Shoei RF-1200 Helmet Review — Smaller, Lighter, More Aerodynamic

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Replacing the extremely popular RF-1100, this new Shoei RF-1200 helmet improves on its high-end sport touring formula by dropping weight, size and wind noise, improving aerodynamic stability and ventilation while also adopting radical new looks. The new king of the helmet hill? Find out in this Shoei RF-1200 helmet review.

Helmet Role
Thanks to its good looks, well known label and reasonable price point, Shoei’s RF-1100 helmet (launched in 2003) is a common sight on both road and track. While it was never as flashy as its more race-focused X12 big brother, its more streamlined design cut wind noise and made it a more comfortable option in the real world. That’s not to say it didn’t also excel on the track, where its excellent ventilation, vision and aerodynamic stability worked just as well as they did on the road.

So, the new RF-1200 has big shoes to fill. Like its predecessor, it’s intended to be a high-end option for sport riding, but also does just as well touring or even commuting. Shoei’s gone to great lengths to refine the 1200’s details, boosting its already impressive reputation for comfort, quality and convenience.

Shoei RF-1200 Review

Fit and Comfort
If you’ve worn a Shoei helmet before, you’ll be familiar with the RF-1200’s intermediate oval internal shape. That’s intended to fit the majority of heads, but if you have a spherical or football-shaped head, you’re going to be out of luck.

Inside, Shoei’s typical quality remains evident in the removable, washable, hypoallergenic lining. The lower half is made in a softer fabric, while the upper is a more heavily perforated, tougher-wearing material.

A thick neck roll closes in under your jaw and around the back of your head, sealing out wind and subsequent noise.

One item that’s curiously lacking is a chin curtain, optional or otherwise. As a result, even with that tight neck roll, you’ll never achieve the total control of the RF-1200’s internal environment.

Shoei RF-1200 Review

Visibility and Noise
As you’d expect from any product of a well-known helmet brand like Shoei, vision through the new CWR-1 shield is outstanding. The side perimeters don’t intrude on your peripheral vision and the helmet’s horizon stays out of the way, even in a full racing tuck.

I wore the helmet at Imola, while reviewing the 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale last week, hitting speeds of around 149 mph and wind rush never become intrusive.

Shoei RF-1200 Review

Weight and Balance
Shoei claims the RF-1200 is the lightest Snell certified lid it’s ever made. While it hasn’t released an official weight, the helmet is perceptibally lighter than the 1565g, ECE 22.05-rated Schuberth S2. It should be noted the Schuberth includes an internal sunvisor, chin curtain, larger neck roll and even a Bluetooth/FM radio antennae; features the Shoei does without. That actually means the RF-1200 weighs less than its X12 stablemate and even the top-of-the-line Arai Corsair V.

Shoei also says it’s gone to great lengths to reduce the external size of the RF-1200. In size medium, it’s possibly the smallest helmet I’ve worn, even smaller than the Icon Airmada. Benefits of the smaller size include a reduced aerodynamic footprint, making it more stable, and also improved looks.

Shoei RF-1200 Review

Ventilation
While the RF-1200 shares the same number of rear outlets (four) as its predecessor and uses very similar brow vents, it gains an additional center forehead vent. Riding on a rainy, cold Imola track, I didn’t have the opportunity to test the ventilation, but can report that, with all the vents closed, the helmet remains warm and draft free.

The most noticeable change in ventilation over the RF-1100 is the repositioning of the rear vents into the spoiler. A single open/close switch now operates them, making them far easier to use, particularly on the move.

All the front vents are three-position — half-open, full-open and closed.

Shoei RF-1200 Review

Graphics and Finish
It’s a Shoei, so you’re going to expect thick, lustrous paint and quality switchgear. The RF-1200 continues to deliver there as well. What you might not expect is how cool some of the new graphics are. With the exception of one or two faux bandana, tough guy color schemes, the tribal fairy dragons have totally given way to strong, appealing color schemes. Click over to RevZilla to see them all.

What do we prefer? We think the RF-1200’s elegant, understated, handsome lines look best in solid colors, like this one in white. Looking forward to wearing it with the solid black visor.

Shoei seems to have taken note of AGV’s design book while conceiving the RF-1200. Its rear contour lines are strongly reminiscent of the AGV AX-8 Dual’s, while the angular side profile looks like a toned-down AGV Pista GP. As an added bonus, the way the neck roll fills those side cut-outs should help prevent collar bone injuries.

Shoei RF-1200 Review

Value and Desirability
At $437, the RF-1200 isn’t a bargain lid. However, priced smack in the middle of the helmet market, it delivers outstanding quality, exciting looks and is brought to you by one of the most appealing brands in motorcycling. To us, that makes it a bargain. We’d choose it over Schuberth’s $700 S2, as well as any helmet in the Shoei range and, as another added bonus, it’s $175 cheaper than the loosely equivalent Arai Defiant.

