As far as most retro helmets are concerned, style is definitely the most important aspect that most brands consider. It was up until the ECE 22.06 update that we started seeing updated helmets from Shoei, Arai, HJC, and more, but MT is throwing its helmet in the ring at a price point that most riders may be able to afford.
This is the MT Helmets Jarama, named after a river in Spain, and the ‘J’ is also silent by the way. It’s an affordable lid with some old styling, but it goes beyond being another exercise in design according to its specs. When I say affordable, I do mean affordable as it can be had for $160 USD according to online retailers, but the suggested retail price in the Philippines sits at P6,200 PHP, or about $110 USD.
Personally, I’ve never liked retro helmets, but with the recent ECE 22.06 standard coming about, the new crop of lids has got me intrigued, enough to pick this particular helmet up. I actually had this helmet for review alongside the HJC V10, a lid that is about three times the price. Does that make this affordable helmet a third of the lid to ride in? Well, let me tell you more.
Shiny and new
Lately, I’ve been dipping my toes in the sea of retro helmets just to try them out. Of course, they’re nowhere near as purpose-built as modern lids, but that’s to be expected. Judging this helmet from the basis of design, it won’t win any awards in my book as the colorway that I got is a bit of an acquired taste. In photos, the gold accents are good in theory, but in person, the accents are a little garish, and chintzy looking. Still, I won’t deny that there are a bunch of riders out there that swear by the black and gold aesthetic (and more power to you!), but it’s definitely not me.
I suppose that a dark visor would have changed my opinion about this helmet entirely. Black on black always looks clean, but the chrome gold finish doesn’t do it for me. Perhaps I can bring out the rattle can and spray away at the finish. Black-on-black, I think this helmet would look sick. It’s a shame that MT Helmets had to fancy it up a little too much. That being said, sans the shiny gold accents, the helmet looks good! It definitely looks nicer than its price point suggests and the helmet feels super solid in hand. In fact, holding it next to my more expensive lids, it’s really the weight and the quality of the switches that are the main giveaways, otherwise MT makes a solid shell, and a design that I wish was blacked out all the way.
Top-notch build quality on the shell. It’s solid, built like a tank, and somewhat reminiscent of the HJC CS-15. It weighs about 1,500 grams according to its sticker (3.3 pounds) in a size medium which is not too heavy but not light either. There are two shells spread across the range, with the split being at the medium, which is the helmet that I have currently. The visor doesn’t inspire confidence, but at least it is easy to open and close. The lack of a lock on the visor doesn’t help too, and the brow vent switches weren’t exactly the most solid. The front vents’ switch behind the chin bar, however, was quite clicky and solid but that’s the only switch I liked. Aside from the shell, the helmet immediately showed signs of being a budget lid except for the shell. MT did well to invest a lot of build quality into the shell, but the visor mechanism and the rest of the switches could use some work.
While style may be subjective, helmet safety isn’t, and this helmet is ECE 22.06 and DOT certified. You won’t be short-changed considering the price of this helmet. That being said, there are a few questions that may arise with this lid. There is no redundancy for the visor so it may open up on you in the event of a crash. The hinge is made out of plastic, so that could be another failure point as well.
However, I took the helmet apart to see just how comprehensive its impact liners were, and I wasn’t disappointed. The helmet is covered everywhere with a rather thick foam. I can’t complain too much in this area as the helmet isn’t that expensive to begin with. I really appreciate that MT Helmets was able to design a set of emergency release cheek pads and the thoughtfulness extended to color-matching the pull tabs, which is a nice touch. ECE 22.06 at this price point at the moment is a win, and a rating that only a handful of helmets meet for an affordable price like the HJC C10, at least at the time of writing. We can expect more affordable ECE 22.06 lids to come out soon enough, however.
Another eyebrow-raising feature on this helmet, that’s apparently okay with the ECE, is the basic ratchet strap. While it is convenient, a double-D ring would have been my preference. It’s indicative of the price tag, and the market that the helmet is sold in, however, stuff like the visor and the strap are two things that I probably wouldn’t have skimped on if I were designing a helmet.
Apart from the impact liner, the comfort liners of the helmet don’t disappoint at first wear. The fit is plush, and the opening is unusually narrow for a retro lid. The helmet features an intermediate oval fit as well for those wondering.
