Mar 1, 2009

Product Review: HJC CL-15 Full Face Helmet

All Rights Reserved © 2009 Thomas W. Day

The long affair was over. I walked away, only looking back once, later wishing I'd taken one last picture to remember our time together and the painful end. My friends all said I should have left sooner, much sooner. My parents were simply ashamed of me. My wife had held her tongue for so long that she was about to burst into mocking derision every time she saw me leave the house. Finally, even I saw the light (actually, I saw gouges cut so far into the fiberglass that small bits of foam were exposed), I had to leave my old Shoei X11 helmet and find a new lid.

I was stuck in Seattle with a smashed up helmet and, while the folks at this bike shop were good to me, asking me to pay full list for anything is almost taken as a life-threatening gesture. After taxes, a new bottom-of-the-line Shoei from Seattle Cycle would be more than $450 and I've already spent $600 on new tires, a heavy duty chain, brakes, and gloves. I'm decision-seized and almost ready to go out into the world with my old, massively damaged, but still mostly comfortable Shoei.

The salesman is going overboard with his "once you've gone Shoei you can never go cheaper" routine. I react poorly to pressure sales tactics. Usually, the salesperson gets exactly the opposite reaction he/she expects: I don't buy anything when I'd fully intended to buy something. I am, however, a discount buyer. When I can, I buy my motorcycles, clothing, furniture, and computers second hand. If I'm not getting at least 50% off, I wait until I can get 50% off of most everything I buy new. I'd buy used food if I could figure out how to safely digest it.

However, the helmet is wrecked. So, I kept looking. I found a bright yellow HJC helmet and tried it on. The salesman says "you won't like it, it's not a Shoei." But I did like it.

The HJC CL-15 fit really well, the visibility was better than my old lid, and it was much lighter than my Shoei. As if I expected to get a straight answer, I asked about the quality of the HJC brand and received "it's a cheap helmet, it won't last as long as your Shoei." I paid a small fortune for the Shoei and wore it a good two seasons beyond the expected lifetime because I wanted to get my "money's worth." Maybe a helmet that won't have such a tight grip on my billfold-memory would be a good thing. It was Seattle-expensive, but not so painfully prohibitive that I couldn't justify replacing my ruined lid.

On the road, I discovered the miracle of actual ventilation. The CL-15 flows air. On a cold morning, I opened up the chin vent, and in motion the fog vanishes and I can breathe normally. I thought my X11 was quiet, but the CL-15 is much more quiet. Like the Shoei, the famous V-Strom "buffeting" is unnoticeable due to the aerodynamic design of the helmet.

The face shield is designed so that I can flip it all the way up, at freeway speeds, and it doesn't shake or threaten to rip itself from the helmet. It stays in place, also at every intermediate setting. In the worst crosswinds I've ever experienced, in North Dakota (surprised?), I latched down the shield and that added a little stability to the helmet and quieted down the noise a bit, too. When I got home and went shopping for a backup face shield, I discovered the HJC shields are almost half the price of Shoei replacements. The shield is easily removed and reattached with a simple mechanism. The shield "securing system" parts are repairable and reasonably priced.

The cheek and crown pads are removable for cleaning. The chin strap is fastened with an old fashioned D-ring system with a securing snap to keep the end from rattling in the wind.

HJC warrants the CL-15 for a year (limited warranty). The helmet is Snell and DOT approved. After 18,000 miles of use, my CL-15 is still quiet, well ventilated, and comfortable. I'm happy with my cost-justified decision and expect to live with this helmet for a few more years before I have to deal with a buying decision on this piece of protective equipment again.


Life On Two Wheels said...

After reading some of your other reviews I completely expected the HJC to get blasted. What's interesting is that this was my first helmet and I felt the same way you did going from the Shoei to the HJC when I went from the CL-15 to my Scorpion. Since the shell is still in good shape, for about $40 I can replace the padding and have a "new" helmet. Still want to try a Shoei one day...

T.W. Day said...

There is nothing wrong with Shoei helmets, outside of the price. Great hats and excellent protection. The HJC, however, was a surpise. I'd heard bad things, but I can't write them honestly. It's comfortable, tough, and the right color. I now own an HJC FC-10 and like it as well.