HJC CL-Max III flip-up: a great all rounder modular helmet for not many $$

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HJC CL-Max III flip-front motorcycle crash helmet review.

HJC has become know for producing decent quality, lower price helmets. And the HJC CL-Max III seems to be no exception.

It’s a polycarbonate modular helmet with a bunch of useful features but that costs less than most modular helmets on the market today.

Built for sports-touring riders and for medium oval headshapes, the CL-Max III comes in sizes all the way up to XXXL and includes both an integral sun visor and Pinlock-ready face shield.

Couple that with HJC’s decent reputation for building helmets that give good levels of impact protection, and the HJC CL-Max III might be a helmet that’s well worth the small investment they’re asking.

Read on to find out if it’s any good…

Looking to buy this HJC helmet?

We recommend Revzilla (PA) who give legendary service and free delivery, and J&P Cycles (TX) who have excellent online reviews and offer 120 day returns and free shipping on all helmets. Or you can click through to Amazon if you prefer to buy from there. Please click any link to drop onto their HJC helmets pages or see here for more info about our recommended stores, including their T&Cs. If you buy from either place we get a small percentage of the sale (at no extra cost to you) - so many thanks!

Overall/Summary

The HJC CL-Max 3 is a great value helmet that owners really like.

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Full extent the chin bar raises

OK, it’s at the lower end of the price range so don’t expect too many bells, whistles and exotic materials. But it’s a comfortable helmet with a nice quality liner. Ventilation’s about average but the face shield system has all you need – it’s wide for good peripheral vision and it’s Pinlock anti-fog ready and there’s a decent sun visor to stop you getting caught out in the sun.

It’s not the quietest or lightest modular in the world – but owners don’t seem to mind. That’s mainly because you’re getting a lot of flip-front helmet for your money.

We’re not entirely sure how much protection it’ll offer during an accident – because it hasn’t been independently safety tested. Though it is of course DOT certified.

So if you do want a good quality, comfortable flip-up helmet but you don’t want to spend very much, then you really ought to check out HJCs CL-Max 3.

Safety

 (more about helmet safety)

The CL-Max 3 has a polycarbonate shell and chin bar.

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CL Max III in Gallant black/blue colorway

Being a modular helmet, that chin bar flips up, which can be a safety weak point in any flip-up helmet.

We don’t have any data about how strong that flip up chin bar is, but the last HJC polycarbonate modular tested by SHARP in the UK – in this case an IS Max 2 back in 2015 – stayed locked and closed during every impact test which is obviously an awesome score.

In case you’re wondering, Snell hasn’t ever (as far as I can tell) tested an HJC modular helmet – and if the chin bar failed they don’t publish the data anyway. So SHARP is really as good as we can get.

The polycarbonate shell itself is one of the more basic/cheaper shell materials, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t give good protection. By our calculations, Snell have certificated 4 polycarbonate HJC helmets since their 2015 standards came into play, so it shows, they can and do give decent protection.

Back in Europe, SHARP has tested four HJC polycarbonate modular helmets where they scored an average score of 3.3 stars out of 5, with the most recent IS Max 2 scoring four stars together with that 100% score for chin guard locking.

We’re hunting around to get some insight here, but all we know for sure is that the HJC CL-Max 3 has been DOT certified so should provide at least a decent minimum level of protection.

Let’s hope the CL-Max 3’s chin guard is just as secure as the one on the IS Max 2.

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Top view showing top vent and sun visor slider

It comes with a Pinlock ready face shield so if you do suffer from shield fogging, you can spend an extra $30 or so to get an anti-fog insert. A clear, de-misted shield is kinda cruicial for safe riding – so if you’re suffering you can sort it out with a Pinlock.

So too is some way to protect your eyes from glare, so a sun visor is very handy to have incorporated into the fabric of the shell in terms of safety and comfort.

The CL-Max 3 is secured to your head using a tried-and-tested double-d ring fastener which are nice and secure, though arguably not as user-friendly as a microratchet.

