by Thomas Day
Being the terrible person I am, new car smell does nothing other than warn me of possible toxic plastic out-gassing. I’ve only owned one new car in my life and it provided a financial beating that I will never forget or forgive. However, the smell of a new helmet is one of my three all-time favorite scents (along with 2-stroke Castrol bean oil in the morning and fresh-out-of-the-box Ampex 456 analog tape anytime). Nobody makes a better smelling new helmet than Shoei.
When the MSF organization provided an opportunity to snag a brand new top-of-the-line Shoei X-Twelve full face helmet for the price of a throw-away brand, I barely thought twice before ordering what would be the fourth full face helmet dangling from my helmet storage shelf. Yeah, I know, that’s bordering on compulsive. My other two street helmets are from HJC: a CL-15 and an FS-10. My last Shoei was an X11 that died on the Dempster Highway in the Yukon after doing a great job of protecting my face from massive damage. I was tempted from replacing it with another Shoei by the incredibly high list price facing me at a Seattle shop in 2007. My first HJC, the CL-15, was such a comfortable surprise that it was followed by the FS-10 which includes a slightly downgraded ventilation system but an integral sunshield and a lot of high priced features for low bucks. If the MSF deal hadn’t come along, I would still be satisfied with my two HJC’s for the things those helmets do well.
The MSF deal did come along, however, and I was tempted back to the high priced spread ($640 MSRP in six plain colors from white to “matte black”). If you are a graphics aficionado, you can spend as much as $840 MSRP for one of Shoei’s 13 razzoo graphic designs. Personally, I wear white unless a high viz color is available. Shoei is notably disinterested in the high visibility market, so white it is.
The first thing I noticed about my new lid was that it is extremely lightweight. The second was the dramatic “Aero Edge 2” spoiler. Being a skeptic, I suspected this was more marketing and less aerodynamics, but I was wrong. This is the most stable helmet I’ve ever worn. On the WR250X without shield or fairing protection, there was less turbulence at 70mph than the HJC’s provide at 30mph. The helmet is considerably quieter than I’m used to, also. Turning my head to check traffic while at speed produces a barely noticeable change in wind pressure and a slight noise increase. The Suzuki V-Strom’s shield is a notorious producer of helmet buffeting, but it both the noise and the physical aggravation from the windshield were unnoticeable inside the X-Twelve. The shape works.
One of the X-12’s claims-to-fame is the ventilation and that is no BS. On a 90oF afternoon, I was as comfortable under the Shoei as i was away from the bike with the helmet off. I could clearly feel a controlled breeze all over my face and head. The new CW-1 shield is “wider and taller” than the X-11’s CX-1V shield and the 8-position quick-release base plate system allows for more shield position options than I could ask for. In itself, that is a terrific improvement over what I’ve grown used to on my HJC helmets. The X-12’s shield seals up as tight as a car interior when you button it down in a rain storm.
Protection-wise, the Snell2010-approved fiberglass shell is supposedly “so strong that can only be cut with a laser.” Shoei’s new Emergency Quick Release System releases the cheek pads to allow the helmet to be removed with minimum movement of your head by emergency medical personnel. The inner dual-layer EPS liner provides impact absorption throughout the helmet’s interior. Shoei has stuck with the traditional strap buckle retention system, which works and probably doesn’t need improvement.
Comfort-wise, the X-Twelve comes in five sizes, XS-XXL. The helmet is lined with a a 5-piece removable, washable, and replaceable Max Dry interior to keep you dry, clean, and comfortable. For those of us who ride when Minnesota turns cold, the chin curtain and breath guard extend our riding season by a couple of months every year. Shoei’s five year warranty adds a certain kind of comfort, too.
Here’s the question I think you want answered, “Is the X-Twelve worth nearly three-quarters of a grand?” The answer is, “You got me, dude. Seriously.”
I was perfectly satisfied with my $200 HJC until the MSF instructor deal came along. I’m really happy to have the Shoei’s comfort and protection added to my bike-wear options, but I don’t know how you gauge a helmet’s value beyond actual protection. I know riders who have put the test to both brands’ products and survived to tell the story; and those stories are really exciting. Helmets are probably the most personal purchase a motorcyclist makes. You can use the “buy a $100 helmet if you have a $100 head” rationale for spending big bucks or you can believe that standardized helmet testing produces consistently safe helmets. DOT, Snell, JIS, ECE, BSI, and the rest of the the world’s testing agencies have tested and stamped pretty much every decent brand of helmet made, if private and public approval testing trips your trigger. Since I didn’t have to make the decision on an economic basis, I have no honest way to tell you what to do.
The fact is, the X-Twelve is a terrific helmet and I have nothing bad to say about it. If you know me, you know that is a pretty solid endorsement.!