As a motorcycle rider, sometimes you want the protection of a full-face helmet. However, on a nice breezy day when riding through town, it’s nice to have an open-faced helmet instead. Rather than buying two separate models, modular helmets offer the best of both worlds.
The HJC IS Max 2 is a high-quality modular unit that comes with more features than you would expect at this price. As the name suggests, this is the second version of the IS Max, with the original coming out in 2009. That model was well-designed, and HJC has created another winning follow-up with the Max 2. Let’s take a closer look to see what it has to offer.
Outer shell material : Polycarbonate Composite Shell
Shell size : XS-5XL
Liner : SuperCool Interior moisture-wicking anti-bacterial fabric
Weight : 3 lbs 15-5/8 ounces
Pinlock : Ready
Strap System : chin guard
DOT : Yes
ECE : Yes
SNELL : No
SHARP : 4 stars
Shape and materials
If you were to do a side-by-side comparison of the original IS Max and this version, you would notice that this one is much more aerodynamic. While the OG helmet is still a viable option on the road, modern sensibilities dictate that the Max 2 is much better looking. Also, with an optimized touring design, you can cut through the wind better, meaning that you get an improved ride overall.
One of the best features we noticed about the IS Max 2 is that it comes in a broad array of sizes. You can get everything from extra-small to 5X large, which means that virtually everyone can wear this helmet. HJC makes this model in an intermediate oval shape, so you shouldn’t have to worry about squeezing into the Max 2. However, if you have a particularly round head, we highly recommend trying this on before you buy, although that’s really true of any new motorcycle helmet.
That being said, the Max 2 only has two distinct shell sizes, so if you do need to go bigger or smaller, keep in mind that you’ll be adding or removing interior pads based on your needs. While there is nothing wrong with this (it’s an industry standard), we tend to prefer helmets that offer multiple shell sizes to create a better fit. However, at this price point, you can’t complain.
Weight is another highlight of this helmet, as it’s a bit lighter than the original version. We wouldn’t go so far to say that it’s a featherweight model, but it’s much less strenuous than other modular helmets out there. You’ll feel it on your head, but you don’t have to worry about getting a sore neck after a long ride.
Because this is a modular helmet, we can’t discuss the shape without talking about the flip-up visor. One of the issues that many riders face while on the road is that the visor’s locking mechanism feels flimsy. It can sometimes seem like one wrong move will make it either flip up or slam back down when you’re not ready.
Things I liked
Things I don’t like
Fortunately, HJC has built-in a reliable locking mechanism on the top - you’ll feel when it clicks into place, even when wearing gloves. Some riders did mention that the lock on the bottom (when closing the lid) doesn’t have the same kind of feel to it, so you may find yourself tugging at the helmet to make sure that it locked correctly.
The Max 2 also made some improvements with the visor as well. The bottom locking mechanism uses metal bolts instead of plastic, so you can feel more confident that the helmet won’t fly open on the highway. The original IS Max never had that problem, but it did strike paranoia among many riders. Another improvement is the one-button operation, which makes it easier to flip the front up with or without gloves.
Overall, while the IS Max 2 won’t necessarily be winning any awards with its design aesthetic, most riders will appreciate the ergonomics of it. Some of the angles can seem a bit clunky, but once you’re on the road, does that matter anyway?
Because this helmet is an intermediate oval shape, riders with that kind of head will fit smoothly into the interior padding. If yours is narrower or rounder, however, you will likely have to mess around with the sizes to find one that fits well.
Although the interior padding is designed to hug your face and keep the helmet snug while you ride, the pads themselves are relatively rigid. As you can imagine, the longer you wear them, the softer they will get, but it seems like that could take a while with this model. The pads are made of a proprietary SuperCool material that helps wick away sweat and dissipate heat. The fabric is also antimicrobial to help prevent mildew and unpleasant odors from taking hold.
