Lifting The Lid : The Shoei Neotec Reviewed
Not so the Neotec though, that’s been used almost weekly since May when it arrived so consider this something of a long-term test.
The Tech For The ‘Tec
Shoei have produced flip-front helmets for many years and they are regularly seen on the heads of adventure and touring riders along with the emergency services who all value their convenience as much as the safety of having a full-face protection (as opposed to a full open face helmet).
Replacing the very popular MultiTech II at the top of the “flipper” range, the Neotec takes what made its predecessor so popular and adds to it many of the requests from its users: integrated sun visor and a stronger locking mechanism (Sharp Tests showed the MT’s front lock failed on 17% of impacts) made of stainless steel.
In detail we have:
- Multi-Composite 5 layer fibre shell with 3 different shell sizes through the size range, and an EPS-liner with two densities of material for different shock absorption levels.
- A mist resisting Pinlock visor system.
- Stainless Steel locking mechanism.
- Big, easy to operate vents front and back.
- Interchangeable cheek pads which, along with the centre lining, are removable and washable.
- The helmet is intercom installation ready, with areas for the headphones to sit which come with removal pads for extra sound deadening when not fitted.
- Removable, replaceable flip-down sun visor built ONTO the liner (hence the distinctively raised forehead area) rather than requiring a thinner liner to accommodate the visor.
With all Shoei helmets your first impression is one of quality and this helmet doesn’t disappoint. However the usual feather-weight feel I associate with the brand is missing - at something over 1600grams it is (like all its brethren) noticeably heavier than a decent full face sports helmet.
The extra weight out of the box didn’t fill me with confidence that I would convert to these types, nor did the rather plain (though nicely finished) metallic silver paint and large clear visor.
So perhaps I wouldn’t be winning any fashion awards with it, but hey once it’s on you can’t see it right?
My first use of the Neotec was to be LB’s annual St George’s Day ride out where I act as photographer as well as taking part in the ride itself. Last year it was awkward taking photos from the confines of a full face lid, and taking it off several times an hour was inconvenient and a recipe for a dropped helmet.
From the moment I pulled the helmet on I knew I was going to enjoy the Neotec, and wear it a lot. I’ve missed Shoei helmets after using an Arai and recently an X-Lite and while especially the latter is a brilliant helmet, there’s something about the fit of a Shoei. I ordered this blind (as always with review gear) as a medium size and it fits like a glove. So for me this is a perfect fitting and therefore very comfortable helmet.
But, as I said earlier, helmet fit and comfort go hand-in-glove (yes, a slight pun) so I won’t wax lyrical – if your head isn’t a Shoei-shape then it may not be as comfortable (or if you’ve bought the wrong size of course). When they fit, they fit extremely well is all I’ll say.
The extra weight isn’t too distracting though I’d be lying if I said I don’t notice it. The balance of the helmet isn’t bad either – not as front-heavy as I’d been led to believe it might be with all that hinge and lock mechanism. Whipping your head around is where I notice it most, and naturally when wearing the front in the raised position where the weight is artificially high.
It makes me appreciate my 1250gram X-Lite all the more when I’m feeling ‘racy’.
One complaint is the seatbelt style buckle, which is generally thought to be second to the simple D-Ring locking option found on most sports helmets. In operation, once adjusted properly, it wasn’t a problem although there are some moments of discomfort sometimes as I pull the helmet on. There’s a knack to it and occasionally I get it wrong. With the helmet on the lock disappears into the background and doesn’t spoil your comfort.
Shoei promote this buckle choice by saying it is easy and quick to remove the helmet, which might be true compared to the D-Ring game of “hunt the press-stud” but surely that goes against the ethos of a flip-front helmet that should avoid you having to take it off as often as a traditional type? I don’t know. Perhaps it isn’t really a big deal anyway – it does its job.
