Arai XD Helmet Review
by Bill C. for webBikeWorld.com
wBW Dual-Sport Helmet Reviews: AFX FX-55 | AFX FX-41DS | Caberg Tourmax | AGV AX-8 Dual EVO | Arai XD4 | Fly Trekker DS | AFX FX-39 DS | X-Lite X-551 | Icon Variant | AFX FX-37 DS | Arai XD3 | Simpson GS3 MX | Zeus ZS-2100 B | HJC CL-XS | Arai XD | Airoh S4 | Shoei Hornet
For some reason, Arai doesn't strike me as a company that takes a daring approach to motorcycle helmet design.
I'm sure there are many who will disagree with me, but the words that come to mind when I think of Arai are deliberate, evolutionary and staid. Radical they're not.
Maybe the XD should have been named the Paradox, because it has to be one of the most radical motorcycle helmet designs offered by Arai or any of the major manufacturers (although BMW Europe has something similar, see comments below).
Note that the XD is known as the Arai Tour X in Europe.
I would like to have been the fly on the wall when the Arai designers were cooking up the XD. It's not that I don't like it -- in fact, I think the concept is great, and it should be just what the market needs, what with all the Adventure Touring bikes riding off the showroom floor these days.
The Arai XD is also aimed at the Supermoto crowd, such as it is. Remember Supermoto? It was supposed to be the Next Big Thing, but I'm still holding my breath. When it arrives, the XD will be ready.
But since no other manufacturers have copied the XD's design (yet), I wonder if it has legs. Are there enough Adventure Touring riders out there who either know about the XD or who are willing to forgo their modular helmets for such a different and unique lid? I wonder...
When we ordered our XD, the shop owner called the U.S. distributor, who told us that Arai is no longer selling the XD in colors (in the U.S.A.). Only the white, black and gray are currently available (except in Europe, see comments below). I interpret this as a sign that the XD may be slowly making its way out of the Arai catalog.
However, as we shall see, the helmet has another problem that may be keeping it from being a sales success. And that would be too bad, because again -- I think the concept is great, it just needs to be kicked up the evolutionary ladder a notch or two more. Arai, don't give up on this one, but you've got some work to do!
Take a motocross or off-road helmet, add a clear visor so that the rider doesn't have to mess with goggles and you pretty much end up with the XD. I'm surprised that someone hasn't thought of this before. It looks great with a Tiger, a 3/4 length touring jacket (like, for example, the REV'IT! Cayenne), and maybe a pair of Vendramini Marathon boots
The XD offers plenty of chin room, obviously, although it does seem slightly shorter in front than the Shoei VFX-R Air, a pure off-road helmet. The extended chin area brings with it some plusses and minuses. On the plus side, it lets in plenty of air up under the chin. But on the negative side...it lets in plenty of air up under the chin. This could be good or bad, depending upon the weather and the rider's tolerance for drafts.
The other advantage of the extra chin room and the breeze from down under is that the visor seems to stay clear no matter how cold or damp; the air flow acts as a natural anti-fogging system.
Since we could not obtain an XD in a colored graphic or pattern, it's not possible to comment on the paint and graphics. This white example seems to be nicely made, but to be honest, my feeling is that Arai quality is usually good but not always what I expect.
After reading about the J.D. Power awards and all of the other accolades that are heaped on Arai each year, whenever I pick up one of their helmets I expect to have an epiphany, but it never comes.
I mean, the products are good, but I certainly expect more. There always seems to be one or two niggling little problems that disappoint me, and the quality doesn't seem leaps and bounds better than, for example, the much lower priced HJC line of helmets.
For example, I'm just not all that crazy about the tiny little rocker switches that Arai uses to open and close the vents.
They're too small for me to feel when wearing gloves, and they also seem like they'll last for maybe about 50 on/off clicks or so before they fail.
One of the switches on the rear vent on this XD already feels pretty wimpy and it doesn't quite close over the vent hole.
Also, the air vents cut into the front sides of the chin bar on the XD (photo left) have some pretty ragged looking edges.
