by Bill C. for webBikeWorld
More: Owner Comments (Below)
Self-doubt. It's a terrible thing.
I can feel it around here lately because we're beginning to
wonder just what does make one helmet better than another.
For example, just when we thought we had the helmet noise
issue all figured out, the
blew our theories went right down the tubes.
The Vandal we reviewed recently has a new-look,
no-nonsense approach to ventilation with its zero-profile venting.
We were convinced that this would result in light weight and low noise.
Well, there's no problem with the weight, but the Vandal
turned out to be one of the noisiest helmets we've ever tried.
So along comes the Shoei TZ-R. Granted, it's sleeker
than many of its competitors and even a few of its Shoei stable mates, but
it still has that prominent vent up top -- just the type that we thought
would be a real noisemaker.
And guess what? The TZ-R has turned out to be
hands-down one of the quietest helmets I've ever tried. So go
I guess it's back to the drawing board with the theories.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves, so let's take a closer look at this
The TZ-R has been around for a while; it kind of snuck into
the Shoei lineup -- I don't know -- maybe 2 years ago? Believe it or
not, the TZ-R is Shoei's "low end" helmet, if there is such a thing with
Shoei helmets (There isn't! - Editor).
What I mean is that Shoei makes excellent -- make that
outstanding -- products, with some of the highest, if not the highest,
levels of quality in the industry. So just because the TZ-R is the
least expensive full-face Shoei helmet only means that it's that much more
of a bargain. There are no corners cut on this baby.
Some owners swear by Arai, but after going through a few of
them in our evaluations, I remain puzzled, because every one we own has one
or two quality problems that were apparent right out of the box. And
don't talk to me about the Arai visor removal system...
In any case, there's no need to feel like you're missing any
goodies by choosing a TZ-R. It looks and feels as good as any of the
other Shoei helmets we've tried, and we currently own at least one of each
in their 2006 lineup. And fans of the old "Safety Yellow" (or was it
orange?) color will be pleased as punch that one of the most visible helmet
colors in all motorcycledom is back.
All you need to do is catch a glimpse of a motorcyclist on
the road wearing this "Pure Orange" color and you'll get first-hand
knowledge of the definition of visibility. Nothing beats a nice,
bright, solid color displayed at the highest point on the motorcycle in
traffic. And by the way, it's chic too, because orange is the new
black, don'tcha know. I learned it on Project Runway.
The TZ-R is just about exactly mid-way between the lightest and heaviest
helmets we've reviewed. Our size XL weighs in at 1606 grams (3 lbs.,
8-5/8 oz.), a few grams less than the
Shoei RF-1000. The weight is balanced well, which breaks yet
another assumption: light weight is better.
How's that? The last two helmets we reviewed, the
aforementioned Suomy Vandal
and the HJC
AC-12 Carbon, are both super-lightweights. But you know what?
Light weight isn't everything. Fit, comfort (and you can't have one
without the other) and balance are paramount. And if a helmet is as
noisy as the Vandal, it doesn't matter how light it is.
Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for our helmet weight comparison table
and chart to get a better idea at how the Shoei TZ-R compares with the 51 other
helmets in our database of reviews.
The TZ-R has what I'd classify as a round internal shape. It's not
quite as round as the Shoei RF-1000 but not quite as "long oval" shaped as
the Shoei X-11. Since the TZ-R is Shoei's "meat and potatoes" helmet,
available in tons of colors to fit the masses, it's shape has probably been
carefully designed to cover the maximum number of head shapes variations.
Ours feels like it runs about 1/2 size small and I'll assume
that carries true for the entire size range. It's also slightly tight
at the cheekbones and a bit tighter at the cheek and chin area, but only a
touch when compared to the RF-1000. Shoei lists replaceable cheek pads
(and liner) in their catalog, but I'm not sure if the pads come in different
sizes, which could help to tailor the fit.
Overall, the TZ-R feels nice and comfy to me and just
slightly tight on the sides, which I don't care for, but I think the
tightness will loosen up after a slightly longer than normal break-in.
By the way, matching your head shape to the way the helmet fits is
crucial for both comfort and safety; see the
Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page for more information on
finding the right fit.
Helmet Fit and Comfort
The TZ-R's very nice liner uses a comfortable fabric, and you'd never know
this is the bottom of the Shoei line. Again, it's all relative,
because the solid color TZ-R shown here lists at $321.99, which is in the
upper half of the cost range for motorcycle helmets, so it's not cheap.
You're paying for quality and you get it.
The bottom line is that the TZ-R is comfortable but there's
nothing that really knocks me out, either in its design or its features.
