Schuberth S2 Helmet Review
The Schuberth S2 is by far the quietest helmet I own- far quieter than my "next closest" Shoei Neotec.
But there are some serious tradeoffs in comfort and fit you should understand especially if considering the S2 as your only helmet. It would be unwise IMO to buy the S2 without doing a test ride but the Schuberth truck is at many rallies, making this option reasonably practical. In addition, some dealers have helmets for test rides
SHELL WEIGHT AND SIZE
The S2 is, of course, a full face design with a mid pack weight- not the lightest available but not the heaviest either.
Shell material is fiber reinforced, compression molded, vacuum cured, plastic. The shell size is a bit large for the actual helmet size (compared to a more traditional full face design) for three reasons. The first is that it has space for the built in retractable sun screen. The second is that it has a black wind deflector lip on its lower edge that contributes to noise reduction but protrudes a bit in front. The third is the shell is deep to allow the neck cushions to seal far enough down the neck to minimize noise. While Schuberth has done a good job at getting all of this in a reasonably small space, the helmet (59-60 cm size for me) will not fit "straight" in one side of BMW's 49L top case (as used on the current RT and recent K1200/1300 GT and that also fits the K1600). It will fit when angled but angling may prevent fitting 2 helmets of this design in the top case where, for example, two Shoei RF 1100s in size L fit easily. My SO rides her own bike and almost all my riding is 1 up (except when I'm the DD so she can have wine with dinner)- so this is not an issue for me but might be for others.
The shell has an internal strap and hardware system (A.R.O.S.) designed to ensure helmet retention in a crash and minimize chest contact. See the Schuberth website for a drawing of it bits. You might find that you need to pivot the front chin strap mount (hidden under the liner) forward to prevent the sliding latch from contacting your throat uncomfortably. The sliding latch is the usual type as seen on Nolans and others. Personally, while I like the latch, I'm just as happy with D rings and a snap to hold the strap tail so it doesn't flap and beat me. The Schuberth latch has an attached short strap that is easy to grab and open when removing the helmet- the helmet isn 't easy to remove but at least the latch is easy to open.
The shield supplied with the S2 is optically clear, scratch resistant and fitted for a Pinlock which is also supplied. As its users know, nothing is as good at preventing shield fogging as a properly fitted Pinlock so this is a much appreciated feature that should be in every serious rider's kit. Just remember that if you wear glasses, they can still fog and will need treatment to minimize that tendency.
Also, the shield removal and reattachment on the Schuberth is a superior design, better and faster even the Shoei's. It takes only moving 2 levers and rotating the shield up to remove it and simply positioning it and rotating it downward to reinstall- this is excellent design and it would be hard to conceive of anything much easier. Could be done in the dark if you wished, it's that easy.
The shield is quiet in use, no whistles, probably due to a combination of good sealing and the molded pyramidal shaped "turbulators" at its top.
The shield has kept water out while riding for several hours in rain, No leaks.
Though I have not tried it, based on design, I would expect replacement shields to easily interchange. Such is not the case with some helmets. For example, on an Arai used by the SO, I have had to dremel out bottom notches to get them to match the helmet and allow a noise free, waterproof seal.
The shield holds its position when opened to first notch for extra ventilation, something I do often in traffic here in humid NC. The shield has a very sizable tab on each side of the lower edge making this simple, though most rider's will, of course, use only the left tab given that the right hand is occupied with the throttle (unless you're on cruise control on your RT like I am once in a while).
Field of view is excellent and unobstructed through the helmet's large eye port. As is typical of almost all motorcycle helmets, the eye port is far larger than on most helmets for car racing where danger of a part intrusion is much higher in a crash.
The built in sun screen in the S2 can replace a pair of sunglasses and is a neutral color that does not change the rider's color or contrast perception. It has a notch over the nose which I always find objectionable but it is smaller than on some other helmets with sun screens. The screen can be removed for cleaning (should be needed only rarely if you handle the helmet with a bit of care).
The control that moves the screen up and down is a slider at the bottom left of the helmet which is easily located and manipulated while wearing gloves. The slider is an excellent design, again better even than the one on Shoei's Neotec which is harder to locate with gloves on.
