I’ll come out and say it: I really don’t understand why you’d want a modular (flip-front) helmet. I ride with an full-face helmet, period, so why would I want the option of flipping the front up? All it does, I’ve found, is add a lot of weight to the lid, weight that tends to make the helmet feel off-balance. It also makes the helmet noisy, and in a lot of cases, less safe—flip-front helmets don’t get a Snell rating and oftentimes the front section is flimsy plastic with no impact liner, just a fancy faceshield, really. You can keep ’em.
That’s why I balked when Shoei told me it wanted to send me its new Neotec modular helmet to test. New for 2012, the Neotec seems to take on all of my issues, which is why I just had to try it. The front part is both light and safe, using a new 360-degree pivot locking system to keep the lid shut and locked tight (the latch mechanism on Shoei’s Multitech, the helmet the Neotec replaces, failed 17 percent of the time in U.K Department of Transport SHARP testing). The Advanced Integrated Matrix shell comes in 3 sizes, the comfort liner is removable, and the impact liner is made of dual-density foam for enhanced impact protection and the ability to run ventilation channels deep between the layers of foam. Other niceties include an injection-molded flip-down sunscreen, removable pads for headphones, and some of the biggest vents I’ve seen on any helmet sold in the USA.
The list of nice features goes on from there. The Neotec has a slide-down internal sunscreen that’s distortion-free and blocks 99 percent of UV radiation. Wind-tunnel designed vents are big and easy to work with gloves on. The front latch mechanism works with a simple one-finger snap (but double-check to make sure it latches all the way), and one of Pinlock’s outstanding anti-fog inserts comes with the helmet.
It’s been a while since I’ve tested a helmet with this level of build quality. It’s like having a tiny luxury car on your head, right down to that sweet new-car smell. The latches and levers work with liquid smoothness and the paint is flawless. On my head, the liner is soft and comfortable, and the fit was just right for me—notable, as the last Shoei I had (an X-11) was too tight.
It’s a very good helmet, by far the best flip-front I’ve tested. It’s light for a modular (3 pounds, 11 ounces on the MD postage scale), especially one with an internal sunscreen. It’s also got a nice balanced feel—not too much weight fore or aft—whether the front is up or down. It’s quiet; not as quiet as the best full-facers, but quieter, by far, than the drafty, noisier models I’ve tried in the past. It’s also almost airtight and very comfortable—mine needed no break-in. The vents bring in a lot of air, even at lower speeds, without being too noisy and the earphone pockets are the most useful I’ve tested—the surface sticks well to Velcro and there’s ample room for positioning your speakers perfectly, important for helmet-mounted sound systems. My only complaint is the faceshield, which isn’t quite as easy to swap out as other brands, but fine once you get the hang of it.
The Neotec did what a dozen modulars have failed to do—show me it’s possible for a flip-up helmet to be as comfortable and useful as a full-facer. I still don’t really appreciate the utility, but I know there are a lot of you who do. At $649 ($663 for metallic colors) it’s not cheap, but it really is a Mercedes of flip-up helmets and worth it for touring or commuting riders who spend more time riding than they do talking about riding.