Shoei RF-1100

We’ve enjoyed the new Shoei RF-1100 helmet during the final stages of the 2009 riding season. Replacing the popular RF-1000, the new Shoei lid builds off the success of its predecessor with sterling comfort and premium performance.

This is a motorcycle helmet, so protection is paramount and we’ll start there. The RF-1100 utilizes a composite of fiberglass and “organic fiber” in its proprietary AIM+ shell, which covers the interior dual-layer energy-absorbing EPS liner. Most significant, the new lid meets the latest Snell Memorial Foundation M2010 standard. The key features of the new M2010 are two-fold: First, the allowable G-Force threshold has dropped from 300 to 275 G. Second, with M2010 Snell now takes into account the variable masses of head circumferences, matching the head forms of the ECE 22.05 standard used in Europe. As such Snell M2010-rated helmets, including the new RF-1100, are now street legal across the pond.

Squeezing the new RF-1100 on for the first time was a revelation. My block-headed cranium fit into the Shoei size Medium perfectly (I toggle between Medium and Large depending on the make and model). The removable, washable inner liner teamed with the cheek pads, which are incorporated into the neck pad, yield to the head’s contours softly, yet deliver a firm feeling of security. Teamed with the cush rear neck pad and accessory chin skirt, the feeling once the D-rings are cinched up is total separation between the relative safety inside and all the nasty bad stuff that might happen out on the road. And while my logical mind knows that feeling of invulnerability is not really true, the mental reassurance of a snug well-fitted lid is a definite bonus.

The aforementioned Snell M2010 standard requires the use of five different shell sizes, which accommodate Shoei’s wide array of helmet fits ranging from XXS to XXXL. Sourcing the same shell-molding technology debuted on the Japanese firm’s VFX-W motocross helmet, the RF-1100 incorporates the spoiler into the actual shell shape itself. Designed to reduce lift the spoiler and overall new shell shape claim improved aerodynamics. Unfortunately, I haven’t tested the original RF-1000, so I have no back-to-back comparisons. However, I have a hard time imagining the 1100 is a step backward as it cuts through the air with minimum buffeting.

The new RF’s ventilation runs through three intake and six exhaust vents. The most noticeable change is to the upper vents, with the two side intake vents exiting out four exhausts that are positioned above the spoiler on the shell. Shoei claims the new position came via wind tunnel tests that revealed negative pressure suction is greater further up on the helmet. It’s a claim we won’t challenge as the air-flow, which ducts down through channels in the EPS foam, does a more than adequate job cooling the heat generated at the crown of a our sweaty, balding pate.

The chin vent also does an admirable job, though it couldn’t quite keep up with fogging on the CW-1 shield during some brutally cold, damp rides. This required us to crack the visor up a notch, even with the standard breath guard in place. Shoei opts for an accessory Pinlock system, rather than a coated shield, to further up the fog-free ante. (We didn’t test the Pinlock upgrade, though we look forward to sampling a Pinlock design one of these days.)

Speaking of the visor, when it comes to replacing or swapping shields, Shoei’s process is one of the most user-friendly: A simple tug on the lever and roll up to remove, with an easy snap in place to secure a new shield. The big spec-sheet hullabaloo for the visor, however, is Shoei’s much-hyped QRSA (Quick Release Self-Adjusting) base plate system – a spring-loaded design that sucks the shield toward the rider upon closure to provide a wind and waterproof seal. I’m quite impressionable, it seems, as after listening to the PR hype I half expected the QRSA-operated faceshield to deliver a seal something on the magnitude of a NASA spacesuit. It’s not quite that effective, but the seal does get wrenched down solid by utilizing a side lever that locks the shield into place. The new QRSA system, in tandem with the snug fit around the neck, makes for an incredibly quiet ride.

The RF-1100 only bolsters Shoei’s reputation for quiet helmets. With the vents closed the RF-1100 is pretty durned quiet even without earplugs, but riders concerned with hearing loss still certainly want to wear plugs (though won’t it be wonderful when that earplug-less helmet debuts – I hate wearing plugs!). With that yellow foam squashed into ear canals riders are treated to a minimum of white noise, even at high speeds on an exposed bike – like, say, a naked streetfighter.

Fit and finish with the Shoei lid is top notch and backed up by five-year warranty. I don’t have any real gripes with the RF-1100, my only complaint being the premium MSRP – $400 for the base model, climbing up to the $500 asking price for the sweet-looking graphic design of our sample unit. Does the Shoei name and top-line performance justify the $500 price tag? This is one of those questions only individual riders can answer. As a budget-impaired cheapskate myself, I hesitate to answer it too, except to say this: Having tested the RF-1100 the past few months I am reluctant to wear any of my other test helmets. And these are good helmets I pass over, I just prefer the quiet, comfort and security of my RF-1100.

When it comes to my own personal helmet selection, the RF-1100 tops the list.

Shoei RF-1100 Helmet