Shoei has been releasing helmets at a fairly rapid clip lately and the new GT Air is brand new for 2013.
The GT Air is very comfortable (as long as it fits your head shape).
It's also one of the quietest full-face helmets we've reviewed in a variety of conditions and it also has probably the best internal sun visor we've tried.
It also comes in three shell sizes, which helps ensure a more proportional fit.
So what's not to like? I had some difficulty fitting my sunglass frames inside and the snap for the extra length of chin strap is too high up on the opposite side, making it a bit difficult to use.
Other than that, this is my new favorite helmet!
Shoei has been my personal favorite helmet brand for some time, for many reasons.
First of all, there's the "Shoei fit", which I find comfortable. Not many helmet manufacturers have a precisely standardized fit (even Shoei) but Shoei seems to adhere more closely to a standard fit than others. This means that I can pretty much pop on any Shoei helmet in my size, knowing it will be comfortable.
Also, the Shoei liner fabric and padding is nearly always very comfortable and plush, more so than just about any other manufacturer.
And the attention to detail is right up there with the best.
The GT Air is listed just above the Shoei RF-1100 (review) on the Shoei website and just below the Neotec flip-up (review), with the Shoei X-12 (review) still holding top spot in the lineup. I'm assuming this means "street/sport/touring" and the inclusion of the internal sun visor is a telltale sign that the GT Air isn't a race helmet.
I've been wearing the GT Air over the last couple of weeks and we wanted to get a review posted as soon as possible, because there's a lot of interest in this helmet from webBikeWorld readers, so let's get started!
Shoei helmets aren't inexpensive and there's a reason for that. The overall finish, quality and the small details that make the difference in the brand's helmets also add to the cost.
Motorcyclists sometimes mistakenly compare an inexpensive helmet with a Shoei, Arai or Schuberth and think they're equivalent, but most of the time, the level of fit and finish and the small details are what makes the several-hundred-dollar helmet cost as much as it does. Pick up a Shoei GT Air, for example, and compare it with one of those $150.00 helmets and I'm sure you'll notice many differences.
The GT Air comes in a variety of solid colors (including Brilliant Yellow) and some graphics. The black/silver "Journey" graphics on this one are very nice and compliment the overall design, if making it a bit difficult to get the details properly photographed.
We also had a silver GT Air for comparison and photos of that one are included in the slide show below and also in the slide show included in the Shoei GT Air Preview published on webBikeWorld a few weeks ago.
The graphics and paint and thick clear coat on this example are very nicely done with no complaints or obvious flaws. The clear coat feels exceptionally thick and it has a sort of "waxy" feel that can be buffed back to a high polish after my greasy fingerprints have marred the surface.
All of those small details are here and once you handle a helmet at this level of quality and detailing, those sub-$200 helmets all seem so...well, cheap. The liner fabric, the way the liner is attached, the stitching and all of the little details on the GT Air -- like the eye port gasket; the automatically adjusting face shield and the quality feel of the hardware really do make the difference.
The GT Air helmet shell comes in three sizes and the shape is unique, with modern styling. There are some recesses and molded features that really do seem to help reduce overall noise levels; the GT Air "cuts" through the air like none other. It meets the DOT standard only; for some reason, Shoei didn't go for the Snell certification on this one, probably to distinguish it from the RF-1100 (or perhaps due to the internal sun visor design).
And the Shoei "AIM" shell (composite of fiberglass and "organic fibers") is specially designed to accommodate the internal sun visor without compromising the thickness of the EPS liner or padding. In fact, the GT Air has plenty of room in the forehead, as you'll learn in the next section.
Score: The Shoei GT Air gets an "Outstanding" rating from us for paint and overall quality. See the Summary Table at the bottom of the page for a description of our rating system.
Shoei apparently doesn't like to discuss the internal shapes of their helmets. But the GT Air seems compatible with what many motorcycle riders call "the Shoei fit", which is "Neutral" to "Slightly Narrow" in the webBikeWorld nomenclature.
