Gear Review – Shoei GT-Air II

In Guest Writers, Reviews by Tim HuberLeave a Comment

The new Shoei GT Air 2 is an all-rounder, full-faced sport-touring helmet with some nifty integrated tech capability. Essentially it’s a lot like a non-modular version of the Neotec 2 with a little more X-14 influence. Shoei took what the public liked about the GT Air 1 and ran with it.

Gear Review – Shoei GT-Air II
Review by Tim Huber
Photos by Tim Huber and Shoei

The first version of the GT Air was released back in 2013, and after the success the model experienced over the last six-years, the Japanese helmet outfit has opted to introduce a new, updated version of its fan-favorite sport-touring lid — this time partnering with Sena to deliver a communication system tailor-made for the second GT Air.

“Form & Function Redefined”

Despite the GT Air 1 and 2 models looking very similar, there’re actually quite a few differences hiding beneath the surface. For starters; the dropdown sun visor has been extended 0.2” (5mm), which might not sound like much, but when it’s right up against your face the difference is pretty noticeable.

Like the rest of Shoei’s lids, the new GT Air was developed using the company’s wind tunnel, ensuring a low and slippery drag coefficient. The overall shape isn’t that different from the first GT Air’s, though a Shoei representative assured me the 2 has a more aerodynamic design than its predecessor.

Airflow & Ventilation

Ventilation has been increased quite a bit thanks to two more passive exhaust vents, a more pronounced spoiler on the chinbar, and a new bottom lip that helps to minimize wind noise despite the additional airflow. The same stellar beading and seal found on Shoei’s flagship X-Fourteen model has been implemented on the GT-Air II.

The GT-Air II also has what Shoei calls “first position”, which means the visor can hold a position while cracked open about 0.25”, allowing more air to pass through and preventing fogging whilst stopped, such as at a red light. This is a feature on my AGV Corsa, and as someone who spends a good deal of time in traffic, I can say it really is pretty handy. Unlike the AGV, the Shoei doesn’t technically lock into place, there’s just enough resistance to remain in position even while on the freeway (that may change as it gets increasingly broken in).

The gap of “First Position”

Safety Features

The GT Air 2 maintains the first model’s “intermediate oval” head shape and is still offered in three shell sizes, though its manufacturer says it now offers a more relaxed fit. The helmet uses Shoei’s AIM (Advanced Integrated Matrix) shell that has multiple layers using different densities enabling the helmet to protect your melon through a wide range of impacts.

On top of emergency quick-release padding, the GT Air II also boasts a stainless steel “micro-ratchet” chinstrap. Though it adds a tiny bit of weight compared to the classic double-D ring system, a couple grams here or there really don’t matter on a non-race/track-oriented helmet. Personally I prefer the ratchet system to the D-rings as it’s easier to use while wearing gloves than the double-D rings, and it has a quality feel to it. It ratchets super smoothly and just feels more modern and refined than the same D-rings that have been coming on helmets for decades.

Despite the new features, Shoei says the GT Air II tips the scales at the same weight as the first model. While most helmets feel fairly heavy to me after wearing my sub-3lb AGV Corsa for so long, the GT Air II — despite boasting the communications and sun visor – is actually pretty light — granted that’s something of a must for touring helmets. The exact weights are:

XS: 3.116 pounds
S: 3.605 pounds
M: 3.635 pounds
L: 3.757 pounds
XL: 3.915 pounds
XXL: 3.864 pounds

A Premium Helmet

The liner on the helmet is pretty comfy, and feels plush and premium. When you slip your dome into the thing, it truly feels like you’re wearing a grand’s worth of helmet. There’s a really major difference in overall fit and finish in contrast to the lesser-expensive lids I own from outfits like Speed and Strength and Scorpion. Having attended the press launch, I had a chance to check out the entire range of paint and color options for the second GT Air, and I can safely say the quality of the paint (and fit and finish throughout) is pretty spot-on.

Speaking of paint and color options, the GT Air 2, as per usual, is being released in a range of solid colors as well as a few new designs. One lid livery that may look familiar however, is what Shoei’s calling the GT Air 2 “Redux”, which is essentially just the GT Air 1’s “Wanderer” design — the one’s most popular design — with the offset stripe now on the opposite side.