The Good
The new CWR-1 visor features pronounced ribs at the top and bottom which add strength. Know how some visors can flex and distort when you’re trying to open and close them quickly? No longer.

That’s just the first in a number of innovations around your face. A new quick-release attachment mechanism on the base plate is even quicker and easier to use than Shoei’s previous, famously easy system.

And, that new QR-E base plate also features 5 position ratchet adjustments on each side, easily allowing you to tailor the fit of the visor to seal out wind noise. Each of the five positions is easily located as you’re turning thanks to both marks and a tactile detent in the mechanism.

The looks are outstanding, at once futuristic and evocative, while being understated and classy. The RF-1200 is an absolute stunner in plain white.

The vents move with oiled precision. Shoei is one of the only helmet makers in the world to pack so much tactile quality into its helmet construction. The insignificant task of opening or closing a vent becomes a pleasure.

Quick-release cheekpads are clearly marked with red slashes, making them easy for emergency services to find and use. They should reduce strains on a rider’s neck during helmet removal.

Pockets for speakers are filled with a noise-deadening foam; a smart use of otherwise empty space.

Wind noise is exceptionally low.

First, for any company but Bell, the RF-1200 will be available with a light-responsive, Transitions shield later this year. That goes dark when it’s bright, clear when it’s dark and is a genuine one-visor solution to all conditions.

The Bad
The included Pinlock visor insert utterly prevents fogging and fits the between the new visor ribs perfectly, but can lead to starring during night riding. Other helmet makers like the more affordably-priced Icon know how to prevent fogging without using a Pinlock, why not Shoei?

While Shoei says this is the lightest Snell-rated helmet it’s yet made, it hasn’t released a weight for the RF-1200 or its Shoei NXR ECE 22.05 equivalent. Are American consumers again being saddled with a compromised product in pursuit of an increasingly less desirable and arguably less-ideal Snell certification? We intend to find out.

There could be more ventilation in the chin area. Look to the Icon Airmada for an example.

Shoei RF-1200 Review

The Verdict
A much needed home run for Shoei, which in recent years has lacked innovation. Strong looks, good value and exceptional quality will set it apart in the market and make the RF-1200 an excellent choice for anyone shopping for helmet for sport riding, touring, track days, commuting or any and all of the above.

Related Links:
RF-1200 In Action: 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale Review

The German: Schuberth S2 Review

With A Sun Visor: Shoei GT-Air Review

  • Jack Norton

    For a road rider is there really any benefit to owning this over a GT-Air?

    I picked my GT-Air up a few months ago and don’t think I’ll ever go back to a helmet without a sun visor

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      They’re both great helmets. The RF-1200 is smaller externally.

      • Jack Norton

        Thanks Wes, Agree re pinlock at night though I’m there’s a warning saying ‘use only in daylight’ on mine.

    • Sentinel

      I had a helmet before my last one that had the internal retractable sun-shield, and I loved it. Since my current helmet, which is a Bell Star, doesn’t have a built in sun-shield I purchased and installed the “Transitions” face shield, which automatically tints when exposed to sunlight. Well, I’ve got to say; the Transitions shield just doesn’t cut it. So while this new RF-1200 does have the Transitions shield as an option, it just doesn’t compare to what an internal sun-shield has to offer. Most likely my next helmet purchase will be the Shoei GT-Air. Needless to say, I think you’ve got the best helmet already.

      • http://www.racetrackstyle.com/ Racetrack Style

        Thanks…I was hoping this helmet would have the internal sun visor

        • Sentinel

          I of course would have really liked that too, but since it doesn’t, I’ll be going for the GT-Air instead.

      • Clint Keener

        I love my GT-Air. The tinted sun visor could be a little darker and come down further though.

        • Sentinel

          That’s a common issue/complaint with most helmets of any brand that has a retractable sun-shield, but again, they are still much better than a Transitions shield. That’s an expensive mistake I won’t be repeating.

          • Piglet2010

            My only complaint about the Transitions shield is the cost.

  • Kr Tong

    Visibility of this vs AGV’s new lineup? (pista, corsa, everything that’s getting the pista’s style of vision)

  • Rameses the 2nd

    I am so pissed. I just bought RF1100 last month. I wish I knew this were coming.

  • Corey Cook

    Fantastic article, I’ve already owned the RF1000 and RF1100 and this will be the next.

    Just one little thing, Shoei released the RF1000 in 2004, which was then followed by the RF1100 in 2009. Best line of helmets on the market in my humble little opinion. Saved my life twice.

