June 6, 2011
I don’t test a lot of flip-front helmets. That’s because I personally don’t like them, and that means pretty much every one I do try out I’m going to give a poor review. I don’t like that they are heavy, awkwardly balanced and noisy. I also don’t really understand what advantages they offer over a full-face helmet. But I have to constantly remind myself—just because I don’t see the value in a product doesn’t mean a product has no value. Glasses-wearers prize flip-up lids, as do riders who need to wear a helmet all day—touring riders, motorcycle escorts and other professionals come to mind. I’ll wear flip-ups, so I can write intelligently about them, but I subject them to the same standards I expect from full-facers.
That was the case when I tried the Vemar Jiano a while back. It was well-made and functioned as advertised, but it was just too drafty, too awkward, too uncomfortable. So when Motonation—importer of Vemar as well as AGV apparel and Sidi boots—told me it was offering a new version called the Jiano TC, I asked if it was better than the old Jiano. I was told it was indeed much better. So here I am, reviewing it.
In fact, it’s a pretty good helmet, flip-front or otherwise. The outer shell (which comes in two different sizes to cover the 6 helmet sizes, XS-XXL) is a Kevlar/carbon/fiberglass composite, reshaped for better aerodynamics. The front of the helmet unlocks with a single button and uses metal pins and hooks to help keep the face shield secure in case of an unfortunate event (the original Jiano stayed locked in 97 percent of impacts during testing under the U.K. SHARP system). Inside, a removable lining and cheek pads allow the wearer to customize fit. A retracting sun visor is controlled with a sliding lever on the left side of the helmet. The inner liner is dual-density foam and the chinstrap is a very practical quick-release mechanism.
The Jiano TC is a stylish and well-made piece of gear. The finish is good and the fit, finish and attention to detail are noticeable. You won’t mistake it for a higher-priced helmet, but it’s also no cheapie. All the controls and levers work well enough, and the main latch is particularly satisfying to use, as it closes easily with an audible click—no worries about it popping open when you thought it was locked. The sheild-release mechanism feels cheap, but is very intuitive and easy to use. And I challenge you to find a larger vent than the manhole-cover-like thing on the crown of the TC.
My matte-black Jiano TC fit me pretty well. MotoNation calls it a “mid-oval” shape, and I felt some pressure on the crown of my head, but it broke in within 50 miles. I was disappointed with the weight—Jiano claims it’s under four pounds, but my postage scale read four pounds, one ounce, and you really feel the weight (it’s about 12 ounces heavier than my usual favorite, the HJC RPS-10. Chalk it up to the flip-up stuff and internal shield mechanism, and anyway, most flip-ups are pretty hefty, which may be why touring riders often have thick necks.
On the road, the Jiano TC didn’t really feel like a flip-up helmet to me. That’s because it’s the quietest and least drafty flip-front I can remember testing. No whistling noises, no breezes tickling my face. The visor seals well and is distortion-free (it’s claimed anti-fog, but it works as well as the other “anti-fog” faceshields I’ve tested). The internal sunscreen is good. It’s easy to deploy and retract and offers a variety of positions to even accommodate guys like my cousin David, who has a large (but very handsome) nose. The visor isn’t tinted enough to ride with directly into the sun, but it beats sunglasses—or having to carry an extra shield for when the sun goes down.
There is no question that it offers a lot of features for $375. Vemar now has a flip-front helmet I would strongly consider if I was looking for the convenience and flexibility these lids offer. It’s available in four colors (matte black or glossy silver, white or black) and a Bluetooth-equipped version ($595) at retailers or through MotoNation’s website.