Shoei RF-1200 Helmet Review

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

Way back in October, we previewed Shoei’s RF–1200 while we waited for our samples to arrive stateside. Well, we’ve logged a couple thousand miles with Shoei’s latest lid and can offer a full review.

Folks who’ve loved the RF series of Shoei helmets in the past will be happy to know that the fit is still the same. If you have an oval head, the new RF will feel instantly comfortable. While your noggin may tell you the helmet feels similar to past models, your hands will tell you another story as you don and doff the helmet. The shell itself feels more appropriately proportioned to the head size it is slated to fit which is most likely the result of the four shell sizes. With each shell supporting a smaller number of sizes, the tolerances can be tightened between the shell and the liner.

Aside from the Mystify TC–5 (left) and the Dominance TC-2 (right) tested, the RF-1200 is offered in four additional graphic styles and nine solid colors.

Even though the helmet’s opening is slightly smaller, the comfort padding keeps you from feeling like you’re trying to squeeze your head through a keyhole. Said Editor-in-Chief, Kevin Duke, “I really like the concise size of the outer shell, which seems smaller than most others in my XS size. This aids the helmet’s mass centralization, helping it feel light on my head.”

Both Duke and I have long-oval shaped heads, and the RF-1200 fit without the fore and aft hot spots often experienced with our head shape. Similarly, the side-to-side fit is comfortably close without any gaps to allow in noise. Both testers described the fit as “snug” but comfortable.

Visually, the bottom of the RF-1200 is not very different from the RF-1100, but subtle changes result in a quieter helmet. The chin curtain reduces noise further.

Shoei’s work in reducing helmet noise shows with the RF-1200. The smaller opening and closer fitting comfort padding around the rider’s ears helps muffle the wind noise that emanates from the helmet base. The included chin curtain reduces the sound a tad further but at the expense of ventilation around a rider’s mouth. The chin curtain also makes the helmet warmer on chilly days.

The improved aerodynamics that Shoei stressed in its press materials are apparent at speed. In a clean airstream, the buffeting around the lower portion of the helmet is reduced compared to previous RFs. “The RF glides smoothly through the air, even when tipped sideways at highway speeds while shoulder-checking,” notes Duke. Although the 1200’s aerodynamics do play an important role in the reduced noise reaching the rider’s ears, don’t let this fool you into thinking that earplugs will not be necessary when riding on the highway. No helmet we’ve tested prevents harmful noise from reaching ears while traveling at highway speeds.

Read our investigation of hearing loss by motorcyclists

The RF-1200’s venting is decent if not excellent.

The RF-1200’s ventilation received mixed reviews. Said Duke, “The RF’s ventilation is good but not great. Each of the four intake ports contribute to the flow, while the rear exhaust port adds a small but noticeable breeze.”

Also, the forehead vents seems to be particularly susceptible to noise when turbulence is aimed directly at the ports. Moving the dirty air flow an inch higher or lower resolves the problem. Duke summed up his notes about the RF’s breathability by saying, “The RF doesn’t seem to achieve the high levels of ventilation offered by Shoei’s X-Eleven or even its Neotec modular lid I reviewed and rated highly.”

The new visor, with its top and bottom supporting ribs, helped to increase the rigidity of the plastic when raising or lowering the shield. However, the stiff detents in the opening range occasionally caused the visor to flex and refuse to rotate. Making sure to not apply any side force but, rather, straight up and down force to the visor prevents the flex. The eye port covered by the visor is spacious without any obstruction to the rider’s vision. The adjustable screws on the faceshield’s mounting hardware makes fine tuning the visor’s seal a breeze (or a distinct lack of it). Swapping visors is as easy as we’ve come to expect from Shoei.

The helmet’s ratcheting mechanism makes sure the visor stays in the selected position at speed. However, it sometimes makes the visor difficult to close.

