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Arai Is The Helmet To Buy

Arai Helmet at the Arai Factory

The helmet in the photo above was run over by another motorcycle at high speed during a race. The wearer walked away without sustaining a head injury. Take a moment to let that soak in.

I’m often asked by people who know I test riding gear which helmet to buy or which is the best. I take that as a compliment and love to help where I can by using the knowledge I’ve worked hard to gain doing this “job”.

I’ve Been On The Fence For Too Long

Me on my KTM 790 Adventure wearing an Arai DT-X helmet.

After wearing and testing many different helmets for wBW my opinion at this juncture is that all riders should be wearing an Arai helmet if they prioritize first and foremost protecting their heads. 

Consider saving your money and/or building the cost of an extra $700+ US into the price of that new motorcycle you’re taking home to buy an Arai helmet. Oh, and you’re going to need to replace it every 5 to 10 years too (depending on how much you use it) so plan on budgeting for that while you’re at it. You can find them on sale at the end of the year quite often reduced 30 to 40%. 

You’ll never regret it even if you don’t crash wearing it, because achieving the highest level of protection requires getting the fitment just right. Once the fitment is just right the added bonus is an ultra-high level of comfort.  Win/win.

A Regent X shell being built at the Arai factory.

This is the soon-to-be-released Regent-X helmet being built at the Arai factory in Japan.

That will be my advice from now on. Happily, Arai is releasing the Regent-X very soon and it’ll cost less than their other helmets… but it’s still $689 USD retail. 

You’ll get a similar degree of crash protection found in the higher-priced Arai helmets, just not quite as fancy of a comfort liner on the inside (according to Arai).  We haven’t tested this helmet just yet, but are working on it. 

Settle In For a Long Read Or Skip Ahead If You Like

The following 8000 words will explain exactly how I arrived at this conclusion. It covers;

  • How Arai protection compares to other helmet brands
  • Videos showing an Arai helmet going through impact and penetration testing
  • A tour of the Arai factory in Omiya, Japan to show the process of hand-building a helmet
  • Some insight I gained into the culture in Japan surrounding craftsmanship

No Hard Feelings I Hope

I mean no disrespect to other reputable helmet manufacturers like Shoei, Schuberth, Nolan, Shark, AGV, HJC, and Simpson for picking Arai as my overall choice for head protection, though I doubt I have enough influence to really hurt their sales significantly.

I like what everyone else is doing and have no doubt their helmets do a great job of saving lives as well. In lower-speed crashes, I think the playing field is fairly level amongst all the manufacturers, but Arai stands out to me in a few ways and appears to be building better head protection when it comes to extreme crash protection

I invite those other manufacturers to show me differently on a tour of their factories. I promise to keep an open mind.

Thank you, Arai!

I want to thank the people at Arai for letting me visit their factory and testing facility in Omiya, Japan.

The flight map from Vancouver to Tokyo.

They don’t open their doors to just anyone and it was a great honor to spend time with Mr. Michio Arai himself along with his son Akihito and the Managing Directors of Arai Americas Brian Weston and Tomo Abe. 

Thanks also to Andrew Leistensnider and Garrett Kai for setting it all up.

I learned a ton from all of them.

Safety Is Why We Wear Helmets, Right?

Mr. Arai says his company hasn’t yet and never will deviate from their focus on the original and most important reason for wearing a motorcycle helmet – protecting the head and brain in a crash.

Arai Helmet at Arai Helmet Factory in Japan

Arai is so focused on safety that they only make small, careful changes that often are imperceptible to the buyer in order to maintain the best crash protection level already achieved with their R75 shell. That doesn’t mean their helmets aren’t evolving but the improvements are gradual, not radical.


Arai helmet shells throughout history.

Arai shell materials components have changed quite a bit since the 1950s to what they are today, but the smooth R75 “egg” or organic shape has remained constant. 

An Arai shell expert talks about their history.

The photos above show their first complex laminate construction fiberglass shell on the far right and the journey it took from there over time moving to the left. 

The shell expert in this photo drew the photo of the cross-section of a bridge on the whiteboard to help explain the way complex laminate shell construction was dreamed up.

The supporting beams that run diagonally between the main girders in suspension bridges are where Arai’s founder (Hirotake Arai) got the inspiration to reinforce their helmets. They still use a similar philosophy in modern Arai shells.

The original Arai shell is on the right and their first Kevlar shell on the left.

The original Arai shell is on the right in the photo above and their first Kevlar shell on the left.

They tried Kevlar for a year then went back to fiberglass, on to carbon fiber and so on up to the present-day incarnation of their fiberglass shell. Incidentally, they tell me carbon fiber shells don’t perform much better in crash testing than their fiberglass ones. They’re basically just lighter weight.

The lastest two versions of the modern Arai helmet shells.

In the photo above you’ll see the two latest versions of the modern Arai helmet shells.

An Aside About Arai Carbon Fiber Shell Design

The Arai shell expert in the photo below explained to me the difference between their aeronautical grade carbon fiber weave and other manufacturers’ that cost much less.

One of Arai's shell experts explaining the difference between carbon fiber weaves.

In the photo above you can see the top drawing illustrates the smaller and rounder cross-section of carbon fiber strands found in the weave of helmets costing $500 to $700 on the market.

He says those fibers are already partially loaded with tension stress because of the rounded shape of the strands meaning they break easier when impacted in a crash than the flatter Arai carbon fiber strands as seen in the lower sketch.

The flatter strands in the Arai weave, allows them to be more relaxed until an impact occurs. This way they can take more of a hit before breaking.

Arai's aeronautical grade carbon fiber weave.

Resin & Fiberglass Inventions

Over the years Arai experimented with different resin compounds until they finally went ahead and invented their own formula they feel works the best. 

Arai’s specially made AR mat. Photo above.

Arai’s specially made AR mat. Photo above.

Ditto for the random pattern, non-woven AR mat used for constructing the inner layers of their shell fiberglass “sandwiches”. 

You can see the strengthening belt above the eyeport in the photo above.

You can see the strengthening belt above the eyeport in the photo above.

They install strengthening belts along the base of the shell opening adding strength to what is a weak spot on nearly every helmet. There’s a second one-run peripherally over top the eyeport opening and back.

They have looms on-site at the factory used to weave these belts in-house because before they did that suppliers couldn’t meet the level of quality Arai wanted. If you want something done right, do it yourself.

A close up of the woven strengthening belt built into Arai helmets.

A close-up of the woven strengthening belt built into Arai helmets.

They layer a special material called Zylon in the crown area of their helmets to prevent objects from punching through. In some models, there’s even a layer of black netting embedded in the layers of fiberglass as well.

If you look at the sides of certain helmets that are painted silver you might be able to see these nets very faintly due to their black color.

Zylon is the yellow woven material sitting on top of the carbon fiber helmet in the photo .

Zylon is the yellow woven material sitting on top of the carbon fiber helmet in the photo above.

Staying Lean Yet Mean

Arai DT-X on weight scale with a Sena 10C Pro

This is my personal DT-X on a scale showing 3.78lbs (1714g) WITH a Sena 10C Pro installed on it. You can’t see it in this photo as it’s on the left side.

As you can see, instead of removing material to try and lighten their helmets they’ve added more layers over the years, then found ingenious ways to keep the helmet weight under 4 lbs.

Contrary to what most other manufacturers think, Arai has shown it’s possible to still stay lightweight AND surpass even the most stringent Snell M2020 standard. The main way they do it is by removing all excess resin when constructing their fiberglass shells because that’s what they’ve determined creates excess weight and brittle/weaker shells too.

First Ventilated Helmet

Arai claims to be the first helmet company to design air vents in their helmets, though this is disputed by the competition. If they weren’t first I’d say they probably were close to it.

Best Attention to Head Shape & Fitment

Different headshapes.

Arai pioneered the idea of different shaped comfort liners designed around three common head shapes: Round Oval, Intermediate Oval, and Long Oval. 

Peeling away layers of foam from Arai helmet cheekpads to get a better fit.

Photo from Arai

The foam in their cheek pads and crown comfort liners today are segmented into 5mm thick sections that can be peeled away to customize the interior for an ideal fit even if your head is shaped like butternut squash.

The sales staff at an Arai dealer should be trained on how to adjust things for you to get a perfect fit using this comfort system when you buy one of these helmets.

Multi-Density EPS Foam Liners

The rings of colour in the EPS foam show the different densities carefully engineered inside.

The rings of color in the EPS foam show the carefully engineered densities inside.

Arai has ten different densities of foam used to create its EPS liners in-house. They have put forth great effort in developing a customized system and it works. Varying the density of the foam across the inside of the helmet allows impact energy to be dispersed much more efficiently and reduces peak G forces felt by the wearer in a crash.

Different density foam for building Arai EPS liners.

