So, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat; I’ve always been a full-face helmet guy. The feeling of my cranium ensconced in layers of fiberglass and impact absorbing foam, with a solid chin-bar, has always provided me with a certain level of comfort and confidence while riding.
While some enjoy the wind in their face and bugs in their teeth, I truly prefer the soothing quietness and comfort that only a full-faced cocoon can provide.
Now don’t get me wrong, a full-face helmet is not the most convenient device once the wheels stop and the rest stop starts.
I’ve often envied my friends with their flip-front helmets, chatting easily with each other, having a drink without cramming a straw under their chin bar, and their ability to walk into a gas station, lid still on their head, without causing concerns about a robbery.
But I’ve always questioned the safety of a flip front helmet. I’m not a particularly handsome man, so the idea of the flip-front helmet failing during an accident, allowing my face to slide along the highway, thus making me even less handsome, was always unappealing. So what’s a man to do?
Well, it seems that the folks at Shoei were listening and invited me to the introduction of their NEOTEC II modular helmet.
The NEOTEC has been in Shoei’s lineup for many years in various forms and is very popular. As a matter of fact, I was surprised by how many of my fellow journalists showed up in well worn examples of the previous generation NEOTEC.
Unlike some modular helmets that have plastic to plastic or plastic to metal closing mechanisms, the Shoei NEOTEC II has a stainless steel to stainless steel closing mechanism.
Not only that, but the mechanism forms a complete 360 degree closure around the locking posts, providing a very secure feeling. As I learned more about the NEOTEC II, I started to get the feeling that this might just work for me.
Since the helmet’s introduction, I’ve had the chance to ride with the NEOTEC II for almost 1,000 miles and here are my initial impressions.
First, raising the chin bar and face shield as a unit is about as simple as it gets. Shoei uses a one touch button in the bottom-center of the chin bar. Depress the bright red button and lift. It’s that simple.
The chin bar and face shield combo stay in the up position securely due to a notch that holds the system open.
Though not recommended, one can ride with the face module open. However, I found that at anything faster than parking lot speeds, the upper part of the helmet creates a lot of wind resistance if left open.
It was nice to utilize this feature in stop and go or downtown traffic, but otherwise, I found that riding is much more comfortable with the face module closed.
Overall, this is a very comfortable helmet. Unlike some modulars, this helmet is quite light and the interior padding does a great job of cradling your head in comfort.
The cheek pads feel like those in a normal full face helmet, providing just enough of a squeeze to feel secure, yet being comfortable enough for all day riding.
Shoei offers four shell sizes for the NEOTEC II, to fit a wide range of heads. I have a long oval head shape (less round and thinner, side to side) and this helmet fit me well. Even after an extended period of use, I didn’t have any hot spots or loose areas that would cause concern.
Speaking of all day riding, one of the criticisms often levied at modular helmets is their noise level due to the seams on the front of the helmet. And although noisier than most full face lids, this is still a quiet helmet.
Part of the reason for this reasonable noise level is the aerodynamic design of the helmet and the set of skirts that are attached to the bottom of the comfort liner called noise isolators.
These extra pieces of fabric gently seal the area around the wearer’s neck and chin, helping to keep the noise level down. Shoei also offers cheek pads without the additional noise sealing for use in hot weather.
A reasonable noise reduction is particularly important in this helmet because Shoei offers an optional integrated Sena communication system, called Shoei Rider Link or SRL, that takes convenience to an even higher level.
I’ve been using a Sena 10C on my personal helmet for the past few years, and have enjoyed the convenience and utility of having the ability to talk with other riders, listen to music, or get turn by turn directions from my cell phone.
The SRL system for the NEOTEC II makes an already good system even better by integrating it directly into the helmet. Nothing hangs off the outside of the helmet, the battery is enclosed in a compartment at the base of the neck, and the system’s three button interface is easy to use.
All of the speaker cables are routed through pre-cut channels in the liner and the speakers are built into the ear pockets of the helmet.
The system functions just like Sena’s popular 20S intercom. The unit links up to a phone almost instantly via Bluetooth, and the three button system is intuitive and easy to use.
Up to eighht riders can talk to each other simultaneously using the SRL’s intercom function and sound quality is good, though a little more bass would be nice. Additionally, I already had the Sena app on my smart phone and the SRL integrated with it seamlessly.
My only real complaint with the integrated comm system is the positioning of the speakers.
In my personal helmet that comes from another Japanese premium manufacturer, I was able to position the speakers precisely where I wanted them. I was even able to put a shim behind the helmet liner to ensure that my ear canals lined up perfectly with the system’s speakers.
On the NEOTEC II the speakers are where the speakers are. There’s no adjustability, so if the alignment is off for the location of your ears, there’s not much you can do about it.
I ride with earplugs, even when using an intercom, and I found these speakers are a little farther from my ear canals than I’d like. I compensated by turning up the volume, but having the ability to personalize the speakers’ location would be a useful addition.
There are a number of other interesting features on the NEOTEC II that make this a very convenient package.
First, there’s a retractable sun visor that provides respite from bright light. The retraction slider is integrated into the left side of the helmet, allowing a quick flick of the switch to move the visor into place, and the sun visor itself is very effective.
Another good convenience feature is the micro ratcheting chin strap. I’ve always enjoyed the security of a d-ring chinstrap, but I have to admit, Shoei’s ratcheting mechanism is really convenient, while still feeling secure.
Like the chin bar mechanism, the chinstrap uses a stainless steel to stainless steel interface. Additionally, the clasp is designed in a way that prevents accidental release. Overall, it’s a very nice and secure retention system that offers easy-on, easy-off convenience.
Good ventilation is always important on a full face or modular helmet, and this helmet does a great job of keeping the rider cool. Both the chin vent and the vent on top of the helmet are very effective, allowing plentiful airflow without adding excessive noise.
Not everything is positive about this helmet, but my complaints are few and pretty nit picky. First, I wish the face shield could be opened using a friction based system as opposed to specific detents.
During chilly, early morning rides when the face shield fogged up, I would have liked to have be able to open the shield just a smidge, rather than to the first detent, which opens the shield about half an inch.
The first position allowed too much air into the helmet and also put the bottom seam of the face shield in my line of sight. Shoei offers a Pinlock shield system, but they don’t recommend using it in the dark, so for morning or evening commutes, it doesn’t really offer a good fogging solution.
One other nit about this helmet regards the chin skirt behind the chin bar. This skirt does a great job of reducing noise and keeping cool air out of the helmet’s interior, but every time I closed the chin bar, the skirt caught on the boom mic for the Sena and also caught on my chin.
As I said, not a big deal, but irritating nonetheless. But honestly, that’s about it for complaints.
In the end, I found the Shoei NEOTEC II to be a really good helmet. It’s comfortable, reasonably quiet, very well constructed, and for day to day riding, is incredibly convenient.
Add in the integrated Sena comm system and you have a really useful and safe protection system. The ability to lift the entire face module has come in handy on so many occasions, that this has become my commuting and touring helmet of choice. Well done, Shoei, you convinced a skeptic!
The NEOTEC II is DOT certified and is available in solid colors for $699 and graphics for $799. The Sena SRL is a $299 option.