Of all the accessories a rider can choose, a helmet is probably the most personal. Besides the fact that a helmet is arguably the most important piece of safety equipment, the helmet also must do a number of things that directly affect rider comfort.
Whether it’s keeping the rider cool when it’s hot, warm when it’s cold, or dry when it’s wet, a helmet affects multiple aspects of a rider’s environment. And though safety is paramount, for a street or touring rider, comfort and convenience are a close second.
Recently, Shoei North America hosted the introduction of its GT-Air II sport touring helmet in Costa Mesa California at the headquarters of The Medium Creative Group.
Situated among an eclectic display of rider memorabilia and unique collectibles, Mathias Beier from Shoei and Mr. Hiroshi Maeda, the new President of Shoei’s North American office showed-off their new helmet to the press.
Unlike race helmets that prioritize safety above all else, the GT-Air II balances safety, comfort, and convenience in one package.
Some of you probably ride with the previous version of this helmet, the GT-Air. This new version takes an already capable platform and makes it even better, adding convenience features that touring riders will truly appreciate.
Picking up the GT-Air II for the first time, the helmet feels quite light. It is constructed of a Shoei-exclusive Multi-Ply Matrix AIM Shell construction, which combines fiberglass with lightweight organic and high-performance fibers.
The forehead area of the outer shell is raised slightly to accommodate the internal sun shield, allowing for the integrity of the helmet’s inner EPS liner to remain intact.
The GT-Air II’s multi-piece/multi-density EPS liner not only provides enhanced impact absorption by utilizing varying densities of foam in strategic locations, it is also designed to allow cooling air to travel unrestricted through tunnels created in the EPS, further enhancing the GT-Air II’s ventilation characteristics.
Besides providing a safe shell on the outside, the GT-Air II is also equipped with a fully removable, washable, adjustable, and replaceable 3D Max-Dry interior system, which Shoei claims is capable of dissipating sweat two times faster than traditional nylon interiors.
In the event of an accident, it’s nice to be able to remove a full face helmet without causing undue harm to a potentially injured rider.
For the GT-Air II, Shoei borrowed technology originally developed for Shoei’s racing helmet models and equipped this helmet with its exclusive Emergency Quick Release System that allows emergency medical personnel to easily remove the cheek pads from an injured rider’s helmet.
With the cheek pads removed, the helmet can be safely lifted from a rider’s head without creating unnecessary strain in the neck area.
When it comes to convenience, Shoei’s new touring lid showcases a number of helpful features. The first regards helmet retention. Shoei has used their Micro Ratchet Chinstrap in the European market for years, and the ability to put on and take off a helmet quickly makes for a very convenient experience, especially with gloves on.
The GT-Air II now features the ratcheting chinstrap which uses a 100% stainless steel interlocking mechanism that offers a quick, smooth, and secure closure.
The GT-Air II also offers a lengthened internal sun shield for optimal sun-glare protection. The built-in sun shield is 5mm longer than previous versions and gives riders good relief from the sun. A large, easily located switch activates the 3D injection-molded inner shield, and the distortion-free view blocks 99% of the sun’s damaging UV rays.
Out on the road, a touring helmet needs to work in all weather, and on damp and humid mornings, fog is an issue. The GT-Air II offers an all-new “first position” shield opening for advanced ventilation and defogging.
Though pinlock capable, the new “first position” opens the shield about a quarter of an inch and allows fresh air to flow in and keep the shield clear without the optical distortion and edge distractions that a pinlock sometimes causes.
Of course, once moving, it’s important for a touring helmet to be quiet, in order to prevent rider fatigue. In order to keep the riding experience quieter, Shoei added enhancements to the GT-Air II’s shell shape to reduce wind noise around the helmet.
Shoei also added a chin bar air spoiler (think front air dam on a car) and an airtight window beading to help direct air and prevent unwanted wind noise inside the helmet.
The ability to easily control airflow in order to control a helmet’s climate is critical for street riders. The GT-Air II is wind-tunnel optimized to maximize airflow and reduce unwanted noise and offers three intake and five exhaust vents that have been strategically shaped and offer improved cool air intake and hot air expulsion. The vents are controlled with easily operated slide mechanisms.
Besides being safe, quiet, and comfortable, a modern touring helmet should offer the ability to communicate and, in this regard, the GT-Air II doesn’t disappoint. Specially designed for this helmet, the all-new optional Sena SRL2 Communication System fits like a glove, with precut channels for cabling and integrated spaces for the battery, microphone, and ear pieces.
Jointly designed by Sena and Shoei, the SRL2 integrates into the existing helmet architecture without external protrusions and installs easily. With a simple 3-button control, riders can pair to their smartphones to listen to music, hear GPS directions, talk on the phone and more.
The SRL2 offers an intelligent Audio Multitasking feature which allows the rider to simultaneously listen to music and talk to other riders via intercom and the system’s Universal Intercom technology makes the SRL2 compatible with other non-SENA Bluetooth systems.
So, how well does it work?
I’ve been using the GT-Air II for a couple of weeks now, and overall, I’m pleased with the functionality of the helmet. I immediately noticed the increased length of the internal sun shield and really appreciate the change.
My normal day-to-day helmet is a Shoei Neotec II, which also has an integrated sun shield, but it’s too short and allows too much light to come in below the shield. The lengthened shield fixes this issue nicely.
The GT-Air II feels light and quiet, even at higher highway speeds. On my naked bike, the GT-Air II is significantly quieter than my other full face helmets, which helps to reduce fatigue on longer trips.
The ratcheting chin strap is definitely convenient when running errands and the helmet’s ventilation is excellent. The inner liner is quite comfy, and the helmet is not perturbated by high crosswinds, even on an unfaired bike. Overall, it’s a comfortable and convenient helmet for touring and general street use, but it’s not without its faults.
My biggest gripe concerns the “first position” feature on the shield. When open to the slightly open position, the helmet vents nicely and keeps the shield fog free. The problem comes when trying to close the shield from the slightly open position.
For whatever reason, over 50% of the time, I can’t get the shield to latch from the first position with one hand. It typically requires at least two attempts or requires that I open the shield to a wider position and then close it from there. Not a deal breaker, but a bit of a pain in the ass.
My second complaint regards the feel of the materials. Though I know lighter weight requires lighter materials, this helmet feels a bit plasticky. It just doesn’t feel as well made as my Neotec II, for example.
Finally, I find it interesting that a full face helmet that retails between $599-$699, depending on graphics, is only DOT certified. I’m not a certification snob, but there are definite benefits to the Snell and ECE certifications.
These higher certifications provide additional peace of mind, and frankly, at this price point, I’m surprised they’re not part of the package. I’d give up the ratcheting chin strap if that’s what’s keeping this helmet from achieving higher certification.
Overall, though, I’m happy with this helmet. It’s comfortable, quiet and convenient. Even with the few niggles that I mentioned, it’s still my go-to helmet for longer trips, especially on my naked bikes.
The GT-Air II’s shell comes in three sizes to ensure a solid fit for heads between the sizes of XS-XXL. The helmet is priced at $599 for solids and metallics, while graphics cost $699. The Sena SRL2 costs $299.
Photos: Shoei & © 2018 Andrew Kohn / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved