Shoei just introduced its new dirt helmet to the world and it marks the biggest change for that company in years. The battle lines in the helmet have been clearly drawn now, with traditional companies like Shoei building their products entirely in Japan on one side, and upstart companies producing helmets in China and Taiwan. Shoei has been banking on faith and trust so sell their product, while China’s recent improvement in quality has allowed their products to be more aggressive in styling, finish and style, relying on SNELL and DOT standards to address safety issues.
The new VFX-W shows that Shoei can compete in finish and style. The old Shoei VFX DT that is being replaced looks sort of plain Jane with plastic scoops attached. The plastic scoops are gone, replaced by a very aggressive shell shape. The predominant features are ridges that run around the helmet that give the whole package a much more modern look. Functionally, the top ridges act as locators for the helmet strap and provide routing for air in the interior. The lower-most ridge looks like it might function like a neck brace to keep your head from pivoting too far rearward, but Shoei insists that this wasn’t a design goal and that the feature acts to promote air flow. They do admit that the helmet was developed to fit with a Leat brace. Shoei engineers say they had to develop new molding technology to keep resin from accumulating in the ridges and bringing unnecessary weight. They also were very picky about sizing, making four different molds for the six different sizes available. The interior makes up the difference, but Shoei’s research shows that different density EVS foam is required to make the different size helmets act the same in a tumble. It’s all beyond the understanding of most riders, and that’s why faith and trust are such a big factor in the helmet market.
All helmet companies are paying special attention to air-flow now. Shoei had a change in direction there; instead of having little doors and sliders everywhere that open and close the vents, the W has permanently open ports. If you want to close them, you can always plug them up, but the company’s research shows that virtually no one wants that.
Overall, we’re impressed with the new helmet. Frankly everyone on the DB staff used to wear Shoei helmets most of the time, but we were gradually wooed away by the appearance of the newer offerings from China. We still believe that some of those companies are at the absolute leading edge in the styling department, but finally we can go back to Shoei and feel stylish. And we still believe the quality and safety of a premium Japanese helmet are the best in the world.
The price of the new W actually is somewhat lower than its predecessor, starting at $399 for solid colors. Don’t expect a fancy bag and an extra visor; Shoei says it would rather spend money on the helmet itself than the extras. Contact any dealer that carries products from Helmet House.
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