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Bell Helmets vs Shoei Helmets

CK Zilla - ZLAmbassador

PUBLISHED: JAN, 2013

Each with over 50 years experience in the helmet industry, Bell Helmets and Shoei Helmets offer a wealth of quality products that are produced with years of backing from extensive research and development. An argument for purchase could be made based on the reputation of the brands alone as both companies have consistently held their own in the motorcycle industry. However, which one is right for you? There are a few distinct attributes that separate Shoei and Bell that may apply to your specific riding style, tastes, or needs.

Lets begin with a dissection of each Brand’s current product offering for comparison. For full-face helmets, the playing field is level. Bell offers 4 and Shoei the same. Shoei pulls ahead with two modular choices over Bell’s one. However, Bell regains speed with their two ¾ helmets and 4 half helmet options, including the incredibly popular Bell Rogue Helmet. Shoei only has one ¾ helmet on the docket for 2013 and no half helmets. In the off-road world, Bell rules with the SX-1, MX-1, and Moto 9 at entry, standard, and premium price points.  Shoei competes only with the VFX-W, although they also cover the Dual Sport category with the Hornet DS, for which Bell has no answer.

Even though both companies are relatively the same age, Bell definitely carries an “old-fashioned” aura whereas Shoei comes across as much more modern.  Bell’s history in Auto helmets explains their heavy dispensation in the ‘classic’ genre. Many of their graphics, styles, and shell shapes evoke the vintage visage.  They also have a larger presence in Dirt riding, which has a longer history in the US compared to the more European fashioned sport bike racing. Their years of research and development give their consumers a true pedigree of “tried and true” lids while changing the pace often enough to stay current.

Shoei has long been the symbol of “cutting edge” and leans heavily across the street and sport classifications. While they do tip their hat to Dirt, Modular, and Touring, it doesn’t take long to tell that Shoei takes sport seriously. They have just as qualified a background in research and development as Bell and this expresses itself in their modern technology and clean racing lines. Shoei also has a bigger presence in MotoGP racing, whereas Bell holds the torch in SX and MX styles.

OPINION: While the reputation of Bell vs Shoei may lean towards the Dirt or Race categories, both are equally qualified in each field. Their predisposition towards either direction is largely a result of their marketing focus and not as much an indicator of competency.

After several conversations with my fellow Gear Geeks, we have come to the conclusion that Bell and Shoei do fit differently even though their assessed shapes are quite similar. Both Brands use mostly intermediate-oval shell shapes. The Shoei RF-1100, X-12, Bell Star, and Revolver EVO all have long-oval tendencies, while the Shoei Qwest, Multitec, Bell RogueArrow, and Vortex have round-oval tendencies. I wouldn’t consider any of these shapes to be fully round-oval or long-oval, however. Given the similarities here, you would think that the fit would be quite simple to compare.

Instead, though its hard to accurately pin-point, there is a definite difference in how Bell and Shoei fit. The reason is two-fold, I believe.  First, the liners and cheekpads between these two are vastly different in terms of feel, thickness and shape.  I find Bell’s cheekpads to be much more plush and thus more tightly fitting, while Shoei’s cheekpads are thinner and more streamline. In addition, my personal opinion is that Bell fits more ‘egg-shape’ in that the difference in width between the front and back of the head is more pronounced.  You can find this tendency also on AGV helmets. Conversely, Shoei is much closer to the Arai standard of headshape where the oval shape is very symmetrical front to back.

OPINION:There is no right answer here!  Try as many helmets as you can and you will quickly learn what shapes hug your head bones the best. Personally, I prefer Bell’s plush linings, but Shoei fits my headshape better.

You need a helmet for protection, but more often than not, you buy a helmet for its features. Shoei and Bell both offer a lot to choose between in this department. Lets break it down:

  • Faceshields: Shoei’s quick-change shield system is probably the easiest on the market. Both offer beautiful tints and coatings for a great look. Bell alone carries the SolFx transitions lens, which tips the scale for many of our customers. Shoei alone offers Pinlock shields and inserts, which is a huge advantage for those in colder, damper climates.
  • Venting: Shoei’s X-12 is the only helmet to offer exhaust ports at the front of the helmet for encouraging airflow behind the shield and out the top of the helmet. Based on customer reviews, the Bell Star comes in at a very close second for ventilation capabilities.
  • Sunvisors: Up until recently, Shoei has offered little in this respect, however, the addition of the NeotecJ-Cruise, and the GT-Air in the last few years has made them a leader in this category. Bell largely skirts the issue with their photochromatic solution, however, the Revolver EVO does offer a drop-down.

OPINON:With the exception of the transitions lens, which I mentioned before as a huge advantage, I stake Shoei as having the upper hand in a well-thought-out feature set.  They are able to do less with more, providing simple solutions through common features that “just work”. Bell answers with a perfectly healthy set of features, however, in my experience they can be more finicky or harder to use.

Both of these name brands carry a lot of weight in their worlds. Wearing one will certainly get you some r-e-s-p-e-c-t and they won’t disappoint your riding needs. In actuality, they do cover slightly different genres and you can see their strengths represented for Bell in the cruiser or dirt vein and Shoei with the sport and race theme. In the middle of those two, touring riders should find their needs met quite equally by either. The important takeaway is that each company is still dedicated to improving their technology and defining their element. You will see Bell and Shoei unfalteringly produced for years to come if not decades. Your trust, your funds, and your head is well placed in the hands (or fibreglass shells) of both Shoei and Bell.