Shoei RF-1400 Review: Premium Motorcycle Helmet

There is a lot to like about the new Shoei RF-1400 helmet, and the evolution of the RF line-up can be traced back over 30 years. What I found most exciting, and unscientifically speaking, is that this helmet has the least amount of drag I can remember experiencing during a ride or at the track, and I have a shelf full of race-bred helmets for comparison.

That aspect really added comfort to my ride. Design changes mandated by its state-of-the-art, in-house wind tunnel facility account for a claimed six percent less lift and four percent less drag versus the RF-1200. It is noticeable, though I can’t quantify a specific number.

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I rode with the RF-1400 on a naked sportbike at speeds considerably over the limit and quickly perceived that I felt only the tiniest bit of wind force. Naturally, there will always be some energy exerted by the blast at highway or track speeds. Yet, there was only the slightest tugging at my neck and virtually no lift or oscillation that I was able to discern. I moved my head in every direction and all angles inviting the wind to have its way with me. It didn’t. I haven’t yet taken the helmet to the track, but I can already tell it could be a favorite.

Perhaps all or part of this wind-cheating design involves the rear lip and helmet shape. The curve of the back of the RF-1400 is sexy and appears a bit longer and more flared than I see on most lids. It’s a complete change from the RF-1200. I like the looks of it, too. It is claimed to be a bit quieter for several reasons.

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One reason is that the CWR-F2 shield system upgrade features vortex generators (borrowed from the X-Fourteen model) on the shield’s trailing edges. Combined with a new center-locking baseplate, it is designed to improve aerodynamics and cut wind noise.

Another is the RF-1400’s new tightly fit faceshield seal with an adjustment lever on the baseplate, ensuring a quieter ride. Also, the cheek pads well-surround the bottom opening to further attenuate wind noise inside the helmet. All combine to create an incredibly quiet riding experience, especially for a lightweight sporting helmet.

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The fit and finish are as good, or better, than most helmets. Anyone who has run a Shoei knows how well they are built, how much attention is paid to detail, and how plush and comfortable the internal materials are.

Shoei tells of their exclusive Multi-Ply Matrix AIM+ shell construction. Shoei combines a six-ply matrix of fiberglass with lightweight, organic, and high-performance fibers to provide optimal impact-absorption, strength, and elasticity. Their dual-layer, multi-density EPS also provides enhanced impact absorption through various foam densities in critical areas around the rider’s head. There are tunnels molded into the EPS to allow greater airflow and excellent ventilation characteristics.

In typical Shoei fashion, the RF-1400 has a fully removable, washable, adjustable, and replaceable 3D Max-Dry Interior System II. I’ve found Shoei helmets have easy interior removal to make simple washing and re-installation a breeze, and the RF-1400 is no exception. Sweaty summer stink can be eliminated overnight, whether at home or in a hotel room. Trust me. I’ve experienced helmets that smell like bad cheese after a day or two on 95-degree/99-percent humidity rides.

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As for fit, naturally, that’s a personal detail. I am a sort of a long-oval head shape, and all large Shoei lids fit me perfectly, as do Schuberths. They have since my first—an RF-1100 and the following RF-1200. Then there are several GT-Airs and Neotecs on my shelf. It was no different with the RF-1400.

Anecdotal reports from, and discussions with, other Shoei riders all seem to have the same thing to say. A good reason for the excellent fit is the use of four shell sizes to span their size range. There is a specific shell for the common M and L sizes, with one shell handling XS and S and at the other end a single shell to take care of XL and XXL. I’m happy to not have to rock an XL shell on my large helmet.

The small shell doesn’t allow much room over the rider’s ears, so communications-device lovers might only be able to install a unit that has super-thin speakers. An alternative is the Shoei GT-Air II, which is designed to accommodate the Sena SRL2 Communication System.

The RF-1400 is exceptionally well-ventilated thanks to the six intake vents and four always-open exhaust vents. Four closable front vents occupy the top positions, and two closable vents are in the chin. I like the easy-to-operate three-position chin vents. They reside in the space on either side of the new centrally positioned faceshield release button, which has been relocated from the left-side placement on the RF-1200. Riders upgrading from the RF-1200 will need a minute to assimilate this change but, once learned, a left thumb press and lift will be all that’s required.

On a cool day, one can feel that the helmet is quite breezy inside, even with all vents closed. That’s okay for a helmet of this design. Included in the box is a removable chin curtain that mitigates some of the breeze on cold days and covers the bit of your chin that protrudes under the helmet edge.

I like that the first opening detent on the faceshield is rather narrow. I often ride in warm weather on back roads and appreciate a narrow “city” opening so I can more easily smell every barbecue joint I pass.

The Shoei RF-1400 is a perfect example of how incremental changes and improvements over time can refine a product in such ways as to elevate its characteristics and performance far above the earlier model.

I thought the RF-1200 was, pretty much, as good as one might expect in a sporting-style helmet. I was wrong. The new Shoei RF-1400 is a tour de force in industrial design and a valued piece of kit that I know I will be wearing often. For long touring rides, I still might reach for a Bluetooth-comm enabled helmet to pump up my jams, but for local canyon riding and track days, this likely will be the first helmet I pull off the shelf.

Shoei RF-1400 Fast Facts

  • Sizes: XS-XXL
  • Colors: 7 solids; 14 graphics
  • Certifications: Snell, DOT

Shoei RF-1400 Prices: $529, solids; $629, graphics

Photos by Zaid Awni