The Schuberth C5 is about to hit the shelves. Some months ago, we were supplied with a pre-production prototype to look at, but now the helmet has been released, and so we thought this might be a good time to compare the new C5 with the undisputed flip-lid, market leader: the Shoei Neotec 2.
What we are not going to attempt to do is a comparison of what they are like to ride in. There are Youtube reviewers out there who will do this. There’s one that uses microphones and sensors in an attempt to quantify the differences between helmets, but we don’t really think this is valid, because the way a helmet feels, the amount of noise that it generates and so on will vary so much from rider to rider. If your head shape is wrong for a particular helmet, it could well uncomfortable. It could also end up being much noisier. The experience will also be different on different bikes. Your height can have a bearing on buffeting and stability. The jacket you wear can make a difference, as the seal between the collar and the base of the helmet could well have an impact on not only noise, but also on a helmet’s propensity to fog up.
The bottom line is that nobody can tell you whether a helmet is going to work for you. We can tell you all about a helmet’s features. We can talk about the fit, and we can tell you about what we think a given helmet’s strengths and weaknesses are. But we can never tell you what a helmet is going to be like for you to ride in.
A journalist can road test a motorcycle, and tell people what it’s like to ride. And as these guys are pretty experienced, what they tell us has meaning. But you can’t do the same with a motorcycle jacket or a helmet. It would be a bit like somebody telling you that a particular brand of glove or shoe is going the most comfortable. But that will very much depend on the shape of your hand or foot.
Over time, once the C5 has been out there for a while, we will be able to develop a picture as customers give us their feedback. But that is down the road. All we can do right now is talk about the details, what we think the good and bad points are of these helmets, and how they compare. What we can’t tell you is which one to buy!
Until a few years ago, Schuberth owned the premium end of the flip-lid market. Their C3 Pro dominated the market, as had done the C3 before it. It was the go-to helmet of the Police, professional riders, high mileage commuters and international travellers. In 2017, Schuberth set out to capitalise on the popularity of the C3 Pro by launching a new helmet called the C4.
A year later, Shoei brought out the Neotec 2; a helmet that marked a significant step up for the Japanese brand. Its aim was to take on the Schuberths and to improve upon them wherever possible. And in many respects, the Shoei did just that. It was, and is, a very good helmet.
Of course, Schuberth’s C4 turned out to be a bit of a let down. What we know now was that it saw almost no real world testing. And there’s only so much you can get from the wind tunnel. One of the helmet’s greatest weaknesses was the inability of its cheap, lookalike Pinlock to clear the helmet’s impressively expansive visor. But this would never have been identified in the wind tunnel.
With the C4, Schuberth’s new venture capital owners were simply in too much of a hurry to get to market; a problem made worse by the fact that almost none of Schuberth’s experienced staff stuck around when the entire operation was moved from West Germany to East Germany.
But those mistakes have been taken on board. Schuberth knew where they had gone wrong. They understood the mistakes they had made, and with the C5 their mission is to step into the ring and take back their crown. It is time, therefore, to put the past behind us, to see the C5 as a new beginning, and to judge it on its merits rather than on the mistakes of the past. It’s time to wipe the slate clean.
It is no coincidence that these two helmets should be alike. During its development phase, the Neotec 2 tilted itself very much at the C3 Pro. The new C5 is tilting itself at the Neotec2. But in so doing Schuberth has designed the new helmet to be more like the older C3 than the more recent C4. And, of course, it is understandable why they might do this. The C3 was an iconic helmet; the C4 not so much!
Both the Neotec 2 and the C5 helmets have composite shells. As a result, the difference in weight between them is marginal. In fact, the Schuberth is a tiny bit heavier, but that might well be accounted for by the built-in comms. that includes fitted speakers.
For a time, at least, the C5 will enjoy a perceived advantage in that it is accredited to the new, higher ECE 22-06 standard. Now nobody is going to suggest that Shoeis are lacking in protection, but all we can say definitively right now is that the C5 meets the new standard; the Neotec 2 doesn’t. A new, 22-06 Neotec will follow at some point in the next year or two: we can assume that it will be called the Neotec 3, but nobody knows whether Shoei will take the opportunity to introduce other upgrades.
The venting on both helmets looks very similar. To the C5 has been added a second chin vent, so in theory it should be better able to clear fogging than the Shoei. But both helmets are alike in having a two-position brow vent and an exhaust vent at the back that is sculpted into a kind of aero foil. No Schuberth has had one of these in the past, so it’s another upgrade for the C5. Both helmets will come with a Pinlock 120. That’s as good as it gets; and that’s exactly what we would expect of helmets at this price point and at this end of the market.
