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Why Are Shoei Helmets So Expensive? 8 Reasons For The Hefty Price Tag

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Shoei helmets are so expensive because they employ superior quality materials like AIM+ shells, distortion-free injection molded and pinlock ready CNS face shields for enhanced clarity, as well as the luxurious 3D Max-Dry System II Interior lining. Safety, comfort and passion drive their concentrated skill and manufacturing techniques, which still rely on handcrafting to provide the best protection money can buy.

The Japanese helmet powerhouse also undertakes a rigorous research and development and quality control, somewhat similar to AGV Extreme Standards, to come up with the most efficient design that meets and exceeds the DOT, ECE, SNELL, SHARP, and FIM safety standards. That, and 64 years of experience as of 2023, guarantees the longevity of the rider and helmet backed by the 5-year warranty and crash replacement policy.

To give you a clearer understanding of why are Shoei helmets so expensive, I’ve prepared a comparison of Shoei with other motorcycle helmet brands in 2023:

Shoei vs. Other Motorcycle Helmet Brands

Brand Founded Most Expensive Helmet Cheapest Helmet
Shoei 1959 X-Fifteen Marquez7 TC-1 ($1,049.99) J.O ($379.99)
AGV 1947 PISTA GP RR SOLELUNA 2022 ($1,924.95) K1 MONO ($209.95)
Arai 1926 Corsair X-RC ($4,095.95) Classic-V ($469.95)
Shark 1989 Race-R Pro GP Redding Winter Test ($1,199.99) Ridill ($179.99)
Schuberth 1922 C5 Pro Carbon ($1,636.00) O1 Jet ($279.00)
HJC 1971 RPHA 1N Fabio Quartararo ($1,004.99) CS-R3 ($99.99)
Scorpion 2003 EXO-R1 Air Quartararo Monster ($599.95) EXO-R320 ($99.95)

As you can see from this analysis, it’s abundantly clear that Shoei, along with AGV and Arai, stands out by offering helmets in the upper tiers of the price spectrum. Although Shoei may not have the most expensive helmet in today’s market, their cheapest option, the classic Shoei J.O open-face helmet, commands a respectable price of $379.99, placing it second in the category, just after the Classic-V ($469.95).

With that in mind, allow me to delve in-depth to explain the reasons behind the hefty price tags of Shoei helmets. But first, let’s take a look at where it all started:

A Brief History of Shoei Helmets

A Shoei black and gray pudding-bowl-style helmet with leather and textile chinstrap and a logo on the side with 1972 among Japanese inscriptions
A Shoei black and gray pudding-bowl-style helmet with leather and textile chinstrap and a logo on the side with 1972 among Japanese inscriptions.

Founded in 1959 in Tokyo, Japan, Shoei is a made-up word that borrows “sho” from the 20th-century Japanese Showa Dynasty and “ei” from founder Eitaro Kamata. So, it shouldn’t mean anything in Japanese, and yet it means so much around the world; the best example of Kaizen, the Japanese spirit of continuous improvement with priority given to conceptualization and R&D.

And this has been evident since 1965 when Shoei’s S-12 became their first helmet to receive SNELL approval. Since then, there have been numerous noteworthy releases, starting from the 1972 S-20 (STZ) to the 1976 GR-Z, which was the first full-face helmet to incorporate carbon fiber in the world. Not content with their achievements, pushed boundaries further in 1982 with the launch of the EX-2, their inaugural full-face motocross helmet.

Shoei’s relentless pursuit of innovation continued in 1983 when they unveiled injection-molded shield designs, forever changing the game. This paved the way for a procession of remarkable helmet models that continue to evolve to this day, including:

Shoei Helmet Model Evolution: From First to Latest Versions

Release Year Helmet Model Latest Version (2023)
1989 RF-200 RF-1400 (NXR2)
1991 RJ-101V RJ-Platinum R
1991 VFX VFX-EVO
2002 X-Eleven X-Fifteen (X-SPR Pro)
2007 Multitec Discontinued
2010 Raid RF-SR
2012 Neotec Neotec II
2012 J-Cruise J-Cruise II
2013 GT-Air GT-Air II
2015 Hornet Hornet X2
2016 J.O J.O Cruise

It would be remiss of me not to highlight their latest addition in 2023, the Shoei X-Fifteen (known as the X-SPR Pro in Europe), which serves as the successor to the X-Fourteen, building upon the X-Eleven line of releases.

Think of the world’s greatest MotoGP legends Marc Marquez, Bradley Smith and Malcolm Stewart, who all helped put the best Shoei helmets through the wringer before being awarded the muted hexagon badge.

