Though you may see a few old-timers still using the “open” style, until recently the choice in helmets for snowmobilers came down to either wearing a full-face helmet with a shield or a motocross-style helmet with goggles. Then in the late 1990s modular helmets with a flip-open front started to grow in popularity – to the point where now they make up a large share of helmets seen on the trail.
In the last couple of years, however, so-called dual-sport helmets have started to creep into snowmobiling from the motorcycle market, offering a sun visor/peak like an MX helmet but a removable face shield like a full-face design so riders could switch back-and-forth over the course of a season or even within a single day. Castle X now is upping the game one more level with its modular dual-sport EXO-CX950 helmet – offering the ultimate in convertibility for riders who (depending on your perspective) either want it all, or just can’t make up their dang minds!
As a bonus, the helmet also comes in an expanded array of sizes, making it a rare option for folks with oversized craniums. To test it out we ordered two of them – one for a staffer, and one for a test rider named Tom who has long had trouble finding the right fit for his bulbous head.
A New Niche
The EXO-CX950 is sourced by Castle from respected helmet maker Scorpion, which unveiled its EXO-AT950 on/off-road helmet a couple of years ago as the first mid-priced modular dual-sport in the motorcycle market. The motorcycle press raved about its quality and the broad array of features it offered for a helmet under $300. For snowmobiling, Castle’s CX950 comes with added features, including a breath box, chin curtain and dual-pane shield.
Unboxing the helmet, we were immediately impressed with its quality look and feel. The outer finish was perfect, the shield and polycarbonate shell appeared to be high quality, the vent controls seemed sturdy and the interior pad material looked top-notch. At 4 pounds 2.2 ounces on a size XL lid, it was a bit heavier than some helmets we’ve worn, but modular helmets do run heavier than lesser-featured MX or full-face units.
Things got even better when we strapped one to our head – for the staffer, the sizing was true, the cheek pads properly gripped the face and the breath box settled into the right place. For big-headed Tom, having the ability to order a modular helmet in a true size 3XL was a blessing – he said the helmet was a bit snug directly in front of his chin but otherwise it was the best-fitting modular he’d ever tried on – and he’s tried plenty.
On the trail, the helmet offered a quiet ride with the face shield shut, though one of our riders complained of regular fogging. There are several built-in solutions to that problem. The first and most natural for longtime riders is to crack the shield to the first detent to let the cool air in and the moist air out. Unfortunately, the first stopping point for the shield is rather far out and lets in too much cold air – having a closer-to-closed initial detent is one of the few changes we’d like to see made to this well-designed helmet.
Another solution is found in the three-position vent in the snout. With the big lever in front of the chin all the way up it blocks all air; the mid-point is intended for a partial breeze and the sort of venting needed to stop fogging; and the third position moves a lot of air to cool the driver’s head. An additional closable vent is found in the forehead. On Tom’s helmet, there was a third anti-fogging option: He ordered his with a heated shield that he used often.
Being a modular design, at trailside stops riders were able to trip the lever under the chin and pull the nose of the helmet up and out of the way. When ready to ride, the nose of the helmet snaps firmly back in place – something not all other modular helmets can brag about.
The upward-rotation on the helmet is actually more complex than traditional modular helmets because the shield and nose of the helmet must fit under the sun visor/peak when rotated upward. To accommodate, that sun visor stands an inch above the helmet at center, and rotates part way up and back with the helmet nose. The visor is also quite short in length, limiting its ability to actually provide shade when riding toward a low sun, but aesthetically it looks great.
Don’t worry about burned retinas, however, because the EXO-CX950 comes with a drop-down tinted sun visor inside, between the rider’s eyes and the face shield. It worked well, though one rider wished it lowered slightly more than it did. It was controlled by an exterior lever located near the wearer’s left ear.
For riding on warm days or when working up a sweat, the ultimate anti-fog method was to remove the faceshield altogether and ride wearing goggles. The goggles fit nicely inside the eyeport, and the back of the helmet features a built-in channel specifically designed to hold the goggle strap in place. We loved the convertibility of the helmet, and Tom was pleased as well.
“I wanted a modular helmet,” he said in his notes. “I like to be able to open my helmet and talk, and the fact that this is a sportier-looking modular with the visor is a plus. I personally feel this is the best looking full-face modular on the market, and probably the best looking full-face-altogether.”
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