Both come with drop-down sun visors. Both have removable chin curtains. And both come with micro-ratchet straps in preference to a D-ring. Schuberth tell us that the have moved the chin strap forward to ensure that it doesn’t come into contact with the Adam’s apple. Now this can be a weak point on flip helmets. Because the chin bar articulates, the chin strap has to be affixed to the shell a little further back. Maybe the new positioning of the strap will help, but in our experience some people just can’t get comfortable with the way a flip-lid is secured.
What the Schuberth also has is the AROS system whereby the chin strap is secured through secondary straps to the back of the helmet. It’s a bit of a Schuberth trademark. It means that a Schuberth helmet will never come off in an accident. Properly fastened helmets don’t tend to come off even in bad accidents, but one does get extra piece of mind with the German brand.
The C5 can now legally be ridden in the raised chin bar position as it has a ‘lock’ position to stop the chin bar from closing of its own accord if you hit a pothole, for example. The Neotec 2 has always had this facility.
One area in which the Schuberth betters the Shoei is that it has a proper ‘crack’ position that will allow a little air into the helmet, when you don’t want to open the visor wide open. The lowest open position on the Shoei is too high and allows too much air in to qualify as a crack position.
The C5 has another little trick up its sleeve. Basically, if you have the visor half-open and then, for whatever reason you lift the chin bar; when you close the chin bar again, the visor will revert to its half-open position. It’s quite clever, but it reminds me of a similar but different arrangement on the Shark Evo One. That mechanism didn’t work properly, and it caused untold problems for the company over a period of many years. Like that innovation, this is one that nobody ever asked for, and if it doesn’t, for whatever reason, work it’s going to prove a headache that Schuberth really doesn’t want or need.
Talking of headaches, Schuberth has changed the internal shape of the C5. The C4 was designed originally as a sportsbike helmet, so it had a very particular fit that didn’t work universally well on sit-up bikes. And so, as one might expect, with the C5 Schuberth has gone back to a shape that is more akin to the C3. But our initial experiments suggest that it is not the same as the C3. The C3 was quite round. It was certainly better for those with larger, rounder heads who could find that the Shoei put pressure on the sides of their skulls. And, for us, that difference between the two helmets worked well. But we are convinced that the C5 has an internal shape that is less like the dome of St. Paul’s and more like the pitched roof of Notre Dame. We think that with the C5 Schuberth has moved towards the slightly more oval shape of the Neotec. We can understand why they might have done this; the Neotec is market leader, but only time will tell whether this was a smart move for Schuberth. What it means is that those with rounder heads may still find the C3 more accommodating.
But we are convinced that whilst the C5 is similar to the C£ internally, it actually has an internal shape that is less like the dome of St. Paul’s and more like the pitched roof of Notre Dame. We think that with the C5 Schuberth has moved towards the slightly more oval shape of the Neotec. We can understand why they might have done this; the Neotec is market leader, but only time will tell whether this was a smart move for Schuberth. What it means is that those with rounder heads may still find the old C3 Pro more accommodating.
One of the areas of clear blue water between the Shoei and the Schuberth has been the ability with the Japanese brand to change the thicknesses of the headliner and the cheekpads. When you’re paying £500 for a helmet you want it to fit. And our ability to custom fit the Shoei has made it a much more appealing proposition. When we were consulted by Schuberth after the problems of the C4, we told them what we wanted to see on the C5; and changeable liners were on the top of our wish list.
Well, the good news is that we will be able to custom fit the C5 in a way that we have never been able to with any Schuberth in the past. As with the Neotec 2, we can fit thinner and thicker cheekpads into the C5 to accommodate different face shapes
Now, on one level, there might be even more adjustability with the Schuberth than there is with the Shoei. With the Shoei, we can put thicker or thinner headliners into the roof of the helmet. In essence, by putting thinner liners in a size Small, we can make it a bit larger. Or we can add thicker liners to a size medium, making it a bit smaller. And in this way we can create two extra sizes to sit between any two stock sizes. This works incredibly well but, interestingly, with the Schuberth we can potentially alter the internal shape by fitting thicker or thinner pads high up in the helmet along with a thicker or thinner pad at the back of the helmet. By inserting thinner side pads and a thicker pad in the neck, the theory is that one can create a rounder shape. By putting in thicker side pads and a thinner pad in the neck one can create a more oval shape. Unfortunately, however, we can only do this only in the intermediate sizes. We will, of course, have to wait to see how this works and, as tends to happen with all manufacturers, we won’t see the pads until the helmet has been on the market for a few months. Nonetheless, Schuberth is to be applauded for the upgrade to custom fitting.