One strange thing is that the size large GT Air that we had felt like the head size ran very small. Perhaps that size large used the smaller shell size, but large is my normal helmet size and the size large GT Air was so small that I actually couldn't get the shell over my head.
Shoei lists a 59-60 cm for the size large GT Air, but my opinion is that it fits more like a 58-59 cm, so you definitely want to try one on first.
[UPDATE: I asked our Shoei representative, who explained that the shape of the GT Air shell at the bottom is tighter than the other Shoei full-face helmets to help reduce noise. The design of the interior and shape of the shell inner dimensions are the same as the other Shoei full-face helmets, according to Shoei.]
The size XL shown here is listed by Shoei as fitting a 61-62, but we would also back that down a notch and call it a 60-61 to perhaps 61.5 cm.
Part of the issue may be due to the shell shape, which seems to taper in towards the bottom. This also probably goes a long way towards making this a very quiet helmet (getting ahead of myself here again). The narrower bottom can make the helmet feel smaller than usual, especially when first trying it on.
The internal shape is biased towards the "Slight Narrow" part of the spectrum (as described in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page), with narrower sides and lots of fore/aft room in the top.
Anyone who has experienced forehead pressure in other helmets (and who has a narrow-ish head) may want to try the GT Air.
That there is this much room in the forehead and Shoei was still able to fit the internal sun visor is pretty remarkable.
The shell was specifically designed with a brow shape to house the sun visor without affecting the internal fit and it really does seem to work.
Rick tried the GT Air a couple of times but reports that the fit doesn't quite work on his "Round" head. He has a wider, flatter forehead and the helmet apparently leaves too much room in the front and is too narrow on the sides.
The padding and neck roll are generous and the Shoei liner fabric is about as comfortable and plush as it gets. I wish I had a blanket made from this stuff!
The EPS in the ear pockets has round cutouts for speakers but I'm not sure which speakers exactly will fit. The ear pockets are lined and sized correctly, so no issues there.
I do have a bit of a fit issue with trying to work my sunglasses or eyeglasses into the helmet. The slightly narrower sides are probably at fault here and although there's a split between the cheek pads and the upper part of the liner, it's too high to get the arms or temples of my glasses through it, so the eyeglasses sit too high on my face.
Overall, we rate the Shoei GT Air as very comfortable and it should fit the majority of head shapes.
webBikeWorld Internal Shape Estimator: Shoei GT Air
|Narrow||Med. Narrow||Slight Narrow||Neutral||Slight Round||Med. Round||Round|
|Helmet Internal Shape Examples (see more Motorcycle Helmet Shapes)|
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: The Shoei GT Air gets an "Outstanding" rating for comfort and liner materials and padding and a comfortable fit.
The visibility from the eye port on the on the GT Air is better than average in the horizontal plane and about average in the vertical plane.
The optical quality of the face shield is outstanding and it's marked as meeting the VESC-8 spec with the same engraved note that reads "Not warranted shatterproof" as we found on the LS2 FF394 flip-up (review). Shoei said the QSV-1 internal sun visor is of the same quality as the face shield and it "exceeds ANSI Z80.3-2010 standard for non-prescription eyewear". It is optically correct and anti-scratch and anti-fog treated.
This is one of the most effective internal sun visors we've ever tried, and we haven't been big fans of these types of sun visors in other helmets. This one first of all is optically perfect, so it does not affect vision at all. It also has a very nice slider that works via friction and allows the sun visor to be stopped in any position through its range.
The sun visor lowers down far enough and just slightly tilts up on either side, but it really works well and this is the first helmet with a sun visor I've ever worn where I spend more time riding with the sun visor down than up.
The face shield has a locking snap to keep it closed, then it can be popped open just enough to lay on the eye port gasket, then move through 5 detents on its way up to fully open.
It also has a spring-loaded, automatically adjusting retainer system, which keeps it sealed tight against the eye port gasket to keep out water and wind noise. The eye port gasket has a dual seal and it fully surrounds the eye port, and this seems to make a big difference in keeping out wind noise.