VENTILATION AND VENTILATION CONTROLS
There are three ventilation controls on the S2. The first is the customary chin piece in front of the rider's mouth which is a flip in/out. It works easily but does not have any prominent ridge or similar feature making it easy to locate by feel, though its location simplifies finding it. The second control is a top slider that controls the air entrance at the scoop on the top of the helmet. It is easy to locate and operate by feel. The third control doesn't exist in most helmets and will probably be overlooked by many. It consists of two cloth flaps in the liner center that cover (or not) two ventilation entrance holes at the top of the helmet. Some may want these holes covered in cooler weather though I would not (perhaps an overly feverish brain at work...).
Ventilation quantity is good though like every helmet I've ever owned, a bit short on truly hot humid days with an intense low sun beating in the front. (Note- I ride an RT, a K-GT, a K-RS and Transalp at present). However, the shield can be popped up to the first notch or more to compensate. My Shoei Neotec seems to have a bit more noticeable crown ventilation on the bikes I ride.
Using the ventilation does not appreciably alter the noise level of the helmet indicating some serious development effort in the wind tunnel by designers. Nice work!
There is one obvious, modest, flaw in the ventilation design. The chin vent lies directly at the bottom of the shield with no intervening ridges to channel water away. So when riding in the rain, if this vent is open, water runs down off the shield into this opening where the ventilation air stream carries it up onto the inside of the shield, coating that nice Pinlock with enough small drops to interfere with vision as much as the water on the outside. So this vent must be closed when riding in the wet, at least on my setups. The SO uses the Women;s C3 Schuberth which has a similar screen and chin vent design- she says it allows (on her R1100S) water to hit the inside of the Pinlock even with the vent closed- and Schuberth notes that the chin vent does pass some amount of air even when closed, to facilitate carbon dioxide removal
The fit of the S2 contains many compromises incurred by the design priority of noise reduction.
In addition, the fit of this helmet IMO is both a bit unusual and tight for the measured size. In fact, the most common complaint of those trying and using almost any Schuberth helmet (based on a couple of hours of observation at the Schuberth truck) is fit. I cannot caution you too strongly NOT to buy this helmet unless you test ride it- something I would not say about any other helmet I own where if you know your size in that brand, you can likely take that risk without issues in most cases. (I always buy Shoeis by mail order, for example). Note that the Schuberth truck is at many rallies and some dealers have helmets for test rides so a test ride is reasonably practical if you have serious interest in a helmet this expensive.
My head measures 58 cm and Schuberth sales folks will tell you both that their sizes are exact and that their (relatively hard) liners will break in and fit to that size. I'm going to tell you to ignore that and go with your own reactions. My S2 is one size larger than a measured fit, is in fact a proper fit for me, and has not softened to any reasonable extent in a few thousand miles of use in hot weather. The Schuberth folks will also tell you to remove the liner and wash it to soften it- this fits my category of baloney even if it's correct. No beating on liners with spoons, washing, or whatever should ever be needed in a well made helmet that fits properly.
Perhaps the most annoying feature of fit for this helmet is the very small shell opening which allows a proper neck collar design and location for maximum noise reduction. However, the opening is so small that I (literally) have sore ears from removing this helmet on hot days. No matter how hard you tug those straps open this is not an easy helmet to remove (unless you bought it 2 sizes or more too large for you).. In fact, after several days of consecutive use my ears were quite sore but perhaps I'm developing boxer's ears because after about 10 days they got "less sore". Though I don't have the smallest ears in town, they're not Obama-prominent, either.
Note that internal parts are interchangeable so cheek pads of a different size can be fitted should you wish a different cheek fit than standard- I did.
The ear pockets themselves are a close fit, to help both noise reduction and the optional comm system.
I have to wiggle the helmet a bit to get my ears to settle in place but once there everything is OK. However, if you have really prominent ears or ears in a slightly unusual location, you may have difficulty with the ear pockets. Again, a test ride is your best protection.
Schuberth sells an optional bluetooth communication system (SRC System) designed for their helmets. It is made by Cardo, is similar in operation to other recent Cardo units like the Scala G-4 and G-9, and will communicate ONLY with other Cardo-made units. Regrettably, comm system makers have failed to respond to riders requests to standardize bluetooth comm protocols to allow interbrand communication so this sorry situation is the norm for at least a few more years, probably until some firm becomes dominant and the others beg to be allowed a license to use its bluetooth protocol. Or maybe until riders organize a boycott of Cardo, Sena, or one of the other big makers to help force them to recognize rider's interests.
The speakers of the Schuberth system fit in pockets in the helmet liner without hurting ear clearance. The mic fits nicely in front with adequate clearance.
