Scorpion Sports Exo-700 Helmet
The under-$200 helmet market is pretty cutthroat, with myriad companies and helmets scrabbling for a piece of a growing pie. However, we usually don't test helmets from this category very often, as their quality and fit is frequently pretty poor, making them fairly uncomfortable to wear for any period of time.
That is, until we came across the Scorpion Sports EXO-700 helmet. Manufactured in China (where rapid industrialization combined with a major technology sector has seen the country's business market grow at an astronomical rate), the EXO-700 boasts a long list of features you'd normally find on a high-end helmet, along with performance that rivals some helmets costing twice as much.
The EXO-700 uses a fiberglass/Kevlar matrix shell with a standard EPS-lined chin bar. It is Snell 2000/DOT certified, and features a toolless shield-changing system, a no-fog/anti-scratch treated faceshield, a moisture-wicking, washable fabric for the helmet liner and cheek pads (custom colors and patterns--including a faux leopard skin--are available for both) and the requisite adjustable ventilation system.
The Scorpion is a bit heavier than higher-end helmets at 3 lbs. 10 oz., but it's not obtrusive. What is noticeable is that the EXO-700 feels like a high-end helmet inside. The liner and padding are fairly plush, with no real pressure points that eventually cause discomfort (though the sizing runs on the small side). The shield seal is excellent, and the helmet itself is quiet at speed. Changing out the shield is reasonably easy once you become accustomed to the drill; twisting a large disc on each side releases and attaches the shield, though the pivot must be lined up perfectly in order to reattach it. The anti-fog treatment on the clear shield works well, with no fogging whatsoever.
Overall fit and finish is excellent, far belying the EXO-700's $199.95 retail price. Even the internal fabric lived up to its billing, doing a good job of wicking away sweat from the rider's skin. However, that sweat indicated one area where the Scorpion fell a bit short; the ventilation system didn't really make much of a difference open or closed, with only slight cooling on top of the rider's head.
Nonetheless, we were impressed with the Scorpion EXO-700. It definitely sets a very high standard for sub-$200 helmets, and we know of some other helmets costing more than twice as much that don't come close to the Scorpion.
Stm Slipper Clutch For Suzuki GSX-R1000
One performance component you see a lot more of these days on the latest stock sportbikes is a slipper clutch (or as some manufacturers refer to it, a "back torque limiter"). The concept of the slipper clutch is as the name implies; it allows the clutch to actually "slip" during heavy braking situations, preventing the engine compression braking from locking up the rear wheel and causing it to "chatter," resulting in chassis instability. This permits much easier control during aggressive corner entries, as the rider doesn't have to devote so much effort to blipping the throttle between downshifts. Some bikes are more susceptible to rear wheel chatter under hard braking, since it depends on the engine configuration and overall gearing.
The Suzuki GSX-R1000 definitely suffers from this problem if you don't match the engine rpm to road speed perfectly during hard braking. Italian company STM has been the clutch manufacturer of choice for many of the top WSB teams, and the company introduced a unit for the GSX-R last year, so we decided to test one.
The STM slipper clutch is a "ramp type" unit that uses an internal subsection in the clutch hub that pivots on a ball-bearing-suspended ramp when reverse torque is applied to the clutch. As the internal section slides up the ramp, the clutch plates are slightly separated, allowing them to slip and reduce the torque applied to the rear wheel. Once positive torque (power) is applied, the ramp slides back to its original position and the clutch behaves normally.
Installing the STM clutch is fairly straightforward, though if you've never disassembled a clutch before, it may be better to entrust the job to a qualified mechanic. You will need to remove the stock inner clutch hub, which requires a pneumatic impact wrench or a clutch-basket holder tool from Suzuki to remove the clutch hub nut. Care must be taken to ensure all the parts removed go back in the same sequence (minus a couple of pieces specified in the STM instructions). The difference in overall weight between the STM unit and the stock clutch is minimal due to the STM's hard-anodized aluminum alloy construction.
Since the STM clutch uses a diaphragm spring rather than the stock, conventional coil springs, clutch pull is a bit stiffer than stock. Once underway, however, the heavier pull is hardly noticeable.
What is noticeable is how well the STM unit works; or rather, how you never really notice it until it's needed. During regular riding, the clutch behaves like a normal stock clutch; there's no "freewheeling" into corners that could catch you off-guard, and the bike still exhibits a decent amount of engine braking. The instant you charge hard into a corner, jump on the brakes and bang a few downshifts, however, the STM clutch immediately goes to work, allowing just enough slip to enable the rear tire to continue rolling without chattering or lockup. The STM is very progressive in that the harder you work it, the better it performs. And unlike some other stock OEM slipper clutches we've tried, the STM doesn't chatter under hard launches from a dead stop.
While this modification is a bit pricey at $1230, the overall performance gained is pretty substantial. STM also makes slipper clutches for the GSX-R600, Yamaha R1, R6 and YZF450 (supermoto), Honda CBR1000/600RR and CR450F (supermoto), and all manner of Ducatis.