▪ wBW Shark Helmet Reviews
The Shark Vision-R GT Carbon starts with the unique Shark Vision-R helmet with its panoramic view.
It then adds several small touches to improve comfort and weight for the touring or long-distance rider.
These include an internal sun visor, an air pump bladder system in the liner and a new type of face shield removal system.
The overall quality is very high and this helmet is not shy on features.
Shark has been making helmets for nearly 30 years and the company is based in Marseille, France.
The Shark brand was not commonly found in U.S. retailers until the last decade or so and during that time, many Shark helmet reviews were published on webBikeWorld.
About three years ago (and just as the brand was developing some brand recognition in the U.S.A.), there was some sort of disagreement with their U.S. distributor and Shark helmets disappeared from U.S. retailers.
But Shark helmets are starting to reappear at several online U.S. retailers and the network seems to be growing again.
This was very good news to me as I had been looking to purchase a new helmet to replace my aging Shark S900 (review) that I had purchased back in 2010.
I had developed an interest in the Shark Vision-R helmet with its huge eye port. I fully intended to purchase one last August (2012), but I put this purchase off...and frankly, I’m glad I did.
In February of 2013, I was covering the Powersports Dealer Expo in Indianapolis and I was able to try on a Shark Vision-R in person, so I could confirm I still wanted one. It fit me very well and when I got back home I started doing some online shopping.
During my search, I discovered something I wasn't aware of: the Shark Vision-R GT Carbon. They had me at the word "Carbon".
I found the helmet listed on the Shark website; it is a carbon fiber and aramid composite shell version of the Shark Vision-R, but with some extra goodies added to the mix.
Very cool stuff -- but there was only one problem: this helmet was (and still is) not yet available in the U.S.A.
Not to be deterred, I found a dealer that was more than happy to ship a Vision-R GT Carbon for a very reasonable price. Was it worth the wait, with international shipping and the $38.00+ extra shipping cost?
The Shark Vision-R GT Carbon is available in a select few colors and graphics. "Color" may not be quite the right word though, as the only available solid colors are black, silver, white, and matte black.
There are two graphics available that have the same pattern: black-on-white with red accents (the version reviewed here) and a "LUMI" black luminescent version, which reverses the color scheme and loses the red accents.
The LUMI version will glow at night after being exposed to light.
The paint on the shell of my Shark Vision-R GT Carbon is very well done, though very (very) close inspection reveals the paint is not perfectly smooth, with some slight rippling.
The feel of the surface clearcoat is well finished and completely smooth, however. I found no indications of imperfections or dust particles trapped in it.
The clearcoat is also nice and thick and seems evenly applied however one can feel a slight "bump" at the edge of the decals that make up the graphics.
The helmet liner is very smooth and it is composed of bamboo fiber, which has the benefit of better moisture wicking and absorption properties than materials like polyester and cotton, as well as being tougher than those materials.
Bamboo is also touted as being eco-friendly because it grows so quickly and thus is easily replenished.
Regardless of whether the bamboo is truly a "green" product or not, the liner is very comfortable and the thick padding seems to have just the right amount of cushion versus firmness.
This is truly one of the most comfortable helmets I’ve placed on my head; it compares very well with other helmets that I’ve tried in this price range and above.
While on the subject of the liner, the cheek pads contain inflatable sections that can be used to custom-fit the helmet to the rider's head, which helps for those who are between sizes.
The pump mechanism is attached to the inside of the chin bar via hook-and-loop fasteners, making it easy to remove the entire air pump system for cleaning the cheek pads.
The face shield on the Vision-R GT Carbon is thick and it includes the posts for a Pinlock insert (review) as an anti-fog solution. A clear Pinlock insert came included with the helmet, which I wasn’t expecting but was a nice surprise.
The Carbon GT also has an internal sun visor, which provides good coverage and operates smoothly.
The shell itself is composed of carbon and aramid fibers and what Shark calls "Shark Resin" and it feels strong, but not as stiff as some full carbon fiber helmets I’ve handled. This composite shell must be very light, as the overall weight is very good considering the internal visor and air pump system installed.
The only issue that has jumped out at me is the quality of the top vents.
The mechanism feels a bit cheap and the rocker switch mechanism creaks as it is opened and closed. The chin vent feels much more solid -- but it could be a bit smoother in operation.