Placing harder (higher density foam) around the edges and progressively softer sections in the middle is the not-so-secret but expensive formula used to achieve Arai standards.

To their credit, Shoei also uses similar multi-density foam EPS liners.

Does Arai Have Anti-Rotational Force Technology?

Yes, they’ve had it for quite some time but never really gotten much credit or news buzz when it comes to their M.o.R.E (Mitigation of Rotational Energy) system.

Arai's M.o.R.E system.

Photo from Arai

Rotational force is deadly in a crash and mitigating it seems to be the mountain helmet makers are climbing of late. A few are trying to convince consumers that letting some rotational energy inside the helmet is ok so long as there are a few degrees of movement built into the liner to neutralize it.

Arai’s view of this? No way is letting rotational energy inside acceptable to them. We’ll deflect it instead. It’s a bit boring compared to fancy systems like MIPS and OES found on the market nowadays.

The smooth, rounded shape of Arai shells naturally deflects energy directed at it in a crash. Incoming objects in a collision will “glance off” the shell surface. That’s it! No complex liners required, just a solid and time-tested shell design based on physics. 

It’s A Bit Like Martial Arts

A martial artist performs kata at the Samurai Museum in Shinjuku, Japan.

It reminds me of defensive techniques that deflect incoming energy away from the body instead of trying to block, catch, and neutralize the force. I suppose the latter could work too, but I prefer the Arai thinking on this one. Still, I don’t think it would be a bad idea for Arai to integrate something like MIPS into their helmets just the same.

Samurai Helmets

Samurai Helmet

The rounded helmet design deflecting energy and projectiles is nothing new in Japan or anywhere else in the world armor was crafted.

Samurai Face Protector

I visited the Samurai Museum while in Tokyo to see the collection of ornate armor and swords on display there.

A collection of Samurai armour found at the Samurai museum in Shinjuku.

The armor, in particular, evolved from the woven fabric into a rounded, hard-shelled design over time due to the need to deflect arrows and other projectiles.

Samurai armour found at the Samurai museum in Shinjuku.

Portuguese traders who reached Japan and first introduced them to muskets found the hard, rounded design of the Samurai armor was capable of deflecting ball-type lead bullets as you can see in these photos.

Samurai armour with a bullet dent mark in it.

I neglected to ask Mr. Arai if there were any Samurai ancestors in his lineage. 

If Arai Can Do It Why Isn’t Everyone?

Many other manufacturers have chosen to rationalize away Arai’s devotion to all-out safety by banking on the crash data indicating the majority of impacts occur at lower speeds on flat ground.

Statistically speaking, I believe they’re correct in saying that most crashes happen at “lowish” speeds compared to the velocity Arai is building their helmets to protect the wearer from. 

Some are even touting that data to justify abandoning the sometimes inconvenient quest for Snell Certification and boring-looking, smooth, featureless shells built to deflect away impact energy and prevent snags on the ground in a slide. 

Overbuilt? Too Safe?

They seem to be saying Arai helmets are “overbuilt unnecessarily for strength” which sounds kind of crazy when describing what is supposed to be a safety item. How can it be too safe? Is the quest to build the lightest, quietest and prettiest helmets taking away from protection?

Many helmets now are built with protrusions, ridges, and fins in their shells to help cut down on wind turbulence instead of worrying primarily about how it will perform in a slide or an impact. Manufacturers also have to build voids into the protective EPS liners to accommodate popular integrated drop-down sun visors.

***I’m not encouraging you to throw away your non-Arai helmets. They’re still good.***

Trading Crash Worthiness For “Farkles”

It’s true any quality built helmet with an approved certification like DOT, ECE, FIM or Snell can protect you in a crash, but I think this is a case of good versus better protection. 

Snell M2020 certification stickers.

Adventure Riders Are Possibly Most At Risk

What happens if you’re involved in a crash off-road and land on pointed rocks, sharp sticks or something extreme happens on the road where your head slams into a signpost or gets run over by another motorcycle? Yes, I fully admit these are less common, maybe even rare cases… but they’ve actually happened before to other riders and it could be you someday. 

Are you going to at that point flippantly say “this was an exceptional crash beyond the norm” and accept your head injury was inevitable? Well, I guess if you have a TBI you won’t be alive to worry about it, or at best you’ll be more concerned about what color of crayon you’d like to eat at that time rather than considering whether your brain damage was avoidable.

We’ve Been Asking For It 

I’ve been a part of the problem as a helmet reviewer and consumer. I’ve written several reviews complaining about helmets lacking those integrated sun visors and admit I still like them in a helmet for convenience. This article could make me sound like a hypocrite in that regard, but the truth is I’ve changed my opinion. I’m the kind of guy who can and will admit I’m wrong when presented with better information. 

To date, Michio Arai has stood his ground and refused to compromise on safety with his helmets. It’ll be interesting to see if that changes after he eventually passes the torch to someone new as the CEO.

Designing Helmets Just To Pass Safety Testing

Even worse than trading crashworthiness for nice-to-have features is a new issue where potentially helmet manufacturers might feel tempted to start placing reinforcement very specifically only in areas that are tested by ECE and other testing bodies instead of everywhere in the helmet shell.

The testing line used by helmet standards organizations.

The ECE specifies exact areas on helmets to be tested with continuity and consistency in mind. They never intended for manufacturers only to beef up those specific testing areas, and thankfully I don’t have any proof of it happening. 

The Arai reps told me that if you run impact testing outside the specific test areas on some helmets you’ll find they allow unacceptable amounts of energy to transfer through to the head form. Ed Becker at the Snell Memorial Foundation told me the same thing, so that’s two very knowledgeable sources echoing each other. 

What’s On Your Head?

I doubt most people realize this fact and assume their helmets are uniformly strong across the whole structure, but that’s not necessarily true.

I’m not overly concerned about mainstream, reputable helmet builders cutting corners, but I’ve seen many shall I say “alternative brand” helmets coming out of China that don’t feel or appear adequately built to protect motorcyclists. They’re temptingly inexpensive to buy, and I’m sure they sell plenty of them to riders trying to get by on tight budgets, but if they do actually meet DOT or ECE standards I suspect they BARELY do. 

See our review of the Nenki NK856 as one example of a helmet I wouldn’t personally recommend anyone wear on a motorcycle. Still, I admit wearing it would be much better than not wearing a helmet at all.

Arai Passes ECE, Snell, & FIM Standards

Test any Arai helmet anywhere on the shell and you’ll find it performs above average (according to Arai). Arai boasts the only helmets to pass both ECE 22.05 and Snell M2020 standards. This was thought to be near impossible since the two testing parameters are vastly different in their requirements.

Shoei hasn’t achieved that yet, but if you look on the SHARP website, you’ll find the 13 Shoei helmets tested at this writing average a notably higher overall score (4.1538 out of 5) than the 16 Arai helmets tested do (3.5625 out of 5). This could mean Shoei helmets protect better on average by SHARP criteria, but we shouldn’t rely on just one testing body to choose the safest helmet manufacturer.

Arai has managed to be one of the first manufacturers to pass the new FIM motorcycle helmet standards without changing anything on their designs. That’s because Arai claims to place their company standards higher than any testing standard. DOT, ECE even Snell standards are seen as a level always to be exceeded.

That’s what kind of helmet you get when you don’t build them to pass standards, but instead to protect heads based on experience.

FIM Nicolas Rodil del Valle Gold Medal Award

The FIM Gold Medal award.

In 2019 Arai became the first riding gear manufacturer ever to be presented with the Gold Medal award from FIM for providing a lasting contribution to motorcycle racing.

Mr. Michio Arai seated in front of the FIM Gold Medal award.

Brian Weston told me that this award isn’t presented regularly. It’s only done when FIM feels it’s warranted, and he figured it’s been about 16 years since the last time. When I checked on the FIM website I couldn’t clearly find a date for the last Gold Medal, but I would say it’s been over 10 years and Arai is in good company.

The Latin inscription on the medal “Pro Virtute et Scientia” means “For Power and Knowledge.”

Video Of Helmet Crash Testing

Want to see just how well Arai helmets perform in crash testing? Watch this video we shot at their research and development center. 

They took a helmet and tested it with several impacts on a curved steel anvil while measuring G forces registering inside. It passes the Snell M2020 275 G limit with ease and shockingly it also passes the Formula 1 helmet testing standard (FIA) from a much higher drop even though typically most helmets have to be specially designed, carbon fiber ones to meet that criteria.

Arai's helmet testing area.

We also witnessed shell penetration testing on the top part which is the test all manufacturers fear the most, especially on helmets that have those much-loved integrated sun visors.

How To Build An Arai Helmet

The present day Arai factory in Omiya, Japan.

Here’s where I walk you through the stages via a tour of the factory which took a few hours time and spanned three different addresses in Omiya.

