Recently, I had the opportunity to try out the new Shoei X-15 helmet. I am fairly particular about what helmets I wear, as I suffer from a neck injury that requires I wear helmets which are light and extremely good at reducing wind buffeting.

For this reason, I wear an AGV Pista that is left over from my racing days. Light-weight, fantastic heat extraction, and never any buffeting no matter the pace. However, a Pista is a race helmet. It's tight like a race helmet, lacks creature comforts like a race helmet, loud like a race helmet, and empties your wallet like a race helmet.

While there are some other helmets out there that trade one or two race-specific features in order to reduce the price tag, they do not then add in street-friendly features. Things like ratcheting shields, ear pockets for speakers, plush padding, larger air intake vents, etc. What you typically end up with is a less-expensive, but still limited "race" helmet that is neither wildly comfortable, nor particularly great on the track.

However, Shoei has somehow found a new sweet spot with the X-15: Street comfort and features, with race-inspired design that cuts through the air like a falcon.

Shoei X-15 Review

Upon first observation, the helmet appears to share a few of the features you'd find on a Pista, such as a wide, tall viewport and long, tapered shell design that includes extraction ports just above the spoiler for emptying the heat and humidity that can build up when riding at an aggressive pace. Once you dig a little deeper though, you find Shoei's fantastic ratcheting shield setup, thick, comfortable padding, ear pockets for your favorite comms gear, and enough vent inlets on the chin bar and brow to keep your face blasted with as much fresh air as you can handle.

Beginning with that wide, tall viewport: Unlike other helmets Shoei has produced in the past, there won't be any possible obstruction to your upward vision when pulling hard through a corner, as the upper edge of the viewport has been raised significantly. Additionally, I found the shield to be as optically "clean" as any other helmet I've worn at any price - no fisheye distortion in either the vertical or horizontal planes.

Combined with an in-built recess on the backside of the shield for a Pinlock insert, and Shoei's typical thoughtful ratchet spacing, they've got a real winner here (the unobtrusive shield lock integrated into the helmet is a nice touch as well). I never once had to crane my neck to clear my field of view or see through the corners while on a push, and I had more than enough peripheral vision to keep track of traffic around me on my commute.

When it comes to the padding, not only was it plush, but it was of a density that didn't squeeze my face tight in the name of gluing the helmet to my skull. For the first time in years, I was able to simply pull on a helmet and ride without feeling like I was wearing a piece of industrial safety equipment. The X-15 still stayed in place on my head as it should, it just did so in a gentler, more accommodating manner than I have grown accustomed to. On top of that, with the deep ear pockets carved out of the liner, I wasn't forced to adjust my ears within the padding after having them curled over and mashed into the sides of my head. These are two things that you don't realize you've missed until you have been forced to do without them for an extended period.

When it comes to moving comfort though, aerodynamics are everything. Counterintuitively, a flatter, wider helmet shape that tapers toward the back is more efficient and stable when cutting through the air. Most helmets out there are fairly narrow from front to back and tend to be a consistent oval shape. Where Shoei gets it right with the X-15 is in that broader front section, narrowing as you move toward the rear. This is the same shape you see in race helmets like the Pista, but not much elsewhere. The result of this new design is that the Shoei X-15 feels smooth even when encountering cross winds and gusts both on the track, as well as when passing trucks on the freeway. Combined with the light weight of the entire helmet, you've got one heck of a comfortable lid in every situation - fast or slow, calm or storm, track or traffic.

Speaking of air, one of my favorite features of this helmet are the copious number of vents for really shoving that fresh air into your face. Most of the many (MANY!) vents can be opened or closed independently, making it possible to customize exactly how much air you want blowing, and where. With other helmets, it's entirely possible to feel like you're being suffocated a bit by lack of fresh air blowing in through the chin bar when getting worked up during a particularly hard ride. The X-15 does not have any issue in this regard, because with all of the venting it almost feels like the chin bar isn't even there. Shoei really went out of their way to make sure you get every molecule of oxygen you could ask for, even under the most strenuous exercises.

With all that said, there was one relative weakness I did encounter, and that's extraction. Getting the air in is amazing, but getting the hot, humid air up in the crown of the helmet out through the back didn't work quite as well. One real area of strength in my Pista is that it is fantastic at ripping the air from inside the crown out through the louvers at the back of the helmet. With the Shoei X-15 there were a few times where I noticed the very top of my head feeling a bit warm, and the top edge of the shield showed brief signs of fogging ('brief' as in 'just for an instant'). I replicated this in both hot and cool temperatures, and at high and low speeds. It wasn't poor by any means, but it wasn't quite what I was used to.

Getting back to the positives, I must say that this helmet is pleasantly quiet. Ear plugs will still be strongly recommended, but compared to a pure race helmet, this thing is a joy on my ears. The difference in volume was enough that I found myself repeatedly downshifting at times when I really shouldn't, because I couldn't hear that the engine was still spun up into its midrange. I wear -33dB ear plugs every time I ride, and in your typical race helmet I can still hear road noise and traffic around me. Not so with this helmet - plugs in, helmet on, and I hear nothing but a mild drone until I've got the engine wound up to its upper reaches, or there's a truck right next to me. I know there are quieter helmets out there, but this was pure luxury compared to what I'm used to.

In the end, I'd say that with the Shoei X-15 you get a lot of the performance of a more expensive race helmet, but with the creature comforts that make riding much more enjoyable - all in a package that is much less expensive than what it costs for the more extreme alternative. I'm not one to waste things I already own, so I will continue using my Pista until it's expired. However, when that day comes, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the Shoei X-15 is going to be at the top of my list to replace it. Performance and comfort, at a price that won't destroy my budget? Sign me up.