Schuberth returns to the United States market with the founding of Schuberth North America and the introduction of its new touring lid, the C3 flip-up helmet.
American riders take note: Schuberth helmets are back in the United States. The German firm plans to re-enter the North American market with renewed vigor this year with the release of its new C3 touring motorcycle helmet. Motorcycle USA recently had the privilege of visiting the company’s headquarters, in Magdeburg, Germany, where we got an in-depth glimpse of its factory operations and were privy to plans of its American return. We also got a brief sample of the new C3 flip-up helmet while touring the East German countryside. Here’s what we discovered.
Schuberth, a popular helmet brand in Europe, is looking to re-establish its reputation here stateside. The company’s last foray into the U.S. market was hindered by issues with its bankrupt American distributor. This time around Schuberth is cutting out the middleman and creating its own U.S. company, Schuberth North America, which has already made its first public appearance at the BMW MOA Rally in Redmond, Oregon this August.
The location of its debut is not happenstance, as Schuberth enjoys a special relationship with BMW, fabricating the Bavarian marque’s own line of branded helmets. BMW dealers will also play a crucial role in the return to America, with Schuberth NA’s initial distribution a network of select BMW and European-brand dealerships. Helmet service and customer support will be highly stressed at these charter dealers (a lack of replacement parts being a major complaint with the previous distributor). At the aforementioned BMW MOA rally, Schuberth NA reps spread the good word about its return and serviced customer’s existing Schuberth helmets, like the S1 and C2, and they also teased rally goers with the firm’s latest flip-up design, the C3.
Available in Europe since its 2008 premier, a DOT spec of the C3 helmet is slated for U.S. shores sometime this fall.
C3 Flip-Up Helmet Features
Three years of development saw the C3 debut in the European market back in 2008, but the DOT-approved U.S. version is expected sometime this fall. The difference comes in the exterior fiberglass composite shell, with the DOT version including an extra Dyneema layer to increase penetration resistance (a forthcoming Schuberth factory tour feature will show the certification testing process, as well as the visible damage difference between DOT and ECE spec lids). The variance between the DOT and ECE spec is a minimal weight gain – barely noticeable when hefting the two helmets side-by-side.
Underneath the C3 shell is a dual-density EPS liner, the foam softer at the top and harder on the sides. The EPS material uses a proprietary steam injection technique rather than the typical air injection, and company reps claim the energy-absorbing barrier to be one of the most expensive components of the C3 design. A different formulation of foam, EPP, is sourced in the chin bar.
The C3W helmet is purpose-built for the female rider, with larger cheekpads to better fit a woman rider’s headform.
A prominent feature on the C3 is its Pinlock visor, which comes pre-assembled in the stock visor.
Schuberth teamed with Cardo to create the Schuberth Rider Communication System (SRC), available as an accessory option for $399.
While the shell and foam liners tackle the lion’s share of safety responsibilities, Schuberth sees comfort as integral to safety as well. The logic follows that a comfortable helmet diminishes mental distraction, thus allowing the rider to focus maximum effort on riding. Cush lining and cozy fit play their part in this regard, and a special spec version of the C3 was developed for female riders. Featuring larger cheek pads to conform with the feminine head form, the model will be dubbed the C3W here in the U.S. (the European version is called the C3 Lady).
Schuberth’s reputation for quiet acoustics plays a big hand in the comfort equation too. The C3 touts 84 decibels in ambient wind/road noise at 100 km/h (62 mph), claiming most of its competitors are in the mid-90 dB range. On-site wind tunnel testing helped to ensure minimal buffeting and wind noise, but the helmet also seals well with a snug neck roll (Schuberth calls it an acoustic collar) as well as an adjustable chin skirt to further plug any noisy wind gaps.
Riders don’t want all the air kept out, so the C3 ventilation system features a wide chin vent and large intake at the front crown area. The system is said to move seven liters of air per-second at 100 km/h, channeling the air out a bottom rear exhaust vent.
The visor system on the C3 boasts two major features. First, the integrated sun visor, a helmet technology for which Schuberth claims pioneer status, with the blackened visor operated by an easy to reach slide at the bottom left cheek. Second, and most impressive, the C3 sources a Pinlock visor for fog-free riding, the Pinlock system incorporated as a spec component in the visor.
One last feature available on the C3 is the optional Schuberth Rider Communication (SRC) system. The accessory communication system integrates into the C3 seamlessly, with purpose-built ports in the EPS foam to accommodate speakers and controls installed into the helmet inside a new neck roll insert. Developed in tandem with Cardo (the folks that brought us the Scala Rider systems), the SRC connects via Bluetooth to GPS, MP3 players and mobile phones. Up to three riders can be tethered to the SRC system, with range of up to 300 meters. The SRC will retail in the U.S. for a princely sum of $399.
C3 First Impressions
The 200-plus mile ride in East Germany gave us a solid first impression of the new C3 design. Stay tuned for a full-length review of the DOT spec version once available, but for now here are the first impression highlights from our notebook:
• Comfort – fits snug with secure feeling. While the total enclosure from adjustable chin skirt and chin strap takes getting used to, the interior feels more akin to high-end full-face design than most of the flip-up helmets we’re familiar with.
• Quiet – was skeptical of low-sound claims in presentation, but not after the ride. Forgot earplugs during trip and rode all day without any discomfort.
• Ventilation and air flow – worked well during ride. Seven liters of air per-second is difficult to visualize, but the venting routes effectively at both the chin and front crown intakes. The only buffeting we experienced was from a misadjusted windscreen, which once remedied made for a smooth ride.
• Pinlock visor – considering the C3 doesn’t source a breath guard we expected at least some shield fogging, yet the pinlock system is completely foolproof. Even in the damp, cold conditions, intentional mouth-breathing directed at the visor itself nets no fogging whatsoever. None. We’d venture most riders haven’t experienced a Pinlock shield, as they must be installed after purchase. High optical grades of the C3 visor mean the Pinlock comes installed spec – a feature not found on even the premium competitors.
Michael Schumacher is the most famous name associated with Schuberth and the German racer’s relationship with the company an intriguing collaboration (see sidebar).
• $699 Price!!! – after our group ride we could find no helmet feature to complain about, save one – its hefty retail price. Adding the accessory SRC communication system at $399 delivers an $1100 helmet! While that causes the blood to drain from the faces of the modest-salaried amongst us, Schuberth is confident its traditional customer base will appreciate its high quality and status as a technological innovator. Having hung with the touring/BMW ridership in the course of our travels, this seems a reasonable bet… but not a formula to make Schuberth a commonplace helmet.
That’s all for our brief one-day riding impressions. We expect our test unit, complete with street-legal DOT sticker to arrive sooner rather than later. Until then stay tuned for a Schuberth Helmet factory feature, including a step-by-step feature on the helmet construction process and testing regimen. Expect a full Schuberth C3 helmet review in the weeks to come.