At Sump, we're mostly open-face crash helmet boys and girls. We've mentioned that fact once or twice on these pages and have explained that that's why we use the goggle device as part of our logo.
But yes, we wear full-face and flip-front lids as and when the moment requires it (see our Duchinni D606 flip-front review). However, open-face helmets are the rule around here rather than the exception. So when Duchinni's PR people told us that the firm has released a new range of retro style helmets and was seeking a little promotion, we told 'em straight back that we'd like to take a closer look and try one for size. And the PR guys obliged without hesitation.
Duchinni is a Chinese company. But naturally, owning a Chinese sounding lid isn't exactly a cool product boast (although that will perhaps change in the years ahead), so the Duchinni brand is part of the cosy consumer self-deception that most of us engage in these days. Meaning that if it walks like an Italian and quacks like an Italian, it's probably ... well, a Chinese Italian. Something like that, anyway.
Meanwhile, we have to confess that we expected something pretty nasty and flimsy to spring out of the box when the helmet arrived—which is irrational really because the last Duchinni lid we tested struck us as pretty good value, albeit it at the more budget end of the market.
But first impressions were pretty positive. The lid feels reasonably substantial, which is both good and bad. It's good because "substantial" usually means "solid". However, "substantial" is also a synonym for "heavy", and that's bad because crash helmets need to be as light as possible. Consequently, there's always a trade-off between materials technology and price, and for the price of this lid (£59.99 - £69.99), it feels like the manufacturer got it pretty much right.
The shell is ABS plastic. That means it's not some clever composite. And it's not fibre glass either. Instead, it's ordinary, everyday acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, noted for being tough and durable and not hazardous to human health under normal conditions (but apparently pretty suspicious stuff when you work closely with it in confined spaces for fifty or sixty years).
The stitching on this lid looks reasonably durable. The shape is nice and even. The graphics are obviously stuck on (as opposed to being hand-drawn by a Taoist priest living in a monastery high in the Tianshan Mountains), but they don't look in any danger of peeling away. In fact, to our inexpert eye it looks like a fairly liberal film of lacquer (or similar) has been applied. Regardless, if you buy one of these lids largely for the graphic appeal, there's every chance the stickers/designs will go the distance and will last until it's time to throw the helmet away and buy a fresh one.
There are no air vents on this lid—except all the fresh air that God will be throwing in your face. And if you need more than that, you probably want to be on a ventilator instead of a motorcycle.
The strap is ... well, just a strap. Not good. Not bad. Just something to secure beneath your chin and forget about. But what did you expect? Chin strap poetry? The seat-belt type release buckle isn't going to please riders with extra fat fingers. It's tucked away in a boxy plastic recess (and thoughtfully backed by some padding). That said, the release buckle probably isn't going to come undone when you're simply having a good scratch on the move or fishing around for spattered bugs.
Removable and washable lining
The lining is removable, and that's very welcome. It comes away with a few clip-thingies at the front, and slips back easily enough. We don't know if you can stick it in a washing machine with the rest of your clobber. But we'd probably just give it a quick scrub with shampoo and warm water or something, and then let it dry slowly.
Flip down visor
One of the better touches is the internal flip down visor that makes you look (and act) like a fighter pilot. We don't know if the visor is replaceable. But if you treat it kindly, it will probably also last the life of the lid.
Beyond that there are studs for attaching the (included) helmet peak. That's handy for when you want to play California Highway Patrol Motorcycle cop games. But it also keeps the sun out of your eyes, which is exactly what it's supposed to do. We had to force the helmet peak on the first few times. But after that it was easy to attach. Then again, you probably wouldn't want to play with it too often or risk having the tolerances go askew and suddenly losing the peak out on the open road. So make up your mind early if you want it or don't want it. Tip: We think a pair of aviator goggles minus the peak looks best. But then, we're big Clint Eastwood fans and we like squinting.
On the move, the D501 feels pretty comfortable and secure. But then, you shouldn't simply buy one that's "your size" and expect it to be suitable. Crash helmets are like shoes inasmuch as tiny differences around your feet and ankles make for a big difference in fit and feel. So the shape of your noggin and your jug ears and/or overdeveloped Schwarzenegger lower jaw bone have to be factored into your buying habits.
Put simply, try a few in your price range and walk around in them for a few minutes. And while you're there, check a mirror to see if it's made you any prettier. Alternately, buy online and take a chance.
There wasn't any special wind noise issues with this lid. But once again, you need to ensure you've got a good fit in the first place. The flip-down (actually, slide-down) visor is handy. It's tinted, so it's particularly useful when you've left your sunglasses at home or have simply got fed up wearing shades. And that visor, typically, operates with one-hand and it stays secure when raised.
As with all open-faced lids, you need to have the correct fitment on your aviator goggles if you want a good fit (that is to say, inside the aperture of the helmet and tight against your eyes). We've got a few pairs of goggles, and all of ours worked fine, albeit with a little adjustment. But if you haven't previously worn an open face lid, try one with a pair of goggles if that's your intended new style.
Perversely, one of the best features is simply that we don't feel too precious about the D501. If it gets a few chips and knocks, so what? But of course, serious drops are another issue and could mean a helmet replacement. However, for ordinary use it's just a consumable motorcycle crash helmet to be used (and maybe abused a little) in the usual way, which is perhaps how it should be.
These Duchinnis certainly look reasonable enough, albeit by sailing pretty close to the cheap side of the breeze. If you're looking for a meaningful love affair with your crash helmet, you probably won't find much romance here. The D501 is more like a one-night-stand that actually lasts a couple of years or until something more desirable comes long. A tote bag is included.
How safe it is in comparison to other lids is something for the scientists to argue about. But the lids, we're told, conform to UNECE Regulation 22.05, whatever that really is (and note that these things are often a lot more complicated than you might think). Just keep in mind that someone, somewhere, somehow kicked them around a laboratory for a few hours and deemed them fit, or fit-ish for use.
The available sizes are XS to XL. The Black/Green and Black/Orange examples are £59.99. And for another ten quid you get the Blue/Red metallic finish. That's the one we got, actually. So now everyone around the office who can squeeze into it thinks he or she is Bud Ekins.