Working for the Bike Shed might sound great, but there are some drawbacks. One of them is the newfound inability to get away with wearing standard kit. OK, it shouldn't matter a jot what you’re wearing but for my assault on the Rookie Class of the DTRA British Flattrack Championship it mattered to me a lot. I’d already made a massive compromise by buying a modern-ish 450 DTX bike rather than the classic Norton, Triumph or Bultaco that I’d actually wanted, but you've got to start somewhere, right.
If I couldn’t race a classic at least I could pretend to look like I was. My Helstons K70 matched the brief perfectly but I was in a pickle with the choice of lids. A vented MX jobbie was a no-go and as much as vintage style has a place, smashing my teeth-in against the overly close chinbar of a retro nod to nostalgia didn't take my fancy either.
I’m not anywhere near cool enough to have been gifted a Ruby Castel but I love that spaceman look sported by Dimitri Coste, Hubert Bastie and Frank Chatokhine. Those fuckers are so damn cool they can light a cigarette just by staring at it.
Shopkeep had me all excited with the arrival of the X.G100 made by Portuguese outfit Nexx. But I was dubious, how could a two hundred quid composite helmet actually be any good? It was bound to be rubbish. I made grateful noises and took one off his hands to review, chuntering to myself that the visor would definitely steam-up and the padding sag within a couple of wears.
Thankfully, in only the third occurrence since 1986 I was proved wrong. Very wrong. The XG100 fits like one of my Arai car racing lids, squeezing my cheeks reassuringly and hugging the rest of my noggin in firm yet cosseting pads. I’d go as far as to say that this is nearly the most comfortable motorcycle helmet I’ve worn, ever.
There’s loads of room in front of my mouth which is not only important for ensuring one’s artisanally twizzled moustache isn't tickled whilst riding but also avoids the aforementioned visit to the dentist. The strap is D-ring type and feels premium quality.
Colour schemes vary. I love the Maria Riding collaboration options but I wanted subtle, which is offered by the Devon. From the photos this appeared to be all black with a thin gold pinstripe, it is in actual fact ochre. I was initially a little miffed as black and gold is my favourite combo but as it turns out the Devon exactly matches the DTRA/House Industries number boards that I was to spend the season sat behind. Result.
Seeing as this was to be my race lid I thought it best to prepare with a proper test, at speed. A trip down to 72 Motorcycles to ride the Norton MM offered the perfect opportunity. The weather was OK for early April, a fresh temperature and plenty of moisture in the air, ideal for discovering if the visor was any good. Despite it not flipping-up, city traffic posed no problem, a thumb under the lip is sufficient to create an inch gap for ventilation.There was a minor build-up of steam but nothing that didn't clear within seconds.
A few weeks later during the Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber launch around a damp and near freezing Lake Como I tried my best to find fault with the visor system but again, it performed perfectly well. The opening might seem small but I find peripheral vision to be comparable with most modern style lids. The thick chin bar perhaps requires more of a nod to see gauges clearly but I don't do that very often anyway.
I've since tried Anti-Fog and Rain X, a great solution for really damp days. When particularly flustered, at a petrol station or trying to find my keys, I've resorted to tugging at the elasticated straps and releasing the popper, allowing the goggles to hang down on the opposite side. This can be done whilst riding and clipped back into position without too much bother, once you've got the knack.
My Guzzi Stelvio did have a screen but I made sure to test the Nexx at motorway speeds in a full breeze. Standing on the pegs and hanging off the side I stuck my head into relatively unmolested air to check for noise, buffeting and the security of the visor’s poppers. In the name of research your honour I may have made sure the Nexx was able to cope with velocities at least a 50% more than prescribed limits.
There was very little lift from the visor and for someone with weapon’s grade tinnitus I found the Nexx to be super quiet. My head is a medium and there is only one shell size so I presume the extra padding/foam dampened wind noise.
But noise is exactly what I’d expose the X.G100 to a few weeks later at the opening round of the DTRA season. I might have entered the Rookie Class but I wasn’t about to come unstuck through poor prep. I spoke with the good people at Bob Heath Visors, yes, that old school company your dad and probably his dad bought eye protection from, they sorted me out with tear-offs from a Shoei something or other and the necessary fitting kit.
Before I even rolled up to the start line at Rye House I’d given the helmet a wee test. Remember when your mum tells you to come in for tea but you have just one more go on the rope swing… and then smash your face-in and break your mate’s arm. Well I didn't heed that internal warning at the DTRA practice at Eastbourne Speedway. Most people had packed up and called it a day, but I knew best, I’d stay out with the big boys and try to keep up. BLAM! A cloud of dust settled and I eventually stood up. The Nexx took a hit but wasn’t cracked or obviously damaged, just scuffed. Shopkeep wouldn't be happy. But at least it had lasted five hrs longer than my previous test lid.
The good people from Nexx didn't quite know what they were in for and promised a few more helmets. Another one took a bash at the El Rollo race during Wheels & Waves but it didn't seem bad enough to retire it. Yes, yes I know, disposable items and all that.
The following weekend I finished that one off at the DTRA Round 3. Shopkeep less than politely told me to vacate his emporium, I had to speak to Nexx directly and ask for another. Thankfully the thought of spending more time in A&E kept me out of danger and I made it to the end of the season on the last remaining X.G100.
To say the season went well is a bit of an understatement, even in my wildest dreams and I’ve got some imagination. To celebrate winning the championship I headed to an open race with the big boys and pros, back at my bogey track, Greenfields. I wasn’t in the zone and should have parked up to enjoy a beer instead, but being a Rookie I didn't listen to that voice, again. Turn 1 I hit another rider and did my finest Superman impression, flying across the track and landing forehead first in the compacted dirt. Out cold for long enough to have everyone worried and to nearly get a go in a helicopter, I lay there limp.
After a yet another trip to A&E, CAT scans, X-rays and a telling off from the doctor I spent the next few weeks with my tail between my legs but counting my lucky stars. To say that it could have been worse is a massive understatement. I have absolutely no doubt that if I’d been sporting an overly trendy lid or anything with less protection I’d be unable to string these sentences together.
To put it bluntly, the Nexx saved my bacon. If you don't believe me pop into Bike Shed in Shoreditch and ask Shopkeep if you can see the battered helmet. Although split, scuffed and cracked the integrity of the shell remained intact and the shock absorbing foam did its job.
If you want to look cool without blowing the budget, I reckon there’s not a lot that beats the XG100. And there are new colour ways for 2017, including carbon. If safety is at the top of your tree, you needn't look much further.