Ever since their introduction more than a decade ago, “flip-up” or “modular” helmets have taken a larger and larger share of the helmet market every year, driven by sales to mostly touring, sport- touring and commuting riders. Some of their fans like pulling on helmets that don’t require them to remove their glasses, while long distance types enjoy the convenience of being able to keep their helmets on during a quick stopover for fuel or a snack. Still, others simply like being able to swing the chin bar up whenever they’re stuck at a light, need to talk to a buddy or consult a map. However, flip-ups have had their detractors, who’ve questioned modular ventilation, weight, noise and safety.
Enter Shoei, which carefully studied the reservations riders have expressed about flip-ups and then created their new Neotec, which in my estimation could be a game-changer in the evolution of modular helmet technology and design.
Out of the box, there’s no mistaking Shoei’s usual high quality fit and finish. (Hey, they’ve been making helmets for over 60 years!) Available in seven colors, the Neotec has a sleek look outside, and an inside that can only be described as “plush.” Once I slipped the Neotec on and hit the road, I was most impressed by its ventilation. I’ve never tried a modular or even a full-face where I felt so much air moving through the helmet. There is a wide chin vent, easily operated with gloves, and a relatively huge, three-way adjustable air scoop on the crown, as well as an exhaust vent at the rear. Inside the helmet, Shoei designers have integrated air channels in the EPS liner and cut-outs in the removable/washable foam insert to enhance air circulation. The face shield has six solid detents that allow wearers to crack open the face shield to provide even more fresh air or de-fog.
The Neotec’s weight places it somewhere in the middle of the modular market, though still lighter than some full-face lids. But since Shoei produces the Neotec in three shell sizes (1-XS, S, M; 2-L; 3-XL, XXL), its weight varies with size. The helmet is well balanced and stable at speed, probably due to its oval, mildly “beak-like” shape and aerodynamic lines.
The face shield itself is a new design offering a wider view than its popular cousin, the Multitec, with a claimed 99 percent UV protection and mounting pins for an included Pin Lock insert, which should prevent any fogging in cooler weather. The Neotec also has a pretty nifty aviator-style sun shield, which I’ve found to be largest and least distracting of any I’ve tried. The anti-fog, scratch resistant sun shield is not spring-loaded and slides smoothly down to stop in any position.
It’s hard to be objective about helmet noise, since noise levels are always dependent on conditions and speed. Generally I’m an ear plug wearer when I know I’m going to be traveling at highway speeds, no matter what kind of helmet I’m wearing. But it’s easy to see Shoei has taken dramatic steps to diminish wind and environmental noise in the Neotec. The bottom of the helmet has a removable chin curtain and a form-fitting neck roll. Removable cheek pads can be ordered in three different sizes for custom snugness, while the face shield is actually pulled into a double-wall gasket when closed. Shoei seems to have given a lot of attention to making the Neotec as “slippery” as possible, with even the flip-up tab recessed and a ridge raised around the edge of the face shield edges to reduce any noise from turbulence. The Neotec has removable foam ear pads nesting in recessed areas for the installation of helmet speakers.
The Neotec is DOT certified and includes a host of safety innovations. The chin bar and face shield rotate on the same axis point on this helmet, using a proprietary stainless steel 360-degree locking hinge, which I found easy to release, even using my elk skin ropers. The chin bar is lined with the same EPS found under the shell of the helmet proper, and Shoei actually bumped out the helmet’s shape over the forehead to accommodate the sun shield, so there would be no compromising of the dual-layer EPS protection in this critical area. I would have preferred a micro-ratchet buckle for the padded chinstrap (available on European Neotecs), but the standard double D-ring is the choice for the Stateside market, probably the safest kind of restraint. It did take me a few trips to get used to the chin bar’s habit of flopping down if not raised to its detent, but this may be a safety feature also.
An MSRP of around $650 seems like a lot for helmet, even for one with a five-year warranty; however, I have a feeling the same values for intelligent design, advanced engineering and quality components that draw riders to BMW will lead them to take a serious look at Shoei’s new Neotec.
A wealth of informative online reviews and videos is now available on the Neotec (check RevZilla and Web Bike World) and, of course, more information can be found at the Shoei website: www.shoei-helmets.com