Noise-wise this is a pretty quiet lid although as always LB strongly recommends wearing ear-plugs for every journey, and locked down the Neotec is no more or less noisy than my full face helmets. They’re all noisy right?
The vents I can say really work, and work far better than those on my X-Lite – they’re right up there with a good Arai for ventilation on the move (that brand’s eyebrow vents are excellent in the summer) and the switches are mercifully simple to work out on the move. I hate playing the “is it open, or is it shut” game while riding.
You’ll notice when they’re open on a cool day, and when they’re shut on a warm day.
Visibility through the extra large visor is great, like a lot of modern helmets we have what feels like 30% more vision than older designs (like my X-Lite). No complaints there. Shoei’s visor changing system is amongst the best as is their ratcheted closing system, there are notched increments as you close the visor.
At the visor's base, on the left side of the rim, is a plastic tab which rests on a similar tab protruding from the shell to allow the visor to close 95% of the way but leaves a tiny gap for air to get into. A push and the visor clicks shut 100%. Simplicity is very much the best.
So as a ‘normal’ full face helmet the Neotec works very well, much like any other Shoei, a little heavy for sure but if you hadn’t worn a good full face I don’t think you’d ever complain.
But what of its party-tricks?
Raising the Bar
I’m now a convert to the way of the lifting front. During this summer’s heat it has allowed me to be nicely ventilated while commuting, to talk to garage staff where necessary and generally to see more as I ride.
The Neotec’s simple one-button mechanism is simplicity itself, the big button is central on the chin-piece so you just press and lift. To close you just lower the front and very little pressure will see it click-lock into place.
It’s hardly revolutionary I know, but to a hardened full-face sports helmet wearer it has been something of a revelation quite how convenient it is.
While photographing the ride-out the Neotech came into its own: it was far easier to shoot with it on (except in portrait orientation when the chin piece still fouled the camera) and the extra ventilation was very welcome.
Combine this with the integral sun visor (akin to putting a normally sized pair of sunglasses on both in darkness and coverage) and you are set for summer commuting. I can ride comfortably up to about 50mph with the sunvisor down and the front up, and then when speeds increase I just push the front down and open the throttle.
The integral sun visor is also very simple to use – there’s a slider on the left side of the helmet just below the hinge so it’s in a fairly natural position to reach and operate. As far as I know these visors aren’t interchangeable; there isn’t a range of colours as there is with the Scorpion helmets for example, which is a pity. I’d prefer, for summer riding, a dark main visor and perhaps a yellow integral visor for evenings/cloudy days.
A further bonus with this helmet is that it comfortably accommodates my glasses without undue pressure on their arms or my nose, which is fantastic as I don't always want to put contact lenses in.
Build Quality: 9/10 - there's nothing here to indicate you won't get years and years out of this helmet.
Fit and Comfort: 9/10 - subjective I know but if you've roughly the right shaped head, and don't mind experimenting with cheek pads, this can be worn for hour after hour.
Specification : 8/10 - not a usual helmet category but this gains marks for being feature rich but I have docked it marks for no interchangeable sun visors or dark main visor options (not advertised anyway).
Value For Money: 7/10 - this is an expensive helmet. Yes it's a great helmet but you'll have to really want this type of design to spend that amount of money. And give us some fancy paint schemes please! I don't expect to have to pay for resprays to have some flair on my helmet.
Shoei have yet again moved their game to another level. As they did with the outstanding 1100 series of full face helmets (which frightened the mid-price band competition no-end) Shoei have produced another class leader overnight. Yes, it had a bunk up from the outgoing Multitech II but regardless, this is a very nice helmet.
Question is though, is it worth £450+? Only you can decide and it is up against some pretty stiff competition from the Schuberth C3 especially, but I can’t help feeling that it is an expensive convenience for the use I would put it to. More accessories and better paint options would perhaps convince some city riders that it is a viable option for everyday use and not just if you have a dayglo bib on.
However, if I was in the habit of touring I would be more than happy to wear the Neotec all day every day.