Pricey but worht it.
I just received one of the brand new Shoei GT Air helmets from a pre-order with Revzilla - another fast, flawless transaction, by the way. This will be the 3rd Shoei helmet I've owned, the other two being the Hornet dual sport and RF-1100. I've tried on the Qwest and Neotec several times, so I can speak to the fit comparison to them as well. For this review, I was able to go on a solid 30 minute ride in this helmet at sustained speeds up to 70mph.
Right out of the box, the finish quality is everything we've come to expect from Shoei. My helmet is solid white and the paint and clear coat are flawless. I didn’t put the GT Air on a scale but I’d guess it’s about the same weight as the RF-1100. The breath deflector and pinlock lens are included but separate. You’ll want to install both items because like the other Shoei’s I’ve owned the GT Air fogs up easily, if not instantly. The chin curtain is pre-installed and is thicker than other Shoei curtains. It feels like it has a thin layer of foam in between the fabric layers, which I think helps make this a very quiet helmet. You'll get the typical Shoei helmet bag, manuals and decals but also included is a curious little bottle containing silicone oil. This is intended for use on the face shield gasket to promote a better seal. I'm interested to see how that works over time.
The liner is plush and padded on the sides but a little rough on top (I'm bald, FWIW#, almost like a soft scouring pad. It’s not uncomfortable, just noticeable. It's the same fabric used on the crown of the liner in my Hornet, which softened up with use. The vents and face shield operate with strong, positive response, though I wish the lowest detent of the shield was a bit lower. The opening is wide, providing excellent periphery vision. I found the “cracked” position to be too small to clear the helmet and my glasses from fog. That’s not a mark against this helmet, just my preference. I particularly like that the GT-Air has a much simplified vent system with one big, easy to find/operate front intake and one equally easy rear exhaust, as opposed to the RF-1100's six, small vents #2 front and 4 rear#. This makes opening and closing all the venting much easier while riding. I ride a V-strom with a Givi windscreen on an adjustable MadStad bracket. The vents on the RF-1100 were just a little too low on the forehead to catch much air without adjusting the windscreen down. The top vent on the GT-Air fixes that issue for me. Regardless of the windscreen position, I get a ton of air through those big vent and exhaust holes on top.
The star attraction to this helmet is the internal sun visor. I can testify that it lives up to the hype. The slide mechanism functions very smoothly and positively, is easy to find #even with thick, winter gloves), distortion-free, dark, and drops down further than other internal shades, fully shielding the eyes. I wear glasses and the internal visor was one of the big reasons I bought this helmet. I'm happy to report that my glasses slip very will into the helmet and to not interfere with the sun visor. I have a Sena Bluetooth system in my helmet, which sits just below and well clear of the visor slide.
FIT: First of all, it's true to Shoei sizing. I'm a medium in every other Shoei helmet and I'm a medium in the GT Air. However, not all Shoei helmets fit the same. For me, the Qwest is just too roomy around the top and sides of my head. I can almost rotate it forward and off my head. A size smaller is hard to get on and very painful against my forehead. The hornet fits my head snug and secure all around. The RF-1100 is an excellent fitting helmet as well, slightly less snug than the Hornet on me and easier to put on and take off. I was considering buying the next larger size of cheek pads for the RF-1100 before the GT Air was announced.
I've heard it said that the fit of the GT Air is similar to the new Neotec. I've tried on the Neotec at a local retailer and I would say that's probably a fair comparison around the crown of the head. Both are what I consider solidly intermediate oval. However, it's an unfair comparison around the cheeks, chin and lower part of the head. A full-face helmet is by design stiffer around the lower portion of the shell and simply has more area for larger, longer cheek pads and more bolster around the neck. And cheek pads are what this helmet has in abundance. They are thicker out of the box than those in the Hornet, RF-1100, or Qwest. This can make the GT Air feel pretty tight when you first go to put it on. In fact, it's definitely more work to get on than the RF-1100 or Hornet. The fit is very snug but not uncomfortable. I've never been certain what "race fit" is but I have to think the fit of the GT Air approaches it.
The result of the thicker cheek pads, padded liner, and padded chin curtain is a quieter helmet. I think it’s significantly more quiet than the RF-1100, especially at speeds below 55mph. At 60mph and higher, no helmet is quiet enough to wear without earplugs, IMO and the GT is no exception. Absent from this helmet however, is any whistling through the vents or a cracked open face shield.
Like my other Shoei's, I expect the GT Air to have a break-in period, eventually softening a bit and conforming more to my head. All in all, I’m extremely impressed and pleased with the GT. It’s a pricy helmet, but I think in this situation, you are getting what you are paying for: a high quality, safe, feature-packed helmet that works extremely well. And it looks great too.
‘08 DL650 V-Strom