Ken first took the Rail Fuel on a tour through the Rocky Mountains where the huge eye port was perfect for soaking up all the incredible Colorado views.
When MotoUSA’s Editorial Director, Ken Hutchison, showed up for the Parts Unlimited Rocky Mountain 400 ride with his current off-road lid, the guys at Z1R were appalled. Refusing to send him out into the wilderness with his roughed-up brain bucket, they graciously offered him the newest mid-level helmet, the Rail Fuel. He spent the next three days gallivanting through the scenic Rocky Mountains with his noggin thoroughly protected from the wind, rain, sleet and snow he encountered. After such, he returned to our home base in southern Oregon where he dragged it from his gearbag, still sweaty, and forced it upon me through editorial coercion. My contribution, as always: the crash test.
Z1R has been producing inexpensive helmets for some time, but the company has developed a stronger emphasis on street riding. The Rail Fuel is one of only four different models of off-road head protection versus 10 available street varieties. We’ve taken notice of the clean styling and reasonable prices before in both categories, so when the chance to test this relative newcomer presented itself, we were more than happy to strap it on.
Once Hutch handed the helmet over to me for the heavy testing, the first thing I did was sample the cleaning properties of the removable cheekpads and Nylex liner. A simple removal/installation and the hygiene issue was solved. The size Medium helmet was comfortable but a little loose in the cheek areas. I typically range between a Medium and Large depending on the manufacturer, but I haven’t worn a size Small in the last decade. You should examine the sizing options to find the best fit for your head.
We love inexpensive helmets, but what we love more is great helmets. Unfortunately, the Z1R Rail Fuel doesn’t give you both. The helmet is okay and we’d bet that after another year or two of minor upgrades it will be much improved.
Strapping on my goggles reassured me that my cheeks weren’t as hollow as feared, but the wide configuration of the polycarbonate/ABS shell kept my goggles from ever making a tight connection with my face. Altering the strap tension had no effect, and I tried both Scott and Smith brands. The result was watery eyes during riding and a ton of airflow around the sides of your face. While it assisted the 4-port ventilation system, the amount of noise generated around and above the 40 mph mark was unbearable. It was a major inconvenience during a dual-sport trip and the implications for supermoto are grim. Thicker cheek pads might provide a quick fix, but we think the shell needs to be pinched at the eye port so the goggles aren’t held away from your face.
The existing padding was very soft, and while comfortable to wear around the pits, it’s less enjoyable in performance. The soft foam allowed the helmet to move on my head more than I anticipated, so be ready for that. I really noticed it when my front tire washed out unexpectedly on a hard-pack trail. Without time to catch myself, my head took a good knock. Not only did the chin guard come back far enough to bruise my chin, but my head hit the hard foam under the wimpy lining harder than I expected. I feel certain that the same crash wouldn’t have left my vision blurred for so long if I was in some of my other lids.
Another annoying feature was the visor which acted like a wind sail. I like to run my visors low to block as much sun as possible and fend off low-hanging branches. In its lowest position, this one landed at the same level as the highest setting on many other helmets. Having it poke way up left the eye port easily accessible to roost, trail brush and glaring sunlight. It did, however, add to the enormous amount of vision offered.
Though I’ve found several things to whine about, this helmet isn’t all bad. First off, the $129.99 MSRP is very reasonable. Also, even though the features aren’t as fine tuned as those on other helmets, they are included: rubberized goggle grabber, padded chin strap, adjustable vents, a removable/washable liner and aluminum visor screws. This could be a good helmet for someone just entering the sport with limited funds and casual intentions. It is
As a mid-level helmet the Rail Fuel isn’t too bad. Z1R also sells the Intake Flame helmet as its top-shelf offering. Retailing for $220, this lid has some additional features not found on the model we tested.
also available in youth sizes. Faster riders or riders who compete seriously would probably benefit from a better-fitting helmet.
The shell seemed relatively well proportioned in terms of sizing, but the soft padding and wide eye ports would make me order a size smaller. It’s unfortunate because buyers will feel like the helmet fits great in the retail store and won’t notice these features until riding or crashing when it’s too late. Both Snell and DOT have approved the Rail Fuel, but I was less than satisfied with the crash protection. With its lukewarm aesthetic appeal, high wind noise and oversized fit, the Z1R Rail Fuel will be spending more time in the MotoUSA gear closet than out on bike tests.
Product: Z1R Rail Fuel Helmet
Color Options: Red, Green, Pink, Yellow, Alloy, White/Blue, White/Red
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