Headgear From Switzerland

Text: Andi Seiler • Photography: Andi Seiler

The Swiss are known for attention to detail and quality workmanship. That holds true for IXS, the apparel company garnering much success within the motorcycle gear business of Europe. Unfortunately, you can't buy their high-quality helmets in the U.S.

As a foreigner I wonder sometimes "What's going on in this country?" They still prefer the old measurement system to the metric, they play games with rules we'll never fathom, broadcast sports and TV shows we've never seen (sooner or later they will appear in Europe), and they sometimes ride their motorcycles without helmets, even though that's the case only in a few states.

On the other hand, U.S. visitors in Europe are often surprised how many riders are fully sheathed in safety gear, resembling knights in shining armor. The most common pieces of equipment are helmets, which are strictly required by law and monitored closely by the police. That's a good thing, too, because head injuries are the most serious consequences of motorcycle accidents, many of which end in death or permanent damage. So do yourself a big favor on the road and cover your noggin. Riding without a helmet may induce a sense of freedom in the open air, but that surely isn't worth life or limb!

The competition among riding gear and helmet producers in the Old World is huge, and the Swiss manufacturer IXS, known for stylish leather riding gear (leathers), produces the brand of choice for many European customers and racers. IXS invests heavily in the research and development of safety solutions. One of their snazziest innovations is the new airbag jacket 'Stunt', presented at the IMOT in Munich (February 2 - 4, 2001).

Other products in their safety program are helmets that fit perfectly to the company's leathers. Just like their leathers, IXS helmets are well shaped and designed. One of their coolest designs is the HX 292, a helmet that is more than that. It meets all European safety requirements, even the stringent standards of the racing organizations, and it covers your head perfectly, fitting snugly to effectively dampen engine and wind noise. The TriComposite multi/lazer compound is lightweight and the aerodynamic shape features a small spoiler on the back of the helmet that enhances the quality of good riding with relatively easy head turns at higher speeds.

The AirStream low-pressure ventilation system works very efficiently, keeping the inside cool and dry, the outside scratch-resistant, and the optically correct visor free of fog. In difficult weather conditions, the volume of airflow prevents the visor from fogging. Another big help in those situations is the breathing mask and wind repeller. Due to a solid, fast operating system, exchanging visors is a snap. The antiseptic CoolMax padding from DuPont keeps the environment under the shell dry and comfortable. A lacquer seal covers decals and logos and makes it easier to keep the outer shell clean. The chinstrap has leather padding and a quick-release buckle instead of a double-d ring. Unfortunately, this comfortable fastener is something the powerful SNELL Institute, which tests and rates helmets in this country, doesn't like at all.

But that's only one reason you can't obtain IXS helmets in the United States. If you have a superior helmet that is certified and meets all safety standards in Europe and want to export it for public sale in the U.S., there are several hoops to jump through before that's going to take place. As a foreign manufacturer, you bear the responsibility of finding a laboratory that does reliability testing of a certain number of helmets to meet the DOT (Department of Transportation) specifications and safety standards. A relatively minor problem, that - the bigger issue is how totally different the U.S. market is from Europe's. First of all, every manufacturer has to have a sound business plan that includes hefty outlays for a good insurance policy, mainly to cover lawsuits. Sadly, an all-too-overused phrase in the U.S. is "When in doubt, sue!" Much of the litigation that winds up in the U.S. court system would be deemed laughable in Europe. And since a helmet is the most sensitive piece of riding-gear equipment, manufacturers are especially vulnerable here.

Another point to consider is the highly competitive marketplace with large discounters or wholesalers and the Internet marketers battling for loyalty and market share at the expense of profit margin. The super-store mentality holds sway all over the U.S. All of which means, if European companies like IXS are going to invest a ton of dough to develop, test and bring a better helmet to U.S. stores, they may as well give up because they'll never be able to compete in pricing. That's the situation. And even if the market changes here, when it comes to safety awareness, the road for a manufacturer is difficult and rocky.

Oh, by the way, one of our editors has worn the HX292 for racing here in the States. And though the helmet doesn't have any SNELL stickers on it (it has European and German/DMSB ones), the tech inspectors don't complain because they know real quality when they see it and hold it in their hands.

Sizes & Colors

  • XS-XL
  • Black/Red/Silver
  • Black/Yellow/Silver
  • Black/Blue/Silver
  • Black/Silver/Silver

Factory Address

  • IXS Switzerland
    Hostettler AG
    P. O. Box
    6210 Sursee
    phone (041) 926-6111
    fax (041) 926-6353
    website: www.ixs-fashion.com

US - Importer for IXS Products

  • (Alas, not for helmets!)
    MOTORACE
    P.O. Box 861
    Wilbraham, MA 01095-0861
    phone (800) 628-4040
    fax (413) 731-8999
    e-mail: info@ixs-usa.com
    website: www.ixs-usa.com