August, 2010 – By Jordana Whyte
Introduction by David Harrington

It makes sense to wear a helmet. Research, statistics, common sense, they all point to the validity of wearing a helmet when one rides. When it comes to scooter riders, there seem to be a number of people who think that because scooters are generally operated at lower speeds (as compared to motorcycles) and are small and often cute, helmets aren’t really necessary. OK. Fine. Hop on your pedal-bike, run it up to 20 MPH on the street and jump off. After your head hits the pavement let me know if lower speeds eliminate the need for a helmet. (Do I even have to warn you NOT to really do that?) The helmet that offers the best protection is a DOT-approved full-face helmet. I can attest to this from (unpleasant) experience. That being said, nearly ANY helmet is better than no helmet.

A common style often associated with scooter riders is the three-quarter helmet in the “copter” style. These offer protection for most of the head (except the lower jaw) and help reduce the claustrophobic feeling some riders experience with full-face helmets. Copter-style helmets differ from other three-quarter styles in that they have a visor shaped to cover the eyes and expose the nose and lower face. This configuration is used by pilots to facilitate the attachment of an oxygen/communications mask, hence the copter nickname. For this review I selected an HCI model 15 copter-style helmet – retail price of $89.99. HCI (Helmet City, Inc.) has been around since 1997 and their helmets are offered in several retain locations including Scooterville and Mill City Motorcycles in Minneapolis. It is a DOT-approved helmet with a shell made from fiberglass. The overall dimensions of the helmet are a bit smaller than some other models. Several people have told me they like this as it reduces the “bobble-head” appearance of smaller riders with the helmet on. For our bobble-head (ooops, I meant “smaller rider”) I asked Jordana Whyte to review the helmet. Jordana has been incredibly helpful with reviews and podcasts for She rides a Genuine Buddy 150cc scooter and prior to reviewing this helmet rode with a Fulmer three-quarter helmet.
-David Harrington

If you don’t ride with a helmet because you hate the way it looks, find it uncomfortable or feel it limits your vision…well, first of all, quit your whining and just put one on. Second, consider the HCI 15 as an option that will mitigate all three of those issues.

I’ve been wearing this helmet for two months’ worth of riding and absolutely love it. The medium size satisfies the basic rules of a properly fitting brain bucket: snug but not tight, and doesn’t move much when it is tugged and twisted, or jostled like after hitting a manhole cover (oops). There are no obvious pressure points. I find this helmet much more comfortable than my Fulmer, in part because of its perfect fit, and in part because the foam lining is extremely soft and cozy. If it’s possible to feel like a helmet is giving your head a hug, this one pretty much fits the bill.

This helmet is much lower profile than any other I’ve previously owned or used. If you remember the movie Spaceballs, my Fulmer feels akin to the get-up that Rick Moranis’ Dark Helmet character is rocking. The HCI 15 is more Speed Racer, complete with the “copter” style curved clear visor, and racing stripes. I no longer feel ridiculous when I’m geared up. Looks aside, this streamlined design also makes the helmet lighter, easier to get a bag strap over, and leaves me more room in my scooter’s under-seat storage. Visibility and peripheral vision are very good. I have not had to exaggerate head movements because the helmet restricts vision on the sides.

The real selling point for me on the HCI 15 is its ability to accommodate glasses without a constant need for adjustment. With others, both ¾ and full-faced, I have to strategically angle my glasses under the helmet in order to keep them on the bridge of my nose. Inevitably, they start rising up as I ride, magically hovering in front of my face. This is annoying but acceptable when wearing my prescription single-vision sunglasses, but completely worthless at night or on overcast days when wearing my regular glasses, which are bifocals (yes, I am way too young for bifocals, thank you). At night I often have to adjust my glasses at stops, or angle my head down in order to peer through the top part of my floating glasses. This is not only aggravating; it is inherently dangerous. The HCI 15 liner keeps my glasses in place. I can even pull this helmet on and off with my glasses already on my face. I cannot overstate what an improvement this has been for me.

Like most helmets, this one is pretty low on features, but provided it gets its job done in a crash this isn’t a shortfall. There are two small vents located above the visor. Rotating the plastic cover on the vent allegedly opens up a little airflow into the helmet. I say “allegedly” because there is no appreciable difference between open and closed. However, in this hotter than normal summer, the HCI 15 has been totally adequate in terms of temperature regulation. Even with the humid weather, visor fogging hasn’t been an issue. There is a small band of elastic located on the chin strap in which to tuck the loose end of the strap after fastening. A cloth storage bag is included. As for purpose-built features, that’s pretty much it.

The review helmet is white with two red racing stripes running from front to back across the top, subtly edged with gold. There are four colorway options, including striped (red, pink, blue/yellow), solid (red or black), curvy stripe (green/gold, black/gold, green/black) and the unfortunate hibiscus pattern (black/white, pink/white, yellow/white) for those people. A smoke-tinted visor is available. Sizes range from XS to XXL.

After two months of regular use the helmet is no worse for the wear, with no scratches or chips. The visor still glides smoothly and hasn’t needed tightening. The lining did “break-in” a bit, but still fits snugly as it should.

At around $90, the HCI 15 is a steal. It is comfortable, streamlined, attractive, lightweight and will protect your noggin in a crash. HCI kept it simple, and it simply works.

Jordana Whyte

The helmet used in this review was equipped with an Echo helmet quick-release. These are readily available at local stores and online for about $8 – $10 and work quite well.