I do not use in ear speakers (nor are they even particularly useful in this extremely quiet helmet) but I would expect them to be hard to use in this helmet given its very tight shell opening unless they're small and custom molded.
This helmet is so quiet that the loudest sound I hear is the wind around the SO's helmet coming over the comm system, something I've never found very prominent when wearing any other helmet (all of our helmets are fitted with Cardo systems).
The Schuberth folks claim their built in antenna allows longer range but I do not find that their system in the real world has any more useful range than a G-9 or G-4 set. Real world reliable range is 1/2 - 3/4 miles in reasonably flat terrain with trees, sometimes more, and much less in the mountains- less than 300 yds over mountain crests, for example. However, that's plenty for us and we won't go back to wired systems, ever.
Battery life of the comm system is sufficient for most rides, 8 -10 hours of steady use in my experience. The system recharges in a few hours using the same wall charger as a G-4 or G-9. However, unlike the G-4 or G-9 where one could carry a second charged electronic module to slip onto the helmet for an Iron Butt ride, such an interchange is impossible with the SRC System.
Also, unlike a G-4 or G-9 where the battery and electronic guts can be slid off the helmet and taken inside for charging while the helmet stays on the bike, you will have to take the whole helmet indoors because it charges through a wired pigtail, only. The pigtail tucks under the reflective patch on the neck curtain when not in use.
In general the wiring of the comm system is neatly out of the way if due care is followed during installation. If not, you'll have dangling bits. Mine came with SRC System installed so I didn't have to do it.
The system volume is plenty adequate given how quiet the helmet is and seems a bit louder, subjectively, than a G-4 or G-9.
The Schuberth folks will tell you their system reduces wind noise by its nice integration but I do not believe that. On my bikes with wind screens (all of them) I have never heard sound I believe comes from wind hitting an externally mounted Q-2, G-4, or G-9 Scala unit (and I'm not the slow guy in town) so if you have one of those you want to mount externally to the shell of an S2, I'd suggest you just do it and see if you like it. If you don't, you can always add the Schuberth system later.
We haven't tested the limit of how many sets can be joined in one conversation but note that Schuberth says 3 in a one conference conversation. Yesterday while riding almost 400 miles back from the UnRally in the mountains we did a 3 way conference conversation with our club president using his G-4 and our 2, Schuberth units using a channel A and B setup. All three of us could communicate freely and easily, no issues at all, and the pairing was about as simple as one can get- just push the right button. Beyond that I'm not sure what limit might intervene (assuming all had Cardo units- remember you can't communicate with other brands). All of the units hold pairings steadily, no drops in our experience. Going out of range temporarily or power shutoffs also do not destroy pairings.
The system has VHF/RDS radio capability for those who want it (I don't care) and as expected can be paired with GPS, phone, MP3, etc. The SRC System, like some others, also has plug in capability for non-bluetooth devices. We reserve our comm units for road safety and general info (only) so do not use or care about the other capabilities.
The build quality of the S2 is IMO sufficient but below that of J brands like Shoei or Arai that are typical products of a culture that highly values all aspects of visual and tactile quality.
Specifically, the black trim strips that help retain the helmet interior are held on by a few tiny black plastic fasteners with a mechanism the same as a zip tie- except you can only get spares/replacements from Schuberth. One broke on my S2 and I had to use a zip tie to hold bits in place until Schuberth quickly shipped me replacements at no charge. I'd suggest that any S2 user buy replacement fasteners, cut off the originals, hot glue the trim strips (Sears has a good assortment of hot glues if you don't have
an industrial source handy), then reinstall the fasteners. The system isn't robust as designed and built with compromises no doubt based on both build cost and noise reduction. On the plus side, bits are easily removed for washing.
I find that, due to the small shell opening, I pop the chin curtain loose about 1 in 3 times I take the helmet off it catches on my skull ridge at the eyebrows. Easily popped back in but a minor nuisance I've never encountered with any other helmet.
The paint finish may be more prone to damage than J brands. Germans are eco freaks with paint and it has compromised finish durability of their cars. For example, paint on Mecedes I've owned since 1995 has water spotted and chipped more readily than the paint on my 1991 Lexus SC-300 that as of 2013 still wears its original paint at approaching 300K miles. The S2 chipped a piece of paint on its chin while being transported in a top case so, taking no chances on further damage, I covered the chin with reflective SOLAS tape, which it needed anyway. None of our Shoei or Arai helmets (or Bell or a few other brands for that matter) have ever developed a paint chip so easily but perhaps this instance is just a fluke..
