As you probably know, taking pictures on motorcycles is part of the job as a moto-journalist. Being the narcissistic type we are, we moto-reviewers typically like getting photos of ourselves on motorcycles as it’s our time to ham it up for the camera – pulling wheelies, dragging a knee, smoky burnouts, whatever the situation may present. The best time for photos, however, is a small window roughly 60 minutes before sunset (or roughly 60 minutes after sunrise if you’re an early bird), often called the “Golden Hour.”

While photos are often best lit during the Golden Hour, once that time passes it often means we’re stuck in the dark, wearing helmets with dark visors. And if there’s one thing we, the MO staff, are more than narcissistic, it’s lazy. Carrying around a clear shield for our helmets whenever we go on a shoot is annoying, then having to change it out in the dark once the sun goes down is even more so. Cue the angry groans from Tom if the shield changing mechanism is a PITA to operate.

An ideal touring helmet, the GT-Air is a worthy companion on almost any motorcycle – assuming you’re spending most of your time on pavement. Vents are easily accessible with gloved hands and they provide a decent amount of airflow.

An ideal touring helmet, the GT-Air is a worthy companion on almost any motorcycle – assuming you’re spending most of your time on pavement. Vents are easily accessible with gloved hands and they provide a decent amount of airflow.

Situations like this are why we’ve come to love helmets with integrated flip-down sun visors. Having both a dark and clear shield with you at all times, accessible with just the flip of a switch is a godsend. But not all lids with integrated visors are created equal. Shoei’s GT-Air, however, is how you do it right.

What Makes This So?

A comfortable helmet is a safe helmet, and the GT-Air is one of the most comfortable in my stable of lids. The neckroll is tight, but once through, the EPS liner and the removable, washable sweat-wicking interior material covering it practically conforms to the shape of my intermediate-oval head. It’s a tight fit, but a comfortably tight fit – just as it’s supposed to be. The cheek pads are thinner than the ones seen in other helmets, but it’s firm texture solidly cradles my cheeks right under the cheek bone. If you need a more tailored fit, Shoei also sells cheek pads and center pads that are either thinner or thicker than the stock unit. As a bonus, the pads already feature cut-outs for communicator speakers and grooves to accommodate those who wear glasses while riding. Install the enclosed chin curtain, and the interior of the GT-Air feels like a cocoon, separating you from the elements.

The neck roll fits snug – at least on my head – and prevents a considerable amount of air from coming in from underneath the helmet. Further wind blockage is achieved with the chin curtain, which is included with the helmet at time of purchase but not installed. Note also the emergency pull tabs, allowing medical personnel to easily remove the cheek pads and safely remove the helmet, if needed.

The neck roll fits snug – at least on my head – and prevents a considerable amount of air from coming in from underneath the helmet. Further wind blockage is achieved with the chin curtain, which is included with the helmet at time of purchase but not installed. Note also the emergency pull tabs, allowing medical personnel to easily remove the cheek pads and safely remove the helmet, if needed.

It’s a feeling that’s carried on once you’re moving, as virtually zero unwanted wind enters the helmet, not even through the faceshield, as it’s sealed securely. One of Shoei’s highlighted features of the GT-Air is how quiet it is – a trait I quickly picked up on despite the fact I wear earplugs no matter what helmet I’m wearing. It’s calm and pleasant inside the GT-Air, making it a great touring helmet for long-distance riders.

Another boon no matter how many miles you log is the GT’s ventilation system. A large chin vent, top vent, and rear vent are all easily operable by gloved hands and feature three positions: closed, half-open, and fully open. And unlike lesser lids, you can actually feel the airflow through the vents, thanks in part to the channels built into the EPS liner specifically to channel air. A slight quibble, if I may: it’s hard to tell when air is actually exiting the rear.

Staying on the topic of air flow, wind tunnel testing was performed for optimum aerodynamics, and looking at the side profile one will notice the integrated spoiler built into the shell design, which is said to reduce lift and drag. More than just a bullet point on a marketing brochure, however, the GT-Air really does slice through the air. There’s no undue strain on my neck from unwanted buffeting, even when riding unfaired naked bikes (even though the GT-Air is marketed as more of a touring helmet). The good vibes continue when the head is turned to the side – say, when looking over a shoulder for a lane change – as the GT-Air stays planted.

The GT-Air slices a smooth hole through the air even when you turn your head, which is especially convenient on bikes with minimal wind protection, like the Suzuki SV650.

