One That Got Away in 2020
In 2020, the new Spartan GT sport helmet was presented to us, the motorcycling masses by French manufacturer Shark Helmets proclaiming it would better protect our heads than the previous Spartan model did.
The differences between the older and newer models of Spartan when it comes to protection consist of a Multi-Density EPS foam liner in the GT, along with a shell sandwich made of multiaxial fiberglass and carbon fiber, from what I can tell. Those are legitimate safety enhancements over the fiberglass shell and mono-density EPS foam of the old Spartan. Bravo!
Why Not A Carbon Fiber Shell?
At first glance, I thought there was also a full Carbon Fiber shell version of the Spartan GT available but it turns out to only be a “skin” of carbon fiber, so it’s only aesthetically enhanced and no further protection is gained.
Thank You Revzilla!
None of us here at wBW had an opportunity to review the Spartan GT in 2020 but Brandon Jackson did test the Spartan back in January 2019 scoring it an impressive 4.5/5 stars. See that review here. I found many of the same things with the GT that Brandon did with the Spartan along with some new pros and cons.
So this is a better late than never review of the Spartan GT Replikan spanning about 500 miles thanks entirely to the generosity of our friends at Revzilla who supplied it to me at no charge. Thanks, Anthony!!!
Design, Fitment, & Shape
In a word: beautiful!
I appreciate all the attention to small details in this helmet’s appearance. The looks of the decals, branding placement, varying textures, finishes on the plastics, smoothness, pattern of the interior nylon, density of the foam, and flexibility of the rubber. The tapestry created when it’s all brought together hits the stylistic bullseye squarely for me.
Nothing jumps out as being off-center, or cheap feeling. In fact, the Spartan GT Replikan has the aura of a premium helmet, BUT not quite the same level of refinement found in handmade Shoei and Arai helmets. Despite that, I would say subjectively that the Shark Spartan GT Replikan looks way cooler than most any Shoei or Arai I’ve laid eyes on.
The metal-flecked gold decals encased in a perfectly smooth clear coating appear 3-dimensional with how they capture and reflect beams of sunlight when I have this helmet out in fresh air. It even turns heads under indoor lighting. Full credit to the creative people at Shark who have built a distinct-looking helmet style. The artistic influence in the design makes me think it hails from Paris rather than Marseille. However, Marseille is also known as a hub for art and design though perhaps not to the degree Paris is.
What’s In A Name?
These lids stand out in a crowd and let’s face it the word SHARK alone always gets attention.
It’s a marketing stroke of genius to name your product after an enigmatic and sometimes frightening oceanic predator, despite the fact they have absolutely nothing in common with motorcycle PPE.
The cool factor is right off the charts with this one.
I’m puzzled why a helmet from Europe would only be DOT FMVSS 218 certified here, but that is the case with this Spartan GT Replikan.
I know for a fact the ones sold across the pond would be ECE 22-05, so why aren’t they at least dual certified here? I suspect Shark in their wisdom chose to omit the ECE sticker on the back even though the helmet likely is dual homologated. Maybe they left it off solely to avoid cluttering up the sharp-looking exterior?
I would encourage all helmet manufacturers to include as many certifications on their helmets as possible. In my mind, that’s a positive for consumers to look for when choosing their headgear. Having more than one group of safety experts endorse a helmet makes me like it more.
My 23” circumference (58.42cm) head is often a complicating factor when it comes to choosing a helmet size.
As you can see in the size chart above from the Shark website, my cranium lands just outside the Medium and Large range in no man’s land. 99% of the time I go down a size and things work out ok. The Spartan GT Medium is borderline too tight in the cheek pad regions for me but doesn’t cause me pain. If I could swap them out for 2 or 3 mm thinner pads, it would be a perfect and uniform fit everywhere on my head.
Only 2 Shell Sizes
If your head is any larger than mine, you’ll want to size up to a Large despite the fact you’ll be crossing over to the larger of two shell sizes available for this helmet.
People who need to wear the XS, Small, and Large sizes could potentially feel the dreaded “bobblehead effect” since just as Brandon noted in his review of the Spartan I find this Spartan GT also has a higher center of gravity to it… it’s slightly top-heavy.
I don’t know if that’s due to the internal sun visor mechanism weight, the upper air vent, or both of those elements working in concert in the crown area. I only know it’s there and noticeable.
Revzilla’s video review listed the Spartan GT at 3.9 lbs, while my scale rang up this Medium at 3.67 lbs or 1667g.