Score: Overall I give the Shark Vision-R GT Carbon an "Excellent" rating for all-around quality and it only misses the "Outstanding" rating due to the vent operation mechanisms. (See the Summary Table at the bottom of the page for a description of our rating system.
Previous models of Shark helmets have typically fit on the narrow side, but the S900 I purchased a couple of years ago seemed closer to neutral, though still leaning towards the narrow.
The Shark Vision-R GT Carbon also feels close to neutral in fit and with the inflatable cheek pads, the fit can be customized to feel snug for narrow to average width jaws.
I would classify my head shape as "Slightly Narrow" in the webBikeWorld Helmet Shapes scheme and I find the Vision-R GT Carbon fits me very well, with no inflation of the cheek pads needed.
In fact, I found that I could remove the inflatable cheek pad with no change in fit.
Speaking of the air pump, it is fairly large and I found that with it in place I could just about touch the pump with my chin. It wasn’t really distracting for me but I could see that owners with a more prominent chin may find it a little bit of a nuisance.
This can be helped somewhat by repositioning the pump behind the chin bar.
The head sizing for the size large that I’m reviewing here is pretty much spot-on when compared to most helmet brands that I’ve tried.
Shark uses two different shell sizes to cover the five head sizes available, with the larger shell being used for the large and extra large sizes. The liner, as I mentioned earlier, is very comfortable and feels very plush.
The material is smooth but when against the skin it feels softer and again, plush -- like the liners found in Shoei helmets. Shark seems to have found the right combination of soft and firm here making this a very comfortable helmet for hours of continuous wearing.
Eyeglass wearers will find that Shark has specifically provided spaces in the cheek pad designed for the arms (temples) of eyeglasses to pass through easily. Shark calls this "Easy-Fit" and it works very well with both my sunglasses and my prescription glasses.
I found it very easy to put on and remove my glasses while wearing the helmet.
All of the pieces of the interior are easily removed for easy cleaning and behind the cheek pads are generous ear pockets for accommodating helmet speakers.
The plastic backing of the cheek pads has an opening specifically for speakers to reside behind so the sound can easily pass through the lining. I found it easily install my UClear HBC100 intercom (review) speakers in the helmet, which have integrated microphones and as such are rather large for helmet speakers.
There was plenty of space for the speaker enclosures and room to adjust them around for the best sound and fit.
When removing the lower interior pieces for installation of the speakers, I found it interesting that the lower portion of padding around the bottom is all one piece from neck roll to chin curtain making it easy to remove.
But quite frankly, making it rather tricky to re-install without having to flex the piece considerably. I’m sure there is some trick to this I am missing.
Attached to this one-piece lower at the front is an integrated chin curtain that is not removable. If you don’t like the chin curtain, it can be retracted about 20 mm using a drawstring-type pull at the very front.
An extra 24 mm of liner is positioned around the front under the chin curtain so that the extra length of cord and keeper can be stored underneath after adjustment.
More information on helmet fit can be found in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page, along with the chart that lists the helmet weights of webBikeWorld reviewed helmets and also by shape on the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.
Score: I rate the Vision-R GT Carbon as "Outstanding" for overall comfort, fit and padding as it is as comfortable as the best helmets I’ve tried and it stays that way for all-day rides.
Now we’re getting to the real "party piece" of the Vision-R GT Carbon. The visibility out of the huge eye port is truly breathtaking. Top-to-bottom visibility is outstanding and this really is no surprise, considering the very tall face shield on the front of the helmet.
What was surprising is how good side-to-side visibility is as well.
The edges of the helmet really don’t intrude into view unless you're trying to look far to the side, such as when turning to do a head check before a lane change.
The unrestricted view is such that I would challenge riders who think that full-face helmets limit vision too much to try a Shark Vision-R GT Carbon (the non-Carbon GT version is available here in the U.S.A. and has the same eye port size).
The optical quality of the face shield is excellent as well and it is very thick, measuring just over 3.5 mm on the side and on the perimeter around the space for the Pinlock insert. This drops to just over 2.5 mm thick where the Pinlock insert is located.
The Pinlock for the Vision-R GT Carbon is the Max-View type, which means it covers a very wide portion of the face shield so the edges are kept well out of view except at the extremes of vision.
I’ve had helmets with Pinlock inserts before and I never really found the edges that distracting, but now having used this Max-View, I’m spoiled by how unobtrusive it is.
