Hands-On Review: The Shoei X-Fifteen Helmet Is Not Just For Racing
Me wearing the Shoei X-Fifteen in the mountains near Canmore, Alberta.
The Shoei X-Fifteen Helmet Review Summary
The apex defender of Shoei-sponsored racers is the X-Fifteen and it lived up to the massive hype during my testing.
Triple safety certification from DOT, ECE 22.06, and Snell M2020R along with Shoei’s well-known history of being some of the best helmets to wear if you favor surviving a motorcycle crash.
The X-15 comes in 4 shell sizes, has above-average ventilation, a crystal clear visor equipped with a Pinlock anti-fog lens, tear-offs, and a comfort liner that can be customized to fit nearly any shape of head. Those attributes make it one of the best helmets on the market. Most surprising is how the X-15 can moonlight as an everyday riding helmet too.
The downsides are few with this one other than the eye-watering price that ranges from $899 to $1049 US. You gotta pay a lot to dress like Marc Márquez, I suppose.
Design & Innovation
Value for Money
Handmade helmet with a flawless finish and intelligent design aspects
Excellent ventilation, designed to last, easy-to-use features
A legit racing spec helmet that also works perfectly as a daily rider
Pinlock 120 included and visor can accommodate Tear Offs
The only DOT/ECE-22.06/Snell M2020R certified helmet currently available
The Interior is easily adjusted for comfort and Personal Fitting System is available
Quieter than average at high speed, aerodynamically superior at racing speeds
Can easily work with Cardo, Sena, etc devices
Designed to accommodate in-helmet hydration products (Camelback)
Based closely on the Shoei X-Fourteen which earned a 5/5 score from SHARP
Not FIM certified
One of the more expensive helmets to buy as are replacement parts, extra visors, etc
Almost weighs 4 lbs while many competitor helmets are lighter
Only one visor is included and no Tear Offs despite the high price
Visor detents are unorthodox
Only one small reflective decal at the back of the helmet
Personal Fitting System assistance is only available in a few US cities & costs $60-$80 US
Marc Márquez Alentà and I couldn’t be more different when it comes to our motorcycle riding styles.
He’s an 8-time world champion racer from Spain who drags his knees and even his elbows on MotoGP racetracks while moving at terrifying speeds, neck and neck with the other fastest riders in the world on two wheels.
Conversely, I’m primarily an adventure rider from Canada who enjoys the occasional tryst with sportbikes but never have I ridden a single lap at a track anywhere. Marc and I do have one thing in common, which is an appreciation for Shoei Helmets and specifically for the X-Fifteen he’s been wearing for the past year or so.
The most significant learning for me while reviewing the X15 is that you don’t need to be a racer to love wearing it on a daily basis. That’s the approach I took with this review which I believe is more helpful to most people as opposed to doing 150mph laps at a test circuit.
Should anyone like to get an expert opinion on the trackworthiness of the helmet I’ll refer you to Mr. Marquez and his personal endorsement.
Procuring an X-15 Helmet for Review
I’ve previously reviewed other terrific Shoei helmets like the RF-1400, GT-Air, and GT-Air 2 but those aren’t modeled after headgear worn by racers on the world stage like the X-Fifteen is.
Helmet House, the North American Shoei distributor sent me this X-Fifteen at no cost for the purpose of writing this review and I’m so happy they did! In 94% of the ways I could analyze this piece of protective gear, I found it excelled.
In fact, long story short, the only thing with the X15 that gives me the slightest pause is related to the price tag it bears.
Design, Fitment, & Shape of Shoei X-Fifteen Helmet
The X15 design is focused on achieving aerodynamic superiority at high speeds while also honoring rider comfort and crash protection… but that’s what every helmet manufacturer says about their latest sport helmet, right?
You’ll see obvious features on it used to smooth airflow like the rear fin, the spoiler on the bottom of the chin bar, and the vortex generators adorning the sides of the visor, but there’s a lot more to this helmet than cutting through the air.
Shoei built the X15 to be an updated and polished version of their uber-popular, well-respected, X-Fourteen. Yeah, I know… thanks Captain Obvious!
The new changes bestowed upon the X15 include;
Enhanced visor-locking mechanisms
Aerodynamic tweaks to the shell shape to decrease drag (6% less) and lift (1.6% less)
Revised eyeport design to allow better vision when riding in a racing tuck
Customizable interior liner system
New safety certifications met or exceeded
Other than those new goodies the X14 and X15 are very similar and from my observations of these new features I can say they are all slicker than greased Teflon. Current X14 owners will undoubtedly find the X15 floats their proverbial boat that much more.