There’s another Arai factory 200kms north of Omiya where the majority of their helmets are built, while mainly research and development are done at the Omiya facilities. This is the original location that Hirotake Arai started building helmets at back in 1950. They’ve expanded and updated since then obviously, but you can tell, looking at the photos this isn’t a new building.

The present day Arai factory in Omiya, Japan.

5 Shell Sizes

Unwoven Fiberglass hairs used to build the outer and inner layers of the Arai helmets.

Unwoven Fiberglass hairs used to build the outer and inner “baskets” of Arai helmets.

Most helmet manufacturers tend to only go with 2 or 3 shells due to the high cost of production involved with multiples. Using just 2 or 3 shells they change the thickness of the EPS liner and comfort padding inside to create a range of helmet sizes from XXS up to XXXL.

Random pattern fiberglass basket being weighed for quality control

This is the random pattern fiberglass basket being weighed for quality control.

Lower Center of Mass

Arai predictably goes over and above the norm and typically uses not 3 or even 4 shell sizes. They prefer using 5 across their size range to provide superior weight balancing and fit.

A snug and close-fitting helmet is the keystone to keeping the center of the helmet mass lower on the head. That feels better to wear because you don’t experience a “bobblehead doll” effect as the helmet weight shifts around. 

The Arai Shell Experts

The first step in creating an Arai helmet shell.

Some of the fiberglass components that go into the middle of the complex laminate design of Arai helmet shells.

Some of the many fiberglass components that go into the middle of the complex laminate design of Arai helmet shells.

An Arai shell expert hard at work.

The Arai shell expert carefully adds each piece of the puzzle to the mold in the correct order.

The shell expert carefully adds each piece of the puzzle to the mold in the correct order.

Many different pieces of material are expertly arranged inside the helmet mold by shell experts at Arai.

Arai has only a few shell designers/fabricators on staff. Many employees try to become shell designers and crafters but it’s so challenging that it takes a certain kind of person to manage it. 

This Arai helmet shell is ready for resin to be added.

These gifted and uncompromising individuals place 20 different pieces of layered fiberglass inside a scorching hot steel mold (200 F) in a very, very specific way before pouring in about a cup of resin to cure and harden over a few hours time.

Adding Arai's special resin to a helmet shell mold.

The orange-red colored rubber balloon that you see in the photos below expands outwards when inflated to press hard evenly on the fiberglass sandwich around it, squeezing out all the excess resin.

The balloon used to build Arai helmet shells.

The combination of heat, pressure, and chemical reaction creates the distinct Arai helmet shells. 

A balloon placed inside the helmet shell mold ready to be inflated to crush the materials together while it cures.

職人 Shokunin

These helmet shell artisans or “Shokunin” will produce over 100 shells in an 8-hour shift. Sometimes they don’t get it right and a shell is rejected after being inspected not once, but twice in the quality control process. When that occasionally happens, it’s normal for the shell expert to stay after work and remake them. They do this willingly.

A piece of paper bearing the shell creator's name is inserted into every Arai helmet.

Each shell has a sheet of paper with the artisan’s name on it embedded in the resin, so if it’s not made correctly it doesn’t take long to figure out who botched the job up.

The Smallest of Tolerances

I can’t stress enough just how difficult this step in the process of building a helmet is. It turns out any number of small factors can ruin the work. 

For example, the summer heat and humidity in Omiya are draining without spending your day hunched over these blazing hot steel helmet molds. Fans were initially installed too close to the molds to help keep the workers cool, but that moving air was enough to unbalance the heat in the molds during the curing process and ruin shells.

Since then they’ve made adjustments to deal with that problem successfully, but who would have thought such a small thing could create so much trouble? 

Steel Molds

Several steel molds used to build fiberglass helmet shells at the Arai factory.

Several steel molds used to build fiberglass helmet shells.

A steel helmet shell mold.

Arai has CNC machining equipment on-site capable of modifying existing molds or creating a new one in a day. This allows them to tinker with designs or fix problems very quickly once discovered. When you’re as demanding as they are about exact standards it’s a no brainer to invest in this equipment and the people to run it.

The milling machine used to build new helmet shell molds.

The milling machine used to build shell molds.

Frickin’ Lasers

Arai hand-builds their helmets from start to finish with painstaking attention to detail. They insist on having multiple sets of human hands and eyes inspect each helmet to allow plenty of chances to catch mistakes before you and I pop one on our head.

The new 3D scanner for helmet shells sits on top of the retired older 3D scanner at the Arai factory.

The new faster and better 3D scanner for helmet shells sits on top of the retired older 3D scanner.

There are only two areas in the process where high-tech computers are used, and one of them is a sophisticated scanning tool used to ensure the finished shells match up with the human-built shell design. 

I would have thought the opposite would be true where a computer would dictate what shape to build the shell, but the ideal shape the computer is verifying came from one of the master shell experts.

The eyeport and vents being cut away by a laser at the Arai factory.

The second area is where the eye ports and vents are cut out using a laser. They used to do this part by hand as well but found it way too labor-intensive compared to just having a laser burn it instead.

Inspect, Add Filler, Sand Smooth, & Repeat

Workers inspecting new helmet shells at the Arai factory.

Once the shells have been checked over by the super scanner and been blasted with the laser they’re inspected again for thin or thick spots by human hands and patched if need be. They even check the weight distribution of the shells to make certain the center of mass is low enough.

The green circle is a thin spot in the shell that was caught during quality control inspections and corrected at the Arai factory.

The green circle is a thin spot in the shell that was caught during quality control inspections and corrected.

Rejection Hurts

I saw one rejected shell sitting on the floor that looked perfectly fine, but when I held it in my hands I could notice a weight imbalance caused by a little extra resin that had pooled at the top of the crown instead of getting pushed out by the rubber balloon.

An older model of helmet shell at the Arai factory.

It’s incredible to me they would reject that shell! I’m doubtful most other manufacturers would, but this is Arai and it truly seems there’s no quarter given for anything less than perfection around there. 

Each shell is made using very expensive materials (nevermind the cost of labor involved) so being this fussy must hurt their bottom line. They really don’t concern themselves with that fact. They even joke about being poor businessmen because of their ultra-high standards. It’s handy that there’s only one shareholder calling the shots and he’s the one telling the inspectors to be so anal-retentive about the product.

Unpainted helmet shells at the Arai factory.

Wow… I found myself muttering that a lot throughout my time in the factory.

You Gotta Love This Job

Helmet shells getting ready for paint at the Arai factory.

Then begins a grueling 7 step process that involves patching the rough surface of the shells with different pastes, primers, and eventually coats of paint to make it smooth as silk. Since they remove all excess resin from the fiberglass to keep things light and strong the exterior is quite bumpy and rough when it comes out of the mold.

A freshly sanded helmet shell at the Arai factory.

No one would want to buy an expensive helmet with an exterior texture on it resembling Shredded Wheat. If you paint a rough surface like that it looks awful, and decals won’t stick to it either. Arai employees dab on thin layers of filler paste, let it dry, wet sand it smooth over and over again until the surface is ready for paint and polish.

Pencil marks on a new Arai helmet shell showing where it needs more sanding.

Pencil marks on a new Arai helmet shell showing where it needs more sanding.

How Do They Do It?

What a LOT of backbreaking work being hunched over all day sanding and polishing helmets! I asked Mr. Arai how these employees can maintain their focus so diligently? I mean, everyone has an off day now and again, especially with repetitive, tiring work such as this.

Endless wet sanding to ensure the shell is perfectly smooth.

Seemingly endless wet sanding to ensure the shell is perfectly smooth.

He told me the people they have working there are almost all active motorcyclists with a tremendous passion for riding and helmet crafting.

Brian Weston and Akihito Arai explaining the paste/sand/polish process.

Brian Weston and Akihito Arai explaining the paste/sand/polish process (photo above).

Even at 82 years old Michio Arai still gets out regularly on his Ducati for a rip! His vigor at that age is remarkable. He looks to be in better shape than many people 20 years younger. His son Akihito is actually 2 years older than me but looks 10 years younger. I wonder what their secret is?

Priming helmet shells at the Arai factory.

The people employed at Arai tend to stay long-term, but there have been some who chose to move on because they didn’t share the same degree of love for their unrelenting quest to be the best.

Freshly painted helmet shells at the Arai factory.

Now The Fun Part

Like many kids back in the 70s and 80s, I had a sticker collection. It included two glittering, lightning bolts that dazzled me and my siblings. They were the prize of my collection and the cat’s meow in my esteem.

Lightning bolt stickers from my youth.

My stickers looked just like the ones in the photo above except they were silver.

The only problem with owning those beauties was that I didn’t know what to do with them. My 7-year-old mind couldn’t find the wisdom to know where the final resting place should be for those relics. 