It’s only produced in one shell size unfortunately, meaning you’ll get the same helmet shell if you’re an XS fitment as someone with XXXL. That’s not so great – for looks and, arguably, for optimising the amount of shock absorbing EPS liner to helmet shell. Though there is an argument that if you’re smaller fitment size in a larger shell sized helmet, you’ll get more EPS liner in there so better impact control.

Of course, the opposite may be the case too, which isn’t so great if you’re a larger head size.

Being a lower-tech polycarbonate flip front helmet does come with its problems. In the case of the CL-Max 3 that’s weight.

Modular helmets are generally a few ounces heavier than full face helmets anyway. But the HJC CL-Max 3 is heavy for a modular, weighing in around the 4lbs (1.8Kg) mark.

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This design’s the CL-Max III Flow in black and purple

Generally speaking, having a lighter weight helmet makes for a safer helmet during an impact because there’s less kinetic energy transfer. It also make a helmet comfier to use in your daily ride.

Having said that, and while a few owners do say they find it heavier than average, we found more saying they find it quite a light weight helmet. I guess it depends on which helmets you’ve been wearing before – if you’re used to heavy lid or expected it to be a super heavy weight helmet when you bought it, you might find the CL-Max 3 lighter than anticipated.

Either way and even though it is a heavy helmet according to the scales, if the experience of other riders is to go by, it seems unlikely you’ll have a problem with the weight of the CL-Max 3.

Helmet Noise

(more about helmet noise)

Modular helmets aren’t known for being overly quiet. That’s usually because the chin bar mechanism leaves room for wind noise to either get into the helmet or reverberate around once inside.

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From the rear – another Gallant this time in grey and red

From owners’ opinions found around the web, the HJC CL-Max 3 sounds to be about average for modular helmet. That means it’s noisier than your average full face helmet and a bit noisier than some modulars.

So if you’re looking for a really quiet helmet, this probably ain’t it.

Though note that helmet noise is massively personal and subjective. So much so that if you really like the HJC CL-Max 3, I’d go for it and expect to wear ear plugs (which you know you should anyhow, right?!)

Ventilation

(more about helmet ventilation)

The ventilation config is nice and simple on the HJC CL-Max 3.

Up top, there’s a single crown vent that’s designed to pull air through the helmet and cool the top of the head. In the chin bar, there’s another single vent to cool the face and let air push onto the back of the face shield.

For ease of use, a single vent in both areas is ideal so you can quickly adjust venting without having to scrabble around for multiple sliders.

The only issue with having a slider up top for both the vent and sun visor control is that it’s easy to get mixed up between the two, which can be frustrating. So, if you do buy a CL-Max 3, it’s very much worth familiarising yourself with the positions of both early on, otherwise you may find it annoying to adjust when you’re on the move.


A couple of useful links…

Our Top 10 Modular Helmets
Safest Helmet Reviews


However, while the sliders on each vent and nice and glove friendly and easy to use, there’s mixed reviews about how good venting is.

Inside the shell, there’s some nice and large channels designed to circulate air around the scalp. But they only run from front to back and don’t let in masses of air.

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Plain white HJC CL-Max

The chin vent lets in a reasonable amount of air but if you live somewhere cold, you could well suffer from shield fogging as there’s not enough ventilation to keep the shield from misting.

Overall then, owners reckon it’s about average for ventilation.

Obviously, it’s a flip-front lid so if you really do need to get loads of air, you can always push up the chin bar and you’ll get all the venting you can cope with.

But if you need a helmet that’ll vent a ton of airflow with the shield down, you might want to check out one of these great venting helmets instead.

Shield

(more about shields)

The face shield on the CL-Max 3 covers all bases pretty well.

It’s a quick-release shield so you can easily whip off the shield for easy cleaning. Plus owners say it’s nice and wide so gives great peripheral vision – which is obviously good for that sense of freedom while you’re riding as well as being a good safety feature.