Marc Marquez stretching his limbs on the racy Honda RC213V in preparation for his return to action at Le Mans on May 12-14, 2023, while wearing the new Shoei X-Fifteen Marquez Dazzle helmet.
Marc Marquez stretching his limbs on the racy Honda RC213V in preparation for his return to action at Le Mans on May 12-14, 2023, while wearing the new Shoei X-Fifteen Marquez Dazzle helmet.

The Honda Connection

As if by some amazing stroke of luck, Eitaro was inspired by another legend, Soichiro, founder of Honda who would stay at Eitaro’s family inn near Tokyo every time he visited the city. And in 1954, Eitaro left the family business and started a textile company, which initially produced construction helmets.

But through sheer determination, it grew to be a reputable motorcycle helmet maker, meeting the Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) of the 1960s. His connection with Honda helped a great deal to put his new franchise in the limelight as Honda adopted his helmets from 1965 onwards as a part of the Honda package for overseas frontiers.

The AGV Pista GP R Carbon Valentino Rossi Helmet, one of the best helmets ever made

The motorcycle helmets I recommend provide a perfect balance of affordability and unwavering quality, ensuring the utmost value for your investment. These are items I've become well-acquainted with during my more than 50 years of motorcycling experience, where I've led and consulted for reputable companies in over 25 countries, in addition to being an avid rider. They are the very same helmets that have earned my trust and served me exceptionally well during countless adventures.

Where Are Shoei Helmets Made?

A bulk of Shoei helmets are still handmade in Japan with great attention to detail and quality control, despite all its success and fame worldwide. To put into perspective, the company has presence in the Americas, Europe and Asia with only 800 employees total. So, each helmet technician at Shoei is a master of the art. If that’s not exclusive, I don’t know what is!

Whew, with the history lesson behind us, I hope you’re feeling enlightened or perhaps even embracing your inner historian (chuckles). Next, let’s dig into the factors that contribute to the high cost of Shoei helmets.

8 Reasons Shoei Helmets Are So Expensive

In 2023, there is little difference between AGV and Shoei when it comes to the premium motorcycle helmet market. Arai, Schuberth, Bell, and HJC follow closely, in that order, in the North American, European, and Asia-Pacific markets. These top brands have earned their reputation by consistently delivering high-quality products and meeting the needs of motorcyclists.

Let’s see what makes Shoei so great that they can get away with high prices and still make the most sales and why it’s increasingly difficult to find a proper Shoei alternative.

1. Shoei Runs a Rigorous Rider-Centric R&D Process

The new Shoei X-15 in blue and white graphics bearing striking resemblance to the outgoing X-14, minus the eyebrow vents and redesigned chin vent with allowance for hydration pipe. A proven race weapon, it’s a testament to Shoei’s continued innovation and collaboration with the MotoGP sport to garner insights to making ever safer and more efficient helmets.
The new Shoei X-15 in blue and white graphics bearing striking resemblance to the outgoing X-14, minus the eyebrow vents and redesigned chin vent with allowance for hydration pipe. A proven race weapon, it’s a testament to Shoei’s continued innovation and collaboration with the MotoGP sport to garner insights to making ever safer and more efficient helmets..

The new Shoei X-15 with DOT, ECE 22.06 and SNELL certification is the first helmet to achieve the seemingly impossible feat off meeting all three standards. It also has 1.6% less lift and 6.1% less overall drag than the outgoing X-14. Not much, you might imagine, but that is the definition of Kaizen and the product of countless hours in the wind tunnel. And while the average rider might not notice it, these changes have probably been monumental for Marc Marquez over the last few months on the track!

It’s all there in the company’s mission statement,

“To build the very best helmets that our “state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies will allow.”

Shoei relies on “good old field research” to find out what the market needs to continuously inform the process of coming up with the most functional and safe helmets for everyday use and high profile racing.

Most of their helmets, including the versatile Shoei GT-Air II spirited touring helmet, have a neutral fit rather than the medium oval that most helmets come in, reducing chances that longer oval head shapes will get pressure points.

2. Only Premium Materials Go Into Shoei Helmets

An infographic showing an exploded view of the layering inside a Shoei AIM+ RF-1200 shell. Shoei’s proprietary fiberglass and SuperFabric shell construction gives us a lightweight, flexible and energy dispersing shell giving a whole new meaning to helmet safety.
An infographic showing an exploded view of the layering inside a Shoei AIM+ RF-1200 shell. Shoei’s proprietary fiberglass and SuperFabric shell construction gives us a lightweight, flexible and energy dispersing shell giving a whole new meaning to helmet safety.

Most of Shoei’s recent releases, like the RF-1400, feature the Multi-Ply Matrix AIM+ shell (their most elastic and lightest shell), which incorporates a composite multi-layer arrangement of organic fiberglass, organic fibers, and a 3D organic fiber matrix. An elastic and continuous hand-woven shell ensures that the shell can absorb some of the energy in and of itself before dispersing it to the EPS liner. The elasticity is great for noise cancellation too, making the RF-1400 the ideal lid for longer journeys where fatigue could compromise safety.

