The best way to demonstrate the features and benefits of Shoei’s raciest new helmet, the X-Fourteen, is at speed on a racetrack. So, while East coast residents were trying to avoid snow-shoveling-induced heart attacks, those of us residing on the West end were enjoying perfect trackday weather at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. There were some rumblings that the long, banked, NASCAR straight at Auto Club Speedway would have been a better venue for high-speed, aerodynamic testing of the X-Fourteen, but besides that long, banked straight, the Fontucky track sucks.
During the X-Fourteen presentation, Shoei’s Matthias Beier did mention that MotoGP trap speeds have increased by an average of 15 mph, and the X-Fourteen was designed to compensate for the speed increase by reducing helmet lift, drag and buffeting by 3%, 10% and 50%, respectively, compared to the X-Twelve. So, yeah, 180 mph aboard a Gixxer Thou at Fontucky may have better confirmed these claims or revealed a flaw compared to the 130 mph the Gixxer 600 was reaching on Chuckwalla’s back straight, but at this speed and slower ones, in perfect weather conditions, I can honestly report that the X-Fourteen would make an excellent candidate for every racer’s or trackday enthusiast’s kit list. Either way, it’s not the 217.8 mph Marc Marquez reached in Qatar.
From behind the protection provided by the Gixxer’s aerodynamic fairing or the full frontal windblast while piloting a Chuck Graves-prepped FZ-07 and FZ-09, the X-Fourteen exuded the performance you’d expect of a lid that’s been developed from input by one of the fastest racers to ever throw a leg over a MotoGP bike. The X-Fourteen feels like an extension of your skull, the lift or buffeting you might experience with a more streetable helmet just doesn’t exist.
A key new feature of the X-Fourteen is customization; some of which is measurable, another questionable. Within the X-Fourteen resides Shoei’s removable, washable, replaceable and adjustable 3D Max-Dry Custom Interior System. In addition to the optional cheek pads with varying thicknesses, the helmet’s center pad is now also available with different thicknesses that can be ordered separately or as a package (see image below). This provides a new level of interior comfort customization for all those differently shaped noggins out there.
Another customization feature of the X-Fourteen is the liner’s patent-pending rotation abilities. By repositioning two snaps at the bottom rear of the helmet’s center pad, and two snaps on each cheek pad, the X-Fourteen’s liner provides four degrees of increased upper field vision. The adjustment takes mere minutes because removal of the entire center pad or cheek pads is unnecessary. As the X-Fourteen is intended to be a race helmet and therefore already fits as one, the adjustment itself may be unnecessary, but doing so does provide motorcyclists who spend their entire time aboard a motorcycle in the tuck position a slightly increased upward field of view.
The rotational liner is a direct result of a request from Marquez to increase the field of vision when wearing the helmet in attack mode. Marquez also provided aerodynamic feedback as well as assistance in determining the compromise between the roominess and aerodynamic performance in the chin area of the helmet.
The third, and more dubious, customizing attribute is on the rear exterior of the X-Fourteen. We’re not questioning that the rear stabilizer helps in creating the X-Fourteen’s rock solid stability during high speeds, but the claim that optional, narrower flaps “help fine-tune resistance and aerodynamic performance depending on rider preference and track demands,” makes us cringe and ask, really? Will the difference in length of the two flaps benefit the average rider/racer by reducing his or her lap times? Do they reduce Marquez’s? We’re gonna need some empirical proof before we drink this Kool-Aid claim.
The X-Fourteen boasts some new air venting, the most innovative of which is the cheek pad cooling system. A secondary chin air intake, below the main chin air intake, routes air through channels in the EPS liner to corresponding air holes located at various points in the cheek pad foam. Brilliant! The entire venting system is designed to function optimally in a chin down, tuck position.
Shoei says that ventilation performance is given more emphasis than quieting wind noise, because, well, it’s a racing helmet, not a touring lid. I lapped a couple sessions at Chuckwalla sans earplugs and my impression is that the X-Fourteen is not significantly louder than other helmets. I heard some interesting noises when hanging off the bike and looking through the corner, probably a result of the stabilizers working against a cross-flow of wind, but nothing I would consider deafening. I don’t, however, recommend not wearing earplugs in a track environment or, for that matter, any fast motorcycle environment.
Shoei claims the X-Fourteen is fractionally lighter than the X-Twelve it’s replacing. On our scales the size Medium X-Fourteen weighed in at 3.5 pounds. The Shoei X-Fourteen comes in three solid colors: White or Black for $681.99, and Matte Black for $692.99. There are three graphics versions, Assail TC-1, TC-2, TC-3 for $807.99, and a Marquez 4 TC-1 and Bradley (Smith?) 3 TC-1 for $839.99. The X-Fourteen will be available this Spring. Considering the helmet’s innovation, features, and comfort for a retail price well below its competitors it’s a track helmet that racers or serious trackday enthusiasts would be remiss to ignore.
For more info on the X-Fourteen go to Shoei-Helmets.com.