There were a handful of new safety products announced at Indy. I didn’t see them all but I did get a chance to see a couple of them up close and talk to the manufacturers. EVS Sports announced their RC-Evolution Race Collar, a less expensive competitor to the Leatt Brace. The RC-Evo is similar in design to their RC3 foam collar, but has much larger plastic support pieces and a molded helmet cradle similar to the Leatt. The pre-production prototype on display at the show was a little rough – it’s definitely not as nicely finished as a Leatt, but it retails for $200 less as well. It’s terrific to see more neck protection options coming on the market. We do not know nearly enough about the effectiveness of these devices and it can only help to get a broader range of ideas and price points into the market. For my money everyone on a dirt bike should wear some form of neck protection, but we don’t have enough data to say for sure what type of protection. Not everyone is willing to pay for a Leatt and I’m glad to see less expensive options beginning to appear.
Patrick Lynch, motorsports director for Shock Doctor, showed me some very nice impact shorts that are under development. They don’t list them on their site yet and I don’t have a picture, but think about something like baseball sliding pants or SixSixOne’s Bomber shorts, except with a flex padding that looks like black, high-density bubble wrap. It’s a new material that’s supposed to provide good protection with a low profile while maintaining good fit, light weight, and durability. It looked like a much better option than standard compression shorts and did not seem nearly as bulky as some of the other options currently on the market. No word on availability or price.
The best item I saw was the new 2008 Bell Moto-8. Back in my day the only helmet to have was a Bell. If you drove cars you might wear a Simpson, but if you rode bikes you wore a Bell – unless you were a dweeb who wore something from Montgomery Ward or K-Mart. There’s a pretty sordid back story about what happened to Bell — product liability issues, stupid decisions by management, corporate divestiture, clueless money-grubbing, horrible outsourcing, zero quality control, and an extremely questionable character. But move forward to 2002–03 and Bell Powersports, the corporate entity, buys back the Bell name and rights and begins a new product development program. It’s taken about five years to get it right, but the result of that program is the 2008 Bell Moto-8. I had a chance to talk with the Bell’s marketing director who confirmed much of what I thought I knew about Bell’s history. According to him the company has been working very hard to correct those problems.
They have created a state-of-the-art research, design, and testing center in Santa Cruz, CA., where helmets are tested both during design and production phases. According to Bell the production standards for the new Moto-8 were so strict that the company fired two different manufacturers before they settled on one that could consistently meet their specs. The new helmet shell uses a complex weave of Kevlar, carbon fiber, and fiberglass that provides high durability with extremely light weight. The shell design also underwent extensive wind tunnel testing to ensure the venting and airflow systems worked exactly as intended. Even the middle snap that usually holds the visor in place was removed because it interfered with airflow. In it’s place is a unique twist-lock mechanism on each side of the adjustable visor that secures it in place with a simple twist.
I put one on and can say it is the best-fitting helmet I have ever worn. I have tried both Shoei and Arai and the Bell fit me better than either. It was snug, but without a single pressure point. And it didn’t smash my cheeks in to give me that classic chipmunk look. The Moto-8 shell is shaped differently than any other Bell helmet, so you can’t judge its fit by trying another Bell helmet. You need to try on the Moto-8.
The finish quality was outstanding. This is a beautiful helmet. At $350–$395 the Moto-8 is targeted squarely at the Shoei and Arai markets. It’s not cheap. It isn’t hand-made, and it isn’t hand-painted, but in every other respect I’d bet it’s the equal of them in quality. It’s likely I’ll be wearing one for the 2008 season.
There’s a video review of the Moto-8 over at motocross.com. Oh, stay away from bellhelmets.com. This is not Bell Powersports but is instead a web store run by the guy who is responsible for the total crapification of Bell motorcycle helmets in the ‘90s. He has been accused, more than once, of misleading customers and misrepresenting products on his site. Bell has forced him to put language on the site stating he’s not affiliated with them, but it’s not a real forceful disclaimer. They need to stop the guy from selling their product altogether but I guess they can’t for some reason. Go buy your Bell from a legitimate dealer and be sure you get the Spring 2008 model that is Snell M2005 certified. This is not your father’s Moto-8.