Popular among Euro riders for years, modular helmets are making inroads among U.S. riders and we here at MO welcome their influx into the American helmet market. Chief editor, Kevin Duke, recently reviewed Shoei’s Neotec modular helmet, saying “Overall, I’m thrilled with my Neotec. I love it for its incredible versatility, plush coziness and its classy appearance. It’s pulled on my head more often than anything else currently in my collection, and that’s about the highest endorsement I can give.”
The Neotec, however, retails between $649 and $663 whereas HJC’s RPHA Max begins at $460 for solid colors and $465 for matte black and metallic colors. The two share many similarities such as internal sun visors, Pinlock fog-resistant shield systems, ear pockets for internal speakers and five-year warranties.
But where the lever to operate Shoei’s sun visor is conveniently located next to the wearer’s left ear, HJC located both the engagement mechanism and retract button in a harder-to-reach area near the back of the helmet. The lever for operating the visor flexes against its spring-loaded mechanism when lowering it, giving us pause about its long-term durability.
Our experience wearing the RPHA Max proves HJC met its price-target obligations. The moisture-wicking, odor-free, anti-bacterial interior liner is comfortably padded, and HJC says its interior fabric cools down faster than the material used in competitors’ helmets. Its shape conforms nicely to my American skull shape without pinching my cheeks. There’s also ample room within for ears to reside without being folded.
The chin bar snaps into place with minimal effort, although a simple swing downward alone won’t do the trick – pushing it closed locks it with authority. Perceived safety is greater than lesser-priced modular helmets such as Bell’s $220 Revolver EVO helmet.
Wind noise is also lower inside the RPHA than the Bell due to a tighter-fitting neck roll and chin spoiler (an additional chin spoiler is included to further reduce unwanted airflow), but the Neotec and Schuberth C3 are quieter. It seems as if the longitudinal track near the helmet’s crown for sunshield deployment creates some extra noise at higher speeds, whereas the side-mount systems on the Neotec and C3 are completely out of the airflow.
The faceshield locks into place by way of an ingenious one-touch system which tightly seals the faceshield and helps minimize wind noise. However, the closure’s central location isn’t quite as accessible as systems placed on the left side. The chin and forehead air vents are easily opened and closed with a gloved hand, and airflow with the vents open is on-par with most of its contemporaries. Like most modern helmets, the faceshield features tool-less removal and installation that is easy and quick to use.
In regard to sizing, the M I tested fit my Medium head snugly, but Duke says his XS fits his teeny noggin a little looser than optimum. As always, make sure the helmet you choose fits your head size and shape properly before plunking down your money.
Returning to the price/value consideration of the new RPHA Max, we feel HJC did a commendable job of engineering a quality modular helmet. While it may not be as “premium” as the expensive offerings from Shoei and Schuberth, the RPHA Max does fill a gap between those helmets and the comparably inexpensive Bell.
The Max’s only serious drawback is the questionable location and durability of the sun visor lever, but otherwise the RPHA Max is a well-constructed modular helmet that we’ll continue to enjoy wearing.
Shoei Neotec Helmet Review
2011 US Motorcycle Helmet Satisfaction Study by J.D. Powers and Associates
2011 KBC VR4R Helmet Review
Schuberth SR1 Racing Helmet & S2 Full-Face Road Helmet
Schuberth North America Opens its Doors