Shoei Hornet DS Motorcycle Helmet Review

[This Shoei Hornet DS Motorcycle Helmet Review was originally published in the July 2008 issue of Rider magazine]

Given the diverse nature of dual-sport riding, it’s hard to pin down a perfect design for any piece of equipment–but it does happen. Shoei’s Hornet DS motorcycle helmet strikes at the heart of the dirt/street divide with a lid that works equally well in both environments, and packs in plenty of technical features.

First up is a proprietary composite shell designed for strength and light weight. Inside, varying densities of expanded polystyrene (EPS) maximize protection for both high- and low-speed impacts. This protective combo weighed 3.4 pounds for our size medium test unit, and lets the made-in-Japan Hornet meet both DOT and Snell standards. EPS in the chinbar helps prevent facial injuries.

The rest of the helmet is all about comfort and convenience. Shoei’s 3D lining features Dry Max fabric that absorbs up to 35 times its weight in sweat, and multiple foam densities to hold your head snug but comfortably. It’s easily removable for cleaning, and simple to reinstall. Channels in the cheek pads let my glasses sit naturally on my face, and four shell sizes accommodate helmet sizes XXS-XXL, so no one has to look like a bubblehead. Noise control is better than an offroad helmet but doesn’t compare with a good street lid like Shoei’s X-Eleven. A removable chin curtain helps with both noise and cold air.

After several fire road jaunts on my Suzuki DR-Z400S and workday commuting on my Kawasaki KLR650, I took the DS to South Africa for three days on a 2008 BMW R1200GS and one day astride the BMW F800GS. Everywhere I used it–no matter the road surface, speed or motorcycle–the Hornet performed like a champ. Though it’s possible to catch the breeze with the visor, there was no neck strain with my head in a neutral position. The blunt side of the helmet gets more windblast than a street helmet during head checks, but it wasn’t a problem. The visor is your best friend when the sun bores in, and is flexible and strong enough to survive impacts with the local chaparral. If it does cause problems, it’s easy to remove and Shoei supplies covers for the mounts.

Dual-sporting can entail low-speed riding, so the Hornet’s ventilation system is designed to work with reduced airflow. Two brow vents and a ram-air top vent bring in fresh air that’s channeled around your head by the EPS, while dual exhaust vents and neck-level ports draw the hot stuff out. A chin vent with dust filter provides anti-fogging flow to the face shield, but doesn’t rule out misting in cool, moist conditions. The vent controls were easy to operate with gloves on, though the top vent needed a touch of lubrication. The ventilation works well over 20 mph or so, but was overwhelmed by slow, strenuous riding in humid South Africa.

The one flaw on the Hornet is the face shield. It provides an undistorted view, blocks 99 percent of UVA and UVB rays, and goggle fans can remove it entirely, but the 2mm thick plastic is so flexible that pushing down on the thumb tab bends the shield too far to the side to shut it completely–doing that requires a finger and thumb on the shield itself. It also lacks a positive latch to secure it, but seals well and never popped open in the wind. Besides the shield and the Hornet’s ho-hum color palette–two blacks, white, silver, and matte dark gray–the DS is a dual-sporter’s dream executed with Shoei’s excellent quality and attention to detail. Suggested retail prices range from $456.99 (gloss black) to $482.99 (all others), and include a five-year warranty.

For more information see your Shoei dealer or visit


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