If you’re used to soft, plush liners, then this helmet may come as a bit of a shock. Not only is the padding stiffer than usual, but the surface can feel somewhat rough. Some riders may not notice at all, but it’s a far cry from some of the other models we’ve experienced. That being said, you may appreciate the firm grip that this helmet has on your head - it can make it feel stronger and more protective when riding at high speeds.
The IS Max does have space for headphones and glasses built-in to the liner as well, so feel free to upgrade your ride with some extras. However, be sure to test the helmet with your Bluetooth devices to make sure that they fit well. The stiffer material can cause pinching and discomfort if your headphones are too large.
Because this is a modular helmet, you don’t have to worry about visibility when the front visor is flipped up. Fortunately, when it’s locked in place, you get a wide field of vision with minimal distortion along the peripherals.
The visor is Pinlock-ready, which means that you can upgrade to a Pinlock coating if you prefer. For the uninitiated, that means that the screen is anti-fog, which is a huge benefit when riding in colder weather. You never want to hit the freeway with a fogged-up field of vision.
This helmet also comes with a built-in sun visor. To activate it, there is a slider bar on top. The sliding mechanism is easy to use with gloves, and it has a spring inside to help the visor return to its starting position. However, the spring does feel a bit cheap, so there’s a chance that it will give out sooner rather than later.
When it comes to removing and replacing the liner, HJC has a tool-free system that makes it a (literal) snap. Simply push the locking mechanisms out, and you can pop the visor off almost instantly.
No matter what, having a modular helmet is going to be louder than upgrading to a standard full-face version. The IS Max isn’t terrible, but we advise wearing earplugs if you plan on taking the freeway for longer trips.
The padding at the bottom of the helmet does help reduce overall road noise, but you can’t get around the fact that there are seams along the sides for the front to flip up. If you’ve used modular helmets in the past, the IS Max 2 is slightly better than some but mostly average. Again, at this price point, you can accept some road noise.
When comparing the IS Max 2 to the original, the vents are much better. There is a large one at the top of the helmet, one at the chin bar, and four passive exhaust vents. When looking at them individually, they seem like they should provide excellent airflow throughout the helmet. While riding, however, it’s a different story.
We’re not saying that the IS Max 2 vents are inadequate, though. They do a decent job of keeping your head relatively cool. Ventilation is another issue that most modular helmets have, so if you’re already using these kinds of models, you’re likely familiar with their limitations.
The front chin bar is the most lackluster, as it doesn’t seem to provide much airflow. Depending on your face size, there is a bit of room at the bottom of the helmet, so this problem is slightly baffling. Fogging can occur, so we highly recommend upgrading to a Pinlock visor if possible. Also, if you don’t like having extra space on the chin, HJC has included snaps for a faceguard.
Overall, ventilation on this helmet is decent, but not award-winning. However, given the ease of flipping up the front visor, you don’t have to worry about overheating, even in hotter environments.
Safety is one area where the IS Max 2 shines. Other HJC modular helmets typically score a three out of five on SNELL tests, but this one ranked a four. A big reason for the upgrade was the fact that the chin bar uses metal brackets instead of plastic. SNELL specifically mentioned that the visor stayed locked in place during all of the tests.
Beyond SNELL, this helmet is rated for both the US Department of Transportation and the European Union. The exterior material is polycarbonate, which is partly why the helmet is lighter. While polycarbonate isn’t the most durable option out there, it does an excellent job of absorbing impact and protecting your face and head.
Realistically, when picking a modular helmet, the biggest concern is usually with the locking mechanism on the chin. As long as that stays shut in a collision, you should be okay. Thankfully, this helmet outperforms the competition in that regard.
Modular helmet wearers will appreciate many of the upgrades that the IS Max 2 has over the original. Also, many of the problems that come with this helmet can be chalked up to its modular design, meaning that they exist regardless of the make or model. Overall, this product is a step up from an open-faced helmet, but it’s not as safe or as reliable as a full-face version.
Where to buy this helmet :