Helmets. Neglected by yours truly. Look on this entire site, and you see..what? Two helmets reviewed (I had to go look that up, it’s been so long since I reviewed a helmet). And it’s not even my motorcycle helmet.
For one thing, Helmet Status Check (you know, where each and every photo or video is judged first on the Helmet Status – wearing one or not wearing one – of its featured players) is a new thing. I grew up riding horses (pretension alert!) and we had to wear helmets in horse shows per overseeing organization rules as under-18 “juniors” and at the barn at which I spent, to my great dissatisfaction, much time under the wicked thumb of a mean-girl trainer, wearing helmets due to said mean-girl’s insurance clauses (which are not what made her a mean girl…but that’s another story). But the second I turned 18 (by then well out from under the mean-girl’s thumb…I mean, insurance) I snapped out the snap-in harness that secured my helmet to my head, and, not even satisfied then, wore the helmet only in shows from then on. I may or may not have worn a bike helmet on my at-age-15 ride from Anchorage to Denali, but who knows, helmets just weren’t the fashion then. I don’t remember. Probably. But maybe not. I don’t remember because back then no one got shamed for going helmetless. And there was no Internet back then, so there was no easy and passive aggressive way to shame someone publicly, so “to their face” was the only option, so it just didn’t happen. Or, perhaps, helmets were a non-issue.
Even now I don’t wear a helmet riding horses unless I’ve reason to fear I’m throwing a leg over a killer bastard a-hole horse, and I don’t wear one while snow biking pretty much ever, and I grudgingly wear one in traffic and most of the time while mountain biking, simply because I have two bicycle helmets now and might as well wear them given the off chance I’ll need them. But, interestingly, I never ever wear body armor on a bicycle and not until my last international motorcycle tour did I realize how silly it is that while I’ll never, ever get on a motorcycle without full protective gear, but I frequently cruise down hills on my road bike at 40mph with mere spandex as a shield. After that epiphany, I dialed back my downhill cruising speed a bit.
Though I’d rarely think of riding a motorcycle bare-headed, in part because of the faceful of mosquitoes a helmetless Alaskan rider is bound to receive, and in part because helmets are just warmer and it’s cold here, but mostly because I want to keep my brains in my head and think motorcycling is probably the most likely activity in which I engage that might result in removing them, I haven’t upgraded my helmet since – ouch – 2003 or so. This is simply because helmets, to me, are just utilitarian. I already have one, so I don’t need another one.
Then I rode my motorcycle around Colombia for a month.
It was hot in Colombia. Also, it was cold in Colombia. Most times both on the same day. I also frequently needed to ask directions and communicate with people who spoke only my second language, which my Spanish-as-first-language boyfriend will tell you I’m not all that great at (but then again he wasn’t there, and I survived an entire Spanish-speaking month in Colombia with no interpreters, and even had some pretty deep conversations with people, so I must be at least okay at it, so there, dear) so I had to take my helmet off and put it back on, A LOT. I also suffered due to a motorcycle that was difficult to park (details in my upcoming book! No, really) and frequently had to doff and don said helmet one-handed because I had to hold the brake with the other hand on those steep mountain roads.
Therefore I’m a firm modular-helmet convert. It was readily apparent after Colombia that I definitely needed to look into getting a modular helmet which, naturally, gave me the opportunity to review one for the site. Also naturally, I wondered if there were any developments in the women’s-specific helmet niche, and it turns out, there are! Hey!
Schuberth has created the first women’s specific motorcycle helmet, from what I can tell, and they offered to send me one to try out. This of course sent me into a tizzy of decision-making. I went down to the local shop to try on Schuberth helmets so I could tell Sarah Schilke (whose lovely visage adorns this post) which size to send. Naturally, the local shop only had men’s helmets, and they only had men’s medium through extra large helmets. I do not have a men’s medium to extra large head. I dislike the size guessing game, but I was stuck with it, and since the medium helmet was too big, I guessed that a small size would be right, so that’s what Sarah sent.
I was a little trepidatious about the sizing, since at first the helmet felt so weird. Then I realized – this was the first properly-fitting motorcycle helmet I’ve ever had in my life! And I think it’s probably better fitting than any of my bike helmets, too. Turns out your helmet is supposed to turn when your head turns, not a split second later, and it’s not supposed to nearly rip your jaw off when you lift your head up from the tank of your CBR600 at, um, fast speed.
