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Riding dirt and gravel isn’t like riding pavement. The rough terrain jostles your internal organs and beats the ever-living hell out of you until you’re tired, sore, and ready for an ice-cold beer and campfire steak at the end of the day. You can, however, reduce the strain of off-road riding by selecting the right gear, chiefly your helmet. 

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Riding dirt and gravel isn’t like riding pavement. The rough terrain jostles your internal organs and beats the ever-living hell out of you until you’re tired, sore, and ready for an ice-cold beer and campfire steak at the end of the day. You can, however, reduce the strain of off-road riding by selecting the right […]

The lighter a motorcycle helmet is, the better it will be for the rider during off-roading because the lessened load will reduce neck, back, and shoulder strain. Motorcycle helmets don’t weigh too much in the grand scheme of things — on average between two and five pounds — but even a slight reduction can make a big difference. As someone who frequents dirt trails down the street from my home — Utah’s mountains are calling, and I must go — I want a helmet that takes ol’ Colin Chapman’s « simplify, then add lightness » motto to heart. AGV’s AX9 carbon-fiber ADV helmet bills itself as such. 

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Those attributes don’t come cheap, as the AX9 is a pricer ADV helmet. Listed for about $630 from Revzilla, it represents a more expensive tier, with Arai’s XD-4 and Shoei’s Hornet X2 both arriving for $20-$30 less, while Schuberth’s E1 Adventure is about $20 more and Klim’s Krios Pro is an extra $80. There are solid ADV helmets for less than $300, but they won’t have the same features or build quality as the AX9 or its competitors.

Since I had a Harley-Davidson Pan America as well as a Ducati Multistrada V4 S on their knobbiest tires in my garage for a couple of weeks and a couple of hundred miles of OHV trails right outside my house, the AGV was a perfect test subject. That’s why the company sent me one to test, and test I did. Through hellish heat, cold rain, miles upon miles of dusty gravel trails, and even through a freak hailstorm, I tested its fit, durability, ease of use, and weight. 

My take: Make the investment. 

Unboxing and Initial Impressions of the AGV AX9 Carbon ADV Helmet

AGV is known for producing high-quality, high-style motorcycle helmets, including for soon-to-retire, nine-time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi. I actually have an AGV Carbon Modular helmet in my ever-growing helmet collection, too, and I adore its lightness and versatility. 

The AX9 came in a fairly plain-Jane black box, with only a few small AGV crests on the outside hinting that a helmet was inside. It was also light — extremely light — so light that I thought maybe AGV’s factory screwed up and forgot to drop the AX9 into it. Thankfully, the company’s workers didn’t forget. The helmet inside was wrapped in a velvety soft helmet bag. 

© Jonathon Klein
Unwrapping the AGV.

Pulling the bag off the helmet revealed the beautiful glossy carbon-fiber weave the helmet is made of. A peel-off sticker was slapped onto the shield to protect it from scratches, and it came off easily. The AX9’s sun visor forgoes the carbon fiber for a gloss-black plastic for easier and less expensive maintenance if you ever need to replace the visor after a wreck. AGV also designed the AX9’s mouth intake to be removable, and it features an air filter to reduce the amount of dust and dirt you breathe in while off-roading.

Once the helmet was removed from the box, I also found a Pinlock anti-fog system, an instruction manual on the helmet and its different configurations (as delivered, without the visor, and without the visor and the shield but compatible with a set of goggles), the warranty information (five years), and a handful of AGV crest stickers. I’m a sucker for a free sticker. 

Installing the Pinlock system is straightforward, but if you need clear instructions and a short video, Pinlock has that. Within five minutes, I was ready to strap the helmet onto my fat head and ride off into the Uinta National Forest. One right turn out of my neighborhood, and I was on my way into the mountains.

Using the AGV AX9 Carbon ADV Helmet Good: Light and reduces every bit of neck, shoulder, and back strain. Bad: Noisy and on the higher end of the ADV helmet price point. Check Latest Price

In hand, the AX9 might as well have been a shed hummingbird feather. This is by far the lightest helmet I’ve ever used, weighing just less than three pounds. Like most new motorcycle helmets, the AX9 needed to be broken in because the interior EPS padding was tight on my pudgy face. I needed to sweat and compress it for the perfect fit, so that’s what I did. 

Out on the Ducati, I sped through the national forest in the direction of Wyoming. The ambient temperature that day was 94 degrees Fahrenheit at an elevation of 9,000-plus feet. It quickly became apparent that my need to sweat in the AGV wouldn’t be too difficult to achieve as the AX9’s venting system isn’t the best out there. 

© Jonathon Klein
Sitting on a log. 

Although all three vents were open as well as the two outward extractors, inside the helmet gets toasty when the shield is down. Shield up is a different story, with the wide and wondrous opening providing ample breeze to keep you cool. But if I’m riding behind a semi hauling pebbles or a side-by-side on gravel kicking up dirt, I want that shield down so my face isn’t peppered with BB-sized rocks.

That said, the shield’s field-of-view (FOV) of 190-degrees horizontal visibility and 110-degrees vertical visibility is unparalleled. It’s the best FOV of eight helmets adorning my office wall. You get a sense of everything that’s going on around you, where you’d like to go, and interesting instances occurring in your periphery. It envelops you in the world around you, exactly what ADV riders want. If I’m riding through the Grand Canyon, I want to see and witness the beautiful desolation of the Grand Canyon, not just through a slit.

The AX9’s mouth intake and filtering system is also exactly what I want from an off-road helmet. Through the dusty trails on the Uintas, with side-by-sides, other motorcycles, and even some overlanders kicking up dust, it never once felt like I was eating the trail’s surface. Just fresh-filtered air. 

