Recently, I found myself on the hunt for a new versatile do-it-all full face helmet. One that could handle any weather, time of day, or other road conditions.
My list of criteria was pretty demanding:
- Good enough ventilation and cooling/moisture-wicking materials to handle the Texas summer.
- Some sort of drop-down shield or photochromic visor to be good for day or night riding without requiring shield changes.
- Pinlock or other double-pane visor to prevent fogging on cold or wet days.
- Bluetooth headset ready.
- Fairly quiet.
- Lightweight and comfortable.
- Mid-range price ($300-400).
Surely, such a unicorn of a helmet doesn’t actually exist? After exhaustive research, I had narrowed the field down to the HJC RPHA 70 ST, LS2 Challenger GT Carbon, or Scorpion EXO-ST1400 Carbon. They all covered my requirements and were within $20 of each other.
As you may have figured out from the title of this review, I decided to go with the Scorpion EXO-ST1400 Carbon. For starters, the ST1400 looked to offer the best bang for the buck. It sported a 3K carbon fiber shell, included a clear MaxVision Pinlock-ready face shield, a dark smoke EverClear no-fog face shield (note: Scorpion appears to have revised the product description of the ST1400 since I purchased it to include a clear EverClear no-fog face shield installed, and clear MaxVision Pinlock-ready shield, rather than the dark smoke shield), the Pinlock anti-fog insert, and Dark Smoke SpeedView Anti-Fog SunVisor.
It was also equipped with Scorpion-EXO’s innovative AirFit system. The AirFit system uses an air bladder behind the cheekpads and a pump built into the chin bar to allow for a customizable fit. I also dug it’s sleek, subtle, matte carbon look above the others as well.
Helmets tend to be a bit of a weird fit for me, since I have no hair to add bulk at the top of the helmet, and I have a thick neck and jaw (and this glorious beard) that cause helmets to instead be more snug in the cheeks and neck. To nail down a (hopefully) good fit, I grabbed a tape measure and measured and re-measured the diameter of my head. At around 23.5″ (or just over 59cm), I was squarely in Large territory.
I placed the order for a size Large, and hoped that the size chart on RevZilla was accurate (spoiler alert: it was).
When the helmet arrived a few days later, I got it unboxed, and tried it on. The fit was snug; far more so than my Bell Qualifier or Eliminator in the same size; but not uncomfortable by any means. The padding and liner were soft, plush, and compressed easily. Until the cheekpads broke in, I definitely wouldn’t be needing to use the AirFit system.
I walked around the house with the helmet for a few minutes, moving my head around while I did, to get a better sense of the fit. As I got used to the fit and feel of the helmet, the snugness of the fit receded in my perception, leaving virtually nothing in its place. It nearly felt like I wasn’t wearing a helmet.
The fit was fine, so I finished up the unboxing, and discovered that the dark smoke shield hadn’t been included. I had received the clear shield installed on the helmet and a second clear shield in the box. That wasn’t worth outright returning the helmet for, and I made a note to contact Scorpion later to get that deal with.
(Reminder: the two clear shields is now the norm for the ST1400, so you’ll have to purchase the dark smoke shield separately. This is in no way a deal breaker, and with the SpeedView SunVisor, the dark shield isn’t even necessary. I just prefer to have the dark shield in the summer to prevent the heat of the Texas sun from heating up the interior of the helmet.)
The following day I was ready to gear up and put the helmet through its paces on a test ride. The ST1400 performed admirably on the road, at virtually any speed. The aerodynamics of the helmet were great, as I didn’t experience any significant buffeting from the wind. It was pretty quiet, too; other than the Shoei RF-SR I had, the ST1400 was quieter than any other helmet I have owned.
Overall, the the ST1400 fit and performed like a dream. It may not be quite as comfortable as a Shoei or Arai, but for the features it packs into its price tag, I can’t complain.
Now let’s dig into those features.
Ventilation and cooling
The ventilation is mind blowing. With the ram-air intake vents at the top of the forehead open, it pulls in a ton of air. The chin vent mostly directs airflow across the interior of the face shield. In it’s fully open position, though, a fair amount of air will flow directly to your face for additional cooling.
The exhaust vents integrated into the spoiler at the back of the helmet pull hot air up and out with great efficiency. The end result of this high velocity Venturi effect is cooling like I’ve never experienced in a helmet before. I barely sweat at all in this helmet, even in stop-and-go traffic in temperatures north of 100ºF.
