Whether you prefer an open or full-face helmet, both offer differing safety benefits. A full-face gives you face and chin protection, while an open face can offer greater peripheral vision and enable faster hazard detection.
With its gaping wide eye port and chin guard, the retro-styled Shoei Ex-Zero could offer both, but does it actually deliver both sets of benefits?
The Shoei Ex-Zero is an off-road inspired retro helmet, squarely aimed at the cafe racer scene.
It’s essentially a full-faced version of Shoei’s highly acclaimed open-face helmet, the JO, utilising the same shell with an additional chin guard.
At around the £350 mark, it’s mid-range, but you get your money’s worth as Shoei hasn’t scrimped on quality. They’ve used superior materials and construction, which means this lid should last the test of time.
Visibility, Safety and Construction
Shoei’s proprietary AIM Multi-Composite fibre layered shell creates a very light yet rigid and robust helmet that optimises impact protection for your precious swede.
Its big eye-port gives you a huge field of view, akin to that of an open face lid. This aperture means you can wear large goggles, again allowing a superior field of vision.
The helmet also utilises Shoei’s EQRS system (emergency quick release system), allowing the emergency services to quickly remove the inner cheek pads (a feature nobody ever wants to test).
The Ex-Zero’s retro styling means that it won’t look out of place on a classic or cafe racer/bobber bike. Its chin guard boasts attractive grill-style vents (similar to the Bell Moto 3), which grants a menacing industrial look.
The leather material inside the faceguard gives away clues to the high levels of quality hidden away inside. I even like the small emergency warning labels on the sides, in yellow writing, to assist the emergency services.
The Ex-Zero is available in many monotone colours and a variety of matt and gloss finishes.
Fit and Comfort
It weighs in at just over a kilogram, so once it’s on your bonce, this lid feels like a featherweight. The fully removable/washable internals offer high levels of comfort up to the usual Shoei standard.
Once on, the distinct mouthguard gap makes the helmet feel open, and you will often forget you’re even wearing a full-face helmet.
As you would expect with a retro-style helmet, the Ex-Zero has a classic double D ring system. This has a nice soft leather section on each retaining strap, and a small popper allows you to clip up the excess strap.
Unlike its rival, the Bell Moto 3, the Ex-Zero has a drop-down internal visor. This is surprisingly good and works well at moderate speeds. Once you get above 80mph, it starts to become ineffective, and your eyes will begin to weep profusely.
But by far, the visor’s best feature is its adjustable height control, which is tweaked via two small moveable adjusters on either side of the visor, accommodating various nose and face shapes.
Tinted visors are also available, using the same visor as the Shoei J-O. These come in a smoke and low light yellow tint, while the visor also easily accommodates glasses and sunglasses.
There is also an additional peak that can be purchased separately, clipping onto the brow of the lid to give further sun protection. Although I suspect this is probably more of a fashion accessory to give the lid a more Motosport aesthetic.
If you are going to do a lot of high-speed riding, a good set of goggles is recommended for this lid. Not only are they part of the retro-cool vibe, but they’re also great in poor weather, and most have good venting/anti-fogging capabilities.
One of the great features about the large eye ports on the Ex-Zero is that you can pretty much use any size of goggle.
Many riders recommend 100% Barstow’s as a great choice for this lid, or my personal favourites are Roeg Peruna’s (in Midnight Black), with both types fitting well.
Probably not the biggest concern on this style of helmet as the wide eye ports allow a huge amount of airflow, especially as the chin vents aren’t closeable.
There is a limited amount of ventilation into the upper section of the skull cap, but there are two very small venting ports at the rear of the helmet. I suspect these offer little venting.
However, having worn this helmet on some pretty warm test rides, my head never got excessively hot (to the point where sweating began).
I wasn’t expecting much in this department, with this lid effectively operating like an open face, with wind battering the eye-port.
However, it’s surprisingly OK.
Not ‘library’ quiet, but adequate and on par with many full-face lids I’ve tested. (If you are after a quiet helmet, check out this roundup of the quietest motorcycle helmets.)
Although there are no obvious, predefined ear ports for speakers, there is a void in the cheek pads that will easily accommodate them.
I suspect the helmet shape means it won’t be compatible with every comms unit, but I know of at least one rider who successfully wears a Packtalk Bluetooth unit on his Ex-Zero.
This style of helmet probably isn’t for everyone, and many people don’t like the idea of wearing goggles. But for any retro, cafe-style riders, this helmet delivers on style. Plus, its lightness and quality make it a joy to wear.
It’s versatile too. I like the fact that I can wear tinted goggles, and if the weather or daylight is limited, I can take them off and drop down the visor. Or leave the goggles at home, pop on some shades, and drop the visor down when the speed gets high.
It’s clearly a great option for the warmer months, with its open face and wide-open mouth vents. However, it may not be your first option for the wetter, colder months when a decent full-face lid would be better.
Its greatest feature is that it has all the protection of a full-face helmet, while its massive eye-port grants the freedom of the open road by giving you the feeling of wearing an open-face helmet.