Motorcycle.com

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.