Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Product Review: HJC CL-16 Helmet

“You get what you pay for” is often used to justify high prices. The implication is that cheap goods are somehow inferior to ones that cost more. The HJC CL-16 sells for a suggested retail of $129.99-$144.99, depending on color and graphics. Compared to helmets running in the $400-$600 range, that’s pocket change. But do you get what you pay for, or do you get more, or less?

The CL-16 has a polycarbonate shell, the industry-standard EPS liner, and a comfort liner that’s removable, moisture-wicking, odor-free (for now—ask me about this again next summer), and anti-bacterial. It’s also Snell- and DOT-certified, except in size XXXL, which is DOT only.

The shield provides 95 percent UV protection, and comes Pinlock-ready. It goes on and comes off by pressing a single spring-loaded tab on either side of the helmet; swapping shields takes just seconds.

I’m not prepared—or willing—to evaluate the CL-16’s performance in an actual, deliberate crash. My guess is that any helmets that passes Snell and DOT will do as good a job as any other with the same credentials. Far easier and safer to evaluate, and of much more interest to most riders, is how the CL-16 is to live with day to day.

It’s pretty damn easy, in my opinion. I’ve had it for several months now, and when I open the hall closet to pick a helmet for a ride, the HJC gets the nod most of the time. I have a round-oval head, as they say in Arai-speak, and the CL-16 fits me as snugly and comfortably as my Arai Quantum 2. I wear glasses, and the helmet’s interior pads are soft enough to let me slip my specs on and off easily. The pads don’t create pressure points behind my ears, either, even after a couple of hours of continuous wear.

I can’t say enough good about Pinlock anti-fog inserts. The fact that the CL-16’s standard clear shield is Pinlock-ready is a huge plus.

My only disappointment with the CL-16 is with its venting system. On a day with the temps in mid-80s I had to keep checking to make sure the single top vent was open. I closed it, waited 10 minutes, then opened it, expecting to feel some air flow. I thought maybe I felt something, but I wouldn't swear to it.

The chin vent was little better. Finally I cracked the shield open and got a rush of air. My Quantum has five forward-facing vents, and they all flow lots of air. It also sells for about four times what the CL-16 does, so maybe this is one instance when “You get what you pay for” is true.

If venting isn’t a big deal to you, but comfort and easy shield changing are, HJC’s CL-16 is great choice, and a great buy. Overall I’d say you get more than you pay for. —Jerry Smith


  1. I'm so happy with mine, I bought a different color yesterday. Excellent helmet, not the best ventilation on hot days but pop open the visor a crack and its all good.

  2. based on this review, and because i'm a quantum 2 owner, i bought one. interested parties should know that you need to go one size up compared to the quantum 2 (dealer parts guy suggested Small vs. my current Arai Extra Small, and he was correct).

  3. I'm a longtime Shoei owner who switched to HJC a couple of years back becaue I could have a color-matched HJC for each of my bikes for the price of one Shoei, plus each helmet got one fourth the use, and stayed clean (and clean smelling!) much longer. The CL-16 is much better than the CL-15 and CL-SP (which were quite good)- better interior materials and more comfortable. I am planning to donate my CL-15's and CL-SP to the local rider training program and replace them with CL-16's.