Shoei Crash Helmets: Driven By Passion, Focused on Precision
Everyone knows Shoei.
Even if you’ve never bought one, you recognise the name. When it comes to premium crash helmets, ‘Shoeis’ are undeniably among the world’s finest. They’ve been building a reputation for excellence for over half a century.
From modest beginnings they’ve developed an extensive range. Something for every rider. They’re stylish. They’re innovative. Unrivaled levels of comfort and safety have been developed. They’ve been proven in the toughest environments of all – MotoGP and the fearsome Dakar Rally.
Yet what do we know about Shoei themselves? And what does their current range offer the modern rider? We decided to take a detailed look at the company and its products.
Make One Thing, Make It The Best
Shoei began life as the rather uninspiring Kamata Polyester Company, in Tokyo, in 1954. Among other things, they made safety helmets for the building industry.
It wasn’t long before motorcycle crash helmets became the focus, and in 1958 their founder, Eitaro Kamata, created Shoei. Initially, Shoei made crash helmets solely for racing. The exceptional construction standards were soon noticed by motorcycling public. Models for road riders were introduced.
Honda’s original helmets were Shoei crash helmets, rebranded
Shoei’s reputation spread quickly. Ordinary motorcyclists weren’t the only ones picking up on the outstanding safety and comfort of the range. In 1965 the brand was adopted by Honda, to supply “genuine” Honda crash helmets.
That could have been the start of a familiar story: small, but successful Japanese company expands business through licensing deals, and soon has manufacturing facilities in the US and Europe, a range of clothing, et cetera, et cetera.
It’s not the Shoei way. From the outset, Eitaro Kamata concentrated on developing one product, and making sure it was exceptional. Shoei didn’t set out to compete with the ever-increasing number of budget helmet brands. The company name is “Shoei Premium Helmets” for a reason. A product built to be the best, without compromise. It was true in in 1958, it still is today.
8 Shoei Crash Helmet designs you need to know
Shoei Neotec 2: The class-leading touring flip-front helmet »
Shoei GT-Air: The full-face touring helmet to complement the Neotec 2 »
Shoei Hornet: The original dual-sport adventure helmet »
Shoei J-O: The retro open-face helmet for urban riding »
Shoei J-Cruise: A traditional urban scooter helmet »
Shoei RYD: A full-face road helmet for urban riding »
Shoei NXR: An uncompromising full-face road helmet in great graphics »
Shoei X-Spirit 3: The class-leading full-face track racing helmet »
Spirit, Ambition and Attention To Detail
That heading explains, in one simple phrase, what drives the staff at Shoei. Every part of every single Shoei helmet for sale is still made in Japan, in Shoei’s own factory. A remarkable feat when you consider that they only employ around 500 people.
It’s worth underlining that fact, because it typifies the Shoei philosophy. Shoei believe, quite rightly, that if you don’t make a part yourself, you can’t control how well it is made. So they make every single component themselves. That way, they know it’s right. That way, on the rare occasions where there is a manufacturing glitch, it’s quickly identified and rectified.
It’s why Shoei crash helmets never break.
They could increase production by outsourcing. They could reduce costs by having helmets made under license somewhere else. But then they wouldn’t have the control that ensures every helmet that leaves the factory is as good a product as it’s possible to make.
Crafting The Perfect Shell
Right from very beginning Shoei have used their own combination of organic fibres, fibreglass and resin to create a unique Fibre Reinforced Polymer. With it, they create an Advanced Integrated Matrix (AIM). It ensures the absolute integrity of the helmet shell, while allowing a carefully controlled degree of impact-absorbing flex.
The structure of each helmet is hand-laid by an individual, highly-skilled craftsperson. It’s another sign of Shoei’s commitment to excellence. Each shell is signed by the person who made it.
Openings for visor and ventilation are then cut by laser, which ensures absolute precision. The shell is then weighed, and the thickness checked. Parameters are tight. There is no ‘nearly’ with a Shoei helmet. It’s either right, or it goes no further.