To emphasize this, let’s take their popular Shoei Neotec 2 helmet for instance. It offers you the best of a full-face helmet with the flexibility of a modular helmet, along with a multi-piece EPS liner with varying densities for maximal impact mitigation. On the inside, you’ll find the luxurious 3D Max Dry 2 Liner, which keeps your skin reasonably dry and comfortable in all weather conditions.

3. Followed By A Closely Guarded Manufacturing Process

A sneak peek inside the Shoei factory in Tokyo, Japan. An Shoei GT-Air II Aperture comes into form through a rigorous and closely guarded secret process which is roughly 98% by hand.
A sneak peek inside the Shoei factory in Tokyo, Japan. The Shoei GT-Air II Aperture comes into form through a rigorous and closely guarded secret process which is roughly 98% by hand.

Each Shoei helmet is still handcrafted in Japan, with more than 50 technicians providing a final touch-up, despite their astronomical sales. Handcrafting is what sets top brands like Shoei, Arai, and AGV helmets apart from the cheaper run-of-the-mill brands. There is a lot more attention to detail, and if any manufacturing errors are spotted, thousands of lids are removed from the production line.

Shoei is driven by passionate engineering and an unwavering focus on precision. And with Kaizen, the processes and technologies just keep getting better with every day of production. The result is ever more efficient designs that help professional and everyday riders make the most of their motorcycles with peace of mind.

4. Which Produces A1 Aerodynamics and Aero-Acoustic Performance

A graphic of the stock Shoei X-14 left profile, showing the contours followed by air rushing past the helmet to reduce drag and wind noise. Putting a good amount of the R&D funds into conceptualization and testing in their brand new 3 million dollar wind tunnel, Shoei are able to give you the best aero-acoustic performance.
A graphic of the stock Shoei X-14 left profile, showing the contours followed by air rushing past the helmet to reduce drag and wind noise. Putting a good amount of the R&D funds into conceptualization and testing in their brand new 3 million dollar wind tunnel, Shoei are able to give you the best aero-acoustic performance.

Shoei is right up there with Arai and AGV when it comes to aerodynamic performance for reduced drag and lift. And as if that’s not enough, they rival the German Schuberth for the world’s quietest helmets.

The Shoei X-SPR Pro, much like the class-defining Schuberth C3 and C4 Pro, have integrated spoiler and vortex generators to break up the air and reduce viscous drag, lift and wind noise.

For my ADV riding, I often toggle between the Shoei Hornet X2 and Schuberth E1. I can tell you from experience that the two are worth every dime, especially because they did not come cheap. I’ll also flat out say that I like my Hornet better because it has a rear ridge where I can attach a goggle strap unlike the E1, which borrows the egg smooth shell of a C3 Pro.

Admittedly, the Hornet is a bit front-heavy, and you can feel the weight if you are spending your time standing on the pegs, chugging along at slow speeds. I also think it’s worth mentioning that Shoei has an answer for the flip-up E1 in the form of the Neotec II, one of the quietest and most comfortable modular  helmets you can buy today.

5. With the Superior Fitment and Comfort

The Shoei J.O Carburetor makes for an open face helmet that fits like a glove and offers maximum airflow for those who like to ride in the wind
The Shoei J.O Carburetor makes for an open face helmet that fits like a glove and offers maximum airflow for those who like to ride in the wind.

Shoei does not gamble with sizing. Their unusually elastic shells let them get away with an unusually tight neck entry in which the shell is stretched apart, allowing a more snug fit. Although it may be a little uncomfortable to put on initially because it shears against your ears, once properly settled, the helmets provide both safety and a quiet riding experience.

Their sizing charts are easy to understand with a single parameter, H. To get your head size, you just need to use a string to measure the distance around your head just above the eyebrows and ears and use it to order a fitting Shoei.

A majority of Shoei helmets, including the unlikely candidates like the retro styled Shoei Ex Zero, Shoei Glamster or even the J-O ¾ helmet (XS), come with 3 to 4 shell sizes to ensure a custom fit.

6. Meeting International Helmet Certification Standards

Another best seller by Shoei, the RF-1400 (NXR2) was among the first helmets to receive the new more stringent ECE 22.06 endorsement in addition to snatching the maximum SHARP rating of 5 stars when reviewed by the UK government sanctioned helmet ranking scheme.

Shoei recently unleashed the X-15 on the North American market, becoming the first street helmet to  achieve the virtually impossible — bearing both the Snell M2020R and ECE 22.06 stickers in addition to surpassing DOT requirements. Now meeting these safety standards is a costly affair that means each helmet is made with higher quality materials and more human resources as well as millions of R&D funding went into their making.

