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  • June 24, 2015
  • Surj Gish
  • Angelica Rubalcaba
  • 20 Comments

MD Product Review: Shoei GT-Air Helmet

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We riders often talk about the shape of our noggins in terms of what brand fits. I’ve got a Shoei head, and while other brands also fit me well, I’ve been a Shoei devotee of sorts since I started riding on the street. Well, once I started wearing a helmet on the street, that is. I know, I know… you’re surprised (and perhaps disappointed?) that I’m still here. But enough lecturing—we like to protect what’s left of our brains, and as such, we take helmets very seriously.

The Shoei GT-Air is a serious helmet, with serious features for serious riders. Seriously. While it’s not as conservatively shaped as an old school spaceman RF200, it—thankfully—eschews the complex and overwrought angularity of many newer lids, with just one significant contour in the shell on either side of the top vent. The rest of the exterior is pretty, well… organic.

Maybe it’s the “organic fibers” Shoei mixes in with the fiberglass, to make it “incredibly strong” while still “extremely lightweight.” The size large I tested weighed in at 3 pounds, 10.6 ounces, with the chin curtain and Pinlock insert installed. Really light helmets come in under 3 pounds so I’m gonna say not quite on the “extremely” part of lightweight, but since I wear a Neotec with a Sena hanging off of it most of the time, the lightweigh-tness admittedly feels pretty extreme to me.

In any event, it’s light enough to be comfy.  Here is a Shoei promotional video for the GT-Air, which gives you a good look at all angles and describes each of the features touted by Shoei:

 

 

The GT-Air gets the air in via two vents—one on top, and one on the chinbar—and lets it back out via a single exhaust vent just above the built-in spoiler in the back. The vent mechanisms are easy to use with gloves on, and provide very good airflow without a lot of noise—an improvement over my Neotec, which has an audible hissing sound when the vents are open, even with custom earplugs in my earholes. On a naked bike, opening the vents on a GT-Air results in a nearly imperceptible difference in road noise—no hissing to speak of at all. It’s a very quiet helmet.

A chin curtain and breath guard are supplied, but I’ve always found that the breath guard actually contributes to more fogging of my glasses, rather than less. Fortunately, real anti-fog tech is included for the shield, in the form of a Pinlock insert. Kudos to Shoei for including Pinlock-ready shields and inserts with their helmets—this system works, and at $549 and up, the inclusion of this stuff helps to dull the pain of emptying your wallet at the bike shop.

Visibility out of the CNS-1 shield (same shield used on the Neotec) is good. The eyeport is not as wide-open as an off road lid, of course, but the edges of the shell don’t intrude too much. If you’re a four-eyed rider like me, you’ll be happy with how easy it is to wear glasses with the GT-Air.

The internal sun-shield is easy to engage, and a real boon when heading into the sun. It’s far enough from your face that if you’ve got a thing for chunky glasses, they’ll still fit. At least mine do.

Comfort and fit are first rate—I do have a Shoei head, after all. The padding is luxurious, yet firm. The removable interior offers excellent padding around the base of the helmet, helping to block out noise and providing a solid, positive fit. Cheekpads are available in different thicknesses to allow customization of fit. There’s an emergency release system to make the helmet easier to remove in the unfortunate event of a significant crash.

The removable liner and cheekpads are a big deal—I ride a lot, and my helmets tend to get kinda gross after a while, well before they’re worn out. A completely removable interior allows me to wash the padding to get rid of that “not so fresh feeling,” and replacing the liner makes it feel like a brand new helmet again, a couple years in. As with the inclusion of the Pinlock insert, not having to replace a perfectly serviceable helmet because it’s gotten funky helps justify the significant outlay of cash required for a helmet of this quality.

Speaking of quality, the paint on my helmet is top notch. The “Shine Red” color is brilliant and bright, almost high-viz. It’s quite impressive.  The GT-Air offers a very high level of fit and finish in line with its price, and is an outstanding choice for general purpose street riding, from commuting to weekend jaunts in the twisties to touring. Highly recommended.

$549.99—more if you want fancy paint, fancy boy. Get more info and find out where to buy at shoei-helmets.com.

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This article is copyright CityBike Magazine – used with permission. Surj is Editor in Chief of San Francisco-based CityBike Magazine and also runs LaneSplittingIsLegal.com.

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20 Comments

  1. DaveA says:

    Starting in 1985 I was a Shoei guy. My first helmet was an RF105V, and I owned and loved every iteration of the RF series up to the RF1000. That’s the model that changed the shape of the RF fit, and I had to go hunting for a new lid. I had two KBCs, and while they were ok, I still wasn’t super happy with the fit. Then Scorpion came on the scene, and I was very impressed with the fit and finish v. cost, and the no-fog shields were awesome. I’ve been a Scorpion guy ever since.

