I’ve mentioned before that I think highly of Shoei products. In my review of the excellent RYD full-face helmet (known as the RF-SR in North America) I confessed that wearing Shoei motorcycle helmets makes me feel like a “real” motorcyclist. So, I’ll give you one guess as to my level of excitement when the company asked if I’d like to check out the new Neotec II flip-front helmet.
I love the RYD, but I prefer modular helmets because they make life easier – if not simply because of how quickly they can help you transform from faceless being to actual human in the eyes of others. Folks unfamiliar with motorcyclists often get uncomfortable at the sight of a fully geared rider – seeing just a menacing presence rather than, you know, someone’s husband or brother, etc. But when you flip up that front section you’re able to show them that, hey, there’s a normal person inside.
Meanwhile, those who are familiar with motorcyclists will see the Shoei Neotec II and suspect the person inside knows what he or she is doing. That’s sort of the reputation that a Neotec II brings: it’s the choice of seasoned riders. And certainly I don’t have a problem being labeled with such a stereotype.
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With prices running from £519 to £599 depending on choice of color and graphics, the Shoei Neotec II is made in Japan (No. 23 on the Democracy Index) and available in sizes XS to XXL, across three different outer shell sizes.
When I say the Neotec II is the choice of a “seasoned” rider, I’m sure many will feel its styling is a tad too well seasoned. Which is to say, the Neotec II’s look isn’t exactly badass. As with all flip-fronts, the space needed for a moveable chin bar creates visual bulk. The helmet does not appear as streamlined, as menacing as a full-face sport lid might be.
As a moto-journalist, I probably overthink this stuff more than the average rider. I have to look at pictures of myself all the time, and the teenage girl of my soul is never happy. But sitting at my desk with the motorcycle helmet in front of me I can find nothing about it that I actually dislike, and certainly it looks the part when worn with a textile jacket like the Oxford Montreal 3.0.
The shell has a great high-quality shine to it, and the well-designed vents look robust. I particularly like the look of the top vent, as well as the rear profile. Sena has designed a Bluetooth communication system that integrates perfectly with the helmet (more on that below), so no need to ride around with a chunky device affecting aerodynamics.
I ordered a medium, the same size I wear in the Shoei RYD, but this fits a little more loosely. Not too loose, though; I was wearing the Neotec II helmet when zipping around the track at Kyalami a few months ago and had no issues even at 160 mph. So, count me as pleasantly surprised; the helmet is more comfortable than I’d anticipated.
It does feel rather large on my head, though, which is surprising because according to Shoei, the medium shares the same outer shell size as the extra-small and small helmets. Something to consider for those with smaller skulls: you might feel like Charlie Brown with this thing on.
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Shoei makes robust helmets, and robustness more often than not translates to weight. The Neotec II weighs 1750 grams (3.85 lbs), which is about 30 grams more than the Schuberth C3 Pro I find myself comparing it against. Presumably, installing the Sena SRL Bluetooth system adds a nominal amount of weight, though I can’t really tell the difference. Simply resting on my head, the helmet does feel a bit heavy, but I’ve worn it on pretty long hauls without experiencing fatigue.
The helmet is secured via a metal ratchet, as opposed to the plastic found on my C3 Pro. I prefer ratchet systems for their ease of use, and I think the all-metal system used on the Neotec II will help to ease some folks’ concerns about the helmet coming free in a crash. Swing the chin bar down and it clicks into place with ease. However, you will need to keep a finger on the chin curtain, to make sure it ends up under your jaw rather than smooshed against your chin.
There are two closable vents on the front: one on the chin, which sends air onto the inside of the visor, and one at the top of the head, which delivers air to the crown of your skull. The vents are chunky and easy to operate while wearing gloves. They let in plenty of air for my liking, but keep in mind that as a Texan living in Britain I am never hot.