Operating the vents with gloves on is easy, as well. The mechanisms for them are large and wide, and have a very positive feeling “click” when operating them, making it easy to tell if you have them closed, partially open, or fully open.
The shield has a detent, referred to as “City Position” by Scorpion, to crack it open to allow for more airflow when riding in stop-and-go traffic. Also, I have found that if you don’t fully engage the lock on the face shield, a tiny amount of air is actually able to flow under it, as well, which can either bolster the ventilation a bit, or help with defogging.
The Kwikwick III liner is also one of the softest and most supple liners I’ve ever worn. The moisture-wicking and anti-bacterial features work well, and the material feels cool to the touch at all times. Coupled with the incredible ventilation, the liner has remained cool, dry, and fresh-smelling all summer. It’ll inevitably require some periodic cleaning, though, and is removable and washable. When it’s time to do so, the removal and re-installation process is super easy.
EllipTec II Face shield, SpeedView sun visor & Pinlock Shield
First off, the mechanisms for the locking face shield and drop down sun visor are both easy to find and operate with a gloved hand. The face shield’s lock is positioned in the center of the shield, which is great for being able to easily operate the shield with either your left or right hand.
The 2-axis movement of the EllipTec II ratchet system used on the face shield allows for a strong seal between the face shield and the gasket around the eye port, keeping out unwanted air, debris, and rain. Since the shield locks, you also don’t have to worry about the shield being pushed open by buffeting air (for instance, when turning your head at high speeds).
The dark smoke SpeedView sun visor is impressive. It is easily the best drop-down visor I’ve ever used. It’s large, and covers your entire field of view, but is positioned such that it doesn’t make contact with your cheeks or bridge of your nose, which is a problem I have experienced with other drop-down visor designs. The mechanism is great, and locks into position (either up or down) with a solid positive feel. It doesn’t wobble, drift, drop down into your line of sight when it should be up, or otherwise behave erratically.
Scorpion’s no-fog EverClear coating on the face shield and SpeedView visor are probably the best in the industry. I have only experienced the slightest bit of fogging on very cool, humid mornings, and it clears very quickly after cracking the shield or moving.
While I’ve had reasonably good experiences with other manufacturers’ anti-fog coatings, they’ve all inevitable worn out and failed after a few weeks or months of regular riding, which hasn’t been the case with the EverClear coating. It’s not only the most effective anti-fog coating I’ve seen, but seems to be the most durable and long lasting.
If you ride in humid, chilly, or wet weather with any regularity, no amount of anti-fog coating is going to cut it, though. They all inevitably reach a point of failure. A Pinlock face shield is a must-have in these environments. Scorpion includes not only a clear Pinlock-ready Max Vision shield, but the Pinlock insert as well. Pinlock-ready shields are also available in dark smoke, as well as clear and dark smoke shields with race tear-off posts, so the ST1400 can be easily configured for the track.
If you’re unfamiliar with what a Pinlock shield is or does, it is a second thin flexible shield with a silicone gasket that locks onto elliptical pins built into the main shield. This insert shield is also made of a more porous moisture-absorbing material. Once installed, a warmer insulating pocket of air is sealed between the two layers, which in conjunction with the moisture-absorbing material of the insert, works like a double-paned window to prevent moisture in the air (or your breath) from condensing on the inside of the shield.
The downside of a Pinlock insert is that there can occasionally be some visible reflection/refraction distortion of street and car lights that occurs between the two shield layers. My personal experience with the ST1400 as well as other helmets with Pinlock inserts and double-pane shields (like the ProVision shield of the Bell Eliminator) is that this effect is minor, if even noticeable at all.
Some Pinlock shields are only recommended for day time use, though. It’s a good idea to wear any Pinlock or double-paned helmet off the bike at night where there are a variety of light sources around to test it under these conditions.
The Pinlock insert is easy to install, and the setup works as expected on the ST1400. No surprises (or fogging) here.
If a Pinlock-ready shield isn’t a priority and you just want some extra style, standard EverClear treated shields are also available in dark smoke and a variety of mirrored finishes.
Bluetooth Comm Compatibility & noise level
I’ve come to prefer riding with a Bluetooth headset communicator system from Cardo or Sena. Being able to communicate with other riders, have directions in unfamiliar locations, and listen to music while riding has dramatically enhanced my enjoyment of riding.
I had a Cardo Freedom 2+ headset ready to drop into this new helmet, so having a helmet that was as comm-ready as possible, was a must.