I would have thought these would be machined with a laser or water jet cutter, both of which would give a smooth, finished edge. But take a look at this photo (left). They look like they've been carved with a hacksaw.
The XD has a rotating clear visor that flips up underneath the -- what should we call it? -- the peak (or sun shade). While it seems fairly sturdy and it doesn't blow around or bend while riding (at least up to about 75 MPH), it's attached to the sides of the helmet with soft plastic screws (see the photos in table below).
Plastic? C'mon! The screws got dinged up the very first time I unscrewed them. If they're not going to use metal screws, the least they could do is give you a driver that would fit the unique slot in the screw head.
And speaking of the visor, mine has some distortion across the middle. It is especially noticeable when I look down at the instruments, which look warped through the XD's window.
The Arai XD's fit feels to me like a cross between the Arai Quantum II and the new Arai Profile (review coming soon). It feels like it has enough room up top -- almost too much room -- but is slightly narrow on the sides. I think it will best fit those with "light bulb" shaped head types -- like me.
Different sized cheek pads are available to make a custom fit. But the XD fits me just about perfectly, and it actually fits a little better than the Arai Quantum II. The Quantum is such a round-head fit that it feels very slightly loose all over on my head, so the slightly tighter fit of the XD is welcome. See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page for more detailed information on choosing and fitting motorcycle helmets.
However, the liner in the XD doesn't feel quite as plush as the liner in the Quantum II. The XD liner seems scratchy to me, although since I always wear a skull cap as a helmet liner, it's not a deal breaker.
Besides the rush of air that flows up from under the extended chin, the XD has a vent on the front of the chin bar and two "ram air" vents on top. Three rear-facing vents supposedly exhaust the air out the back.
It's hard to tell whether the extra chin vent does anything because of the voluminous amount of air that flows up underneath the chin bar sort of masks the air flow coming from the chin vent. I don't notice a difference whether the vent is open or closed.
The top ram air vents do seem to flow a noticeable amount of air on to the top of my head, but at a severe price.
What's the price? In my opinion, severe noise levels. This is a deal killer for me. Whenever I wear the XD behind a short fairing or on an unfaired bike, the noise caused by the top vents is pretty much unbearable.
And don't forget, we always wear correctly inserted earplugs when we ride (See the wBW Earplugs and Hearing Protection page). I can't imagine how much louder the noise level would be without earplugs.
The problem is the top "ram air" vents. They're shaped to catch the air and basically act like a whistle. I can tilt my head forward or place my hand over the top vents and the helmet actually quiets down to probably what is one of the lowest noise levels of any helmet I've tried.
But the constant high-pitched whistling noise that emanates from those vents is very annoying, so it's a real shame that a couple of vents can ruin the experience.
Don't get me wrong: as I mentioned, I like the concept of the XD. I'm just surprised that Arai couldn't come up with a better design -- I mean, let's face it: two forward facing holes sticking up out of the top of a helmet are going to cause noise, no matter how you slice it. The fact that I can place my hand over the vents and immediately and completely stop the noise tells me that that the vents are the culprit and that they are poorly designed.
Listen for yourself: we recorded a voice annotated MP3 sound file of the Arai XD, where the rider explains and demonstrates the noise levels. The noise starts almost exactly at 35 MPH and continues on from there.
I'd just as soon go without the top vents if it would eliminate the noise, and instead use the natural air flow that comes up under the extended chin bar for ventilation. The XD doesn't seem to have much of the lower frequency "booming" noise that many other helmets experience, so if the higher frequency whistling could just be eliminated, this would actually be a very quiet helmet.
UPDATE: wBW reader "C.M." (see comments below) pointed us to the Arai Europe website, which lists an updated version of the XD, known as the Tour X-2, currently available in Europe only. The Tour X-2 looks identical to the XD, but without the top vents! We can only conclude that Arai decided to eliminate the noisy vents on the updated model. We'll try to get one to compare.
Note that this problem is apparent to me when riding behind a short fairing or on an unfaired bike. Although I haven't tried it, the noise may not be as apparent when riding behind a big, full fairing that keeps the wind and buffeting completely off the top of the helmet.
