As adventure bikes are quickly becoming the crossover SUVs of the two-wheeled realm (and just as prolific), what’s fashionable in helmets is also shifting to a more ADV-style bucket. This is the AGV AX9, a dual-sport-focused helmet that replaces the AX8 that’s been around for several years. The new model improves on ventilation and increases the size of the peak. More on both of those features later.
An AGV GT Veloce has been my primary helmet for the past few years. As it approaches the end of its useful life, I was looking for something with greater versatility (and a little less flash) to replace it. The AX9 promised the versatility, and I figured looking like a bad guy from a Mission Impossible movie should help this aging dad get some cool points too.
Since I don’t do much riding out on the trails, I removed the AX9’s enormous sun peak after the first ride, a task easily managed by undoing four screws with a quarter. AGV provides four rubber plugs to cap the holes left from the peak’s screws, but they fall out if you look at them the wrong way. I lost two during the first ride and have since simply put the screws back in place instead.
AGV claims to have reshaped the peak to allow for better aerodynamics compared to the AX8, but I nevertheless found it to be a good test of my neck muscle strength at anything over city speeds as it would catch in the breeze during shoulder checks. The peak itself extends further than it did on the AX8 in the interest of providing greater coverage from the sun. Of course, once I removed that awning from my forehead, I was left squinting in the bright daylight. The stock visor includes a Pinlock, and with the visor off, the helmet will accommodate a set of goggles. The shape of the interior foam pushed my sunglasses uncomfortably into my face, so I ordered a dark-tint visor to replace the clear one that comes with the helmet. The blacked-out visor furthered my villainous look and I rode with this set up all over the California desert on my tour around the Salton Sea with Mark. Granted, this particular trip didn’t see us travelling off the asphalt, but I wore the helmet in wide variety of scenarios aboard a selection of motorcycles.
Switching from moderately priced full-face helmets to the rather costly AGV Veloce a few years ago was a revelation, as the superior aerodynamics and dramatically reduced weight resulted in improved comfort and noise suppression that was especially appreciated on longer rides.
The AX9 promised to offer great all-day comfort with improved visibility, so it seemed like a natural progression from my racier, full-face helmet. In reality, the larger visor opening means less insulating material around a rider’s head, so it’s actually noisier than expected, but it does offer one benefit. Spatial awareness is improved thanks to the deep visibility cut outs in the cheek area, with up to 190-degrees of horizontal visibility. Upward visibility (when the peak is removed) is improved too (110 degrees), allowing easier sight lines to overhead signs and stoplights around town.
That said, the chin guard and nose cap rise high enough that they annoyingly obscure the gauge cluster on a number of bikes I’ve ridden lately, including my own, meaning that a simple glance down at the instruments isn’t possible without a deep head nod. The visor allows for a few small, incremental opening settings, but there’s a sizable bevel around the outer edge of the visor itself that impedes vision in anything but the fully closed position.
The AX9’s ventilation is impressive. There are two forehead intake vents, with another pair of rear exhaust ports, but it’s the two-stage chin vent that really offers air flow. In addition to being able to open and close the vent itself, the outer plastic layer (and a spongey dust filter) are both completely removeable with a simple button click, enabling a sizeable opening to allow air in and out. This feature is a godsend during stifling summer rides in stop-and-go traffic.
As expected of a helmet with an MSRP of $849, the materials and finishes are first rate. Inside, AGV says the cheek pads are “fluid Ritmo fabric”, the crown pad is “Shalimar fabric” and the neck roll is “Shalimar and Nabuk fabric.” I don’t know what any of that stuff is, but they all feel luxuriously soft and I’d describe them as faux-suede. The neck roll material is also water resistant, helping to keep moisture out of the helmet during rainy rides. There are removable foam cookies that open up ear pockets for communication unit speakers, and my Cardo System speakers fit snugly.
The shell is carbon-aramid-fibreglass (aka carbon fibre) and it not only looks great, but is the lightest helmet I’ve ever worn, weighing in at just over 1.5 kg (or a little less than 3.5 lb). The AX9 is DOT legal and receives an ECE 2205 rating, but not SNELL approval. AGV offers the AX9 in three different shell sizes that span from XXS to XXXL. I’m wearing the same ML size I have in my other AGV helmet, but the AX9 definitely fits looser.
After the better part of a season riding a variety of motorcycles with the AX9 carbon, I’ve got mixed feelings. It’s comfortable, beautifully finished and looks great. The weight and ventilation are the best I’ve experienced, but it’s not as quiet as I had hoped, and the visibility hindrances are mildly annoying. At more than $800, I’m not sure I’m on sold on the AX9’s value, however, it’s easy to find them discounted now in the off-season for less than $650, at which point the quality makes this helmet tough to top.