Bummed I didn't go Arai ten years ago
First impression – I’m bummed I didn’t measure my head, check the shape, and have the opportunity to try an Arai before spending the last 10 years in the wrong helmet. My starter helmet was an HJC (L), then X11 (M), then Qwest (M).
Something about me – I go on long rides and the lower register wind buffeting noise causes fatigue and hearing loss. I wear shooting grade ear plugs and recently have been using a Windjammer on the Qwest. It wasn’t enough.
Now for the Arai – The Arai is different from all the other helmets I have seen. Most helmets are pretty similar with slight differences; price, air vent configuration, interior quality, noise, etc. When I moved from HJC to Shoei they were pretty much the same, except the Shoei has higher quality materials. I mean, they’re helmets right? How could they be that different? Arai, that’s how.
What’s the deal with the shield pods? The pods allow the shield to be mounted outside without creating dugouts in the shell – stronger, safer shell. The shield is easily removable. The shield is not bean shaped like most others, but rather has two corners at the bottom edge. Why? Because that fit their engineering needs. The helmet does not “ratchet” with “strong detents” like the Shoei. This does allow the shield to flip up in the wind when half-cocked. So that’s a bummer. But when it’s cracked it stays down. It does lock in place when closed. You do not open it by pressing up, but rather by hooking your thumb under the lock and leveraging it off the lock. This is another interesting engineering choice that makes it unique.
What’s the deal with the egg shape? Less buffeting and much less resistance when head checking. This was a major revelation. I no longer resist the head check – safer riding.
Dual position vents? Every vent has close, half open, fully open. I guess some people will like that. Even the shield vents have two positions. It’s this kind of interesting engineering and attention to detail that make the Arai different.
What’s the deal with vents in the shield? Dude, those things are routed to your temples and are freaking awesome.
Adjustable padding; another difference. I’m not sure if I need to pull out padding yet (still testing) but it’s cool that I can. I did have to reduce these two nubs in the back-bottom of the helmet that were giving my massive headaches. I pushed a straight paper clip under the plastic multiple times to kinda destroy the foam. It worked wonders.
Shell size – It’s much closer to my face. This helps keep the overall size down so your neck doesn’t have to torque so much resistance. Think of the helmet as a lever. When wind resistance is pushing against the helmet it is using your helmet to torque your neck. If your helmet shell is four inches away the wind has a 4-inch lever. If the outer shell is three inches away, the wind has a much shorter lever to push on. What do levers do? Multiply force! The lack of a massive spoiler helps too. Of course the tighter the padding is against your head the more control you have over a lever of any size. Plus you don’t look like a bobble-headed lollypop.
Fold out chin skirt. Who does that? I use is for noise control.
It seems like every single part is unique. This can be good or bad, as evidenced by the love/hate reviews online. But each time I look at a new part; liner, vents, shield, shape, etc. I notice that I haven’t seen any other manufacturer do it like Arai does it. You can tell they solved all their engineering problems in-house without looking at anyone else’s design.
Head size – I tried both the Signet Q and Defiant and there is a massive difference in shape. Do yourself a favor and try both.
- Quiet. That could be the Defiant or it could be that I finally got the correct sized helmet. I’m pretty sure it’s due to the facial contour cheek pads, tight neck roll, and fold out chin skirt. I have less noise in the Arai as I did with the Qwest fitted with the Windjammer. I am glad to be done with the Windjammer, but may put it on for long trips. On the downside I don’t hear enough traffic noise. I almost put that line in the Cons section.
- Much less buffeting. I am no longer resisting head checks.
- Massive amount of airflow from all sides. I mean, ridiculous. When the vents are open it feels like an open face helmet. I don’t need to leave the shield cracked for fogging.
- The Defiant comes with the pin lock insert. Most other helmets come ‘pin lock ready’ and make you buy the insert for extra dough. Although with the Arai it’s obviously priced in.
- The emergency pull-out cheek pads are awesome. I can easily pull them out so friends can try my helmet without think it’s freakishly small.
- Adjustable padding.
- Whistling is louder than the Shoeis. Admittedly it’s rather annoying. It still happens with the vents closed, just barely.
- Price, I guess… But considering how happy I am I would shell out any price so I don’t really care.
- The chin strap is a little close to my throat. It can be hard to grab the strap snap because the face padding gets in the way.
- I’d be really bummed if I dropped it and it bounced down the road.
- Lack of strong detents in the shield.
Dude, go buy the $2 soft measuring tape at a crafts store. Don’t be a dummy, it’s $2 to help you insure you’re investing your $500 in the correct sized helmet. I was shocked to find out I have a small head, and for the first time I have a helmet that fits like a tube sock. I called Revzilla to confirm and they said definitely go with the small.
Take the cheek pads out before trying on the helmet. The trend towards contoured cheek pads and larger neck rolls are making helmets quieter and safer, but harder to get on. When people can’t get their face in the hole they think they have the wrong size. With the cheek pads out you can test the true size of the helmet.
I’m not sure if Revzilla condones this, but be willing to spend the extra $$ to put two helmets on a credit card, try them on, and ship one back. Use your credit card to hold the swing amount. I tried the Signet Q and Defiant, and my head shape would have been very unhappy in the Signet Q. I wish I had done this with the Qwest I bought 3 months ago, but instead lost $150 (!!) dumping it on Ebay. If I had it to do over again I would have measured my head properly and ordered the Qwest, Signet, Defiant, and Schuberth S2. It would have cost roughly $30 to ship the remainder back, but I would have known for a fact that I had the perfect lid. Be a good guy and ship them back in pristine condition with the tags attached. Revzilla has amazing customer service so be nice back.
I couldn’t be happier. 5 stars all around except the whistling.