PROTECTION AND SAFETY FEATURES
The S2 carries both DOT and euro certifications so is "legal" everywhere you're likely to ride..No Snell rating..
The SHARP rating, however, is only 3 of 5. The reason is that although impact protection is very good from front to rear and over the top, protection from a side hit is significantly weaker.
The fact that the foam liner is a complex 1 piece molding may be an advantage in some situations compared to the more common multipiece liner used by many makers though I know of no data to support that.
In their marketing info Schuberth notes that their logo front and rear is reflective and that there is reflective fabric sewn on the neck collar. The neck collar patches are indeed highly reflective, far more so than the logos, and an excellent night safety addition that should be done by more makers. Very nice design feature.
The logo patch at the rear started to peel off from minor abrasion and wasn't adequate anyway. I added a strip of SOLAS tape up the back center and a checkerboard of Scotchlight squares around the lower edge of the side. Also a SOLAS strip on the chin. (For those who may not know, nothing you can stick on a helmet reflects brighter than SOLAS tape- it is far brighter than Scotchlight). Then, for good measure, some Scotchlight arrows higher up on the sides. Hey, my town has (by almost a factor of 2) the highest accident rate in NC and I want every edge I can get- I've got enough lights up front to almost sear Bambi on the spot. At at this price point Schuberth could do better on shell reflectivity though the excellent neck patches are a pretty good offset.
The S2 has a hardware and strap system Schuberth calls A.R.O.S. intended to ensure helmet retention in a crash and minimize chest contact. Its mostly hidden in the liner but may need hardware adjustment to move the latch forward off your throat- easiy done if needed.
MORE IN USE COMMENTS
The outstanding feature of the S2 is that it is, by far, the quietest helmet I've used. My "pretty darn quiet" Neotec is nearly noisy by comparison- it's that quiet. When stopped in town, if the shield is down I find I have to listen carefully to tell if my RT's motor is still running. At speed, wind noise from the SO's helmet (she rides an R1100S) heard over the comm system is the predominant sound and cannot be tuned out with VOX control so her bike got a Laminar Lip to eliminate that effect (could also do it with a 20" or 23" Cee Bailey screen for her bike which is using an 18" V Stream).
I do not consider the S2 suitable for a "single helmet" user, especially those in very hot climates or those who do a lot of short rides and errands. The Schuberth C3 Pro might be a better choice in that case. I own many helmets for both bikes and track cars- currently using 5 for my riding with a backup Nolan 103 I've learned to dislike for its high noise level. The S2s fit is too tight in several respects (but mostly the small shell opening) to want to mess with it for a series of short, solo, around town errands. For that use, one of my Shoeis is still my (clear) choice.
But when I hit the road with the SO, the low noise, clarity of comms, and only infrequent helmet removal will make the S2 the go to choice. The S2 is both comfortable and quiet while on, even if its removal is a bit of a pain, literally.
The S2 will not be easy to use with typical bite mouthpieces of camelback systems- due to both the small shell opening and chin curtain.
Also, I find myself wondering how EMS workers will deal with S2 removal after a crash when the shell opening is so tight and difficult even in normal circumstances. There are no instructions for this in the Schuberth manuals nor are the any "obvious to EMS" provisions for rapid external removal of cheekpieces or other liner bits. I have visions, hopefully wrong, of EMS folks with rotary saws cutting the shell in half...
Note that the Schuberth bluetooth comm system for this helmet is NOT the same as the one BMW sells for Schuberth helmets. The BMW system does not have similar controls nor will it pair with other Cardo systems.
Both German and North American Schubeth websites are easily found on the web. Decent though not overwhelming info.
Schuberth has a "replace at 1/3 cost" program if you crash your helmet. Also, either yours or the other guys insurance company might buy you a replacement so there's no excuse for not getting a replacement S2 if you liked your first one.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
I've worn out a whole lot of cage motors on track in over 50 years playing with machinery for fun and teaching others the same addiction- and am trying to do the same with my current motorcycles though they're just street transportation. Thank goodness I made a decent enough living to pay for it all and best of all, am now retired.
I have worn helmets since before anyone conceived a helmet law and will never ride without one- I do not find a good helmet to be an inconvenience. Because I like to be visible and cool, all of my helmets are white though I would also use hi viz or yellow- no blacks, silvers, reds or blues for me.
By training, I hold a science Ph.D. and took my first auto mech class in high school- beat heck out of taking German- far too long ago.