When I changed from an adventure bike to a cruiser I wanted a helmet more fitting with my new Harley-Davidson Sportster. Shoei’s new Ex-Zero had just been released and seemed the perfect solution.
The Shoei Ex-Zero is based on the design of the company’s 1980s motocross helmet, the EX-5. Shoei are not the first company to remake an old model with modern materials – Bell reintroduced their 1970s/80s Moto 3 in 2016 – but it’s nice to have a choice of retro lids.
When I took the helmet out of the box, the first thing I noticed was the lack of weight – it feels a lot like an open-faced helmet but with the benefit of the chinbar. That probably shouldn’t be a big surprise as the Ex-Zero’s main construction is based on Shoei’s J-O open-face lid, but with the addition of a fixed chinbar.
It keeps the motocross styling, but it has a partial visor that slides between the shell and the EPS – a bit like an internal sun visor, but this one counts as eye protection.
I opted for my usual size – small, which felt slightly snugger than most of the other helmets I have worn. It was never uncomfortable, just a closer fit than I had been used to.
Photography: Will Brodie
Once the cheekpads softened up the helmet fitted me perfectly, though it took a fair few rides to bed in and I’d done a few hundred miles before it moulded to my face. Even after that, I found it a little snug getting the helmet on and off.
The aperture on this helmet is huge, which is great for vision as the chinbar barely interferes with the view of the road.
The shell shape and visor aperture mean you are also able to use goggles, which completely changes the look of the helmet. I found it handy to use goggles with a tinted lens during the day and then switch to the clear visor for night rides.
Having the visor (something Bell’s Moto 3 lacks, for example) increases practicality without ruining the styling. The visor is easy to raise or lower, and it reached far enough down to touch the tip of my nose.
Optional tints are available – dark smoke to help in bright sunlight and yellow, which provides extra contrast in low light.
There’s a limit to the practicality the Ex-Zero’s visor can offer, though. It does help when it starts raining, but this helmet really isn’t suited to poor weather.
As soon as it gets cold or starts raining life becomes a lot less comfortable as the visor doesn’t seal the front aperture. This criticism isn’t specific to the Ex-Zero – it applies to all helmets with a partial visor.
I felt this was a small price to pay for something that looked and felt right with my bike, so I didn’t let it put me off – I just took a necktube with me to keep me warm.
Another practicality issue is that you get all of the noise with this helmet – wind noise, bike noise and white noise. A set of decent ear plugs is something to consider, as you will need them.
The Shoei Ex-Zero is a great performing urban helmet that strikes a blend of retro styling with modern materials and the build quality cannot be faulted. I really enjoyed wearing the Ex-Zero; on the right bike, and in the right weather, this helmet takes some serious beating.
The visor aperture is huge and allows you to see everything. The visor also doesn’t impede as it completely shields the eyes.
The half visor kept most of the elements at bay. The option to attach a full visor to the press studs above the visor aperture would make it more practical, as would the ability to close the chin vent.
Fit & Comfort
The helmet was comfortable, but it did take a little while to break in. Putting the helmet on was a little tighter than I’d expect from a small helmet.
I couldn’t fault the quality of construction – everything was flawless.
It’s not meant to be feature-laden, but the key elements we’d hope for from a retro lid like this are all there.