Also: wBW Arai Helmet Reviews
I had a wonderful dream...
The FedEx driver knocks on the door and hands over two 16x13x13" brown boxes -- a size immediately identifiable as the standard shipping container for a motorcycle helmet.
The light-as-a-feather boxes drift into the kitchen and a knife appears in my hand.
I choose one and carefully slice open the packing tape. Gently peeling back the layers of wrapping paper that cradle the contents deep inside, I find a jewel. It's the Arai Corsair V helmet in the limited edition "Nicky 5" graphics.
In the time-shifting unreality that happens only in dreams, I'm suddenly peering into the second box and find another Corsair V, this time in the very limited edition graphics made for the 2015 Isle of Man TT.
I put both helmets on at once (remember, this is a dream1) and ride off into a brilliant sunset, high above the clouds.
Just then, a knock at the door wakens me and -- you guessed it -- the FedEx driver places two cardboard boxes in my welcoming arms.
Wait -- it wasn't a dream, it was reality!
The Arai Corsair series helmet has, for quite some time, been considered by many to be the pinnacle of motorcycle helmet technology.
Watch any motorcycle sporting event at any level -- from club track days to MotoGP -- and you'll find more Arai Corsair V helmets protecting heads than any other brand.
And after swapping back and forth between these two gems over the last few weeks, I can understand why.
Now I'm not a newcomer to this, the world's most famous racing helmet. But my apparent genetic disposition towards initial skepticism for anything I feel is too popular with the masses kept me from overwhelming fondness for the Corsair until a few years ago.
That, and my odd "Earth" shaped head, which didn't seem to fit into any motorcycle helmet made on this planet...
I finally drank the Kool-Aid in 2009, when I authored the webBikeWorld Corsair V helmet review. I described an expensive helmet with excellent ventilation that was surprisingly heavy (in size XL) but which -- in another surprise -- actually fit me pretty nicely.
Since then, I've had the opportunity to evaluate, oh, about 100 more helmets of all types, including a couple of newer Corsair V's.
That combined experienced has deepened my appreciation for the all-around goodness of the Corsair V and now I completely understand its popularity, despite its steep price.
Also, time spent with my Arai RX-Q (review) street helmet has given me an appreciation for Arai's "Intermediate Oval" internal shape and the ability to customize the fit with some optional Arai padding accessories.
In fact, the size large is fits my head size and shape and the "Intermediate Oval" has been a good replacement for the "Round Oval" helmets Arai discontinued in the U.S. years ago.
The Corsair V is available in your basic white, silver and black. But graphics are where it's at for this helmet and Arai has produced a veritable rainbow of colors over the years.
The stars, moon and Jupiter aligned and I am fortunate to now own these two super-special limited editions.
Arai is pretty laid back when it comes to their LE helmets; you don't see a big press splash, videos or "social media" campaign. They let the helmets do all the talking and the "underground" of Arai Corsair V fanatics and, yes, collectors scarf 'em up.
The Nicky 5 helmet commemorates Nicky Hayden, the popular American racer who still has a big following and has been an Arai wearer for as long as I can remember.
Arai also releases an Isle of Man TT commemorative edition helmet each year in very limited quantities and -- as it just so happens -- this year's 2015 IOM TT is happening right now, as I write this.
For some reason, the Corsair V in the IOM TT graphics isn't publicly available yet, at least in the U.S., so having this one and riding with it over the last few weeks has been a very special treat.
The Corsair V has been around for so long and is such an institution in the world of motorcycle helmets that reviewing it seems...pedestrian.
But as limited or special editions, obvious extra care has been given by the Arai staff at the factory to make these jewels really shine. It's a shame to have to get them splattered with summertime bugs, but wearing one is more than half the fun.
All I can say is that the paint and graphics on these two are second to none. And there's another bonus in the eye-popping graphics on the Nicky 5 version -- it's highly visible without needing any high-viz lime yellow paint.
The shell molded shape is different from the original Corsair helmets; Arai calls it an "organic" shape that is designed to reduce drag and to fit as closely to the head as possible while still providing DOT and Snell 2015 (in the U.S.A.) levels of protection.
All of the moving parts and the interior are standard Arai and standard Corsair V. This means a special top venting system that works as good as -- or better -- than any full-face helmet available today.
