Messing with Success: The all-new Shoei 1400
In today’s consumer-driven marketplace, product life cycles usually last 3 or 4 years, max. Then, said product is unceremoniously shunted aside by a newer/brighter/shinier object. But the outgoing Shoei RF-1200 lasted a full seven years in the lineup before now finally getting the axe. Shoei engineers knew that if they were going to mess with such proven success, they’d better deliver something special. And here it is…
**UPDATE: The RF-1400 is now available for sale both in-store and online, although in limited colors and quantities given the recent supply chain issues.
In a nod to skipping the superstition of a “1300” helmet, Shoei is leap-frogging into the future with the all-new RF-1400. As of this writing in late 2020, we’ve received our stocking run and have all sizes in every of the solid color options available for sale.
From a styling standpoint Shoei sure seemed to have it nailed it with the RF-1200. The outgoing helmet is light, sculpted, and plush. With myriad custom-fit pad options, an included pinlock anti-fog shield, and an optional upgrade Transitions shield, the 1200 didn’t leave the wearer wanting for much.
Except maybe a little bit of air. And at the same time, it’s a quiet helmet, but not completely quiet.
And so the outline handed to Shoei engineers included these two diametrically opposed goals—1. make it flow more air; 2. make it quieter.
How’d they do it?
First, with a venting scheme that looks to borrow from its cousin, the GT-Air II. The 1400 sees an all-new air intake system with bigger, more numerous central brow and chin vents, dwarfing the size of the 1200 intakes.
The exhaust vent is also enlarged, and it’s not “switchable” like the 1200, meaning it’ll draw a constant stream of passive airflow. Logic dictates that if all the intake vents are closed, the passive rear vents should shut off as well, so this isn't a huge deal.
Then the design was handed off to the aerodynamics department, which tweaked and sculpted the exterior of the helmet to yields some incrementally positive results in the wind tunnel.
Shoei claims that comparing the 1200 to the 1400, lift on the helmet was reduced by 6 percent, while overall drag was cut down by 4 percent.
So it slices through the air better, with less buffeting. But how did they improve on the quietness of the helmet?
First, notice those little nubs built into the profile of the widened face shield? Some overexcited marketing staffer at Shoei has dubbed them "Vortex Generators." (Mildly better that the Schuberth terminology for the same feature on their helmets: “Turbulators.”)
In real terms, these little nubs help break up passing air and relieve back-pressure. Just a like dimples on a golf ball help it slice further and faster through the air, these lil nubbins help the 1400 cut through the air more efficiently, reducing drag and noise buffeting at the same time.
The next step Shoei took to tame road noises was to beef up its cheekpads. Literally, fattening up the volume of the redesigned cheekpads makes for a more comprehensive fit around the wearers face and jawline, preventing passing air from reaching the users ears. As with the 1200 and any other helmet, installing the included chin curtain will even further quiet down the helmet, as it minimizes the “blowing across a beer bottle” effect that can create unwanted resonance inside the lid.
Structurally, the RF-1400 loses the traditional side clasp on the non-throttle side of the helmet. Instead it gets a centrally located latch that operates with an easier-to-use push-button switch.
The new shield is also slightly taller than the outgoing RF-1200, and its pinlock posts are spaced about 10% further apart, which yields a wider, even-more-unobstructed field of view over its predecessor.
One goal clearly not on the list: Make it lighter. And in fact the new 1400 picked up some grams over the 1200. A medium 1400 on our shop scale weighs 1,679 grams, that’s up 132grams from the 1,547-gram RF-1200. While the slight added weight is unfortunate, it shouldn’t present much of a noticeable difference given the wind-tunnel gains mentioned above.
And with weight comes strength (at least that's how we're spinning it) and this SNELL 2020 and DOT rated full-face helmet offers plenty of confidence. Its construction remains consistent with Shoei’s proven recipe for the 1200—a medley of fiberglass in the shell covering up a dual-density EPS liner.
Another nice safety feature carries over with emergency quick-release cheekpads, making it easy for emergency medical staff to remove the helmet following an accident.
It’s good to remember that for all the styling conceits the #1 function of any helmet is to keep you safe. That is, to prevent your brain from smashing into the inside of your skull in an accident, and/or to keep your mandible properly attached, and your teeth intact. And this 1400 delivers safety performance in spades.
With increased ventilation *and* decreased road noise, we’ve got now reason to doubt the 1400 will offer a marked—if incremental—improvement over the much-loved 1200.
And the price? It’s exactly the same as the outgoing RF-1200: $499.95 for solid colors.
And sorry Shoei but the 2021 RF-1400 graphics are objectively awful. Please contact @hellocousteau for a collaboration in 2021!
And finally, an oft-repeated safety fact to keep in mind: Helmets only last 5 years. Over time, with exposure to the atmosphere, and maybe from cumulative gasoline or oil fumes emanating from the gloves you sometimes stash inside your helmet, the EPS liner of any helmet will break down and do less of a job protecting your noggin.
However much you love your current helmet (and boy do we still love the old-flame RF-1200), if it’s getting on in years, it should be replaced. The RF-1400 is a worthy candidate for your next New Helmet Day.
Or, while supplies last, we do have a stock of outgoing closeout RF-1200s, priced to move.
*Note: RF-1400 upgrade shields and fine-tuning headliner and cheek pads are not going to be available until spring 2021, but the helmets are available in-store and online now.