Exploring $300-and-Up Modular Helmets | Lids, Flipped

Modular helmets are motorcycling’s equivalent of the pocket protector: Hugely functional, but undeniably geeky. Tourers, commuters, and law enforcement love them because it’s not necessary to remove the helmet to sip a soda, sneak a snack, or chew out a speeding motorist. In truly hot weather, you can flip them open for maximum cooling. But modulars aren’t without compromises, which include weight, cost, and complexity.

This month and next, we’ll take a closer look at the most popular modular helmet models, beginning this month with over-$300 offerings. More affordable options will be featured next month.

Some notes about testing: The subjective aspects were evaluated back-to-back by a single tester with a size-medium, slightly long-oval head, riding bikes ranging from nakeds to fully faired sport-tourers. Remember that helmet fit is highly variable. We found enough variation among helmets that you absolutely should try before you buy.

5 out of 5 stars

Shoei Neotec
Shoei incorporated all it learned from the Multitec into the recently released Neotec—and it shows. The Neotec (3 pounds, 15 ounces) ticks all the features boxes: Pinlock-compatible main shield, dark-smoke sunshield operated through a simple, non-latching slider, good ventilation, and even a dash of style with a rear spoiler(ette) molded into the composite shell. The fit is "typical Shoei": tight front-to-rear for long-oval types. The Neotec's new, CNS-1 shield is taller and wider than the CX-1V on the Multitec, for increased visibility. The shield mechanism slides aft slightly when the visor's closed to improve sealing; a simple peg retains the "cracked open" feature. A large release button at the front opens the chinbar. It works fine with gloves. It's a very close call between the Neotec and the Schuberth for features and comfort, but the Shoei's significant price advantage makes it our pick.

4 out of 5 stars

HJC's RPHA Max tipped our electronic scale at 3 lbs., 8 oz. (lightest of these five), but it seems to carry its weight so low that it actually feels lighter than that. The balance of this helmet is terrific, and the styling is less dorky than some. The fit is a solid medium, with very slight front-to-rear tightness, and the interior liner is plush and comfortable. HJC includes a Pinlock-compatible shield and a clear anti-fog insert that work very well; the only optical gripe is the shield's beveled edge that can come into your field of view when it's cracked open slightly. The light-smoke internal sunshield is operated with a slider over your, ah, fontanel. It's harder to operate than a rim-mounted slider, and you must find the small release button to retract the shield. This quirk, and a pair of wind deflectors (one in front of your nose, the other below the chin) that won't stay put are the Max's only real shortcomings.

5 out of 5 stars

Schuberth C3 Pro
You'd expect the most expensive helmet to feel rich, and the Schuberth does. The interior is plush, and the shield and chinbar mechanisms work with a precise, (dare we say?) Teutonic feel. The fit is very good for a long-oval head, and savvy aerodynamics make it the quietest helmet of this group by a substantial margin. Notably distortion-free, the main shield incorporates Pinlock posts and an anti-fog insert is included. The dark-smoke sunshield, activated by a lever under the left edge of the lower rim, isn't anti-fog treated (for better clarity). The chinbar latch is small but has just enough lip to be easily found in gloves, and it's good that you press it in the same direction as opening the chinbar. We appreciated the ratchet-type chinstrap latch swathed in soft fabric that keeps it from digging into your neck. Schuberth also sells a Cardo-compatible communication system that fits totally inside the helmet. A fantastic, light (3 lbs., 10 oz.) effort at a top-of-the-heap price.

3.5 stars out of 5

Nolan N104
Nolan's polycarbonate N104 (3 lbs., 13oz.) packs a number of innovations. The chinbar is designed to be compact, making the 104 more aerodynamic in the open position. The locking, anti-fog internal sun shield is sufficiently dark and has good coverage aside from the unusually large central nose arch. The Pinlock-compatible main shield is also large, for a wide field of view. The shield locks positively in the closed position, but the "cracked" notch allows very little airflow and the first open notch places the shield a full 2 inches from the shell. The fit is moderately snug front-to-rear, and the chinbar sits close to the face. Chinstrap retention is by toothed latch with a tiny release lever. The chinbar mechanism, which is a two-step, pull-and-pinch affair, is difficult to manage even with summer gloves.

3 out of 5 stars

XPEED Roadster
The Roadster from XPEED ties the Shoei for the heaviest of this group (at 3 lbs., 15 oz.), but it carries those extra ounces well. The shell is an "advanced composite FRP," or fiber-reinforced polymer, though it has a few squeaks and creaks reminiscent of polycarbonate-shell modulars. The fit is slightly snug in the fore-and-aft direction for a long-oval head, but with ample room around the chinbar. An anti-fog coating keeps the main shield clear, while the drop-down sunscreen, operated by a small slider just under your left ear, is closer to a light than dark smoke. The chinstrap is a conventional D-ring. The small chinbar release tab is somewhat hard to find with gloves on, and requires you to pull it down while also pushing the bar upward. Aside from being noisy, the Roadster does little to call attention to its low price—at least in this group.