Modular helmets are the zip-off adventure pants of the motorcycle world. They have a ways to go to outrun the reputation of being stodgy and lame, but the truth is it's a terrific idea. Full-face safety with the ability to flip the chin bar up and enjoy 3/4-helmet functionality. A stalwart in this category has been HJC's RPHA Max—a good performer with an MSRP in the high $400s—and is now being replaced by this new RPHA 90.

The RPHA acronym stands for “Racing Performance Helmet Advantage,” which was initially code for HJC’s premium combination of carbon-glass hybrid fabric and other tricks that were used in only the high-end race lids. Now, that “Premium Integrated Matrix” of materials is used across the upper echelon of HJC helmets, and so is the hard-to-pronounce acronym (it’s “are-fuh,” for the record).

HJC RPHA 90 Modular Helmet open
The open notch in the chin curtain allows air to reach the vent on the top of the helmet when the chin bar is up, which is smart. If you prefer more coverage around the chin there’s a piece of fabric that fits in there via hook-and-loop.Jeff Allen

Features on the RPHA 90 are what we’ve come to expect from a modular lid—a metal latch mechanism to keep the chin bar secure, good vents, removable liners, a drop-down sun shield, and pockets for headset speakers around the ears. This helmet delivers all of that, with a couple of nice updates. Instead of being deployed via a lever on the top of the helmet (like on the RPHA Max), the lever for the blast shield is now near the left side of your jaw, along the rim of the shell. It’s much more convenient, and didn’t interfere with the Sena headset I mounted. The speaker cutouts are also lined with soft hook-and-loop fabric, so your speakers will stay in place. As usual, I didn’t find the speaker-pocket placement to be perfect—one day hopefully helmet makers will learn to make the cutouts large enough that the rider can move the speakers around to suit their own head shape.

HJC RPHA 90 Modular Helmet closed
A sliding vent on top is the main source of airflow for the RPHA 90. The Sena 30K headset doesn’t come on the helmet but it fit nicely.Jeff Allen

An antifog insert for the main visor is also included with every RHPA 90, which is a nice touch because without it the screen will fog up something fierce (especially on a touring bike with good weather protection). With a drop-down sun shield built in, brow vents are a thing of the past. Luckily, the main vent on the top of the RPHA 90 flows a lot of air. It even works with the chin bar flipped up, thanks to a cutout in the chin curtain that lets fresh air get to the intake.

HJC RPHA 90 Modular Helmet
If the RPHA 90 doesn’t look sci-fi enough, there’s a Star Wars version painted to look like Darth Vader’s helmet.Jeff Allen

I do have a few complaints, one being that the main visor can’t be cracked open easily—the detents are large and a little cumbersome. Overall comfort for my typically round-oval head was good, though the adaptability for the speakers wasn’t quite right, which I think is a major consideration for a touring helmet. As brilliant as the hook-and-loop-ready pockets are, I had a little trouble keeping my ear cartilage happy after I pulled the small swaths of removable material out from the headset cutouts. In the eyes of a journalist the perfect helmet doesn’t exist.

At the end of nearly 1,100 miles in the RHPA 90 I'm impressed with the improvements made from the RPHA Max. The new lid is sleeker, better designed, easier to use, and, maybe most impressively, it's the same price: $460 for solid colors, $470 for matte, and $500 for graphics. For me, it's not as good as a Shoei Neotec II, but it's also more affordable to the tune of a couple hundred dollars, and that's not nothin'. Even with my small complaints, I'd recommend the RPHA 90 to anyone interested. As for making modulars cool… I'm still working on that.

Verdict: HJC RPHA 90 Modular

Grade: B+
Summary: Arguably the best bang for your buck in the modular family.
Sizes: XS–XXL
MSRP: $460–$500