Shoei's quest to cut drag: Wind-tunnel developed X-SPR Pro leads helmet tech advances

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Shoei’s new X-SPR Pro helmet looks set to raise the bar in helmet tech – and particularly aerodynamics.

The Pro is Shoei’s top-of-the-range, FIM-homologated racing lid, built to meet the new ECE 22.06 safety regs and replace Shoei’s X-Spirit III.

With a wind tunnel-developed shell intended to keep the wearer’s head still at up to 217mph, it’s claimed go be one of the most advanced helmets yet.

Taku Nimura, Shoei’s Creative Director of Product Design, told MCN how the innovative design came about. “It’s taken two-and-a-half years. Research started around June 2019 and the design from August 2019,” he said.

Protection remains paramount but he says there are many other factors to consider, for example stability with the need to stop turbulence upsetting a rider’s concentration at race speeds.

In order to meet this ambition, the Japanese firm have focused on aerodynamics – claiming to have made more than 150 shell shape changes during development.

Nimura continued: “The shape of X-SPR Pro reduces drag and lift and does it in a balanced way. It’s also important to develop helmet aerodynamics in combination with the motorcycle because the friction to the helmet is affected by the fairing and screen.

Yamaha R1 GYTR on the track at Paul Riccard

He added: “So, when developing a helmet, we test it with the types of motorcycles we expect riders to be using.”

Outside of its performance at speed, the new lid needed to meet the new, more stringent, ECE 22.06 regulations, which test products on both glancing impacts and straight-on collisions.

“We expected we needed to expand the width of the helmet for safety reasons in order to pass ECE 22.06. This is not favourable when designing a helmet,” the Shoei man added.

Newly developed parts include the upper air intake, lower air spoiler, chin bar, rear shell shape, stabiliser and flaps.

The visor and interior pads are also new. But how do you know all of these changes work, without continuous laps of a racetrack?

“The speed our tunnel can produce is limited and 350kph is beyond its maximum. We studied a variety of shell shapes at lower speeds to find out what was effective and what we find effective in our wind tunnel is also effective at higher speeds.

“We also had many riding tests. We tested over 150 clay models in the wind tunnel, changing the shape to find an effective shell shape.”

Nimura went on: “In aerodynamics, I reached the level I expected. I needed to modify the design to pass homologation so it’s different from the original. It’s a design with good aerodynamics even without rear stabiliser.”