The GT-Air slices a smooth hole through the air even when you turn your head, which is especially convenient on bikes with minimal wind protection, like the Suzuki SV650.

It’s taken this long to get to the build quality and construction of the GT-Air because, well, it’s a Shoei. There’s really nothing to worry about unless you’re one of those concerned the helmet “only” has D.O.T. approval. I’m not one of those people. The GT-Air is constructed from a proprietary five-ply matrix of fiberglass, organic fibers, and resin. In all, three shell sizes are used to accommodate its six helmet sizes (XS – XXL). Shoei says the helmet’s shape needs to be raised slightly to make room for the flip-down visor, but also says shell thickness remains uniform throughout, without compromising the EPS liner. Without having given the GT-Air the ultimate test of actually crashing in it, I’ll take the company at its word that safety hasn’t been compromised.

Now we come back to the faceshield to bring us full circle. The CNS-1 shield protects from 99% of UV rays, while easily snapping on or off via Shoei’s simple spring-loaded shield change mechanism. The eyeport is rather large, and the 3D injection molding helps to ensure distortion-free vision through the shield. Helping to prevent fogging on cold rides, the shield is equipped to accept the Pinlock Evo system. On the few cold rides we’ve had here in Southern California, the Pinlock works as advertised, giving a fog-free view ahead.

With the flip-down visor in action, riding in bright and sunny conditions isn’t a strain on the eyes. The visor comes down low enough as to not disturb the lower edge of your field of view. Once the sun starts to set, simply flip the switch and the visor retracts out of sight.

With the flip-down visor in action, riding in bright and sunny conditions isn’t a strain on the eyes. The visor comes down low enough as to not disturb the lower edge of your field of view. Once the sun starts to set, simply flip the switch and the visor retracts out of sight.

As for the dark smoke flip-down sun visor, a simple lever on the side of the left side of the helmet moves the shield up or down and is easy to find and operate with a gloved hand. Like the main shield, the drop-down unit also blocks 99% of UV rays and is distortion free. Best of all, however, is it negates the need for a dark tinted visor to wear during the day. Saving you also from having to find a way to carry a spare faceshield around all day.

Yeah, I Like It

What’s not to love about a well-fitting helmet with a flip-down visor, supreme comfort, a quiet interior, functional vents, and excellent aerodynamics? As you can tell, the Shoei GT-Air really impresses when it comes to all-day touring comfort. It’s got all the features you’d want from a helmet, with the fit to match – assuming you’re of the correct head shape.

Sure there are other helmets out there with a flip-down visor that will put a much smaller dent in your wallet, but the GT-Air exudes quality. What that means to you is a personal decision, but if your head type and wallet are in agreement, you won’t be disappointed.

Sure there are other helmets out there with a flip-down visor that will put a much smaller dent in your wallet, but the GT-Air exudes quality. What that means to you is a personal decision, but if your head type and wallet are in agreement, you won’t be disappointed.

Of course there is one thing not to love: the price. With prices starting at $549.99 for solid colors, the tag jumps to $671 for colorways like the Dauntless TC-1 pictured here. That’s a lot of coin for a helmet and only you can decide if the cost is worth it. However, if your dome is the right shape and you’re looking for the right lid to wear on your Iron Butt attempt, the GT-Air deserves to be in the conversation.

  • Born to Ride

    Bought myself the “anthracite” model GT Air when cycle gear was doing a promotion where they paid the sales tax on all Shoei and Arai helmets. Best helmet I’ve ever had by far. But it’s seen probably 50k miles over the past 2 and a half years and the liner/neck roll doesn’t block wind noise like it used to.

    • john phyyt

      I didn’t get the discount. But over 30 k miles. And best helmet ever. I am looking for another right now

  • Old MOron

    I know someone who used a helmet with an internal dark visor. I think it was a Schuberth. The internal visor broke her nose when she crashed her bike. I’ll take my helmets without this feature. Thank you.

    PS: Trizzle, great line about being even more lazy than narcissistic!

    • Born to Ride

      If your helmet is sized correctly, your face should never be able to come into contact with the internal visor. There is enough room for me to wear my glasses under the sun shield, pads not touching my nose, with room to spare. If my head hit something hard enough to shift the position of my face several inches with enough velocity to break my nose on a thin piece of flexible plastic, I think the nose would be the least of my problems.

      • Old MOron

        Actually, I think her wearing glasses under the shield was part of the problem. The shield impacted the glasses, and they broke her nose. I’m not telling anyone else what he should wear. Personally, I don’t care for the internal visors.