It's very nice but just about like the perfect generic all-around helmet, if
that makes any sense. It works and other than its color, it's
unobtrusive, and that's a good thing. If I was using a scale, with 1
representing the least comfortable, 3 neutral and 5 the most, I'd give it a
I've probably said it all already and there's not much more to add.
I'm sure there are some who will disagree, but Shoei quality is, in my
opinion, consistently the best, which is quite a feat when you're turning
out umpti-bazillion helmets every year.
The paint (granted, there are no graphics to compare) is
perfect, deep, smooth and without a hint of orange peel (ironic, considering
the color, no??). The vents work, the liner doesn't have a stitch out
of place, etc. A very nice piece of work. It even had that
custom surf shop fiberglass smell when it was new!
Venting and Air Flow
The top vents on the TZ-R are simple and functional. A wide sliding
cover goes back and forth to close the two round vent holes. The cover
is easy to find when wearing gloves and it works easily, push back to open
and pull forward to close.
The chin vent is a slight departure from the norm. It opens down towards the
lower front direction, so that the air is almost forced to flow up into the
front of the helmet, where it is directed on to the back of the visor.
It's been too warm (hot) here lately to evaluate the helmet's anti-fog
abilities, but I'm guessing that the reverse design will work nicely to blow
away the fog.
I wish there were vent holes cut directly in the chin bar to blow air on to
my face, because I like lots of air. But the vents do a decent job.
The top vents blow air directly, and I mean directly, on to the rider's
brow. You can look inside the helmet and see daylight just as clear
as...day. There's nothing to inhibit the air flow.
There are some channels molded into the foam liner that also direct air over
the top of the head. But the TZ-R has no rear exhaust vents
whatsoever. I'm not sure they're missed, because the helmet seems to
have enough venting for me, although I wouldn't say it's as good as the best
by any means.
The absence of rear exhaust vents on the TZ-R help, I think, to reduce the
noise levels. The helmet is very quiet -- one of the quietest helmets
In addition to the lack of exhaust vents, which give the
rear half of the helmet a very smooth surface for the air to run off, I
think this is also partly due to the closer fit of the liner next to the
ears. Thick fiberglass probably deadens the noise also, especially
compared to the thin carbon fiber of the HJC AC-12 Carbon.
A helmet this quiet is a real pleasure. A helmet that
fits well and is quiet can greatly reduce stress levels and make for a much,
much more pleasant ride.
Remember also that we always wear correctly fitted ear plugs
when riding. See the
Earplugs and Hearing Protection page for more information on choosing
and wearing ear plugs and for a list of ear plug reviews.
Shoei has pretty much standardized on the "wrap-around" clear visor, the
easy-to-use quick-release visor system that's been copied by many, and the
clicker on the left-hand side that pops the visor open just enough to let in
some extra ventilation, one of my fave features.
Pop the clicker the other way and it locks the visor in
place, preventing it from flying off at speed. In addition to the
slight clicker opening, the visor has 7 other opening positions, which I
think is fantastic. I really like the flexibility of being able to
open the visor to a variety of positions when necessary.
Chin Strap and Miscellaneous
The helmet has the classic "D" ring adjustment system and the chin strap
is nicely padded. The typical Shoei clip holds the loose end of the
strap on to the cross-bar of the D-ring.
The chin strap does feel very slightly out of normal
position to me, and I can feel it on my admittedly large Adam's apple, but
not enough to be a bother.
The Shoei TZ-R meets DOT and
Snell M2005 standards. And the solid construction is backed by Shoei's
I love the orange color and the visor. I wish the fit was slightly
rounder, but that's definitely subjective. But all told, the Shoei TZ-R
has just become my favorite helmet, as if you didn't already know!
Second Opinion From Rick: I wanted to see what
all the fuss was about, so I rode with the TZ-R a few times and I have a
slightly different opinion. While I agree with Bill's comments
regarding Shoei quality, I find the TZ-R to feel heavy, like it has a lot of
mass when I swing my head back and forth. The size XL feels about 1/2
size too big for me, which may also be responsible for the rare "fish bowl"
feeling I get when wearing the helmet.
The shell just feels big and the thick padding makes the eye
port stand away from my face farther than normal, adding to the effect.
The ventilation in the TZ-R also feels weak to me, although it's hard to
tell in the very hot weather we've been experiencing. So my bottom
line is that it's a very nice helmet and the orange color really stands out,
but it's not my favorite.
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►Your Comments and
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From "R.K." (4/09): "I just wanted to post a comment for
those looking to buy this helmet.