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Small rear spoiler and smooth aerodynamic shell

It’s got an opening tab towards the bottom left – which is OK – and it’s got Pinlock pins on there in case you suffer from fogging so you can buy a Pinlock lens and it should slot in there no problem.

Shame it doesn’t come with a Pinlock in the box. But other than that, in terms of the face shield, the CL-Max 3 has all the basics covered.

Sun Visor

(more about sun visors)

Same goes for the integral sun visor. Owners tend to love the sun visor on their CL-Max 3s.

It’s operated with a slider right on top of the helmet. As mentioned before, it’s a bit too easy to get mixed up between the sun visor slider and the top air vent slider, which can be a bit of a niggle.

The sun visor’s a bit low-tech too, in that it goes either fully up or fully down without the help of a a spring-loaded return that you get on some helmets. But owners reckon that’s fine – it’s a budget helmet so most riders don’t expect an overly-sophisticated mechanism.

Plus, if you’ve got your sun visor down but want to raise it just a little, you can push it up an inch or two using the slider to get an intermediate position. Job done.

Chin Guard

(more about chin guards)

HJC has designed the chin bar on the CL-Max 3 to be operated with just one central button. That unlocks both clasps (one at either side) and the chin bar can be easily raised.

If you’re after a modular helmet, you’re undoubtedly wanting one where the chin bar has a secure locking mechanism that’s not going to open in an impact.

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This one’s a CL Max 3 Flow

Looking at SHARP (UK) test data, HJC has a mixed record for this. Taking all their years of data covering the testing of HJC modulars, their chin bars stayed closed and locked during just 64% of impacts – which ain’t great.

However, their latest tested modular – the IS Max II – scored an excellent 100%. That means the chin bar on the Max II didn’t unlock at all in any of the 32 impact tests it went through. So hopefully that means the safety of HJCs chin bars is on the up!

As you can see from the picture, the HJC CL-Max 3 is one of those flip-up helmets where the chin bar raises just above the line of the closed face shield rather than pushes right the way round to the back of the helmet.

If you’re looking for one of those, take a look at modulars from LS2 and Shark who both produce fully rotating chin bar modulars.

The chin bar mechanism on the Max 3 seems to work well. It unlocks and pushes open without any fuss and auto locks when you firmly push it back down.

Just don’t do it while on the move if you want to make it to the end of the ride – always pull over before opening or closing your chin guard.

Comfort and Sizing

(more about comfort and sizing)

The HJC CL-Max 3 has a fully removable and washable liner. HJC liners are usually great – they’re serviceable and comfortable. And while they’re not the last word in comfort, they’re usually more than comfortable enough and made from quality materials.

 

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Grey/Orange CL-Max 3 Gallant

The lining on the CL-Max is made from HJCs SuperCool material which is essentially an anti-microbial moisture wicking liner – with the cool referring to wicking sweat away so your head feels cooler. It’s not particularly fancy but it does the job.

Several CL-Max 3 owners said their helmets are all-day comfortable so they’re great if you’re taking a long run cross state.

One common issue worth being aware of is that a few owners said they felt the padding in their CLs was a bit uncomfy at first – because the cheek pads press in a bit too firmly, squashing your cheeks.

If you buy one and find the same issue, there’s a few remedies. Firstly some owners said they had to go up a size – so maybe if you’re between sizes and not really sure which size to go for, we’d suggest opting for the larger size when you order.

Though when you receive your helmet, make sure it’s a nice firm fit when you try it on.

Alternatively, if you think it’s just fine apart from the cheek pads, you can buy different size cheek pads from HJC to tailor the fit.

However, it might not really be an issue as a few owners said theirs wore in pretty quickly and isn’t an issue after a week or two.

One great thing about the CL-Max 3 is that it comes in sizes up to XXXL which is a reasonably rare larger size.

You can find other helmets that come in extra large sizes here.