As expected, the Pinlock insert is "un-foggable" and I simply cannot get it to fog in most circumstances (perhaps over a boiling pot of water?), but there is a small price to pay.
As good as the Pinlock inserts are, they still introduce some tiny distortions that can cause bright light sources to flare resulting in some unwanted "micro-glare".
Yes -- I made up that term -- but that’s how I would characterize it and it results in an overall lowering of the detail seen through the face shield.
On previous helmets I’ve owned that have been fitted with these inserts, it hasn’t been as noticeable. But since the Vision-R face shield is so good optically and offers such a panoramic view, the loss of quality in vision becomes more apparent.
I liken it to the effect of putting a cheap lens on a high quality camera; put a high quality piece of glass on that camera and suddenly you see what you were missing.
As such, I reserve use of the Pinlock insert only to when it is very chilly or humid; situations where fogging is certainly going to be an issue.
Of course the Pinlock is not the only fogging counter-measure included with the Vision-R GT Carbon. On the right side under the face shield is a small lever that will hold it open just 3 mm to 4 mm when engaged.
To engage it, just push the lever forward with your thumb while gently keeping pressure on the front of the visor with your fingers. It will lock into place and provides just enough additional airflow for de-misting the shield. This is also useful for hot days when a little extra air flow in the helmet is needed.
The face shield uses the Shark Autoseal system, which keeps it securely closed.
This system essentially seats the last detent (in the closed position) further in towards the point of rotation as the shield closes so that the shield tightly held against the eye port gasket.
When the face shield is quickly closed, the system functions well and creates a good seal.
If the shield is lowered slowly, there may not be enough force to pull it in tightly, so a firm shut is required to create the firm seal.
When it is sealed it is very tight, it has not leaked any water in my un-scientific testing, which involves pouring water on and around the seal itself when it's closed.
I can confirm though that the face shield does stay tight at high speeds, having tested it at over 110 mph (do not attempt to test this outside of a track environment!).
The Shark Vision-R GT Carbon has a built in drop-down sun visor, which also covers a very wide portion of the view and comes down far enough to not be a distracting line at the lower portion of vision.
Unfortunately, like the AGV Horizon reviewed recently, the optical quality isn't up to the caliber of the main face shield.
It isn't poor by any means, but the careful observer will notice a bit of distortion to left and right, about 15-20 degrees off of the center of vision.
I've seen much worse and I have not actually worn a helmet that had a sun visor that was optically superior to this one, but I have not tried the Shoei GT Air so I'm taking Rick's word for it that there is a sun visor that bests the Shark.
On the other hand, the mechanism that is used to raise and lower the sun visor is excellent. The system in my S900 helmet (and many other helmets I've tried) has a mechanism that feels a bit cheap and tends to spring sharply up and down. Even the sun visor in the HJC IS-16 (review), which has adjustable height settings, still has a lower-quality feel to its operation.
The sun visor operating mechanism on the Vision-R GT Carbon is smooth and fluid as it is raised and lowered. It will not allow the sun visor to stay in place in an intermediate position, however.
I have used the sun visor many times over the last several months and it operates as smoothly today as it did on day one.
Removal of the face shield is an excellent example of simplicity. At first I could not figure out how it works; I carefully looked at each of the pivot points for a lever or slide to release.
There aren't any central pivot buttons like on previous Shark face shields and I felt those were a near-perfect removal system at the time. So it was time to look at the owner's manual....
Turns out it cannot be any easier. Simply raise the shield, firmly grasp the face shield over and under the thick areas to the sides beyond the Pinlock area and pull it away from the pivot point.
The face shield will simply pull away from the pivot and the helmet; this is illustrated in the video below. Do the same on the other side and the shield is on your hands; no tools, buttons, or levers. Just a good tug.
I like this system because other methods can be complicated and can be a hassle if they get out of whack.
Conversely, I can see how this might be a good way to break the face shield if it isn't pulled carefully and straight. I believe this is part of the reason the extreme edges of the visor are so thick.
However, I still think it is a great system and since the Vision-R GT has a built-in sun visor, the need to change shields is pretty low.
Score: The Shark Vision-R GT Carbon easily rates an "Outstanding" for both vertical and horizontal visibility and I would say it is in class of its own here. For optical quality, the face shield is also "Outstanding" but the internal sun shade rates only a "Very Good" due to the minor optical distortion.