Our size XL Arai XD weighs 3 lbs., 11-3/4 oz. (1693 grams). This puts it somewhere in the middle range of helmet weights; the XD is lighter than the HJC CL-14 and HJC CL-SP, but heavier than the Arai Quantum II and much heavier (1508g vs. 1693g) than the Shoei VFX-R Air motocross helmet.
See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for a chart that compares the weights of all of the helmets we've reviewed.
Arai warns about the possibility of helmet lift when riding at high speeds, due to the peak or sun shade on top. But I really do not notice any excess lift up to about 75 MPH. The helmet does feel a bit like it has a gyroscope or something built in, making it slightly harder to move my head. I think the wind blowing through the peak seems to want to keep the helmet in position, and moving my head seems to take more of an effort than normal.
Although the peak can be removed if desired, and Arai provides a set of plastic plates that can cover the side of the visor when the peak is not being used (see photos in table above), I haven't felt the need to remove it. Besides, removing the peak would kind of defeat the purpose (and the looks) of the helmet, no?
The peak does help to block out the sun, and a short tilt of my head can place my eyes in the shade, which is a nice feature to have sometimes.
The visor is big and clear, but I noticed that the visor opening is so big that the arms on my cut-down eyeglasses are not long enough to shove between my head and the helmet liner, where there's usually enough friction to hold them tight. I discovered that I can use my regular eyeglasses with the XD -- it just takes a little manipulation to hook the ear pieces over my ears as I slide the glasses on when wearing the helmet.
Unfortunately, the XD's visor opens too wide on the first notch. The first stop brings the bottom of the visor just about in my line of sight. This is too bad, because one feature I always look for on a motorcycle helmet is the ability to crack open the visor about 3-4mm or so, just enough to get some fresh air.
And finally, although the chin strap uses the tried-and-true D-ring attachment, for some reason the chin strap cuts into my neck just around my Adam's apple. The padding under the chin strap doesn't extend far enough across to cushion the nylon webbing. This is an unfortunate oversight.
The Arai XD is a unique and interesting design, but I'm very disappointed by the volume of noise from the top vents. I think this helmet could be a winner if Arai would do something about the noise. And how about bringing back some colors while you're at it?
|wBW Review: Arai XD Helmet|
|Manufacturer: Arai Helmet||List Price (2006): $485.95 (White, Black)|
|Review Date: April 2006||Made In: Japan|
|Colors: We were told that White and Black are the only colors currently available, but Arai lists Motard Silver, Motard Black, Aluminum Silver, Aluminum Gray on the U.S. site. Other colors are available in Europe on the Tour X-2.|
From "G.S." (1/09): "I own the Arai TX motard (the European name for Arai XD). Frankly, The quality of the helmet is top notch. The only problem I found was the wind noise, but then all helmets do have that. The only cure for that would be the ear plugs. So I won't really consider it as something to worry about.
I have removed the peak and installed the street convertor kit for daily riding and also for touring purpose. The helmet works great, very comfortable and to me the most important thing is that it doesn't leak during a heavy downpour. Visor is really good, easy to remove for cleaning and so are the inner pad liners.
Overall I would say, it's worth the value. I have seen the XD3 (In the europe it's called TX3) and I would certainly getting it in near future. By the way, I would like to reply to B.W's comments about the nylon/plastics screws: They're still nylon/plastic screws. It has not been changed. I'm sure Arai will never change those screws to metal ones because during an accident, the plastics screws will not jam/stuck and easy to break/remove for emergency reasons."
From "S.A.": "It seems as if there are many people looking for an answer to the question regarding which helmet to buy for those who want to pursue Dual Sport riding.
For the past month, I too have been reading your reviews, and other online forums. The problem with the whole situation is that being a resident of Washington State, helmets are required (as opposed to Idaho), and more specifically, DOT helmets are required.... and unfortunately, there is only one "Enduro" Styled helmet out there that is DOT, and it is $499!!! I appreciated your review on the Airoh helmet, and would love to get that one, but it is not DOT.