The Safety Factor
The X15 meets or exceeds DOT FMVSS 218, ECE 22.06, and Snell M2020R, but the North American version hasn’t met the FIM standard. Perhaps the European model (which will likely be called the X Spirit IV) could get an FIM sticker, but I’m only guessing.
At the time of this writing, the X15 is the only helmet to meet both ECE 22.06 and Snell M2020R and that’s something for Shoei to crow about in my view. Recently some YouTube stars have tried to discredit Snell certification, even calling it meaningless, but I find that logic flawed and explained why in this article.
Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment and we’ll assume the critics are correct about Snell M2020R and ECE 22.06 testing criteria being the same (they’re similar, not identical). Why are the naysayers unwilling to recognize the value of having an independent testing watchdog like Snell help affirm or disprove ECE findings for new helmets?
If I had my way every helmet sold to motorcyclists here would exceed DOT, ECE, Snell, and FIM, and earn at least a 4 out of 5 score from SHARP. I value more than one group of expert opinions on the safety equipment I rely on to protect myself and those I care about.
Speaking of SHARP (an independent helmet testing organization in the UK), they scored the X14’s European twin (the X Spirit III) a perfect 5 out of 5 and I would expect the X15 to perform the same way due to the similarities.
For these reasons, I hope that if I’m ever in a collision while riding I’m wearing a Shoei X-Fifteen or another helmet with similar credentials.
My 23” circumference (58.42cm), Round-Oval-shaped head often makes choosing the correct helmet size a coin toss. Sizing charts almost always place me right between a Medium and a Large, and this time was no different.
My contact at Helmet House recommended I get the Medium X-15 and that turned out to be the correct size for me to wear, but if my head was ANY larger the Large would be necessary.
Out of the box, the X15 chin bar fits so close to my face that my lips can touch the inside of the chin bar when outstretched as if puckered for a kiss (or duckface selfie?), and my nose is large enough to come within a hair width of the breath deflector.
If not for the massive eye port on the X15 it would feel suffocating for anyone that suffers from claustrophobia.
A Tight Fit
Shoei interiors always fit me on the aggressive side of snug with severe pressure points typically developing on my right and left temples after only 40 minutes of riding.
After my first ride with the X15, both sides of my head were on fire and I had to remove the helmet for a 30-minute break to recover.
I fully expected this since to date each Shoei helmet I’ve worn has treated me the same way. The only exception was the RF-1400 which fit me perfectly right out of the box to my astonishment.
My round oval-shaped head is wider on the sides and shorter front to back than most people with narrower/longer intermediate oval-shaped heads. If you too have found it challenging to be comfortable wearing a Shoei helmet on longer rides it’s possible you have a head shaped like mine.
Luckily, Shoei has perhaps noticed my bellyaching and equipped the X15 with a morphing comfort liner named the 3D Max-Dry Custom Interior System II.
The photo above shows how the microsuede-covered interior liner has removable pieces of foam in several pockets. There are also small teardrop-shaped straps with Velcro tabs on the end which set the pockets at a measured distance apart from each other to tweak the interior to fit odd-shaped heads.
I removed one of the 5mm thick pieces of foam from both the right and left sides of the crown liner and relocated them to the pocket found in the top section. The added thickness on top keeps my head from seating too far into the upper part of the helmet and as a result, relieves the pressure points on either side of the upper portions of my head.
Additionally, I removed one of the pieces of foam from each side of the cheekpads (photo below) and I cut off the top section of each side to create more room for the sides of my head. It took a while to figure out what had to be removed and/or relocated on my own but now the fit is more uniform and the pressure points are 99% eliminated.
Removing one of the rearmost layers of foam on the center liner and relocating it on the top of my head also cut down on the pressure points felt on the sides of my head.
The adjustability is well thought out on the X15 but despite that fact after the dust settled on my myriad liner foam adjustments/relocations I still couldn’t get this helmet to fit me as nicely as an Arai typically does right out of the box. The X15 ranks at the “very good” level of comfort for me but not “blissful”.
I could benefit from a Shoei PFS expert fine-tuning the adjustments I’ve made, but not enough to pay $80 for it. A $900 US helmet should include that service for a nominal fee at worst in my opinion.
Oh, I suppose I need to explain what I mean by that, eh?
Personal Fitting System
Shoei has trained fitment coaches at select locations across the US who can customize the X-15 helmet liners much faster and more accurately than the average Joe like me can. They use what Shoei calls the Personal Fitting System to measure your head and then modify the liner padding using different densities of foam inserts. Click this link to see all the details and locations where you can access PFS.