It also has a special shape which allows the largest-sized Pinlock anti-fog insert (review) to be fitted (it is included with the helmet). The large Pinlock insert fits nearly the full width and height of the face shield, which keeps it mostly out of the rider's field of view.
The top of the face shield is molded with an inward-curving bend to help keep the Pinlock from interfering with the dual eye port gasket seal as the face shield is raised or lowered.
The removal system is a bit more complex that other helmets, with 5 little tabs that must be lined up correctly for the face shield to be reinstalled successfully. But once you get the hang of the system, it works fine.
The dual-seal, full-surround eye port gasket, the optical quality of the face shield and internal sun visor, the design of the sun visor, the automatically adjusting face shield retainer and more are all the little details that make a big difference with this helmet and which add to the cost.
webBikeWorld Eye Port Visibility Estimator: Shoei GT Air
|Visibility||Poor||Below Average||Average||Above Average||Outstanding|
|Top to Bottom||■|
|Side to Side||■|
Score: The Shoei GT Air gets an "Outstanding" rating for the overall quality and operation of the face shield and the quality and operation of the internal sun visor.
Here's another GT Air plus: it has one of the most effective ventilation systems we have experienced in a full-face motorcycle helmet.
The chin vent and top vent look modern and straightforward, but they work very well. Snap open the chin vent and plenty of air flows up through the chin bar and on to the face. It is directed through an open passageway between the chin vent and the large and wide splitter that runs across the top of the chin bar and it allows a lot of air to flow through.
The top vent has two positions, half-open and fully open. It also allows a large volume of air to enter the helmet, directing the air down through two large holes through the EPS liner and into channels that guide it across the top of the rider's head. The top of the helmet liner is cut and channeled also, as is the EPS liner, and this functions to direct the air on to your scalp.
It is perhaps a more focused system in the way it directs the air; that is, the air flow is directed to a narrower portion of the top of the head and not all over, but it is very effective and there's a lot of it; so much, in fact, that the fully open position let in too much air when riding in 50-degree F weather, and that's rare indeed.
The design doesn't seem extra-ordinary or unusual. I think it's attention to detail that does it: a direct air path through the vents, functional vent sliders and a clear path for the air to flow through the vent holes, the channels in the EPS and the liner. It works, and this proves once more that it doesn't take quantum mechanics equations to get a helmet to vent. All it takes is a logical and basic design with attention to the details.
The chin bar in the GT Air is large and wide also and it is backed with nicely finished molded pattern with the Shoei logo.
webBikeWorld Opinionator: Shoei GT Air Ventilation
|Location||Poor||Below Average||Average||Above Average||Outstanding|
Score: The GT Air ventilation system gets a "Outstanding" overall rating with an "Excellent" for the chin vent.
But wait -- there's more! On top of everything else, the GT Air is one of the quietest full-face helmets we've reviewed, and that's in several different riding conditions, including riding behind no fairing, riding behind a tall fairing with windscreen and also riding with the windscreen deliberately oriented to direct air right at the helmet.
How Shoei is able to flow this much air with so little noise is rather amazing. Granted, the noise level from the top vent will increase slightly when riding a sportbike with the head tilted slightly forward, but overall noise levels are very low compared to other helmets we've reviewed.
Rick confirmed this also when wearing the GT Air whilst riding the BMW C 650 GT scooter (blog), with the windscreen in various positions. The difference between the LS2 FF394 and the Shoei GT Air, which we both wore on the same day of riding, is dramatic.
We'll have to assume that the GT Air's padding, the neck roll, the overall tapered shape of the helmet, the narrower bottom half of the helmet shell and the double gasket on the eye port all help reduce noise levels. Certainly close tolerances help also -- another one of those features that makes a difference but which probably adds to the overall cost and makes the difference between a "cheap" helmet and a good helmet.
So overall we rate the Shoei GT Air as quieter than average when behind a windscreen and also quieter than average when it's in the open air.
webBikeWorld Opinionator: Shoei GT Air Noise Levels
|Location||Very Quiet||Quieter||Average||Louder||Very Loud|
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 earplugs (even when evaluating motorcycle intercom systems) and (usually) a helmet liner. It is strongly recommended that hearing protection is used when riding a motorcycle. See the wBW Earplugs and Hearing Protection page 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 Shoei GT Air gets an "Outstanding" rating for noise control.
