Kabuto FF-5V Helmet Review — OGK Comes To The U.S.

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Kabuto FF-5V

Heard of OGK? Previously not available here in The States, they’re some of the most aerodynamic-looking helmets out there. Until now, you’ve had to look on enviously as Japanese racers wore them on TV, but now they’re available here in America. This Kabuto FF-5V helmet review looks at the range-topping lid.

Helmet Role
Kabuto tells us it hopes to match the quality of fellow Japanese helmet makers Arai and Shoei, but at a lower price. This $430 FF-5V is the firm’s fanciest lid, intended to rival the $800 Arai Corsair V and $700 Shoei X-12.

Like those helmets, the shell is a composite blend of fiberglass and organic fibers, giving it both strength and flexibility. In altering its helmets for the American market, Kabuto also chose to build to the Snell M2010 standard, as popularized by Arai and Shoei.

Unfortunately, that makes the FF-5V as heavy as a Snell X-12 or Corsair V, too. Kabuto tells us it opted for that standard due its recognition in the American market over the lighter, softer European ECE 22.05 standard.

Also like its rivals, the FF-5V features a heavy use of external plastic ventilation ducts, designed to pull air through the helmet in large volumes, without adding undue weight or adding difficult-to-manufacture forms to the structural shell.

So, can the Kabuto really rival its more established competition?

Kabuto FF-5V
Kabuto FF-5V Helmet

Fit and Comfort
Like the X-12 and Corsair V, the FF-5V uses an intermediate oval head shape, which is the most common among us humans. It’s also equipped with a removable, Coolmax interior, just like those helmets. If you fit one of them, you’ll be comfy in this Kabuto.

Visibility and Noise
Visibility is excellent both in the periphery and horizon, as you’d expect from a track-oriented helmet. Also as you’d expect, wind noise is significant. Much turbulence sounds to be generated around the two front vents and four rear. The press-on “wake stabilizers” on the lower rear are said to minimize noise, if they work, we can’t hear them over the roar.

As a major mark against visibility and also like the Shoei and Arai, the Kabuto will fog instantly in any temperature under 70 degrees, requiring the fitmet of the (included) Pinlock visor insert. Those utterly prevent fogging, but do creating a “starring” effect at night or in bad weather as the now two layers of plastic you have to look through scatter the light around bright sources.

For $150, Icon can sell you a helmet that doesn’t fog at all and has excellent optical clarity. Why other helmet makers can’t figure this out is beyond us.

Kabuto FF-5V Motorcycle Helmet
Kabuto FF-5V Motorcycle Helmet

Weight and Balance
As you’d expect from a Snell lid, the FF-5V is no lightweight. In size Large, it feels to be approximately the same weight as my 1,500 gram, $650 Bell Star Matte Carbon. That’s noticeably heavier than high-end ECE 22.05 helmets like the 1,300 gram, $450 Nexx XR1R.

The FF-5V does better in the aerodynamics department, where it cuts through the wind without turbulence or pressure. This would be an excellent choice for riders of high performance naked bikes.

Ventilation
Pull out the removable lining on your helmet and look at the Styrofoam underneath. Are there grooves running between forward and rearward vents, actively channeling air through the helmet? Or, are there simply holes drilled straight through and nothing else to help air through?

If it’s the latter, then no matter how many vents are stuck through the shell, it’s not going to be a great ventilating helmet. And, the Styrofoam inside the FF-5V is smooth, with no wind-carrying grooves.

While the Kabuto is fitted with two large, 10mm vents in the forehead and four of those in the rear, plus the usual chin vent to help clear the visor of the inevitable fog, that’s all you get. There’s no brow vent, no low rear extractors or lower chin vents to provide additional ventilation.

At $180, the Icon Airmada has all the above, along with those fancy grooves to carry the air through the interior.

Kabuto FF-5V
Kabuto FF-5V Helmet

Graphics and Finish
In plain colors, the FF-5V is a decent looking helmet. It’s graphic choices are…less than decent. This “Works” scheme manages to combine relatively inoffensive racing stripes with Mike Tyson’s face tattoo. We’re not sure why. It also ups the price to $480. Other schemes are equally horrendous.

Unfortunately, Kabuto’s quality also leaves something to be desired. As mentioned before, the transparent “wake stabilizers” on the rear are stuck on with adhesive, the vinyl “boot” around the bottom of the helmet is rough and poorly finished and the visors feel thin and flimsy.

Kabuto FF-5V
The Kabuto FF-5V’s four rear vents are huge, unfortunately their ability to draw out through the helmet is limited by the lack of internal pathways.

Value and Desirability
At $430 the FF-5V is definitely cheaper than the Corsair V or X-12. Unfortunately this has nothing like their quality or brand recognition.

More damning is going to be the $437 price of the Shoei RF-1200. It’s noticeably lighter than the FF-5V and the quality difference is night and day. It also has more ventilation, actual vent channels in the EPS and features a fresher design.

The Good
Aerodynamic stability is solid.

Visor change mechanism is among the easiest and quickest out there.

Paint quality is decent.

The Bad
Fogs up without the included Pinlock insert.

Ventilation promises more than it delivers.

Quality niggles in too many places.

No defined unique selling point.

As heavy as a Shoei or Arai without the quality and features that nevertheless make them worth buying.

Only three shell sizes across six head sizes.

