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A year ago, if you'd told me my Facebook profile picture of the future would feature me on the back of a motorbike (holding a standing fan under my arm, no less), I would have laughed in your face. I am much more of a car girl, quite like trains, will even do a Stagecoach at a push. But bikes? No thank you.
Then I moved to semi-rural Sierra Leone, and it all changed. Actually, scratch that. It changed a few months before when I got the description for this placement, that helpfully included the proviso that most transport here is by motorbike taxi, aka Ocada (not to be confused with Waitrose delivery vans...man, I'd love one of those right now). Other NGOs don't let their staff use public transport, and give them access to vehicles instead. VSO, however, takes the line that we should be using public transport, but only safely. And, for those of us up country, that means helmets all the time. And proper, EU regulation helmets too, none of those shoddy African affairs. So, in addition to 2 suitcases, a rucksack and a massive WH Smiths bag of airport shopping, I carried this Nitro onto the plane with me in September.
Once I had got over the shock of having to take a helmet with me, I was quite looking forward to going shopping for one. Imagine, a world of headgear choices I'd never had need to explore before. Then came the second blow: VSO had an account with a certain company. I was to measure my head and ring them up, and they would dispatch a suitable helmet. Gone were my dreams of shopping around to find a pretty metallic pink or glowing violet number.
I dutifully popped over to the Stroke ward at work (since they had a tape measure handy, and a lovely Sister in charge) and we worked out my head was officially a small, on the scale of tiny ('my what a tiny pea head') to massive ('good God how do you fit through the door with that thing?' ) I rang up and ordered, still unconvinced that one single diameter measurement would be enough for a proper fit, and a few days later Mr Courier Man was knocking at my door. The helmet fit beautifully and looked beautiful, but I'd still recommend buying one in person if you get the chance.
But yes, the design. I didn't have a boring black thing, or the red design a lot of the Canadian volunteers end up with: mine was a rather dashing black, white and grey, with a sort of swirls and curls meets antique lace design over most of it - you can see it well in the picture above though that is the black tone one and mine is the grey tone design. It came in a drawstring bag that was slightly less attractive - just a grey and black soft fabric thing - but this did provide another way of carrying, as you can use the drawstring as an (albeit long) handle to carry or drag it round with. The helmet boasts a lot of stickers and writing. Ordinarily I would have removed these immediately, but somehow that seems less urgent with a helmet. The front centre has the words "Nitro racing" on it, which I try to hide from the drivers - no need to give them any ideas that speed is a good thing. The visor boasts "#1 Nitro" and the "Nitro racing" print is repeated on both sides and at the back too, along with the model "Dynamo". Needless to say, whichever angle people see you from, they'll know the brand of your helmet. Right at the back there are some stickers saying it's British Motorcycle Sport Approved among other things.
I've never had a helmet before, nor have I looked at any closely, but the shape of this model surprised me. I was expecting to look like one of Servalan's henchmen with a round head, but this is more sloped and also has ridges on top and at the back, though I can't imagine these are for more than decoration.
Nitro categorise their helmets as:
* Flip up (don't they all?)
* Full face (aren't they all?)
* Moto-X (What...?)
* Super Moto (The super version of "what....?")
* Trials (as in still in development...?)
* Open face (ick!)
Confusing? Very. Though lucky for me the decision was made on my behalf without me having to navigate the tricky world of bike headgear. The Dynamo comes under their "Full Face" category which is a heck of a lot more reassuring than one classed as "Open Face". Looking at the website I see it comes in pink after all (darn!) but I am quite happy with my mono-chrome affair. For people who understand such things, I've put the official specs at the end.
This was the first time I'd ever worn a helmet, and it took some getting used to. It takes a certain amount of force to pop it on and ease it off, but I imagine this would be the same with any model, and I've just about figured out the hairstyles best suited to helmet wearing, and the angle needed to fit it without bending my ears totally in half. It fits snugly and there's virtually no movement once it's on, which is reassuring.
