Incremental improvement is standard procedure in the motorcycle industry. First, manufacturers release a model. Then updates follow every three to five years (or so). These deep-rooted development cycles afford designers the time to address minor foibles and adopt new tech. Not every brand believes these revision rounds require so much drawing board time, though.
Count helmet manufacturer Ruroc among those maverick newcomers. The British snow sport brand barged into the motorcycle space with its Atlas 1.0 helmet in 2019. Ruroc didn’t wait a half-decade to update the model either, addressing customer feedback with the Atlas 2.0 the very next year. The 3.0’s 2021 release maintained that one-year cadence, but 2022's Atlas 4.0 positions Ruroc as a true industry disruptor.
Armed with a smoother carbon fiber shell, closable air inlets, and enhanced comfort features, the 4.0 deliver on rider demands. Even so, those upgrades still don’t headline the latest Atlas. Ruroc dug into its snow gear bag and laced the Atlas 4.0’s inner liner with NASA-developed RHEON material. Paired with a new multi-part EPS, the audacious lid achieves ECE 22.06 approval.
With all those upgrades, has Ruroc’s accelerated manufacturing model delivered a true segment contender? We got our hands on an Atlas 4.0 and Shockwave Bluetooth audio system to find out.
Atlas 3.0 customers made one thing clear: the liner wasn’t up to snuff. Ruroc listened, learned, and lavished the 4.0 with a luxurious interior. To the touch, the liner’s moisture-wicking material closely resembles nubuck. Add that to the multi-density, multi-layered liner and cheek pad foam, and this Atlas swaddles the rider’s head in a cradle of comfort. The helmet’s hard on the outside/soft on the inside quality suits it for both urban environs and day-long road trips.
The 4.0’s liner pulls double duty as well. With RHEON nodes bedazzling the liner’s underside, the helmet helps dissipate impact energy and reduce rotational forces. Similar to D3O, the RHEON reactive polymer remains pliable in its natural state and hardens upon impact. I don’t have any first-hand experience to report on the technology’s efficacy. However, DOT and ECE 22.06 stickers should reassure riders of the Atlas’ protective potential.
When it comes to head shapes, Ruroc doesn’t take sides. Instead, the Atlas falls somewhere between intermediate oval and round oval. For context, I almost exclusively wear the former. While the 4.0 leans further in that direction, the slightly rounder-than-intermediate profile should accommodate a broader range of noggins. Unfortunately, that doesn’t bode well for long oval head shapes, but Ruroc’s one-helmet lineup can’t please everyone.
The same can be said of the ventilation system. Ruroc upgraded the 3.0’s passive air intakes with adjustable crown and chin bar inlets. Though the Atlas 4.0’s large grated inserts suggest commensurate intake ports, the four nostril-sized apertures don’t flow sufficient air in warmer conditions.
I tend to ride with a chin curtain to cut down on wind noise. Once I detached that removable add-on, the oncoming wind quickly cleared out the Atlas’ stuffy quarters. Sure, wind noise is amplified as a result, but the ventilation upsides outweigh the decibel downsides. After all, Ruroc reports that the 4.0 is the quietest Atlas to date, improving acoustic performance by 57 percent. Still, I would encourage earplugs if you’re route calls for stretches on the highway.
At Your Convenience
It’s pretty clear that Ruroc plays by its own rules at this point. If the skull-shaped shell didn’t impart that idea, the Atlas’ unique features reinforce its nonconformist attitude. Exhibit A, the 4.0’s magnetic chin buckle. For someone accustomed to the conventional yet cumbersome D-ring chin strap, the feature seemed like an accident just waiting to happen. Yet, the buckle remained secure throughout every ride. There's no telling how the latch holds up in a crash, but Ruroc isn’t afraid to boast that the Atlas exceeded all ECE 22.06 testing by at least 20 percent.
That’s not the Atlas’ only norm-smashing quality. At first glance, the ultra-convenient visor-docking mechanism seems too simple for safety. The hand-adjustable, screw-style fasteners only call for a quarter turn to release the shield. Without a supplementary latch or generous coat of Lock-Tite, I anticipated the screw shaking loose in a matter of minutes. I’m proud to report that the Atlas made me eat my words.
The shield that those fasteners lock in is no gloss-over offering either. Aside from the viewport’s nasal bone-like protrusion, the visor yields 100 degrees of vertical view and a 215-degree horizontal field of vision. That panoramic perspective preserves peripheral sightlines, easing the scanning process in traffic and enabling the rider to look further up the road. The provided Pinlock insert all but eliminates fogging and six detent positions adapt the shield to all conditions. The Atlas 4.0 hangs its hat on these unique features, but that doesn’t mean they’re all equally successful.
Room for Improvement
Ruroc is one of the only helmet manufacturers to offer a proprietary Bluetooth communicator with the Shockwave audio system. Opting for an in-house unit not only benefits the company but also streamlines the Atlas 4.0. The pre-wired internals take all the guesswork out of the installation process and the dedicated module slot saves users from tacking a bulky comm unit to the lid’s lip. The simplicity and convenience stop there, though.
Thanks to the Shockwave unit’s rear-mounted position and low-profile buttons, locating the switches while at speed can easily distract from the road. I frequently fumbled for the correct control, accidentally turning off the communicator on several occasions. With the buttons aligned perpendicular to the direction of travel, the lower volume/previous track switch forces riders to reach to the rear-right corner of their head.
Gallery: Ruroc Atlas 4.0 Commander
Stretching to press that button while in motion can be downright dangerous. Of course, users can pull over to safely operate the controls, but that defeats the purpose of an on-the-go communicator. I have no qualms with the Shockwave’s eight-hour battery life, crisp audio, and ease of installation. However, Ruroc should rethink the control layout or consider voice commands for its next-generation communicator.
It’s undeniable, Ruroc’s continuous upgrade cycle brought the Atlas a long way in a short time. Nearly every component has undergone an overhaul in the last four years. This helmet of Theseus is all the better for those regular refreshes. Yes, the ventilation system and Shockwave communicator could benefit from some extra TLC, but the Atlas 4.0 impresses nonetheless.
Whether it's the comfort liner or the magnetic buckle, the RHEON reactive polymer or the visor-docking mechanism, Ruroc’s Atlas helmet makes strides year after year. Starting at $475, the 4.0 goes head-to-head with long-established mid-tier rivals from the likes of Shoei, Arai, Bell, and AGV. Yet, the newcomer holds its own. Sure, the Atlas can still cut down on wind noise and its 4.1-pound weight (with Shockwave installed), but if we know Ruroc, it will address those issues in no time.