We’ve had a whole slew of dual-sport testing going on lately with a First Ride on the 2008 Honda CRF230L, ’08 Yamaha WR250R and Yamaha WR250X. Then we picked up another Yammie in the form of the all-new XT250, which we are currently testing. The influx of on/off-road riding put us in the ever-present pinch of deciding which helmet to use. I typically prefer dirt helmets simply for familiarity, but street lids certainly have their benefits. Fortunately, Shoei has realized the dilemma of the switch hitters out there and addressed it with the introduction of the all-new Hornet DS, specifically tailored to the needs of dual-sport riders.
When our Matte Black version showed up with the optional tinted face shield it looked more like a fighter pilot setup than a dirt bike helmet – wicked good looking. The three-dimensionally curved shield is really the defining feature of this helmet in conjunction with the shorty visor. Shoei is particularly proud of the helmet’s multi-functionality, which stems from these two features. The visor is much shorter than you will find on a regular off-road helmet in order to minimize the wind buffeting on highway stints. We never had to block any roost with it, but we did hide underneath to block out direct sunlight. In those respects it would definitely be nice to have some extra length, but as soon as the speeds pick up and your helmet isn’t acting like a jib, the opposite benefits become clear.
One of four intake vents is designed into the visor where a channel forces air through a gasketed seal and into the vent – pretty high-tech until you remove the visor and are left with a gaping hole. The vent is closeable as are the other three. A pair is located on the forehead, while the third is through the mouthpiece. Though located traditionally, the mouthpiece vent is unique to the Hornet because of the face shield. A plastic scoop just inside the vent funnels airflow directly onto the inside of the shield for maximum reduction of fogging. Even when we intentionally tried to get it foggy with heavy breathing on cold, wet days, the vent wouldn’t allow the moisture to stay. Overall, airflow was awesome and we didn’t have any problems with sweating it out inside the DS.
Airflow is good when it is passing through the vents, but we did experience some unwanted breeze passing around the face shield. It does a good job for the most part, but the seal isn’t as tight as with standard street helmets.
“The thing I like about these multi-use helmets like the Hornet is that they look the part of a moto-lid but have nearly all the positive traits of a full face helmet,” says Editorial Director, Ken Hutchison. “Where it does not rival an RF-1000 for example, is in outright wind protection. The MX-inspired facemask allows more moving air to shoot up from around the rider’s chin area. On a cold or rainy ride like I experienced during the Dunlop Roadsmart intro, this is not an entirely positive trait.”
The Hornet offers off-road capabilities and comfort with only minimal time to adjust to the street-style face shield.
While the helmet is designed to work as well as possible over the widest range of dual-sporting conditions, both the shield and visor can be removed to further enhance dirt or street riding. If long distances of pavement are the necessary, removing the visor will help eliminate wind buffeting, and removing the shield makes a little extra room for traditional off-road goggles if dirt is the norm.
However, wearing the Hornet in either abbreviated forms has a few quirks. The eye port is tight enough that it doesn’t make much difference if the shield is still attached while wearing goggles, getting them in and out of the helmet is a pain. Also, removing the visor is great except that it leaves the largest forehead vent glaring and open without any way of sealing it off or protecting it from water entry. Those things are inevitable consequences of the helmet’s design, but Shoei’s use of plastic screws to attach the visor and shield boggles us. Why, with such a fantastic helmet would it skimp out and not use aluminum fasteners? Ours chips almost every time we remove the visor.
Aside from the somewhat radical styling and nifty new features, the rest of the helmet is old-school Shoei – clean, comfortable and safe. The removable 3-D interior and five-layer cheek pads provide a snug fit that isn’t irritating and is devoid of pressure points. Even the chin strap is comfy. The AIM+ constructed shell is made using multilayered composite and the safety it provides extends beyond our perceptions with a DOT and SNELL 2005 certification.
As is customary with Shoei lids, the pricetag is hefty, but the level of comfort, safety and style is also on par with the company’s reputation. If dual-sport riding is your primary cup of tea then this helmet is absolutely the way to go. Ease of use and real-world application make the Hornet DS great for zipping around town or busting down hard-core trails.
“The Hornet offers equal fit and finish to the other Shoei helmets I have ridden coupled with the trendy dual-sport styling of this brain bucket,” says Ken. “Get the bike Kato!”
Colors: Black, Crystal White, Light Silver, Matte Black, Matte Deep Gray
MSRP: $482.99 (Black only – $456.99)