bit on the pricier side, is also highly capable of protecting one's delicate in the event of an impact.
The shell, while important, is but one piece of the helmet that provides protection. Energy from impacts must be dissipated by the interior liner. Most liners are constructed from EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam of varying thicknesses. The configuration of the foam inside the helmet will affect not only the energy absorbing properties of the helmet, but also the level of comfort to the rider, both in how the liner feels around the head and in how well the helmet circulates air.
One final consideration should be helmet testing standards. The war rages on about DOT, Snell, and ECE testing and which is gold standard, but a good rule of thumb is to remember that all standards are a bit different, and the helmet you get could likely conform to multiple standards.
As for how the differences arose, the main points of variance are the number of different tests applied by each testing body, and the way that these organizations interpret the data gathered from tests to reach their conclusions on which helmets are the best.
Also important to note is that while the DOT standard is a federal regulation, getting the Snell seal of approval is an optional choice for a helmet manufacturer. If you ask Snell, that should be taken as a sign that the manufacturers that submit to their testing procedures are more greatly committed to safety, but the counter-argument exists that it's all a big marketing ploy and manufacturers opt for the Snell sticker to boost the profit on their helmets without doing anything to make them safer.
If you're still a bit confused, that's more than understandable. Even among long time motorcycle pros, there's tons of debate over the topic and how the different standards stack up against one another. If you're looking to get a bit more info though, this video going over the basics on DOT, ECE, and Snell would be a great jumping off point for you.
The Simpson Ghost Bandit is one of Simpson's most recent designs that they claim is designed “100% with motorcycle riders in mind”. I really appreciate this helmet's old school design. It is typically Simpson: practical, strong, and simple. I received a ton of comments about the look of the Ghost Bandit when I was out and about, and a fair amount of envious glances as well.
The helmet's shape is rather neutral, which means it should fit a good portion of riders. Those with extremely narrow or exceptionally round heads might have a bit of trouble with the fit, but then again it's a subjective quality too, so there's also a good chance it will fit you guys too with no issues.
The padding on this helmet is nice. Soft, wicks away moisture, and made from anti-microbial materials. Simpson, again with motorcyclists in mind, have included a speaker and microphone in the cheek pad. Very nice when you need to communicate with other riders.
The helmet's internal sun visor is controlled by a slider on the left of the helmet. Convenient, as it eliminates that need for a secondary face shield to protect your eyes from glare. It's constructed in such a way as to not obstruct with riders wearing specs though. Even if you have larger frames, the sun visor shouldn't get in the way and you'll probably be able to use it without issue.
Aside from some light wind noise, you'll find this helmet quiet. Thanks to the perfect vent placement on the front and rear.
The Simpson Outlaw Bandit, billed as having “all the classic Bandit styling, but with some added features to make it more aerodynamically stable”. The claim doesn't seem to be exaggerated, as even at high speeds there's little in the way of buffeting. Even while turning one's head to look around, the drag from the wind was minimal.
This model boasts its wide field of view and redesigned shell that maximizes visibility. Like most Simpson models, the liner is very comfortable. The ventilation is solid, and the shape, a plain round, emphasizes Simpson's strong points: no-nonsense helmet manufacture that values functionality above all else.
The helmet is DOT and Snell certified, so you know you'll have your bases covered in terms of testing and compliance. The Outlaw Bandit comes in Gloss Black, Gloss White, and Matte Black varieties. It's a solid choice for anyone looking for a simple but sturdy helmet without all the bells and whistles.
The Simpson Street Bandit is one of Simpson's classics, “The original tough guy helmet”, if you were to ask Simpson themselves. It has a number of features that make it specifically useful to motorcyclists, such as the wide visor, which allows for a vast field of view while out on the road.
Like many other Simpson helmets, this one has a neutral shape that allows for most riders to wear it comfortably. It's a bit lighter weight than some other models, and thanks to the well-crafted ventilation system, doesn't produce a lot of noise when you're heading down the road. Speaking of those vents, going beyond merely outfitting the helmet with ram air chin vents and top helmet vents, Simpson has afforded the extra ability of making them adjustable.
The liner is soft and comfortable, and can be swapped out for the thinner cheek pads if you feel inclined to do so. All-in-all, the helmet may be a bit short on features, but the minimalist approach is one that has served Simpson well in constructing sturdy no-nonsense helmets for all these years.
One of Simpson's signature models, first released in the 1970s. The style has remained largely unchanged since that time, and was created specifically for use on motorcycles. With the advent of modern materials, this helmet comes in two varieties: the composite shell, and the carbon fiber shell. Both versions are incredibly light, with the standard version being 3.0 pounds, and the carbon fiber version weighing in at 2.5lbs.
The interior lining is construction with high performance COOLMAX fabrics that keep moisture from accumulating on the body and allow riders to remain cool and comfortable. The face shield is equipped with a Free Stop pivot system that allows the shield to be held in place at any angle.
This helmet offers good airflow, noise reduction, and vision, along with superior durability thanks to its high quality materials and construction. This helmet is DOT certified, and despite complaints from some about the visor being difficult to remove and replace, I discovered no such issues in doing so. This helmet is great if you want old-school style with new-school levels of protection.
A retro remake of an older model Simpson original. This update comes in a sturdy composite fiberglass construction, allows for a wide field of view, and superior comfort thanks to the plush interior liner. The cheek pads can be removed so that you can wash them or swap them out with newer versions.
One of the helmets biggest draws is the inclusion of the 5-snap duckbill visor, allowing you to transform the helmet from a rowdy chopper appearance, to a vintage MX style helmet. It comes in several solid gloss colors, including red, white, yellow, and black. There is also a matte black version available for those that prefer the plainer look.
This helmet revamp is DOT safety certified, so you can ride confident that you're following all the requisite regulations, and knowing that you aren't compromising on safety. In addition, this helmet has been crafted to be lightweight, at an astounding 2.8lbs.
Naysayers might cry about the “lack of features”, but what do you really need beyond a solid helmet that will protect you properly from piercing, impacts, and mother nature herself?
All of Simpson's full face motorcycle helmets should be considered works of functional minimalist brilliance. They answer the question: “how do I protect my head?” in a to-the-point manner that is no doubt attractive to those with simple, no-frills attitudes.
Of all the models however, the Model 30 exemplifies the Simpson philosophy best, offering superior protection in a design that changed very little since it was first introduced more than 40 years ago. Though a bit on the pricey side, it blends comfort and durability in a way that is simplistic and elegant all the same time. This helmet should be the go-to for anyone looking for a finely constructed piece of gear without any of the nonsense.
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