Not everyone wants to get into the Arai vs. Shoei vs. Schuberth debate when they’re buying a (costly) helmet, or the never-ending ECE vs Snell safety ratings debate. Some people just want a helmet that looks like it’ll do the job, at the right price. And that’s where helmets like the Zox Z-DS10 come in.
While the high-end adventure motorcycle helmets from the competition can come in close to the $1,000 mark after taxes, the Zox Z-DS10 has a $249.99 MSRP in Canada (flashier paint jobs cost an extra $10). That’s pretty affordable, but as it’s part of Zox’s Z line, this helmet is actually the company’s most expensive dual-sport helmet; the Vertex line starts at $169.99.
Zox is distributed in Canada by Motovan, and that’s the company that sent me this helmet.
So what do you get with the Z-DS10? The helmet has a polycarbonate shell, which keeps costs down but adds weight. Polycarbonate isn’t as exciting as fibreglass or carbon-fibre, but it’s been doing the job for years, and still works.
There’s a peak on the helmet, like you’d expect with an adventure lid; it’s easy to remove, with large screws on the side of the helmet (you don’t even need any tools to do this, so it’s quite handy if you’re going to be pounding down the highway for hours and don’t want unpleasant turbulence). The eye shield isn’t anything special: it’s not Pinlock-compatible, but is apparently treated with an anti-fog coating (more on that later). There are a few vents; again, nothing unusually outstanding or awful, just what you’d expect.
However, there are a few things you don’t expect with a low-priced helmet. Instead of the awkward D-ring closure that you find on the lower end of the price spectrum, Zox included a quick-detach micro-click buckle, which is a huge bonus. There’s also a drop-down internal sun shield, something that was unthinkable on all but the most expensive helmets not long ago. And the helmet comes in two different shell and EPS sizes, so even though it’s polycarbonate, the smaller shell size will still save you a bit of weight.
The Z-DS10 has a DOT rating, as well as an ECE/22-05 certification.
All together, it’s a very respectable package for the price. It may not appeal to the snooty Starbucks-sipping adventure bike crowd, but it nonetheless has many features that you’d see on a big-name helmet.
So how’d it work?
I’ve had my fair share of entry-level helmets, and wasn’t demanding a whole lot from the Z-DS10. I expected it would protect my head in a crash, but was hoping to avoid that. I wasn’t expecting the features like the drop-down sun shield and the easily-removable peak, and I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered them.
Alas, I did run into a couple of problems quite quickly. The drop-down sun shield doesn’t come down quite far enough for me, which left me with garbled vision, with significant light leakage below the shield. I suspect this would not be a problem for many users, but it was an issue for my head, and as a result, I’ve barely used the sun shield, usually relying on good old-fashioned sunglasses instead.
The other major bummer for me was the shield’s anti-fog coating. It just plain didn’t work, at least not for me. Any time I was out in colder weather and stopped the bike, I had to immediately crack open the windshield or I’d fog up. Now, a caveat: I did not have any sort of breath guard installed in the helmet, figuring that making the helmet even more stuffed-up would go against the idea of having an open-flowing, off-road design. A breath guard would certainly have helped a bit, by deflecting the warm air inside the helmet. However, I will also say that if there’s an anti-fog coating inside the visor, I saw no proof that it worked. And as far as I can tell, there’s no option for a Pinlock visor.
However, the helmet does indeed work with a wide range of off-road goggles, and that’s the best option for off-roading, at least. My Fox goggles are a tight fit, but they do fit. And they don’t fog up when I’m using them.
I didn’t expect a cushy, Schuberth-like fit with the Zox, and I was right. However, while the helmet was a little uncomfortable at the start, with a liner that seemed a bit stiff, it’s since broken in quite nicely, and I don’t notice any discomfort at all when I ride. It’s certainly no worse than the RPHA Max I rode with for years, or any other low- to mid-range helmet I’ve owned.
I got the plain-Jane matte black finish on this helmet, and so far haven’t been able to damage the paint. That’s after riding through some pretty brushy trails, and generally not babying the helmet — it’s traveled around the world in carry-on luggage and jetliner cargo holds, and still is holding up fine. The finish is at least as good, if not better, than any HJC I’ve owned.
In-flight sound is neither atrocious, nor spectacular. On a dual-sport helmet, you’re going to expect a minor racket, even with the most expensive lids. Plug in some ear protection, and you’re fine.
While the helmet does tend to pull back a bit when highway speeds lift the brim, I didn’t feel like it was excessive — certainly no more so than any other adventure helmet I’ve used. The ability to quickly remove the brim means this helmet would easily convert into street-only mode, if you want to give your neck muscles a break. Not bad for $250.
I do think the helmet’s eyeport could be enlarged a bit; I think there’s too much obstruction at the back, towards the bottom, which makes shoulder checks just slightly trickier.
But all in all, this is a helmet that’s mostly quite easy to live with. It’s not unduly noisy at highway speeds, and for a dual-sport helmet, it flows a reasonable amount of air on the trails. It’s easy to remove at a gas station, thanks to the quick-release buckle. As it stands, I’d recommend it to someone looking for a helmet in the $200-$300 range, as long as it fit properly. With a few tweaks, I suspect Zox could even poach some sales from further up the price list.