    • Kr Tong

      i think that might depend on the helmet size you’re wearing. i had an xs rf1000 that suffered almost no damage and knocked me out cold for thirty minutes. That was in 2007 under snell 2005 regulations which said all heads, regardless of size, are the same weight, so the foam was likely too dense in smaller sizes. I’ve only worn XS DOT helmets since.

      • Justin McClintock

        You might be alright with a newer SNELL helmet. I know they’ve made some changes to the SNELL requirements since then, primarily due to Motorcyclist’s “Blowing the Lid Off” article. That article, courtesy of Dexter Ford, really shed quite a bit of light on the subject and influenced SNELL to change the standards in the SNELL 2010 ratings.

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          While Snell M2010 is a vast improvement over M2005, ECE 22.05 lids remain lighter and that European standard has higher standards for quality control; makers have to have the helmets recertified for every 3,000 units to ensure variations in tooling and wear don’t impact safety. As much as an improvement as Snell M2010 is, it still results in heavier, harder helmets than ECE 22.05. So why bother? Every single helmet on the MotoGP grid is ECE 22.05 by rider choice.

          • Justin McClintock

            Good to know!

      • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

        You sir, would benefit from an ECE lid, as available from AGV, Icon and Shuberth.

        • Kr Tong

          agv’s all i’ve own since. thank!

  • Mitchel Durnell

    Will this have 4 shell sizes, like the RFs before it?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Yep, four shell sizes.

  • usediv

    *perceptibly ;)

  • Justin McClintock

    Based on the continual references to the Airmada, I can’t help but wonder why I wouldn’t get one of those instead. Especially given the significant price difference between the two.

    • Jorn Bjorn Jorvi

      The airmada is a molded plastic shell vs the composite of the shoei. If you don’t mind the feel of polycarb shells then you’d be fine with an airmada

      • Bruce Steever

        It’s not as comfy either. Not bad, but not as fitted or plush as the more expensive stuff out there (assuming you are wearing the correct size, shape, etc.)

    • Jay

      I’d like to hear more comparisons to the Airmada, also. I know that Shoei’s are very comfortable and fit me well. Which of the two feels better on your head?

      • Justin McClintock

        I honestly have no clue. I’ve never tried either on. I’ve thought about a couple of different Icon models in the past and need a new helmet soon, which was why I asked. Thus far though, I’ve pretty much been glued to Scorpions. They fit me great. I figured it wouldn’t hurt ot at least look at other stuff though.

        • Mykola

          The only helmets I’ve confirmed to fit me are the Scorpion 700 (fits me great), and the Shoei RF-1100 (again, great). I haven’t worn Icon’s Airmada, but their Variant was a mediocre fit (dut to shape, not size) and the Airframe was simply painful (again, definitely shape not size)

      • Spewy

        I was at the local helmet super store trying on all sorts of brands and models because I was buying some custom painted helmets and the painters using different brands and models. One of the brands/models I tried was the Icon Airmada, of ALL the brands and models I tried on, it by far did NOT fit me as well as any of the others, no matter what size I tried it felt like a torture device on my head. I am a huge fan of Shoei, I have had my RF-700 for about 27 years and it saved my life going down on the Freeway doing 75mph, would had wiped my face clean off had it not been for that high quality build of the Rf-700. Old red is long in the tooth and very loose fitting now. About 7 years ago I got a Vemar Jiano with Bluetooth, I love the modular design, very comfortable, but the quality of the Vemar is not as good as a Shoei, and that modular felt flimsy, plus it is loud and would not seal well. After trying on all sorts of helmets, I felt the Icon Airmada was NOT for me, I even took a Z1R Phantom over the Icon, and the Gmax was exceptionally comfortable, nearly to the point of a Shoei. After much deliberation I got an RF-1200 in bright red to replace Old Red. I also got a Shoei NeoTec Modular the 2nd gen modular feels MUCH stronger and solid, a truly awesome helmet in every respect! Also a Gmax gm48S, Gmax gm68S(previous helmet of the year award winner) and Z1R Phantom. I think the Gmax gm68S has more venting than the Airmada and a MUCH better fit, plus it has a trick safety light in back(6 LEDs) none of the others have.

  • Generic42

    Here’s a link to the graphic versions of the helmet – http://www.revzilla.com/shoei-rf-1200-helmets

  • charlie

    This is awesome! I was actually gonna get the RF-1100 after re-assembling my bike but I’m glad I waited. The transition shield should technically be markedly better at tinting than the Pinlock Protectint insert that I was considering getting from Europe. Since most shields have UV blocking properties, the Protectint inserts never got as dark as they should have. I hope they got around this with the dedicated shield.

  • http://www.codyk.net/ Cody Kitaura

    Damn my football-shaped head.