        • Ulysses Araujo

          Well, I understand paying for something you don’t need, but if the helmet fits you perfectly or something, isn’t it just a matter of always keeping the visor up? In my case it just fits me so wonderfully and is so quiet I’d pay for it even without using the visor.

      • DickRuble

        Depends on the size of your proboscis.

    • Alexander Pityuk

      I can confirm the comment below. Using GT-air myself i can’t imagine how it is possible to reach the sun visor with your nose. It would either require your forehead to penetrate an inch of liner and foam or, which is probably the case, to rotate the helmet hard, which can only happen if the size is wrong or if the neck strap is loose.

      • TroySiahaan

        Ultimately it comes down to the individual’s head shape. With the GT-Air, I don’t feel like the drop-down visor is dangerously close to my face.

    • Val Demort

      Right, Shuberth. Stay away form that

  • scott.

    Thank you for the review Troy. I’m due for a new helmet next year and am starting to pay more attention to reviews. After your comment on being “only” DOT approved, I decided to check the British SHARP rating for the GT Air and couldn’t help but notice that they rated it 3 stars vs 4 or 5 for most other Shoeis. The Qwest for example which is obviously older and cheaper, got 5. Just thought it may be noting here for someone who does take such things into account when trying to decide.

    • Born to Ride

      I remember reading an article where they used crash test dummies and tested a gamut of lids from various manufacturers. Some “snell” approved, others not. What they found was that the cheapest, non-snell helmets actually isolated the dummy from lower speed impacts (think 30-50mph) significantly better than the snell approved models while the inverse was true for high speed impacts like the anvil drop test. The upshot of the research was that racer helmets like the RF series have denser eps to meet the snell requirements that may actually not protect you well from your everyday run in with a minivan pulling out of a parking space.

  • Buzz

    So what head shape are you talking about?

    • TroySiahaan

      Intermediate oval.

      • Buzz

        I’m a long oval so the Arai Signet it is for me.

        • TroySiahaan

          Yep. Definitely makes sense in your case.

  • Tim Sawatzky

    After crash testing an RF-1100 I decided to go with the GT-Air next. It really is a quite and stable helmet. I like it a lot, but it doesn’t flow as much air as the RF-1100 did, and the drop down sun visor can fog up (and what’s up with the chin strap button being so high up?) I’m thinking of getting a tinted shield and using that instead of the drop down, but it’s just so convenient to have the drop down. Overall it’s a great helmet though. I just hope I don’t crash test this one too. I got the Wanderer graphic in white for more visibility.

    • TroySiahaan

      But getting a tinted visor defeats the purpose of the drop-down visor…

      That said, I loved my old RF1100.

      • Tim Sawatzky

        I know, but the drop-down doesn’t seem to come down far enough for me. I still get glare off my shiny bike underneath it.

        • Buzz

          I’ve had the same issue with other helmets with drop down visors.

      • Tinwoods

        But the drop-down visor is useless at speeds over 25 mph, unless you keep the outer shield down.

        • TroySiahaan

          I keep the outer shield down anyway, unless I’m at a stop or going really slow.

  • Alexander Pityuk

    I bought Gt-air as my first helmet and couldn’t be any happier. I’m a bit scared of the day when i will eventually have to change it – will be hard to find a worthy replacement.
    Oh, and i got another one for my wife on sale. Cost me 336 euro (approx 370 usd at the moment). Can’t remember the price for mine.

  • Mikael Jansson

    Built-in support for the SENA 10U, so you don’t need a bulky intercom on the outside of the helmet.

  • Johnny Blue

    I’d have to disagree with the good rating this helmet gets. It’s not bad, but for the money it costs it should be flawless.
    The fit is great for me, it looks great and in general it does the job. But:
    -With the pinlock installed the visual field is much narrower
    -The pinlock visor, once installed it’s better left on. Otherwise it won’t seal that well anymore and it will fog quickly. And what’s worse is that it fogs in between the pinlock and the shield and can’t be wiped easily.
    -The pinlock is not scratch resistant. It scratches quite easily.
    -The sun shield is also not scratch resistant and it’s also hard to clean. And it fogs in a matter of seconds in the ‘right’ conditions.
    I don’t know in what kind of weather you guys ride, but in the Netherlands there’s a lot of rain and while I do ride year around, sometimes it’s even below freezing, so the fogging is a problem.
    -I never figured out the upper rear vent. In either position it seems to have no influence on the air flow.
    -It’s hard to keep it slightly open. Like 1mm gap at the base of the shield.
    -And it’s not all that quiet. Mine has a slight whistle around 70mph.