Recently, however, I have stumbled across an excellent alternative and I thought I would call your attention to the matter so that you may look into a review of your own and enlighten others! I started to look into Snowmobile helmets. Now some are based on your normal road helmets, which do nothing to help with the whole ventilation matter that I was trying to avoid in the first place, but others are based off of MX helmets and have the elongated chin and a visor!
Specifically, I have found and ordered the AFX FX-87x helmet (review). Although I have not seen the exact helmet in person, the representative at AFX told me that it is the exact same thing as the FX-87 without the visor. The FX-87x has no extra padding and comes with a flush fitting removable visor. The helmet is both Snell and DOT FMVSS 218, and from a brief glance, it looks like most other Snowmobile helmets are too."
From "C.S.": "I read the Arai XD review, and noticed the issue with the plastic screws on the visor. I think Bill may have missed the fact that those visors have to break away in the event of an impact, and the plastic screws are likely there for a reason. I'm not positive, but I believe the Snell standard requires visors to be breakaway structures and not impede the rest of the helmet from doing it's job or possibly causing further injuries.
The idea is to have a helmet that is round and smooth with no drag points to twist the head upon impact, or anything that can enter the helmet or not allow the liner and shell to function.
There may be more than one way to successfully attach a sun visor, but I'm guessing Arai chose those plastic screws for safety reasons. I may have missed the details of how the Airoh helmet visor is attached, and maybe that can be touched on further in a future review of one of these types of helmets.
Thanks again for the great site."
Editor's Reply: I'm not aware of a Snell requirement for breakaway visors (although there may be); in fact, I believe (we would) want the visor to stay on to protect the rider's eyes, its main function, even during a crash. I'd rather have the visor in place to protect my face as I'm tumbling around the tarmac.
Several other helmets we have in the helmet stable have metal screws or other types of devices also. The Airoh S4 uses aluminum screws, but is not Snell approved. I believe Arai used the white plastic solely for looks. I wonder why they didn't use a metal screw with maybe some type of plastic or painted cover....
In any case, it's not that big of a deal actually, as the screws aren't removed very often. But the plastic is very soft, so they're likely to get marred the first time they're removed, especially if you're on the road and don't have the proper tools...
C.S.'s Response: "I talked to Ed Becker of Snell about these issues, and here's his reply:
"As for motocross type visors, I'm not really sure just what sort of hazard they might impose. I have not seen any reports identifying injury mechanisms associated with visors. Europe excludes these visors from their projections tests so, evidently, they have not seen a hazard with them either.
Velcro is probably sufficient for bike helmets where the visors are much lighter and smaller and the shocks and vibrations transmitted to the rider are much less severe than in motocross. The appeal of plastic screws is that they will warp and break under stress but the visors themselves are flexible so we have also certified helmets with metal visor screws at times.
Arai, like some other leading manufacturers, does not wait for a new Snell policy to implement features that may make for safer helmets. Since our rules and requirements apply to all certified manufacturers, the directors here look for proof or, at least, a very persuasive argument that some new innovation will be beneficial before they write it into the standards.
I like to think that Snell is breaking trail in safety matters for the bulk of the industry but, frequently, it is the best in the industry who are breaking trail for us and our service is to force the rest of them to try to catch up.
We have not been able to associate any differences in injury hazard with chin bar configurations either. The most I believe anyone can demonstrate right now is that full face helmets, street and motocross types, provide a measure of facial protection in addition to the head and brain protection we demand of all helmets. Until we know a whole lot more, I lack the temerity to tell any rider what chin bar shape is best."
From "B.D.": "I appreciate the review on this "cool" looking helmet. It's hard to find much info about this particular helmet on the web. It took me 6 months to get around to buying this helmet after I bought my Dual Sport. This helmet (and those like it) are perfect for those of us in between the crack... in our own little niche.
Sport Bike helmets quite honestly look goofy over a Dual Sport, and MX Helmets really don't work on the road with or without goggles, especially if you use your bike to commute with like I do. Sure there are some people who have a stable of bikes and can also afford to have a helmet for each horse, but there are quite a lot of us around who ride Dual Sports because they occupy double duty for both transportation and recreation. At the very least this helmet looks the part.