I saved them for 5 years before finally knowing what object was worthy of bearing them. I stuck them on the back of my first motorcycle helmet (a Nolan) with a great sense of satisfaction. It was exactly the personal touch needed to make it all mine.

Japanese maple leaf decals on an Arai helmet.

Japanese maple leaf decals on an Arai helmet.

That love for tasteful decoration is the reason I enjoyed seeing the application of such a wide variety of beautifully ornate decals to the painted helmet shells. Sadly they weren’t installing any lightning bolt decals that day, but the gorgeous Japanese maple leaf and white dragon ones need to make their way into my life at some point.

The Kiyonari white dragon one especially – I’m in serious love with it.

Kiyonari dragon decals on an Arai helmet.

Kiyonari dragon decals on an Arai helmet.

Drudi Performance Designs

Most Arai decal art is designed by Aldo Drudi of Drudi Performance, an Italian designer with a huge following thanks mainly to his work with Valentino Rossi’s AGV race helmets. He tends to get it right more often than not when it comes to helmet art. I’m a big fan!

A Drudi Performance decal design on an Arai helmet.

A Drudi Performance decal design on an Arai helmet.

A Drudi Performance decal design on an Arai helmet.

What’s So Difficult About Putting On Decals?

Have you noticed that installing a two-dimensional flat decal on a three-dimensional dome-shaped surface doesn’t go well? You’ll end up with creases and puckers in the decal edges which distorts the image.

Workers carefully apply decals to helmets at the Arai factory.

It’s Not One Size Fits All

Arai gets around this by having the decals manufactured slightly distorted and specifically for each model of helmet. Once installed on the curved helmet surface they look correct as a result. 

Because of that complication, they can’t install any decal package on just any helmet they build which some customers find frustrating. Due to the uniquely-shaped diffusers or vent placement on different shells the Kiyonari dragon design I like may end up looking like Casper the Friendly Ghost if installed on an XD4 since it has such a prominent sun peak on it.

Applying decals to helmets at the Arai factory.

Even with the decals designed specifically for the helmet the task of installing them is only for people with great patience and a high level of precise detail awareness. It’s easy to mess it up and I know whenever our reviewers at wBW find a crooked decal or a cosmetic flaw of any kind on any helmet brand we point it out and ring the bell of shame. Expensive helmets get an especially rough ride from us in this regard.

Washing new helmet shells at the Arai helmet factory.

Setting Them Up For Success

The woman in the photo below has the all-important job of marking reference points on each helmet shell using a template placed over top. She has to get it just right otherwise the decal won’t fit correctly in the end. 

Marking decal installation reference points on a new Arai helmet shell.

They make it look so easy when in reality they’re using tremendous care and skill to get it right. They make tiny cuts in the decals with blades when necessary to ensure decals lay flat and don’t have air pockets.

A woman polishes helmet shells at the Arai factory in Japan.

A worker polishes helmet shells at the Arai factory in Japan.

Interestingly, the staff in this area of the factory is all female. Over time they’ve found only women seem to have the patience and fine motor skills necessary to handle decal installation. I can believe that for the most part is true, but I think I might have what it takes to master this.

Keep It Clean

They can’t leave behind lint, glue, or any of the plastic covering used to install decals because the next step is clear coating the shells. Having a do-over after the clear coat is applied creates horrible problems.

Drilling Holes & Tapping Rivets

Very expensive carbide drill bits are needed to punch crisp holes in these uber tough fiberglass shells. Workers can’t rush and drill too fast or they’ll wreck the paint and decals which were so labor-intensively just applied.

Special drill bits used at the Arai factory in Japan for their fiberglass shells.

These drill bits need to be sharpened every 80 shells and the fact the workers can do that is in itself somewhat impressive to me. I’ve tried sharpening regular high-speed steel drill bits unsuccessfully many times, given up, and got a new one instead.

Drilling holes in Arai helmet shells.

Can you imagine drilling holes all day, every day for a job? 

There is a variety to keep them on their toes since Arai doesn’t do non-stop runs of the same helmet model. That way the workers don’t forget how to build a Signet X or a Quantum X if there’s a big demand for the new Regent X for example.

Freshly drilled ventilation holes in Arai helmet shells.

Freshly drilled ventilation holes in Arai helmet shells.

Riveting Work

Three different rivet sizes used in Arai helmets.

Arai has three different lengths of rivets used for attaching the chin straps to shells, and the workers have to get it right. They cut threads into the rivets using a machine otherwise it would take about ten times as long to do by hand.

A chin strap rivet installed on an Arai helmet.

Finishing Touches

You’d think the hard work would be done by now but there are a few more crucial steps remaining in creating an Arai helmet.

Polishing helmets at the Arai factory in Japan.

Polishing helmets at the Arai factory in Japan.

Rubber Seals

An Arai helmet artisan working on a helmet.

The woman in the photo above has been working at Arai for 25 years as one of their helmet artisans. That’s why she has the all-important job of applying just enough adhesive to the eyeport opening to hold the rubber seal in place.

Putting adhesive on an Arai helmet to install the visor seal.

I know, I know… I’ve said every job so far has been critical, but it’s especially true here. Too much adhesive will cause the rubber seal to bulge and create a gap between it and the visor. That bulge will leak water and air into the helmet. Too little glue and the seal will come off the helmet after a while, which will make the buyer very unhappy.

A pile of rubber seals used on Arai helmets.

My DT-X visor seal didn’t leak even a little bit when I wore it in torrential rain for a couple of days riding in Montana and Idaho. She must have done a good job on it just for me.

Comparatively, most if not all of the other helmets I’ve tested have leaked a little bit when used in the pouring rain and a couple of them leaked so badly I wondered if I was wearing it underwater!

Michio Arai’s Extra Neck Protection

Mr. Arai insists each helmet must have a double layer of rubber around the bottom edge of all their helmets. It’s there to cover the rough edge left behind from when the laser cuts off the excess shell material. You can see this in the photo below.

The double layer of rubber gasket used on every Arai helmet.

It’s the little things like this I appreciate even if I never actually see it or feel it protecting my neck from chafing.

Installing The EPS Foam Liners

An Arai employee installs EPS foam liner in a helmet shell.

This was neat to watch. I was in awe of the way these two men could install such fragile EPS foam liners into the shells without damaging anything. They’ve got a very light touch but also can put enough power into it to install the liner. You’ll perhaps notice them checking the depth with their thumbs once it’s in place in lieu of a gauge or computer. How many must they have done to just “feel” that the installation is right?

Doing this job is probably a bit like driving a car that has the brake pedal installed on the top of the gas pedal.

EPS is very fragile and as mentioned the parts used to build these helmets aren’t cheap. Brian told me if they don’t get the liner straight or quite deep enough on the first try they usually can remove it without damage for another attempt, but beyond that, they need a new one.

Put It All Together

The last few steps involve attaching the visor systems, diffusers, and the Snell, DOT, ECE, and other certification stickers.

Installing diffusers on an Arai helmet.

It’s at this point all the careful attention to detail culminates in success or failure. If the holes weren’t drilled just right, rivets chose correctly, or decals installed just so, the helmet will be rejected or repaired if possible.

Putting the final touches on a Arai helmet.

I loved the Ducati Corse helmets we found at the last stage of assembly getting diffusers installed on them. The brilliant red on them calls to me in the same way the Italian motorcycles do.

Small screws used on Arai helmet diffusers.

They use two-sided tape and very small screws for anchoring the diffusers to the shell, thus ensuring they break off in a crash as I mentioned previously.

Small screws used to secure diffusers to Arai helmets.

Always Reaching Higher

An Arai factory worker.

All Arai employees are empowered by Mr. Arai to reject a sub-par helmet at any stage of the game. In fact, he fully expects his people to bring suggestions to him directly on how to improve any part of the production process, even if just in the smallest of ways once noticed.

Good Motivation

The employees are all on top of this and actively engaged because they know the man running the company himself randomly chooses his personally-worn riding helmets right off the assembly line. No special order for a “Michio Arai” helmet is put in play. You can wear the same helmet as the CEO himself or one of Arai’s sponsored MotoGP racers does. 

Putting the finishing touches on an Arai helmet.

This is an awesome way to ensure quality control is top-notch in my mind. How careful would you be knowing that potentially any helmet you just built could end up on the head man’s head?

Michio Arai Question & Answer

Me with Arai CEO Michio Arai.

As mentioned Mr. Arai and his senior staffers made themselves available to me for what turned out to be a multitude of questions when it was all said and done. 

I felt their answers were candid and honest. Some answers were carefully polished and practiced ones they’ve repeated for many other people like myself writing about the company and product, but I don’t feel like they were trying to hide anything. This clearly wasn’t their first rodeo. 

What’s The CEO & Owner Like?

