Korean stealth technology for your skull!
Carbon Fiber. What could be sexier? It's lightweight, high tech and exotic. The stuff is also bloody expensive! You can always tell the guys with CF addictions. Their machines are primo but rarely get ridden. After all, who'd want to risk damaging all those nice accessories? Among the "Motorcycle as Art" crowd, perhaps the ultimate indulgence is a Carbon Fiber helmet. You could easily pay more than a grand for one, depending on brand. For that price though, would you risk actually riding in it?
At the Indy Dealer Expo last February, we had our first experience with XPEED Helmets. This Korean company is still gaining a foothold in the North American market, with distribution centered mostly on the West Coast thus far. Don't worry about that though, since with the magic of modern shipping, you can be wearing one of their offerings in 48 hours no matter where in the country you live. At the show, we were handed one of XPEED's XCF 3000 Carbon Fiber helmets. The thing was crazy light (XPEED claims 1380 grams, plus or minus 50, depending on size.) and beautiful to behold! Oh, helmet lust! Our heated state was elevated further when we were told that this beauty retails for $449.95 for the "Solid" model in naked CF or $469.95 for the "Quest," which bears minimalist graphics that still let most of the awesome weave remain visible. That's quite the bargain for a lid woven from black gold. Would we like to track test one? Um... YES! If there had been a racecourse looping around the convention center, we'd have gone right then!
Following the show, those rotten folks at XSPEED got their test helmet into our greedy hands almost immediately, which meant that we had to wait for seven tortuous weeks to try it at a track. Meanwhile, the temptation was high to build an altar upon which to ogle the XCF 3000 in the TrackdayMag.com workshop but what if it would have gotten scratched while being displayed? EEK!
So how did this beautiful lid work on track? Hey! We had to wait to find out, so you'll have to do the same. First, let's talk about the engineering that created it. The size range of XFC 3000 helmets is built off of two different sizes of outer shell, with XS, S and M using the smaller exterior and the L, XL and XXL sizes using the larger. As is industry standard, Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is used to form the impact-absorption portion of the liner. XPEED is very proud of their EPS molds, as this is where much of their development and engineering efforts have been focused. The two shell sizes use a total of three distinct head molds to create the six available helmet sizes but that's not all. XPEED designers have concluded that riders from Asia, Europe and the United States have distinctly different head shapes, so each market has its own set of molds. Does this work? We had tried an XL for fit at the show and were not 100% impressed. We later found out that many of the display items flown in for the event had been created for other markets. When our American-spec XL arrived, it was exactly as big as we'd expect an XL to be and fit wonderfully.
Test time? Not yet! There are those in the riding community who might turn up their noses at an XPEED helmet without even giving it a thorough inspection. Some buyers wouldn't think of trying a helmet from any brand which did not already have an extensive track record on American shores. Others might be from the camp that refuses to trust Korean-made products. There might even be those who feel that if they can get a helmet this nice for such a good price, then there must be something wrong with it. Well, naysayers should start by considering that the XCF 3000 is DOT and Snell 2010 approved. If that's not enough, there's the AMA test! Daytona Sportbike competitors Austin Dehaven, Sam Rozynski and Paulie Allison are out there living the Pro Racing dream, racing for the Triple Crown Industries team in XPEED helmets. This means that an XCF 3000 is good enough to satisfy even the notoriously picky squad of AMA tech inspectors, who hand-check and officially label every helmet before it can be used at one of their events.
Our XCF 3000 "Solid" model came sheathed in a rather average black cloth helmet bag, which, considering the low price tag of this CF lid, is quite acceptable. Hey, XPEED had to save money somewhere, so why not on the bag? The helmet was wearing a black-hole-dark visor, which complimented its lustrous ebony finish perfectly. Inside, the plush fabric liner featured a facsimile carbon weave printed into its fabric, which we felt was a particularly classy bit of attention to detail. The XCF 3000's pop-open metal chin duct and closeable top vents have been reported by XPEED's sponsored racers to flow insane air at Daytona velocities. When we tested the helmet at Talladega GP in Munford, Alabama, the temps hung in the high 80s with 100% humidity. Tally is a short track and top speeds there are far below what you'd find on the high banks of the Big D. In those conditions, the XCF 3000 was a bit on the hot side, although we'd expect that of most any all-black helmet on such a day. We had issues with the visor, which turned out to have been caused when we tested the quick release shield mechanism and then didn't get it reinstalled properly. Although we'd mucked this up with our own fumble fingers and were able to resolve our mistake with a bit more attention to technique, it bears mentioning that the task is not second nature and if done incorrectly, can result in malfunction. The latching system works; you just have to take a moment to make sure that you engage it correctly.
When the weekend had ended, it was time to collect our impressions and decide what we thought of XPEED's top offering. Our complaints were limited to the fussy visor attachment system and the fact that this helmet is on the hot side when temperature, humidity and sun conspire to bake you. Practice will cure the first issue and in order to solve the second, XPEED would have to hide that utterly gorgeous CF finish beneath a coat of light colored paint. (Fiber fetishists scream, "SACRALIGE!") On the plus side, the XCF 3000 proved to be very comfortable and ridiculously light. We found the tint of the visor, serious as a set of welding goggles, to be exactly the shade we favor for bright, sunny days. Far eclipsing all of that was the way this thing looks. No other helmet that we've tested has garnered so many compliments or generated such interest. We'd like this lid a lot if it was painted white but absolutely LOVE how much everybody else digs it's rich, inky, Carbon Fiber mystique. We'd say that of all its attributes, pride of ownership is where this product excels. Would you enjoy being the center of attention? Do you have a Carbon addiction? Do you like stuff that's unique, high tech and beautiful to look at? If so, owning an XPEED XCF 3000 will make you very happy. Better yet, the price is reasonable enough that you'll actually be willing to ride in it.