Not that I tested this beauty at “fast speed” because I’m more aged and dignified now and, most importantly, haven’t had time to head to California for a track day, so have been almost exclusively on dual-sports over the last few years. I’ve been riding mostly internationally and therefore conservatively, so “top speed performance” is not what I tested with this helmet. I was looking more for long-distance comfort, noise reduction, and general suitability for women riders.
First, it’s light. Really light. For a modular – pretty crazy light, at least from behind the lens of 2003 helmet technology-wearers. It’s by far much lighter than my old full-face helmet. It’s packed full of really nice features that I was desperately dying for in Colombia, and are worth every ounce, especially since said ounces don’t add up to much in the long run. The light weight of the C3W really is important when you’re riding for 8+ hours a day, because it decreases rider fatigue significantly. The aerodynamics of the helmet (wind-tunnel tested!) also plays a role here; I noticed a significant difference in wind buffeting with the C3W. I was already a pretty safe rider, but being able to turn my head more quickly and easily without feeling like my jaw was going to be sucked off by wind pressure is immensely helpful in safe riding.
My favorite extra feature is the slide-down sun visor. Oh gods, did I ever need that. Despite the fact that my old helmet fits poorly (albeit snugly), wedging sunglasses into them was a recipe for pain, lots of pain. But I need sunglasses most of the time, but not all of the time, and stopping to put on/take off is really annoying. The C3W has a great flip-down sun visor reminiscent of my dad’s helicopter pilot helmet. As a kid I spent many hours flipping the visors up and down on that helmet because I thought they were so cool. Now I can do the same thing on my moto helmet, but the visor is the right size so it doesn’t cover my entire face – (Women Riders Now has a great photo of this feature). Progress!
The differences between this and the men’s version of the C3W are small but noticeable. The women’s helmet has a light tan liner, with a different fabric. I questioned why the liner was so light in color, as it does show a lot of dirt. Turns out that Schuberth chose the fabric to try to match as many makeup colors as possible, since foundation and powder smear off onto cheek and forehead pads. Unfortunately this feature didn’t quite work as planned because there are just too many makeup colors out there. However, I like having the light color because I know when it’s time to wash the pads, and they’re easily removable for washing which to me is a very important feature. Keeping things clean extends their life and is just more comfortable.
The liner fabric is also smoother than the one on the C3 (men’s) helmet. Schuberth couldn’t use the same fabric on the men’s version because it’s so smooth it snags on facial hair. Now THAT is what you say when your male friends ask to borrow your helmet (and they will) – “sorry, your beard will snag the fabric and ruin the liner/cause discomfort for you,” whichever excuse he’ll buy.
The C3W is also super quiet. Road noise causes fatigue, as you know if you’ve put in long days, and earplugs are just another thing to fuss with. The C3W has sound-dampening padding, something that I appreciate A LOT. I really should just go to a few concerts and reduce my hearing range a few decibels, but I probably won’t, and even at nearly 40 my hearing is really acute, making extended road whine really annoying. I was so astounded at the sound dampening effect of the C3W that I thought my speedometer was broken! All this, and much lighter than my old helmet – this helmet is AWESOME!
The helmet looks really sharp, too. The C3W comes in pearl white, white, silver, matte black, and gloss black. I tried the matte black version, which is really nice and low-maintenance – no paint to chip or scrape. My favorite is the white version (on Sarah, above) and, if you upgrade to the C3W Pro, the pearl pink version (naturally), shown in this post over on BlackGirlsRide.com. Sarah says she’s the mastermind behind the pink version, and although she personally doesn’t like pink, she recognized that some women do, so she lobbied for a pink helmet in tasteful pearl pink. I’m sure there’s some controversy over the pink, so if you don’t like pink, you’ll probably not want the pink helmet, but there are other colors for you in that case. Personally, I really liked the pink. Black is low maintenance, white is visible and safe, and pink is just another option to have. Can’t argue with options! The men’s C3 also comes in high-viz yellow which I think is really cool and maybe someday will be an option for the C3W.
Hopefully you recognize the value of your brain, because you’ll pay about $650 for this helmet. While that sounds painful, especially when there are cheaper options, I’ll go ahead and advise you just to save up a little longer for this beauty. It’s worth it. Better safety, comfort, and sound dampening – AND lots of cool options for in-helmet communications and sound systems? This is worth it. Your head is worth it. Your neck is worth it. You’re worth it!
I may have stolen that last line from some shampoo or lady razor commercial from the ’90s. But it’s true. You’re worth giving yourself every advantage possible on the road.