Many of your comments were on mark with fit and finish, and yes, I too have the Quantum II and the liner is way more subtle, and the XD does in fact fit differently... if not more snug for the size listed. But because of the extended chin bar, I knew way in advance that this helmet would bring in more air... that's it's design.
I'm an all weather rider, and I figured that this would be my summer helmet anyway, since my Quantum II has a NOJ Quiet Rider Helmet Liner installed to keep out the cold. But in the summer time, you can't have enough ventilation, and so far I really like the air flow, even with a skull cap on.
The only time you would reach 75+ mph is on the road, not where this helmet is used primarily... off road, adventure riding. Most of the time you would be happy to get up to 35 mph, and maybe if you are one of those brave riders who feel free to take some open spaces at a more blistering pace. So I don't notice the whistling from the vents when I'm in my element... but I do appreciate the breeze they provide.
I do not have the mentioned warp in my visor... perhaps you got a defective one. The plastic screws on the side are easy to turn with a nickel (Which is what I believe was the intention for the size of the slot). A metal screw would eat into the plate cover, and be easily over tightened. Plus white paint over a metal screw never looks right.
Why not supply a screw made from the same molten plastic as the other parts? Makes sense to me. Besides, Arai has a nice warranty and you can order just about every little part from them if keeping an on/off-road helmet spotless is your concern.
Back to the noise... you can squeeze a pair of ear plug into the holes if you know you are going to be on an extended road ride in the XD. To me the buffeting/booming noise is more irritating than a little whistle. Standing on my foot pegs in open wind the helmet is actually quieter than my Quantum II (sans liner) in my opinion.
I think a lot of the noise from the Quantum II comes from underneath and from those huge visor caps along the side. The XD seems to be a different kind of quiet that I really find pleasant. Also, the helmet looks really cool without the visor attached and a dark lens, almost like an ultra modern jet fighter helmet.
On a personal note about the look and style of the helmet... we all know that things like this are subjective, but in my case this is the best darn helmet to wear if you want to look like a Scout Trooper!! Clad up with some white boots, armor and the Empire awaits. What a better way to do some BLM recon over the weekend. I know it's silly, but isn't having fun what motorcycling is all about?
(BTW... my license plate does in fact say Biker Scout... well abbreviated.)"
"P.S. Silver is also available at many retailers. I've seen up to three silvers... ok, one was called metallic grey. And I'm almost positive that there was a lighter, black... perhaps a charcoal.
A couple of non-descript websites are selling silver. (Even though, Arai does not authorize any web sales, and does not honor warranties from e-tailers, other colors are out there in quite a large amount) Even the early models with the wicked paint have surfaced from time to time."
Thanks B.D.: Arai does list "Motard Silver, Motard Black, Aluminum Silver and Aluminum Gray" on their website, in addition to White and Black. The distributor (Tucker Rocky I think) told us on the phone that white and black were the only colors left to order from Arai in the U.S., but who knows.....maybe that's what they're pushing this week from the warehouse!
From "C.M.": "I've long been a WebBikeWorld follower and in general have been very impressed by the level of reviewing and the overall quality of the review process. However, the latest Arai XD helmet review seems to be a little short-sighted in overlooking some relevant points ...
i. The Tour X (euro name) is now available in version 2 from Arai (Tour X-2), including new colour schemes, I appreciate they may be restricted to European sale, but they are still available and in an enhanced model. (See the Arai Europe website for more information).
ii. Other similar designs ... it certainly seems that the widespread sale of this helmet to 'adventure riders' has spurred BMW into action ... the BMW Enduro helmet could not have been a more blatant copy. Early reports seem to indicate that its very light (confirmed), but has some advantages over the Tour-X range due to a chin skirt design (noise and windblast reduction).
iii. The Arai Tour X(-2) has received much coverage on both the UK GSers
site and ADVrider closer to
home, where the consensus seems good with some recommendations toward fitting an Oxford breath guard or similar for misting/cold/wind-blast reduction.
I have no affiliation with any of the above companies, just a very interested bystander (about to switch from a Roof Daytona to one of same), but I'd like to seem some additional info provided."