It also survived an out-of-nowhere hailstorm without a single dent, scratch, or issue.

During my time with the helmet, I also changed up my environment for high-speed testing. I had to take the Harley-Davidson in for servicing, so that meant a stint of pavement riding from our little town into the Salt Lake City area. This was where one issue crept into view, or rather into the ear. The lightness of this helmet also means that the insulation isn’t the best. Wind noise is very prevalent, and even with my earbuds in, I could hear the wind rushing past. What you lose in wind noise protection, however, you gain in wearability because, good gravy, this helmet is beyond light.

There’s an airiness to the AX9 that beggars belief. I’ve now put the AX9 through at least four two- to four-hour rides, and a handful of around-town blasts. Had I taken any of my other helmets, I would’ve been dead tired and sore from my shoulders up. Not with the AX9. 

After my motorcycle wreck a number of years ago, my back and neck get sore really easily whenever I go out on longer rides. You’ll routinely find me rubbing my neck, grabbing a handful of CBD capsules, and laying on the floor for a bit after stretching out my neck, back, and shoulders. The next day, I’m cramped up and feel like I’ve gone a few rounds with a UFC fighter. The AX9’s lightweight approach alleviated all of that. 

If you have spine and back issues like me but still need that two-wheel adrenaline shot, you’re gonna want to try this helmet. 

© Jonathon Klein
Modeling the AGV AX9 on a mountain.

What’s Good About the AGV AX9 Carbon ADV Helmet

The best part has to be how little it weighs. I’ve had the opportunity to test a number of helmets during the course of my riding career, and this is by far the most comfortable helmet to wear for long riding days. Although you’re keenly aware it’s on your head thanks to the visor, there’s a nakedness to its featherweight mass — as if I wasn’t wearing a helmet at all.

And as I mentioned, the outward and peripheral visibility is stunning. The shield goes on forever, reaching back toward your ears, seemingly arching so far back it practically touches the two ends of the shield together. When you’re riding on open terrain with a ton of hazards, this is exactly the type of IMAX-quality visibility you want. 

I’m also a superfan of the filtered mouth intake system. A few days before the AGV arrived, I went riding with a friend in his Polaris RZR. He drove in front and guided me to an alpine lake I’d never been to before. I had on my old Shoei VFX-W dirtbike helmet (Shoei has since debuted the VFX-Evo as its replacement), and the amount of dust kicked up into my mouth was disgusting. I might as well have started smoking again, that’s how my lungs felt. The AX9 doesn’t have that issue. 

Lastly, this carbon-fiber bad boy doesn’t just look brilliant, it’s brilliantly designed to keep your cranium’s internal squishy parts from liquifying against your skull in the event of an accident. The shell uses a carbon-aramid-fiberglass weave for extreme durability, while four layers of EPS high-density foam keep everything inside secure. And everything is water resistant and washable, a big plus for ADV riders. 

© Jonathon Klein
The baby is loud. 

What’s Not Great About the AGV AX9 Carbon ADV Helmet

Though AGV’s insulation is solid, it’s not the best. Because reducing the helmet’s weight has been prioritized, it’s loud at highway speeds. I’m not saying it’s unbearable, and most seasoned riders wear earplugs or earbuds to reduce that noise, but you’re very much aware of the wind whipping past you. 

The airflow of the AX9 could also be better. With the shield down and all airways open, it still gets warm inside. With the shield up, it’s fine, but you’ll need sunglasses or just glasses to keep your peepers from being pelted by rocks, bugs, and stray birds. Improving that would improve the overall experience.

And then there’s the price. Helmets are an odd product category. It’s the most important piece of gear you can possibly own — it protects your head and brain, without which you’d be, well, not alive — but there’s a big price variance. The AX9 Carbon is undoubtedly expensive, hitting you with a $630 bill ain’t nothing to wag your finger at, but I’d rather spend the cash protecting my head. 

© Jonathon Klein
Not cheap, but neither is PT after slamming your head into the hood of a Civic. 

Our Verdict on the AGV AX9 Carbon ADV Helmet

AGV helmets tend to be on the expensive side, but from my experience with the brand, the products themselves warrant the price point. The AX9 is no different. There’s still room for improvement — better airflow and less noise — but I had zero strain after multiple days riding for two to four hours at a time. In any of my other helmets, I would’ve ripped them off and laid down to rest my neck, or I would have had such a cramp the following day, I wouldn’t be able to chase my children. 

The AX9 isn’t cheap, but if you’re going off into the wilderness on two wheels, this is an excellent companion to keep your noggin safe and secure. 


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TL;DR Review

AGV AX9 Carbon ADV Helmet

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The AX9 isn’t cheap, but if you’re going off into the wilderness on two wheels, this is an excellent companion to keep your noggin safe and secure. 

FAQs About the AGV AX9 Carbon ADV Helmet

The Drive’s editors aren’t psychic, so to answer frequently asked questions, we scrolled through Google’s « People also ask » box for anything that may be lingering in your heads.

Q. Where is the AX9 made? 

A. It is designed in Italy but made in China.

Q. Who owns AGV?

A. AGV is owned by Investcorp, a global investment company that also owns Gucci, Dainese, Tiffany & Co., Leica, and others. 

Q. Do AGV helmets come true to size?

A. In my experience, yes. I wear a size Large, which is the size of the AX9 I tested. AGV does offer a sizing chart on its website, as do other retailers. All you’ll need is a clothing tape measure to find your proper size.

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The Drive independently evaluates gear by putting products in the hands of subject-matter experts. The products we test may be purchased by The Drive, our staff, or provided for review by a manufacturer. No matter the source, our testing procedures, and our assessments remain free from third-party influence.

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