A new modular helmet that has a lot to offer
By Glenn Roberts
I was excited to hear that Shoei was releasing a new version of the Neotec helmet, and even more excited to see it arrive at our head office. The first-generation modular Neotec was one of my favourite helmets for many years – it was comfortable and fit like a glove.
The new DOT-approved Neotec II helmet meets and exceeds the original Neotec in many ways. The shell is made from multiple hand-laid layers of fibreglass, and lightweight organic and high-performance fibres, according to the Shoei literature. The company claims the shell provides optimal impact absorption, strength and elasticity. It weighs in on our scale at 1,885 grams – it isn’t the lightest flip-up modular helmet, but it does feel well balanced when wearing, and the comfort outweighs the extra grams.
The interior pads are removable for washing or replacing and are soft enough to easily conform to the rider’s head – another reason this helmet is so comfortable. Cheek pads are available in different thicknesses for a customized fit.
Eyeglass wearers or those of us who prefer to ride with sunglasses on will enjoy how easy it is to slide the arms of glasses into position with no binding or jiggling past the side foam.
The Neotec II was designed with the help of Shoei’s wind tunnel for aerodynamic efficiency and noise reduction. The helmet is quiet, depending, of course, on how hard the crosswind is or your type of fairing and where the wind hits you. One of the benefits of a flip-up helmet is that the neck opening is able to fit tighter to your neck, reducing the amount of air entering the helmet from underneath. I have no complaints at all about the minimal wind noise from this helmet.
The actuation for the flip-up chin bar and face shield is positive and feels very secure when in the closed, locked position. The locking mechanism is made with high-quality stainless steel components. Unlocking requires just an easy squeeze with your forefinger, and lifting the chin bar to its open position is smooth.
Shoei used 3-D injection moulding in the creation of the face shield, which leaves it free of distortion. The clear-plastic face shield is large for a good field of view, and according to the Shoei literature, it protects against 99 per cent of the sun’s damaging UV rays. Removing the face shield to clean or replace it is an easy process.
The design of the shield’s spring-loaded pivoting system actually pulls the shield into the helmet’s opening and against the seals to better ensure that water and air don’t leak in when closed. The Neotec II comes with the tried-and-tested Pinlock system, which considerably reduces the possibility of the shield fogging up from a temperature change or your breath.
The helmet also features an internal sunshield that’s easily implemented with a lever on the left side, just below the face shield pivot. The sunshield also has the same distortion-free benefits as the face shield, and also blocks 99 per cent of the sun’s UV rays.
Ventilation is provided by a lower air intake in the chin bar and a three-position upper air intake on the top of the helmet, while the incoming air is exhausted through a non-adjustable
vent in the rear of the helmet.
The chinstrap is adjustable and uses a micro-ratchet that’s quick and easy to use, so no more fiddling with threading
the strap in and around D-rings.
A quick look online reveals the Neotec II will set you back about $930 and comes with a limited five-year warranty from date of purchase that covers materials and craftsmanship.
If you’re looking for a new helmet or think you might soon be needing an upgrade, the Shoei Neotec II is a great option to consider in so many ways, but if you’re also thinking about a communication system, carry on reading, because one thing that might tip the scales for you is the partnership that Shoei has with Sena and its SRL communication system designed exclusively for the Neotec II helmet.
For more information, go to shoei-helmets.com.
Sena SRL Communication System
Designed specifically for the Shoei Neotec II
There are quite a number of motorcycle communication systems on the market these days, but one name that stands out for sheer technological advances and the number of products available is Sena. The company has several communication headsets and integrated action cameras for not only motorcyclists, but also for outdoor sports and industrial communication.
Sena has joined forces with Shoei in an exclusive deal to provide a communication device for installation into the new Neotec II helmet. This helmet is designed with dedicated internal pockets that the SRL components slide into for a discreet and virtually invisible communication package. Even the microphone boom has a dedicated groove in the helmet’s EPS foam so that everything in the SRL system fits seamlessly. The speakers sit far enough away from your ears to offer good sound while not pressing against your ears.
