Shoei started the X line in 1990 with the X-8. It was innovative at the time, as the shield design did not have baseplate covers. Three years later the X-8 Air became the first helmet to feature a dual layer EPS ventilation system. These developments were well received, and Shoei continued to build on them with the X-11 and later the X-12.

Fast forward to today and the most recent X-offering, the X-14 is even better. Yes, better is subjective. A couple of my racer friends prefer the relatively quiet nature of the older lids. The X-14 has six intake and six exhaust vents and when they are doing their job—flowing air—it does get loud. While I don’t have any Db figures, I can offer this comparison: if the X-12 was a jet taking off, the X-14 is that same jet but with Metallica playing a live show on the wing. Black Album Metallica.

The extra noise comes with a perk though. The X-14 features direct cheekpad airflow which is a cooling game changer. In a very unscientific back to back test at Thunderhill between the X-14 and Arai’s latest offering race helmet, the Corsair-X, my cheeks (not those cheeks) were noticeably cooler in the Shoei. The liner material is designed to repel moisture and dry quickly, helping the new fangled cheek venting to cool even more effectively.

With the question of noise out of the way, we can focus on the improvements.

Shoei has a bitchin’ wind tunnel that allowed them to fine tune their six-layer Multi-Ply Matrix AIM+ shell for the high speed / low drag lifestyle of racers and canyon carvers alike. Shoei crunched some numbers, redesigned their patent-pending rear stabilizer, and added some hot-swappable “rear flaps” to allow further customization. The shell is available in four sizes allowing for consistent fit no matter how big (or small) your dome is.

If you are into patent-pending action, Shoei has another pending for their new adjustable/rotating liner bits. This innovative, very cool feature allows you to change the position of the helmet by shifting the liner, offering a better field of vision in a race tuck mode, but still allowing for a comfortable field of view on your KLR too… you know, for people into those things.

Shield changes are a slice of pie with the QR-E Base Plate System and CWR-F Race Shield. The former has beefed up springs for a more precise wind and waterproof seal while the latter offers UV protection and looks like it is thick enough to repel small arms fire as well.

Don’t try that last one, and if you do, don’t come crying to us when you shoot your eye out.

Seriously though, the shield has been reinforced for rigidity and has a brand new double shield locking mechanism. It also is ready to receive both tear-offs for the outside and a Pinlock anti-fog device inside.

Those features are neat, but we don’t wear helmets to improve our vision and stay cool. The dual layer, multi-density EPS liner has been tested to absorb impacts and the precision placement allows Shoei to keep the X-14 lightweight and compact without sacrificing safety. If you do happen to lose a high speed battle with gravity, there’s a quick release cheek pad system to allow the Amberlamps driver to remove your helmet with less chance of causing further injury.

I’ve put the X-14 through the paces both on track and off and even though it’s a bit on the noisy side it has become my go-to lid. In addition to all the features above, I appreciate the fact that much of Shoei’s helmet creation process is still done by hand, and knowing that their quality control is top notch does not hurt either. You can pick one up for a starting MSRP of $681.99 for a plain jane model, or for you Marquez fanboys, $839.99.

$681.99 for solids, fancy colors are more. Get your own at CycleGear, Revzilla or Amazon.

This story originally appeared in our June 2016 issue.

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