A Full-Face Helmet with a Fog-Free Shield for Less Than Two Bills

I’m a helmet snob. There are very few lids out there that I want to put on my head for any length of time. In fact, it wasn’t until I donned an Arai for the first time that I became convinced that the helmet thing was a good idea and traded in my “beanie.” In the decade since my discovery, I’ve gotten into riding far more high performance equipment, where a good helmet really can be the difference between life and death.

To make matters worse, I have a weird head – long from front to back and top to bottom, but skinny on the sides. Any helmet without adequate interior padding is likely to feel like hell, and this includes some expensive ones.

So, to put it mildly, I was surprised when I actually liked my Scorpion. Sure it’s their top-of-the line EXO 700, but at $199 it’s less than half of what most helmets I find acceptable are priced at; solid colors are $20 cheaper. Over the last seven months the black and grey “Raider” model has been my only helmet to hell and back (or to Sturgis, in any case) and about 10,000 miles of riding. Despite being a full-face lid, it looks right at home on a cruiser.

Scorpion USA does much of the design and development at its California headquarters, but the helmets are manufactured in China. The company’s philosophy is to give big-brand features at a Chinese price. So the EXO-700 has things like a soft wicking liner, lots of vents, and an anti-fog shield (something I’ve often wished more high-end helmets had). In fact, Scorpion’s low-end EXO-400 has all of the same stuff, the only difference is that the 700 is fiberglass composite while the 400 is polycarbonate, which results in a slightly heavier lid.

How do all those trick features measure up? The anti-fog faceshield is pretty good, but an hour’s ride in the rain had condensation creeping up the shield from near the mouthpiece, although that was with the helmet’s breath guard removed because it interfered with my nose. Replacement shields (smoke, dark smoke, clear) retail for $35.95.

The “Kwick Wick” wicking liner seems to work well, but I’m not a serious sweater either. One nice thing about the liner is that you can pop it out and wet it on a hot day, open the vents, and have air conditioning for your head. In addition, you can customize the helmet by ordering optional liners ($34.95) with different patterns, including zebra, leopard, checkered flag, and two types of camouflage.

The vents (mouth, eyebrow, crown intakes) aren’t bad, but due to the some weird airflow issues in the mouth area, there’s not much difference between the mouth vent open and closed; there’s always air swirling around up there regardless. In fact, I got frustrated enough at the wind blowing right up my nose that I bought the optional “Aero Skirt” chin spoiler ($7.95).

Speaking of wind, the EXO-700 seems to have been wind-tunnel tested to cut down on noise, but only in one position. Facing forward, it’s about average for a well-vented helmet. Turn your head to the side a few degrees at speed though and there is lots of whistling. Turn all the way to the end of neck extension and it’s quiet again.

The strap retention system is good, a standard snap-style, but the foam strap guards are the floppy kind found on the cheapest helmets. Soft and thin, I could feel the D-rings on my jawbone. Shield replacement is a snap, literally. Spin the two spring-loaded releases and your shield is free. Line up a pin with a socket and push and your new shield is on. It’s the best quick-release shield system I’ve ever used.

My favorite part about the EXO-700 is its overall comfort. It has a nice, soft foam liner that feels good against your cheeks and holds the helmet relatively securely to your pate. Typical of helmets with soft padding, once it’s broken in there is some degradation and movement, but not too badly. The liner also does a good job of absorbing the “hot spots.” When you have a weird head like mine, almost all helmets will have a couple tight spots; it’s just a matter of how annoying they get, and in the 700 it’s not bad at all. My size large EXO fits my head like a Medium Arai or an XL Suomy.

This is the helmet I wish existed back when I first started riding. The cheapie's back then were all so bad, and I wasn’t about to spring for a $500 lid as a college student. While there are some little issues with the EXO helmets, the lids have enough nice features to convince a beanie or non-helmet wearer (who aren’t just dumb fashion victims) to step up to a more-protective lid.

Editor’s note: I’ve had my blue EXO-700 Raider for nearly a year and, like Billy, have been very impressed with the quality it offers at such a reasonable price. Sure, it’s not as light, quiet or as well finished as a Shoei X-11, but it’s about $400 cheaper! I didn’t have a problem with the shield fogging when I wore the EXO (with the standard breath guard) at the CBR600RR intro while riders with more expensive lids battled condensation. And I can’t believe you can get a fog-free faceshield on a $179 helmet but can’t on a $600 lid. It’s comfy, looks good, and has been trouble-free.