The only downside is that the service costs between $60 and $80 US depending on whether you purchased your helmet at the PFS store or somewhere else.
4 Shell Sizes
Most manufacturers have 2 or 3 shell sizes for their helmets, while Shoei is known for having 4 and sometimes 5 different shells for theirs to help provide a closer match relative to the wearer’s head size. This helps prevent the dreaded “bobblehead” sensation everyone hates.
The X15’s Multi-Ply Matrix AIM+ shell is constructed of a cocktail of different types of fiberglass that Shoei keeps secret. Strength, elasticity, and force absorption are priority number one as opposed to keeping things featherlight. I’m ok with that… up to a point anyway.
Mission accomplished with the X15. This helmet feels like it’s one with my cranium once installed on my head.
This Medium sized X15 weighs just about 4 lbs (3.8 lbs claimed to be exact) and as you can see in the photo below it’s over 4 lbs (1.8kg) with a Cardo Packtalk Edge installed in it.
That’s pretty “chonky” compared to many competitor helmets, but for myself, the X15’s dad bod bulk feels comforting to wear even if it flirts with being labeled heavy in some people’s books. The center of mass feels low and that’s what saves it from feeling top-heavy-awkward, in my opinion.
People who are more sensitive to weight on their heads and necks might need to look at a different helmet.
The chinstrap features double-D loops which do the trick even though I prefer micrometric closures. The racing world seems to insist on double-D setups and that’s why it’s found on the X15.
The only gripe I have with it is that the snap used to secure excess chinstrap length is located too far up to use easily with my gloved fingers, but this is a minor annoyance. For myself, the best solution would be to relocate the snap to the other side.
Shoei X-Fifteen Visor & Field of View
The “dark smoke” tinted visor seen in my photos isn’t included with the X15 and will cost an extra $75 US but is a very apropos sun shade for everyday riding. Shoei sells a number of different visor options without the mounts for tear-offs (CWR-F2) and with the mounts (CWR-F2R).
The sweetest option is their photochromatic Transitions® CWR-F2 because that auto-darkening visor is the best riding experience I’ve had to date. The $210 US price tag is astronomical for these CWR-F2 visors, but it’s hard to want anything else after wearing one. Yeah, I’d save up and pay for one on a helmet I wear every day even if the feature wears out after 3 or 4 years of use.
The utilitarian (but still excellent quality) clear visor seen in the photo below is the only screen you’ll get with the helmet which is disappointing considering the hefty price tag attached to the X15.
Shoei’s CWR-F2R visor is as good for optical clarity as any I’ve experienced and the 10% larger Pinlock 120 in the X15 is barely noticeable. The upper edge of Pinlocks often gets in my field of view when I tilt my head into a racing tuck, but Shoei absolutely nailed the design on the X15 in this regard.
They paid special attention to keeping the view clear when a wearer looks through the top section of the visor by raising the upper eyeport edge by 5mm over the already good X14 design.
Additionally, the anchor points on the cheek pads can be adjusted to pivot the padding upwards and thus match up better with the wearer’s face if they’re going to be sitting in a racing tuck for a track day.
Bravo! The attention to detail here is outstanding and illustrates how serious Shoei is when they say the X15 is designed to shave milliseconds off racing performance in every way possible.
If you’ve read my other reviews you’ll know I am a visor snob and will be critical of clunky or noisy visor detent mechanisms on helmet baseplates.
The Arai XD-4 remains my favourite example of how smooth and quiet a visor can be when opened and closed. The X15 is close but not quite at that same level of quietness, but it is smooth throughout its path of travel as the visor moves through the detents on the baseplates.
The X15 visor boasts far quieter clunks and pops than the GT-Air, for example.
Shoei once again hit the bullseye for me in the way the X15 visor can be just barely cracked open and will stay there even at highway speeds. This allows in a little extra air to help cool the rider or remove any fogging that the Pinlock fails to address.
What was unexpected is how far up the next held open position is on the visor. Typically, the next locked open position on a helmet would be at about the 1” size of aperture but the X15 can’t stay open until double that distance.
Looking closely at the detent “gear teeth” or ridges on the baseplate I see irregular peaks instead of uniform ones and blame the lack of traction on that design aspect. I would call this an unexpected stumble on the part of the Shoei X15 visor design team or I suspect that I don’t share their vision.
Despite this unusual character trait, the X15 has 6 different detented positions to choose from to lock the visor in which is an acceptable amount.
