I was pretty excited when Schuberth offered to send one of its attractive, no-nonsense R2 helmets to TMO headquarters. It’s generally understood that the German manufacturer produces BMW‘s helmets and ever since I traded in* my full-face BMW Sport I’ve struggled to find a basic full-face lid that I liked as much.
“Basic” is sort of a strange word to use when describing a helmet that costs in excess of £300, but Schuberth is a purveyor of high-end goods; this is about as entry-level as it gets. What I mean by “basic” is that it is a helmet with few bells and whistles – no elaborate vent systems or internal visors, and the chinstrap is secured via the good ol’ double ring. It’s not really basic, though, because the helmet is lined with unique antibacterial fabric and it comes readymade to pair with the Sena SC1 communication system.
So, there’s more than meets the eye here. But my use of terms like “basic” and “no-nonsense” clues you into my feeling that, although the Schuberth R2 is a good, high-quality piece of kit, it is not great. Or, at least, not as great as I would have expected from the same company that made my much-used C3 Pro modular helmet.
As I say, the helmet was sent to The Motorcycle Obsession by Schuberth for the purpose of review. Priced anywhere between £300 and £370 – depending on where you buy it and what size/color you want – the helmet is made in Germany (No. 13 on the Democracy Index) and available in sizes XS to XXL.
Being a German company, practicality is imprinted in Schuberth’s DNA. As such, most of its helmets (with the possible exception of the race-focused SR2) fall more soundly in the Safe/Functional category than that of Cool/Stylish. But with the R2 Schuberth makes a valiant effort. It’s no Simpson Street Bandit, but equally not as “old man” as, say, my Shoei Neotec II.
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The helmet is available in a number of not-too-garish color schemes that are hip enough they don’t look out of place when worn away from a Schuberth’s natural environment of comfortable touring motorcycles. The shell is bigger and rounder than Schuberth lids of old, so I feel a bit like I have Charlie Brown head, but it’s not awful.
At present, Schuberth is offering a free tinted visor with the purchase of any new R2 – the promotion running until the end of 2018 – which is the sort of thing that improves the coolness factor of any motorcycle helmet. Be alert to the dubious legality of tinted visors in Britain, however. Officially, a visor in the UK must allow in at least 70 percent of available light. It’s unlikely that a police officer’s challenge of a visor would stand up in court, but most choose to avoid the hassle by using clear visors and sunglasses.
Schuberth overhauled its model line-up in 2017 and that seems to have affected sizing. Whereas my size L C3 Pro fits perfectly (as did my size L BMW Sport), the R2 is just a tad too roomy. So much so that after a few months of use I decided the helmet wasn’t getting the attention it deserved and passed it on to my bigger-noggined pal, Dave London (who provided most of the pictures for this article). Hopefully Dave will share his own impressions in the comments below.
Letting go of the R2 was a hard thing to do because the helmet is otherwise very comfortable. The washable “ShinyTex” lining (Interestingly, ShinyTex was my stage name when I was a drag queen in Saigon in the late 60s**) feels good on the face and seems to actually live up to Schuberth’s claims of helping the helmet feel cooler.
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The No. 1 greatest thing about the R2, however, is that it is ridiculously light. I have never encountered a helmet that feels lighter. It is a joy to wear. It is so light, in fact, that a part of me got a little paranoid when wearing it, thinking: “Is this thing constructed well enough to protect me in a crash?”
I am glad to say I never got a chance to find a definitive answer to that question, but Schuberth has a very strong reputation and I find it highly unlikely that the effort it’s put into the R2 would be any less than what it’s put into all its other helmets over the years. Certainly it’s the case that the helmet’s construction is robust with no flimsy or easily breakable bits – the visor being a possible exception (see below).
With the caveat that this issue may have been the result of poor fit, my biggest complaint about the R2 is that it is not nearly as quiet as my C3 Pro. I would not have guessed that to be the case, since the full-face R2 doesn’t have the seams of a modular lid. Nonetheless it’s true: either behind a screen or out in the open wind, regardless of head position, the R2 is louder.