The Shoei GT Air in size XL weighs in at 1757 grams (3 lbs., 14 oz.), just 50 grams more than the size large GT Air we previewed. That's a touch heavy but the excellent aerodynamics and the fit seem to make the helmet feel lighter than it is.
I can't say it's a lightweight helmet, but it's not too bad either, feeling about average and the balance is excellent. Considering the fact that an internal sun visor is included, which adds some weight, and that this example is a size XL, the weight is reasonable.
This compares to a few other size XL helmets that might be cross-shopped by potential GT Air customers, including the Arai Corsair V (review) at 1758 grams and the Shoei X-12 (review) at 1766 grams. The Shoei RF-1100 (review) in size XL weighed 1746 grams, while the size XL Schuberth S2 (review)
in DOT guise weighs 1712 grams. Neither of those helmets have an internal sun visor but the RF-1100 is Snell certified.
Note also 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: The Shoei GT Air gets a "Very Good" rating for its weight and good balance.
The GT Air has a double D-ring chin strap retainer. The padding is about average for comfort and could be longer, as it usually the case with motorcycle helmets lately. Shoei has a five year warranty from the purchase date or seven years from the manufacture date, whichever comes first.
webBikeWorld Overall Opinionator: Shoei GT Air
The new Shoei GT Air is an outstanding helmet, no two ways about it. Motorcyclists with a "Neutral" to "Slightly Narrow" head shape would be hard-pressed to find a full-face helmet that performs better.
We're really impressed with the low noise levels combined with the excellent ventilation. The GT Air seems to "slice" through the air, probably due to its overall tapered shape and special molding.
Yes, it's expensive, but all of those little details that make the difference have been perfected on the GT Air. Bottom line? Shoei has yet another winner with the GT Air and we can heartily recommend it.
wBW Product Review: Shoei GT Air Helmet
|Manufacturer: Shoei Helmets||List Price: $549.99 to $579.99 (Solids). $670.99 (Graphics).|
|Colors: Solids and graphics.||Made In: Japan|
|Sizes: XS to XXL. Shell Sizes: Three.||Star Rating (1-5):|
|Review Date: March 2013
Note: Item was provided by a retailer, distributor or manufacturer with these Terms and Conditions.
Ratings Scale: For reference, our ratings scale is subjective and ranges from Unacceptable to Poor, Neutral, Very Good, Excellent and Outstanding.
Note: For informational use only. All material and photographs are Copyright © webWorld International, LLC - 2000-2012. All rights reserved. See the webBikeWorld© Site Info page. Product specifications, features and details may change or differ from our descriptions. Always check before purchasing. Read the Terms and Conditions!
From "J.C." (May 2013): "After owning my Shoei X-12 (review) for 8 years I was way over due for a new helmet. I hate having to shop for helmets since it is so hard. I never really warmed up to the X-12 but it was ok, very noisy and really not vented well.
Fast forwarding 8 years and I tried the GT Air. All I can say is WOW! The fit reminded me of my old RF-800 but much quieter!!
The venting is great, flip down visor is wonderful but the helmet is really quiet, I do hear the air from the top vent when open but you're not in a car you're riding a bike. I ride an BMW RT1200 and had to keep the windshield up at any speed over 35 mph due to wind noise. I can ride with the shield down and enjoy the air without sounding like I'm in a wind tunnel.
If you want a quiet helmet with a great fit, venting and that is quiet buy the GT Air. Thank you for all the great reviews."
From "L.K." (April 2013): "Finally got a chance for a short ride with my new GT Air. Fit was some what tighter than the RF-1100 and Quest that I tried on.
Decided in the end to go with the same size as I would have in the other models (M). The biggest difference is the opening. It is quite snug getting it on, but once on, it wasn't uncomfortable.