That amount of weight hasn’t been noticeable in other helmets I’ve reviewed provided they also had a low center of gravity. I typically find keeping the weight under 4lbs is a sweet spot for fiberglass helmets.
The Shoei RF-1400 I reviewed weighs a hair more at 3.76 lbs but feels very different than this Shark does in my hands and on my head. Better balance = more comfortable on the wearer’s neck and shoulders.
I noticed on the Revzilla and Shark USA websites the sizes available for the GT only include SM to XL, while on the European Shark website an additional XS and XXL option is there.
My Shark contact explained it this way.
“Not all sizes or graphics are available in the US, but most of the plain colors, matte black, and full carbon skin are available in XS to XXL.”
I’m categorizing this Spartan GT helmet as borderline Round Oval or Intermediate Oval with a round bias to it.
Donning and Doffing
The Spartan GT has a small and narrow opening on it thanks to a larger than normal neckroll and a two-piece chin skirt. I think both the neck roll and chin skirt have elasticized neoprene in them which helps my fat head slide past the restriction they create on the way in or out. That flexible seal should help keep out road and wind noise.
It’s still necessary to pull hard on the helmet to get it on or off my head, but I’ve experienced much worse with helmets like the Shoei GT Air which always seems intent on amputating my ears and cheeks whenever I wear it.
My favorite helmet interiors are the ones found in many Arai helmets. They use a silky smooth nylon material that stays cool and doesn’t chafe. That material makes it heavenly to wear at any temperature.
My head shape is Round Oval or decidedly close to it.
Shark has gone with something similar in the GT they call SANITIZED®-labeled ALVEOTECH that has an attractive honeycomb pattern stitched in it to better channel perspiration to vents, and thus aid with cooling. It’s antimicrobial and washable as is expected these days in any helmet worth talking about.
I would rate the interior comfort better than average. Even better than the one in the Shoei RF-1400, but not as nice as in my Arai DT-X or XD-4.
Emergency Removal Tabs
The cheek pads and neck roll can quickly be removed using the Shark Emergency Removal System pull tabs. This is another improvement added to the Spartan GT that wasn’t found on the Spartan.
Cheek Pad Connector Snaps
It’s not all roses with the interior, unfortunately. The plastic snaps or anchors tasked with holding the cheek pads in place were driving me to drink at first. I spent way too much time popping them back into the receptacles only to find them roaming around again soon afterward until I looked closely and realized I was doing it all wrong.
Shark uses an unusual style of socket in this helmet. On every other helmet I’ve worn, you just push the mushroom-shaped plastic snaps straight into the sockets. With the Spartan GT, there’s a ramp to slide it down until it reaches a narrowing point at the end to catch and hold the connector in place. See the photo below of said socket.
I can confirm that attempting to install the cheek pads any other way results in them falling out again.
This style of attaching the padding feels awkward at best, irritating at worst and potential owners should understand this quirk about the Spartan GT before they take out the padding.
In contrast to the weird cheek pads, the padding found on the chinstrap of the GT is made exactly how I would design it. It’s perfectly sized, stitched, and shaped to keep my neck away from the sharp edges of the coarse, wavy nylon strap that works with the double D-ring loops to ensure the GT remains affixed to my head.
The setup works a little too well actually. If I pull too hard on the strap while putting it on I find the padding tries to uniformly crush my Adam’s apple and I have to back it off. There’s zero chance of it loosening contrary to what I sometimes find in other helmets.
I can’t think of another Double D-Ring chin strap that works better or is more comfortable when properly positioned. Personally, I’d still prefer having a ratcheting/micrometric mechanism but realize I’m in the minority.
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Visor and Field of View
The visor on the Spartan GT is one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of using.
Not only is it clear/distortion-free to look through but the eyeport is wide enough to provide good peripheral vision too. The top-to-bottom field of view is slightly obstructed by the large breath deflector and chin bar, but not enough to cause me any grief.
Smooth and quiet movement combined with desirable positioning detents is what I prioritize from visors on helmets. This one pleases me in a big way.
There are multiple detent positions to choose from and moving from one to another doesn’t produce an annoying series of loud “CLUNK” noises as it does on some other helmets.
Additionally, there’s no problem keeping the visor just barely cracked open to let in additional air when I want it. The centrally located visor lock release button is large and easy to find while wearing gloves because it’s located in an obvious depression in the chin bar.
I can’t think of anything I’d change about it or another visor I like better than this one. Well, I suppose if it was a Transitions visor that would be better in some ways.
