Motorcycle accessory distributor DMD now has the South African franchise for German-made Schuberth premium crash helmets, a make gaining a reputation in Europe.

Schuberth calls itself "a head technology protection company" and has introduced several unusual features on its range of helmets. I tried the J1, a jet-style helmet that affords almost as much protection as a full-face.

There's a heavy plastic chin bar to protect the rider's jaw in case of a fall; the bar is removable but I really don't see why, except for cleaning purposes - I couldn't even see it while wearing the J1.

The panoramic visor extends from eyebrow level to below the jawline and unusually far back on the sides - a huge field of vision.

Being able to see both mirrors and the instruments without moving my head while at the same time being totally enclosed and protected from the slipstream was disconcerting at first but eventually I found conventional helmets claustrophobic.

The visor sticks out a long way when raised and catches the wind rather badly - inevitable, I suppose, given its size - and doesn't swivel up far enough to be out of the rider's sight line; I get the feeling this helmet was not intended for use with the visor up.

On the other hand, the rider's whole face is visible; you don't have to take the helmet off to talk to a pump jockey or pop into a shop - which protects the helmet from scratches and saves you having to carry it.

The J1 is well ventilated with a series of channels in the padding that direct incoming air over the scalp and out through a pair of vents just aft of centre.

The inlet is a large plastic cowl opened and closed by sliding backwards and forwards - easy no matter how thick your gloves.

The padding around the base of the helmet is leather and fits tightly, which makes the J1 a bit of a mission to put on, but once it's on it's very comfortable.

Extra strap

There's also a fixed strap inside the padding, that runs around the back of the rider's neck from one chinstrap mounting point to the other; Schuberth claims this prevents the helmet being pulled off to the front in case of an accident.

My only gripes were that the chin strap has a clip fastening that's finicky to adjust rather than a pair of self-adjusting D-rings, and the vulnerability of the visor to scratches. Every time I washed it I seemed to find new scratches, despite treating the helmet with almost obsessive care.

Sunshield

I've left the helmet's most impressive feature for last: moving a slider pulls down a sunshield that extends far enough to protect the rider's eyes completely when riding into the sun, rendering tinted visors obsolete at a stroke and solving for ever the safety problem posed by riding at night with a tinted visor.

All Schuberth helmets have this feature.

The Schuberth J1 sells for about R5700; email or call DMD on (011) 792-7691 for your nearest stockist.