The rocker switches on top and the "sugar scoop" chin vent are standard Arai, used for many years because they do the job. Arai doesn't simply change things for fashion's sake; the goodness is in the overall build quality and performance.
Score: No question about it, the Corsair V limited editions get an "Outstanding" rating for paint and quality. See the Summary Table at the end of this page for a description of our rating system.
It took me a while to get over the loss of the Arai "Round Oval" internal shape, once found on the Quantum II and now; a shape that, apparently, is now only available on Arai helmets sold in Asia.
We have mentioned in several other recent Arai helmet reviews that the company seems to have somewhat normalized its lineup of different head shapes. The shapes just seem more "Neutral" than the selection of Arai helmets we reviewed 10 years or so ago.
Arai is still, strangely enough, the only motorcycle helmet company to offer helmets with different internal head shapes, each of which can be customized even further for a bespoke fit. That fact alone can make the price difference worthwhile for some.
One of my usual everyday street helmets is the Arai RX-Q, which has the same "Intermediate Oval" shape as the Corsair V. I've owned two RX-Q's and several other Arai helmets in the past couple of years; the RX-Q in both large and XL, because my 60.5 cm head is an "in-betweener".
At first, I thought the XL fit best but I realized it had too much room at the top, so I've gone with the size large but with the slightly thinner cheek pads for my square jaw and "Earth" shaped head. I'm happy.
To my great relief, the Corsair V has an identical fit and -- in another very welcome surprise -- I've discovered that somehow (I think it's the way the cheek pad seams are located in the liner), recent Arai helmets have no problems fitting eyeglasses or sunglasses. Even with my wide head.
So if you've tried an RX-Q or the Arai XD4 (review) and they fit, the Corsair V should be a natural.
What this all means is that despite Arai's naming convention, the Corsair V is pretty much the all-around "Neutral" fit that should work for the majority of head shapes. And there are plenty of cheek pad, liner and even spot padding options to custom-tailor the fit even more.
The Corsair V's also have the upgraded Arai "Dry-Cool" liner fabric that is much smoother and much, much more comfortable than the itchy-scratchy fabric found in my first-gen RX-Q's.
The Arai Intermediate Oval shape has a very slight front-to-back oval profile up top, which is designed to relieve pressure on the forehead.
Despite the "race" fit of the Corsair V, the helmet in size large slides comfortably over my wide head, much easier than other racing helmets I've tried. The size large is listed as fitting a 59-60 cm head and that is correct.
The only issue is that the small breath guard along the top of the chin vent just touches my nose, similar to all of the other recent size large Arai helmets I've worn.
For more information about head shapes and choosing and fitting a motorcycle helmet, please see the wBW Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page, which also includes a discussion on head shapes. As always, remember that helmet fit is crucial to safety and comfort, so make sure you try the helmet on before buying, and try a variety of sizes. The smallest size that fits comfortably is usually the safest.
The Corsair V includes Arai's small chin spoiler, which folds up into the chin bar. As always, it doesn't seem to make much of a difference and I'd prefer a standard type of snap-in chin curtain instead.
Score: I'll give the Corsair V an "Outstanding" for a comfortable fit, a nicely constructed and comfortable liner with comfortable liner material.
The Corsair V has the newer and wider (by 10 mm, 5 mm per side) eye port, which adds to the horizontal field of view. The helmet is fitted with the Arai "SAI" face shield with the same type of Arai friction rotating system and the external painted side pods.
The face shield has built-in, snap-open brow vents for even more ventilation and this is an Arai specialty.
The RX-Q has the same eye port and system, so both are comparable.
The friction system used to hold the face shield when it is raised allows a virtually unlimited choice for positioning, which I like and the face shield does not twist or torque when raised or lowered.
Arai says that a deliberate effort was made to eliminate as many protuberances on the helmet and face shield, thus the shield does not have a lift tab, only a locking snap at the lower left that also works to keep the face shield tight against the eye port gasket.
The standard face shield on the Corsair V does not include a Pinlock system or tear-off posts, but many additional face shields, in a variety of tints, along with accessories, are available.
The face shield is one of the very few labeled as meeting VESC-8 and Z.87.1 standards. I measured it at 2.06 mm thick.
If you're not into Pinlock inserts (and I'm not), try the Clarity Defog It (review) coating, which works very well on Arai face shields.
Score: I'll give the Corsair V an "Outstanding" rating for above average outward visibility and the sealing performance of the face shield.