Shoei’s reputation as a top-shelf manufacturer is more than held up by the RF-1200’s quality of contruction. Details, like the washable, removable liner, assure that owners will get the most use out of their helmet abound. Similarly, where other manufacturers might think the visor seal was good enough, the RF-1200 forms an air-tight seal that you can fine-tune, as mentioned above. Finally, the surface finish of the clear coat and design are top notch with the transition between graphic elements almost imperceptible to the finger.

Riders who live in wet or cold environments will appreciate the included clear Pinlock anti-fog visor shield. Although Shoei recommends against riding at night with the Pinlock installed, my experience is that any trade-off in light transmission is outweighed by the absence of condensation obscuring my vision.

The Shoei RF-1200 is an apt successor to the venerable RF-1100, keeping its utility and premium fit while improving on aerodynamics and quietness. The RF-1200’s MSRP ranges from $485.99 to $589.99, depending on the graphic package, and sizes span from XS-XXL. The RF-1200 comes with a cloth carrying bag, a Pinlock visor, a breath guard, a chin curtain, and silicone seal lubricant. Replacement or tinted visors will set you back $59.99, but Shoei faceshields are traditionally quite tough.

Sir Duke gave the most succinct summation of our feelings about Shoei’s updated RF when he said, “Overall, I’m really impressed with the RF-1200. It’s comfy enough for all-day touring while being snug enough to wear at a track day. This is a premium helmet that doesn’t disappoint.”

Yeah, what he said.

Shop for the Shoei RF-1200 here

Shoei RF-1200

+ ProsImproved aerodynamicsImproved face shield seal for quietnessShoei’s premium fit and finish– ConsLong-to-medium oval only, round heads need not applyForehead vents contribute to helmet noiseBeen usurped by the Shoei RF-1400

Shoei RF-1200 FAQ

Is Shoei worth the money?

Shoei is a premium helmet manufacturer, which means you get far more than a helmet that simply meets federal impact standards. Each Shoei helmet is handmade, and by the time it is packaged for shipment, it has been handled by more than 50 people as part of the stringent manufacturing and verification process. Additionally, premium helmets, like Shoei, typically offer superior comfort features such as effective venting, removable and adjustable liners, and high-quality fit-and-finish. Shoei helmet owners see the value in their comfort and finish for their extra dollars.

When was the Shoei RF-1200 made?

The Shoei RF-1200 has been in production since 2014. Although the RF-1200 has been replaced by the Shoei RF-1400, it is still currently (June 2021) being sold at a significant discount. However, at some point the helmet will go out of production and become scarce. Until then, thanks to the lowered price, the RF-1200 has all of the benefits listed in this article at a more wallet-friendly price. If you’ve be interested in buying a Shoei but didn’t have the money, now might be your chance.

Which is better, Shoei or Arai?

Both Arai and Shoei are premium helmet manufacturers that are renowned throughout the world. Both produce high-quality hand-made helmets with superior fit and finish. However, they each have slightly different philosophies when it comes to designing and manufacturing helmets. Additionally, their models will fit slightly different head shapes. Since fit is of primary importance when it comes to helmets, trying on models by both brands will help to determine which is best for your head. You can’t go wrong with either brand.

Shoei RF-1200 Specifications

Price$486 (solid), $590 (graphic)
Weight3 lbs, 8 oz. (approximately)
ColorsWhite, Black, Light Silver, Brilliant Yellow, Shine Red, Wine Red, Matte Black, Black Metallic, Anthracite Metallic, and various graphics

Additional Resources

MO Tested: Shoei RF-1400 Helmet Review
MO Tested: Shoei X-Fourteen Review
Best Modular Motorcycle Helmets
Best Motorcycle Touring Helmets
Best Motorcycle Racing Helmets
The 10 Best Motorcycle Helmets You Can Buy Today
HJC IS-17 Helmet Review
Biltwell Gringo Helmet Review
Custom Fit Bell Star Carbon
Shoei Neotec Helmet Review
2012 Shoei RF-1100 Helmet Review
Shoei RF1100 Helmet Review

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Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

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