Used: Box SZ-1 helmet

Versatile and VFM flip-up lid

I'VE never liked wearing open-face lids - to me, the vulnerability of the nose, mouth and jaw in the event of a crash far outweigh wind-in-your-face pleasures. But full-face lids can be a hassle. You need to take them off when you pop into a shop, then if your hands are full they're a pain to carry around; plus, I wear spectacles, which makes yanking lids on and off one step less simple. Then, while riding, it can get a bit sweaty, foggy or claustrophobic in there, so often you want some breeze to wash your face - but only for a few seconds. And full-face lids can trim your range of vision when manoeuvring your bike into a tight parking spot. 

Which is why I think flip-up (or 'system') helmets are a really clever idea for urban use, and have switched to wearing one for the last couple of months. 

There are loads of high-quality flip-up lids at the upper end of the market, from Shoei, Schuberth, AGV and so on, but as I wanted to check out the budget end of the market, I opted for a Box SZ-1 from Oxford Products. 

It's a generously-specced, well-made, good-looking lid, and at £90, a really good deal to my mind.

The flip-up section is released by pushing with your thumb on a button on the inside of the chin guard; after I got the hang of the required leverage and pressure, it's very easy to operate. The helmet's padding is thick and comfortable, though the flip-up section, being unpadded, initially felt 'empty'.

Fastening is by a ratcheted chinstrap with a quick-release pullcord, and the SZ-1's ventilation (one chin and two forehead vents with sliding covers) is distinctly effective. The anti-fog visor - Pinlock comes fitted - works like a charm. The drop-down internal sun visor, operated by a push switch on the left edge, comes in handy for those moments when you're suddenly dazzled by the glare from a low and bright sun. However it sometimes creeps down a centimetre or so into your field of view - not a problem by any means, but maybe a very minor distraction. Though a budget lid, the paint finish and quality of materials cannot be faulted.

On the downside, the helmet only has a 3-star SHARP rating - but then, for instance, so does the £420 Shoei Multitech flip-up. However where the SZ-1 disappoints is the fact that, according to SHARP, the faceguard remained fully locked only 36% of the time upon impact, whereas the Shoei returned a 83% figure. I'd still trust the Box for in-city use, but would stick to a full-face helmet for A-road/motorway use - where in any case a flip-up's utility value is much less applicable. 

Any other complaints? It's a bit on the heavy side at 1.9kg, it lets in a fair amount of wind noise above 60mph... oh and I look like a despatch rider, with the white coloured lid. Black and hi-vis are also available; size options are XS to XL. 

On the whole, the Box punches above its pricetag and proves that you don't need to spend a bomb to go beyond the basics. I'll keep you posted on how it stands up in the heat of summer, if such a thing materialises...

Review your Box SZ-1.