I normally ride with ear plugs. I really wanted to hear the difference in the new high end helmet (my first), so went with out them tonight. The flip down sunshade was pretty cool and a definite plus for this helmet. In the short ride around town (35-55 mph), It does seem to be quieter than the KBCs I have owned. Wind noise is a much deeper pitch, almost a damped sound which was quite nice. My KBCs always had a fairly high pitched wind noise. Head position didn't seem to change it for the worse and at times did make it better on my GSXR 750.
I did notice a buzz that was quite noticeable through out the entire ride. I tried to pin point it to a vent, but didn't have much luck moving them back and forth. Not sure if it is the tinted visor, a vent, or something in the visor mechanism. Any recommendations? Nothing appears to be loose on the helmet. Where the wind noise was considerably better than any helmet I have worn, the buzz has the potential to be worse then wind noise. I will be curious how the buzz sounds at highway speeds and how it sounds once the plugs are in."
Editor's Reply: Note that we always wear high-quality, correctly fitted ear plugs when riding, including while evaluating helmets. A helmet will almost surely transmit more noise when riding without ear plugs.
UPDATE From "L.K." (April 2013): "Wore ear plugs today to work. No noticeable wind noise or buzz at highway speeds. I always wear them as well. My KBCs were crazy loud with out plugs and realistically noisy with plugs. The GT Air was not bad with out plugs and almost no noticeable wind noise at all with plugs.
From "B.L." (April 2013): "I really want one... really really want one. Quiet is important to me and this just looks top notch. But I can't afford it - simple as that.
I've been trying to find the nearest sub-$200 alternative - I know it won't be that same Shoei quality but it would be better than the junk that I have now :) - What would you guys suggest?
As side note - I think it would be great if you guys listed "alternatives" on your reviews, a couple cheaper, a couple more expensive... it would really help in regard to keeping people your site too :) (im in the web industry) - something to get them to continue browsing :)
Editor's Reply: Good idea on the alternatives, I'll see what we can do on upcoming helmet reviews.
Regarding sub-$200 alternatives for the GT Air, there are many, although none as quiet, that's one of the features you pay for. But depending upon your head shape, the HJC CL-16 (review) is a great helmet at a ridiculous price, it's what I'm currently wearing, although it fits neutral to round heads best. It's surprisingly quiet on both the DR650 and BMW scooter.
It meets DOT standards and it's Snell certified, comfortable, quiet, vents through the chin bar, not bad upper ventilation, a small first defogging position for the face shield and...don't forget to order the 6-buck chin curtain for added goodness.
From "G." (April 2013): "I am not convinced. This is my first Shoei. My wife has worn an RF-1100 for a good few years. I have been in a Caberg for the last 5 or so. I love the internal sun visor and have not been steered wrong by any of your reviews (gloves, boots, Bluetooth, etc.).
In need of a new lid i paid my $500 for the new GT-Air. Fit and finish, I am not convinced. The breath guard is precariously balanced and flops about. The rubber "collar" around the bottom is rippled.
The lid itself is really quite noisy. I wear earplugs! Whistles unless the visor is "snapped" shut and "thumpy" when moving along. Love the vents, can totally deal with the airflow over my head. I am pretty sure i will return it and go after something else for the money. My $0.02".
Editor's Reply: That's odd; perhaps it doesn't fit you correctly, which might account for the noise levels? A mis-match of head shapes? A windscreen or something on the bike causing severe turbulence?
Something sounds wrong with yours. Could it have been a used helmet that was returned to the retailer when you bought it? Ours has superb build quality and it's one of the quietest helmets we've ever tried and Shoei quality is usually right up there with the best...
From "J.B." (March 2013): "The Shoei Qwest (review) is the most comfortable helmet I've ever tried in a store, but I've become so used to the flip-down sun shade on my Nolan N103 (review) that I couldn't buy the Qwest as it lacks this feature. So I am super excited about the new GT Air.
I went to a local shop here in Germany the other day and tried it on, and will agree that the XL fits me a tad tighter than the XL Qwest or my XL Nolan. Not so much that it is uncomfortable, but it is noticeable.
