I’ve been regularly wearing the HJC RPHA 70 helmet for almost six months now and I think I’ve put in enough miles that I can now offer a full review.
To bring you up to speed, toward the start of this year the folks at Fortamoto sent me the helmet, asking that I deliver a comprehensive breakdown. I wrote up a quick first-look review, then got on with the task of wearing it in a wide range of weather conditions and riding scenarios. After six months and several hundreds of miles, the TL;DR version of my review is this: the HJC RPHA 70 is a good helmet that is, by and large, worth the money.
Note the “by and large” caveat there. Although it’s unquestionably the best looking lid in my current line-up*, the RPHA 70 is not my everyday helmet – that honor going instead to my Shoei Neotec II. There’s one main reason for this, which I’ll get into further on. But first let’s start with the basics.
Made in South Korea (which my wife refers to as “Good Korea,” as opposed to “Naughty Korea”), the RPHA 70 sits toward the top of HJC’s range in terms of price and quality. South Korea is ranked No. 21 on the Democracy Index, by the way, which places it above the United States. As always, the strength of a country’s democratic institutions may not necessarily reflect the quality of working conditions, but I think it serves as a good indicator. But maybe you really don’t care about the people that make your stuff, paying attention only to price. In which case, HJC’s website lists the helmet as starting at €399.90 for basic black. But in checking Fortamoto and various other gear sites it’s clear you can get it for less.
Loosely aimed at the touring/sport-touring market, the RPHA 70 comes equipped with a sun visor, a washable liner that is relatively easy to remove, and anti-fog lens. Note that it is not a Pinlock anti-fog lens; this will come up later when I address complaints. The helmet strap is secured via a good ol’ fashioned D-ring and HJC says the helmet is designed to easily accommodate the Cardo Packtalk Slim communicator. I’m afraid I can’t vouch for that system, but will say that my Sena 10C slotted in with surprising ease.
Oh, and HJC says the helmet has been designed with glasses wearers in mind, a special groove having been created in the lining for frames.
Build Quality and Fit
Compared against a Shoei GT Air II or Schuberth R2 (two helmets I’d consider as alternatives to the RPHA 70, even though the R2 lacks a sun visor), the HJC feels just a little budget in the hand. Not awful, not enough that it would necessarily stop me from making a purchase, but enough that you notice. There’s no getting around the fact the plastic feels a little thinner, a little more inclined to suffer over time.
This is especially true of the visor. A long-term owner may want to consider the possibility that he or she will be ordering a new visor at some point during the helmet’s life. Summer has been painfully slow to arrive here in the British Isles, so I’ve not had a lot of opportunities to scream past hedgerows on a sunny day, but I suspect that a kamikaze bumblebee, hit at, say, 80 mph, could leave a reasonably large scratch.
RELATED: HJC RPHA 70 – First Look
There are little plastic spoiler thingies toward the upper back of the helmet that I doubt have much practical use and that I fear could break if the helmet were to be bumped against a table or dropped from a height of more than 9 inches. Small ventilation switches seem equally unlikely to withstand long-term, ham-fisted abuse. The paint scheme looks good, though, and internally the quality is without question. The padding is both comfortable and robust – perhaps a teeny bit too much.
HJC’s sizing is true, but if you get a correctly sized helmet you will almost certainly have some very serious doubts when you first put it on. The ingress is quite small. “Ingress” is just a fancy word for “opening” – you know, the bit you put your head through. The cheek and neck padding is thick to help block out noise, but squeezing your noggin into place can be challenging. You really have to jam it on; it isn’t pleasant. If you are the sort of person who wears a neck buff that you pull over your face in cold weather (or to help block out pollen in the spring/summer), you will find it particularly difficult to avoid having the helmet pull the buff down when putting it on.
The good news is that once you finally stuff your brain box into the helmet it’s actually pretty comfortable in there. Or, well, it becomes comfortable after a while. The first dozen or so times I wore the helmet it squeezed my head and face so much that I didn’t feel like wearing it for more than 30 minutes at a time. Over the months, however, it has adjusted/molded to my head and I’m now content to wear it all day. It’s relatively light, so, once the padding has been broken in, you really don’t notice yourself wearing it.
Meanwhile, there is padding on the helmet straps, so they won’t cut into your neck.