Bless you, Shark Helmets for including a Pinlock lens with this helmet that fits into a groove on the visor perfectly. I don’t notice it in my peripheral view while out on the road, but there’s a big problem with the Pinlock that I’ll get to shortly.
Quick Release Mechanism
Quick-release visors often don’t live up to that name in my experience, but the Spartan GT has a good one! I find it the most consistently easy visor to take on or off other than maybe the Schuberth C3 Pro.
The locking levers on either side of the visor near the hinges makes it easy if you follow this procedure:
- Raise the visor up about 1.5 inches from the locked closed position
- Rotate the locking levers forwards (clockwise) about halfway through their range of travel and they’ll pop outwards to exit the track they ride in that secures the visor to the hinge plate
- Grip the visor with a hand on each side and pull it straight out from the helmet to remove
Installation is the reverse.
Brandon, a Revzilla video reviewer, struggled with this because he tried rotating the locking levers with the visor fully closed as you can see in the video below at the 4:32 mark.
Drop Down Sun Lens/Visor
The integrated sun visor performed both good and bad.
- It covers my field of view perfectly to block out all incoming light
- The degree of tint on it is well-chosen and useful in protecting my eyes from the sun
- The sliding switch used to lower or raise it operates smoothly and is easy to find despite the fact it’s located on the top of the helmet as opposed to on the left side.
Some people might feel the slider should be in the more common location on the left side of the chin bar, but I feel having it there often interferes with mounting Sena/Cardo and other Bluetooth devices.
- It fogs up constantly as my breath is directed at it by the rubber breath deflector mounted on the chin bar. This even happens sometimes while I’m moving to my astonishment.
- When the sun visor is lowered it blocks all the airflow coming from the chin bar vent that would otherwise cool my forehead area. More on this below.
Here’s another area where the Spartan GT Replikan frustrates me despite the fact that I felt reasonably comfortable wearing this helmet in temperatures ranging from a low of 50F (10 Celsius) up to 79F (26 Celsius).
There are two intake vents and two exhaust vents all of which are easily manipulated while wearing gloves, which is great. The switch for opening or closing the rear exhaust vents even is labeled “open” to let you know what position it’s in.
The upper vent design was improved on the GT versus on the original Spartan by making the entire cover the switch as opposed to just a small tab. It does it’s job to satisfaction too.
When the upper intake vent is open along with the rear exhaust vents I find the cooling airflow on top of my scalp to be slightly above average.
The Chin Bar Vent
The same can’t be said for the airflow entering from the chin bar intake vent. Shark changed the design here notably on the GT from the one on the old Spartan, but failed to improve upon a shortcoming Brandon noted about it in his review.
“The chin vent pulls in air and directs all of it up towards the visor in front of the included breath guard. There is no path directly through to the face which I think would have been nice to include for those hotter days.”
Brandon didn’t mention anything about the integrated sun visor fogging up for him during his testing of the Spartan as I have with the GT (maybe I’m more of a mouth-breather than him?).
Oversight or By Design?
I think Shark Helmets missed an opportunity to fix this with the redesigned Spartan GT chin bar intake vent. Had they chosen to direct at least some air towards the wearer’s mouth and nose it would have also corrected the sun visor fogging issue I’m encountering.
I found myself muttering: “Why direct all the incoming air against the interior of the main visor to prevent fogging if there’s already a Pinlock lens there?”
Riding In The Rain
The answer came to me when I rode in the rain with the GT. Looking back now, I really should have surmised before venturing out in the downpour that this helmet has fogging issues not limited to the integrated sun visor.
The focused chin bar ventilation and abnormally large breath deflector are obvious clues. Not only does the integrated sun visor fog up when I’m riding at lower speeds but when it’s raining the main visor really fogs up despite the fact there’s a Pinlock shield installed and plenty of air is directed at it.
This is the first helmet I’ve ever tested where the Pinlock failed to do its job. I didn’t try smearing shaving cream, toothpaste, or saliva on the inside of the two visors in an effort to mitigate the fogging issues, but if I continue wearing the Spartan GT I’ll go there.
On the bright side, I was impressed to find no water leaked past the rubber visor seal even after 15 minutes of heavy rain at one point.
Out On The Road
The Spartan GT isn’t as good as I hoped it would be out in the wind due to some noise and fogging shortcomings, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad helmet. I just think it might be better if fashion was prioritized a bit less in favor of function.
