If you’re looking for the best flip-front motorcycle helmet, the Shoei Neotec II and Schuberth C4 Pro must surely be on your radar. I’ve reviewed both here on Bennetts BikeSocial, but it’s a common question asked; “Which one should I buy?” After covering thousands of miles in them in all weathers, I’ve got to pick a favourite….
The Shoei Neotec II replaced the original Neotec at the tail-end of 2017 (which itself took over from the Multitec). The Schuberth C4 Pro was released this year as an evolution of the C4, which continues the company’s range of premium modular helmets…
The photos here show the carbon-fibre version of the Schuberth, which pushes the price up to £699.99. We’ve used both this and the standard model, which starts at £539.99 for plain black or white, and increases to £624.99 for graphics. A C4 ‘Basic’ is also an option in matt black or gloss white only, with none of the intercom parts installed and a reduced-performance Pinlock insert for £449.99.
The Shoei Neotec II starts at £519.99 for black or white, rising to £549.99 for colours and £599.99 for graphics.
Both have a composite fibre shell construction – making for an extremely tough outer – and both have plastic chin sections. They also both have a five-year warranty, though Schuberth allows owners to buy a new one for a third of the price if they crash in it. If that model’s not available anymore, you can have an equivalent one – a very good deal.
Shoei uses three different outer-shell sizes across its range of head sizes, while Schuberth uses two – the difference will be that some people might find their helmet looks a little larger if they fall on the smallest size in a given shell; you’re not likely to notice and if you’re happy with how the helmet looks on you then don’t worry.
The finish of both helmets is excellent, with a deep shine and high-quality graphics. The C4 Pro Carbon photographed here looks stunning with its large checked pattern exposed through the graphics, though the seam running down the middle at the rear looks a little clunky.
The Shoei has a large button on the front to unlock the chin section, while the Schuberth has it tucked under the bottom. Both are easy to use, the Schuberth perhaps a little more intuitive, but there’s little between them.
The Shoei is dual-homologated, which means it can legally be worn both closed as a full-face and open; pushing the chin bar back fully latches it into a firm hold, meaning it can’t drop down. If you don’t push it all the way, it’s still very stable, but if you manage to shake it down it drops quickly and tends to lock itself.
The Schuberth isn’t legal for use open while riding, though that doesn’t stop most people (myself included, as well as emergency services when they had the previous Shoei Neotec, which wasn’t dual-homologated). While the C4 Pro’s chin bar latches up pretty firmly, you need to be aware that if it does drop, it often stops just across your eyeline, so be cautious.
When riding, the wind blast does affect both helmets – unlike the Shark Evo-One 2, which sees the chin-bar go all the way to the back of the lid, these act as something of a sail. However, in very hot climates, that huge ventilation can be a massive bonus.
My favourite: The Shoei for its dual-homologation
Both of these helmets have the option of custom-fit intercom systems made by Sena. In the case of the Schuberth, the microphone, speakers and antenna are all built in. On the Shoei these parts come with the intercom system. I much prefer the microphone on the new Schuberth system, which just pokes out of the side of the cheek pad – on the Shoei it’s a boom that comes right to the front of your mouth and gets in the way of the chin bar.
Fitting the Schuberth SC1 communication kit is a really simple process – just plug in the control unit and the battery. It costs £250, though a ‘Standard’ version is also available with a shorter run time, no option of music sharing and no FM radio for £199.99.
Shoei’s intercom kit costs £259.99, and while fitting is more involved than the Schuberth, it’s not beyond most owners (or your dealer should be willing to do it for you).
In our testing, both systems were very comparable in their performance, though while the Schuberth gave a massive 18 hours and 50 minutes of runtime while playing Bluetooth-streamed music at full volume, the Shoei only managed 5 hours and 45 minutes.
The Shoei has the ability to link up to eight riders, while the Schuberth is limited to four, but both have a very similar range of around 550m in real-world open roads, coming down to about 400m in town. It’s worth noting that the carbon-fibre model is listed as having a reduced bike to bike intercom range of 200-500m (usually it’s claimed as <1000m).
As is the case with other intercoms, the FM radios are fine when they have a connection, but they soon lose it.
Both have controls that are just okay; the Shoei’s buttons are bigger and easier to find than the Schuberth’s, though it’s a little too easy to accidentally shut the Shoei down with winter gloves on. Both benefit from a remote control like the £47.80 SC3 or the £86.10 handlebar remote.