Quick Release Mechanism
The baseplates are revamped on the X15 from the X14 but not for the quick-release mechanisms.
Changing the visor isn’t difficult as long as the user remembers to switch the small red levers (called trigger locks) on each side to the unlocked position.
Triple Locking Visor
These trigger locks work with the regular latch located in the middle of the chin bar to keep the visor from flying off in the event of an impact.
There’s also a sliding tab (racing shield lock) on the left-center side of the chin bar used as a third lock for the visor.
When the visor is completely closed the wearer has to push on the center button to release the primary visor lock before lifting/opening the visor. This works just fine so long as you don’t confuse the racing shield lock with the visor lifting lip as I do.
You see, on most other helmets (including other Shoeis) the protruding lip used to lift the visor lives on the center-left portion of the visor exactly where the sliding racing lock does on the X15.
I’m used to reaching for the center release button and relocated visor lip now after 600 miles of riding with the X15 but it confused me until I made a conscious effort to retrain myself.
There are mounting knobs located on the exterior of the visor on both sides used to hold a number of these pieces of thin plastic film over the visor exterior. The idea is that as bugs, dirt, and other debris begin to cloud the wearer’s view one layer of the transparent plastic film can be torn off and the clean one underneath takes over instead.
I used the same tear-off for the entire testing period and successfully cleaned it using my usual visor spray, so these aren’t necessarily single-use items if you don’t want them to be.
Even having one tear-off on the visor did impede my vision more than without and so I would prefer not to use them in day-to-day riding when the visor can just be cleaned off during rests.
The tear-off didn’t damage the visor in any way during the testing and so I can’t speak to how scratch-resistant the X15 visor is, but I’m confident in saying it’s among the best out there. Previous Shoei visors I’ve tested have ranked very highly.
Shoei X-Fifteen Ventilation
I’ve heard that top-level racers like Marquez sweat so much during a race they can lose several pounds of weight due to the physical exertion involved.
For that reason, Shoei looked to provide better cooling in the X15 and I would agree their efforts worked.
The Upper Vents
The top of the X15 features 4 vents located on the raised inlet scoop.
The center switch is easily moved from closed to fully open with gloved fingers, but I find it impossible to open it to the halfway position.
The two vent switches on either side of the scoop are awkward to activate or close so I just leave them open all the time without any issue thus far. Perhaps in time they’ll wear in a bit and I can move them more easily, but for now, I’ll leave them be.
Riding in cooler weather in the mid to low 50s (12 Celsius and lower) my head gets uncomfortably cold with all the upper vents open but that’s exactly what I look for.
That same excellent airflow helps keep me cool in hotter temperatures although I admit I haven’t tried the helmet in anything hotter than 82F (28 Celsius).
The Chin Bar Vents
The two vents on the chin bar also do their job in an above-average manner and the switches easily move when prompted to do so.
Again, the halfway detent on the top vent switch can’t be easily obtained by yours truly, but I’ve always been an all-or-nothing kind of guy anyway.
There’s still quite a bit of airflow entering the helmet with all the vents closed to aid in keeping the visor fog free.
The chin bar vents also flow air in behind the cheek pads to help keep the wearer cooler.
I don’t notice air flowing through the cheek pads, but my cheeks don’t sweat despite the fact they’re cradled in a large chunk of foam built into the cheek pad pockets.
For a racing helmet, the X15 has terrific road manners at regular speed limit velocities and even in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Shoei has a wind tunnel in its manufacturing facility and fixates on making its helmets aerodynamically superior. The other Shoei helmets I’ve tested have all been the quietest I’ve ever worn with some Schuberth lids matching them or coming close.
The X15 isn’t as quiet as the RF-1400 or GT Air, but it’s very, very similar in that regard. I find the noise goes from a quiet hiss when riding in an upright position to a lower-pitched mumble when I tilt my chin down into a racing tuck.
The RF-1400 and GT Air road noise remains mostly unchanged regardless of different riding positions.
I don’t place the importance I used to on the degree of helmet road noise because most riders these days wear earplugs, but I still choose to score it in my reviews.
Shoei always includes a small bottle of silicone oil with their helmets that is supposed to be applied regularly to the visor seal and detent tracks. This enhances the sealing properties of the rubber to keep water and dust outside.
On the X15 I forgot to apply this oil but I haven’t experienced any dust or water leakage during my testing despite riding in some heavy rain. I’ll heap praise on Shoei for the level of quality here since the majority of helmets I’ve tested do have leaky visor seals in heavy rain.
