We have had several requests for this comparison ever since the new Shoei RF-1200 was released just a few weeks ago. The Shoei GT-Air was the first full face Shoei helmet to incorporate an internal drop down sun visor, and has quickly gained popularity as a solid choice for touring and commuting. The RF-1200, in contrast, is an all new refresh on the mainstay of Shoei’s helmet lineup, the RF series. That leaves us with two fantastic full face motorcycle helmets to choose from, and with very similar price points, decided on one or the other may seem a bit daunting. In this comparison we hope to ease that decision making process and highlight which helmet will work best for you and your bike.
If you take away one thing from this video and article, it should be that these are both very high quality helmets that are worth their somewhat lofty price tags–albeit for different reasons. The Shoei GT-Air currently starts at around the $500 mark, while the Shoei RF-1200 will set you back about $440 (more for graphics). While on the surface this seems like an obvious $60 price difference–which really isn’t all that much to begin with since we are talking $500 helmets–remember that the GT-Air includes an internal drop down sun visor. This means you won’t have to purchase a smoke shield, which will add $50+ to the cost of the RF-1200.
So if there isn’t much in the way of a price difference, what separates these two Shoei Helmets? Quite a bit, actually. For starters, we already mentioned that the Shoei GT-Air features an internal drop down sun visor. While this is probably the most obvious difference, perhaps some of the implications of this feature are not so obvious. Of course, it is wonderful to always have a tinted visor at the ready, you’ll never have to swap face shields again. However, this feature also adds a bit of weight to the helmet, and it is also one of the main reasons that the Shoei GT-Air is not Snell certified–the GT-Air only carries the DOT approved sticker on the back.
This alone can mean very different things to different riders. If you are a track day guy, you already know that a DOT only helmet probably isn’t going to fly for you. However if track days aren’t in your near future, this still might not be a clear cut decision. Maybe your helmet will see mostly commuting, weekend cruising, or long distance touring. In these settings, the GT-Air really shines. The GT-Air has a slight edge over the RF-1200 in the wind noise department, speaking from personal experience. The base of the helmet seems to come down further on the GT-Air, doing a better job of insulating your ears from the wind rushing past the bottom of the helmet. While both helmets flow through the air very cleanly, the GT-Air has a more elongated shape, which I feel also contributes to the sense that it flows very smoothly through the air.
That’s not to say the Shoei RF-1200 couldn’t be used for a sport touring helmet. On the contrary, the Shoei RF-1200 is also extremely comfortable. Most notable when trying these helmets back to back is the RF-1200 weighs less. This means less neck fatigue, which can be a very important factor to some–regardless of what or where you ride. Aside from the weight, the Shoei RF-1200 also rewards you with excellent ventilation. While the top vent on the GT-Air certainly flows a decent amount of air, it seems to be mainly concentrated on the top of the head. The RF-1200, on the other hand, gives a more universal ventilation experience. Warm air extraction is excellent on the RF-1200, thanks to 4 hidden exhaust ports underneath the rear wing.
In addition to the superior ventilation of the RF-1200, you also receive an interior lining of Max Dry II fabric. This fabric will wick moisture and dry faster than the standard Max Dry fabric found in the GT-Air. If you live somewhere hot, or tend to sweat a lot, this can mean the difference between a wet helmet or a dry one when you hop back on the bike.
One of the biggest differences between these two helmets is one that you can’t even see, and that is shell construction. While these helmets both have high quality Shoei Helmet Shells, the RF-1200 actually has the advantage here. Shoei has two main forms of shell construction: AIM and AIM+.
While these construction methods both yield exceptionally strong results, there is no doubt that AIM+ is designed to be the ultimate defense against head injuries. While all Shoei will say is they added a layer of “special fibers”–they want to keep their secret recipe secret–what I can tell you is physically taking the RF-1200 and the GT-Air in hand and squeezing the chin bar, the RF-1200 is noticeably stronger. All I will say is if Shoei uses AIM+ construction for their MotoGP guys wearing the X-Twelve, it has to be top shelf. So the GT-Air is best and the RF-1200 is bestest in the shell department.
Lastly, the eye ports on the helmets are slightly different, with the RF-1200 giving noticeably more vision out of the top. This is especially important for sportbike riders who find themselves in full tuck. Keeping your head down while still being able to see where you are going is important for rather obvious reasons.
In closing, it really comes down to the type of riding you plan on doing. If high performance is what gets you going, the RF-1200 is the choice for you. If you are looking for a more quiet, convenient helmet with that internal sun visor, then the GT-Air gets the nod. Either way, know that you are getting an extremely high quality helmet that will serve you well.