The ventilation in the Vision-R GT Carbon is a bit of a mixed bag. The chin vent is about average in its opening size but the stream of air that enters the helmet when the chin vent is open is excellent.
A lot of air can be felt on the face, even though the air is ducted straight up towards the back of the face shield. When the internal sun visor is engaged, the air flow is reduced but still present.
Opening and closing the chin vent is easy and the sliding cover has strong detents, although it could be a bit smoother in operation and it does make a plastic creaking sound as it slides.
On the top of the helmet are two small rocker-style switches to open and close the top vents.
Not much air seems to flow through them to the two small holes in the EPS liner on the inside. I did feel a faint bit of air flow on the highway when I had my head tilted down just a bit, but the volume of air flow was very weak.
Taking a flashlight to the vent openings from within the helmet reveals that I can see the light on the inside of the external vent cover, so the vent channel appears to be straight and clear, but it's just not very effective.
There are channels in the back of the helmet that flow air through the EPS and out under the low-profile rear spoiler.
There are four holes in the liner, but using a flashlight again it appears only two of the holes directly vent to the outside.
Overall the air flow in the helmet is very good, taking an average of the excellent chin venting versus the meager ventilation through the top vents.
I say meager -- but I actually consider this average, as top venting often seems lacking in many other helmets with the exception of most Shoei helmets and a handful of others, such as the AGV Horizon.
To be fair, the increased air flow available from using the de-misting position of the face shield on the Vision-R GT Carbon does supplement the overall venting very well.
Score: The Vision-R GT Carbon gets a "Very Good" rating for overall ventilation.
The shape of the Vision-R GT Carbon is rather smooth overall, without too many disruptive surfaces on the shell to create wind noise.
The strong composite shell also is not very prone to creaking and the composite materials of the shell can often help reduce noise as they can -- depending on the composition of the materials -- reduce sound transmission.
Of the many helmets I've worn, the Vision-R GT Carbon is quiet.
There is still noise from both wind rushing around the shell and a small of portion of "booming" noise coming from under the helmet (the neck roll).
Neither is that loud and the booming is very subdued, due in no small part to the one-piece lower padding of the helmet, which has an elastic section at the rear to help keep the lower liner snug against the back of the neck.
When opened, the top vents can produce some whistling noises if the head is tilted down at certain angles.
This varies, of course, depending on the type of bike, seating position, and windscreen height (if there is one) so these opinions are always a bit subjective.
I have noticed the helmet is noticeably quieter when riding a bike with no windscreen versus riding my Triumph Sprint 1050. It is important to note that like most of the other helmet evaluators here at webBikeWorld, I wear earplugs; in my case, they are custom-fitted.
I did evaluate the helmet though on an unfaired street bike, just to see how loud it was without earplugs and I was still pleased at the amount of noise control.
Note also that perceived noise levels will vary, depending on the individual. Noise can be caused by many factors, including helmet fit; the type of motorcycle and windscreen; wind speed and direction and even the type of clothing that is being worn.
For more information on helmet noise, visit the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Noise page.
Note that our helmet evaluations are normally a combined effort of several riders over time, on different types of motorcycles with and without windscreens.
Evaluators wear correctly fitted, high quality ear plugs (even when evaluating motorcycle intercom systems).
Always protect your hearing when riding a motorcycle. See the wBW Earplug Reviews for more information on choosing and wearing earplugs.
Note also that perceived noise levels will vary, depending on the individual.
Noise can be caused by many factors, including helmet fit; the type of motorcycle and windscreen; wind speed and direction and even the type of clothing that is being worn. For more information on helmet noise, visit the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Noise page.
Score: The Shark Vision-R GT Carbon gets an "Excellent" rating for providing better than average noise control.
The Shark Vision-R GT Carbon is rather lightweight at 1504 grams (3 lbs., 5.05 oz.), which is respectable weight for any full-face helmet. When you factor in the thick padding, the internal sun shade and the air pump system, the low weight is even more impressive.
Compared to other helmets on the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet Weights page, we see similar weights from other size large helmets.
Those include the AGV K4 EVO (review) at 1516 grams; the AFX FX-90 (review) at 1524 grams and the Vision-R GT Carbon actually weighs exactly the same as the Shark RSF3 (review) in a size XL at 1504 grams.
Light weight alone doesn't tell the whole story though; how the weight is carried is equally important to the overall feel and the Vision-R GT Carbon has a good balance with just a bit of top/front bias.