Getting the paintwork right
An equally high level of precision is applied when it comes to painting the helmet. Each one goes through numerous stages of priming, sanding, polishing and varnishing. It’s another process done by hand, in the Shoei factory. Modern polyurethanes are extremely tough, but unforgiving to work with. This isn’t just another paint job, it’s a multi-stage process carried out by highly-trained specialists.
The result is flawless, and is one of the strongest, lightest and precisely engineered helmet shells in the world.
Absolute Safety, Comfort Like It Isn’t There
Whether it’s the shell of classic retro J-O open face, or the world’s most advanced flip-up helmet, the Neotec II, the attention to detail continues.
The quick-dry EPS liner in a Shoei helmet plays a vital part in cushioning and protecting the rider. This isn’t just foam padding, it’s a multi-density enclosure, with specific areas designed to absorb and disperse impact forces.
In combination with the shell, it also forms an integral part of ventilation systems – a feature tested and perfected in Shoei’s own wind tunnels.
And the visor?
Another Shoei original, of course. They are 3D injection moulded for perfect fit and flawless optical clarity. They’re then tested to ensure compliance with both DOT and Snell safety standards. They reduce the harmful effects of UV ray penetration by 99%. Coatings allow water to bead, and slide off the surface more easily. Quick-release full-face shields incorporate a sprung base plate. It pulls the shield back against the beading, completing a highly effective sound-reducing and waterproof seal – without the need for additional covers.
Even the chin strap and closure are Shoei. No component is too small to come under their scrutiny.
Whether you’re riding across the desert, or across town, a Shoei Premium Helmet is designed to deliver optimum protection. Each component is inter-related, giving the rider maximum protection without loss of comfort and visibility.
Shoei call it “Active Safety.”
Their ambition is to create a helmet that performs as intended in a worse-case-scenario, but that fits so well that that it never distracts the rider. It allows the motorcyclists to remain completely aware of their surroundings, at all times, in all conditions.
In their own words, “to merge with nature”.
Shoei Crash Helmets: The Advantages of a Great Brand & its History
- One of the first helmet manufacturers to introduce carbon fiber, way back in the 1970s.
- First helmet manufacturer to incorporate Kevlar.
- First dual-liner ventilation system offering advanced cooling without additional weight.
- MCN Product of the Year Award Winner.
- Unique, hand-crafted FRP shell. Stronger and lighter than injection-moulded plastic alternatives.
- Optimised aerodynamics reduce drag and wind noise.
- Visors for all light conditions, including photochromatic.
- Total manufacturing control guarantees exceptional production standards.
- Shoei Rider Link (SRL) delivers advanced integrated audio communications.
- Racing continues to be an important part of the development process. Multiple GP1 World Champion Marc Marquez and top Brit Bradley Smith are among several riders working with Shoei. Matthias Walkner wore Shoei to Dakar 2018 success.
The GetGeared Factor
As the UK’s leading motorcycle clothing retailer, the GetGeared team probably have a better overview of the crash helmet market than anyone. We see dozens of brands, and hundreds of models. We know exactly what makes them tick.
We’ve long been big fans of Shoei. Their constructions standards have always been superb. Attention to detail is staggering. Looking for a fault in a Shoei crash helmet is an exercise in futility!
If there’s been a criticizm of Shoei in the past, it was that although they were technically excellent, designs didn’t exactly get the blood pounding. Go back a few years and pretty much every Shoei review said the same.
That “nice but dull” tag is now a thing of the past. The current range of Shoei helmets stocked by GetGeared shows not just cutting-edge protection and comfort, but outstanding style. Shoei UK demonstrate a tremendous understanding of what the modern motorcyclists is looking for.
Shoei Open Face Crash Helmets
The RJ may be an entry-level Shoei open face helmet, but that doesn’t mean there are compromises. It shares the same multi-layered composite shell structure as the rest of the range. Glance at the exterior and you’ll see this is no ordinary open face. Subtle changes in shape show that aerodynamics are an integral part of the style. It’s vented too, for extra comfort.
