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www.vitalmx.com

Fly Racing Formula Carbon Helmet

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It’s not uncommon for a motocross gear company to make a lot of different products, but most of the time, gear companies focus on their jersey-pant-glove combos, and the helmets, boots, goggles, and/or bags they also make get less attention. While Fly’s other helmets are by no means slouches (the F2 is one of our favorite mid-priced helmets), throughout the years Fly has first and foremost been a gear company. But with the introduction of the Fly Formula Carbon Helmet, we might have to rethink that.

Fly spent a lot of time developing this helmet and if you want the more of the detailed breakdown of the science, check out the Formula Helmet microsite that explains all the different features in great detail. We’ll give you the distilled, simplified version in our own words.

- Energy Cells

There are six Energy Cells placed between the EPS foam and the padding liner. These are made of an “active” strain-rate sensitive material that absorbs energy rather than just transferring it somewhere else. In layman's terms they are squishy, rubbery pads that can smush in all directions as well as compress straight down. These are supposed to help with rotational impact. If you think you’ve heard this before, Leatt’s helmets have 360 Turbines that work in a similar fashion, yet Fly’s version is made from a different material, are much larger, and have a totally different shape.

- Conehead Technology

Not the most creative name, but accurate in what it is trying to get across. Basically, there are cones (they look more like spikes, but that isn’t a good thing to picture in the lining of your helmet) of EPS foam surrounded by other EPS foam that creates more progressive energy absorption. This also reminds us of Kali’s Shiva helmet foam that has a similar cone EPS design.

- Expanded EPS

Because most helmet impacts happen around the crown and at the back of the head rather than on the top or directly on the sides, Fly decided to beef up those areas with extra EPS. This extra foam is of a lower density than the standard EPS foam allowing it to offer a little extra energy absorption in the more likely impact zones. 

Fly put more EPS in the forehead area, around the crown, and at the back of the helmet.

- 12k Carbon Shell

Without getting into all the different kinds of carbon fiber and the pros and cons of each, the simple explanation of a 12k carbon shell is that there are 12,000 carbon filaments per band which is stronger and needs less resin to hold it together, therefore it can be lighter than 3k carbon which some other carbon helmets are made out of. 

You can see the wide-bands of the 12k carbon weave.

The Feel

The first thing I noticed when picking it up was how light the helmet is. Fly claim’s a 1290 gram weight for size medium/large (must share the same shell size) which is 2.84 pounds. For reference, one of the lighter helmets on market is TLD’s SE4 at a claimed 1325 grams (2.92 lb) and probably the lightest is Airoh’s Aviator at 950 grams (2.09 lb), yet is only ECE certified. 

Next, when I slipped it on, the first word that came to mind, though I know it sounds silly, was luxurious. The cheek pad and liner material is extremely soft and comfortable. It is sort of like a euro-top mattress version of a helmet. With so much of Fly’s marketing for this helmet focused on the safety features, I was surprised by the level of comfort. 

Also, the cheek pad foam doesn’t go too far forward in the helmet to make me feel claustrophobic or give me chipmunk-face. It is also very low density, meaning it squishes down with little effort and that also might contribute to the comfort level. The ear pockets are small, which sucks for us riders related to Dumbo, but the cheek pad material is soft enough to be comfortable pressing against my ears. 

The Fit

I have a roundish oval head where most European and Americans have a standard oval. The formula fits very comfortably without any hotspots and is true to size (I wear a large in all helmets but Shoei). I would say that there is a little less contact in the forehead area but that has to do with my round head and if you have a more typical oval head, this wouldn’t be the case. The chin bar, which has foam padding in it as well, is a typical distance from my face - not too close and not too far. 

It comes down pretty far around the jawline and the base of the head, in that sort of “wrap under” feeling, similar to what Arais have. For some riders, this makes them feel too hot or confined but the Formula’s soft liner is comfortable and not restrictive. The chin straps are a little further back toward the throat than some other helmets I’ve worn but are still comfortable.

The overall shell size for a large is, well, large. I noticed this when first putting on a pair of goggles that were adjusted for other helmets. I had to adjust the strap on the goggles longer to fit around the Formula helmet. 

The Ride

The best thing about riding in the Formula is the weight. It’s not something you notice at the beginning of the day, but at the end when you are tired, you notice less stress on your neck and shoulders. California has been unusually cold lately so it was difficult to tell if the ventilation was working or not. What I can say is that, rather than just small, round holes in the EPS liner that channel to the shell vents, the Formula’s EPS liner has the same shape and size vents as the shell, which looks like it will move a ton of air. Also, the shell has seven rear vents and six front/top vents. 

When looking at the visor angle, my natural reaction was to move it up, but it can only go up so far. Yet, when riding, you cannot see the visor in your field of vision because it is pretty short. Fitting goggles in the eye port wasn’t a problem. I tried the biggest pair I have, Spy’s Foundation goggle, and it fit fine. I also tried a 100% Racecraft and Oakley Airbrake that both fit fine as well. I personally like that it doesn’t have a big nose guard like some helmets - I’d rather leave the nose guard on my goggles than a helmet. 

The Takeaway

After riding in the Fly Formula Carbon Helmet, my only question is, “Can I wear it other gear?” It is a really good helmet. So far I’m having a hard time coming up with any real downsides. Yeah, it is a little big overall. And if you believe some of the “smaller is better” helmet companies that claim that a larger external helmet size makes for a larger lever and puts more forces into your head and neck in the event of a crash, then maybe this is a con. Luckily, I can’t attest to all of the safety features first hand and have to take Fly’s word for it. But to pack that much safety tech into such a light helmet is very impressive. 

Does this helmet compete with the longstanding, premium-level motocross helmets that are currently available? So far, I have to say that it does, but this is also a very personal choice. Every top helmet company has its own set of features to keep you safe. They all have their own ideology on why they make them the way they do. They all have slightly different shapes that fit some heads better than others. Personally, I like what Fly has offered and I plan to continue to wear it. I just need to make sure I through Fly gear in my bag to match.