Overall, both the Shoei and the Schuberth have decent options that avoid having a box stuck on the side of the shell, but the much cheaper C4 Basic gives more versatility to use your own comms than the Shoei with its large proprietary intercom docking areas; it’s just a shame the colours are so limited on the Basic.
My favourite: The Schuberth C4 for its longer battery life, more discreet microphone and easy fitting, or the C4 Basic for its versatility with any intercom.
Kitted out with the intercom system, the Shoei Neotec II weighs 1736g, while the C4 Pro is 1695g (the C4 Pro Carbon is just 1491g without the intercom).
Pick them up and you’ll feel the difference, but once on your head it’s barely noticeable.
The Shoei arguably feels like it has a little more drag in direct wind, but there’s nothing to speak of between them.
My favourite: It’ll have to go to the Schuberth. There’s no denying that the Shoei is heavier, though when riding it’s not an issue in any way.
While there don’t appear to be any exhaust vents on the rear of the Schuberth C4 Pro, the ventilation is still excellent, with a clear difference between the top vents being closed, open halfway and fully open. The Shoei is also very good, though the slider on the top, while larger than the Shoei, can be a bit stiff in use.
Both helmets have easy-to-operate chin vents that do a good job of keeping the front of the face cooler and reducing fogging, but remember that if your bike has a screen it’s going to have a big impact on the amount of air reaching the vents.
In hot weather, both lids can benefit from having their chin skirts removed to allow more air to move around inside (the Shoei has a larger removable section); the necks are very well fitted on both of the helmets, so they can be quite still inside when the vents are closed or you’re on a bike with a large screen.
Both allow the visor to be cracked slightly open, giving the potential for more air to get in.
Brilliantly, the Schuberth C4 Pro now includes a mesh over the intake holes on the top of the lid, stopping flies and wasps from getting blown into the helmet. And thanks to the easy-to-remove vent cover, it’s a quick job to clean the top out if it does get blocked by bugs.
I have had creatures get in other helmets, including the Shoei Neotec II, which doesn’t have any mesh (the most prone to it has been the Arai RX-7). The Shoei’s vents are also stuck down, so cleaning them out isn’t as easy.
My favourite: The Schuberth for its easy-to-operate and clean mesh-covered top vent, but if you want a real blast of air to the face, the Shoei takes it due to being dual-homologated and the fact that the visor stays open…
The Schuberth has mesh over the holes in the top vent to stop bugs getting in
The Schuberth has a very deep visor aperture, which gives a large field of view; horizontally there’s no noticeable difference between it and the Shoei, but the cut-out at the front means looking down requires less head movement; it’s easier to see into your pockets and look at anything on your tank.
The Shoei Neotec II has a Pinlock Evo fog-resistant insert included, while the Schuberth C4 Pro has a Pinlock 120; both offer the highest levels of resistance to misting. Note that the cheaper C4 Basic comes with the slightly lower-spec Pinlock 70, though this is still a vast improvement over the original C4, which had a far inferior insert that didn’t seal properly thanks to its lack of a soft silicone bead.
Of course, as a glasses wearer I have to keep the visor cracked a lot of the time thanks to them fogging up well before the visor.
Neither visor leaks in the rain when closed and both helmets have a drop-down sunshield. They come down well, though like others they do leave a gap along the bottom; they don’t hit the nose but I find that brighter line distracting; I’m more of a fan of a dark visor (with the clear carried with me), but when you get caught in bright sunlight, a drop-down shield is certainly helpful.
All credit to the Schuberth for having a thumb tab on either side of the visor; it’s a bug-bear of mine that the Shoei has a tab only on the left – when I’m sat at the lights with the clutch held in, it can be awkward to reach across with my right hand.
Unfortunately, clear and easy to use as the C4 Pro visor is, it also has a really annoying flaw that’s been carried over from the C4; at speeds of about 65mph and over, it just won’t stay open. On a bike with a large screen it’ll be alright if it’s out of the air flow, but with anything else it’ll slam shut. Naked bike riders wouldn’t ride with it fully open at these speeds, but touring machine owners with screens that still direct the wind to the top of the lid will likely find it as irritating as me. There’s no such issue with the Shoei, and if you like to ride with the sunshield down and the main visor up for a cooling blast of air, the Schuberth just can’t handle it.
Neither visor requires tools to remove, both just relying on a simple lever in the mechanism to release; the Schuberth has the edge though, being a little quicker and easier than the Shoei.
My favourite: The Shoei for the fact that its visor stays open when riding. If Schuberth could fix this, it’d have the win (though it was the same on the previous model).