Apparently, the Neotec II’s safety rating is such that you can ride around with the chin bar up – something other flip front helmets will tell you not to do. Yes, I know most flip-front users ride that way, anyway. Personally, I don’t because: a) I don’t get that hot; b) I worry about my face in a crash; c) the weight of the chin bar above my head creates an awkward unbalance; d) having the chin bar up messes with the aerodynamics; and e) it looks über-dorky.
More important to my situation, the vents and Pinlock system do a fantastic job of keeping the visor from fogging up. The visor is a pain in the ass to remove – I cannot fathom why Shoei hasn’t just used the same system as the user-friendly RYD – but since you don’t really switch out visors often on a flip-front, I suppose it doesn’t matter.
The reason you don’t switch visors often, of course, is the presence of an internal sun shield. The shield slots down easily. However, the small cavity in which it resides does not have a dust guard – as is present on my C3 Pro. That means I’ll often bring down the sun shield and discover it’s mucky with dust. Removing the sun shield is an even bigger pain in the ass than removing the visor, so cleaning it is tricky.
Sena SRL Communication System
To my delighted surprise, installing the Sena SRL Bluetooth communication system was not a pain in the ass.
The very nice folks at Shoei sent the system along in a separate box, which looked very much like the box in which the Sena SC10U unit for my C3 Pro had arrived. Installing the SC10U gave me such a lasting rage that I still grind my teeth about it two years later. So, I let the SRL sit on a shelf for several months, unwilling to carve out of my schedule the two days I felt necessary for installation: one to actually wire the thing in, and a second to calm down.
Turns out, the process is actually easy. Everything slots into place and I was able to do the whole job in under 12 minutes. That time includes deciding to wash the cheek pads (since I’d bothered to remove them) and finding a YouTube video in which a nice lady named Alyssa walks you through the process of installation.
Side note: that video also taught me the correct pronunciation of “Sena.” I’ll admit I’m disappointed to learn it does not sound like the pronunciation of John Cena’s last name. #appledough
I’ve used several Sena systems over the years and have been generally content. All Bluetooth systems have their quirks, but Sena set-ups reliably do the basics of Bluetooth intercom and interacting with my phone. The SRL brags an eight-way intercom that allows you to also share music across the group. I cannot imagine ever wanting to have a soundtrack to an eight-person conversation being held inside my skull, but, hey, maybe that’s your thing.
Meanwhile, for reasons I don’t quite understand, installing the Sena SRL system has made the helmet quieter.
The scuttlebutt in ye olde helmet industry is that the Schuberth C4 has been something of a misfire – somewhat lighter than the C3 Pro, but not any less noisy. Additionally there have reportedly been some quality issues, and it appears the helmet is designed to be worn at a sportier angle than most flip-front-wearing riders would be sitting. So, the C3 Pro, now markedly less expensive than the Neotec II because it’s “old,” remains as the benchmark high-end modular.
So, here are all the ways in which it is better than the Neotec II: it presently costs less, its profile is not as large, its internal sun visor has a dust guard, its visor removal system is less complicated, and it is quieter when worn in open air (ie, no turbulence from a screen).
And here are the ways in which the Neotec II is better: its construction is more robust, the companion Sena system is infinitely easier to install, its vents allow in more air, its moving parts (vents, sun visor switch, chin bar tab) are easier to operate with thick gloves, it’s the less noisy of the two when encountering screen wind noise, it lets in less water in heavy rain, its visor doesn’t fog up in heavy rain, its chinstrap ratchet is made of metal, its internal padding is easier to remove for cleaning, and it can (if you want) be worn with the chin bar up.
Either way, you get an awesome helmet. I’m lucky enough to have both sitting on my shelf, and I find I more often grab the Shoei when gearing up to go for a ride. Indeed, now that I’ve finally installed the Sena SRL system, my C3 Pro has become a back-up. If I were standing in a shop, trying to decide which to put my money on, I’d choose the Shoei again because I get the sense it will hold up to standard wear and tear a bit longer.
Plus, you know, I’d get to ride around feeling like a “real” motorcyclist.
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