As I say, though, less-than-perfect fit may have resulted in more open space in the helmet for sound to bounce around. And it’s not as if the experience was deafening – I always ride with ear plugs, anyway – but it just wasn’t as soothing as the steady “whooshhhhhhh” that a C3 Pro can deliver in open wind.
That said, it cuts through said wind reasonably well. Moving at motorway speeds brought no unusual physical strain – no pain in my neck, no fighting to keep my head steady, nor blurring of vision from buffeting – and I was able to turn my head comfortably, without it getting aggressively caught by wind blast. The vents – one on the chin and one at the crown of the head – are large and robust enough to be opened and closed with thick gloves.
The helmet does a good job of keeping your head dry in heavy rain. The neck roll element absorbs a fair bit of up-spray and takes a long time to dry out, but I prefer that to other helmets I’ve worn that have simply allowed water to worm its way inside.
One of the big controversies of Schuberth’s overhauled helmet line-up was the company’s decision to use a different (read: “cheaper”) anti-fog lens, replacing the Pinlock visors it had been using. There was a pretty big backlash against this – especially among C4 buyers, who reported back that C3 Pro owners should just hold on to their existing lids – and Schuberth has since reversed the decision. It’s Pinlock once again.
The R2 that Schuberth sent me was equipped with the original cheapo anti-fog lens and I can confirm that it is not made for cold days or wet places. If you buy an R2, make sure your anti-fog lens is an actual Pinlock.
I also have my quibbles with the actual visor. It seems more inclined to get scratched up than others I’ve encountered, but it may be that I’m simply too heavy-handed with my gear. Another gripe is that it’s more difficult to detach than my C3 Pro’s visor; why change a perfectly good system?
One element with which I have no quibbles, though, is the way in which the helmet seamlessly pairs with the Sena SC1 communication system. If you read my review of the Shoei Neotec II you’ll remember that one of the things I loved about that helmet was how easy it was to install its Sena SRL system. Putting the SC1 into the R2 is even easier.
There are small compartments on either side of the helmet; the system drops into the left compartment, the system’s battery into the right. And that’s it. Everything else is pre-wired. You don’t have to spend an hour swearing profusely as you tear apart your helmet’s lining. And to my pleasant surprise, it all works perfectly well.
I have yet to encounter a Bluetooth communication system that is intelligible above 55 mph (the connection between units seems to struggle above that speed, and wind noise can make it difficult to hear), but below that, the SC1 works as well as all the other Sena sets I’ve used – the previously mentioned SRL, an SC10U, and an SC10C.
The R2 is, as I say, a good, very lightweight, sturdy, and (mostly) no-frills full-face helmet. If you’ve got one (and it fits) you can be pretty content that you’re not missing out against similarly featured helmets. Indeed, in terms of lightness and comfort – and communication system compatibility – it’s one of the best you’ll find. At a different price I think I’d be inclined to wax poetic about the thing.
But there’s the rub: the price. Is it worth roundabout £350? Not to mention the additional costs if you want to make use of one of its best features – its readiness for the SC1. That system will set you back roughly £200; you’ll need to find an additional £100 if you want the system’s handlebar controller. That’s a pretty hefty investment – especially in light of the fact the SC1 isn’t compatible with other helmets. The SC1 will only work with Schuberth R2 and C4. It isn’t like, say, the Sena SMH5, which can be used in just about any helmet.
I wouldn’t say that anyone spending all that money is making a mistake – especially if you’re a fan of the brand, or you find it fits better than any other. A good fit is worth all kinds of extra dough, in my opinion. But I can’t say that I personally would be comfortable spending that much.
So, the R2 is very good. At closer to £200, though, it’d be pretty great.
* A few years ago, BMW issued a recall on its Sport helmets because, although they met EU safety standards, they hadn’t actually been tested properly to prove such a thing. In a textbook example of how to take a bad situation and turn it into a situation that positively affects customers’ opinions for years to come, BMW offered to replace the Sport with any of the helmets in its line. Like all right-thinking people, I chose the most expensive one: the System 6 EVO. I liked it a lot – until the shell cracked in a 2.5-foot fall from the seat of a Honda CBR650F.
** This is a lie