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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Aerodynamic stability is solid.
Visor change mechanism is among the easiest and quickest out there.
Paint quality is decent.
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.
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