This design is sold with a second, spare visor, though I've not needed to fit it yet. The visor is clear (not tinted) and covers a wide area on the front of the helmet, so you never have any trouble seeing through it. I find opening the visor a bit tricky as there is a catch you have to release, though at the same time this is reassuring that, in the event of a crash, it's unlikely to fly up and expose your face. The visor opens all the way up but has a ridged hinge not a smooth one, so you have to click it to the degree you want - this means you can fix it to be partly open, half open, almost all open and so on. This is good for getting air, or for talking to drivers, but I'm too chicken to ride with it open as I feel to exposed. It is much easier to lower the visor than raise it, which is good when the conversation ends and the driver sets off quickly, as you can sweep it down in just 2 seconds.
The helmet fits with a strap under the chin. This is easy to adjust, a bit like a seatbelt (you close and tug to tighten) and there's a handy tab you pull on to release it. Again, I never travel without fastening this, though the helmet does still feel snug without it. The strap is useful for carrying the helmet round, too. It fastens securely and then you can thread it over our wrist as you go about your errands. I have been known to store some shopping in the helmet too, as I go round the market, but having but a small head means it doesn't store too much...
There is a vent just below the visor which you can leave either open or closed. This is the one option I don't feel impacts on safety so I tend to leave this open simply to get some air flow. On me this sits about opposite to my mouth, and even though the cooling effect is minimal, it's still gratefully received here. There are also two small vents on the front at the top, just slightly in front of the crown of the head. The slits in these aren't massive, and I rarely remember to open them as again, the effect is not massive, but they are there if you want them. Finally, at the back there is one long and two small vents which are not adjustable - they're permanenly open exposing the metal mesh, and letting air in so you don't whither and die
This is a hot helmet to wear, but then I imagine most are. My face sweats a lot with the synthetic interior, and even having thought through the style before hand, I invariably end up with helmet hair. At the same time, I have found this to be an extremely comfortable design. There is an immense amount of padding all around: above and behind the head, at the front around the visor and vent, below the chin. The strap also has padding which means it doesn't rub at all, even when you get sweaty.
The helmet is quite heavy - about 1kg. It's something you notice more when lugging it in and out of duty free shops, on and off a plane and so on. When you're wearing it, it doesn't feel like an unpleasant weight on your shoulders, but put it over your wrist and you'll soon notice it.
I've not had to test this design out in a crash (thankfully) but I have given it a run through in other ways. When I'm coming home and trying to juggle the padlock, 2 keys and 3 bolts I need to open to get from the outside to the inside, I often manage to drop things accidentally. If I know things are falling, I try to let go of the more robust items (books better than eggs etc). This helmet is often one of the first things to go, and falls to the ground with a resounding bang. So far it has a few minor scratches to the paintwork on top, but not a hint of structural damage. While this is no indication of how it would fare if a bike wrapped itself round a lamppost at 30 mph, it would be disconcerting if any minor drops such as this had caused more major damage.
Despite the curved design, this helmet is surprisingly easy to store. It will balance standing up but also on one side which gives you a greater choice as the dimensions are different so it can fit in gaps of different shapes. Some of the other helmets I've seen are more circular and therefore less easy to balance as they just roll away.
People here don't tend to wear helmets. Some wear hard hats which, let's face it, would be useless if you came off a bike. Most people don't wear anything, but they do seem to covet our helmets somewhat, and I may gift mine when I leave. It's funny because peer pressure is immense and people certainly look twice when they see someone randomly wearing a helmet, but I now realise this is just as much likely to be in admiration as it is in confusion. As for me, I'm yet to get over the feeling that I look like a numpty but at least I won't do a Humpty Dumpty if the worst happens and I do come off a bike. There is a definite feeling of security which comes with the Dynamo. It makes me feel safe and secure on the back of a very unsafe and insecure method of transport, and at the same time it is comfortable to wear and looks attractive (as helmets go). Recommended.
Available, among other places, on Amazon...perfect for spending dooyoo miles or competition wins! Priced at about 50 GBP depending on size and where you buy.
Official specs from their website:
* Aerodynamic multi poly tech constructed shell
* Adjustable chin ventilation
* Fully adjustable visor and face ventilation
* Dual air filtration system at brow
* Tri-piece rear exhaust vent
* Injection moulded anti-scratch 3D visor
* Micrometric buckle - for ultimate adjustability and perfect tension
* Sizex XS - XXL
Is it me or does someone in their marketing team have a great skill for choosing the most incomprehensible of words and stringing them together in the most incomprehensible of ways?
Nitro / Full face motorbike helmet / available in a range of colours.