The Shoei X-Fourteen is the top of the line supersport helmet from Shoei designed specifically for racing and track riding. Having years of “seat” time in multiple iterations of the RF line from Shoei – such as the RF-900, RF-1100 and RF-1200 – I was excited to experience the manufacturer’s new flagship road-racing model. The shell shape, aerodynamics and stout construction quality of Shoei products have always been top-tier in my book. The X-Fourteen has elevated that benchmark (By the way, here is a quick video overview from the legendary Jim Downs.)
Materials and Craftsmanship
Holding the X-Fourteen immediately highlights the helmet's build quality. The exterior shell is made of multilayer fiberglass producing an extremely robust feel, though not incredibly lightweight like the full carbon fiber or carbon weave designs of other manufacturers. Regardless, the overall package of the X-Fourteen is noticeably lighter than the RF-1200.
Beneath the external surface, the internal EPS shell is comprised of dual-layer multi-density EPS foam construction. The interior system is made of a “3D Max-Dry Custom” material that is designed to absorb and dissipate moisture twice as fast as traditional nylon liner materials. However, heavy stints on the track produce a sweaty lid no less drenched than any other model and the X-Fourteen interior doesn’t seem to dry any quicker either.
The face shield on the X-Fourteen is an all-new CWR-F model. Visor removal, installation and operation is a definite improvement over the previous designs. Visor swapping is quick and intuitive while operation and positioning is deliberate. The double locking visor latch feature prevents unwanted opening at high speeds, but is tough to open quickly with gloves when coming to a stop. The overall visor is feels very heavy duty adding to this stout and robust theme of the helmet.
The new visor also claims to eliminate any vision distortion, but the same issue around the visor edge persists as with previous models. Shoei claims a 3D injection molding process helps with vision distortion, but the visor still has large radii along the edges causing this distortion. To further add to this issue, ribbing is added at top and bottom edges of shield to help with bending at high speeds but distorts vision as well. To be fair, this is a very minor nuisance and something that your eyes quickly adjust to and forget.
The ergos were another immediately noticeable improvement over the RF models. The design is a much more snug fit with more detailed contours around the curvature of the head and face. The cheek pads run down and around the bottom of the jaw, hugging the helmet securely to the face. The head aperture is much narrower requiring more force for ingress and egress (That's a fancy way of saying "Putting the helmet on and taking it off takes more effort" –Ed) but making for a tighter and secured fit once seated. Though large space claims are reserved for the ears, the tight design of the other interior padding causes ears to fold during ingress and adjust during strap up.
Behold the cranial ingress and egress interstice.
Ventilation on the X-Fourteen is noticeably functional unlike many other options on the market, with extreme designs for aesthetic purposes. The simple upper venting system on the forward portion of the helmet works remarkably well even if the positioning valve switch is tough to feel with gloves. Airflow is felt along the forehead to the rear of the top of the head when open. The rear exhaust ports are fixed in the open position eliminating the need to check valve position on hot days while not allowing heat loss on cold days. The venting system on the chinbar is designed to add increased airflow to the interior cheek padding and remove warm and humid air through the exhaust ports. The airflow is not felt as noticeably on the cheeks here and – as mentioned previously – the interior padding (including the cheek pads) is still a sweaty mess after aggressive riding sessions.
Aside from occupant protection during an impact event (which was not tested here), aerodynamic performance at high speeds is the main application of the X-Fourteen. This model is designed for minimum air resistance, whether on the track or the freeway.
The X-Fourteen is extremely stable at elevated speeds. In fact, the helmet performs just as well at 60 mph on the freeway as it does at 150 mph down the main straight at the track. The rider’s head is naturally directed forward whether up to speed in a casual riding position or tucked down on the tank. When checking the blind spot for lane changes or verifying race position, the aerodynamics allow for a fluid head rotation with minimal resistance and very little turbulence. According to Shoei, the six air intake and exhaust ports maximize negative air pressure at the rear of the helmet, which must be at play here. To tune this aero performance, the rear flaps are interchangeable with optional equipment from Shoei that have more or less resistance as desired.
On the interior of the helmet, the lower cloth air spoiler around the chin area can be removed as well, but this “spoiler” provides excellent wind protection as installed. This contributes towards the smaller head opening on the X-Fourteen, but also reduces the amount of turbulent airflow and wind noise that makes its way inside of the helmet, while also doing a good job of keeping cold air out on cooler mornings. While the 3D Max-Dry Custom Interior System does not revolutionize the industry’s sweaty helmet problem, it does enable fit and field of vision to be adjusted by up to 4 degrees by rotation of the interior padding. This seemed like a gimmicky feature at first, but messing around with this system did produce noticeable results.
The market for high-performance racing helmets is always ripe with demand and the supplier base is ever-expanding. Established players like Shoei, Arai, and Bell are being met by rising challengers such as X-lite, 6D and ICON. Arai helmets have been associated with rounder head shapes and have been known to press up against the rider’s face at high speeds.(Though, to be honest, Arai has adapted as well over the recent years with models such as the Signet Q.) Whereas AGV has long-produced beautiful yet polarizing works of art with fragile and finicky features. Shoei has always been known for high quality products best suited for longer head shapes, but the X-Fourteen seems to be fit for a wide range of head shapes.
The Shoei X-Fourteen has an MSRP of $681.99 for the base model (solid colors), $692.99 for metallic colors, $807.99 for graphics (as we tested here), and $839.99 for replicas. Though definitely not as pricey as the top-tier Arai and AGV models north of the $1,000 mark, the X-Fourteen build quality and high-speed performance are right on par with these units. While decent sportbike helmets do exist for around $500, the X-Fourteen priced in the medium-high range is definitely approaching the quality/price equilibrium.
Static beauties by Sean Russell (follow @sea_russell on Instagram)
Track action by eTech Photo (http://www.etechphoto.com/)