Lift and Pull
I don’t notice any significant lift with the helmet, but in crosswinds or when I turn my head to make a shoulder check I do notice a little more pull than I would predict it to have. I believe this can be blamed on the small “dorsal fins” covering the rear exhaust vents (photo below).
When it comes to judging how loud a helmet is I make sure to eliminate the variable from the equation that is my motorcycle to get a fair estimation. I stand up on my footpegs to get my head and helmet above the turbulence and flap coming off the windshield and fairings of the bike.
I don’t wear earplugs when I ride, so I notice every hiss, squeak, roar, whistle, and boom.
The Spartan GT is a little quieter than average, but there’s an asterisk to that statement. At highway speeds, it exhibits mostly hiss with a small amount of rumble mixed in. If I keep my head positioned level or how it would be while sitting on a standard class motorcycle the helmet is on its best behavior.
Standard Positioning Is Best
This changes noticeably if I tilt, tip, or turn my head in any direction. That’s when I begin hearing a low-pitched roar, although it never becomes loud enough to seriously irritate my ears. I would again look to fault those rear “dorsal fins” catching air and causing it, but it could easily be originating from other things on the shell.
To put things in perspective, this Spartan GT can’t hold a candle to the RF-1400 or GT Air 2 in any position when it comes to wind noise, but those two Shoei helmets are the quietest I’ve ever worn.
Visor Open Whistle
When the visor is locked shut the Spartan GT is pretty quiet as mentioned, but if I dare open the visor any amount the incoming wind creates a very annoying whistling sound, unfortunately. This isn’t uncommon and I find many excellent helmets share this same irritating trait.
Bluetooth Communicator Integration
Shark has an integrated Bluetooth device made specifically for the Spartan GT called the SHARKTOOTH® PRIME MOTORCYCLE BLUETOOTH® ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM. I didn’t get one to test with the helmet, but for $120 US it looks promising other than the short 600-yard intercom range.
The Spartan GT has pockets capable of housing 32mm speakers that are felt-lined and though I didn’t attempt installing a Sena or Cardo in the GT, looking at it tells me it would be easy as pie.
The fact there’s no incoming air directed at the wearer’s nose and mouth would also mean putting a microphone in that area would provide clear speech without the annoying wind crackling that has to be overcome in many other helmets.
Got Hi-Viz and Reflective Materials?
Brandon’s Spartan review shows two large reflective patches on the neck roll that disappointingly went AWOL on the new Spartan GT.
I’m of the opinion these should be included on every helmet. Better yet, manufacturers should hide reflective piping, decals, in brand lettering/logos on the exterior shell as much as possible.
Too often the cause of motorcycle vs car encounters comes down to “SMIDSY”, or “Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You.”
At least there are a variety of brightly colored shells beyond the Replikan trim to choose from to help get the wearer seen.
After communing with the motorcycle Gods and carefully digesting the events that played out over 500 miles ridden in the Spartan GT Replikan I’ve landed on a final score of 89%.
None of the issues found are major ones, but they’re grating on me because this helmet is so good otherwise. I especially want to praise everything about the main visor… other than the fogging problem, of course. The visor on this Spartan GT would be my favorite without that bit. The quick-release mechanism is a lesson in how-to-built-it-right for nearly every other manufacturer. How can I adore and abhor it at the same time?
What Do You Value Most?
$549 US is not an expensive helmet relative to many others. This Shark provides good value for that price overall, but it’s not inexpensive enough or premium enough to beat two superb competitors I know intimately after having reviewed them previously.
The Shoei RF-1400 with fancy graphics was supposed to retail for $599 US, but I can only find it now for $629. The GT-Air 2 with fancy graphics currently lists for $699 US on Revzilla. One of our readers recently sent me a message saying he’d found a brand new GT Air 2 in the Crossbar trim on special for only $500 US. Thanks for the tip, Evan!
I hate to be so blunt about it, but I would pay more and get quieter, better-balanced helmets with 4 shell sizes, and no fogging issues instead of buying the Spartan GT Replikan.
The RF-1400 is Snell approved too, although I realize some people prefer ECE to Snell for their own reasons. It doesn’t have an internal sun visor either, so it’s a bit of give and take that way.
Some of you reading this may disagree and prefer the Shark Spartan GT. I can appreciate that sentiment. I don’t think any helmet that receives a score of 89% will be overly disappointing to anyone who buys it.
I look forward to seeing whether Shark Helmets perfects the Spartan GT Replikan in the third generation to come. For this second generation of Spartan there’s only one question left unanswered for me: what’s a Replikan?