Installing the SRL into the Neotec II was dead easy by following the illustrated steps in the supplied quick-start guide, and took me 32 minutes to complete. The SRL will pair with any Bluetooth device, and pairing to my smartphone was drama-free. Within seconds I was listening to my favourite tunes. I don’t own a Bluetooth-enabled GPS, but based on the simplicity of pairing my phone, I have no reason to expect pairing a GPS is at all difficult.
The SRL controls consist of just three buttons integrated into the lower left side of the helmet. Although they are easily accessible, they do require some practice to finding the right button every time when wearing gloves – bare finger tips makes the job much more accurate. Like everything, it does take some familiarization, and I did get used to tapping the correct buttons over time. Putting your thumb on the raised bump on the bottom of the buttons helps to orientate your finger location.
The Sena Device Manager, an Android or iPhone app, allows the user to better integrate with the SRL system to configure the headset and its functions, including preset speed-dial numbers. The app also includes a complete manual for when you need to look something up. There is such a huge amount of functionality in the Sena headsets that it would take quite some time to memorize all the available functions, so having a digital manual in the palm of your hands is a great asset. A full manual is also available at sena.com.
In addition to pairing with a Bluetooth device, whether it’s a phone or GPS, the SRL offers a host of other functions, and offers intuitive voice prompts and understands voice commands; makes and receives hands-free phone calls. It also connects up to eight other riders with Bluetooth 4.1, with
an intercom range of up to 1.6 km;
features universal headset pairing to other brands of communication devices; is capable of three-way conference calling with an intercom participant; operates as an FM radio tuner with scan and save station presets; and is firmware upgradable to ensure the unit stays current in the years to come.
The first thing I did after pairing with my phone is played music. The speakers offer a full range of tones – from deep bases to crisp high notes. The buttons allow the user to control volume, change tracks or pause and play music. Voice commands also work to control the music.
Selecting FM radio is just as easy as speaking to the SRL. The communicator can scan for stations or you can enter presets into the Sena Device Manager app.
Using the phone is just as easy. You can use the buttons to call a preset number or answer an incoming call, or use the voice command to initiate a call from the preset number list or just say hello to answer an incoming call. Whether using buttons or voice command, the operation is foolproof and the communication on both ends of the call is crystal clear.
Pairing with another headset – in my case, I used a Sena 20S that’s a few years old – was an equally easy process. I just pushed the appropriate buttons on both headsets and the SRL paired automatically with the 20S. I didn’t try to pair with another manufacturer’s products, but the Sena literature claims it will pair with other makes of headsets.
The claimed 1.6 km intercom distance might be in perfect conditions, which Sena says is open terrain. I found that line of sight to be a good judgment – hills and corners with forest between you and another intercom affected communication; however, it was always easily restored.
As with using the buttons with gloves on, some of the voice commands take a bit of getting used to, such as how loudly to say “Hello Sena” to wake up the SRL and for it to ask you what you’d like. Wind noise and ambient noise play some part in this, as occasionally the unit wouldn’t recognize what I was asking it to do. But, like the button selection with gloves on, this gets better with practice.
The above just scratches the surface of the functionality of the Sena SRL communication system, and I believe these are the most important functions that riders will use their SRL for right away, and they form the foundation for what the unit can do. If you need more intercoms, simply add more. Maybe you have a second phone that needs to be paired – the SRL will do that as well. Or set up a conference call with other intercom users. There is so much this device can do.
The Sena SRL communication system retails for around $370 on various internet sites, which is on par with other Sena communication systems, but this one disappears inside the Neotec II helmet, instead of hanging off the side of the helmet.
In a fast-paced digital world, sometimes the last thing I want to do is play with digital devices, and occasionally I find it a bit of a burden or maybe even intimidating, but everything about the Sena SRL, from installation to pairing various devices to setting up the intercom, has been an easy process. No need to fear. Communication with your riding buddies or your passenger is as simple as a few button clicks away.
And then there are times you just want to be alone in your helmet. If you don’t feel like communicating with anyone, simply hit the main button to end the intercom and say later that the battery must have died. Believe it or not, that works – I know.
For more information, go to sena.com