I have a fascination, appreciation, and irrational penchant for motorcycle gear. So much so that I get extremely picky about my helmet and gear choices, especially with regard to my helmet. All of these quirks have led me to invest in a premium-level lid, as was the case with my HJC RPHA 11. I rode with that long-term and loved almost everything about it.
Then, after over a year on my head and after all the wear and tear that helmet suffered, I decided that maybe it was time to get another premium helmet to share the load with the RPHA 11 since I ride on the daily. With that, I’ve decided to purchase, with my own money, something special, the RPHA 1 in the Red Bull Austin GP colorway.
Design and Build
Ever since I first laid eyes on the RPHA 1 online, I was sold. I knew that it would be a helmet back then and now that I have it, it’s like a dream come true. Initially, I was supposed to buy a white colorway, just so I could keep the consistency between my gear and the lid. However, when I laid eyes on the Red Bull Austin GP colorway, my knees went weak and I just had to have it. On top of being a limited-run colorway, it was also the first officially licensed, publicly available Red Bull helmet on the market. If the design isn’t to your liking, HJC will definitely give its top-tier helmet some top-quality graphics in the near future, so if you want the RPHA 1 and the current crop of options aren’t suiting your fancy, just wait a little and they’ll come.
Underneath the killer graphics is a shell that has six layers of HJC’s PIM+ shell material. This is one layer more than the five-layer PIM+ composite that you can find in the RPHA 11, 70, and 90 helmets. The way that HJC also designed this helmet is on a different level compared to the rest of the RPHA series, and you can tell that major design tweaks were made in order to make this helmet as race-ready as possible. You see a massive spoiler at the back which can be extended further with the included clear spoiler, then you also get a sharp chin bar that cuts through the air, and also a protrusion on the forehead that cuts through the wind like a knife through butter.
The helmet did grow in width, however, most likely to accommodate the FIM Homologation that this lid has. Also, because of that extra layer in the shell, the aerodynamic profile, and the safety homologation of this helmet, it’s a bit heavy coming in at 1,500 grams in a size medium without the extra spoiler attached. The tradeoff here is that the helmet feels balanced on your head compared to the RPHA 11 as I was able to notice during my rides.
However, as expected, the helmet is top-tier premium in terms of build quality. All of the vents switch open and closed with a satisfying click, and none of the pads, the spoiler, or the visor felt flimsy in any way. My only hope is that HJC takes what it learned with the RPHA 1 and puts it to use with the rest of the RPHA lineup.
Interior and Fit
Speaking of the pads, the interior of the helmet is even more premium than the RPHA 11. It’s as Jinno says in our video review, “like going up in thread count for your bed sheets.” The interior is supple on your bare face, and if you have a high-quality balaclava things are bound to feel even better for you with the pads being thick and conforming to the contours of your face.
Take note, however, that the RPHA 1 is a tighter fit overall compared to the RPHA 11, and about as narrow as the RPHA 70. I recommend that you fit the lid in your true size first before deciding if a larger size is required. My head shape is an intermediate to round oval, so I do tend to struggle in helmets that offer a true intermediate oval or long oval fit, but the RPHA 1 fits well over my head with no hot spots and perfectly-fitted cheek pads. I will note, however, that I do have a thin build and my cheeks might not be as chubby as yours, so your mileage may vary. The RPHA 1 is indeed a tight helmet at first, but it breaks in beautifully and offers you a one-to-one fit if your head shape will allow it.
There are generous cut-outs in the EPS that allow the venting scheme to work wonders. You also get cut-outs in the EPS to accommodate a communications device like a Cardo or Sena. My Packtalk Bold fits well in this helmet and paired with the quietness and fit of the helmet, the speakers tend to sound louder than usual.
Performance and Safety
Photo by Billy Pulido
Top marks are to be awarded to the RPHA 1 simply because it is one of the safest helmets out there. No other standard can top the FIM Homologation and the RPHA 1 also has other certifications that sweeten the deal. You get ECE 22.06 homologation, the newest standard for Europe. Then you also get DOT homologation and our beloved ICC sticker at the back that tells you it’s legit for our part of the world.
I have to say, however, that even as a certified race helmet, and after asking others how a race helmet would feel like on a daily ride (which is horrible, the AGV Pista GP RR is noisy as heck according to one of my friends, and other race-ready lids are just okay to use), performance was impressive. The RPHA 1 is by far one of my favorite everyday helmets (as overkill as it may be), especially for highway duty. It all makes sense though, what good is an expensive helmet when you can’t appreciate it even while doing the simplest of tasks like plying down the highway? I thought that my time with the RPHA 1 would be a noisy mess, but I had no issue with the wind noise, and it’s the top performer in my collection of lids for the time being.
Photo by Fredrick Garcia
Of course, we cannot discount that it is not a touring helmet. Other helmets that are specifically designed to be quiet will trump the RPHA 1 in terms of wind noise like Schuberth’s selection (according to other reviewers), however, the tradeoff there is ventilation, and the RPHA 1 has vents that are focused and even better than the RPHA 11. “That front vent on the chin feels like an electric fan for your face, while the RPHA 11 feels like a gentle breeze,” is what I said to Jinno in order to describe the difference between the two while riding. On top of that, the vents are easy to actuate, save for the forehead vent which is hard to get at with gloves, but being an HJC helmet, it’s assured to flow a ton of air.
Verdict and Price
Alright, so in the realm of track-ready sports helmets, the HJC RPHA 1 is the one that I would go with considering that I spend most of my time on the road and sometimes at the track. It’s a surprisingly great all-rounder of a sports helmet. What got to me was its versatility on the daily ride and its performance when things got a little more intense. The helmet was one-to-one with my head, and its ventilation is some of the best I’ve experienced. It’s a little bit on the heavier side of things, and I’m sure that it’ll benefit from a full-carbon shell.
Price-wise, the Red Bull colorway is by far the most unreasonable in the lineup. At P53,000, it’s a big ask for your bank account. It’s a good thing that the standard solid colors and the standard graphics are more reasonably-priced. Without graphics, we’re looking at about P39,500, and about P45,000 for the ones with graphics on. I’d say that this helmet is not worth the P53,000 price tag unless you really want the Red Bull colorway (believe me, it’s definitely something special), but you’re getting a killer value if you go for the solids or the standard graphic options.
It’s definitely a better buy than the AGV Pista GP RR, that’s for sure, but it’s on par with the Shoei X-Fourteen or the upcoming Shoei X-Fifteen. Though there are more affordable options out there like the LS2 Thunder and the Scorpion EXO-R1 which are both FIM Homologated. While these options are good, they lack the “HJC touch” that I’m sure other owners can back me up on.
That being said, why not go for the RPHA 11 instead and pay only half the price? The RPHA 11 is not a bad pick either way. You can’t go wrong with either, and I’m saying that having tried both. However, all of this will depend on your budget. If you are stretching a bit to get the RPHA 11, then just get the RPHA 11. If, however, you are considering an RPHA 11 with a special graphic (priced at about P30,000), then the RPHA 1 could be worth the jump in price. I’d say that the riders I’d recommend this lid most to are those that like to go fast and are on a naked bike or a sport bike, more so if the race track is one of the preferred riding destinations. Unless you like the style of the RPHA 1 and the quality that it brings to the table, this helmet is overkill (says the guy that bought one).