Michio Arai, in particular, was very straightforward and open with his answers to my questions. He strikes me as the kind of man that is unafraid to shoot from the hip. He says what he means and means what he says whether you like it or not. He also is notably humble and matter-of-fact about his company’s success which is refreshing. If anyone deserves to be the least bit cocky about Arai’s achievements it’s him.

I’m Paraphrasing Here

These aren’t direct quotes as I didn’t record the conversations and there was a bit of a language barrier at times despite the fact they all spoke English well. Definitely tons better than my almost non-existent Japanese!

Some are answers directly from Mr. Arai while others are a mixture from him and Brian Weston, Akihito Arai, and Tomo Abe but I believe my paraphrasing captured their collective mindset.

Here are my favorites:

wBW: Mister Arai you’ve mastered building helmets near as I can tell and you did it citing rider protection/saving lives as your main motivation and goal. Since approximately half of all motorcycle deaths result from non-head injuries have you considered branching out and manufacturing riding gear other than helmets?

Michio Arai: We are focused on building the best helmets we can and feel it might distract us from that if we venture into building other products. Many other companies are willing to place their name on all kinds of things in order to try and turn a greater profit, but not us. I admit we could generate more revenue and grow the company doing that, but I suppose we’re kind of bad businessmen in a way because we refuse to deviate.

wBW: Is there going to be a modular Arai helmet in the near future?

Brian: We have a prototype in development, but it’s still not where we want it to be from a protective standpoint. It won’t be released until it matches the same level of protection as with all our helmets.

In order to reach that level we’re concerned it may end up priced so high at the end of the day as to be unaffordable for many buyers, but that remains to be seen. 

wBW: Why do you prefer building helmets by hand instead of using machines?

Arai: Not everything is done by hand. We value and use a sophisticated 3D scanner and a laser in the process of building our helmets. We feel both machines have helped improve the quality of our product too.

However, overall we feel a human touch is superior to computer programming when it comes to furthering innovation and catching defects. The human hand and eye are more adaptive when used during inspection than any computer. A person’s ability to think abstractly beyond their supervisor’s limited directions is more useful to Arai as well. Showing we value our employees’ opinions has always resulted in them bringing great suggestions forward for us to implement into the end product. That’s why we continue to gradually build better and better helmets every day.

The pursuit of continuous improvement is rooted in the creative nature of our employees. That desire to instinctively create is inherent in humans and shown by their will to have children. The helmets they build here in some ways become like their offspring. Conversely, machines don’t have that same desire to create new machines to carry on their legacy – although with the way Artificial Intelligence is advancing that may happen in the future. 

Another example can be found If we look at the computer and laser system used to cut out the eyeport and vents on our helmets. It’s interesting to note what appears to be a smooth curve cut by the laser isn’t, in reality, a curve so much as it’s a myriad of minute, straight lines cut in succession. A human would just cut an actual curve not a bunch of small straight lines. We still choose to let the computer do this task anyway only because it’s overly labor-intensive for our workers compared to just letting a laser do it.

wBW: Have you looked at using Koroyd instead of multi-density EPS foam in your helmets? They’ve made some claims on their website about how it protects better in general and even through different temperature ranges than EPS does.

Michio Arai: Over the years we’ve tried several different alternative liner materials but found each time there were shortcomings or complications compared to our exact blend of EPS foam.

We haven’t specifically tried Koroyd at this point and I would be skeptical about it performing better for us based on past experimentation we’ve done. Serious problems often arise unexpectedly in marrying new materials like Koroyd to our existing shell design. 

I don’t want to radically change what’s already working so well for us. Part of the reason is that I myself don’t entirely understand why our design is so good. I think perhaps we receive help from someone up above if you know what I mean.

To Sum It All Up

The original Arai factory building in Omiya, Japan.

The original Arai factory building in Omiya, Japan.

I only spent 6 days in Japan and just one of them touring the Arai factory, yet I came away from the experience so utterly impressed and charmed. You probably noticed that while reading everything before this.

I found the people at Arai to be single-minded motorcycle helmet enthusiasts like I am, but even more so. Their passion for helmets is greater than mine. It’s right off the charts.

“We Are Helmet Men”

The Arai company motto.

Mr. Kaoru Yoshimura of the company Export Division said this to me while discussing how their employees could remain so interested and focused while doing the same tasks repeatedly. I didn’t exactly grasp the significance of what he meant until I wrote this piece and researched more about what the word “artisan” means to some Japanese people.

A Spiritual & Material Obligation

An Arai employee drills holes in a helmet shell.

I believe there’s a special sense of passion and devotion found here than in other parts of the world despite what some of them will tell you when asked about it directly. There’s an oft-quoted definition of shokunin found all over the internet from a famous artist named Tasio Odate which explains how he views it.

“The Japanese word shokunin is defined by both Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries as ‘craftsman’ or ‘artisan,’ but such a literal description does not fully express the deeper meaning. The Japanese apprentice is taught that shokunin means not only having technical skills but also implies an attitude and social consciousness. … The shokunin has a social obligation to work his/her best for the general welfare of the people. This obligation is both spiritual and material, in that no matter what it is, the shokunin’s responsibility is to fulfill the requirement.” – Tasio Odate

When I asked Mr. Arai about this he casually blew it off saying he views it more as being an orchestra where each person has a part to play in creating the music in a song. My short time in Japan showed me many things that convinced me the people of Tokyo, in general, are all about growing a happier and more harmonious society. 

The people there (speaking generally) take this ideology and apply it not only to their profession but also to their daily actions when out and about.

You See Evidence Of It Everywhere

Beautiful touches of nature abound in Tokyo even in the industrial areas.

Beautiful touches of nature abound in Tokyo even in the industrial areas.

  • If there’s a cleaner city with 37 million people living in it I don’t know where it could be. It literally took me 3 days to spot a small piece of trash on the ground and it was gone the next day when I passed the same area. Incredibly you’ll be hard-pressed to find a trash can out on the streets too! People just don’t litter because it’s disrespectful, illegal, and against the greater social consciousness.
  • Complete strangers who seemingly didn’t speak much English stopped to help me buy subway tickets or food at restaurants without me even asking for help. They never wanted anything in return for their help. 
  • City planners must specifically look for ways to plant as many trees and shrubs as possible to help add a touch of natural beauty to the big city. They were everywhere!

Near Shinjuku train station in Tokyo, Japan.

  • The Tokyo skyline is surprisingly open! I pictured soaring skyscrapers built as far as the eye can see to house the massive population, but In Tokyo, there are only 49 buildings and structures that stand taller than 187 meters (614 ft) according to Wikipedia. In comparison, NYC has almost 250 buildings that tall or taller.

Rice balls in green tea soup.

  • You aren’t expected to tip any waiters/waitresses or other service industry workers because it’s seen as insulting to suggest any service received wasn’t above average!
  • All sidewalks and stairways are clearly marked with arrows or symbols showing where pedestrians and cyclists should be. It’s all done in an efficient and courteous way to make getting around quick and painless even with millions of people using it. The vast majority of people obey crosswalk signs even at night when there’s no traffic on the street and they could safely ignore the “don’t walk” symbols.

Sidewalks and stairwells are marked to guide you going up or down aiding in efficiency.

  • There are frequent announcements made on all public transportation reminding everyone not to talk on their cell phones unless they move to the enclosed area between cars. Everyone follows this request too! I never saw one person talking on their phone on a train or anywhere else on public transportation.

Arai Helmets Are Possibly Underpriced?

I admit that must sound pretty crazy. Since when is on average $700 to $1000+ USD considered an underpriced helmet?

Another friend's helmet that saved his life a few years ago.

My friend’s helmet likely saved his life a few years ago in a serious crash.

Now that I have witnessed the tremendous amount of care, manual labor, and thought that goes into building an Arai helmet I’m convinced they’re worth every one of my hard-earned dollars to buy. 

I’m sure these helmets will perform if and when called upon in the line of duty, so to speak. That’s what you’re paying for when you buy one. It’s the next best thing to custom-made head protection.

Go Ahead, Seek Adventure & Thrills

At one point Mr. Arai mentioned that he believes it’s natural for people to crave adventure and chase excitement in life. He wants to help everyone feel capable of fulfilling that need safely. I took it to mean that he knows and expects us to push our limits out there while on two wheels.

Hirotake Arai riding a motorcycle.

Photo from Arai

Judging by the photo above of his Father Hirotake riding a motorcycle back in the 1940s I would say the Arai family might have a bit of a wild side, eh?

My friend Nathan Steuber's helmet that he crashed in last year.

My friend Nathan’s helmet that he was wearing when he crashed last year.

I thought maybe Arai’s reputation was overstated and the stories I’d heard about the Japanese pursuit of high-quality standards were too, but let me tell you it seems true. No, Arai helmets aren’t perfect and yes, I’m sure you could find some people there who don’t fit into this idyllic picture I’ve painted, but I would say they’re the exception to the rule based on what I saw firsthand.

