Helmets are increasingly complex, with features and technology you could only dream of just a few years ago. MD was invited to the U.S. press launch for the Shoei X-Fourteen helmet last week at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway here in Southern California. This is our report.
The Shoei X-Fourteen is the new top-of-the-line helmet from the Japanese manufacturer, and it will become the race helmet of former MotoGP champ Marc Marquez, among other racers. Shoei threw every design trick it had at this helmet. Beginning with aerodynamics, the new X-Fourteen was developed in Shoei’s wind tunnel to save crucial milliseconds on the racetrack. The helmet also incorporates an entirely new ventilation system.
Sticking with aerodynamics for a minute, an all-new shell shape was used in order to improve stability at high speeds and reduce some of the aero forces that could cause problems for racers and road riders. There is a new Rear Stabilizer System that features a standard set of rear flaps that can actually be replaced with optional, narrower flaps in order to fine tune the aerodynamic performance of the helmet for different conditions and different riding styles. Ridges along the top of the shell and chin bar reduce drag. Finally there is a removable lower air spoiler that can be used to further improve aerodynamic stability. Even the new CWR-F face shield plays a role in aerodynamics with small Vortex Generators Shoei claims reduce air friction and improve air flow around the helmet. The X-Fourteen features six air intakes and six exhaust outlets that work together with channels cut through the EPS liner to maximize cooling air flow to the rider.
That new face shield is carefully designed, according to Shoei, to offer a distortion-free view, and we indeed found the shield very clear with no visible distortion. Ribs on the top and bottom edge of the shield improve rigidity, and a double shield locking mechanism is designed to prevent unwanted openings as a result of an accident.
Shoei employs its Multi-Ply Matrix AIM+ Shell construction, which combines fiberglass and organic fibers in several layers that perform separate functions designed to keep the rider safe while remaining extremely lightweight. Shoei offers the X-Fourteen in four shell sizes, and finished sizes ranging from XS to XXL.
Perhaps the biggest news about the X-Fourteen involves the removable, washable interior system, which Shoei calls the 3D Max-Dry Custom Interior System. The rider cannot only replace individual pads for a more custom fit, the X-Fourteen allows the line components to be rotated up to four degrees to increase the upper field of vision … important while tucked in behind a race screen. In other words, think of the face shield being rotated upwards four degrees.
Ed Sorbo tested the X-Fourteen for MD at Chuckwalla by doing numerous laps aboard our Kawasaki ZX-6R test bike. Chuckwalla has a great deal of variety, including high-speed sweepers and straight sections where speeds are well in excess of 100 mph. First and foremost, Ed loved the rotation feature, because he has a peculiar problem with his eyelids, which exacerbates the problem of limited vision a rider has in a race tuck out the top portion of the face shield. At least one other rider Ed spoke to was very pleased to have the option to rotate the interior liner to increase the range of vision in this manner. An interesting, unique and useful feature.
Although the X-Fourteen is not intended to be as quiet as Shoei’s best touring helmets (Shoei tipped the balance in favor of aerodynamics for racing purposes), Ed (wearing ear plugs) had no issues with the noise level, and found it comfortable enough that it “disappeared” while riding. Perhaps most important for racing, while moving from a tuck to an upright position at the end of straights, or while turning his head to look through corners, Ed found the X-Fourteen was very stable … no buffeting to report. This is in keeping with Shoei’s claims that the new X-Fourteen features 3% less lift, 10% less drag and 50% less buffeting than the model it replaces. The contours and spoilers on the helmet seemed to do their job well (note that the spoilers at the rear of the helmet are designed to pop off during a crash).
We will report back when we get more street miles on a Shoei X-Fourteen, but we were very impressed with our brief track test. Pricing for the X-Fourteen ranges from $681.99 for solid colors to $839.99 for Replica helmets (including the Marc Marquez helmet, and others). Take a look at Shoei’s website for additional details and available graphics.
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