The SHARK Spartan RS Carbon is a sporty-looking touring helmet with a long list of features, impressive build quality and an ECE 22.06 safety rating, for less money than you’d expect.
When we tested the standard composite shell version (you can read more in our SHARK Spartan RS review) we were impressed, the only complaint being it weighed a bit more than we’d expected.
This carbon fibre version shaves a few grams off in exchange for an extra £70 on the recommended retail price. We’ve been testing one to find out whether that’s a worthwhile trade.
The SHARK Spartan RS Carbon felt great on my head from the word go – it has a reasonably tight neck roll (which does a great job of keeping wind noise out, which we’ll get to later) and overall treads a line between feeling secure and not constrictive really well.
Partly this is down to the soft, brushed suede lining that sits against your cheeks. It feels like the inside of a much more expensive helmet, and the material features an Alveotech antibacterial treatment that promises to keep it smelling fresh and clean even after a hot day on the road.
I don’t wear glasses, but the padding has been designed to allow for the arms to sit against your face without irritation. You can see this when viewed from the front, where the Spartan RS Carbon also features perforated leather around the viewport and across the nose bridge.
Bottom line – I would be (and have been) more than happy to wear this helmet all day. It has a design that doesn’t look out of place on my sports bike, but has all the comfort and luxury of a proper touring lid.
One of my favourite features on the Spartan RS Carbon is the tiny increments in which the visor can be opened – the mechanism allows for it to stop in what feels like any position, as opposed to two or three bigger, distinct steps. So, there’s less faffing around trying to get the visor cracked a small amount at a set of lights, for example.
A perfect seal meant the visor resisted rain for hours on a long group ride in January. The catch is situated in the middle, right by the chin vent. This is great for opening with either hand, but I found it took a while to get used to locating the release button and not accidentally opening or closing the vent.
It’s very clear though and distortion-free from all angles, with a decent field of view and impressive Pinlock coverage. Supplied with a 120 Max Vision insert, you shouldn’t encounter any problems with fogging.
That said, I had a hard time getting the insert to sit flat, as did Dan in our Spartan RS review. After a quick call to customer services, SHARK dispatched a new visor and insert, and this fixed the problem immediately. Since then they've been in touch to say they couldn't repeat the issue when testing it, so it sounds a bit like user error. Either way, the replacement one has been flawless in all conditions.
The drop-down sun visor has a similarly precise notching system to the main visor, and you can place it exactly where you need it. This is done using a slider mounted on the very top of the helmet. I prefer the mechanism on the SHARK Skwal from a design point of view – it’s built into the visor hinge and looks a lot cleaner, but the one on the Spartan RS functions just as well.
There are two main vents, one on the chin and one on the top of the helmet. The former is at an angle and seems to work better if you look down, to direct air straight at the intake. I discovered this while riding my Triumph Daytona, which has low bars that naturally put you in that position.
On a Tiger 1200, I didn’t find the chin vent very effective at all, partly because I was more upright and also I suspect because the wind was being blocked by the screen. This meant popping the visor open every now and again.
The one on top circulates a cooling breeze around your head and out of the exhaust vent at the back. I have quite a hot head and at times didn’t find this sufficient, although usually at lower speeds.
Both vents are easy enough to open and close while wearing gloves, but I found myself forgetting whether I needed to go up or down on the toggle. The absence of an icy blast when the vents are open made this trickier still, but in fairness, the chin vent is supposed to aim air upwards at the visor to help keep it clear rather than directly at your face.
The excellently vented Schuberth C5 is my benchmark here – in comparison the SHARK is fine but not outstanding. The fact the visor and neck roll seal out the wind so well is both a good and a bad thing, great for quiet and warmth but not so good if the vents can’t provide enough of a breeze in hot weather.
Another area where the Spartan RS Carbon performs well – there’s a slight buffeting sound on either side of your head at motorway but nothing that can’t be tuned out with decent earplugs.
At lower speeds around town, it lets quite a bit of ambient noise in, which I really like, enabling good situational awareness.
When tested with my Cardo Packtalk Edge I found I could easily hear conversation up to motorway speeds, without having to run the speakers at full blast, like I had to when it was installed in my SHARK Skwal.
Carbon fibre is stylistically divisive and while there are some optional designs that cover big areas of the helmet, the bare weave below is still very much a feature.
Luckily, I think it looks extremely cool, particularly the gloss version on test, which seems to enhance the depth and tone variation within the layers of carbon.
In terms of shape and style it suits a wide multitude of motorcycles, giving it a really broad appeal. It’s not felt out of place on sports- or adventure bikes, but I think the carbon skin means it leans more towards the performance end of the market than the standard Spartan RS.
A real standout area for the SHARK Spartan RS Carbon, this, from the materials chosen to how robust and solid all the fixtures feel. This is also backed up by a five-year manufacturer warranty, which in reality is the maximum length of time you should keep a helmet anyway.
The interior lining is luxurious and soft, with tougher, perforated leather elements on areas likely to wear quicker, adding a sporty look. Same as the prominent spoiler, which houses the ventilation exhaust, but doesn’t cause excess drag when looking over a shoulder.
A brushed metal effect on the visor hinge looks and feels great, as does the dark chrome finish on the top vent and sun visor slider. There are also small allen heads fixing elements of the helmet, which give it a precise, machined finish.
All of this adds to a high perceived quality and ultimately how much bang you get for your buck – the Spartan RS Carbon looks and feels like it should cost a couple of hundred quid more.
We picked out the Shoei NXR2 (£429.99) and the Arai Quantic (£499.99) as premium rivals to the SHARK and even in pricier carbon form, the Spartan RS still looks like a bargain. It’s actually the same price as the (22.05 only) Scorpion Exo-1400 Air Carbon, despite having been tested to the more stringent 22.06 standard.
That said, the standard Spartan RS at just under £300 represents better value for money overall. The carbon skin shaves a bit of weight off but it’s not game-changing, so upgrade to this version if you like the look of it, not because you’re after any extra performance.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the SHARK Spartan RS Carbon and that has surprised me for a couple of reasons – firstly that it’s been good enough to make me reach past my previous go-to Schuberth C5 lid, and also because I’ve enjoyed riding in it so much, I’ve now added my Cardo Packtalk comms unit for group rides.
In bike terms it’s a bit like a super naked – offering loads of sporting style and performance benefit, but with the added everyday comfort of things like a drop-down sun visor, quiet wind isolation and a large viewport.
I still think it runs a little warm for me and on hotter days I’ve missed the Schuberth’s flip-front, but if you aren’t as hot-headed as me and want a great value does-it-all helmet, this is a great option.
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