I hope this doesn’t come off as an Arai “fanboy” piece because I’m only sharing what I observed. I’m willing to concede it’s entirely possible if I get the chance to tour the Shoei, Shark, or AGV factories I may change my mind about which helmet we should all wear while riding, but until that time I feel confident in what I’ve written here.

I’m Slightly Shokunin Myself

I don’t build or design helmets, I just test and review them. But I am fully committed to finding the truth about motorcycle gear to share with you the readers. That’s the reason I write these ridiculously long, overly detailed, photograph-rich, and sometimes tediously technical write-ups.

I feel like I’ve done my research thoroughly on this one, but I dislike choosing the “best” anything for everyone. In my other reviews I’ve often said things like: “this is a good product, it’s a winner or I recommend it”, but that’s different than what I’m doing here with Arai helmets. I’m going one better in saying this brand is special and my personal recommendation. 

I’m hoping to create a series of similar articles to this one to describe what I find with other manufacturers.  “Shoei is the Helmet to Buy” will most likely be next and before all this COVID-19 business got in the way I had my trip booked. I’m hoping it’ll go ahead in 2022 and beyond that “Schuberth is the Helmet to Buy”, Simpson, Bell, Scorpion, Shark, etc. I want to have a whole series of these to help people better understand what they’re wearing on their heads.

Thank You

I’m thrilled when someone tells me one of our wBW reviews led them to a product that helped them enjoy riding more than before. The only thing that would make me happier is hearing one of our recommended products actually saved their life in a crash.

That’s why again, I say seriously consider buying an Arai next time you need a new helmet. I see an important difference.

– Jim

      1. Felipe Massa got hit in the head with an 800 gram spring. Impact point was on the edge of the visor @ 200+ km/h. The gorce was so big it nocked him out cold. He survived with little lasting damage.

        He was wearing a Schuberth. There are more companies that make outstanding helmets.

        1. Hi Sjoerd!

          Absolutely I agree with you about other helmet makers building great head protection. My friend was wearing a Shoei when he flew head first into a concrete barrier many years ago. The helmet split completely in two and he was in a coma for an extended time, but is alive today thanks to a helmet that wasn’t an Arai.
          I don’t know if you read the whole article (I know it’s very long winded), but I chose Arai as the winner for more than just their crash protection which is explained in the body of the piece.
          I would certainly welcome a similar tour through the Schuberth factory. That might actually be the best comparison now that I think about it, since their shell construction process involves computer cut strands of fiber if I recall correctly. It would be excellent to see how they do in the FIA crash testing too.

        2. I can’t get behind a flip up helmet, from a safety point of view. If I can flip it up with my hand, I’m sure hitting the pavement at 100 km/h can do the same.

          1. No question the full face design is the safest. That’s why Arai still hasn’t produced a modular I suppose. If anyone can build one just as strong as a full face it’s got to be Arai.

  1. Jim,
    Thank you for working this article, especially in a way that broke down the technical jargon to easy to understand info. I have owned 2 helmets in my riding time, and need to purchase my third, which will be my second Arai. This article has reinforced why it needs to be an Arai.

    1. Hi Kris!

      Thank you for taking the time to read this creation of mine. I have to break through the tech talk to understand it myself, so it comes naturally. hahaha. I don’t doubt for a moment you’ll regret buying another Arai. Which one are you leaning towards?

  2. Great fun reading it. Let’s see if other manufacturers take up the challenge and let you in their secretive world… Schuberth would be great fun to visit!

    1. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it Zoltan! I completely agree. I’d love to see Schuberth’s factory and spend time speaking with their reps. It would make an excellent comparison piece since they use an opposite approach to creating their shells than Arai does. Very computer driven designs from what I understand of it. I think I’ll reach out to their rep and see if we can make it happen this year. We’re already looking at visiting Shoei additionally. What a showdown that will be, eh?

      1. As soon as I saw authors name/beard and a word helmet in the title I knew it will be a good article. It took me all morning and during the day on&off to read through the article. But it is worth it. It just confirms what I already learned from all other sources and my own experience. Thanks for sharing.

        1. Hi Mantas!

          Thanks for the kind words and using your leisure time to read this write up. I’m very happy with how it turned out and hope to do more like it going forward.

    1. I’d really love an XD4 as well! I’ve been told that much like other Arai helmets it’s not the quietest compared to Shoei or Schuberth, but it’s been so popular over many years that I’m sure its other great qualities make up for a tad more wind sounds.

      1. Bought my first Arai, the XD-4, at the start of last season. I love it. Definitely not the quietest, but I wear earplugs almost 100% of the time. All my road helmets are gone and I have just the XD-4 left. I did a mini review on my not-quite-a-blog if people are interested. Likely won’t say anything that WbW hasn’t already reported.

        1. Mark if you live somewhere warm enough to ride all year we might want you to do some reviews for us. Did you know we’re looking for a new reviewer? You should apply.

          1. Hi Jim. Doing reviews sounds like fun but I’m in Ontari-ari-ari-o and the bike is away for the season. 🙁

            To be fair (queue the Letterkenny fans) if I had a garage (I store my bike with my moto dealer) there have been plenty of Dec & Jan days I could have been riding. Alas, I am left obsessing over youtube tire reviews.

          2. We have another reviewer in Toronto. Let me know if you are interested in something seasonal 🙂

            At the end of the day, we’re all here to celebrate the ride.

          3. Thanks Cam! It’s actually been 33 years since I first piloted a motorcycle to be exact, but I did go a few years without riding over that time period.

            I don’t mind Jeff and the others questioning my position on this one. I admit this is pretty bold on my part and I reserve the right to be convinced/corrected through open discussion and presentation of facts. I even welcome it because wBW is about getting the truth about products like Arai. If I’ve failed to do that, I want to know in what way.

        2. When a spring falls off a car travelling 200 an hour then spring travels just as fast. In any case, Arai responded to the accident by thickening the visor by 1mm! From 5 to 6mm. As far as I can remember. Any helmet F1 drivers wear are outstanding. Those are in stratospheric price ranges too. $4000+ usually. I personally own a GP6S and about to buy Corsair X. When comparing my Arai to anything else, it makes me laugh. I won’t ever wear anything else.

          1. Hi Martin!

            Yes the FIA standard (Formula 1) is super strict considering the speeds those cars race at.

            The Corsair X looks good to me, but I haven’t worn one myself and my friends who have tell me it’s noisier than most other helmets they’ve worn. If you plan to race with it, then I suppose it’s worth getting otherwise I personally would look at some of the others that are less racing inspired designs in the Arai lineup.

          2. I don’t race, yet, but we ride fast and I don’t pity money for the best Arai there is. Corsair X.

          3. Nothing wrong with that Martin. Just thought I’d give you a heads up about the noise level since some people I’ve talked to haven’t expected that from such an expensive helmet. Happy riding!

          4. I’ve traded helmets with friends who say this is loud and this is not. Very subjective matter. I’ve personally not found too loud of a lid where others complain it is too loud to others. I guess my loud tolerance is higher than some of my friends. Or is it the helmet angle relative to the ground, position in regards to windshield, speed, etc. I adjust if smt is not good to my liking. Some helmets make noise with vents open, some with vents closed. I found helmets make noise depending on angle as well. Not too worried. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          5. I completely agree Martin. I don’t wear earplugs when I ride and it’s not too often helmet noise bothers me, while others complain even with earplugs in.
            When I test helmets now I make sure to stand up on the pegs to get my head up into “clean air” and then tilt my head to see in what position it’s the quietest.

            One thing I’m going to begin doing is inserting a small lapel microphone in the ear pocket of helmets I’m testing to see how they register on an audio recording app on my cell phone. That way I can take the ambiguity out of my testing and then compare actual sound numbers between helmets. It should help clarify which ones really are quieter… I hope.

  3. I would absolutely love to buy an Arai full face. Unfortunately they don’t offer anything that fits my very large skull. Even my go-to brand Shoei only offers one helmet in my size anymore, the 3XL RF-1200 (which used to be known as the 2XL until they changed their sizing). Aside from that I’m left with the lower tier brands.

    1. That’s got to be such a pain, Bob. Certainly not a problem I’ve ever had since I’m on the short side of average height.

      Nothing wrong with the RF1200 and Shoei in general would likely be my second choice overall.

    1. If you scroll down to the Q&A portion you’ll see that I asked specifically about a modular helmet. They’re developing one now, but won’t release it until it performs just as good as their other helmets in impact testing. That’s a tall order to fill…

      1. ‘A tall order to fill’…

        Just a tad! How could any modular be as structurally sound as a full-face.

