When I first started riding my trusty Honda S90 at age 16, because of state law and, more importantly, my dad’s ultimatums, I was forced to get a helmet. Since I was, of course, as invulnerable as Superman then, I searched for the two cheapest mail-order helmets I could find (one for the girlfriend). The open face model I chose cost less than $20, was brilliant orange and strangely flared out in the cheek areas like a Dutch girl’s bonnet. The snap-on face shield produced a vaguely psychedelic image of the flanks of the road, and the helmet’s black edging was continually hanging off like a strand of licorice. My girlfriend adamantly refused to wear hers (something about the wind in her hair), but I gamely wore mine, at least when in sight of my dad.
Somewhere in the next intervening four decades, I began worrying more about my head than my other parts; so now when I’m looking for a helmet, protection is a number one concern, closely followed by comfort, looks, versatility and value. Shoei’s new GT-Air gets high marks in all five categories.
Protection on Shoei’s newest full-face helmet begins with AIM shell construction, a blend of fiberglass and organic fibers for strength and light weight. Three shell sizes, covering sizes XS–XXL, along with 3D-shaped cheek pads available in four different sizes, are offered for a custom fit. A nice innovation borrowed from Shoei race helmets, the cheek pads carry red pull-tabs, so in the event of an accident, emergency personnel can quickly pull out the pads, making helmet removal easier. The D-ring chinstrap hardware also features a red quick-release tab.
The inside of the GT-Air’s shell is lined with Shoei’s varying density EPS foam with integrated tunnels for ventilation. This is the first Shoei full-face to offer a retractable sunshield. Taking a cue from their Neotec modular, the forehead area where the sunshield is stored is raised to avoid compromising the shock-absorbing thickness of the EPS.
The GT-Air is obviously aimed at the burgeoning sport-touring segment of the riding market, so long range comfort seemed to get extra attention from Shoei designers. The removable, replaceable and washable Max Dry liner feels plush and, according to Shoei, absorbs sweat twice as fast as Nylon interiors. But since I tested this helmet in a chilly Wisconsin spring, I’ll have to take their word for it. Speaking of chilly weather, the GT-Air includes a much-appreciated trifecta of anti-fogging features: a Pinlock insert, removable breath guard and lower vent shutter.
More ventilation is introduced through a three-position forehead intake vent and a rear outlet vent cleverly tucked under the integrated spoiler, where negative pressure suctions air through the helmet. I would judge ventilation in the Shoei to be as good as or better than most helmets I’ve tested. With all the vent shutters open, I could easily feel the draft through the helmet. The GT-Air’s chin curtain is also removable for even more air movement on especially warm days.
The GT-Air is as quiet as you’d expect from a high-end full-face. Shoei reportedly used extensive wind-tunnel testing as it crafted the helmet’s slippery, aerodynamic shape and a nifty face-shield base-plate design pulls the CNS-1 face shield in tight against a dual-bead gasket as it closes to keep wind noise to a minimum.
After wearing helmets with retractable sunshields, I don’t ever want to go back. Like the Neotec, the GT-Air’s sunshield glides up and down smoothly to any position, using a slider that I found easy to operate, even when wearing my favorite elk skins—pretty handy feature when you’re running in and out of shade. Shoei claims both the sunshield and the clear face shield cut 99 percent of damaging UV rays, and both are free of distortion even with the Pinlock insert installed.
The GT-Air is offered in three different finishes: solid colors, metallics and graphics. I liked the looks of the Journey graphics group: sharp design both in black and white backgrounds. The finish of these hand-made helmets is typical Shoei–slick.
The retracting sun visor, ventilation features and removable elements make the GT-Air a pretty versatile sport-touring helmet. Solid detents also allow the face shield to be raised to at least six different positions, and the new Shoei’s field of view is larger and taller than previous models. Interior system channels do accommodate eye-glass wearers, though being used to flip-up, it took me some time to get the hang of sliding my glasses on. The GT-Air also has removable ear pads with recessed areas to nest speakers.
Value? MSRPs for the Shoei GT-Air are $550 (solid color), $580 (metallic) and $671 (graphics). That may seem pricey, considering a full-face from a different manufacturer could cost as little as $100; however, when I consider the first-class protection, comfort, versatility and looks of this helmet, not to mention the five-year unconditional guarantee, I would predict that serious sport-touring riders will be giving the GT-Air a long, hard look.
More information, specifications, a size guide and videos are all available at Shoei-helmets.com or you can contact 714-730-0941.
· First-class protection
· Sport/touring versatility
· Wife called it pretty
· More expensive than a new set of tires
· Wife called it pretty