Shoei GT-Air II Full-Face Helmet | Gear Review

Shoei GT-Air II in Matte Blue.
Shoei GT-Air II in Matte Blue.

For sport-touring riders who prefer a traditional full-face, rather than a modular, helmet, Shoei’s GT-Air has been a top choice since it was first released back in 2012. Since then, the popularity of “built-in” or integrated Bluetooth communication systems has increased, so for 2019 Shoei has updated the GT-Air II with an optional Sena SRL2 comm system, along with some other tweaks meant to make a great lid even better.

The SRL2 ($299) was designed specifically for the GT-Air II, which means installation is quick and almost foolproof. Insert the battery and controller into their separate compartments, snap the speakers into the pre-cut indentations and stick the microphone on the inside of the chin bar (or use the included boom mic).

We say “almost” foolproof, because we did struggle a bit with getting the battery pack to seat properly. After bending the hook tab out so it would catch more easily, it snapped in without much fuss. The good news is, once it’s in, it’s in; there’s no reason to ever have to remove it unless you want the whole system gone.

Otherwise, the basic construction of the GT-Air II is unchanged: the shell is made of Shoei’s proprietary Multi-Ply Matrix AIM, which consists of hand-laid interwoven layers of fiberglass, organic fibers and resin, backed by a new EPS liner that now incorporates varying foam densities within each piece for a compact, lightweight design that still protects your noggin.

Shoei GT-Air II
The new micro-ratchet chin strap, as used on the Neotec II, is new this year.

The removable, washable and sizable Max-Dry interior feels like it may be just a bit more plush than the previous GT-Air, but fit seems about the same as before: a slightly longer oval shape than some of Shoei’s other helmets. Fit around the neck roll is a tad looser to facilitate pulling the GT-Air II on/off but is still snug enough to keep things quiet.

One major change is the switch to the new, patented micro-ratchet chinstrap, as seen on the Neotec II. Unlike other ratcheting chinstraps, Shoei’s closure mechanism is made of 100-percent stainless steel—no plastic—for the utmost in safety. I like the design, which lets the user preset the general fit with an adjustable strap, and fine-tune it with the ratchet. It seems more secure and also more comfortable, more like a traditional D-ring strap.

Other features include a new drop-down sun shield that’s 5mm longer than before; that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s enough to cover nearly the entire eyeport and is less intrusive when glancing down at the gauges. A redesigned upper vent shutter is still one of the easiest to use with gloves on, and has two intake positions, both of which flow noticeable amounts of fresh air; five exhaust vents, none of which can be closed, draw it out.

Shoei GT-Air II
The new drop-down sun shield is 5mm longer than before, and it covers nearly the entire eye port for excellent visibility.

Shoei focused on making the GT-Air II as quiet as possible, with new, thicker face shield beading that seals tightly against wind and water and a compact, aerodynamic shell (my size small weighs in at 3 lbs., 9.8 oz.). With the vents closed, the GT-Air II is comfortably quiet, but once the vents are open the noise level goes up considerably. The CNS-1 face shield is the same as that used on the original GT-Air, and comes with a Pinlock EVO fog-resistant insert. The GT-Air II’s new baseplate, however, now allows the shield to be opened just slightly for venting and defogging.

Overall, the GT-Air II is a solid step up from the previous version, with enough updates and upgrades to justify the roughly $50 price increase. It’s available in sizes XS-2XL, spread over three shell sizes, for $599 (solids) or $699 (graphics).

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