What: Shoei NXR full-face helmet
How much: $849 RRP. Plain colours from $649 RRP.
How long: 3 weeks and counting
How good: ★★★★★
The first thing to say about any helmet, and especially a Shoei, is that it’s all about fit. Why especially a Shoei? Because its typically distinctive shape means you either fit one or you don’t, it would seem. This reviewer fits them perfectly.
Back to the future
The NXR replaces the XR-1100 in Shoei’s helmet range, occupying a ‘sport-tourer’ positioning versus the racy X-Spirit II flagship.
In retrospect, the XR-1100 looks something of a stop-gap, given the changes to the NXR. Traditionally, a Shoei shell slightly followed the head shape that fitted the helmet: longer and narrower. This usually made them light and compact for their size.
But in 2007 the UK Government introduced a tough new independent testing regime for helmets called SHARP. The move was in response to accident data showing huge differences in protection offered by helmets despite them all meeting minimum safety standards. SHARP proved controversial, not least because some very expensive helmets didn’t do so well in the tests. The then-current Shoei XR-1000 got a disappointing three star rating (out of five). The reason was mediocre lateral protection: the helmet was prone to flex in response to a side impact, transferring more energy than was desirable to the sides of the skull. In every other test the XR-1000 got top marks.
Shoei’s response was the XR-1100, rounder in shape and bigger. While this ensured the new lid got five stars, there were downsides. Size-for-size, the XR-1100 was heavier by at least 50g. Not much, but lighter is better for many reasons including safety: it exerts less force on the neck. The bigger size didn’t look so good but, more importantly, it wasn’t so streamlined: some riders, on some machines, experienced more buffeting and wind noise.
The new NXR, however, is back to being small, light and ever-so-slightly egg-shaped. It has yet to get a SHARP rating but you can bet Shoei made sure it will breeze the tests. It has all the usual Snell/BS/CE ticks.
Sizing and fit
The NXR comes in sizes XS to XXL, using four different shell sizes to optimise fit rather than relying on padding.
The usual advice applies: it only fits properly when it is evenly snug around your whole head, with no loose areas and no migraine-inducing pinch points. If you don’t have a ‘Shoei head’, it won’t fit.
The outer shell is made of Shoei’s Advanced Integrated Matrix (AIM) composite. It sandwiches an organic fibre reinforced layer, and a similar ‘3D’ layer, between two hard fibreglass layers. The idea is to provide just enough ‘give’ to deflect the impact force away from the point of impact and around the shell. Hence around your head.
The inner shell is ‘dual layer, multi-density EPS’. Which is a kind of polystyrene but the Shoei version uses carefully engineered variants to absorb shocks at different rates around the lid. The twin layers allow space for cooling air to travel when the vents are open.
Inside that is a removable, washable, adjustable and replaceable multi-piece foam ‘helmet’. It looks rather like a WW2 Japanese fighter pilot’s helmet, combining close fit and comfort.
Changing visors on a Shoe has always been a breeze. Flip it up, pull the release tab on one side then the other, it’s off. Reverse to refit. The NXR is no different, but the visor will not fit a XR-1100. The new visor is designed for an aperture that’s a tad bigger and slightly repositioned versus the XR-1100 (which was itself bigger than the XR-1000). The aim is to provide a better view forward when track riding. With the bike leaned right over and low to the ground, and you hanging off even lower with your bum back against the seat stop, you are looking right ‘up’ to look forward. It was an issue with the XR-1000, and the XR-1100 was an improvement. Looks like the NXR will be even better.
The updated quick-fit visor system includes spring-loaded base plates that pull the visor back onto the shell beading for a perfect seal. The seal is also adjustable.
The helmet comes with a removable chin curtain to reduce noise and turbulence, and keep cold draughts out. It also comes with a pinlock insert to avoid cold-weather misting.
One feature that has trickled down from Shoei’s race programme is EQRS - Emergency Quick Release System. This lets responders tear out the lower parts of the helmet lining to help a downed rider without removing the actual helmet, for easier breathing and access to airways. Clever stuff.
No-one could accuse the XR-1100 of lacking vents. It had seven of them. But they were all individually operated, so opening and closing them could be a mission when riding. The NXR has 10, but only five controls. The four front vents (versus three) are individually operated, but the six rear vents are controlled by one sliding tab.
Helmet noise is a very subjective thing. I’ve never had serious issues but I know people who have lost their hearing from wind rush. It also depends on the machine you ride, including things like screen position. For this rider, the NXR was comfortably quiet: the perfect, snug fit surely helps.
With no track day or race opportunity as yet, it’s hard to be definitive about the vision offered. But in road use it’s excellent.
A classic double D-ring fastening is hard to beat: infinitely adjustable and secure. The end clips into place to stop flapping about and the strap positioning is perfect, snug against the bottom of the jaw and not pressuring the windpipe.
Abandoning the XR range’s separate vent-and-lockdown mechanism on the left hand base plate (which was prone to split and fall off), the NXR has a simple notch that clips the visor to the shell beading. It works well enough but the jury’s out on how it will stand up to wear.
The weight loss programme is noticeable and welcome, everywhere from countering a wind blast to carrying the lid around. At 1300g without accessories, it’s not the lightest helmet in the world but it is seriously competitive.
Shoei has always been a premium brand. So while the $849 price tag might seem a bit steep, as the saying goes, if you’ve got a $10 head get a $10 helmet. Having survived two major crashes thanks to Shoei helmets my view is they are worth the money.
This new NXR is a significant improvement on the XR-1100 it replaces, which is no mean feat. Especially pleasing is the return to a compact, streamlined shape and dropping between 50g and 100g in weight.
Assuming it gets five stars in SHARP, and your head shape suits it, the NXR is one very classy lid.