For a wide swath of the motorcycling crowd, the modular helmet is ideal for logging long miles for days on end. Blending the aerodynamic efficiency of a standard road helmet with the benefits of an open-face lid, the modular offers easy on/off and the ability to quickly pop up the chin bar to cool off, take a picture, read a map, or talk to a fellow travelmate without having to shout.
In the past decade I’ve owned and tested a handful of modular helmets running the gamut from abysmally bad to noticeably exceptional. The rarified air of the latter group includes but a couple of standouts, the Shoei Neotec being one of them. Although not a new product, I thought it was time I took a closer look at Shoei’s top modular, a helmet always drawing rave reviews by a growing contingent of loyalists. As I like to do, I didn’t just ride around the block with it, I spent a few months with it on the open road.
The design goal with the Neotec was to provide riders with useful features, a refined fit, maximum ventilation, good visibility, low wind noise and buffeting, and a level of comfort designed for long hours in the saddle without any fatigue or discomfort. I’d say they ticked all the boxes.
If I were to pinpoint one common failing point in many lesser quality modulars it would be a poorly designed pivot and locking mechanism. When not engineered properly, lifting the chin bar, and subsequently getting it closed, can be difficult or invite an unbalanced distribution of weight which is in itself fatiguing. The Neotec’s main hinge is well placed and in an effort to reduce complexity and weight, is the same pivot used for the face shield. At 3.88 pounds, the Neotec is impressively only a touch heavier than their premium RF1200 non-modular helmet.
Securing the chin bar in the closed position is a robust locking mechanism made of stainless steel components. Whereas other modulars require a little wiggle and extra pressure to lock the chin bar into place, the Neotec’s front slides into position and snaps shut with an authoritative click. Unlike other lids, it’s always a one-handed operation. I thought I wouldn’t like the placement of the latch button on the front of the chin bar, but after a few rides it became easy to locate with a gloved finger and quickly became second nature to operate.
When testing the Neotec, I found it hard to not draw comparisons to the Schuberth modulars I have been wearing for the last several years over the course of thousands of miles. I am, or maybe was, a Schuberth fanboy. The more time I spent in the Neotec, the more my opinion swayed. The drop-down sun visor, a Schuberth innovation from the 1980s, has been implemented in the Neotec and I dare say Shoei did it better, at least with the placement of the actuator lever. Positioned higher on the shell, it’s easier to find and use than those on the Schuberth C3, C3 Pro, and E1.
Another area where I felt the Shoei bested the Schuberth was with ventilation. The giant air intake on the top of the Shoei invites a rush of air and is augmented by additional ports on the chin bar and at the rear of the shell. In all fairness, I have yet to try Schuberth’s latest C4, but I can’t imagine it would import more air than the Neotec. And with that, I feel it’s unfair to continue the comparisons as both brands make superb modular helmets.
I find it’s often the tiniest details that make the most significant impacts to comfort and performance. Shoei’s visor is one of the best I’ve used. It opens and closes without any unwanted flex and the detents are pronounced and hold the visor precisely where I want it. The tab on the lower edge of the shield is large enough to feel with a gloved finger, and the rubber seal around the perimeter of the face aperture has proven capable of sealing out wind noise and rain. Removing the shield to clean it is not complicated and takes but a few seconds. Reinstalling the shield can be a bit more tricky, but with practice is simple.
There are a few refinements within the helmet which are worthy of mention. The neck roll on the Neotec is anatomically contoured and made of soft, yet firm materials which should hold up to years of use. I feel the lower aspect of the helmet sealed out wind and noise quite well, but it isn’t the most quiet helmet I have used. I fall right between the medium and large sizes and think the medium would have provided a bit less wind noise. The removable chin curtain also helps in that regard and unlike others, doesn’t want to go randomly missing mid-trip.
Another modern refinement is the inclusion of deep wells in the shell at the ears. Removable pucks expose a deep recess designed to accommodate internal speakers. Other nice touches include slots just above the ears to fit sunglass temple pieces. Why hasn’t every helmet taken that into consideration?
Overall, it’s an excellent helmet full of thoughtful design elements, not all of them mentioned here. In my usual effort to flush out some weak areas, I genuinely couldn’t find very many. Schuberth has made me chin-strap lazy with their ratcheting buckle with quick-release button. Shoei’s D-ring isn’t a bummer, but I do wish it had a better closure mechanism. My only other quip pertains to the overall size of the shell. It is a bit larger than a handful of others although nowhere near as bulbous as say the Shark modular which is as large as the Death Star.
Within the scope of my more general observations, I found the aperture at the face shield provided excellent visibility in all riding positions. Many things factor into wind buffeting characteristics but the Neotec was very stable on nearly every bike I used during testing. The fitment, which I would consider oval to intermediate oval, didn’t invite any undue pressure at the top or front of my head. The liner does feel softer than some creating a level of comfort I think other helmets struggle to achieve.
Although it hasn’t been updated in several years, I can see why so many riders still favor the Neotec over the competition. Given the complexity of the design and the quality of its manufacture, the $650 price tag seems justified. On a final parting note, when testing helmets, one scenario I find all too rare is the helmet that does its job so well, I forget I’m wearing it. With the Neotec I never seem to be thinking of my head, just lost within it enjoying the ride.