Looks & Graphics

At the time of writing, HJC offers the Flow in five colorways, the Gallant in four colorways as well as the usual range of solids – black, white, anthracite and silver.

Scroll up and down the page to get an idea of the designs available (we’ve covered all these graphics) and if you’re interested in buying a CL-Max III, please click through to our highly recommended store partners using the links below.

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Please click below to visit the HJC helmets pages at three of our recommended stores. And if you buy from any store, we get a small sum from the sale at no extra cost to you - a massive THANKS! (it's how we finance the site).

Buy HJC helmets from JP CyclesShop for HJC helmets at Amazon

Click above to drop onto their HJC helmets pages or *quick view store T&Cs here.

HJC CL-Max III Video

Here’s a quick 3 minute look around the CL Max III from the guys at J&S.

Other stuff – fasteners, audio, weight, glasses, build quality, warranty

The CL-Max 3 comes with a standard double-d ring fastener. They’re not as easy to use as a micrometric fastener but they’re not bad once you get the hang of them and they’re easy to tie up securely.

The old CL-Max 2 was designed to work with a specific bluetooth kit only. HJC has dropped that with the Max 3 so there’s no longer a panel on the helmet for you to slot one specific comms unit in.

 

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CL-Max 3 in titanium

That’s undoubtedly a good move because many of us have a comms unit we know and trust and want to take it from helmet to helmet. There’s large speaker pockets inside the CL-Max 3 and a large enough flat panel on the side to take a range of bluetooth kits.

We heard from owners of Cardo PackTalks and Senas – including the 10S – who said they found it easy to fit their bluetooth sets to the CL-Max 3.

As mentioned, the Max 3 isn’t the lightest of helmets. In fact it’s one of the heaviest weighing in around 4lbs or 1.8Kg. Having said that, that’s only around 4 ounces heavier than the average weight of a modular helmet. And while some owners say it feels heavy, others reckon it’s light weight when you’re riding.

If you need a helmet that’s easy to wear with glasses, the CL-Max 3 has been designed to fit glasses stems. And like many modulars, it’s easy to put your glasses on by opening up the chin bar to fit them.

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Black/hi-vix fluo green Flow CL-Max 3

Overall build quality of the Max 3 seems to be fine for most owners. Yeah they take into consideration the fact is a lower price helmet – so you probably don’t expect the best materials and finish – but it’s broadly seen as a well built helmet with a good level finish for the price.

And if you plump for a Max 3 as your next helmet, it should come with a decent 3 year warranty.

Good Alternatives to the HJC CL-Max 3?

OK, the first helmet you should check out is the CL-Max 3s stablemate the HJC IS-Max II. It’s got that tried-and-tested chin bar, plus the UK version was SHARP 4 star safety rated. It’s got all the great features of the CL-Max 3 but good ventilation too.

The AGV Numo Evo ST is more expensive than either HJC, but it’s highly rated for safety too and has an easy micrometric fastener and has been designed to be worn with the chin bar up too if that’s your thing.

OK, it’s a lot more money, but the top of the range AGV Sport Modular is a carbon fibre flip-front that’s been designed to work with sports bikes. Lots of great features and a wonderful helmet.

Finally, the Bell SRT is a fiberglass and Snell certified modular that comes with 5 year warranty. It’s another modular that’s as happy on a laid back or leant forward bike too.

Looking to buy this HJC helmet?

We recommend Revzilla (PA) who give legendary service and free delivery, and J&P Cycles (TX) who have excellent online reviews and offer 120 day returns and free shipping on all helmets. Or you can click through to Amazon if you prefer to buy from there. Please click any link to drop onto their HJC helmets pages or see here for more info about our recommended stores, including their T&Cs. If you buy from either place we get a small percentage of the sale (at no extra cost to you) - so many thanks!

Crash Helmet Buying Guides

For (hopefully!) other useful information to help you when buying your next helmet, check our various guides - or have a look at our top helmet lists where we've got the top 10 rated helmets overall and best budget/safest/full face/flip-up helmets.

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