By October 16, 2006

Z1R Strike helmet review

Sometimes you get what you pay for. And sometimes, you get a lot more. Such is the case with the Z1R Strike helmet, which was found to transmit the least amount of g-force to the skull in Motorcyclist Magazine’s test of several DOT and SNELL approved helmets. Longtime Gibberish members will remember this helmet as my first choice, but sizing and availability issues made me go with my HJC SYMAX helmet instead until recently. I starting having concerns about the safety of they SYMAX’s flip up face design (and that of other flip up helmets) in the event of a chin-first series of impacts. One smash would probably be okay, but a second face strike might pop the helmet open or worse. I started shopping around for a single-piece full face helmet, and I checked back on our ol’ friend the Z1R. I found one in my size from KneeDraggers for less than $100 shipped. I’ve done business with KneeDraggers before, and as always they were quick to fulfill my order and ship it. The Z1R is less than half the price of my SYMAX helmet, which is considered in the middle of the road of helmets, price-wise. Arai, Shoei, and others helmet brands can easily run over $400.

The Z1R Strike helmet is very bare bones. Nice features that are common on more expensive helmets, like a breath guard, removable cheek pads, and pockets for headsets, all standard on my SYMAX, are nowhere to be found on the Strike. I will say that I like the chinstrap of the Z1R the best out of any helmet I’ve tried on so far; it’s a simple D-ring affair with (the important part) a snap so that the long end doesn’t flap around in the wind or need to be tucked into the helmet.

The best points to the Z1R are all performance related, not comfort related. It’s lightweight, certainly much lighter than my other helmet. Bond remarked that it felt very light; I should break down and get a postal scale one of these days to weigh it compared to my SYMAX. The Z1R is the quietest helmet I’ve tried on, more so than the KBC VR1 Bond owns, the SYMAX, and the Icon Alliance helmet Lady Jaye and I tried out on a budget whim earlier this summer. Most importantly, let’s not forget the whole bonk-your-head aspect of the helmet, the reason we’re wearing one in the first place.

But (hopefully) we’ll spend more time wearing the helmet than crashing in it. So the other creature comforts count a lot, too. The visor is thin in comparison to my HJC. The visor mounting system on the Strike doesn’t have as many positions to hold the visor open as my HJC, and the strength of the positions it does offer is weak. My visor has inadvertently closed at speeds greater than 40MPH. The Z1R’s venting seemed sad at first. The vent atop the helmet was much smaller than the one on my SYMAX, and the controls are very coarse: open or closed for the top vent, and two positions for the mouth vent. However, the venting was better than expected, probably because of the thin helmet liner.

Speaking of, the Z1R’s inner comfort padding is meager. It’s not as comfortable as the SYMAX, and certainly not as dreamy as the VR1. The biggest problem with the padding is that there isn’t enough “give” inside for any head shape not perfectly suited for the Z1R. I have a slight spot where my forehead just barely touches the helmet, and I had a pretty uncomfortable contact rash during my trip to New York. I experienced the same with my SYMAX, but after a few days of wearing it, the more plentiful liner broke in and I haven’t had a problem since. Not so with the Strike. I find that wearing a CoolMax skullcap or balaclava keeps the Z1R from rubbing too much on my forehead.

I’ve had the Z1R for just about a month now and have worn it for about 1800 miles. If I could change anything about the helmet, it would be a little bit more padding on the inside, and a breath guard to keep the helmet from fogging up. For the sake of comparison, I put on my SYMAX the other day, and found that it fogged up worse than my Z1R now that it’s cooler outside! I’m going to have to buy some CatCrap or similar anti-fog treatment on my visor.

Now that’s using your head

  • Transmits the least amount of g-forces to the rider’s head in crash tests.
  • Very inexpensive.
  • Adequate venting, despite lacking the side-mounted, full-length vents popular on more expensive helmets these days.
  • Quiet.
  • Lightweight.

Blunt force trauma

  • Inner helmet liner is too thin, resulting in discomfort for some and an outright bad fit for others.
  • Visor detent system is too coarse and flimsy; the visor won’t stay locked open in lower positions.
  • Lack of standard features found on mid-level and high-end helmets. It didn’t even come with a bag.

The Strike is my primary helmet now. It could use some improvement, and while Z1R has addressed some of the Strike’s criticisms with newer product offerings, they are either SNELL certified or are priced higher than I’d like to gamble on a third lid.

Z1R Strike helmet, I give thee:
Four out of five STFU mugs!

full STFU mug full STFU mug full STFU mug full STFU mug empty STFU mug

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