The Schuberth’s liner is harder to remove and replace than the Shoei’s
Both the Shoei Neotec II and the Schuberth C4 Pro have fully-removable linings that are easy to wash. The C4 Pro has an upgraded, more plush lining than the previous C4, but between the Shoei and the Schuberth there’s no discernible difference when they’re on the head; both are excellent.
They also both have very good sealing around the neck – the Schuberth’s is tighter, so watch for that when trying them on – and it also has longer fabric pads under the buckle that are secured with Velcro; they’re an extra fiddle when you’re taking the helmet off, and don’t seem to add anything to the comfort.
While it’s no deal-breaker, it’s worth noting that the Schuberth’s tightly-fitted aperture means you can’t put the helmet on with the chin section locked down – the Shoei can be fitted in the same way as a full-face, if you want.
Both have a habit of squeeking a little at times in use, though you don’t notice it if you have earplugs in.
My favourite: A draw – both are great linings, though the Schuberth has a caveat with the fit.
The Shoei’s liner is far simpler to remove for cleaning
An easy-to-use ratchet buckle is fitted to both the Schuberth and the Shoei, though on the latter it’s a metal tongue. The plastic Schuberth design feels no less secure, and it does have a little more adjustment in it (though once set, there’s never been a time I’ve wished for more on the Shoei).
Both can be operated with gloves on.
My favourite: The Shoei is just a little less of a fiddle – mainly down to the lining pads – but I also prefer the metal buckle.
The Schuberth seals well, but I do find the neck roll uncomfortable
Whenever anyone tells you a helmet is a great (or a terrible) fit, you must take it with a pinch of salt; we all have different head shapes and sizes, so trying on any lid for yourself is vitally important. When you’re in the store, besides checking the lid is secure, concentrate on feeling for any pressure points – if they’re noticeable after five minutes, they could be agony after an hour.
For context, I’ve always found Arais to be comfortable (since starting riding in 1996). For about the past ten years Shoeis have been fine, and about half the Shark range works for me. There are lots of other lids that fit a treat, but the point is that not everything suits everybody.
The Shoei Neotec fits me extremely well, but while I didn’t have any issues with the Schuberth C3, C4 or E1’s fit, the S2 didn’t fit me at the back of the head. On the C4 Pro, I find the skirt to be too bulky, pushing into the back of my neck, while my lower jaw is squashed and there’s a little pressure on the forehead too. Over several hours in the saddle this gets a bit wearing, so do check how the fit works for you.
Both helmets take spectacles fine, the frames of mine not being distorted or causing the bridge to lift off my nose, but another surprise with the Schuberth was that I had to go up from my usual medium to a large.
My favourite: Shoei. The Schuberth gets uncomfortable on my head, but remember that this is very subjective; you must try one for yourself.
The Shoei’s seal is improved over the previous Neotec
Schuberth is famous for its quiet helmets; rated at a noise level of 85dB at 62mph on a naked bike, the exceptional sealing around the C4 Pro’s skirt, along with the carefully formed shell design, means you could – on the right bike and if you don’t go too fast – safely ride without earplugs.
Without the buffeting of a screen or bodywork, the Schuberth is clearly a quieter helmet than the Shoei, but on the Kawasaki Versys 1000 the vibration caused by the unstable air means they end up the same. In fact, with the Schuberth’s visor cracked open while riding this bike, the resulting drumming sound is almost unbearable when you get much beyond 80mph, though close it fully and it improves.
The Shoei is slightly less noisy with the visor cracked, but close it and they’re both very similar.
Of course, the problem with this noise is that it’ll depend on your bike and the quality of the screen. Ultimately, a naked bike will see the Schuberth perform exceptionally well, but as soon as you add screen turbulence, the benefits are often lost.
For more information on why earplugs are vital with any helmet, and advice on which are the best, click here.
My favourite: On a naked bike, the Schuberth, but on the Kawasaki Versys 1000, the noise from the cracked-open visor is really annoying. We’ll call it a draw.
The Shoei Neotec II and Schuberth C4 Pro are both excellent helmets… add the cheaper C4 Basic to the mix and the Schuberth becomes a very favourable choice. But it’s hampered by the visor that slams down at anything over 65mph.
If your bike has a large screen that means no air is blown across the visor, you’ll likely not have to worry, but if the wind hits the top of your lid, you’ll have to keep the speed down if you want to ride with the sunshield down and the visor up. For me, that’s a big deal, and combined with the much better fit (on my head), the Shoei is the helmet I choose to ride in almost every day…