Supersport versus Sport-Touring Helmets
It used to be so easy to choose a type of helmet. There was just one in the 60s, then two in the 70s and all the way into the 80s.
There was the all-purpose open-faced helmet, to which riders stuck on a faceshield for roadracing. For off-roading, all the rider did was to remove the faceshield and tack on a longer peak.
The full-faced helmet became popular in the late-70s. It provided much better protection to riders since the chinbar protected the er… chin and face. Besides that, the chinbar added extra rigidity to the shell.
It is very different now, especially given the micro-segmentation of the types of motorcycles. These days we have sportbikes, supersports (600cc sportbikes), sport-tourers, tourers, full-dress tourers, standards, nakeds, supernakeds, urban enduros, road-oriented adventurers, off-road-oriented adventurers, cruisers, sport-cruisers, modern retros. Even dirt-bikes, kapchais and scooters are segmented.
It is therefore that helmet manufacturers produce a wide range of helmets to cater to riders of different segments, preferences, and budgets.
However, there are two types of helmets that most riders have a difficulty in choosing as they seem to overlap each other in terms of functions. We are talking about the supersport/race-type versus the sport-touring variety.
To ease our comparison, let us take two helmets as examples, namely the HJC RPHA 11 Pro and HJC RPHA 70 ST. The primary reason why we chose these two products is because both share some of the same principles in terms of design, built, features and pricing. The RPHA 70 ST was indeed derived from the RPHA 11.
(As an aside, HJC also produces other sport-touring helmets such as the i70 and C70.)
What is a supersport/race helmet?
A supersport helmet is similar – if not the same – as those donned by professional racers we see on our TVs every weekend.
The key features are:
- Stability at high speeds – The helmet should not move around when the bike travels at elevated speeds, to avoid blurring the rider’s vision and tiring him out.
- Lightweight – To lessen the strain on the rider’s neck during a race.
- Large vertical vision – To let the rider see the road ahead when he is in a tucked position or when leaned into corners.
- Strong shell – To protect the rider’s head from injuries in the event of high-speed crashes.
- Adequate ventilation – “Adequate” because riders will close all the vents at the track, anyway, because riding at high speeds will introduce too much airflow into a helmet.
- Lower noise levels – As we wrote in another article about ear protection, a noisy helmet will cause rider fatigue, besides forcing him to think that he may be going too fast.
In any case, the RPHA 11 Pro incorporates the above features. For example, the shell is aerodynamically designed to provide stability and lower noise levels hence to reduce rider fatigue. Additionally, the carbon and Kevlar shell promotes strength at a lower weight penalty.
What is a sport-touring helmet?
This type of helmet provides the similar – if not the same –attributes of the supersport helmet, but with additional features.
In the case of the RPHA 70 ST, attributes such high-speed stability, lightweight, good vision, a strong shell, and lower noise levels are shared with the RPHA 11 Pro. The additional features are:
- Comfort – The shell is wider at the sides, allowing for a more comfortable fit.
- Better ventilation – Higher levels of ventilation is a must, in consideration of the rider’s travels may include urban built up areas and the countryside where speeds are lower.
- Built-in sun visor – The sunvisor lets the rider shade his eyes from bright sunshine, without needing to carry along a smoked visor.
- Larger ear pockets – Allow for better ear comfort or the fitting of the speakers of a Bluetooth communicator.
Supersport versus sport-touring helmet
Right, it is time we get down to the crux of the discussion.
As we mentioned above, supersport helmets are designed for performance riding, namely for the weekend canyon bombing or trackday. You may notice that comfort is usually not high in the list of features of a supersport helmet. This is because such a helmet needs to wrap tighter onto the rider’s cheeks to ensure that the helmet does not move around on his head at high speeds. But that does not mean that manufacturers do not provide some measure of comfort. Still, the shell is narrower at the sides compared to other models to compress the cheek pads against the rider’s cheeks. Consequently, some riders may feel that it is a little restrictive for long-distance touring and daily commuting.
On the other hand, sport-touring helmets are designed mainly for comfort and convenience. Such as in the case of the RPHA 70 ST, the sides are wider, hence providing more room for the cheeks and ears, in addition to conveniences such as large vents and a sun visor. Hence, the helmet is suitable for wide variety instead of one or two uses. On top of that, the RPHA 70 ST is approved by FIM for track usage.
So, which one should I get?
It is not wrong if you use a supersport helmet for everyday riding and touring, and the RPHA 11 Pro is comfortable enough than most. But if you seek a helmet that you could use everyday, on your tours and for your daily commutes, the RPHA 70 ST or any sport-touring helmet is a much better choice. The RPHA 70 ST in this case can be used as a track helmet anyway as it is FIM-approved.
In a nutshell, you can consider a sport-touring helmet if that is your only helmet, and reserve a sport helmet for sporty weekend jaunts (like on Karak, Ulu Yam or Kuala Kelawang) or at the track.