The Pinlock 120 does its job in the X15 when combined with the perfect amount of continuous airflow from the chin bar to keep fogging to a minimum.
No helmet I’ve tested has been 100% fog-free, but the X15 is as good or better than any I’ve tested to date.
Lift & Pull
It’s impossible for me to gauge whether the X15 lift and pull have been reduced from the X14 levels according to Shoei’s claims. What I can tell you is that the helmet shrugs off crosswinds beautifully and cuts through oncoming air with ease as Shoei designed it to do.
Admittedly, I’m used to wearing adventure helmets with large sun peaks sticking out of the top which regularly grab the wind and wrench my neck, so my tolerance level is quite high.
The X15 is a pleasure to wear because there is basically no lift or pull issues with it.
Shoei X-Fifteen Bluetooth Communicator Integration
The Cardo Packtalk Edge is the best in-helmet communicator on the market right now (in my opinion) and I made sure to install it in the X15 to ensure these two champions can collaborate effectively.
It was installed easily, but I did need to carve out a small notch in the plastic fin that runs along the left cheek pad to route wires from the exterior mounted Edge to the interior speakers and microphone.
The Edge has a rather large 3.5mm connector in the wiring harness that was a bit challenging to find a home for inside the X15. The comfort liner, EPS foam liner, and shell all fit together so precisely that there aren’t many gaps to house such add-ons. A gap I found between the rear portion of the left cheek pad and the left side of the center liner was the final resting place for the connector.
Shoei X-Fifteen Hi-Visibility
Twelve colorful, easy-to-see versions of the X15 are available from Shoei which can help with visibility out on the road, but they only include one reflective logo on the helmet at the back under the fin.
I would rather see all the Shoei logos on the X15 made out of 3M reflective material to help the wearer be seen at night and in low-light situations.
I don’t have a Camelback kit but I did have a generic hydration tube with a bite valve on the end which I installed in the X15 to see if it would work for me. The tube and valve did go into the groove in the helmet and stayed in place until I bit on the valve too enthusiastically which made it pop out of the holder.
Hopefully the actual Camelback equipment will remain securely in place better since the groove is sized specifically for that brand but my gut tells me a tie strap or some tape might be needed. For my part, I probably would never bother installing the feeder tube and bite valve in there because space is at such a premium and I think it would annoy me to have the big bite valve touching my lips while riding.
It’s commonplace amongst racers to have this hydration system on board while they chase each other around from what I’m told.
The X-Fifteen is up for the challenge regardless of the kind of on-road riding you choose to do while wearing it. Shoei has built a proven racing helmet that can moonlight as a touring helmet or commuter.
The downsides and complaints I have about it border on insignificant and I especially appreciate the level of safety prowess it boasts along with the easily adjustable interior. This helmet is a chameleon or master of all trades and that’s a massive selling point for it.
Dollars & Sense
Speaking of the selling point, it’s very steep at $899 US and up. Honestly, I think the much more affordable RF-1400 is a better deal for my dollar because I’m not a racer and don’t need the race-ready split personality of the X15.
If you do like dragging your knees around a track regularly then the cost is better justified but the X15 is priced out of reach of many racing enthusiasts.
Even considering the awesome safety factor can’t seal the deal if you’re on a budget. It won’t be long before companies like Scorpion produce helmets for half the money of the X15 which can also pass ECE 22.06 and Snell M2020R so I predict average riders will more often than not opt to buy those instead.
Additionally, people on a budget will reason that despite the admittedly better fit, and finer build quality found in a meticulously hand-built helmet like the X15, the recommended lifespan is still only 5 to 8 years at most. Then you have to shell out another $900 bucks to replace your lovely X15. Ouch.
If it lasted forever that would be a different story, but in these times of sky-high inflation and soaring prices in general I can’t confidently say that the value for dollar is there in abundance for the X15.
So it gets a little lower score from me in the value-for-money department, but it deservingly kicks ass in most other categories I can evaluate.
Meets or Exceeds Safety Standards?
On the other hand, If the high price doesn’t offend you please consider the safety factor again in determining the X15’s value.
ECE, Snell, FIM, and DOT don’t disclose what amount of G forces were measured during helmet testing, and that is an injustice to us consumers, in my opinion. I’d like to know whether a helmet barely passed or exceeded the mark by a country mile. Wouldn’t you?
That’s why I’ll again draw your attention to the SHARP website data. They offer a star rating system and color codes on the areas tested to show how well the helmet absorbed or deflected incoming forces during testing. Even if they don’t publish exact numbers to consider, they will tell us which helmets scored the highest (5 stars).