Review: Shoei NXR (£329)

Tom Rayner is looking for a lid to replace an old favourite... will this lightweight Shoei pass the test?

YOU know that perfect lid – the one that fits snugger than a pair of old slippers? Well my Arai RX7 GP was THAT lid. The trouble is, it was already long over due a replacement four years ago.

In fact, my Arai was so old the Dani Pedrosa replica paint had started to look ironic. I got this lid in 2006 when a fearsomely fast, young Pedrosa had just stormed 125 and 250cc championships and everybody was wondering how many MotoGP titles he'd rack up... well at least the helmet lived up to its promise.

It's not the first time I've tried to replace my Arai. I've tested HJC, Givi, and Schuberth lids but each time I returned to my old Pedrosa replica. I never found a fit, level of comfort, and ventilation to match the RX7 GP – which is no surprise, considering it's Arai's flagship lid.

So why not just get another Arai? I know plenty of journalists who proudly declare they only ever wear Arai. Well racers are free to tie themselves to a corporate sponsor if they like, but aren't journalists actually supposed to test stuff?

Shoei's NXR appealed because it was so simple. The last few lids I've worn have gone out of their way to over complicate a straightforward design. I don't want a flip down visor. I don't want Bluetooth connectivity. Also just give me a simple D-Ring; I can't stand those 'clunk, click' seat belt safety fasteners – it's over-engineering.

The NXR is one of the lightest helmets I've ever worn, just 1.36kg. Everybody who's picked it up has remarked how light it feels. Incredibly it's only a fibre-glass construction, but all the same the NXR is lighter than many of the carbon-fibre helmets on the market. It's only 100 grams heavier than Simon's £520 carbon-fibre Shark lid, and mine doesn't look like the Czech flag.

Crucially, it's over 240 grams lighter than my old RX7 and on long journeys I could really feel the difference in my neck, it was much less stiff at the end of a day's riding. This could also be due to a sleeker, more aerodynamic design.

The NXR is impressively quiet, it's like riding in a library compared to my old Arai. When I close the visor then the noise from the engine and the wind blast is instantly reduced. Even at motorway speeds and without ear plugs - which I was always forced to wear with the Arai - the wind noise isn't offensive. Shoei has fitted a pair of foam ear pads inside the NXR to help reduce wind noise.

I chose a plain black design. Race replica paint jobs have started to feel about as sexy as replica football shirts stretched tight over a beer belly. There's still a time and a place for race rep lids, but 7:30am on the South Circular had stopped feeling like it. You might think it's just sour grapes from a man who's spent the best part of the last decade riding around in a Dani Pedrosa lid but you can save up to £100 by opting for a moody monochrome.

The NXR has taken a bit of breaking in but this is normal. Think of helmets like a set of leather shoes, they'll never feel comfortable from day one. Make sure you buy a slightly tighter fit and within a month it will be snug and you'll wonder what all the fuss had been about.

It comes in four different shell sizes, with more precise sizing being adjusted by the padding within. Sizes start from XXS and go all the way to XXL.

I rode for 120 miles in the NXR during the very wet launch of the new Yamaha XSR700 in Sardinia. Despite the rain and cooler weather the ventilation did a good job of keeping the visor de-misted. The pin lock system really helps in this respect.

That said, the ventilation on the NXR is not as good as on Arai's RX7 GP. On the latter I could hear the wind being sucked up through the front mouthpiece grille and could feel a steady draft from the vent around my nose. The NXR has perhaps made the compromise of less ventilation in favour of a more lightweight design.

My only real niggle so far is with the chin curtain... I just can't make it stay in place and it often drops out when I remove the helmet. And yes, I have tried reading the instructions!

I really love the simplicity, quietness and lightweight construction of the NXR. Compare the silhouette of the helmet to the Arai and you'll see it's a much sleeker design. Perhaps now I can finally lay faithful, old Dani Pedrosa to rest (the replica helmet, not the rider).

The NXR scores a 4/5 in the SHARP helmet rating.

Price: £329 (black) £399-429 (with graphics)