Let’s talk a little more about that visor. The plus side of its being a little thin is that it seems to offer a clearer view than visors of comparative helmets from other brands. And there’s a great field of vision.
The visor has a little latch on the front that snaps it shut for higher-speed riding, which, like all the tabs and switches on this helmet, raises a little question mark for me in terms of long-term durability. It hasn’t broken, but I worry it will. Within the latch is a miniscule switch that you will struggle to operate with bare hands, let alone gloves. That is the visor lock. I complained about this feature when I reviewed the RPHA 11 and I hate it even more here. The RPHA 11 is ostensibly aimed at riders who might ride track, so the ability to lock a visor shut might make sense there; but on a touring/sport-touring helmet it is just something with the potential to annoy.
SHOW SOME LOVE
Get Your Hands On TMO T-shirts and Hoodies
Equally annoying is the anti-fog lens’ poor performance. I use the RPHA 70 for my sporadic vlogging efforts and if you watch those videos you’ll notice I’m constantly fussing with the visor, trying to clear out the fog that builds too quickly on anything but the driest day. During the winter I found it downright awful. On one particularly trying journey to work, the visor fogged so completely while I was on the motorway that I had to pull to the side of the road and remove the visor entirely.
“Why didn’t you just ride with the visor up?” you may ask. And therein lies my final complaint about the visor: it won’t stay open. On the plus side, it is very easy to remove – even when wearing winter gloves and standing on the side of a motorway.
If you haven’t guessed, the visor is the reason the RPHA 70 is not my everyday helmet. Which is a damned shame because there are so many other things to like about it. The dropdown sun visor, for example is effective and easy to use.
I ride a naked bike these days (Triumph Bonneville T120) and the helmet is admirably quiet even at motorway speeds. Folks with screens may find themselves disagreeing, however. When I’ve worn the helmet on bikes with screens/fairing I’ve noticed a little more roaring, which I attribute to those plastic spoiler thingies getting caught up in disrupted airflow. Equally, whereas airflow feels smooth on a naked bike at speed, I’ve noticed my head being pushed around a bit when behind a screen.
GIVE SOME LOVE
Become a TMO Patron Today
The helmet has a number of vents and exhaust ports but I can’t help feeling that most are too small to be effective, with switches too small to be functional. The two rear vents are hilariously miniscule, opening no more than 2 or 3 millimeters. I honestly cannot tell the difference between their being open and their being closed. I’m equally unconvinced by the two chin vents. The switch for one of them is impossible to find whilst riding, whereas the other switch is bafflingly located inside the helmet – you have to take the lid off. The exception to the rule here is the large, easy-to-use vent on the top of the head. It even has two settings, which I think is spiffy.
Additionally, I’ll point out that I have never had complaints about the amount of air that gets into the helmet. I have never felt hot or stuffy. Though, keep in mind that I live in a country where summer temperatures rarely exceed 23°C. Meanwhile, for all my complaints about the anti-fog lens, I give the helmet full marks for keeping rain out whilst riding (assuming the visor is shut).
Your ideal scenario for the RPHA 70 comes when riding a naked bike on a dry-but-not-too-hot day. That sounds a bit limiting if you’re someone who lives and commutes year round in the United Kingdom, but I think there are a lot of riders out there who will find the helmet fits perfectly to their typical riding behavior.
Broadly speaking, I am a big fan of the helmet and get frustrated by the seemingly easy-to-resolve issues that would make it so much better. Fit it with an actual Pinclock lens. Stop trying to be fancy with small and pointless vents; follow other manufacturers’ leads and offer two large, simple vents that actually work. If HJC were to address these two areas I’d be posting a glowing review.
KEEP READING: More Helmet News and Reviews
As is, I’m still happy to recommend the helmet if a person is content to put up with its foibles. The RPHA 70 is light, comfortable (after a break-in period), and looks great. It is my go-to lid when going on bike launches where I know I’ll be photographed. And from my experience in crashing while wearing the RPHA 11 I feel safe wearing it; I know I can trust it to protect me, which is the most important aspect of any helmet.
There is also, of course, the benefit of the HJC’s price. Using Fortamoto as a guide, Shoei’s GT Air II will cost you €100 more for basically the same features and more weight (1.4 kg vs 1.5 kg). So, as I said at the very start: a good helmet that is, by and large, worth the money. You’ll love it, as long as you don’t spend too much time dwelling on how it could be better.
– || –