Italy vs France, Rossi vs Gibernau, AGV vs Shark -- OK, so Gibernau wasn’t French and didn’t wear a Shark helmet, but you get the idea. Both AGV Helmets and Shark Helmets appear prominently in the racing tradition, atop some of the best riders. AGV holds some of the most esteemed riders under their banner including Rossi, Biaggi, Bradl, Iannone, Agostini, and Simoncelli, to name a few. Meanwhile, Shark is on the rise, adopting current riders such as Bautista, De Puniet, Corser (SBK), Scott Redding, and both Espargaro brothers. Obviously there is some real substance to these helmets given their extensive following in the world of professional racing, but what are the real differences between AGV Helmets and Shark helmets?
AGV’s heritage goes back to 1945 when Gino Amissano of Valencia, Italy (hence, AGV) left his career in accounting to pursue a business career with cycling helmets. Shortly thereafter, he realized the potential in the motorcycle market and shifted his focus, producing the first helmet in 1947 by hand. Shark doesn’t appear on the scene until about 40 years later, in 1986, but in that time has pushed their brand to the leading edge, producing about 350,000 helmets each year. Along the way, they produced the first industrially manufactured carbon fiber helmet, which was the basis for the RSR2 Carbon Helmet of more recent years.
Based on their 40 year head start, it is immediately obvious that AGV has the wider range of helmets, at least based on their US availability. AGV covers touring, race sport, dual Sport, off-road, and open-face helmets. Their flagship model, the GP-Tech is a track staple, bested only by the rumors of the AGV PistaGP, coming to the US later in 2013. On the touring side, the AGV Skyline Helmet takes center stage, followed closely by the Horizon (also popular with sportbike riders) and K4 Evo. The AX-8 DS Evo slots in as their 50/50 option, while the MT-X covers dirt. The RP60 and Diesel Helmet round out the crew as open-face and ¾ options.
Shark offers ¾, touring, race, and sport helmets. Taking the modular market by storm, the Shark Evoline 3 ST is one of the largest reasons for Shark’s presence and success in the US. In 2013, we see the Shark Raw added as a 3/4 option with removable chin-bar and unique goggle faceshield. Their 3 other models are well-known in Europe and should pick up steam here as the word gets out. The Speed-R and Vision-R are Shark’s “entry-level” options, though I would hesitate to use that term based on both their quality and cost. The Vision-R, boasting one of the widest viewing angles on the market, is perfect for a fully-faired sportbike. The Shark Speed-R is intended for ‘naked’ or un-faired bikes. The rear spoiler and shell design provide extra stability in the wind. Shark’s race helmet, aptly named the Race-R Pro is what you see on their professional riders mentioned earlier.
Opinion: Rider preference may force you to choose AGV if you are looking for open face, DS, or otherwise, while Shark has the only modular of the bunch. Both succeed in the race and sport department.
Most people (including us) will describe the range of possible helmet shapes as moving from long-oval, to round-oval. This is true of AGV, but there is an additional factor at play. Their helmets tend to be more round at the back and more oval at the front, proportionally speaking. Their models still range from a round-fitting Horizon to a more oval GP-Tech, but the extra dimension of shapes end up fitting a larger variety of riders. This comes from the years of research AGV has done in scanning people’s heads and determining how to define "ideal" helmet fit.
Shark helmets are largely consistent in sizing, with the exception of the Shark Evoline. The earlier models of the Evoline fit quite large, however, the more recent editions have adjusted from this extreme. The Shark Evoline 3 ST fits slightly large, with a round-oval headshape. The rest of the Shark Helmets have a snug fit and fall into the intermediate-oval (Shark Vision-R) to slightly round-oval (Shark Speed-R) category.
The interior of these helmets have more to offer than fit. Both brands have put time into developing comfortable liners and cheekpads. They use fully removable/washable antibacaterial liners in the majority of their models. Shark’s helmets are “Sharktooth Ready”, designed to accept their proprietary Shark Bluetooth. AGV has no designated bluetooth solution, but many have installed Sena or Cardo units with great success. The chin on AGV helmets also has a tendency to fit lower than most. Some riders prefer to have more coverage in this area, so this is an easy go-to for those customers.
Opinion: It's a close call, but I'll tip my hat (or, helmet) to AGV for their interiors and fit. Once you get past the initial break in with AGV, I think you'll find yourself more comfortable with the helmet on than off. Shark feels great from day one, but you will still look forward to a break after long hours of touring.
In general, helmet shells are broken down into Polycarbonate and Fiberglass. Fiberglass is the stronger construction, but takes longer to manufacture. Polycarbonate is super easy to produce, but doesn’t disperse energy as efficiently. Todays technology also includes Thermoplastic, which is similar to Polycarbonate. On the Fibreglass side, you will see such terms as Carbonglass, Carbon Fiber, Dynema weave or Kevlar Fiber. All of these operate around the same principle of structure, but use differing materials for strength and weight reduction. Between Polycarbonate and Fiberglass, lay the composite shells, which are just as they sound: a combination of both technologies.
Shark helmets span the variety of shell types described above, with a fairly equal distribution in their lineup between Thermoplastic, composite, and Fiber-based products. AGV uses exclusively fiber weaves with the exception of the older K3 model and their MT-X dirt helmet. Admittedly though, dirt riding generally deals with lower-speed impacts.
Opinion: Due to the cost-effectiveness of Polycarbonate shells, more people will be able to afford a Shark helmet made with this method. More people wearing helmets is always a good thing. However, AGV is able to accomplish similar price points with fiberglass shells. In the end, protection is paramount and I'd be remiss to spite my head for a few dollars.
In regards to the design of graphics, both AGV and Shark deserve a proper callout! Perhaps the only mainstream manufacturer to have its own line of luminescent helmets, you can choose glow in the dark with the Evoline 3 ST or Vision-R BeCool Lumi Helmets. If “glowing” isn’t your thing, try the Shark S700 Legion, or the Shark ace-R Pro Redding Replica. Speaking of replicas, AGV touts an entire line of VR46 helmets, complete with the Mugello Eye helmet and the Rossi Faces Helmet. Its hard to come up short in the graphics category when you have Valentino Rossi as your prime spokesman! The remaining non-Valentino graphics are still worth your time, granted, many of them are replicas of other famous Italian riders.
It's a race for sure when it comes to Shark vs AGV! In my mind, AGV comes out a clear winner here. With that said, Shark has built a lot of momentum and I wouldn’t put it past them to go deep and get the drive, pulling ahead of AGV on the back straight one day. You’ll watch their riders trade places all the time, so why shouldn’t the manufacturers? Competition is healthy and we’ve got that in spades with AGV vs Shark.