        1. I really don’t know what they’ll come up with, but I wish they had been willing to show me where they were at during the tour. They did show me many things that I couldn’t photograph or share in this piece but the modular prototype wasn’t one of them. lol

  4. Excellent article and reveal of how these helmets are actually made. The attitude of Arai toward producing the best protective helmets, regardless of cost is why they will be around for a long time. People have many reasons behind their purchasing decisions but owning the best is always desirable.

  5. I have one Aria helmet for my wife. Personally I am a Shoei/Schuberth/Bell fullface helmet purchaser and wearer. My love for professional motorcycle racing as a fan and being an avid street rider these days, makes me wear what the professionals use. After reading your article I will seriously consider Aria as my next replacement. Shokunin is something we all can strive to achieve in life.

    1. Hi Mark!

      Thanks for taking the time to read and leave some feedback. If after spending time wearing great helmets like Shoei and Schuberth you opt for an Arai that would be quite a ringing endorsement. It’s very possible you’ll stick with what’s already been working for you. I find it very frustrating that i can’t get a comfortable fit in a Schuberth C4 C3 or C4 Pro despite a great desire to review one of their helmets. I like the finishing touches and design aspects of their helmets a lot. I’m thinking that I’d like to tour their facility next, in fact.

  6. Fascinating read, and a good validation for my choices over the past twenty five or so years. Spent my first 12 years on what ever 3/4 open face I could get for the least $$ as it was only worn where the law required it. Then I October 84 I found myself in California at a wedding and had to return to Utah to work. Hadn’t worn a hat down as well it was the long way around Co, N.M. Az Ca…. Borrowed a Bell Star from my cousin to come home in and rode it until December in Utah before he demanded i ship it back, so I moved on to a succession of Shoei’s and mid 90’s move to Arai. All of my Arai’s have been to me at least, NOISY wind wise, ear plugs tame the wind noise a small price to pay for some of the best venting I’ve experienced. Nice when riding hi deserts in the summer. had a couple Rx7RR Corsairs, a Quantum X and am currently in a Vector 2 Solid, next will likely be an XD4. Looked at the modular helmets but they all seemed noticeably heavier than any of my Arai’s so…. no reason to change. Especially after I stopped smoking… 😉

    1. I love it John. I was the same way when I first got into street riding. Whenever I bought a bike second hand I would insist on taking the seller’s helmet with the bike. They almost never fit correctly because of that.
      I’ve come a long way since those days and value my health more now in my 40s. I want to have many more years of motorcycle riding in my future before I park the bike for good. The right gear will play a big part in that I think.

      Thanks for the feedback and sharing your memories. You should have kept that Bell, it’d be a collector item today!

  7. I’m sure Arai makes great helmets, but I’m afraid you’ve been victimized by the “factory tour curse.”

    For most of my career, I worked for companies that sold construction and industrial products. I’ve probably toured 100 factories. Every manufacturer worth its salt puts on a great show that not only demonstrates they make a competitive product — but why it’s unquestionably superior to all other choices.

    Power tool companies, for example, love to show you “demos” where their saws cut though stuff faster than the other guy’s saws. In fact, the other guy’s saw is practically burning up while the star of the show is ready to do it again. The yellow saw isn’t just BETTER than the blue saw — it’s no contest!

    A week later, you’re at the blue saw factory…and you see another demo. This demo is a little different, but for some reason — WOW, that blue saw DESTROYS the yellow saw! What the hell?

    This summarizes 30 years of factory visits.

    Companies put a lot of resources into making sure these factory visits are extremely persuasive. Additionally, I think they believe most of it. These are passionate, smart, hard-working, driven and competitive professionals who truly want to make a superior product.

    However…their competitors are the same way. And, since there are various technical approaches to solving the same problem, all of which have positives and negatives, EVERYONE can claim their product is the best. AND, they can create demos and factory tours to prove it!

    I don’t have a problem with you proclaiming one brand of helmet is the best. But I DO have a problem with you doing so based on touring the factory of ONE brand. In my long experience, they mixed up some very compelling Kool-Aid and you drank it.

    If I worked for a competing brand (I do not work in the industry), I’d be pretty upset. You think you have identified the best helmet in the world. That’s entirely unproven in my view. What I see for sure is that you’ve been blinded by the Arai “factory tour curse.”

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    1. Hi Ian!
      I appreciate your experience and input on this and I agree with what you wrote for the most part. My goal going to Arai was to cut through the “kool-aid” propaganda to find the truth and I feel I did because I’m not basing the decision solely on my feelings or my interpretation of the product performance.

      The crash data was there to see in the video and it was about the same as a different model of Arai helmet I saw tested at the Snell Memorial Foundation back in September. The people at Snell told me that Arai helmets do perform exceptionally well in crash and penetration testing.

      I saw the Arai helmet in Japan fall from 5 meters onto the hemispherical anvil and pass one aspect of the FIA standard by registering under 275 G. Yes I’m sure Arai showed me tests they knew would be the most impressive while avoiding showcasing areas where they don’t do as well, but the truth remains the truth of how great those high points are.

      They claim there’s no other helmet to earn ECE 22.05 and Snell certification than theirs. That seems to be factual from what I found and more evidence of how well rounded Arai helmets are when it comes to protection.

      Then there’s the FIM Gold Medal Award to consider. Do you feel FIM representatives were fooled as well as I was with a tour of the Arai factory? Isn’t it more likely true that the world-renowned motorcycle racing foundation knows and recognizes Arai helmets have made an exceptional contribution to racing safety? Arai is the only company to receive that award to this point despite the fact most helmet manufacturers have sponsored racers and are great in their own right.

      Yep I have often said similar things you have here about reviews like this one. I am naturally a skeptic and I’ve only toured the Arai factory thus far so keep an eye on me going forward because I do plan on reaching out to Shoei, Schuberth, Shark, AGV, Nolan, Bell, Scorpion and any other manufacturer who is willing to have me come around and compare their operation to Arai’s. Believe me if I see something more or less convincing I’ll share it.

      1. Hi Jim,

        I guess I should have followed the comments here — sorry for the delayed reply.

        I read about the FIM Gold Medal Award. In absolutely no way does this award explicitly or implicitly say that Arai makes the best helmets. It looks more like a “lifetime achievement award” for Mr. Arai. Well deserved, I’m sure, but when I read your comment, I assumed it was about helmets. It’s not.

        FIM says Mr. Arai won the award for his “achievement in contributions to the safety of many riders and numerous advancements to motorcycle sports over many years.” You are really stretching to twist this into some type of a “best helmet” award.

        Regarding the ECE 22.05 and Snell awards — the former is only required in Europe and, according to Revzilla: “While the DOT and SNELL testing allows a technician to strike a helmet anywhere within a range, ECE tests require the strikes at fixed points. This leaves open the possibility of helmet manufacturers ‘gaming the system’ and beefing up protection at those points to pass an unsafe helmet.” ECE certainly doesn’t sound like much of a standard.

        I know you want to justify giving Arai the “best helmet in the world award” even though it’s the only helmet factory you toured — which, to me, seems extremely unfair to other manufacturers — but your arguments about FIM and ECE don’t support your case.


        1. I’d say helmet legislation in UK is a joke

          For example,
          To do a track day you need a helmet with an Acu gold sticker.

          What tests are performed on the helmets, by who?

          You can buy stickers online.

          1. I think that’s why it’s important not to trust just one certifying group when picking your next helmet. Ideally, I’d buy the one with multiple certifications.

        2. I didn’t ever say that the FIM award was about helmet excellence nor did I say Arai is the best helmet in the world. I noted that it was surprising to see a helmet manufacturer receive this award as it stood in contrast to previous winners. My exact quote from the piece is this:
          “Further proof of this came in 2019 when Arai was the first riding gear manufacturer ever to be presented with the Gold Medal award from FIM for providing a lasting contribution to motorcycle racing.” If it’s so easy to dismiss the Gold Medal Award as irrelevant why hasn’t any other helmet manufacturer received it? Shoei has made a lasting contribution to racing, as have many other manufacturers. Dainese comes to mind, yet they don’t have this award.
          The point I’m making here is there’s a strong body of evidence to show Arai builds the safest helmets because: they’re the only helmet company to receive the Gold Medal and manufacturer to build a helmet to pass ECE and Snell certification. There’s also plenty of anecdotal evidence out there from people who have survived crashes wearing Arai helmets. By and large, you’ll find it difficult to get anyone with any strong credibility to say Arai helmets aren’t top shelf when it comes to protection.

          ECE is an excellent standard and there’s no proof of them gaming the system. I mention the possibility of that happening, but it’s never been proven to be the case.
          I think I was very clear in saying I’m in favor of all helmets passing as many standards as possible in a perfect world. I stand by that.

          There are also other strong contenders out there— no argument from me on that! What I’m building is a collection of articles like this one to showcase what makes the other builders a great option as well and in what ways. This is the Arai one. It appears to be the safest option for the reasons stated above.

