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This is the helmet I was wearing when a crashed a couple weeks ago. It only made light contact with the ground, but I’m a better safe than sorry type, so it’s being retired. That’s a shame because this new HJC RPHA Max is one of the most comfortable, quietest, well-ventilated and versatile helmets I’ve ever worn. For $460, it’s an absolute bargain.

I’ve never owned a flip-front helmet before. I’d borrowed Grant’s Shoei Multitec a few times, but it was so heavy, hot and cumbersome, those few times were enough to scare me off the category entirely. Until this funny-sounding white helmet arrived in the mail that is.

Pulling it out of the box, I was initially shocked by how light it is. HJC uses the typically harder, heavier Snell M2010 safety standard over my preferred softer, lighter ECE 22.05. But, picking up this flip-front, complete with hinges and latches and a sun visor, and holding it side-to-side with my ECE-rated AGV AX-8 Dual, there was nothing in it. AGV says a size medium of that helmet weighs 1,400g. HJC doesn’t quote a weight for the RPHA Max, but according to my hands, it’s right there with the AGV. That’s seriously impressive.

As is the quality, which was the second striking impression. The paint is smooth and thick, resisting scratching. The visor mechanism is robust, but extremely quick and easy to use. Vents are chunkily reassuring. That visor is also distortion free, triply important when you end up looking through it, a Pinlock anti-fog insert and the drop-down sun visor all at once. Even with all that, there’s absolutely no distortion during the day and only some minimal background reflections at night, just stuff like headlights and cat’s eyes and streetlamps creates a barely noticeable ghost effect with the Pinlock fitted. The visor seals totally and locks closed with a chunky, center-mounted mechanism.

I was totally won-over when I realized every badge, logo and sticker on the thing could be pealed off in seconds, creating an utterly plain exterior shell. White paint, nothing else. Thank you, HJC, for giving me the choice not to wear your ugly logos.

It helped my growing acceptance of wearing a flip-front that the helmet arrived in August, while it was approximately 1,000,000 degrees in LA. Being able to open the helmet up at stoplights or at low speeds around the neighborhood or while getting gas or whatever was just a godsend.

As was the ventilation. Initially, it doesn’t look like there’s much with only one, central, external intake on top and one chin intake. But, take a look inside and things become clearer. That central intake feeds two, large, totally exposed holes in the liner that aren’t obscured by the liner. Large ducts then carry that air all the way back to two equally large, equally exposed exhausts. It works, this thing is cool when it’s hot out. A standard chin curtain allows you to totally control the environment inside the helmet and keeps debris and other nastiness from blowing into your eyes.

The liner material helps too. It’s an anti-microbial, sweat-wicking material HJC has annoyingly dubbed “Cool4Ever.” Whatever, it works. Even in prolonged rides in 100 degree + temps, the helmet remained dry inside and the liner cool to the touch.

Despite leaving such huge gaps for ventilation, the RPHA Max (I have no idea what that stands for), is super plush to wear, with lots of padding and no contact between head and the Styrofoam. I experienced no break-in period with it, the helmet was all-day comfy from the first time I wore it.

Contributing to that comfort was astounding quietness. This is the quietest helmet I’ve ever worn, of any type. Saying that about a flip front, with its extra edges and whatnot there to catch the wind, is pretty significant. HJC claims 84db at 62.5mph, which is up there with pricey Schuberths and substantially quieter than any other helmet, all full-faces, in my arsenal.

Because of all that, I was wearing the RPHA Max (alright, I’m getting tired of writing that) everywhere, every day. Its flip-down sun visor proved as versatile as the Transitions visor on my Bell Star Matte Carbon and with that Pinlock (included as standard) fitted, it was utterly fog free. Something the Bell can’t even get close to claiming. I really fell for its looks too, which use different proportions to achieve a different effect than most helmets; the face is closer to, well, your face, which makes it look a little more anthropomorphic or natural and its overall size is relatively small. No Q-Tip effect here. The subtle contouring of the shell is also handsome, really making it look good sans all logos and graphics.

Negatives? Well, the sun visor is operated by a slider on the top/rear part of the helmet that can be a little awkward to use compared to Schuberth’s side-mount item and the slider itself feels a little plasticky. You can’t close the rear vents, meaning this won’t be a great choice for people riding in cold environments. But that’s about it.

I’m surprised I’m writing this about an HJC, a manufacturer I’d previously dismissed as budget nastiness. This RPHA Max joins the RPHA 10 and RPHA X (good grief) road-race and off-road helmets as new, high end offerings in the company’s line up. All benefit from totally revised production processes and the company’s very own new wind tunnel (I forgot to mention that the Max is more stable at high speed than that Bell Star, even when you turn your head). Part of that production process even involves human hands, used to precisely fit the varying densities of Styrofoam together, part of what contributes to the low weight. At any price, the Max would be a standout, at $460, it’s an unbelievable bargain. I’m going to try and get another one just like this.

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