If buying this helmet online, stay away from shoeihelmets.com.
This is not the official Shoei site, and they have terrible customer service.
I had cancelled my order with them, and was still charged and shipped the
helmet. They refused to pay for the return, and denied all responsibility
for having not processed the cancellation.
The helmet itself is great, just make sure you get it from a
decent company. The TZ-R breathes well, is quieter than other helmets I've
tried (HJC f15, Scorpion EXO400), and is really comfortable when fitted well.
I have not had the ventilation problems that others have had. Maybe it has
to do with the way I sit on my bike (I ride a cafe racer modded CB350) but I
haven't had it fog up yet.
The review is very accurate, and I would have no problem
recommending the helmet to friends."
From "GJP": "I've owned this helmet for a year and I'm
already shopping for a replacement. I love the fit, I love how quiet the
TZ-R is, but this helmet is a terrarium! If there is a whiff of humidity
in the air, the shield fogs instantly. Shoei placed the vents too far back
on the top of the head for use on a cruiser and to get any ventilation.
either have to tilt my head down at an unnatural angle or prop open the shield.
Maybe the ventilation would be fine in the riding position of a sport bike, but
this helmet is just useless on a cruiser. What a disappointment!"
From "B.C.": "I found your website a few days ago and I have
been reading the reviews just about every day. Your sight is great and I
really appreciate your reviews.
I'll like to add a bit to the Shoei TZ-R review. I've been
riding with one for about 9 months now and I have to generally agree with your
review. The quality is top notch, fit and finish is the best.
In the hot and humid south the ventilation could be better.
When the weather cools of here the helmet is perfect, but we have long and hot
summers here an on those 90+/90+ (over 90 degrees and over 09 percent
humidity) you can't have too much air flow. I have also noticed that
riding my relatively upright ZRX-1200 that the airflow is reduced when the
helmet is not angled down in front. Tipping my head forward greatly
increases the air flow.
I found the fit around my head to be good in the Large helmet
but the cheek pads were much too tight to be comfortable. I ordered a set
of cheek pads in XL directly from Shoei and that made the helmet much more
comfortable. It also makes the helmet easier to get on and off but I don't
think it will reduce the protection at all.
Again, thanks for all you do with your reviews!"
From "F.B.": "Hi there, you have a
really good site running there! I’m from Argentina, and
after reading almost all of your helmets reviews I
bought a Shoei TZ-R and wanted to share my opinion.
Since this would be my second full face helmet I’ll
compare it with my first one, an Axo Carbon . The quality
of the helmet is as good as you described, and on size
Medium doesn’t feel heavy to me. The fit of the helmet
is pretty tight, specially on the cheek pads, that feels
like squeezing my cheeks, this make the task of putting
on/off the helmet on something not to do much often,
let’s say if riding on town and making regular stops.
noticed some wind noise at the ear level and found out
that factory fitted screen was not in right position, so
a small regulation (easy to do) solved the problem. The
other noise I found was coming from top vents, even with
them closed, like a whistle. And finally what I didn’t
like either was the lack of padding over the area where
the ears rest.
All small details that I managed to
solve easily. The Axo even it’s some years old, I would
say it’s quieter than this one, probably just because of
the bigger “necklace” at the bottom part of it, in fact
I’ve placed my hand covering the rear part of my neck
(wearing the TZ-R),
as simulating a bigger necklace and turbulence noise
From "J.W.": "First of all thank you
for your website. It was through the reading of
your reviews that I decided to purchase a TZ-R.
Although I have been purchasing the high end models in
the past, I decided to give it a try. And I am so
glad I did. It has been cold here in Utah, and I
have yet to go on a long ride (100 miles or more), but I
have been wearing this helmet around town and I can't be
Your review was spot on. It is
made more for an oval head, which luckily, fits me
perfect. Also, this is probably the quietest and
best feeling helmet I have ever had. That says a
lot as I have tried everything from the cheap Fulmers to
the top of the line Shoei X-Eleven, as well as multiple
Arai's, Suomy's and a couple other's mixed in there.
It is very well put together, and there wasn't a single
blemish on the entire helmet that I can find (as has
been the case with every other Shoei I have purchased).
It has been great in this cooler weather and with the
vents all closed it's like a vacuum tube in that it
really does a great job of keeping out the wind noise.
I purchased mine from Competition Accessories with the
Obelisk graphics for 240 shipped. Can't beat that!
A fantastic helmet at a fantastic price. I'm even
thinking of ordering another one to keep in the closet
when this one has seen the end of it's days!
Thanks again for the great reviews! Keep it up!"