Saturday, August 6, 2011
Helmet Review - AGV AX-8 Dual
AGV AX-8 Dual Helmet Review
Adding a visor to a street bike helmet makes perfect sense, and adding a face shield to a dirt bike helmet has its place as well. Dual sport helmets are gaining popularity with riders from both spectrums and the style has become my personal favorite for anything other than hard-core dirt riding. AGV has entered the fray with the AX-8 Dual helmet. Its $400 pricetag puts it up in the high-end market to stack up against competition such as the Icon Variant helmet ($350) and Shoei Hornet DS helmet ($486). I’ve been riding with the AGV for several months now and am comfortable saying it belongs right in the mix for a variety of reasons.
The AX-8 Dual is visually stunning. It has styling that is sharp, aggressive and sleek all at the same time. It looks, and is, very similar to AGV’s pure dirt helmet, the AX-8, which is the helmet of choice for known concussion artist, Travis Pastrana. The difference is that the Dual gets closeable vents, a different visor and the face shield along with its mounting structure. The Dual only comes in solid colors.
AGV offers three different shell sizes which are utilized to cover a spectrum of internal head sizes ranging from XXS to XXXL. I ordered a Medium and it fit well with no break-in required. The shell uses what AGV calls “SSL layering” which is a stratification process of carbon, Kevlar and fiberglass for light weight and increased strength. The helmet weighs 3 pounds, 4 ounces. One thing I like about the outer layer is that the air ducts are integrated into the shell. This gives the shell contours which are attractive, and more importantly, eliminate bits of plastic glued to the outside which are prone to breaking. There will be nothing more than scratches if the AGV falls off the seat at a lunch stop.
There is no distortion from the front shield which is made from anti-fog polycarbonate. I have only ridden in warm temps so no problems with fogging. A thumb tab on the left side helps with opening and closing. I’d appreciate one on the right also since I usually have the clutch pulled in as I coast to a stop light, leaving only my throttle hand free. I swapped the clear shield for a tinted version. The darker lens is great for summertime riding and performing the exchange was simple, just two aluminum screws. I prefer this over “quick release” systems which usually lead to frustration and a shield covered in fingerprints.
The same cannot be said for the visor. It attaches with four plastic screws that do not come out easily, and I managed to snap one off while tightening. The visor cuts through wind efficiently with a peaked and channeled design, and only starts vibrating at triple digits - even with the broken screw. There was never a time that I wanted to take it off. Once accustomed to dipping the visor against the sun, it’s extremely annoying to ride without one.
I'm very happy that the AX-8 Dual is actually functional in different configurations. Despite PR claims, some crossover/dual sport helmets are not designed to be used with goggles. The AGV lens easily removes and the eye port is shaped to accept motocross-style goggles. With the roost guard in place (it’s removable), I could easily wear this on my dirt bike.
The AX-8 Dual has four hand-operated vents and they are all very easy to open or close while riding. The problem is it doesn’t make much difference. Airflow to the rider's face and accross the head is very minimal. Mesh screens on the intake and exhaust vents are a nice styling cue, but a closer inspection reveals only small holes drilled through the EPS foam liner behind the mesh. The exhaust vents are particularly constricted and I believe this is what keeps the helmet from cooling as it cannot draw warm air away from the head. The chin vent pops out by hand and is interchangeable with the AX-8, which is a full mesh screen. This is one way to get more air to the face. Another way is to remove the chin curtain. Though the Dual doesn’t vent well, my brain hasn't been cooking despite riding in temps above 90 degrees. If I ever do sweat, like a trip to the motocross track, the sanitized “Dry-lex” liner and cheek pads are removable and washable.
Noise is another concern for the AGV Dual. Even with the chin curtain installed there is quite a racket inside during freeway riding. Music ear buds can be drowned out, and as much as I like the company of tunes on a long ride, I’ve conceded that regular earplugs are necessary.
Overall the AGV AX-8 Dual has been an impressive helmet. It’s lightweight and I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t like the way it looks. It has quality liners, comfortable shell/foam design, perfectly sized visor and quality face shield. It’s also a bit noisy and vents poorly, but perhaps the most important feature of the AGV is that it’s the first “dual sport” helmet that I would actually wear comfortably in different configurations.
I have not ridden the same conditions in these helmets back-to-back, but generally speaking I find the AGV superior to the Icon Variant. Personally I enjoy the Variant’s styling but many do not. The AX-8 Dual has a unique look without being over the top, fits better and has simple, effective components. I consider it pretty even with the Shoei Hornet DS. The Shoei is a more secure fit on my head shape, vents better and is quieter, but the styling is dated and the cheek pads are rough on beard stubble. Also, it cannot realistically, or easily, be used in multiple configurations. The AGV interior is more comfortable; it’s lighter, looks better and is less expensive.