The Verdict
A worthy if unexciting entry into the sportbike helmet market, the Kabuto FF-5V does nothing better than other helmets in the category and manages to do several things worse than even much cheaper competitors. We urge Kabuto to revisit its choice of safety standard and return to the market with a lightweight alternative to the other Japanese manufacturers. There’s an opportunity for leadership in the helmet space and not much room for just another follower.

More Information: Kabuto USA

Related Links:
Why Spend More? Icon Airmada Review
So, You Want A Shoei: Shoei RF-1200 Review
Other Fancy-Pants Helmets: The Best Street Motorcycle Helmets Under $800

  • kentaro

    Excellent review. Revzilla videos, as much as I love them are no match for HFL helmet reviews that don’t mind digging in to “the bad.”

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      As much as I agree with you in our being awesome and everyone else not coming close, there’s a big difference between a review and a product overview.

      • kentaro

        Fair point. What I meant to say but didn’t communicate well was that reviews here are much more valuable to me in terms of influencing my buying decision by evaluating a product against comparable products. The Revzilla videos are great product overviews but it is less valuable to me in terms of identifying the best model within a price range since they rarely rip on a product’s lack of features.

        • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

          Again, they aren’t a review site. They’re job is to give you a breakdown of the features contained in a product, the same way amazon writes out a written description, because they’re a retail company and it’s their job to sell products. They really shouldn’t include any negativity at all, but sometimes can’t help the desire to try and steer you guys in the right direction.

          We are a review site. it’s our job to guide your purchases based on what product is the best.

      • JP

        No one can describe a product any better than Anthony from Revzilla. I am in awe of the way he can communicates.

  • devillock

    Best helmet is the one that fits you properly. The end.

    • Aakash

      Let’s be a bit more discerning than that. There can be any number of helmets that fit your head properly. The question is, after you find and try on a few that fit, which is best? That depends on price, features, aesthetics, quality, etc.

      That’s why these reviews are helpful. We can certainly try on helmets at the local shop and feel comfy wearing them in the confines of the showroom floor. But they won’t let us go jump on our bike with one and take it for a 50-mile trip to test out its other functionalities.

      • devillock

        Sure, but you won’t know that till you buy it. Just coz said reviewer liked the helmet on his test ride does not mean you will. All of this stuff is so subjective. There are people that ride Harleys and enjoy it for chrissake.

        • Aakash

          Things I look for in a helmet review:

          -Noise reduction qualities
          -Visor quality and mechanism construction (does it hold up to use?)
          -Quality of the seal with the visor
          -Effective or ineffective ventilation
          -Finish issues

          These are all bits of useful that a good review and relay to us readers. They are not as subjective as aesthetics, comfort and fit.

          We are not talking about enjoyment here, we are talking about functionality. A good review can speak to a the functionality of the product while leaving the more subjective areas of critique to the reader.

          • devillock

            Agreed. However, I am willing to sacrifice any of those factors for proper fit. I see those as bonuses, except for quality as that’s a given with Arai. Changing the visor on the other hand is another topic altogether… Their helmets fit me so well, I won’t even bother looking at other brands. (ok, I do but nothing comes close imo.)

            • Aakash

              I’d like to try an Arai soon. Maybe an RX-Q?

              • devillock

                That’s what I currently use on warmer days, has great air flow. However, I find the Vector more comfortable.

    • Mugget

      The best bike is one you can ride? Err….

      • devillock

        Well, to ride properly, sure. A novice rider is much better off on a 300Ninja than a ZX10R. An experienced rider will know what they want out their bike, so will usually buy what they need over what they want. As much as I love race bikes and nakeds, I don’t fit on them comfortably due to my height and long limbs. They are torturous to ride for me; I sold my 2010 Speed Triple after owning it for a year because it is not the best bike for me. Just because I can ride it, does not mean it’s any good for me. Same goes with helmets. They all fit but if it does not fit properly it is rendered practically useless.

        • Mugget

          That’s kind of my point… just because a helmet fits properly does not necessarily mean it’s the best one for you. There are so many helmets out there that you will likely find a number of helmets that fit properly, so then the best one for you comes down to preference on features and cost, etc.

          • devillock

            Oh for sure. My point was only to say that it has to fit properly and be comfortable. Everything else after that is a bonus, and most likely will select it based on those bonus features.

  • stephen

    you guys have any leads for the Skully helmets, with the heads up displays in them?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Gimmick. Give me a good fitting, stable, light helmet over some projection BS all day long. It’s my head, it needs to be comfy and safe.

      • Faysal Itani

        Why do you say its a BS gimmick? Just curious…

  • Brian

    I have known about OGK helmets for about 12+ years now. I think they tend to be on the noisy side from what I have experienced in the past. Are they as common here stateside, no. Are they available, yes but are generally with the ECE certification ( which I think exceeds the SNELL and DOT standards) through an importer in the UK. Nice that there is now an official importer here stateside, but I am not sure that this brand will catch on without major deployment into the retail market for people to have readily easy access to try them on. Otherwise you are guessing in the dark on what could be the wrong helmet for your nugget and end up jaded and unhappy.

  • Jay

    When I was helmet shopping a few years ago, I looked hard at OGK. They were abandoning the US market and blowing out their inventory at quite a discount. They only offered the heavy Snell rather than their much lighter ECE 22.05 version. That was a deal-killer for me. I wish they’d re-think offering only Snell for the US.