This slight top- and front-heavy weight bias isn’t a factor in daily usage and I never actually noticed it until I placed the helmet on my head while writing this review.
Note that all of the helmets reviewed on webBikeWorld have been weighed and the weights are available on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page, along with a chart that lists the helmets by weight and shape on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.
Score: I'll give the Shark Vision-R GT Carbon an "Excellent" rating for light weight and balance, considering it includes many features that otherwise incur weight gains.
The Shark Vision-R GT Carbon came with a "Precise Lock" chin strap buckle system.
This involves a toothed tab that slides into a similarly toothed spring-loaded keeper. The hardware is very solid and the nature of the system makes it easy to fasten and unfasten the buckle even while wearing gloves.
The manual included with the helmet also discusses how to use a double D-ring system if the helmet is so fitted. The type of chin strap included with the helmet will vary, depending on the region or market in which the helmet is sold.
At the time of this writing, the Shark Vision-R GT Carbon is not available for sale in the United States but I will make a guess and say when/if it does arrive here it will likely come with the double D-ring system, as that seems the most popular option here in the U.S.A.
Something important to note is that since the helmet I am reviewing is not sold in the U.S., it is not homologated to the DOT safety standard. When or if a DOT version of the Vision-R GT Carbon is made, there could be differences in features and weight.
Note that the standard non-carbon-fiber version of the Shark Vision-R series helmet is sold in the U.S.A. in solids, graphics and the LUMI version.
This helmet meets the DOT safety standard and it has the same basic features including the huge eye port and drop-down sun visor.
The shell shape and fit should be identical and having tried both versions, I agree that the fitting should be the same.
The air pump system, the Pinlock and the light weight shell are specific to the Carbon GT version, however.
|webBikeWorld Overall Opinionator: Shark Vision-R GT Carbon|
The Shark Vision-R GT Carbon is very good example of "You get what you pay for".
While the helmet may have a mid-range or even expensive price point at $435.00 (shipped from Italy), the feature set, comfort, and weight make the price seem reasonable.
The higher end Shark helmets have typically been noted for their quality and comfort and the Vision-R GT Carbon implements many of the lessons learned from those helmets over the years and incorporates them here.
All is not perfect though. The top vents are less than effective and the mechanisms for both the front and top vents could be improved for smoother and more robust operation.
The optical quality of the sun shade could be tweaked a bit but that’s still a common issue for most manufacturers.
In the end, the Shark Vision-R GT Carbon is a fantastic motorcycling companion. The comfort is there for long-distance riding.
The features like the internal sun visor, speaker accommodations, and the included Pinlock insert can make that all-day ride a more enjoyable.
The panorama of the road ahead and the view of the surrounding scenery, however, is by far the most pleasing feature this helmet brings to the table.
More wBW Motorcycle Helmet Reviews
|wBW Review: Shark Vision-R GT Carbon Helmet|
|Manufacturer: Shark Helmets||List Price: €355.00|
|Colors: White, Black, Silver, Matt Black, Graphics.||Made In: Unknown|
|Sizes: XS-XL Shell Sizes: 2||Review Date: June 2013|
Rating Scale is subjective: Unacceptable, Poor, Neutral, Very Good, Excellent, Outstanding.
From "A.R." (July 2013): "Is it time to remind people about how easy it is to add a strip of car window tint along the top of the face shield to counteract the sun glare? I just did it on my FS-15 with excellent results:}"
From "M.D." (June 2013): "I have the Vision R (US-Version) that I bought to replace my aging Shark RSI (review). Fit is similar (medium to long oval) and the build quality is superior.
However on the US version you get standard D-rings and the chin curtain is removable (I think the Euro version may be removable as well) and no Pinlock.
I have found that the inner sun shade will fog up on cool mornings, but can be quickly cleared with the single-detent lever for the face shield. The upside to the larger view port is obviously the better field of view.
The downside is that it is harder to block later day sun with the top line of the view port by tilting your head down since the port is much larger.
Also, it feels like the larger viewing area generates heat quicker in full sun. All in all, a great helmet for those of with oval heads looking for an alternative to Arai."
Brandon's Reply: ("M.D.") is correct about the sun glare issue. I did mean to include that in the review but I was being rather long-winded already.
He is right though, at the right (or wrong) times of day it is difficult to tilt the head down far enough to block a low-ish sun in the sky."