Here in the Bay Area, I often feel we’ve become numb to the wants and needs of riders in other parts of the country. I know that the financial difference between a $150 helmet and a $500 (or more) helmet is meaningful for a lot of our readers, but I also know many of our readers buy the helmet (or helmets) they want, without regard for price. As a supposed moto-journalist, I (and the rest of the crew) often receive helmets for review, and as a result I own several helmets that would have cost more than my first couple street motorcycles combined—and it’s not like I started riding when Dudley Perkins was just opening up shop in SF, despite what you may have heard.
But even perched atop the tall stack of moto-payola here in World Headquarters, smoking rolled-up Benjamins as I watch an intern polish one of our Desmosedicis, I can still recall agonizing over the cost of a new helmet, and deciding to buy a $50 Bell on the clearance rack because I couldn’t justify $200 for a bitchin’ Shoei. The bike I rode at the time had cost me a whopping $600. I’d never bought a new street helmet before that, but had protected my head with hand-me-downs and ill-fitting garage sale finds.
The point of this jaunt down bad-memories lane, Junior, is that cheap helmets get a bad rap, and just like all “budget” gear, serve a purpose for riders, new and old. I should put “cheap” in quotes, because the reality is that inexpensive helmets aren’t necessarily low quality helmets, no matter how much your dumb neighbor parrots that “it’s just cheap Chinese crap” talk radio bullshit. As an example, I have an LS2 dirt helmet that I still loan out as a spare, that cost just over $100 in Cycle Gear a few years back. Everyone that wears it comments on how comfortable and full-featured it is, and are surprised when I tell them the price.
Which brings us—finally, right?—to the helmet in question today, Scorpion’s new EXO-420. This is a “price point” helmet, but like the other Scorpions we’ve tested, it presents as a nicer helmet than you might expect if I told you it retails for $159.95.
Cue the peanut gallery: “Well, if you’ve got a hundred-and-sixty-dollar head…”
Real clever, guys. Seriously. Smart people, like you deep thinkers, ought to be running the nation or something.
Anyway, the 420 is a DOT and SNELL M2015 certified full-face lid, available in a variety of solid colors and graphics, including a cool Dia de los Muertos-inspired “Sugar Skull” variant. The shell shape is somewhere between Shoei’s GT-Air and X-Fourteen, with contour lines that come together in a point at the back of the helmet. It’s an aesthetically pleasing, somewhat aggressive design—not over-the-top, but certainly not boring.
No matter the price or cool graphics, fit comes first. For comparison, I am most comfortable in a Shoei Large, although I fit well in certain Arais and other brands too. The EXO-420 in Large feels very close to the Shoei, in terms of head shape and snugness. If anything, it’s just a smidge bigger, but the internal shape is perfect for my head.
The fabrics of the KwikWick II Anti-Microbial liner feel surprisingly good for a $159 dollar helmet, and the liner is washable, as it should be. The cheekpads have red, quick release pull tabs labeled “Emergency,” in case someone other than you ends up having to remove your helmet after an unplanned dismount. This feature was only available in premium lids until just recently, and I’m glad to see it showing up at this price point.
I did not install an intercom, but the 420 (dude!) has what feel like reasonably-sized ear pockets that should accommodate typical intercom speakers.
Photos: Angelica Rubalcaba
Outside, the polycarbonate shell uses two intake vents in the front, one in the chin bar and one above the eyeport, with airflow exiting from a single vent in the aforementioned “point” at the back of the helmet. Airflow is always tough to gauge, and I didn’t perceive any obvious breezes on top of my head or around my eyes and nose, but the shield didn’t fog on me, perhaps thanks to Scorpion’s EverClear anti-fog coating, and I didn’t feel any more hot-headed than usual, even when a big rig nearly pit maneuvered a Camry into Max and I on 880.
Perhaps the 420 helps keep me mellow, man.
Optical clarity of the shield is good. I’m quite fond of center actuation, because it’s easier to engage or disengage with either hand, so the EXO’s single center latch makes me smile. Popping the shield on and off for cleaning or replacement is easy, thanks to simple, lever-actuated latches on either side. There’s nothing cheap-feeling about any of this, and that’s true of the entire helmet.
Since the helmet fits my head well, it’s been comfortable for extended periods and I’d have no qualms about wearing it on all-day rides. Scorpion calls the 420 “ultra-lightweight,” and on the who-knows-how-reliable postage scale here at World Headquarters, the Large weighed in at 1,705 grams—respectable, if not “ultra” light.
Scorpion also claims the shell shape and vents are engineered for low noise levels. I left a large percentage of my hearing behind in previous decades, so it sure seems reasonably quite to me. Can’t hear anything over my tinnitus anyway.
In all—or at least some—seriousness, the 420 seems as quiet as any other helmet I wear regularly, always with earplugs, of course. I can detect slight changes in wind noise when I turn my head at high speeds, but I never found the noise levels or changes in sound annoying.
It’s hard to find anything to complain about, even for me. The EXO-420 looks good, although the Matte Titanium finish of my tester tended to pick up fingerprints. Fit and finish are well above the $159.95 price point. The biggest complaint I have is that the little button for holding the strap end is tucked up a little higher than I’m used to, and its location took some getting used to. By “took some getting used to,” I mean that the first four or five times I donned the helmet, it took me a split second longer to find the button, but now it feels natural.
Yep, that’s all I got. Scorpion’s EXO-420 is an attractive helmet that feels good and fits well, and a hell of a deal at this price.