Flip-up or modular helmets have become very popular with touring and sport touring riders due to the added protection of a chin bar combined with some of the conveniences of a ¾ helmet. Like anything else, modular helmets can be found at many different price points and with many different feature sets. For several years, companies like Shoei and Schuberth have been building a reputation for making the top-of-the-line modular helmets. New for the US in 2013, and taking aim at the high end of modular helmets, is the Lazer Monaco Carbon.
Lazer, a Belgian company, was started all the way back in 1919 and claims to be the oldest brand of sports helmets in the world. They started out making padded leather items for motorcyclists and it is clear by what arrived at my doorstep a few weeks ago, they have come a long way.
To give a little of my personal history with modular helmets, I have owned a couple of HJC modular over the years. The reason I wore them instead of others was mainly due to a lack of selection where I was living and a fear of buying helmets online. Thanks to resources like Webbikeworld.com and retailers with easy exchange policies I am no longer worried so much about ordering online.
When I took the helmet out of the box the first thing that struck me was how light it really is. Lazer claims it weighs 1,350 grams, or 2.98 pounds, but they don’t specify what size helmet they used. According to Web Bike World a size large Monaco weighs in a 1,406 grams, or 3.1 pounds.
After marveling at the lightness I was then impressed by the overall quality feel of the helmet. The fully removable and washable liner feels very nice, as does the flip-up mechanism and pivot. The chin bar is not actually made of carbon, but is instead painted fiberglass. Personally, I like the two-tone black on black effect it gives the helmet.
The two best features of the helmet both relate to the face shield or visor. First, the shield itself is photochromic. This means that it changes tint based on light conditions. The transition from clear to dark is gradual and I didn’t notice just how dark it had gotten until I flipped it up at a stop light. According to the paperwork that came with the helmet, the face shield tints to about 20% light transmission.
The second visor related feature that sets this helmet apart is the inclusion of a pinlock visor. If you haven’t used one, it basically creates a double-paned section in the visor and keeps it from fogging up. I live in the Pacific Northwest and the humidity combined with temperatures in the 30’s are a sure-fire recipe for fogged visors. With the pinlock visor in place, I cannot get it to fog.
Having said all of that, the helmet is not perfect. Despite being almost 3 times the cost of my HJC, it isn’t noticeably quieter. According to Lazer, they did this on purpose. They could have spent more time and money making it quieter, but they’re target audience usually wears earplugs, so it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. I do wear earplugs. They were right; it doesn’t really matter.
To be quite specific I wear a pair of Westone in-ear monitors. This allows me to have great noise reduction and the ability to listen to music or podcasts while I ride. On occasion I will wear a pretty basic pair of ear buds and in those cases, the area surrounding the ears in the helmet seems a bit small. If you wear a pair of low profile ear buds or just use helmet speakers this is unlikely to be a problem.
On the subject of speakers, the helmet is pre-wired for the Lazer Blue system. This is similar to the Sena or Cardo Bluetooth systems and can be used to communicate with people using those systems. I don’t ride with anyone or have much use for a communicator so this feature is mostly wasted on someone like me.
The other feature I am apathetic towards is the chin strap. It uses a microlock buckle which in my sport touring position doesn’t irritate me. If I were sitting more upright I feel like the buckle would sit right against my larynx and irritate me. It is supposed to be more convenient because you can undo the clasp with one hand, but I was never irritated by the plain double D ring system of my other helmets.
Overall this helmet is a big improvement over the other modular helmets I have used and I look forward to getting many more miles out of it. Keep an eye out in July for a long-term wrap-up of my experiences.