  • charlie

    Two questions:

    1. I live in Florida. Will the more compact opening make it warmer than the RF-1100?
    2. Some reviews have said that the internal shape is slightly different. A large RF-1100 fits me perfectly. Any possible issues going up to the 1200?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      1. It has more ventilation. You will be cooler.

      2. No.

      • charlie

        Sweet. Thanks Wes.

  • mid40s

    Does it whistle like my RF1100? I nearly chucked my “high end” helmet once when my ear plugs weren’t absolutely seated and the banshee like whistling that is normally reduced almost made me crazy. Unacceptable for a mega-popular $400+ helmet IMO. Hope they fixed it with the 1200 or I’m switching brands.

    • Darrick Anderson

      I’m always interested in whistling issues. Where does it whistle from? Shield, vents, your passenger…

      • mid40s

        Funny. It whistles from the vents mostly. Sometimes from the shield. I wear ear plugs so I couldn’t hear the passenger. Seriously, this is a documented problem with the RF 1100.

    • charlie

      I doubt that it’s a widespread issue or else it would have been published everywhere. Did you try to exchange it at the place you bought it from?

      • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

        mine does it too

    • Bruce Steever

      Shoei shields tend to require some tuning to dial out the whistle at the shield seams. The 1200 eliminates this entirely, thanks to the better seal and the indexed adjusters on the baseplates.

  • Steve

    I’ve had the XR1000 and now the XR1100, I loved the 1k its was comfy quite even with the visor cracked slightly open, which I need quite a bit as I wear glasses. Not so much the 11k its much noisier especially with a cracked visor or a vent open, the visor appears thinner and is much flimsier than the 1k visor. To be honest I was disappointed with it and only the better field of vision saves it. I hope shoei have addressed those problems and I’ll await feedback from early buyers before splashing out on one. Also the XR100 was 1250grams I doubt the XR1100 is going to beat that.

  • Darrick Anderson

    For the record, it does come with a chin curtain and breath deflector.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      I’ve seen neither part.

      • Darrick Anderson

        I’m assuming the helmet you had was a tester and might not have got all the good bits with it. I’m looking in 1200 boxes right now, and the chin curtain is in all of them along with the deflector.

  • Piglet2010

    I will continue to wear Bell Star lids, simply because Bell is a “less cool” brand – many squids wear Shoei, and very few Bell.

    • Bruce Steever

      I like Bells too, but they aren’t nearly as durable as a Shoei, or even an Arai. After two or three years, it’s easy to see which of these three helmet brands in made in China…

      • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

        I disagree completely, it’s my RF-1100 that deteriorated the fastest.

        • Bruce Steever

          Really? That would be a first that i’ve seen. I’ve got a five-year-old Arai that’s getting retired but probably has another two years of wear and tear left. My last five-year-old X-11 looked NEW when i retired it. My Bell Star Carbon is dropping bits and pieces at 12 months. Which is a damn shame, cause i like the way it fits and it vents amazingly well…

          • Piglet2010

            The thing is, if you shop around the Bell Star will cost much less than a Shoei or Arai – my local “metric” dealer had them on sale at 50% off when I picked mine up.

            But now is a good time to buy a Shoei RF-1100, as dealers look to get rid of discontinued models.

  • Richard Kimes

    Interesting thread. As a policy though, SHOEI provides its roadracers, no matter the series or country, with SNELL rated helmets.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      So European and Japanese shoei customers are buying an inferior product?

      • Richard Kimes

        not at all. SHOEI makes plenty of ECE and DOT level helmets. But where possible, and for where the SNELL application is relevant, they engineer to it.

  • charlie

    So I talked to one of the guys at Shoei and asked him some questions. This is what I got:

    1. CW-1 Pinlock inserts will not work with the new shield but inserts for the new shield are backward compatible.

    2. The upcoming photochromic shield should be due out in December. Confirming what a lot of us were suspecting, the tinting of the shield will be better than the photochromic Pinlock inserts that are sold over in Europe since the shield won’t sit behind any UV blocking piece to hamper transition. I asked him if it was on par with the drop down visor on the GT-Air and he said yes. Although he did mention that the RF-1200 is quieter since the GT-Air flows a lot more air. I can’t confirm if that’s the case.

    3. Wes stated that during the review that there’s no chin curtain but Shoei did confirm that this will be included along with a breath guard.

    4. He didn’t have the information in front of him but he said he was 99% sure that this helmet meets the upcoming M2015 standard since they usually get a heads up beforehand. So if that’s important for you, no need to worry.

    Not a lot of other info as we started to chat about bikes but good to know nonetheless. Personally, I’m excited about the photochromic shield for commuting.

  • Strafer

    looking forward to Photochromic Sheild w/Pinlock for RF1200
    cmon Shoei lets get cracking

  • Mike Rowave

    for the extra money, is it worth it over the armada?