It only makes sense that Shoei would ask more for their superior products to recoup their all-in investment in your safety and satisfaction.

7. And Impeccable Quality Control Informing R&D

Technologist at Shoei marks up parts of the helmet shell that need correction to meet spec during quality control inspection. Each helmet has to undergo numerous quality control checks to ensure that it is absolutely in spec before it can leave the factory.
Technologist at Shoei marks up parts of the helmet shell that need correction to meet spec during quality control inspection. Each helmet has to undergo numerous quality control checks to ensure that it is absolutely in spec before it can leave the factory.

Each Shoei helmet is a work of art perfected by skilled craftsmen and tested beyond reproach through the existing in-house quality control mechanism even before its presented for vetting under certification schemes like SG/JIS, SHARP, SNELL or ECE.

8. No to Forget Shoei’s 5-Year Warranty and Crash Replacement Policy

The result, helmets that are so perfect, the company offers ridiculously long warranty periods lasting 5 to 7 years! And as if that’s not enough, Shoei goes the extra mile to replace your crashed helmets at a discount, demonstrating just how much they care for their customers.

I have once or twice dealt with Shoei customer service, and I can attest that they are responsive and take these claims seriously, so it’s not just a sales gimmick.

AGVSPORT Knee and Body Armor

I've diligently categorized my motorcycle gear recommendations into all available categories, with the aim of providing you with a comprehensive analysis that showcases the absolute best options for all your needs. These items are the culmination of in-depth research, extensive testing, and personal use throughout my vast experience of 50+ years in the world of motorcycling. Besides being a passionate rider, I've held leadership positions and offered consultancy services to reputable companies in over 25 countries. To See Top Picks and the Best Prices & Places to Buy: Click Here!

FAQs — I Have the Answers!

Q: Are Shoei Helmets Worth the Money?

Yes, I consider Shoei helmets as some of the best protection and comfort that money can buy. Also, considering the handcrafted perfection of each helmet and a rigorous R&D and conceptualization process that goes into each helmet model, the 5 year warranty and crash replacement discounts, Shoei does give value for money with their helmets.

Q: Do Shoei Helmets Ever Go On Sale In Yard Sales?

Yes, you can find Shoei helmets on the secondhand market, but that doesn’t mean you should buy them unless only slightly used. Unless you are getting a very enticing price offer, buying second hand Shoei helmets will have you forego a lot of benefits like customer support and warranty coverage.

Q: Do Shoei Helmets Come With A Chin Curtain?

Yes, Shoei X-14, RF-1100, RF-1200, Qwest, Hornet X2 and RF-SR come with a chin curtain to help reduce wind turbulence noise while riding. You can also buy them separately directly from Shoei or a reputable dealer.

Q: Can I Buy Spare Parts For My Shoei Helmet?

Yes, you can buy spare parts for Shoei helmets, including chin curtains, visors, air vents, top air outlets, and mouthpieces, among others. These parts are available through your local vendor, Amazon, RevZilla, or directly from Shoei. To get up-to-date information on the availability of Shoei Helmet parts, it is advisable to reach out to customer support.

Q: Is Shoei Or Arai Better?

Both Shoei and Arai are highly regarded helmet brands in the top tier motorcycling community. Each brand offers its own unique features and advantages.

Arai helmets are known for their “glancing off” impact mitigation, which provides excellent protection by redirecting impact forces. This feature focuses on direct absorption during a crash, which can be beneficial in certain scenarios.

On the other hand, Shoei helmets are typically lighter and more comfortable. The lighter weight and enhanced comfort contribute to reduced fatigue, allowing riders to stay focused and alert during their journeys. This can also play a role in preventing accidents in the first place.

Ultimately, the choice between Shoei and Arai comes down to personal preference and fit. Both brands deliver exceptional quality, protection, and comfort. It’s recommended to try on helmets from each brand and determine which one feels the best for you.

Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative government, educational, corporate, and non-profit organizations:

About the Author:

About the Author:

Michael Parrotte started his career in the motorcycle industry by importing AGV Helmets into the North American market. He was then appointed the Vice President of AGV Helmets America. In total, he worked with AGV Helmets for 25 years. He has also served as a consultant for KBC Helmets, Vemar Helmets, Suomy Helmets, Marushin Helmets, KYT Helmets, and Sparx Helmets.

In 1985, he founded AGV Sports Group, Inc. with AGV Helmets in Valenza, Italy. For over 38 years now, the company has quietly delivered some of the best protective gear for motorcyclists in the world.

Click Here for Michael’s LinkedIn Profile

Click Here for the Complete AGV Helmet & AGVSPORT History

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