TWMX All Access: Checking out the Fox V3 Helmet

This week Fox Racing introduced their new V3 helmet to the press at Dromo 1 in Anaheim, CA. They’d had the intro scheduled—and rescheduled—for a variety of California MX tracks, but with the recent deluge of rain in So Cal, the indoor karting facility was one of the few places where it was not only possible, but desirable to get in some helmeted seat time.

Fox Racing’s Racewear Merchandise Manager, Mark Finley, got things started by laying out the goals for the new helmet. “Four major objectives stuck out—the first being safety—then fit, weight, and ventilation. I feel like we’ve achieved all those goals throughout the design and development process. That’s why it’s taken us a little bit longer to get the helmet to market. We wanted to make sure that this thing was perfect.”

While it’s no secret that KBC had produced Fox Pro Pilots (and plenty of other manufacturer’s helmets), that’s not the case with the V3. Mark described a couple of the additional goals for the new lid. “Two things that we really wanted to accomplish with this style was finding a new manufacturer that could bring this helmet to market and not use any parts from any existing helmets on the market.

Fox’s Product Development Manager, Chip Jones, backed that up, saying, “This helmet was built from the ground up. Normally you can go to any helmet manufacturer and there are certain things you can buy off the shelf. Snaps, D-rings, chin straps…everything. They have buckets of them on the shelves. Brendan (Pierce, one of the Industrial Design/Product Developers at Fox), and a few other designers designed every single thing on this helmet from the ground up. The snaps, the screws…everything is per Fox specifications. There are 130 different components to this helmet. We’ve spent the last two years, and Brendan’s spent a lot of long nights in the office working on this project.”

“We wanted to make the helmet as light as possible, so we’re using some high-end materials. There are five different materials in the actual shell itself. We use the same manufacturing and quality processes that are used in aerospace. In the shell we used carbon fiber, Kevlar, fiberglass and nylon. So it’s the lightest, strongest, tough as nails shell.”

We also looked at our old Pilot and all the parts, and wanted to get rid of redundant parts, or combine them into single parts, such as the chin bar EPS. It’s one single part, but there are actually nine parts that are all co-molded into it. Being co-molded, it’s strong, easy to clean, and we saved eight grams by making the chin bar padding one piece.

Mark continued the light weight narrative, saying, “The D-rings are titanium, and the screws on the helmet are titanium. The EPS liner has been channeled out as much as possible for ventilation and for weight savings. We’ve gotten the V3 down to 2.9 pounds, one of the lightest helmets on the market that passes Snell, and all the international standards.”

Ventilation was a big topic of discussion on the V3, and Chip ran through what they did to keep things cool. “In 1997, we were the first company to come out with dual venting channels where we had intake vents on the forehead, and exhaust vents on the rear, and then a raised portion of the shell which actually channeled cool air over the helmet and forced hot air out. What we’ve done with the V3 is that we’ve increased that substantially, with much larger forehead vents that capture more air, larger channeling in the EPS liner, and larger channeling for the exhaust ports on the rear.”

“In addition to that, we’ve also increased the channeling and ventilation on the chin bar, and in the cheek pads. On the cutaway helmet, you’ll notice that the cheek pad retainer has been designed with holes inside of it so that air can flow through the cheek pads, pulling moisture away from your cheeks and ventilating it and exhausting it outhe back of the helmet.”

“There are dual intake vents on the forehead that open and close. The first opening is what we consider the ambient temperature. It puts a little air inside the top of the helmet and out the back. If you open it to the secondary position, it actually forces a lot more cool air in over your head. When you take out the helmet liner in your helmet you’ll notice that the EPS liner has also been channeled out to force more air in and out the back of the helmet. While saving weight, we still retained all the safety ratings and passed our tests with flying colors.”

Of course, styling is as important as ever, and the V3 is no different, even thought it’s a brand-new helmet, Fox felt it was important to keep things from getting too extreme. Mark described what they were looking for in the appearance department. “The V3 does retain the Fox Pro Pilot silhouette. That’s an aspect we wanted to follow. We didn’t want to come out with a helmet that was really far out there. We wanted it to have the Fox family look.”

“For the graphic styles, you’re going to have four race graphics, and four color ways available in this style. You’ve got red, navy, a shiny black, and a matte black. Then we have what we’re calling the octane graphic. There’s a matte black Octane, and a matte red Octane as well. We have one other style, called the Alien, and it’s kind of really out there graphic. We’re not bringing tons of them in, so I’d call it a limited edition.”

Mark also laid out how Fox relied on their racers to help develop the V3. “The helmets we have here today are the final prototypes before we go into production. We feel like we’ve got it about 99% there with the help of Ricky (Carmichael) and James (Stewart) over the last couple months. You’ve seen Ricky wearing the helmet in Canada. Obviously both guys wore it in Anaheim over the weekend. They’ve been wearing the helmet for about two or three months now, and we’ve made changes based on their feedback.”

“Ricky has been instrumental in helping us get this thing to market. Once we got it through Snell testing and it was safe for him to wear, he started wearing it. There were a lot of things that he helped us change. We were shipping helmets to him all the time. Scott Taylor was out there every day, e-mailing us back the changes, e-mailing us pictures and Ricky’s comments. Scott also had a video phone and he could actually record Ricky’s comments and we could play those on our computers and make changes.”

Fox is also being more protective of their designs now, with five patents on the V3. “We learned a hard lesson in 1997 when we released the Pro Pilot. Some of the things that we had come up with ourselves were also taken advantage of by other manufacturers. It’s flattery to us, however, with this helmet we wanted to make sure that we patented as much as we can. We’ve got a design patent on the helmet, we’ve got a design patent on the visor. We’ve got a utility patent on the forehead vent, a utility patent on the cheek pad and chin bar venting system, and we also have a patent on the overall venting system.”

There are still a couple small changes pending for the production helmets, compared to the helmets we wore. The chin strap mounting points will be moving slightly forward, which will allow the chin strap to pull more upward against a rider’s jaw. Other changes to look for compared to the Pro Pilot include a return to a standard under-visor thumb screw mounting setup, instead of the clunky setup used on the Pro Pilot. Each helmet will include a zippered fleece-lined nylon helmet bag with handles and an abrasion-resistant rubber bottom. It’s ventilated with large grommets to help your helmet dry quickly, and the package comes with a matching spare visor.

Suggested retail for the V3 is $375.

All the TWMX testers liked the light weight and comfort of the V3, and didn’t get much of a feel for the ventilation, since we weren’t working up a sweat on the kart track. For that, you’ll have to wait for a more extensive test in a future issue of TWMX.

fort of the V3, and didn’t get much of a feel for the ventilation, since we weren’t working up a sweat on the kart track. For that, you’ll have to wait for a more extensive test in a future issue of TWMX.