The classic J-O has been around a while, but when something is right you don’t need to keep changing it. Evolution is the case here, with a clever three-poistion visor that delivers improved vision without detracting from the retro style.
Scooter owners will love the J-Cruise. There are unrivaled levels of protection, plus venting to keep you cool. A full face shield offer great visual clarity, and an integrated sun visor offers style and safety if light conditions change suddenly. It’s intercom-ready too.
Shoei Off-Road / Adventure Crash Helmet
While primarily a manufacturer of road and race helmets, Shoei haven’t forgotten the adventure rider. The Hornet ADV features the same virtually bullet-proof Advanced Integrated Matrix as the top road and race helmets. It also has features specific to the off-road rider. The aerodynamic peak and rear spoiler increase stability. Twin-stream ventilation cools and prevents visor fogging. The unique E.Q.R.S. (Emergency Quick Release System), offers ultra-fast helmet removal, bringing a new level of safety to situations that might otherwise prove extremely difficult.
The Hornet ADV adventure helmet is intercom-ready, as you might expect. If you choose not to fit one, Shoei provide ear pads instead, so comfort and noise management are unaffected.
Shoei Full Face Crash Helmets
Shoei offer a variety of road and race helmets so each rider can pick the features and benefits that suit them. It’s not quite like having a bespoke crash helmet made for you, but it’s close!
The GT Air is the revolutionary touring helmet built to respond to customer demands. Less radical than road race styling perhaps, but no less effective. The multi-layered AIM shell has aerodynamics specific to the kind of motorcyclist who puts hundreds of miles a day on their bike. It’s designed for long term comfort. Ventilation copes with varying conditions with ease. Clever shell modification allows for an integrated sun visor, easily operated, even with a gloved hand. Like all Shoei full face helmets, EQRS is incorporated.
The NXR is the ultimate road helmet, having recently undergone a series of improvements. It’s just as strong, of course, but now it’s lighter so there’s less fatigue under acceleration and breaking. It’s slimmer so it sheds air flow more easily, allowing for faster direction changes. The visor system creates less wind noise. Optimised ventilation will keep your head cool on the hottest day!
The X-Spirit III is the pinnacle of race-focused development. This is the ultimate on-track protection. Light and immensely strong, it targets maximum performance – from the tucked chin bar to the aerodynamically advanced rear spoiler. This is the one the professionals choose.
Lastly we come to the Neotech 2, a truly awesome piece of helmet engineering.
A flip-up helmet is a difficult thing to make – there’s an inherent weakness in the pivot. Yet unlike many rivals, the Shoei flip-up helmet is both p & j approved. In other words, structural integrity is such that it’s road legal with the visor section up, as well as down.
Incredible strength is combined with maximum flexibility for the rider. Aerodynamics and ventilation have been redesigned for high performance in either mode. As we’ve come to expect from Shoei, each component is made to extremely exacting standards. The pivot lock is stainless steel – a metal that’s immensely strong, and never rusts.
Then there’s provision for SENA’s ground-breaking communication system, the Shoei Rider Link (SRL). It’s not a bolt-on, or an afterthought, it’s an intercom that integrates within the helmet, designed to be a fully functional part of it. Another first for Shoei.
The Shoei Difference
At GetGeared we sell a lot of crash helmets, and inevitably the Shoei helmets price comes into question. To be fair, if you’re buying on a budget there are some excellent choices available, but a Shoei is not one of them.
Shoei make their crash helmets to a particular standard, and along with the premium name goes a premium price tag. They are not expensive, but this level of engineering – this attention to detail – has a cost.
For some it may be too much. For others it’s simply a figure that has to be exchanged in order to acquire the very best. Make no mistake, very few crash helmets in the world are a match for a Shoei. They offer exceptional quality, superb comfort, and flawless functionality.
But, don’t take our word for it. We’re told that Marc Marquez has just signed to wear a Shoei helmet for another two seasons. As world champion, he has never worn anything else.