    Try as I might I can’t see why anyone would spend $550 (or more even) on a helmet when you can get one for half that (or less) that gives nothing away. I also can’t understand how Scorpion can sell every helmet at every price point with the excellent no-fog shield, but a $550 Shoei requires a no-fog insert.

    To answer concerns above, I get excellent wear from my Scorpions. In fact, I just finally replaced an EXO700 that I bought 6 years ago because after 2 race seasons and about 130,000 street miles, the liner was getting worn (loose, not threadbare…still looks fine), and I just felt like getting a new one. I could have replaced the liner and kept wearing it, but I like to replace my helmets every 5 or 6 years.

  2. bikerrandy says:

    I used to be a Shoei guy, until they just got too pricy for my tastes. Switched to Nolans and they fit me the same way and cost a lot less, but they’re getting pricy now too. My quietist helmet w/best air flow is a Nolan. Mostly use flip-ups now for convenience, which are noisier, but I use ear plugs so it’s no big deal for me.

    As far as protecting your head in a get down, the price of your helmet has little to do with the protection you get when you need it most. I’ve crash tested cheaper full coverage/flip-up helmets and never has my head been damaged. I always seem to go down face first. Which makes sense since you are moving forward when you suddenly stop.

  3. stinkywheels says:

    I’ve got a Shoei paperweight in the garage. I hope I have an Arai head but they don’t make a modular and until I get Lasik surgery I’m kinda SOL on full face helmets. Cheap modular and ear plugs for me. Can’t afford anymore $500 paperweights.

    • Brian says:

      What keeps you from wearing glasses with a full-face? I’ve been doing it for 15 years and umpteen different pairs of glasses, never had any real issues.

      As to the paperweight…I wouldn’t sell a helmet I’d worn more than an hour or two (or that was damaged in any way), but I’ve sold a couple of near-new helmets that didn’t work out for me due to size or head shape issues. (Sometimes it’s hard to know until you’ve actually ridden with the helmet–at which point it’s non-returnable). Online marketplaces are your friend…

    • Francois says:

      Noisiest helmet I ever worn – Shark S700. Had it about 2 months when I had a minor fall in Dec 2012 and it was a write off (I am not saying it is bad quality, it is the visor brackets that broke). Was comfortable though, would be better in a xxxl. Made the mistake to buy another Shark – the Evolution. Why? Oh Why? was I so stupid. The noise is just as bad. Will not buy a Shark again. I had cheap helmets like Vega Venturas and an old flip-up Arai, which was a lot cheaper and quieter. Most comfortable and quiet helmet for me – Vega Ventura. I am about to change helmet again and will not spend too much money on one again. That is rubbish that a expensive helmet protects you more than a cheap one. It is the design and structure that matters. Just because it is expensive does not mean it is a stronger helmet.

  4. Brinskee says:

    I will stand by the HJC RPHA-10 and recommend it to anyone. It’s a solid, solid lid that stacks up against Shoei and Arai any day of the week. I’ve got three of them and I just can’t help but rave about the quality craftsmanship, the great paint and graphics, the features, the very low weight, the quiet and superb ventilation, the center locking visor with tool-less removal (like a Shoei) the silver-lined removable cheekpads, I could go on and on. They even have cups to place the speakers for a Scala type headset built in, and come with a Pinlock anti-fog lens. I’m left wondering how they can release future versions because it feels like they just thought of everything.

    They’re AWESOME for the money and I just love mine. I feel like it was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made in terms of riding gear and I literally smile every time I put it on, and that’s saying a lot. I’ve ridden for over 25 years, owned countless bikes, and this is my favorite piece of gear, hands down every time.

    Do yourself a favor and at least just check them out. Or even better yet, ask someone else on your favorite rider’s forum about their experience.

    • Chris M. says:

      I have the GT-AIR and I like it but I did think about getting the RPHA-ST, which I guess is similar to the 10, mainly due to the price. Now that I see your opinion I kind of think maybe I should have saved a few dollars, but I do think the GT is a good helmet and it fits me well. I just got back from a 1853 mile trip and the only things I didn’t like about the GT-AIR is the in the morning it would take a little while before the internal visor would clear up. You don’t really need sunglasses with it but if it’s really bright out and you want to wear some I find them to be uncomfortable after a while due to the pressure applied to them. Other than that I could wear it for hours and only then start to have a hot spot on my forehead but then I would just shift it a little and it would be fine for a bit longer.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “I will stand by the HJC RPHA-10 and recommend it to anyone.” “They’re AWESOME for the money and I just love mine.”

      The RPHA is awesome regardless of the money. I tried one on recently at local shop and fell in love with the liner – super plush and much more luxurious to my head than anything Arai or Shoei puts out. It was also very light and seemed to fit my head perfectly. I wish I would have discovered the RPHA before I bought my RF-1200. helmet. The RPHA is cheaper, but frankly, I would have gladly paid a healthy sum more for it than I paid for my Shoei.