The ST1400 exceeded my expectations. Scorpion advertises the speaker pockets, but they don’t mention how well designed these pockets are, nor do they highlight the molded cut-outs in the chin bar to accommodate the microphone.
The speaker pockets themselves are the best I’ve seen in a helmet. First, they’re easy to access. On top of that, they have several small tabs around their perimeter which the headset speakers effectively “clip” into, locking the speakers into place without having to use any additional velcro, tape, or glue. Finally, there are small grooves in the foam below the speaker cut-outs, also with locking tabs, to insert the speaker wires for a cleaner installation.
The most surprising part was the molded cut-out in the chin bar for the microphone. I can’t recall ever seeing a helmet with that. I simply pressed the velcro strip for the microphone into the recess, and attached the microphone to the velcro. It totally saved time on the install.
With other helmets, it always took a bit of trial and error to find an ideal microphone location. Striking a balance between placing the microphone close enough to have good voice quality and volume, without the microphone actually contacting your face was sometimes a bit tricky. The ST1400 solves that. Other helmet manufacturers take note. If you claim your helmet is Bluetooth comm ready, Scorpion has raised the bar, and you need to start including a place for the mic.
There are also ample channels and grooves placed in the helmet to easily tuck the wires out of the way, making for an overall clean install. Doubly so with how svelte and compact the Cardo Freecom 2+ is.
The wind noise level of the ST1400 is also pretty good. The tuned ventilation, aerodynamic shape, highly effective face shield seal, thick neck roll, and included chin curtain results in a helmet that is reasonably quiet. Not Shoei or Arai quiet, but it comes in second to those across all the various helmets I’ve worn.
The acoustics, however, are second-to-none. I’ve used several helmets with a few different headsets over the last few years, and the speaker placement, wind noise level and overall acoustics of the ST1400 result in the best-sound quality I’ve experienced. When combined with a pair of Loop earplugs, it’s almost as good as wearing noise-cancelling headphones.
Weight & Comfort
The lightness of the ST1400 is astounding. The weight is virtually identical to that of the lightweight Bell Eliminator, with the ST1400 actually being lighter by just a few grams. The ST1400 carries its weight better, distributes it across your head more evenly, and has better aerodynamics when riding, so it feels even lighter.
As mentioned before, the Kwikwick III liner is soft and comfortable. The padding used is also soft, compresses easily, and provides a great balance between being plush and supple and firm and supportive.
Given that the ST1400 is a beefy helmet packed with features, the weight is downright impressive. You’d be hard pressed to find a lighter, more comfortable helmet.
It’s pretty hard to beat a resin-infused 3K carbon fiber shell that touts “aircraft-grade impact dispersal properties” (whatever that actually means; it sounds impressive, at least).
Impressive-sounding carbon fiber composite construction aside, the ST1400 sports DOT FMVSS No. 218 certification and ECE approval, so it should do a fine job of keeping your head intact in a crash.
Quick-release cheek pad systems to make helmet removal safer and easier for EMTs used to be limited to high end helmets from Shoei and Arai. Such systems are finding their way into mid-range helmets from other brands as well. The ST1400 is equipped with such an emergency quick-release cheek pad system.
Finally, the lower portion of the cheek pads around the neck have reflective piping sewn into them, for an added touch of visibility.
Sure, it doesn’t come in light or bright colors, let alone high-viz for even better visibility, but all said, the ST1400 is definitely a safe helmet.
Price & Bang for the Buck
I’ve spent a lot more for helmets that do a lot less. At $399, the ST1400 Carbon is one of the least expensive carbon fiber helmets on the market.
Scorpion could have easily just slapped a carbon fiber shell on a mediocre helmet and called it a day, but they really went the extra mile with the ST1400.
It is packed with numerous intelligent, thoughtful, and subtle design touches that set it apart from other mid-range helmets.
The fit and finish is immaculate. The helmet feels solid, and even after some disassembly to install a comm system, everything fit back together snugly. I have no concerns about this helmet standing up to years of use. With a rock-solid 5-year warranty, the ST1400 is definitely built to last.
Since getting the ST1400, my other helmets have unfortunately just sat on my gear shelf, collecting dust. Anything they do, they ST1400 does just as well, if not better.
That’s not to say they’re bad helmets by any means, but man, the ST1400 is a serious Swiss Army Knife of a helmet. I’m thoroughly impressed with the package Scorpion is delivering with the ST1400 Carbon, and can’t recommend it enough.