Updated March 7, 2014: Starting March 8, 2014, in recognition of International Womens Day, Schuberth Helmets is offering the C3W at a reduced price of $499.“We hear women riders and passengers complain that standard helmets feel too loose, dont fit right, or that their current helmet isnt even the right size,” says Sarah Schilke, Schuberths marketing and P.R. manager. “Schuberth hopes this program will enable more women to get into a properly fitted and comfortable helmet.”The special Womens Day price is available at participating dealers on sizes and colors currently in stock on hand.
Talk about hitting a nerve! After we posted a story last year about the introduction of Schuberth’s new C3W, the ladies’ version of its C3 flip-up full-face helmet, many WRN readers sent in comments slamming the $699 price tag. Lynn from Illinois wrote, “Like the looks and design, but I cant afford the price. I have to keep buying those lottery tickets!” L. Lee from Texas wrote, “All I can say is ouch!”
After wearing the helmet for a riding season, I’ve thoroughly tested it and can now understand why a company would slap a $699 price tag on a helmet and expect women to buy it. Before I explain, let me share one more reader comment, this one from Cindy in Wisconsin. She lays the foundation for what I’m about to share. “I transitioned from wearing a half helmet to the Schuberth C3W,” Cindy writes. “This helmet is extremely well fitting, comfortable and just about eliminates wind noise completely. I do not like feeling confined or wearing something heavy on my head, and neither is an issue for me with this helmet, because it is a modular. I tried on a lot of full-face helmets, and this one won hands down. I know it is pricey, but this helmet is worth every penny given all of its features. Buying the helmet was a financial stretch for me, but I made adjustments in my spending and I can honestly say that I have no regrets with my decision.”
I’ll admit that I, too, was a bit surprised when I first learned of the price, but after wearing the helmet for a while and finding out all that goes into ensuring that it will do what it says it will—protect your noggin in the event of a crash (and possibly save your life)—I’m convinced that my head is worth $699. And in comparison, Shoei, a more popular high-end helmet brand in the US, introduced a new flip-up this year, the Neotec, and it costs $662.99.
In our recent WRN Reader Survey, we found that women riders are more likely to wear full-face helmets than three-quarter or half helmets. Half helmets were a close second. With that in mind, the beauty of a flip-up helmet like the C3W is that you have all the protection of a full-face helmet with the ease and “openness” of a half or three-quarter when you’re not riding, meaning you can communicate with others without taking off the helmet. And Schuberth, by the way, was the first manufacturer to introduce a flip-up (or modular) helmet when it did so in 1998.
What Makes the C3W Just for Women
The C3W is one of the first attempts at offering a female version of an existing helmet, in this case the C3. The shell is the same, but the cheek pads on the C3W are shaped to fit a feminine face, which is a feature Schuberth decided on based on its research. Also, the cheek pads are lined with COOLMAX-brand antibacterial microfiber lining that I found very soft on the face. It’s the kind of material that would catch on a man’s facial hair, though, so this lining is not in the C3.
The cheek pads on the C3W are made of memory foam that conforms to smaller facial features. That said, I found the size small helmet I ordered to be tight on my forehead—and a medium-size helmet was too big overall. So to get the small’s forehead pads to soften up (the rest of the helmet fit me great), a Schuberth rep instructed me to pull the forehead pad out of the helmet and massage it to break down the foam. The rep said that all Schuberth helmets have a “longer than normal” break-in period due to the high quality of the materials. Eventually, the foam softened up for me and didn’t press on my forehead as much. I mention this in case another rider experiences the same thing.
C3W Features: Weight
Schuberth claims the C3W, at 3.6 pounds for the size small, is the “lightest flip-up helmet in the world.” I checked the weight against other flip-ups, and most are indeed heavier than the C3W. However, I did find that Harley-Davidson’s Women’s Modular Helmet with Retractable Sun Shield, made by HJC, also weighs in at 3.6 pounds—at least this is what the specs indicated. I didn’t weigh it myself.
All sizes of the C3W (sizes range from XXS to L) are made from the same size-small shell—the sizing differences are mostly in the cheek pads—so all weigh in very light. The light weight is important because one of the reasons people don’t like wearing full-face helmets is the bulky, heavy feel they create on the head. So keeping the helmet’s weight down, even by tenths of a pound, makes a difference.
The outer shell of a helmet takes the initial force of impact. The challenge is finding materials that provide adequate impact resistance without weighing down the helmet.
Schuberth uses a proprietary process for the outer shell that incorporates a special resin composition with a fiberglass/Duroplast weave construction. The manufacturing process for the shell allows for a uniform application of the materials, which makes for a thinner and lighter shell because the engineers dont have to use extra materials to compensate for inconsistencies in the helmets thickness or integrity. The inner shell, the part that absorbs the impact and really protects your head, is made of EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam enhanced to meet Schuberths standards. There is also EPS in the chinbar, which undergoes drop tests.
