Shark Race-R Pro Helmet
Editor Score: 88.25%
Twenty-five hundred miles in seven days, through blinding torrential rains and face melting sun, through the darkest of darks along the loneliest of highways, rapidly weaving through endless reserves of the greenest of lush, the relaxing view through my race helmet was ever changing, never to be repeated twice. From LA to British Columbia and back, this epic journey amongst friends was one for the ages. Food for the ever hungry soul, if you will.
Wait… did I just say race helmet?! Why on earth would anyone take a thousands mile journey with a race helmet and not some fancy modular touring confliption? Honestly… because I don’t own one. And because Shark’s top ranging Race-R Pro is dead-nuts QUIET. And when you’re droning along endlessly on a big trip, a serene and calm environment for your grinning face is a must. Yes, I wear ear plugs, and as someone whose paychecks are dependent upon their hearing (Thai Long Ly is Famous), I have a vested interest in keeping it well protected. So when Shark claims their range topping MotoGP level helmet is 4.5 dB (1.5 times) quieter than its predecessor, I figure there’s no better test than a long ride.
And zut alors! This French marvel of carbon, Aramid and Shark resins is incredibly adept at keeping the wind from infiltrating my childish mind. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m ecstatic that they do. The fact that it’s designed to protect top riders such as Jorge Lorenzo and Johann Zarco means it should be plenty safe for my slow speed shenanigans. A Sharp 5 star rating as well as ECE/DOT approval means I’m far from wrong.
See, race helmets aren’t usually known for being quiet, with all the venting here and venturi effecting there, they’re actually quite loud. It’s a small trade-off for offering elephantine airflow, superior aerodynamics, Boeing-sized viewports, and enough complex plastics and foams to keep us alive when we go airborne. In the case of the Shark, maybe it’s the design of the all-encompassing neck roll made of super chakra-cleansing antibacterial bamboo fibers that contributes to its zen atmosphere? It’s gotta be. The aggressive sealing around your neck makes the on/off procedure less than pleasant, but once you’ve shoehorned your melon into the soft tender lining, your noggin has never felt more nurtured and cradled. Like mother’s womb. IIRC.
Thirty years of helmet making has taught this Marseille-based (ahh.. I fell in love with a beautiful girl there once) company a thing or two and their “reverse engineering” principles start with the human head shape, where every single detail is designed and implemented to insure the highest standards of safety and functionality. And I believe them. As a result of this attention and concentrer, the overall fit and finish is excellent; equal to if not surpassing the major Japanese brands we all know and love. For example, the three brow vent controls slide and move with a positive solidity and nothing on the helmet feels flimsy or weak. A fourth chin vent opens easily with a gloved hand and the multi position particle filter is a particularly nice touch. And no whistling whatsoever.
Like silky smooth thighs (not your own) against your sun-stained cheeks, the fully removable moisture-wicking liner is caressingly plush, with an upscale hand and touch. Once the dense padding breaks in and conforms to your mug, you could sleep with this thing on. The temple channel cutouts for the visually wasted are a welcome feature and my defective eyeballs are grateful for this compassionate thinking; like a corndog in a fat boy’s mouth, all your overpriced eyewear slides riiiight in. Being Sharktooth ready (the company’s proprietary Bluetooth system), the speaker pockets accommodate my Sena units just as well. In addition, removing the breathable liner and cheek pads reveals humongous channels in the EPS, both for shock absorption and increased air flow.
With two shell sizes available, this intermediate-oval helmet is incredibly well balanced at speed, exhibiting steady and stable aerodynamic properties during head checks, whether upright or fully tucked. The Race-R Pro fits my battered dumpling like pantyhose over a freshly shaven skull – in other words, nearly perfect. During my extended trip the Race-R Pro was all-day comfy and unobtrusive; and seeing as there’s nothing worse than wanting to rip your helmet off due to hot spots or comfort issues, this cannot be overstated. At one point, we were caught in perhaps the most hellacious rainstorm I’ve ever ridden in, where even Rain-X on the visor was rendered completely ineffective. That pounding Oregon rain ain’t no joke and slithering through the Cascades with zero visibility was a scary exercise in two wheeled stupidity. All the while, the Shark never leaked, dripped nor soaked my silky gorgeous hairs. Not a one.
So how’s the view? Boasting Class 1 optics, there is not a more distortion-free visor that I’ve experienced. Being 4mm thick at the center tapering to 3mm towards the edges, this is a seriously robust piece of engineering and is every bit a “shield” for your face. Swaps are super easy and the ratcheting system is uniquely designed and works well. Oh, and the tinted shield is dark. So, don’t get caught at night without a clear one or you’ll be plowing blindly into whatever.
Furthermore, the double D-rings on the thickly padded strap ensure a proper grasp of your jaw and the unique magnetic strap holder works as intended. ’Tis far quicker than fumbling with a traditional snap and I’ve never had it come undone without provocation. As for the weight, a MED tallied 56.9 oz and a SM 55.0 oz on my digital scale. For reference, my SM Nexx XR2 Carbon whispered 33.4 oz, my SM Arai Corsair X coughed up 54.4 oz, while the SM Shoei RF1200 countered with 52.9 oz. So not the lightest available but still right in line for a premium built product in this elite performance class. The five-year warranty means it’s built to last and is especially comforting. Like mother’s milk.
So what’s not to like? Not much, really. The biggest drawback I can think of is that being so quiet, I find myself riding faster on the streets than with other helmets. Seriously. You ever just ride to the threshold of comfort, using only wind noise and buffeting to tell you how fast you’re going? I can usually judge my speed by what I’m hearing (or not hearing) based on the turbulence and roar of the wind. Wind makes this much noise, head moves this much, I must be going this fast. A quick glance down at the speedometer and yep… velocity confirmed. This Race-R Pro is so damn quiet, I find myself riding 5 to 10 mph faster – based on feel alone – than I would be, wearing any other helmet. All in all, not really a negative, unless you’re staring down blue swirly lights or worse, a cellmate named Manpounder Slammenrammer, as a result. Oh, and then there’s the bug-through-vent-ricochet-off-visor-into-face phenomena. This thing flows not only air, but whole entire bugs. Yes, I said bugs. One downside to having such prodigious airflow is that flying insects can and will slam your speeding face after hurling themselves through a vent and bouncing off the inside of the visor. Most likely due to the visor’s scooped shape from what I can tell. Weird, but true.
Wait… one mo’ ting. The mechanism that locks the visor tensioner to the cam comes loose over time, so a small allen key is needed to snug it all up periodically. When improperly tensioned, the visor flops shut when you’d really want it open, especially at stop lights. Not a diarrhea-on-your-first-date sorta thing, but can be annoying when you’re out on the road. I’ve learned to check it every few rides to make sure it’s all secure before venturing out into the real world.
So what have we learned here? All in all, I really dig this helmet and urge anyone in the market for a high end option to head to your nearest Shark dealer and try one on. If it fits you right, buy it. The Race-R Pro should provide you with thousands of protectively quiet miles. Offering premium materials and design implementation, skinny aerodynamics, a large viewport with exceptional clarity, huge air flow, a Sharp 5 star rating and class leading noise suppression makes ce casque francaise a first reach grab for any trek or track!
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