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Shoei GT-Air II: The next-generation sport-touring helmet

Posted By Julia LaPalme #202446, Thursday, May 30, 2019

Everyone has their favorite go-to helmet for commuting or long-distance riding, that helmet that fits like a glove and becomes a part of your riding routine. What we want from an everyday helmet is a light weight, comfortable fit, and good airflow while minimizing wind noise, all while protecting our precious noggins. Shoei claims to tick all those boxes with their new GT-Air II sport touring helmet, an updated version of the first GT Air released in 2013. After listening to feedback from riders over the years, Shoei aimed to improve an already well-loved helmet, from ventilation and aerodynamics to their drop-down tinted visor while also incorporating a streamlined integrated Sena communication system. I spent a couple weeks with this new helmet to test out all the features.

The first thing I noticed about the GT-Air II is how narrow the chin porthole is when pulling the helmet onto my head. This is designed to help minimize wind noise by reducing how much air can get into the helmet from the bottom. The helmet felt pretty snug at first, with the interior foam closely cupping my jawline. I half expected to get a headache from the close fit, but after 5 or 10 minutes, the helmet simply remained snug and comfortable. Fastening the new mini-ratchet chin strap was fairly easy, and the clip feels like it grips the metal ratchet strap firmly. Shoei has done extensive testing on their patented version of this convenient chin strap design, and their tests showed it is just as secure as a double D-ring chin strap in an accident. The major benefit of the ratchet style is how much faster I can get in and out of the helmet compared with a double D-ring style. My only gripe about Shoei’s ratchet strap is if you rest your helmet on your tank, you have to be careful about not scratching your tank paint with that metal ratchet piece, something to keep an eye out for. The other downside to a ratchet style strap is you can’t use it with an under-seat helmet lock.

During the presentation for the new GT-Air II, the folks from Shoei put a lot of emphasis on how much wind tunnel testing had been done, not just for aerodynamics, but also for ventilation. The GT-Air II has three intake vents and five exhaust vents, which was evident with the amount of airflow I could feel when riding at speeds above 40 mph. The top vent was easier to open and close with gloves on than the chin vent, but both provided ample airflow. With the vents closed, there was still a fair amount of ventilation; for better or worse, Shoei focused a lot of attention on drawing warm air away from the rider’s head. This is great in hot and steamy climates, but I wonder how it would feel in significantly colder weather. A balaclava may be necessary to trap in heat if that’s your goal.

As for aerodynamics, the GT-Air II does a great job directing wind over and around the helmet at high speeds. I tested this helmet while riding a naked cafe racer, as well as a fully faired sport bike. While the GT Air was getting the full force of wind speed and turbulence on surface roads and freeways aboard the cafe racer, there was very little upward pull from high-speed wind force, meaning my neck wasn't sore after a solid hour of riding. It also helps that the helmet feels very lightweight. Shoei’s aerodynamic styling, including an integrated spoiler at the back and beefed up visor seals, helps the GT-Air II transfer a minimal amount of wind noise.

One of the most convenient features of the GT-Air II (and its predecessor) is the drop-down tinted visor. Whether you embrace the full rebel X-Wing pilot aesthetic (nerd alert) or not, you can’t deny the convenience of not having to carry a separate visor to swap out for day or night riding, trying to fit a pair of sunglasses inside your helmet, or shelling out an extra $150 to $200 for a Transitions® lens. Once I became familiar with the placement of the lever, the tinted visor was easy enough to operate with my gloves on while riding. Shoei even increased the coverage of the drop down visor an extra 5mm, almost completely closing the light gap between the drop-down visor and the chin bar.

The absolute standout feature of the new GT-Air II is the ability to integrate with the SENA SRL2, which was designed specifically for this helmet and provides all the convenient features of an intercom system without a bulky unit clipped to the outside of the helmet. The SRL2 fits into a cutout in the GT-Air II's helmet shell, which keeps the helmet shape more streamlined. Aside from benefiting the aerodynamics, there are some arguments that the SRL2’s nearly seamless integration is safer in the event of an impact than a standard exterior clip-on communicator. Thankfully I have not personally tested that theory in a crash, but I certainly appreciate having less bulk on the outside of my helmet for the wind to grab at during freeway riding. The SRL2 only took about 10 minutes to install, and its 20S-based system is just as easy to use as any other late generation Sena.

The GT-Air II is available in a total of 18 different color and graphics options, including three different graphics, each with a variety of colors, and seven solid colors. The solid-colored design will set you back $599, while the graphics design goes for $699. The SENA SRL2 is an additional $299. With the communication system installed, you’re looking at close to a $1,000 helmet. It’s a pretty penny, but you’ll end up with a comfortable, light and quiet helmet with the convenience of an integrated communication system. And if you're a daily rider, that kind of investment can be a lifesaver.

Tags:  helmet  Shoei 

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