The Tech

Easily the most noteworthy highlight of the new GT Air 2 is its communication system. Designed specifically (and exclusively) to fit the GT Air II, the Sena SRL2 system fits perfectly into recesses and cavities inside the helmet while on the outside, a small triangular piece can be removed, making room for the SRL2’s external button control unit. The system sits nearly flush with the helmet’s chinbar, and unlike traditional moto comm. systems, the GT Air 2’s unit affords all the perks and benefits of helmet Bluetooth connectivity without the awkward, unattractive, and bulky devices stuck on the side of a helmet.

The comm system’s design and implementation into the helmet was clearly very thoroughly considered by the labcoats at Shoei HQ, and it shows. Inside the chinbar there are channeled cutouts for the microphone and its wiring, and little foam ear pads can be removed to make space for the headphones/speakers that, like the rest of the system, perfectly and squarely drop into place. If you didn’t know they were sold separately, the SRL2 and GT Air 2 could very much pass as a single factory offering, and a pretty slick one at that. On the back of the neck opening is another cover that can be popped off, allowing the comm system’s lithium ion battery unit to be housed.

The SRL2 is Sena’s latest ware offering Bluetooth 4.1 technology in a compact, unibody design. The SRL2 intercom offers up to a one-mile-range (in open terrain), eight-way (eight rider) compatibility, voice-control capability, built-in FM tuner, music sharing (between rider and passenger), and the ability to work with non-Sena units. The SRL2 is controlled via a trio of buttons, which are easy to use even when wearing gloves. Charging is performed via a micro USB port in the back of the neck opening, and when fully juiced up, the system is good for up to ten-hours of talk time (around the same as the real-world amount for the latest iPhone X).

My Newfound Appreciation for Comms

Personally, I’ve always been opposed to using comm systems while riding, believing that it’s best to be fully focused on (and able to hear) your surrounds, plus, the idea of slapping a bulky device onto a helmet that’s been designed and shaped specifically to absorb impact is a bit concerning to me. Testing the GT Air 2 however obviously meant I’d have to, at least temporarily, put my personal feelings aside and give the thing an honest go. And, I’m genuinely glad I did, as it’s massively changed my riding experience.

I no longer have to wonder who is calling, no more pulling over to recheck GPS directions, and best of all, I’ve really enjoyed adding a soundtrack to when I split lanes. I placed several phone calls to test the sound quality and clarity when riding, and not only could I clearly hear the person on the other end of the horn, but they could readily understand what I was saying without me having to shout over wind noise, even when on the freeway.

Gripes & Complaints

Overall, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed riding with the GT Air 2. Having said that, I did have a few very minor issues. Removing the visor (to install the pinlock which comes with the helmet) was difficult, and I kept worrying that I was going to break and/or snap something while removing the visor. And, though it’s a very minor gripe, it’d be cool to see the GT Air 2 get SNELL certification in addition to its DOT certificate, but that’s not really feasible with the internal sun visor. I’d also liked to see more variety in color design options as I feel like the ones on offer don’t have much range, though that’s obviously a very subjective matter.

The panels that pop off to make room for the SRL2 unit feel cheap and plasticy, and while this isn’t an issue if you install the comm. system that replaces them, it is still unfortunate that a $700 helmet has a few cheap areas (made all the more apparent by the high quality everywhere else). I will say, I expected to notice additional gripes or flaws over the first couple weeks of use, but I can honestly say I came up empty-handed there. I’m also a little confused as to why the side opposite the comm system has the same little triangular piece, despite it not serving a purpose beyond making the design more symmetrical, granted I suspect this was done to make production easier and/or cheaper.

Final Thoughts + Pricing

Ultimately, if you don’t care about utilizing a communication system or having the latest and greatest gear available, then I’d probably recommend copping the original GT Air as the GT Air 2’s biggest selling point is arguably the SRL2’s integration (and the GT Air 1 is a great helmet). At $1,000 for everything (the $699 helmet and $299 comm), you’re definitely paying a premium to have Sena inside of your helmet. With integrated smart tech increasingly permeating every aspect of motorcycling, I would assume these integrated tech offerings will start appearing more and more in the immediate future.

Pricing starts at $599 for solid colors, then jumps to $699 for the designs. It’s also important to note that the Sena SRL2 unit does NOT come with the helmet, and must be purchased separately for an additional $299. Sizing runs from XS up to XXL. Lastly, Shoei also offers a five-year warranty on the GT Air 2, which is great considering helmets should be replaced, at the very least, once every half-decade or so.

Check out the Shoei GT-Air II!
If you have any specific questions you can fire ‘em off in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.