Gear: Schuberth S2 helmet

Here in America, you probably aren't familiar with Schuberth helmets. And, if you are, you more likely associate them with the heads of German motorcycle cops than your own. But, thanks to innovative new helmets like this S2, that's about to change. Intended as sport touring lid, we've found it equally at home in the city as it is at 202mph.

Helmet Role:
Originally hoping to put my head in the flagship Schuberth SR1 — one of the lightest, safest road racing helmets ever made — I was forced to take the S2 as a second-best option. The SR1's whacky internal shape just didn't work for me, creating a sharp pressure point right at the back of my head.

But, in the couple months I've been wearing it, the S2 has been anything but a second best option, having proven itself both on street and track; on quick trips around town and long slogs on the highway. It's proven itself as an everything helmet.

Schuberth informally bills itself as the "Porsche of motorcycle helmets," applying similar levels of both teutonic engineering and restrained design. The level of detail the company goes through with each of its helmets is stunning — hand laying the quad-composite shell to achieve equal thickness, even around sharp corners, where traditional fiberglas blowing builds up extra material — but the end result is simply a handsome, understated helmet. You need to be in the know to get what a nice helmet this is, it doesn't scream it at you with enormous logos and tribal fairy dragons or some type of other heinous graphic.

A lot of that attention to detail is paid to the aerodynamics. Schuberth is the only helmet maker in the world to own its own windtunnel, others merely rent time. That pays off with typically the quietest helmets on the market. In addition to its sleek profile with no tacked-on wings or such, the S2 features a one-piece spoiler that wraps around the base of the helmet, improving downforce, stability and redirecting air over the top of the helmet to give it a smoother path. Also note the turbulators at the top edge of the visor, which break up airflow there to eliminate whistling.

That mastery of aerodynamics pays off inside too. A thick, tight neck roll blocks air from entering under the helmet while switchable vents direct fresh air to the inside of the visor and across the top of your head. Unlike other helmets, this top ventilation isn't through mere holes pointed at your scalp, but into defined channels that keep it moving across the top of your head, pulling it out through rear vents that sweep air from the top and bottom, creating suction.

Those vent components are also user-serviceable, the top vent pops off for easy cleaning, but still holds itself onto the helmet securely.

Intended for road riding, the S2 also brings with it a host of practical features. An integrated sun visor is controlled by cables and a pulley, meaning it moves without detent or springs. That will facilitate a long service life and infinitely variable positioning. It's also removable for cleaning or replacement and, like the main visor, built to the highest optical clarity standard in the world.

Two antennas are built into the liner, one for Bluetooth and one for FM radio.

The S2 also incorporates integral antennas for both Bluetooth and FM radio, which plug into the optional $430 communnication/entertainment system. More on that later.

Finally, the S2 is an extraordinarily safe helmet. Not only is it built to the be-all, end-all ECE 22.05 European safety standard, but it exceeds that standard by a considerable amount, as demonstrated in this graph. The minimal ECE standard is represented by the dashed line, as you can see, this particular impact resulted in a little over half that force. Additionally, there's supplementary straps retaining the chin straps, preventing the helmet from rolling off in a severe impact.

The anti-roll-off system uses retention straps to prevent the strap from being pulled under your chin.

Fit and Comfort:
Probably the most comfortable helmet I've ever worn, the neutral oval head shape should suit the majority of helmet buyers. The CoolMax anti-microbial, wicking lining is cool to the touch and thickly padded, cosseting your head in pillow-like comfort.

One Schuberth feature that will take some getting used to is the very thick neck roll and chin curtain. You really have to stretch out the helmet by the straps and your thumbs to pull it on and it then holds your neck and chin very tightly. That's all a good thing, preventing air from entering the helmet from underneath, but will take some getting used to.

Visibility and Noise/Sound Attenuation:
Surprisingly, the S2 isn't quite as quiet as its flip-front C3 counterpart, coming in at an 85dB rating at 60mph to the C3's 84. Still, that's considerably quieter than most other helmets on the market. Thank those slick aerodynamics, clever features like the turbulators and integrated top vents, plus that neck roll. Why isn't it as quiet as the C3? A thicker neck roll can be used on the flip-front thanks to its greater ease of ingress.

Visibility is superb, both top-to-bottom and in the periphery. On the 1199 R, even in a full tuck behind its tall screen, I never found myself having to strain my neck backwards to retain vision. The same can't be said even of full-on racing helmets like AGV's GP-Tech. In traffic, you'll appreciate the excellent peripheral vision, the edges of the visor aperture can't be seen occluding any portion of your sight range.

One niggle: fitting the included anti-fog Pinlock visor insert does obscure the top-most portion of the visor, which is the part you look through while crouched down on a sportsbike. One reason I run the $90 dark visor while out riding fast. I fit the Pinlock to the clear visor for every day use, then lower the sun visor when it's bright out, keeping the black visor Pinlock-free.

