Over the weekend I had the opportunity to visit The Helmet Harbor, a moto-gear vendor that sells mostly over the Internet, but happens to have their retail store here in the Phoenix area. It was a very pleasant experience -- the store is small, but very well stocked with lots of helmets of many brands, the store staff is very knowledgeable and helpful, and they allow you to take any helmet they have and go test-ride it around town. Not as good as the money-back guarantee on helmets from CycleGear, but probably the next best thing. It also helps that Helmet Harbor has stunningly low prices, often 25 - 30% below other discounters. I'm not sure how they manage that and still make money, but apparently they do because they just moved to a larger location.
I presently ride with an Arai Quantum/f, a very nice helmet, well made, very comfortable, and reputedly one of the most protective helmets made. But wonderful as the Arai is, there are some areas that could be improved: I wish it had more ventilation (here in the desert there is no such thing as too much or even enough ventilation), and I wish it were quieter. I wear earplugs just about all the time, but even then after 45 or 60 minutes I have a buzzing in my ears. So I set out to find a helmet as comfy and protective as the Arai, but quieter and with more ventilation.
And I think I may have found it: The new Shoei X-11. This is a very high-tech helmet with a very complex set of vents, internal ducts, and other gizmology, all of which work together to make this helmet not only better vented than the Arai, but significantly quieter. It's also substantially lighter than the Arai, though I must say I've never found the Arai too heavy. The only area in which it was not quite as good as the Arai was in comfortable fit -- it's probably the second most comfortable helmet I've ever tried on, but the Arai is still a bit better. For comfort I think it's still true that you can't beat an Arai. So I'm still undecided -- a like a lot of things about the X-11, but it's not a hands-down decision over the Quantum/f.
The X-11 is a fairly expensive helmet. CycleGear has it for $650 and it's a special-order item, MotorHelmets.com has it for $572. To my amazement, Helmet Harbor has them for $399. I really don't know how they manage to offer prices like that.
Another helmet I tried is the Shoei RF-1000, Shoei's former top-of-the-line model. Nice helmet too, but I tried it after the X-11 and that sort of spoiled me for it. I found the RF-1000 fairly comfy, but the ventilation wasn't as good, it was noisier than the X-11 (though about the same as my Arai), and I had a bad problem fogging -- it fogged even while I was rolling down the street at 20 - 30 mph, and that was in temperatures over 60F and fairly dry.
But that's only my opinion. My wife tried the RF-1000 and was very taken with it, may go back and buy one if she can get one in bright yellow. She also liked a lot the AGV Rossi-replica XR2, but I think that had a lot to do with the way-cool graphics and Rossi's number on the side. (MY wife and I are both very avid fans of motorcycle road-racing.) I told her that if she got a helmet with Rossi's "46" on the side she would have to get a bike much faster than her F650, but I don't think she's going for it.
I also got a chance to try out a Suomy (cool graphics, OK helmet, seems better for racing than street use) and several flip-ups, including the one I liked most, the Nolan 100. I like the idea of a flip-up, but I'm not convinced they're as protective as a solid full-face, and none of the ones I tried were as comfy as my Arai, though the Schuberth came close.
Anyway, thought I'd pass along a bit of helmet wisdom gained over the weekend. If you're in the market for a helmet I'd recommend taking a look at the X-11, and definitely recommend the Helmet Harbor, both for their prices and for the very helpful folks there.
Standard disclaimer: No, I have no interest of any kind in Helmet Harboer except as a shopping customer (haven't even bought anything there yet) -- just passing along what I found.