One of the features I notice most when I wear a full-face helmet is the noise factor. Don’t you wonder why some full-face-wearing riders wear earplugs? Doesn’t that seem silly when they’re already wearing a full-face helmet that covers their ears? Well, riders wear earplugs because of the noise created when a helmet has too much wind going through it. Over time, this can chip away at hearing. I know a guy in his mid-60s who’s been riding motorcycles for more than 40 years, and his hearing stinks! He blames it on years of riding without earplugs.
Helmet acoustics and noise exposure are features for which Schuberth has taken the time to achieve better-than-optimal resultscompared to most full-face helmets, with the C3W coming in on the low part of a decibel rating scale. How did the helmet “sound” to me? Well, I did notice the noise, or lack thereof, when I wore the C3W. I did not wear earplugs while wearing it, partly because I don’t like being that shut off from my surroundings, but I didn’t need to. With the visor down, even while riding at 70+ mph, the C3W is quiet relative to other full-face helmets I’ve worn, and that cocoon of quietness is noticeable.
It’s nice to have a helmet that fits securely and has little wind noise, but how does that affect ventilation? Well, how a full-face helmet “breathes” is a very important factor for several reasons. The obvious one is that the control of airflow inside the helmet is what keeps the rider cool or warm. The less obvious reason is how the ventilation handles the release of carbon dioxide, the air we expend. The concentration of carbon dioxide in a tightly closed helmet can cause symptoms of fatigue. Schuberth’s forced ventilation system ensures that the amount of carbon dioxide in the helmet remains far below toxic levels.
During times when you’re riding in cold weather and your neck is sealed off with a scarf or high-fitting collar, Schuberth suggests opening the face shield to its first position when traveling at low speeds or standing still with the motorcycle, like at stoplights. The shield will click into that first position shortly after it’s lifted up.
Another thing I notice when I wear a full-face helmet is the distortion of certain objects when looking through the face shield. Schuberth promotes its face shields as “Optical Class 1,” which means nearly distortion free—and indeed this one is. The C3W also comes with a Pinlock system, which allows the attachment of a separate fog-resistant lens inside the face shield. Are you starting to see why this helmet costs as much as it does?
The C3W’s anti-roll-off system is the feature that impresses me the most. Turns out it’s a patented Schuberth design, so it’s found only on Schuberth helmets. To keep the helmet in place in the event of an accident (and to prevent it from rolling forward off the head), Schuberth uses additional neck straps that are hidden in the helmet’s frame. This also reduces the risk of injury in the event that force causes the helmet to strike the chest.
In addition to making motorcycle helmets, which it’s been doing since 1954, Schuberth manufactures helmets for the military and industries like mining and firefighting. The extensive testing its helmets go through is impressive. The Germany-based manufacturer is the only helmet company that owns its own wind tunnel, and engineers spend countless hours dialing in features like aerodynamics and acoustics to optimum levels for the motorcycle rider. In addition, the company has gone through rigorous testing to ensure its helmets meet or exceed the standards set by the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE). The commission sets technical regulations that helmet manufacturers must meet to receive the ECE designation, and I’m told those regs are stricter than the DOT or SNELL ratings.
Incorporating built-in Bluetooth communication systems is the hot thing right now with full-face helmets, and Schuberth has partnered with Cardo Systems to offer the Schuberth Rider Communication System in the C3W. The system is “plug-and-play” for riders who purchase the additional communication module that attaches to the bottom of the helmet.
Last, but certainly not least, the Schuberth Mobility Program, a supplement to the generous five-year manufacturer’s warranty, is another feature that justifies the nearly $700 price tag. Active during the first three years of ownership, the mobility program allows an owner to replace a registered C3W helmet that’s been damaged in a crash with a new one at just one third of the price. Very innovative! Additionally, a three-year service program allows owners to get free helmet service during the first three years.
In addition to Glossy White, shown above, the C3W is available in Pearl White, Glossy Black, Glossy Silver and Matte Black (what I tested). Sizes for the C3W range from XXS to L. To find the right size for you, simply measure the crown of your head in centimeters and match it up to the sizing chart on Schuberth’s Web site.
Nearly all of the features I’ve outlined in this review are also present in the C3 helmet—except, of course, the female-friendly features mentioned earlier. The C3 comes in High-Viz Yellow and High-Viz Orange for riders who like wearing those “see me” colors.
While I can’t actually test the impact and crash protection of this helmet, I’m convinced that, of all the helmets I own (and I own a lot!), this one will do the best at trying to save my head.
Schuberth doesn’t claim that every woman will fit in the C3W—or like it, for that matter. There are no absolutes. But Schuberth has done its research and done a fine job at providing women riders with a helmet that’s more suited to their smaller features. And for that, I applaud Schuberth. To learn more, visit SchuberthNorthAmerica.com.