Right, I’m going to begin this review with an expletive, so close your eyes if you are easily offended: Bollocks.
That’s with a capital ‘B’… you know, when something drastic happens and you drop your head in despair, close your eyes, and mouth other expletives continua… Sh**… sh*… sh**…
So what’s it all about, Michael?
Well, I was wearing the Sena Impulse helmet for the first time, a brief trial run if you like, when I decided to pull in at a roadside café along the A158, one of my happy places on a ride, because the people who run the van are always cheerful, the food very good and the tea always freshly brewed and hot. I had parked up, bought some refreshment, and was stood by my bike when a van driver idled up and began to make conversation. I had placed the helmet over the right-side mirror, something I usually do when I stop, as someone once said to me that it was unlucky to place a helmet on the ground… tell me if that’s an old wives’ tale.
Anyway, we had been chatting for about ten minutes when I heard a clatter. The helmet had slipped off the mirror and hit the Tarmac. “Oops!” said the van driver. “B*******!” I cursed/expleted. Picking up the helmet, I checked it over and noticed a tiny chip at the rear. The helmet otherwise looked fine, except for the visor, which sported a small scratch over the right eyeline. This was not looking good. It had not fallen from any great height, but that is not the point. As bikers, you will know that should you drop a helmet or be involved in an accident, no matter how small, and you bang your head, you should either bin your helmet or not wear it until it has been thoroughly tested to make sure it has no fractures, breaks, or internal damage.
Yes, I did wear it back home, because I had no other option. I then scoured the Internet and came across The Helmet Inspection Company, which provides a non-destructive shell integrity test. This includes full surface coverage, identifying damage that may otherwise be invisible to the naked eye. Using specialist laser technology, the tech team creates a real-time 3D hologram of your helmet at each inspection point. A small amount of heat (+2-3degC) at the inspection point is then applied. Apparently, as the heat leaves your helmet, changes between the baseline hologram and the current real-time hologram are compared. Damage has a particular signature, which a trained engineer can identify. And like the contours on a map, the size and depth of the damage can be determined. The inspection data is then recorded and images captured. All these steps are repeated until the entire surface of the helmet has been inspected. I am aware that any type of protective headgear is capable of harbouring safety-critical damage, so it was imperative that the Sena went through this vital process before wearing (or not wearing) it again. Thankfully, the resultant Certificate of Inspection showed a PASS. All was well with the world.
The test had cost me £40, which included 48-hour return shipping. That, to my mind, is excellent value for peace of mind, because it goes without saying that with a motorcycle helmet, a visual inspection with the naked eye, in many cases, is ineffective, and as The Helmet Inspection Company notes: ‘We see the invisible, because the essential is invisible to the eye.’
So I was good to go again with the Impulse, having obtained a replacement visor. The tiny chip is at the rear of the helmet, so is hardly noticeable, but I know it’s there!
As for the Impulse, it’s the latest in the line of ‘Smart Helmets’ from Sena. I have been lucky enough to have been offered the opportunity of working my way through the range, and was keen to try the Impulse as it included a Harman/Kardon sound system and you can’t get much better quality than that as it brings a new level of precision and clarity to in-helmet audio. Checking with my riding friend, she was impressed with the outbound audio quality, too, from the all-new microphone. Not only that, but this particular helmet features Mesh 2.0 and BT Intercom technology, and a unique integrated LED tail light, which flashes in a pulsing rhythm, so any following vehicles should be able to see you, particularly at night.
The Sena Impulse modular helmet is formed of a premium composite fibreglass shell, aerodynamically shaped and smoothly finished. Surface inserts include intake and exhaust ports, chin-bar release, sun visor slider, left-side control module and that unique rear LED tail light. It boasts a multi-density, multi-section EPS lining, and what I particularly like is the fact that the integrated system components including the control module, battery, speakers, microphone, and related wiring are all cleanly routed or recessed between the outer shell and inner liner, so there is nothing for you to do, which is a good job, because I tend to be a numpty at these things.
As with my other Sena helmets, the Impulse offers an excellent fit (for me anyway). There’s a reinforced adjustable micro-ratchet chin strap with quick-release, spring-loaded release pull. The cheek pads and headliner pieces are removable for washing or replacement; they’re also breathable with a quick-dry liner layer. I have found that the lower chin curtain, which is easily removable, can become partly detached when placing the lid on, but it is easy enough to clip back in place.
The new charging port is located in the rear of the helmet, which features a built-in WiFi circuit that provides automatic firmware updates while charging, so there’ll be no need to use the Sena device manager to update the device’s firmware.
Since wearing the helmet over a good few months now, I have not noted any pressure points. The fit is very comfortable, and the overall quality again excellent. As for the quietness, that is always a moot point. Obviously, some helmets are quieter than others, and the Impulse sits nicely in the middle. Weirdly though, when wearing the helmet for a recent ride, I noticed the wind noise on the left side was quite pronounced. Simply moving my head fractionally to the right, and the noise dissipated. But then it’s not practical to ride like that for any length of time! Looking straight ahead once again, the noise was back. If anyone has an explanation for this quirk, I would appreciate a comment.
As for the intercom system, I cannot fault it. It offers the best quality of any Sena comms unit I have tested so far, the clarity being brilliant. I normally ride with a friend, so having comms is a real bonus, even on a short-ish ride. The only other person I tend to ride and talk with is Apple’s Siri, so with a simple voice command you can tap into the smartphone’s features, including GPS navigation, music playback, voice dialling, and more. “Hey Siri, I’m running low on fuel, please give me directions to the nearest petrol station!” That’s a good one.
As always with Sena, you only get two colour options: Matte Black or White, which in a way is a shame, as more colours would be a bonus.
VERDICT: Fancy a lightweight composite fibreglass modular smart helmet with Harman/Kardon integrated intercom system and rear LED tail light? Then the Impulse could prove a, ahem, smart choice. It’s not cheap, with an rrp of £629.99, but browsing the Internet I’ve seen it for around £409. And always remember the golden rule: Try before you buy.
- Further information can be found at https://www.sena.com/eu-en/product/impulse