Now that I've been wearing these two for the last few weeks in fairly warm weather, I've realized that the Corsair V has what must be the best upper ventilation of any full-face helmet I've tried (or can remember).
I'm not usually a fan of multiple ventilation controls on the top of a helmet, but with the Corsair V, you can open or close the 3 vents in various configurations to really control the huge volume of air that comes through.
There's a downside to the unique Corsair V ventilation system and that's the noise level when all of the top vents are open. But it's a good tradeoff because it's hard to find a full-face helmet with this much air flow.
The chin vent is the old tried-and-true Arai "sugar scoop" type that in this case brings air directly through the chin bar.
Be careful of where you mount the microphone for an intercom system however, because all that air can generate unwanted background noise through the speakers.
In the rear, the special Corsair V spoiler can be raised or angled to one of three positions or lowered to its base location. This doesn't do anything on the street, as far as I can tell, but it looks cool...
The rear exhausts have a lever that can close the vents to two positions and the overall system has been perfected over the years on racetracks large and small. Bottom line: if you want good ventilation, the Corsair V is your helmet.
Score: I'll give the Corsair V an unqualified "Outstanding" rating.
The Corsair V I reviewed in 2009 was a size XL and it was surprisingly heavy at 1758 grams.
Arai has changed the shell shape since then and these size large special editions in size large weigh 1599 grams for the Nicky 5 and 1596 grams for the Isle of Man TT edition. This is a good showing, especially considering the Snell M2015 certification.
In fact, it demonstrates that a motorcycle helmet doesn't necessarily have to be heavy to meet the Snell standards.
Between the low weight and the outstanding aerodynamics (and the excellent fit), the Corsair V feels like it virtually disappears on your head.
The helmet could probably be made even lighter (and it may be in other parts of the world) if it wasn't also Snell M2015 certified. The Snell certification usually adds 50-60 grams or more.
Be sure to visit the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for charts comparing the weights of all of the open-face, full-face and flip-up helmets we've reviewed.
Score: The Arai Corsair V gets an "Excellent" rating for weight and balance.
The only real issue here is the upper vents, which when open all the way can cause a bunch of wind noise.
It gets louder as the riding position becomes more upright and quieter as the rider leans forward; this helmet was clearly meant to be used in the Sportbike tuck.
This is forgivable though considering the Corsair V is pretty much designed to be an all-out race helmet. As always, you'll want to wear high-quality, correctly fitted ear plugs.
Note that our helmet evaluations are a combined effort of several riders over time on different types of motorcycles with and without windscreens.
Evaluators wear correctly fitted, high quality ear plugs (even when evaluating motorcycle intercom systems).
Always protect your hearing when riding a motorcycle. See the wBW Earplug Reviews for more information on choosing and wearing earplugs.
Note also that perceived noise levels will vary, depending on the individual.
Noise can be caused by many factors, including helmet fit, the type of motorcycle and windscreen, wind speed and direction and even the rider's clothing.
For more information on helmet noise, visit the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Noise page.
Score: The Corsair V gets a "Very Good" rating for noise levels.
The Corsair V has the same current too-short chin strap padding found on all recent Arai helmets. The company really must address this and we've noted it on every Arai helmet we have reviewed recently. It's a glaring fault in an otherwise near-perfect helmet.
The helmet meets the DOT standard in the U.S.A. and it is Snell M2015 certified. The European and ROW versions meet ECE and/or local country helmet safety standards.
The Arai Corsair V in the limited edition graphics are hands-down the most stunningly beautiful motorcycle helmets I've ever laid my hands on, and that's a lot of helmets.
The build quality is fantastic and the ventilation is superior.
The only fly in the ointment here is the price. When you look up the word "breathtaking" in the dictionary, you'll see a picture of a limited edition Arai Corsair V.
Are you ready for this? I hope you're sitting down... The Nicky 5 version lists for $929.95 and the 2015 Isle of Man TT version has a list price of $1,009.95. They can be found at about a 10% discount.
Worth it? That's all up to you. Note that these are also considered to be collector's items, so if you have the extra dosh, you may want to stash a couple away and pull them out at retirement.
Who knows what those krazy kollectors will pay for one come about 40 years from now?
But these helmets were meant to be used and inflation will probably kill any profit margin anyway, so forget the collecting and wear the thing right down to the nub. You'll love every minute of it, guaranteed.