We've been following the Reevu helmet -- the first helmet to include an integrated rear-view mirror -- very closely over the past few weeks and today we had our chance to get up close and personal with the first one in Australia this week.
So, is this just a fad that will run it's course and disappear like Reebok Pumps and Hypercolour tee-shirts, or is this bad boy really the future of motorcycle helmets?
DESIGN AND COMFORT
Well, before we look into the future, let's see if it even stacks up as a helmet. Aesthetics are a thing of personal preference and we reckon this helmet will definitely divide opinion.
But we like it. The one we got is stealth black (the other colour options will be gloss black, silver, and titanium, with a white colour to come later down the track). The silver graphics are minimalist and fit with the lines of the helmet giving it a stylish look. The non-motorcyclists in the office were all like "Ooohhh, that looks nice," so we guess it gets a 'pass' for looks.
The only giveaway that this is anything other than a garden variety skid lid is the reflective panel at the back (enabling the rearward view) and the broad mo-hawk style ridge running front to back which is presumably where the high tech light refraction occurs, transferring vision to the little mirror in the front.
Comfort is a big issue with helmets and this one seems to stack up well. As with aesthetics, fit is a very individual characteristic so you'll need to try one on for yourself. When they get here of course... You can't try this one, it's ours. And for now it's the only one, so you'll have to wait.
Where were we? Right, comfort. The Reevu comes in several sizes (XXS through to XXXL) with different sized cheek pads available if none of the off-the-shelf sizes work for you. That's a nice touch. The pads are removable so they can be washed or replaced, keeping your pride and joy smelling sweet, even after the hottest summer riding.
The padding is soft and suitably cushy but the ventilation is average. There's a small vent on the crown of the lid and one on the chin. The top vent on ours was a bit loose and made a sketchy noise when opened, it but we suspect as a test unit it's short life has been very hard. So we can forgive that.
Our only criticism is the closure system. We prefer double D closures but the Reevu uses a quick release ratchet job. It's Snell and DOT approved so we're sure it works well, it's not our cup of Twinning's green tea with a twist of jasmine.
THE REAR-VIEW SYSTEM
So, onto the main event, the revolutionary rear view system. To say we were sceptical was like saying the Bikesales Network Editor likes food. For those of you who don't know him, he really likes food!
Anyway, we had expectations of freaky images flashing in front of our eyes, and being really distracted. Clear forward vision and the ability to focus on the horizon are key requirements of balance on a motorcycle so anything that gets in the way of that is a massive fail in our book.
But the reality is quite different. The Reevu system is subtle and unobtrusive. As the photos show, there is a small mirror, maybe 5mm high by about 50mm long that sits just above your field of view. The mirror can be tilted backward and forwards to suit the rider and then there is an Allen key adjustment to move it up and down so the vertical positioning can be fine tuned.
The thought that's gone into the Reevu is surprising. It's not perfect though. Being as close to your eyes as it is, parallax error means you get slight double vision rather than a perfect in-focus image. But as long as you're not trying to read the number plate on the Toorak tractor trying to turn you into a grill emblem, that's not really a problem.
Given the helmet doesn't have AS1698 approval yet, we haven't tested it on the road but we did 'go for a walk to the shop' in it last night to see how car headlights affected the night time riding experience. The reflective surface is so small that headlights really weren't distracting at all, but in the absence of any other vision due to the dark, there was no depth perception so it was hard to judge how far behind the cars were. From the footpath. Where we was walking of course.
Okay, it's a good helmet and the Reevu bit works. The burning question still remains, why? Why do we need this? We have side mirrors, we do head checks. Why do we need this?
The answer is: we don't know, but we can think of a couple of benefits. Crawling along in traffic for those who don't lane split; this will give you the crucial view of that wally who just isn't going to stop and let you shoot off up the shoulder to safety. Or riding with a partner who just refuses to stay in your mirrors. Now you can still see where they are.
THE EARLY VERDICT
So, enough procrastinating. Is it any good? Well, yes and no. Yes it's good because it actually works. And works well. No it's not, because like other passive safety systems, there will be an element of complacency that comes with it.
When used properly, the Reevu can add another dimension to your field of view and significantly improve your safety as a rider. If you think it can replace your side mirrors and the good ol' head check, well, we hope your ambulance cover is paid up.
Overall this is a good helmet. The quality of the construction appears to be very high, comfort and fit should be on a par with similarly priced offerings and the rear view system actually works a treat. Is this helmet a sneak peak at where motorcycling is going? We not completely convinced just yet, but it sure will give you a sneak peek at where you have been.
Reevu helmets will be available form Motorcycling Australia from mid June 2010, for $745, which includes a 12-month Riders' Division membership. Check out Reevu.com.au for more details.