    I’ll happily try a different brand when this will need replacing. I have it since mid 2014 and it’s still in good shape, but I expected much better from the brand and for the price.

    • Born to Ride

      Try cleaning the rubber gasket that face shield when it’s closed and make sure that when you close it the shield actually locks into place in the left under the lip. Mine will whistle if either of those two things is overlooked.

      • Johnny Blue

        Thanks. I keep it pretty clean. And it did the same when it was brand new. I didn’t pay attention if it’s completely locked when whistling, but I think it does it because of the gaps in between the shield and the helmet on either side at the mechanisms. It’s designed with those side gaps.

        • TroySiahaan

          You can adjust the screws on the side plates to remove the gaps and keep the visor sealed. They should already be adjusted, but sometimes a helmet will slip through the cracks before being sent out.

          • Johnny Blue

            Thanks Troy. I know that the pins from the pinlock visor can be adjusted (the dealership near by is a Shoei authorized repair shop too and they adjusted my pinlock visor twice already), but I’ll pay a closer look at the side mechanisms too.

      • Ryan McDonald

        good call. My Qwest had a whistle for a while, then I rode through a downpour and water leaked in from the top. I had to loosen the screws for the mechanism plates and moved them around until the visor sealed ALL the way round – like it should have straight out of the box! No more whistle. Infinitely more enjoyable in the helmet!
        No doubt some helmets slip through the Quality Control net

  • Andy C

    I got my GT-Air over 2 years ago. I commute to work 5 days a week, so it’s nice to not have to remember to bring non-polarized sunglasses. The Pinlock system works well for me, even at night, when I just have to keep my head tilted slightly down to avoid seeing double vision headlights.
    See the online video for proper Pinlock cleaning instructions.
    My head would never fit in the helmet if the chin curtain were in it. Do you have a secret way to fit it on while wearing the helmet? It makes a difference in noise levels. That’s got me thinking about switching up to Shoei’s modular helmet next year. My helmet’s seeing a bit of wear already in the black vinyl on the bottom.
    I saved about $100 on mine at the IMS bike show. Only place I’d buy another one.

  • Tinwoods

    Worst helmet (of the 20 or so I’ve owned in 35 years of daily riding). Why? That gimmicky and useless pull-down shield that only works if you also have the outer shield down. But leave the outer shield up, and any speed over 25 mph causes the wind to angle up between the inner visor and the chin part of the helmet shell. And that wind blast is, at best, extremely irritating and, at worst, blinding. Wish I had just gone with the less expensive RF1200 or another Arai, but there was no way to test this phenomenon standing in the dealership’s showroom and looking in a mirror.

    • Born to Ride

      The sun shield is exactly that, a sun shield. The outer visor is the only shield intended to block highway wind blast. If you bought the helmet under the assumption that both shields would perform that function, were were misinformed. Remember you can always ride with it up and the outer visor down, just like you would in an RF1200.

  • Gee S

    Features are great.

    But.

    I’m enough of a safety geek that before I buy any helmet, I go to the web site run by the UK Government — https://sharp.dft.gov.uk/content/sharp-testing — and check to see how the helmet performed in their impact testing scheme.
    When I compare the results of the GT-Air to say, a Shoei Qwest, the Quest dramatically outperforms the GT-Air in side impact protection.
    If you think about this for a second, it isn’t really a shock. To fit all of the mechanism to operate the sun shield inside the helmet, something else had to be removed, and that something was the protective EPS liner.
    So if you’re ok trading protection for convenience, go right ahead and pay double for one of these lids.
    I’m not.
    I’ll stick with my Qwest and some sunglasses.

  • Greg Reed

    I’ve owned my GT-Air for two years now (really like it) and am now noticing significant wind noise on the left side (and I always ride with ear plugs) that seems to be caused by turbulence. I don’t have that same wind noise on right side. I can shrug my shoulder when riding and the wind noise goes away. Makes me think the neck roll isn’t tight enough on the left side, or perhaps the buckle is causing turbulence/noise. Couple of
    questions: 1) has anyone had this problem and if so were you able fix it? 2) Is it time possible for new (and maybe smaller) cheek pads that would give me a tighter neck roll? 3) Any other suggestions?

    • TroySiahaan

      Before buying anything, try adjusting the screws on the sideplate that hold the visor to make sure the visor has a nice seal against the eyeport. Over time, they could get loose and/or out of adjustment. If that doesn’t do the trick, then maybe look at a new set of pads. Good luck!