Ventilation:
With just two 10mm holes behind the top vent, it's surprising how well the S2 vents, flowing 8 liters of air every second at 60mph. Thank those large air channels running from those holes to the rear vents for that. Because of that, this isn't a helmet that will blast wind perceptibly onto your scalp, but one which will still effectively cool your head. Yesterday, while riding that V7 Record on the highway in 65-degree temperatures, I had to close that top vent because it was too cold.

Because no helmet vents will ever seal completely, two "cat's ears" are integrated into the lining, folding out to cover the intake holes for cold weather riding. Just a further indication of the nearly absurd attention-to-detail applied by Schuberth.

While the chin vent works well at eliminating visor fogging above 30mph, the visor does fog quite noticeably below that speed. In pursuit of optimal visual clarity, they left off the anti-fog coating. While a "city" detent in the visor ratchet does allow you to keep it open a tiny bit, helping somewhat, you'll end up relying on the Pinlock to retain vision at low speeds. There is absolutely no fogging with the Pinlock, but in very bright or misty conditions, that insert can lead to some starring and obscurity. In the pursuit of visual clarity, an effective anti-fog coating such as that used by Icon or AGV may have been a better compromise.

Weight and Balance:
At just 1565g, complete with sun visor, antennae and that super-thick neck roll included, the S2 isn't the lightest helmet on the market, but still weighs appreciably less than Snell-rated race helmets like the Arai Corsair V and Shoei X12. You have Schuberth's attention to detail in hand-laying the shell and the superior ECE 22.05 safety standard to thank for that.

Thanks to all that wind tunnel development, the S2 is also the most aerodynamically stable helmet I've worn. While wearing it, I reached the rev-limiter in 6th gear on the Ducati 1199 Panigale R, which equates to 202mph. In both a tuck, then sitting up to brake at slightly lower speed, the S2 was utterly buffet free, helping me retain vision and confidence. The same can be said during high speed shoulder checks, an area where even race helmets traditionally get blown around a bit. Not bad for something designed for road riding.

Graphics and Finish Quality:
As you can see, this one's matte black with gloss black logos. Nice and subtle. But, even with contrasting lettering Schuberth's graphics remain simple, bold and appreciated. Reflective panels are incorporated into the back of the neck roll and on the shell, inside the visor for night safety.

Available graphics are equally understated. Simple, bold racing stripes instead of ghost flame stars or the like.

As you'd expect from Germans applying meticulous care to a product, the finish quality is outstanding. Nothing's going to pop off, nothing's going to break, it'll resist scratches and marks for a long time.

Unique Features:
The sun visor is slick and effective when in use, tucking away imperceptibly when not. That neck roll and the auxiliary, velcro-on chin curtain really work too, helping to kill noise and allow you to control the internal environment exclusively through the vents.

The one big negative with the helmet comes with the optional $430 SRC infotainment system. That's essentially a Cardo Scala Rider built into a new neck roll. While it integrates with the helmet seamlessly and all the headphones, microphones and antenna simply plug into existing channels or grooves or ports, the way both the control box and battery pack intrude on chin room led my head, at least, to extreme discomfort, meaning I couldn't wear it for more than 15 minutes. The system also requires a Windows-based computer to update and configure its software. Like many creative types, I have no such machine in my home or office. All that's a shame, because I bet such a quiet helmet leads to good clarity, both for talking and listening, and integrating a comms unit without external hardware is definitely a good solution. Maybe as the hardware shrinks, this is something that can be included without infringing on comfort.

Value and Desirability:
At $700 for plain colors and $750 for graphics, the S2 is not a cheap helmet. Having said that, it brings a level of quality, aerodynamic stability, comfort and noise attenuation unmatched by other premium lids from more established players in the American market like Arai and Shoei.

Desirability? The Schuberth logo isn't going to cause your average, under-informed motorcyclist to go weak in the knees in the way one of those huge Arai stickers or a loud exhasut will, but for those in the know, the types that wear Roadcrafters, carry tail packs full of tools and whose speed is only matched by their safety, that funny mushroom on the back is going to engender respect. Think of it as a secret handshake, signifying that you know what you're doing with this whole motorcycle thing.

The Good:
We love the understated good looks achieved by the integrated rear spoiler and sleek rear vents. Somehow, details like those vents, the prominent spoiler around the bottom and the turbulators remind us of Audi's own little details on cars like the R8 or of something Syd Mead would build into some space ship's exhaust port. The S2 fascinates in detail rather than shouting "Tribal fairy dragons!" in your face.

That design wraps a package that excels in the two most important aspects of any helmet: safety and comfort. You can't find better or more of either in anything else on the market.

The Bad:
The Pinlock visor insert, necessary to prevent fogging, occludes vision in a sport riding position.

The optional comms system interferes with fit and comfort and requires a Windows-based PC.

Only two shell sizes span 8 head sizes. That's good for me since my Large uses the same shell as an XXS, but bad for that XXS person, who then has to carry unnecessary size and weight.

Verdict:
As close to perfect as any helmet has yet been, the Schuberth S2 is as good as you can get for comfort, safety, aerodynamics and noise. Better at high speeds and on a track than most race helmets, the S2 excels in any condition, on any bike.

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