I arrived in Southern California a day ahead of Honda’s Monkey press launch on Catalina Island, so I could also attend the release party for Shoei’s new J•O open-face helmet. Editor Modular Helmet-head’s undying love for Shoei’s NeoTec and NeoTec II has started to rub off on me, and we have a generally high regard for Shoei’s helmets, so I was excited to see what they had in store.
It didn’t hurt that the event was hosted at Deus Ex Machina’s Emporium of Postmodern Activities in Venice, California. The Emporium is definitely worth a visit if you end up in the bottom of the Golden State. Like so many of these, well… postmodern moto-centric attractions, it’s not a full-on motorcycle shop, but more of a specialty shop offering a variety of interesting and different shirts, prints, books, along with a mix of urban riding gear—a perfect match for a new and modern open-face helmet sporting classic good looks.
There was a proper belly tanker style hot rod on display that caught my eye. It’s nice to go somewhere that doesn’t pretend motorcycle enthusiasts live in some void that doesn’t allow other interests and hobbies. Anyway, the EPA is an interesting mix of a café and store, with some honest-to-Goddamn good coffee. I definitely felt like I was in the right place, drinking that coffee and checking out the J•O.
I may or may not have attempted to pose in the belly tanker with one of the display helmets.
The J•O is Shoei’s newest open-face offering, an urban, retro-style helmet that matches well to all these pseudo-retro bikes that are so hot right now, like Kawsaki’s much-lusted-after Z900RS and SSR’s budget-retro hopeful Buccaneer. The helmet is a completely new design from the neck up, instead of an updated version of a current model. Offered in a broad range of solid colors at a base price of $379, Shoei also offers the new lid with some no-shit, legit-cool graphics for an additional $70. I brought a Waimea model home with me, and we’ll have a full, CityBike-style review soon—but in case you missed it, I gotta go ride Honda Monkeys on Catalina Island, so I only have time for initial impressions just now.
Man, this moto-journalism is a tough life.
The J•O’s secret weapon is an ingenious drop-down shield. Shoei eschewed the stereotypical snap-on bubble shield or strap-on goggles and instead integrated a retracting visor into the J•O’s design. The shield tucks neatly into the helmet, with no apparent increase in the size of the shell or distortion in its shape.
That shield is quickly and easily swapped out, and available in clear and four additional colors, including the increasingly popular hi-def yellow. The design is elegant, lacking any cables or springs, instead employing an adjustable hard stop to keep the shield from hitting your nose when you pull it down. There’s also a detent to hold it up when you want the fully-authentic, open-air experience.
Beyond the simplicity of design and ease of use, the optics are 100% optically correct and Shoei says the shield is aerodynamically tailored to minimize turbulence and decrease wind noise.
It was mentioned at the launch party that the shield is made in America, by a company that makes aircraft helmet optics. The helmet itself is made in Japan, as are other Shoei helmets.
While the J•O is aimed more at the urban crowd than the ‘Stich-n-speeding tickets Wrecking Crew, it’s still a Shoei, which means quality and safety are top priorities. The helmet comes in six sizes, XS to XXL, and uses three shell sizes to keep the shell / EPS ratio correct. The EPS is multi-density like in Shoei’s other lids, which helps safely decelerate your head inside the shell in the event of an impact. Shoei says the EPS’s thickness is uncompromised, despite the retracing shield.
Time will tell, but the J•O looks like it’ll be comfortable. It features a plush, removable and replaceable liner, and so far, the padding feels soft but still provides a snug fit on my cheeks and forehead. Nicely-shaped ear cups keep pressure off the softer bits, and the neck roll uses very soft padding, a comfortable touch that sometimes gets overlooked but makes a difference if you’re on a bike with low bars. At the front,the exposed liner above the eyes is a synthetic suede material, specifically designed to reduce glare, while the rest of the trim is a smooth synthetic material designed to be easy to wipe clean.
Expect to see the J•O in shops in November, and a full review with more photos here on CityBike.com in the coming weeks.