There is, however, one very small fly in the ointment. With Shoei, retailers don’t have to charge for the different liners as there is an exchange scheme. But there will be a charge for the Schuberth liners. To replace all the internal parts, which will often be necessary, the cost will be a few pence short of £100! Now we have to say that we don’t find this particularly acceptable. At these prices, because the C5 is not cheap, no customer is going to want to pay extra to get the helmet to fit properly. And this, we fear, could potentially drive motorcyclists into the embracing arms of the Shoei.
For our part, so important do we think custom fitting is that we are prepared to swallow the extra cost. But most dealers, we feel, won’t take this view. Most Shoei dealers don’t offer custom fitting on the Neotec 2, even though it costs them nothing but time to provide the service. With Schuberth demanding that retailers pay for changing the liners, most retailers will disappear rapidly into the hills! This strategy needs to be given further thought, methinks!
A perfect fit on helmets like these is particularly important because a good flip-helmet has the ability to be very quiet. Indeed, Schuberth is claiming that the new C5 registers just 85 dB(A) at 100 kph on a naked bike. But even the best-designed flip-lid will only be quiet if it fits properly, with a good seal around the skull and a proper squeeze on the cheeks. You’re very rarely going to get that perfect fit without a custom fitting.
Shoei launched the concept when they worked with Sena on an integrated system on the C4. Shoei upped the game with a higher-spec, albeit less integrated, Sena comms. for the Neotec 2. But like many things on the C4, the helmet’s comms. facility didn’t work as well as Schuberth had hoped. The idea was good, but there were issues.
Well Schuberth has taken another giant leap for mankind with the comms. on the C5. It is even simpler to use than the system on the C4, in that the unit simply plugs into the back of the helmet in the way that it did, and does, on the open-face M1. It truly is very simple, although already we have had complaints bemoaning the fact that with the C5 you won’t be able to carry a second, fully-charged battery, as you could with the C4. But we like the new system. Buy the comms. unit, plug it in and you’re ready to go. Schuberth reckon the whole thing can be fitted in 30 seconds.
The other step up is that the new unit is Mesh compatible. For some this is a big deal. Others will be drawn in by the opportunity to use Mesh even though they won’t understand it, and will probably never use it. Mesh is one of those buzzwords. Talk is that it’s better, so everybody thinks they need it.
The reality is a bit different. It’s only really a benefit if you ride in large groups. And it only works if everybody else in the group has Mesh. Not just Mesh, but Sena Mesh! Most of us don’t need Mesh. We ride with one other person sometimes two; very occasionally three. In these situations Mesh is of little advantage. In these circumstances, Mesh almost certainly won’t give you the ability to talk over greater distances, but the talk time will still be substantially reduced.
In general, we are not huge Mesh fans. Yes, Schuberth can say they technically have a better comms. than Shoei, but most people simply won’t care about Mesh, and won’t ever use it. And there’s another downside. Mesh is expensive. The Bluetooth comms. for the Neotec costs £260; the Mesh comms. for the C5 costs £350. Now, if you really want Mesh that is not an unreasonable cost; but for most of those who don’t Schuberth’s comms. solution starts to look expensive. £350 may not seem like a huge amount, but if you’re buying two comms. units so that you can chat to the other half, that’s a chunky £700 on top of the starting £1,000 for the two helmets. £350 is also a bit steep if all you ever want is to hear the satnav, listen to music or take phone calls.
This is the fight for the heavyweight title. In the red corner is the current champion: the Shoei Neotec 2. In the blue corner is the challenger: the Schuberth C5. Both are world-class combatants.
What the Neotec has going for it is a proven track record. It works. It is quiet, it is comfortable and the changeable liners mean that it can be made to work on a wide array of heads.
The Schuberth is more of an unknown quantity, although it comes from a pedigree stable. It edges the Shoei on venting, and it has a few nice moves like the visor memory and the AROS system. Both helmets now have changeable liners. The system on the Schuberth is interesting, albeit it is limited to just some sizes. Really small heads and really large heads will not benefit. The major weakness here, though, is the chargeable nature of the C5’s linings. The comms. on the Schuberth are clever. All comms. units should be this easy to install and use. But we are not convinced that Mesh was the way to go here, especially given the extra cost.
In terms of the prices of the helmets themselves, it is most unlikely that cost will be an issue. Things may change in 2022, but for now the Schuberth, at £500, marginally undercuts the Shoei in solid colours. Whilst the graphics in both come in at £600. But take the comms. into account and the Schuberth pricing starts to look a little punchier!
We think this fight is too close to call. We suspect that there will not be a unanimous winner; it’s going to be a split decision. These two helmets are very alike. We suspect emotional feelings about the respective brands will play a part. Schuberth loyalists will be drawn to the C5, and unlike the C4 this is not going to be a helmet that will let you down. On this we can be 95% confident. But for those who like to put their money on the favourite, the Neotec is still up there. It hasn’t been outclassed, but it has come up against a worthy opponent!
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