By October 23, 2007

Zox Azuma R motorcycle helmet review

Sometimes it pays off to be cheap. I’ve written in the past about the danger of high tech, tough-as-nails SNELL-rated helmets before, which is why I gravitate towards the “softer,” Department of Transportation-approved helmets. About a year ago I wrote about the Z1R Strike helmet, a DOT-only helmet that was tested to absorb the most G-forces in a crash out of a pool of contestants evaluated by Motorcyclist Magazine. After twelve months of wearing the Z1R Strike as my main helmet, I had to give up on it.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/3514-2/86-33031_Azuma_StrobeM.jpg
Image taken from IronPony.com.

The Strike was barebones, and I knew it before I made my purchase. The build quality of the helmet was a nuisance, but not a monumentally big deal. There was barely any interior padding. The visor wouldn’t stay cracked at the lowest settings because the locking mechanism had worn thin. It was a very quiet helmet, but that was also because it didn’t vent very well.

All of that added up, but it was stuff I could live with. The reason I’ve retired the Z1R is because it never fit me just right. Depending on the weather, my weight, or perhaps even my water retention, the helmet could either fit tolerably or exert a lot of painful pressure on my forehead. One of the things I didn’t mention in my Fort Ticonderoga trip last year was that during a long day of riding my forehead was so sore I got a headache. The Strike’s helmet liner was pressed up against my skin and rubbed raw a patch of skin the size of an American half-dollar. Things were never that bad again, but there were rides where I felt that the helmet was just a little too small. Going up a size (to large) would have been a way too big. I needed a size medium-and-a-half. Alas, they don’t make such things.

The fitting issue is not a knock on the Z1R Strike at all. It’s still a pretty damn good helmet, especially at the price. It’s been relegated to a backup/buddy helmet, and will serve out the rest of its days with honor. In the meantime, I wanted something more comfortable.

WebBikeWorld did a great write-up on the Zox Azuma R. I love WebBikeWorld, and so far all of their advice has been spot-on. The Azuma R had a retail price of $99, and I was able to get a matte, Rubatone silver helmet with a design for $89.95 from IronPony. You can get a flat color for $81. IronPony is awesome, I’ve bought a lot of gear from them.

The Zox Azuma R is a DOT-rated helmet. It has four vents — one top vent, two on each side near the jawline, and a front vent. I have never been able to tell if the front vent is open or not. The Azuma R has a weird side-to-side switch for the front vent instead of the traditional up-and-down style. There is an exhaust vent at the top rear of the helmet. All of those vents come with a price, however. The Azuma R is the second loudest helmet I’ve ever worn, right behind Bond’s KBC VR2 helmet. There is a really piercing whistle that occurs at highway speed when I hold my head in my default position (chin slightly up, I see the best this way). I have to tip my chin down a little bit to silence the whistling. Since I wear earplugs when I am riding on the highway, this isn’t so much of a problem as it is a nuisance.

The interior of the Azuma R is plush, probably softer than my HJC SyMax flip-up helmet, which is extremely comfortable. The chinstrap and cheek pieces are well upholstered and padded. The cheekpads are almost too tight for me, but as-is they provide some psychological security because they hug my face snugly. It’s like a hug from mom in a high-impact fiberglass package. The detents on the Zox visor is awesome. There is a satisfying click as you move the visor up and down to various positions. The Azuma has probably twice as many visor detent settings as the Z1R Strike, and appears to be much more robust than the Strike.

One thing I don’t like about the Azuma R compared to the Strike is that the Azuma R uses a red elastic to hold the slack from the chinstrap. The Strike had a snap on the end, which was a LOT more secure. The Azuma R (and my HJC, at over twice the price) system means the slack flaps around. At 80+MPH it’s not only annoying, it’s a little painful. If I were smart enough to figure out how to do it, I’d install a snap myself. Alas.

The fit on Zox Azuma R is much tighter than other manufacturers’ helmets. I wear a medium in the Strike and the SyMax, as well as the Icon Mainframe I ordered awhile ago and returned. The medium Azuma R wouldn’t even make it past my temples. I exchanged it with IronPony for a large, and it fits great. It is very very comfortable, and while I still get a slight “hot spot” on the top of my forehead, it is more comfortable than the HJC and obviously better fitting than the Z1R.

I’ve had the Azuma R for five weeks, and have probably logged five or six hundred miles in it. It fits great, and I would recommend it to anyone as their primary helmet.

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Posted in: motorcycling, review

3 Comments on "Zox Azuma R motorcycle helmet review"

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  1. Would it be possible to use duct tape to mod the incoming wind angle so the vent wouldn’t whistle so badly? Stylish black or silver duct tape?

  2. Nicole - Wii Fit says:

    Great information – do you know of any retailers based in London that sell this particular helmet?

  3. You can contact NHJ in Chicago and they can tell you who sells those helmets in London.

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