Monday, November 4, 2013

Kit Review - Schuberth C3

After six reasonably happy years with my lid, I decided I'd replace my ageing Arai with a flip-front helmet, a style the Japanese company don't make, so I needed to shop around. Mind you, I don’t know if I could carry on living with the ridiculously clunky visor change, especially having once been left scrabbling round the French town of Annecy looking for an Arai dealer to replace a broken side pod.

I ended up in a local bike shop trying on the Shoei Neotec, when a Schuberth C3 caught my eye. It was on offer and, at £400, marginally cheaper than the Shoei, though still above budget. Whilst I think it looks modern, even futuristic, I’d been wary of buying the German make, they seem to have a passionless, staid, if high quality image. Unable to make a purchase there, a few days later I found it for £350 on line, put my misgivings to one side, selected the matt black model and received it the next day. 

Schuberth C3 

In the box the helmet came in a bag so plush a tramp would be happy for it on a cold winter’s night. The enclosed manual is bafflingly thick, though if you’ve worn a helmet before and know how to fit the enclosed Pinlock anti mist film, there’ll be very little new to you.

Simple, comfortable & effective; to fasten simply push one piece through the other, pulling the red tab to release

The Schuberth looks and feels like a quality product: the finish is flawless, the lining plush and luxurious, the visor clicks up and down with a reassuring stiffness and the chin bar clunks into place firmly. The ratchet chin strap is unfamiliar, but so easy to use I wonder why I’ve never seen any other lid with a similar design. On my head it was snug, though not tight and as I wore it in front of the television (we all do that, right?) noticed the visor was disconcertingly clear.

The chin bar lifts high, but catches the wind if you're stupid enough to ride with it up

Rather than test the helmet in my living room, a 2000 mile trip following the Tour de France, starting with  440 miles on the motorway provided an initial test of comfort, aerodynamics and noise. These Schuberths come with a reputation of being nearly silent, which is partly due to an acoustic collar which, when sat in my living room, made it very warm. I removed it and haven’t put it back, though even then the lid isn’t noisy, certainly quieter than the Arai, even if noise isn’t that important to me as I always wear earplugs.

At 1570 grams the C3 is heavier than most conventional lids, but is considerably lighter than the Shoei. You don’t notice this weight on the road, indeed it feels lighter than my Arai, which may be down to aerodynamics. There’s little in the way of buffeting, even amongst the dirty, swirling air too close to the back of a lorry and I’ve no doubt this quality  contributes to the lack of noise, though I have noticed a strange whistling when turning my head to the left at speed with the top vent open.

Talking of vents, ventilation is only reasonable. The main one on the top is easy to use and sends a welcome cool blast across the scalp whilst the chin bar opening is very effective at clearing any mist on the visor, but you don’t feel much direct cooling, indeed I’ve found myself going to press it open only to find it already done. 

The visor fills a huge aperture providing excellent all round visibility and stays open in a variety of positions up to reasonable speeds. Removing it is straightforward and, unlike an Arai, doesn’t feel as if you’re about to destroy the whole thing when doing so, though as it comes with an integral, flip down dark shield, there’s no need to remove the visor much anyway. The shield is effective and simple to operate using a slider on the left side, but it’s not without drawbacks as it inhibits air flow from the top vent, and, as it doesn’t have it’s own Pinlock, mists up easily in cooler weather. The shield is still a net gain, however; no more peering into the gloom of a tunnel or when the clouds roll in.

The sun shield works well but is prone to misting

The advantage of a flip front is most keenly felt when stopping for petrol in 35 degrees, where my mate dissolved and I just suffered. I can hear what people are saying to me and, sadly some might say, make myself heard.  

After 200 miles in a week and subsequent use, what do I think? I love it. The fit is still good, I still love its looks  and it’s not faded, though thousands of flies and repeated cleaning means the visor is no longer invisible. The brow of the helmet inhibits the use of a camera a little, it can be hard to lock the front down one handed and it’s a feat to get on with a broken elbow. It is warm, but the weather was boiling and I got along fine. In short, it’s great. Don’t buy one though, I like it’s exclusivity.