As for my comments, I did like the fit. It was snug when on me and that’s mostly my preference. My face is slim, but the pads give a nice and tight but not too tight fit, think halfway between a full sport lid and a more relaxed lid. I expect this helmet to accommodate healthier riders, though with a bit more tightness at the start.
The interior lining for me is on the soft and silky side. While new, the helmet tends to feel quite luxurious to slide your head into, but I already can tell that the material will be prone to fraying and even ripping given very heavy wear as I’ve encountered similar materials in helmets in the past. Aside from that, the pads are also thick but squishy, not springy. I find that dense pads often do better for longevity, as is the case with HJC and Shark to name a few, but perhaps these pads are a little too soft out of the box. I figure that the break-in period might be short, but the pads might last you between one to two riding seasons before you start feeling a big drop-off in firmness.
What did shock me when I had time to ride out in this helmet is the fact that the pads were comprehensive and covered the lower part of my jaw, which is good for noise insulation. Wearing the helmet, it feels quite substantial on your head. The weight is apparent while sitting still, but it helps dull the wind noise drumming on the helmet on the highway. Going at 60 miles per hour, it’s comfy and quiet with the noise creeping in at the 70-mile-per-hour mark. It’s no touring helmet or an all-out racing helmet but it’s respectably quiet for the most part, and probably one highlight at a low price point.
I will say, however, that the visibility from the eye-port needs a little more expansion. The view is a bit narrow from top to bottom, and also from side to side. It’s more retro in this area, and I feel that MT could have at least made the sides of your view a teensy bit more open. I did struggle slightly to do my head checks and the breath deflector was a bit in the way considering the rather narrow eye-port. I would actually consider riding without it just to open up the view a little more.
For what it’s worth, however, operating the visor on this helmet is a cinch, though a little troubling as mentioned without a proper locking mechanism in place. Still, getting the lid on and off is a good thing, and thanks to the speaker cutouts, comms systems will fit with no problem on this lid, and the music that comes through is clear thanks to the comprehensive fit of the pads. MT Helmets also have their own proprietary communicator and there’s a little cubby at the back of the neck for it, but I didn’t end up using the brand’s comms device.
Ventilation, on the other hand, was a bit lacking. The chin vent is switchable, and the lower holes vent to your face, while the upper ones vent to the visor. There are brow vents, though the cooling effect is a bit spotty at best, and the same can be said about the forehead vents and the exhaust vents near the nape of your neck.
For about $110 to $160 USD, I cannot really complain. MT Helmets have a reputation for being one of the safest brands out there. Look, while the helmet does have its drawbacks, the ECE 22.06 rating saves it quite a bit. Considering that other affordable helmets are a little dubious, DOT only, and/or ECE 22.05 still, this is a standout, and it’s surely going to up the game of the retro helmet segment in the sub $200 USD price range.
There are some design decisions that are not to my liking, namely the visor mechanism, the comfort lining, and also the visibility. Style is a nitpick, but there are nicer colorways out there that you can probably pick up (I like the matte blue one). The gold accents aren’t so great, only the black and white variants of this lid have them so if you don’t like chrome-y gold, look at other colors.
I see this helmet as a win for the retro segment. ECE 22.06 has turned the helmet landscape into quite an interesting one and MT’s Jarama has up-to-date safety in a retro style. There is a bit of a shortage when it comes to affordable, safe, and stylish retro lids. Other name brands may still be stickered ECE 22.05 or DOT only and will cost you an arm and a leg. As such, the Jarama is an outlier in the market right now, and I know it’ll look more expensive than it actually is in a subtler colorway.
Gallery: Gear Review MT Helmets Jarama
Personally, this helmet won’t replace any of my daily riders since most of my bikes are modern, but I do appreciate the hints of modernity in the Jarama like the respectable noise isolation, the shell, and the safety standard that it touts. For the price, I really cannot complain too much, and I can recommend this helmet to retro riders on a budget. Seeing past that, and looking at other retro lids, however, this helmet is more highway-worthy compared to other lids like the Bell Bullitt, and other helmets from lesser-known brands compared to Bell. For less than half the price of the other name-brand stuff. Helmets off to MT for this one.