Fresh Air: New Shoei GT-Air II Helmet Preview

I returned from Los Angeles, or rather Costa Mesa by way of Alhambra, late Friday night, rockin’ and rollin’ up El Cinco in the inky midnight darkness like one of the gear-jamming truckers so many country songs have been written about. As usual, there was a bike in the back of the truck, but riding shotgun was a white and blue Shoei carton with a smaller, black Sena box on top. In these boxes: the latest iteration of Shoei’s full-face GT-Air II helmet, and Sena’s new GT-Air II-specific SRL2 intercom.

I’d spent Friday afternoon at the office of The Medium, Shoei’s marketing agency, first jaw-jacking with members of the moto-media and enjoying food truck chow in the agency’s open warehouse office; and later listening to Shoei staff tell us about the improvements to the GT.

We’ll have a full review of the new GT-Air II soon, once we’ve done the requisite amount of riding in it, but here are the details and my first impressions for now.

On the Air: GT-Air II Updates & Improvements

The GT is Shoei’s sport-touring full-face: it’s intended to work in both upright and slightly forward-leaning riding positions—”sport-touring” means adventure bikes too nowadays, as “adventure touring” motorcycles have replaced sport-touring bikes for many riders. Shoei’s teaser video for the GT-Air II reflects this with one rider on a KTM 1290 and another on Kawasaki’s decidedly sporty Ninja H2 SX.

Compared to the original GT-Air, which we reviewed back in 2015, the biggest change to the Air Deux is the integrated Sena intercom, or rather the possibility of such—the intercom is, of course, sold separately.

This may seem like a small thing, but it’s not. I’ve ridden a lot of miles in Shoei’s NeoTec II with the similarly integrated Sena SRL communication system, and not only is that helmet the most comfortable helmet I’ve ever worn, the way the intercom nearly disappears into the helmet’s shell is a game-changer. No more big lump hanging off the side of the helmet means no more trying to clamp the damn thing in just the right place on the helmet shell, no more weirdness when stowing your lid in your topcase or sidecase, no more bumping the intercom and knocking it out of place, and well… no more lump. Sena has made Shoei-specific intercoms before, but the latest NeoTec and now GT-Air helmets are their first designed to accommodate Sena units. This means true integration, instead of hacky designs that required a handlebar-mounted remote for full functionality.

Shoei GT-Air II BuckleFlip the helmet over and you’ll see the other significant change: like the NeoTec II before it, the GT-Air II now uses Shoei’s Micro Ratchet Chinstrap. Some riders are steadfastly resistant to change (“I can brake better than some computer!“) and will protest the move away from the more traditional D-ring arrangement, perhaps without even trying the micro-ratchet. Personally, I’ve preferred ratcheting helmet closures since I first experienced one on a Nolan modular helmet years ago, and I’ve enjoyed the utility of the ratcheting strap on the NeoTec II. Presumably, the closure on the GT-Air II will offer a similarly sweet combination of ease of use and positive connection, and I’m glad to see it.

Shoei says many of their helmet models in Europe use their micro-ratchet setup, and while they’ve now switched two American market lids to the same configuration, there is no plan to switch racing helmets such as the X-14 away from the usual double-D-ring strap closure.

A less obvious change, but still a big deal functionally speaking, is a longer internal sun shield. The GT-Air II’s QSV-2 sun shield extends 5mm further down than the shield in the OG GT, to cut down on that line of bright light that often sneaks in under internal sun shields. We’ll be paying close attention to this in testing, and will report back on whether there are any negatives to this enhanced length, for example, interference with one’s schnoz. Interestingly, the primary shield is still the same Pinlock-ready CNS-1 shield used on the original GT-Air, though the baseplates are different.

The new helmet’s shell design echoes the contours of the original, but looks a touch more aggressive, perhaps due to the updated aerodynamics and new chin spoiler. Shoei says the new shell design is more compact and offers better venting. Despite the updates and intercommodations, the new GT-Air reportedly weighs essentially same, size by size, except in the smallest sizes.

There’s a host of other updates, of course—check out this only-slightly-redacted presentation from the launch event for all the details:

We’re testing the Redux TC-5 color scheme, which Shoei told us is based on a similar black-and-white color scheme that was very popular on the original GT. In fact, the racing stripe-inspired look was apparently one of their most popular paint jobs ever. The moto-journo sitting next to me during the presentation chuckled at this news: “I have that exact color.”

Like every other Shoei we’ve had our hands on, the finish is first-rate: satin-y and smooth… just gorgeous. Check out Fish’s first take on Shoei’s JO open-face helmet for another example of the brand’s excellent finishes. The Redux’s semi-flat paint does show fingerprints easily, so you’ll want to be mindful of that when posting your “look at me, I have a motorcycle” selfies on Instagram.

All this integration and updated awesomeness don’t come cheap. MSRP for solid and metallic colors, including my beloved yellow, is $599; graphics like our Redux tester will run you $699. Adding the SRL2 intercom will set you back another $299, making the package potentially over $1,000 with sales tax. The GT-Air’s pricing isn’t out of line with other premium helmets, but that’s a lotta lattes and bike night pizza.

The new helmets are supposed to be hitting shops this week. It looks like Revzilla has some size/color combos (and the SRL2) in stock, as does CycleGear. Amazon has GT-Air IIs in stock and primable, although I couldn’t find the SRL2 there yet.

Tightly Integrated: Sena SRL2 Intercom

The SRL2 is essentially the same as the NeoTec II-specific SRL, but designed specifically for the new GT-Air II. Here’s what it looks like minus the helmet:

Eagle-eyed readers will note the presence of two mics: you can use wired stick-on mic on the chin bar of the helmet, or the boom version, allowing the mic to be placed closer to the rider’s mouth.

In addition to the speakers and mic, there are two side sections and a rear block contain electronics and battery, with the controls on the left side as usual. The SRL2 functions like any Sena intercom, and as such should provide the easy-to-use connectivity we’ve come to expect from Sena’s communications gear. Installation is super simple: the whole shebang is already wired together, and all the components clip into their places in the GT-Air II in moments.

As with the GT-Air II, we’ll have a full review of the SRL2 once we’ve put it through the Wrecking Crew ringer.

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