Shoei Hornet X2 Adventure Helmet Review

Do I Make You Hornet, Baby? Shoei’s Hornet X2 Dual-Sport Helmet

Shoei’s venerable Hornet DS was considered by many—CityBike Wrecking Crew among them—as one of the primo dual-sport / adventure touring helmets, so the long-awaited update (“I dub thee X2”) was eagerly anticipated by riders whose dirty adventures range from true grit to imaginary.

The Hornet DS presented as a fairly standard-looking dirt-ish / adventure-y helmet, albeit with a face shield and a shorter peak, but the X2 is a post-modern, tech-punk masterpiece, part Hunger Games Peacekeeper, part Alien Xenomorph, with hints of Pachycephalosaurus reflected in the bulging forehead.

But most important, as with any new helmet, is fit. As in, does it?

It’s a Shoei, and as I’ve said previously right here in New Stuff, I’m the proud owner of a Shoei head. Yes, the one attached to my body. So the X2 fits my noggin about as expected. My day-to-day lid is Shoei’s excellent NeoTec, and it fits similarly, with two exceptions.

First, it’s tighter around the bottom, which is to be expected, when compared to a modular or open face—but it’s a bit more work to squeeze onto my head than my other full face helmets, like the Shoei GT-Air I wore while burning the rear off a Victory Cross-Country in front of a strip club in Reno (“Hail To The Victory Cross Country” – June 2015). Just a bit snug around the bottom. No biggie—should help with noise, even.

The other exception to Shoei’s typically long-range comfort—at least for me—is that I sometimes got a hot spot on my forehead after a few hours, like the time I rode our ‘Strom test bike to Redding (I know, first mistake) to pick up an old F250 diesel that turned out to be not as promised. Maybe the head shape is slightly different than my NeoTec, maybe the Hornet takes longer to break in (I’m at just 1,500+ miles in mine as of this writing), or maybe the difference in wind pressure from the peak is a contributor here. Yo no se.

So I reached out to my contact at Shoei with my fit questions. He told me that the internal shape is their standard (for the North American market) long oval, but that each model has a slightly different internal shape, depending on the shell design and feature set. He also pointed out that since the Hornet is designed for on- and off-road riding, the overall fit is more snug (as I’d observed), to keep it from moving around on the rider’s head when bouncing around in the dirt.

But back to that post-modern peak. I’m almost hesitant to use the words “wind pressure from the peak” because the louvers and shape of the visor provide excellent wind management. I never forgot about the peak, especially on naked bikes—I knew it was there, but it never jerked my head around the way some other dual-sport helmets have in the past. It’s quite a feat—one of actual engineering, not just marketing.

That visor sits above a large viewport, and the shield that covers this gaping eye-maw includes a Pinlock insert. I said this a few months back in my review of Shoei’s GT-Air (“Air To The Throne: Shoei GT-Air Helmet” – New Stuff, June 2015), but I’ll say it again: it’s awful nice of Shoei to include Pinlock-ready shields and inserts with their helmets. The system works, and the inclusion of this stuff helps to dull the pain of emptying your wallet at the bike shop. Earplugs will help with the “you spent how much on a helmet?!?” pain you may encounter upon returning home with a helmet that cost more than a Dirtbag Challenge starting point.

By the way, swapping the shield is easy—in typical Shoei fashion, there are levers on each baseplate, and with a little practice, you’ll be swapping shields as quick as you’d trade partners at a modern day Silicon Valley key party. You’re supposed to remove the visor, which adds a whopping three seconds or so to the process. Seriously.

I’ve seen other reviews that said stuff like, “Well, if you try, you can swap the shield without removing the visor.” Why would you? If you have hands, removing the visor is as easy as picking your nose, and five times as fast. We tested this—multiple times for accuracy of data, and because quite frankly, after a day in the pre-burn dirt out at Carnegie, the boogies are quite plentiful.

That big viewport is accompanied by a bunch of vents. It’s not as airy as a real dirt helmet, but the vents below and above the viewport, coupled with the one that goes through the visor, do a reasonable job of moving air through the helmet and out the back, without adding a lot of noise. This, and the snug fit around the bottom, make the X2 a surprisingly quiet helmet, in spite of the turbulence caused by the visor.

If you’re actually riding in the dirt, you may want to switch to goggles, and the Hornet is happy to oblige. When open, the face shield pivots out of the way enough that you can wear goggles without removing the face shield.

And since we’re talking about riding in the dirt, you’ll be glad to know that the liner is replaceable—no more funk of forty thousand miles growing in your lid.

Of course, a lot of adventure-esque riders rarely see more dirt than the dust that builds up on their bikes between coffee shop runs, but that’s ok—the Hornet is a very good street helmet, too. It may be the perfect compromise between the street cred of looking like you’re riding to Baja (“As soon as I leave this here Starbucks…”), and the reality of wanting a quiet, comfy helmet with a faceshield. That’s ok, it’s happy in either role.

I install an intercom system on every helmet I’m going to wear for any serious distance. We can have the talk about how I’m destroying to spirit of motorcycling by doing so another time, but in the meantime, I’ll tell you how the X2 handles such a setup.

I installed a Sena 20S in the Hornet. It has ear pockets to accommodate intercom speakers, and they look to be big enough to accommodate most intercom speakers. However, the 20S’s speakers wouldn’t quite sit into the pocket—they were sticking out, and since I’m a sensitive gent, I worried that the pressure on my outer ear would piss me off after a few hours of riding. Or thirty seconds—give or take.

The pockets are formed of semi-rigid plastic, and they don’t perfectly trace the shape of the foam below. The problem seemed to be due to the curvature in the bottom of the ear pocket, and the entry point of the wires into the speakers. So I took my handy X-acto to the ear pockets and carefully—very carefully—trimmed a bit of each plastic pocket away, making room for the speakers to sit without the wires interfering with fitment. Perfecto!

Don’t try this at home, kids. Yeah, if you’re careful, you can totally pull this off, just like I did. But we can’t recommend it, so listen carefully: futzing around with your helmet—whether it’s a $50 clearance rack special or the hottest new $500+ ADV hard hat—is dumb. You may end up with a useless hunk of nicely painted fiberglass and foam (with no warranty), and if you do, it’s your own damn fault for listening to your creepy uncle Surj, who obviously can’t be trusted, especially with an X-acto knife.

Shoei’s marketing guys would probably like me to talk more about some of the acronyms and technical jargon that they spent so much time coming up with. But I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’ll close with this: the Hornet X2 is a very good helmet. It’s comfortable, easy to see out of, reasonably quiet, and offers a replaceable liner—a boon for the sweaty, drought-ridden, globally warmed world we live in, where the forecast says it’s gonna be 99° in Oakland tomorrow. You know, in case you don’t make it to Baja, or Morocco, or wherever “adventure” happens.

$550 gets you all that, and a five-year warranty. Hell of a deal, I say.

$594.99 for solids, more for “cooler” colors and graphics. Get your own at CycleGear, Revzilla or Amazon.

This story originally appeared in our October 2015 issue.