Several of you have emailed me about touring helmets and asked what I thought about modular, or ‘flip-up’, helmets. I’ve never owned one. The reason was that whenever I tried them on, they felt ‘plastic-y’ and loose around the jaw. My hearing ai’nt the greatest to start with, after years on tanks, so I try to keep what I’ve got by using ear plugs and good, tight fitting helmets. However, my good readers have asked, so I felt it was my duty to try to answer! I decided to try the Shoei Multitec in Matte Black. I’ve heard that Shoei was obsessive about lowering wind noise with aerodynamics, so I hoped this would be a good marriage.
The conventional wisdom is that all motorcyclists are Arai heads or Shoei heads. To date, I’ve been an Arai head. I don’t know when I started, but I’ve always liked the fit of the Arais. My last two lids were the Arai Condor (Vector) and the Arai Tour-X (XD). Both are good helmets and I can recommend them. However, when the good folks at Jafrum invited me to review a helmet for them, I decided to go over to the other side just to see what it was like.
Location – Hampshire, Berkshire, and Wiltshire, England
Bike – KTM 950 Adventure (el gato negro)
Weather – Spring! 12C (54F) degrees C and cloudy, but no rain.
Shoei claim to have created a market changing helmet that combines the convenience of a modular helmet with the safety and aero-dynamics of a full face helmet. Indeed, I have wanted a flip-up for a while as it makes it easy at the ferries, border crossings, and riding in low speed environments when it is hot. However, I also wanted the helmet to be good on the open road too. For those of you who are regular readers, this is the Battlefield Biker riding profile. Big rides to distant lands, but then detailed surveys of battlefields at low speed.
First things first. The Shoei is a good looking helmet, especially in the matte black colour scheme. It is wider and rounder than my Arais, but I assume this is to improve the aerodynamics? It fits well and snug at the cheeks. Shoei gets big kudos from me by including an eyeglass channel that allows the helemt to fit snugly, but doesn’t wedge the arms of my glasses into my skull. There is a ridge on the back of the helmet which is the spoiler, I supppose. Good wide vision from the visor and an anti-fog lip above the tip of the nose.
When I put the helmet on fully, the face element clicks into place confidently. The button for pulling the the face up is intuitively situated and seems natural to grab, even with gloves on. So far, so good. Time for a ride.
Walking out the door, I get to do something that I can never do with a full face helmet. I get to kiss each of my three little girls with my helmet on. They think this is hilarious, so I get to do it over and over again. Thank God for small pleasures! One last kiss for Mummy and I’m off. She seems happy that I have a new, quality helmet. She has been asking me how old the X-tour is for a while. I ride out of my village at 30 mph and the face plate up. I feel a little goober-ish for having my face showing, but it feels nice to be staring a Spring ride in the face as I make my way out of town. The Shoei is quiet on the ears even with the face plate up. Nice.
Leaving town, I reach up to pull the face plate down whilst accelerating. Easy. The face plate comes down and locks in place quickly and assuredly. As I get up to… uhm… highway speeds, the Shoei is nice and steady. No buffeting or loud noise around the joints. It is louder than a closed face helmet, but not nearly as loud as I had expected. The helmet feels light compared to my Arai X-Tour. The Shoei has a very neutral sit on my head with no notice-able lift when I perform lane-change looks. Overall, the helmet is as good as any full face helmet I’ve worn at speed.
I roll off the motorway and back onto a country road through multiple small towns. I test raising the face plate multiple times and it is just as easy as the first time. No sticking or fumbling for the button. It seems to be so intuitive that it is hard to miss the button when you reach for it. Good design.
So we know it is nice to be able to flip up the face plate for air, kissing, and filling fuel tanks, but what about battlefield touring? I really like the fact that I can take pictures without taking my helmet off and speak to a camera for my videos. These are things that made me consider buying a modular helmet in the past, but I could never get over the ‘flimsiness’ of the (admittedly cheaper) helmets I had tried. Therein lies the only rub I can find with this helmet. At circa $450.00 (£300.00), the Shoei Multitec is expensive, but I can only assume that it takes this kind of price to make a modular helmet this good. I paid more for my Tour-X and less for the Condor, but they are different things. I’m not sure I would have bought this helmet before trying it extensively, but I can say now that I would. I might choke on the price, but helmets are just one of those things that you get what you pay for, I guess. The five year Shoei warranty helps too.
There you have it, intrepid bikers, the Shoei Multitec modular helmet is quality, but at a hefty price. I’d be interested to hear if you’ve found one as good at a lower price.
I’ve since seen this review over at Thunder Press. Seems like Michael Mihalevich agrees. I also like his statement of helmet and seat belt law issue.