Dual sport helmets are becoming more and more important for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, the adventure touring category of motorcycles is booming right now, and these helmets just look right aboard an adventure machine. Secondly, the practicality and versatility of these helmet designs are appreciated by many riders.
Last year, we tested a newly designed dual sport helmet from Arai, the XD4. An excellent design that was praised by our test rider, Shoei had a target to shoot for when it designed the new Hornet X2.
The Hornet X2 is actually being introduced tomorrow at the Washington, D.C. IMS show. Shoei invited several journalists to a Southern California unveiling yesterday in San Diego, however, and presented us with a sample that we have used to log a couple of hundred miles aboard a Husqvarna dual sport motorcycle, traversing fire roads and highways here in Southern California. More about our first impressions of the helmet later.
When you think about it, the design goals for any dual sport helmet have to share a couple of elements. First of all, it has to serve the purposes traditionally served by a helmet used in the dirt. These include incorporation of a sun visor, along with a space large enough to use goggles, if the rider chooses.
That big sun visor presents issues for the street, however, where high-speed aerodynamics and stability become extremely important. Additionally, that large opening which permits optional use of goggles, can pose challenges when it comes to creating a solid, airtight seal for the sun visor, in order to keep down wind noise at highway speeds.
The Hornet X2 incorporates a very carefully designed visor, which Shoei calls the V–460. According to Shoei, this visor spent countless hours of development in Shoei’s own wind tunnel, as well as on the road “to perfect the proper balance between aerodynamics and traditional visor functionality.”
The V–460 has an interesting shape incorporating prominent vent louvers, which Shoei claims reduces lift and drag during high-speed riding. This design also feeds air into the upper air intake of the helmet to aid cooling. The sunshade is quite effective, larger than the sunshade incorporated into Shoei’s previous design.
The new CNS-2 shield designed by Shoei offers a huge eye port, for excellent vision, including peripherally, and permitting the optional use of goggles by the rider.
As on other Shoei helmets, this new shield is very easily removed, even with the sunshade in place. Additionally, the rider can rotate the shield backward to its highest, open position,and put goggles in place. That’s right, you can wear goggles on the new Hornet X2 without even bothering to remove the shield (see photo). This could be quite convenient on a ride incorporating both highway and off-road sections.
Shoei also claims to have dramatically improved the ventilation and cooling in the new Hornet X2. Again, Shoei’s own in-house wind tunnel played a big role in its efforts to find the correct balance between airflow, low noise and functionality. The helmet includes a large multi–position lower air intake that aids in defrosting the interior of the shield. Also fed by upper air intakes, four exhaust outlets near the rear of the helmet, together with three neck outlets, take advantage of negative air pressure to remove hot air.
Now for the technical stuff, and the acronyms that go with them. The Hornet X2 features the “AIM+” shell that combines fiberglass and organic fibers to create strength while remaining lightweight. Four shell sizes help Shoei accommodate helmet sizes of XS through XXL. The Hornet X2 also features a dual-layer, multi-density EPS liner for impact absorption. Varying densities are used in key areas around the rider’s head, and tunnels through the EPS allow cooling air to travel unrestricted. A fully removable, washable and replaceable 3D Max-Dry Interior System II helps keep your helmet clean and comfortable.
Finally, the Hornet X2 features Shoei’s Emergency Quick Release System (EQRS) that assists emergency personnel in removing your helmet following a crash. The lower portion of the interior padding can be removed easily so that an injured rider can avoid further neck injuries when his helmet is slid off.
So here is the most interesting part. We tested the Hornet X2 aboard our Husqvarna FE 350 S test bike yesterday on a fairly long ride that covered high speed street, as well as off-road conditions. We are very impressed.
Given the size of the visor, it was remarkably aerodynamic . . . essentially, offering no noticeable impact on helmet stability at higher road speeds (tested up to roughly 75 mph). Shoei’s time in the wind tunnel has clearly paid off. Frankly, the Hornet X2 felt as stable, and quiet, as most high quality street helmets that do not feature an integrated visor!
We were also very impressed by the comfort of the Hornet X2. Shoei builds one of the nicer helmets, in general, but at the very top of this category we typically rate Arai as the most comfortable. The Hornet X2, depending on your head shape to some extent, should provide comfort comparable to top-of-the-line Arais. This is a big compliment in our book.
The interior felt more plush than our Shoei RF-1200, and we expect to be reaching for the Hornet X2 just about every time we board an adventure-style motorcycle. We will follow-up with more comments after further testing.
A couple of other items should be noted. The new shield system includes pinlocks allowing insertion of removable fog shields. Also, the visor itself can be removed easily and quickly without tools by rotating two locks on either side of the visor. This will give you a pure street look. Finally, the Hornet X2 is quite light, which is always a plus.
The Hornet X2 will be available in several solid and multi-colored graphic schemes. Solid colors are priced at $594.99, while metallic colors are $603.99 and multi-colored graphics are $715.99. Visit Shoei’s web site tomorrow for full information on the Hornet X2 (following the unveil at the Washington IMS show).