      But I wasn’t there to buy a street helmet. I was there to replace my tired Arai dirt bike helmet, and I was pleasantly surprised to see HJC’s RPHA X dirt offering – an absolute steal compared to the Shoei and Arai helmets and much more comfortable and plush than either. Bought it on closeout for almost half of its $360 retail. It is so good that I’ll actually grab the HJC dirt helmet over the RF-1200 for a local runabout. I think the year-old Shoei RF-1200 is about to get replaced by a RPHA street helmet as well.

    • Tyg says:

      How does the padding of that HJC stand up over time? My main concern about the non-Arai/Shoe brands isn’t safety (pretty sure they’re all pretty safe, new), but how well they preserve their fit over time.

      My previous helm (Shoei X11 – bought at a local chain for ~350) was almost as snug 30k miles after I bought it – and by almost I mean I can tell it’s different, but it still doesn’t move on my head at all.

      I’m currently riding an X12 (also ~350, probably a “we bought too many of these”), and 20k miles into it, it fits great, but I’ve found that: 1, it’ll fog for any reason and I have to ride cracked open if it’s ~40F unless I’m going 80 (no pinlock, mea culpa); 2, not too impressed by airflow – it’s good, but not fantastic; 3, it’s noisy, even with earplugs. On the other hand, the fit’s fantastic, pads come out great for washing, and I can wear shades under it just great.

      I’ve considered the GT Air for the “don’t bother with shades” bit which would be nice on the evening rides when I start shaded and an hour in start thinking it’s about time to take them off.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Have you experienced deteriorating fit with other helmet brands? Besides Arai and Shoei, I’ve owned a Nolan and a Joe Rocket (which I am pretty sure is a rebranded HJC). I don’t use either anymore since they are fairly old, but I still have them for some reason. That Nolan must be 15 years old now with a lot of miles behind it and still fits like new. Same with the Joe Rocket (though it is only six years old.)

  5. VLJ says:

    Tried to switch from Arai to Shoei with this helmet. Odd fit, though. Just couldn’t make it work with glasses. I also tried the pricier Schuberth. Alas, again, poor fit for me.

    Went ahead and grabbed an Arai Signet and a Defiant. Doubt I’ll bother again with trying any other brands.

  6. azi says:

    For me, Shoei helmets have become less comfortable, noisier, and foggier since the RF700 and RF800. I’m due to replace my XR1000 (which I had to use as my RF800 lining wore out), and considering Nolan, which seems to suit the same head shape.

  7. Marc says:

    I got the Air as a replacement for a Shoei Qwest and it fits about the same and is about as noisy. I agree with Max on the chin vent I cannot tell if it is open or closed. The flip down visor is so cool. I don’t have to carry any sun glasses.

  8. Daniel says:

    The three big helmet names in Japan are Shoei, Arai and Kabuto. Anybody that likes the Shoei a lot should definitely have a look at the Kabuto brand. Similar fit, finish and quality at less than half the price. After using my Kabuto Kamui for a while I would never pay the price of a Shoei or Arai.

  9. Max says:

    I own a GT-Air also. My only complaint is that the chin vent doesn’t allow enough air through (especially in hot Texas summers). I oftentimes cannot tell the difference in air between the open and closed positions. The narrower head opening makes it a tough more difficult to get one’s noggin through, but that same narrow opening makes for a quieter ride (in my opinion).

  10. kawzies says:

    Every group ride (sportbikes) I’ve been on at least 80% of the other riders have either Shoei or Arai. When I run into individual riders the percentage goes way down-b/c a lot of owners of these helmets have a cheap alternative that is quieter or more comfy IMHO. Personally I think they are head jewelry-status brands. I’ve owned both, but honestly I prefer Scorpion over either. My lowly r410 helmet is quiet as heck, super comfy, with excellent features. I have no doubt it will do it’s job if I go down. Today’s 1%ers are riders in that mythical 1%(reaLLY 20or so) economic bracket with money to burn so all kinds of mfrs. are taking full advantage of their brand names. Arai helmet for $850 anyone? I guess $549 is kind of a bargain

  11. Nick V says:

    I have one of these helmets and agree on everything but the noise. It is the loudest helmet I’ve ever owned. So much that it has become my backup helmet and I’m using my cheap $150 HJC as a primary helmet over my $600 GT air.

    • Blackcayman says:

      ouch…

    • motogrin says:

      I also have one of these. Fits my head well and the flip down sunscreen is great–it’s the reason I bought it. It is quite noisy until I stand on the pegs and get my head above the windshield into clean air, then it’s the quietest helmet I’ve owned.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        “It is quite noisy until I stand on the pegs and get my head above the windshield into clean air, then it’s the quietest helmet I’ve owned.”

        I noticed the exact same thing with my RF-1200.