Buying quality kit at bargain prices sounds ideal, but what will you end up with? Mikko Nieminen investigates.
Browsing the internet, I was amazed by some motorcycling items at mouth-wateringly low prices. Not just the used stuff, but brand new items in online ‘bazaars’ such as Wish.com. One rich vein of discount kit on this particular website was helmets. Arai and Shoei were well represented, with prices starting from as low as £40 per lid.
Wondering how it was possible to pay such a small amount for helmets usually sold for three-figure sums and a closer look at a Shoei helmet that was listed on Wish.com solidified my suspicions. The snappy helmet was titled: ‘2018 SHOEL Motorcycle Helmets Men’s Helmet Four Seasons Full Face Helmet Kart Racing Off-road Double Lens Locomotive Anti-fog Style.’ The Shoei logos were in the right places, but there were clues it had never been near a Shoei factory.
For a start, the visor mechanism and the vents didn’t look right. My curiosity stirred, I decided to buy one anyway. The purchase process was equally unconvincing. The helmet’s price depended on size, and the cheapest (£40) was an XXXXS. Quadruple XS! Not a size you often come across, but I went for it. The website took me through the purchasing process, but moments after the sale was confirmed I received an email saying the item was out of stock and that I’d be refunded (presumably this very small helmet had been listed so the seller was able to show an even lower price than what the actual products went for).
Anyone in their right mind would have walked away here, but I selected a helmet size M, paid £73 and waited patiently…
When the helmet arrived from China, my heart sank; it had been covered in bubble wrap and placed in a jiffy bag with no protective cardboard box.
Unwrapping the helmet, it wasn’t just the visor mechanism and vents that looked shoddy; the chinguard was crudely made, the lining was thin and there was no Pinlock lens or even pins to secure one. Everything about the helmet looked cheap and un-Shoei like. Even the Shoei logos were wrong on closer inspection – the last two letters were at a different angle to the rest.
Companies like Shoei are fiercely proud of product quality and something like this wouldn’t ever see the light of day, so I thought I’d better run this by the Shoei UK.
I sent the helmet to Shoei UK and received a call from their marketing department: ‘Yep, definitely a fake. This thing is nothing like a real Shoei. Come and see us and I’ll get one of our product specialists to talk you through it.’ On the one hand I was smug I’d spotted the fake, but on the other I was disappointed that the good deal I’d found was not so good after all.
My visit was an education. Shoei product specialist, Martin Thorne, confirmed my suspicions and also revealed other problems. The helmet was missing a crucial ECE safety label; there was an ECE sticker on the outside, but this isn’t enough to certify the item is safe to use. When Martin removed the lining, it was clear the EPS layer (the polystyrene foam) didn’t have the standard Shoei multi-density structure.
Instead it was made from lower quality polystyrene foam than you’d find in a real Shoei and there weren’t any ventilation holes to let the air in from the top vent; you could open or close it as much as you liked, but with no holes or air channels, no air was going to get through. For some bizarre reason, the exit vent holes were in place and even if the holes had been there, there was a good chance that not much air would actually come through.
Also, the visor mechanism was unlike the patented flush-fit system Shoei uses, and there was no emergency removal system for the lining. The paint job wasn’t up to standard, with overlaid lines and rough finish, and Martin naturally spotted the wonky letters in the logo, too. Overall, there wasn’t much that was up to scratch.
Who to trust?
I complained to Wish.com who were sorry I hadn’t been entirely satisfied, but didn’t answer my questions about why they were selling fakes? I asked to speak to their media department, but nobody would talk to me. They never directly admitted the helmet was a fake, but my purchase was refunded and the helmet removed from the site.
If blatant fakes are being sold on – and presumably off-line too, how can you dodge the scammers? If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. You’re better walking away than risking your health.
Shoei has a Shoei Assured scheme to protect customers, so be sure to visit a Shoei Assured store for the best possible service and peace of mind. You can find the official Shoei dealer details on www.shoeiassured.co.uk.
There are plenty of other products being faked and sold online, so the next time you consider buying cheap gloves or boots, think before you part with your hard-earned cash.
You can read the full issue of the June/July Classic Scooterist here!