What caught my attention is the sticker on the CE Europe version that listed the helmet weight as 1500 grams with the optical equipment. I checked to make sure this wasn't a generic sticker for all sizes, and it is not. The Large was listed at 1470 (if I remember right) and the XXL was 1540 or so. This is more like what I would have expected, not the 1757 grams you list. Any idea what gives? Can't believe there is 250 grams difference between a Euro version and a DOT version.
I should have mentioned that standing in the store, the GT Air is noticeably lighter than my Nolan N103, which lists at 1891 grams on your review. I don't think I can tell the difference between 1780 and 1890 grams just holding it. But the GT air feels much lighter than my Nolan.
I know the Euro version and DOT versions are different, but can they be 280 grams different? Thanks for all the great reviews."
Editor's Reply: 1500 grams for a GT Air in size XL with the internal sun visor seems kind of light to me. Maybe it's correct, but the only way to find out is to put it on an accurate scale.
There is probably some difference in the helmet weights that could be due to the differences in standards, but it's not difficult to make a helmet to meet both DOT and ECE standards, so I doubt that Shoei would go through that expense. I'll ask my Shoei contact to see if they comment.
I have to say, I've really been wondering about the ECE standard lately. The ECE standard apparently results in thinner shells than DOT and Snell; we've had some ECE-only helmets here with shells so thin the amount of flex, especially across the chin bar, is scary.
Another issue here is to never trust the helmet weights they list on a helmet. I have no idea why they even bother with that. Other than Schuberth weights, which are usually very accurate, most of the other weights we have seen listed on helmets aren't even close to reality.
Maybe in Germany they have to do it and maybe the weights are accurate to within +- 50 grams or so? Also, for reference, on the Schuberth C3 ECE version (review), Schuberth claimed 1550 grams for XL. Ours weighed 1709 grams. The Schuberth C3 DOT version (review) in size XL weighed 1603 grams. Again, can't trust the labels, only the scale.
From "J.Z." (March 2013): "If it helps, according to Shoei, the GT Air shell breakdown is as follows:
From "B.S." (March 2013): "You were 100 percent right in your assessment of the fit of the GT Air.
I was very excited to think I could get one for 1/2 off retail. I stopped by (a local shop) today and tried on a medium GT Air. The medium Shoei RF-1100 (review) fits me very well but this medium GT was almost painful to put on. It fit like a small, rolled my ears down so badly that I had to squeeze my fingers inside the cheek pads and push them back up. I was shocked at the dramatic difference.
I tried a couple more mediums on just in case they were mislabeled. No difference. I tried on the large and strangely enough, it was too big, AAAHHH!
Just for the heck of it, I tried on an RF-1100 in medium and it fit like I wanted it to. My favorite fitting high dollar helmet is the Arai RX-Q (review) but for the difference in price, I might have to stick with the RF-1100. Just thought you and your trusty webBikeWorld followers would like to know about the fit issue of the new GT Air. It's a no go for me."
Editor's Reply: I think the RX-Q, with it's Arai "Round Oval" internal shape, fits quite differently than the RF-1100 or GT Air.
From "J.K." (March 2013): "Just wanted to say thanks for a great review of the Shoei GT Air. Coincidentally, I just bought this helmet a few days ago, and had posted my thoughts on it on a local forum, as well as on ADVrider. Your review is nearly spot-on with my own observations after a few rides in the helmet.
Mostly, I had to write to say I got a good laugh out of this criticism: "How about a GT Air for round heads Shoei?"
It seems that in the last few years, manufacturers that traditionally catered to oval heads like Schuberth had gone more round shape to try to capture a larger customer base. Us oval heads have a really hard time finding helmets that fit, and I'm constantly disappointed that the helmets you rave about (like the Schuberth SR1) never seem to fit me.
Finally, I've found a fantastic helmet that fits an oval head! Don't begrudge us oval heads a good helmet from time to time ;-)"
Editor's Note: I was hoping Shoei would make two versions of the GT Air, "Slightly Narrow" and "Slightly Round". Kind of surprised the SR1 doesn't fit you? Schuberth and Shoei internal shapes are very similar...