The rule of thumb in motorcycle helmets is that you need to get a new one every 5 years. This is because the materials that protect you head break down over time and so the safety performance drops.
2008 Shoei TZ-R Helmet
I purchased a Shoei TZ-R in 2008 shortly after I purchased my Triumph Bonneville from Motor Cycle Center. At the time it seemed like a good quality helmet with some nice features for a reasonable price (comparatively!). It had a clear and a tinted visor that I could interchange, a breathe guard for winter and a chin mesh guard. It fit my head well and I wore it religiously over the 5 years, but its time was up!
I started doing research on new helmets and discovered that a lot of improvements had been made in the industry over the last 5 years!
- Lighter and stronger materials
- More streamlined aerodynamic shapes
- More built-in features
The features I was looking for included:
- Full face
- Medium size for oval shaped head
- Built-in sun visor
- Communication system compatible
- Excellent ventilation
- Good looks
2013 Helmet Options
I visited my motorcycle dealers, motorcycle gear stores, and did online research. Several models emerged for consideration. Quickly I realized I would need to spend over $600 to get all the features I wanted.
- Arai Corsair V = $600
- Bell Star Matte Carbon = $650
- Nolan N-85 = $225
- Shoei RF-1100 = $450
- Shoei GT-Air = $625
- Shoei X-Twelve = $600
2013 Shoei GT-Air Wanderer
In the end I liked the Shoei GT-Air best. It fit me well, had the features I wanted, is much lighter than my TZ-R and is a great looking helmet. It also has an emergency quick release system that enables removal of the helmet by emergency medical first responders, for decreased stress on the head and neck.
Bluetooth Helmet Communication System
I had also read great reviews about the UClear HBC 200 digital bluetooth helmet communication system. I purchased it for this helmet only to discover that the ear pieces would not fit into the Shoei ear mounting slots without some cutting and reshaping. I did not want to do this, so I returned it and purchased the Sena SMH10 bluetooth system, which fit perfectly.
Download: Sena SMH10 User Guide
Final Helmet and Communication Review
After riding for a week with this helmet and communication setup I have a few gripes.
I don’t understand why did Shoei not include the little lever on the TZ-R that allows you to crack open the visor just a little bit? I used that feature all the time and I really miss it! I also don’t know why they didn’t design the ear detents to accept all major helmet communication systems. That’s a problematic oversight. I really like not having to carry around sun glasses and so the built in sun visor is a great idea and works very well. I know there is a trade off between good ventilation inside the helmet and noise level. I like the ventilation, but feel the noise is still a bit too much. I have to wear ear protectors to get a good balance between noise and ventilation.
July 1, 2013 Update
This past weekend I rode from Chicago to Lima, Ohio and back again, and went through some pretty heavy rain. The GT-Air performed fairly well given the circumstances. However, I did get leaking of water around the visor, and through the air vents. Since we are talking about HEAVY rain I am OK with its performance as I doubt any helmet would keep out all rain. I also did not have the silicone treatment with me that Shoei provides for the rubber visor seal. My guess is that treating the rubber seal may have improved or prevented the leaking around the visor.
January 2, 3014 Update
I just noticed that Web Bike World gave this helmet their top rating for 2013. Read the article: “2013 Motorcycle Helmet of the Year: Shoei GT Air” I’m not surprised.