          I can’t wait to tour the Shoei factory and write that one next! The title will be “Shoei is the Helmet to Buy”. Maybe I’ll change my mind after that, but perhaps I’ll find why Shoei is the helmet to buy for other reasons than safety? Wait and see.

        3. You mention DOT testing. You are aware, I am sure, that the DOT certification is little more than a joke. SNELL is considered the best. For some reason you seem imply that Arai are nothing special. Well, that is your opinion and you are entitled to it but testing agencies around the world and also independent testing would suggest differently. There are several brands of helmet at the high end who offer the highest levels of safety and Arai is right at the top. By all means you use a DOT certified helmet if you wish but I would suggest you watch this video first from the well respected Fortnine.

          1. Hi Michael!

            Ok there’s actually way more to this helmet safety standard thing than immediately meets the eye. That’s what I’ve found out after spending the last 3 years researching it carefully.

            Like you I used to say freely and confidently that Snell was the best and highest standard because for about 40 years that really was the case. DOT is an outdated and lower standard than Snell is— that is completely clear, but DOT isn’t a worthless standard even though Ryan F9 might seem to say it is.
            Ryan isn’t a helmet safety expert. He’s an insightful reviewer who I find entertaining, but I would caution against taking what he shows in that video as absolute truth. He did a nice job researching DOT for that video, but his pool of knowledge hardly stacks up against the 60 years Snell has been researching what makes a good standard and what doesn’t. So bearing in mind that you, me and Ryan all think highly of the Snell standard would you agree their opinion of DOT would hold more weight than say Ryan’s or mine?

            I’ve visited the Snell Memorial Foundation and spent most of the day grilling the people there about safety standards, including DOT. Snell’s Executive Director Ed Becker (who has been with them since 1989) told me personally that DOT isn’t useless IF helmets actually meet the standards set out.
            In reality the main problem with the DOT standard is that manufacturers can self-certify their helmets as being DOT even when they aren’t up to snuff. It’s not necessarily that true DOT worthy helmets don’t afford any protection. DOT helmets can save lives, but when the crash is severe or unusual in nature that’s when the higher Snell standard helmet will protect significantly better. See my article about all this for more information

            Ok here’s the really weird part: the actual helmet experts disagree on what a good standard and testing regimen should entail. That’s why we’re suddenly seeing brands like Shoei back away from Snell certification and Klim snub it altogether in favor of ECE and FIM. Then there’s SHARP and BSA… I think you get what I’m saying here.

            Ed Becker actually had more criticism for ECE testing than he did for DOT! And yet you’ll find a company like Klim saying that ECE is preferable than Snell.

            So what’s the truth in all this? It’s really hard to say for sure and that’s why I’m still firm in saying I want a helmet that will meet more than one standard on my head in any case. Not just Snell, not just DOT or ECE, FIM, etc. I want a helmet that most any expert agrees will do the job in protecting my brain when called upon.

    2. Ian Heller I had the same observation and came here to post a similar reply as yours, but your post is undoubtedly more clear and concise than mine would have been. Thanks for the personal insight regarding factory tour bias.

      1. Hi Greg!

        Thanks for chiming in. I’m always willing to listen to contrary views and consider them since any well thought out position is respectable even if I disagree.

        What I read from both yours and Ian’s response is quite simply “I don’t believe it.” Neither of you have responded with a counterargument to dismiss any of the facts or data presented either in the article or my comment above. Feel free to explain how you dismiss the FIM Gold Medal Award if nothing else.

        I completely understand your skepticism and I’ll freely admit you both could in reality be correct while I’m wrong. Perhaps I was fooled, but tell me specifically about what, please.
        I wrote this piece with a great deal of trepidation because I never call anything “the best”, because I don’t like absolutes.

        Arai is not necessarily the best helmet. But, Arai (from what I can tell) seems the helmet to buy if safety is your primary concern.

        It’s a shame this COVID-19 business hit because I’m supposed to be writing my comparison piece right now of a tour of Shoei I set up, but had to cancel.

        I’ll be sure to approach that tour with the same attitude, and as I mentioned in the article if they show me evidence to suggest their helmets are more protective than Arai’s I’ll retract what I wrote in this piece.

        My hunch is that Shoei helmets are very close if not basically the same when it comes to protection, but that they’ve changed their path from prioritizing protection at any speed to limiting their level of protection to more “realistic” levels. I suspect they’ve decided comfort and quietness are a good trade off for being able to transmit under 275 Gs in a 5 meter drop test (just as an example).

        We shall see.

  8. Hey Jim…

    Thanks for the interesting read. At the moment I have three helmets. A Bell Qualifier, a Bell Star Carbon, and an Arai Corsair V 2014. The Arai adorns the Drudi Performance 1199 Panigale Desmo technical drawings… a sight to behold!

    The Bell Qualifier… meh, it’s a budget lid. The Bell Star Carbon is a good helmet, however it’s no match for the Arai Corsair V. The Arai just 100$ more.

    I cannot report on either helmet’s Safety Performance… have never been involved in a serious crash… What I can tell you though is that the Arai is my go-to lid… hands down. It is so light and fits so good, that most of the time I forget that I’m wearing it…

    Cheers and Ride Safe!!!

    1. Hi John,

      I feel the same way wearing my DTX. I’ve heard the Corsair is quite a loud helmet, but I’m keen on wearing one regardless.

      An interesting note I didn’t include in this piece is about Bell helmets. Back in the 70s (I believe that’s what he said) Mr. Arai was watching Bell products carefully because he was quite impressed with their design and focus on safety of the wearer in a crash. Sadly that interest waned after ownership of the company changed hands several times up until today. Mr. Arai doesn’t feel Bell has gone the way he would have liked them to now.

  9. Jim,
    Not sure, love the feel of open face, but like the protection of full face.
    Step one will be to get to the Arai dealer near me and find out head shape and start trying them on.


    1. Definitely important to get a trained helmet salesperson or Arai rep to fit you properly. It makes all the difference.

      I find going to bike shows is a good way to get this done if you can. The International Motorcycle Shows tour all over North America and you’ll find the actual Arai reps there instead of someone just trying to sell you a helmet.

      1. That’s a really good idea. I was at the DC show and it was an unimpressive affair, I’m glad I went because I discovered the Regent-X

        I was all set to replace my RX-Q and lamenting the change away from the plush velour like liner of the old Quantum2. The Arai rep immediately suggested the new Regent-X as it has the softer liner. He also mentioned its more commuting oriented and is better suited to one taking it on and off frequently because of its wider shell opening.

        I wear two helmets an Arai and a Nolan modular. There is no question that the Arai is the more comfortable and protective of the two but I love convenience of a modular since I wear glasses and it’s easier to put on.

        I will say you did fall for the “Factory Tour Curse” but unlike the other shills out there you’re genuinely convinced that Arai makes the best helmet and willing to admit it’s your opinion. Thanks for the long winded reviews and looks like wBw is safe in the hands of folks like you and Wade. Ride safe – I fear we are enthusiasts of a dying industry.

        1. Hi Boyd!

          I appreciate your comments, thank you for chiming in. I have a Nolan N100-5 in my collection that I reviewed last year. Up until getting my Arai DT-X it was the helmet I found the most comfortable though it was hard to pick it over my AGV Sportmodular Carbon. I know what you’re saying about modular helmets. I really like having the option to flip them open, though I don’t wear glasses.

          I unbelievably didn’t take the opportunity yet to try on the Regent X while at the factory and I regret that. They told me the liner in the Regent X is not of the same caliber of cooling/wicking as the usual fare found in the more expensive Arai helmets. That’s interesting you prefer it over the fancier ones. Now I need to make the time to try one on asap.

          The factory tour curse you and a couple of other people have mentioned I feel may more reflect my enthusiasm for all things motorcycle more than it does having the wool pulled over my eyes in my opinion. You see, before I went to Japan I was already pretty certain Arai or Shoei made the helmets I would first recommend to anyone, but I wanted to see whether the people who design and build them were what I thought they were. I confirmed that during my visit when I saw what I did going into building their product.

          When I tour other facilities going forward I’ll share the same enthusiasm for the good things they do just as readily, and I’ll be looking for what makes them different and the same as Arai.

  10. I’ve worn Arai helmets for the past 10 years, mostly because they fit my narrow head better than other brands. But I had read about the Arai culture and ethos, and decided the helmets were not only worth the money, but that buying them helped support a way of thinking and living that is becoming more and more rare–of personal commitment and even personal honor. Thank you for this deep dive into the Arai world.

    1. Brian you just summed up the way I feel about Arai helmets perfectly in one paragraph. Nailed it perfectly in fact. Thank you for that. I hope they never compromise, but I imagine the pressure to do so must be mounting.

  11. Excellent article. My current helmet is a Shoei and I am glad to see you hold it in high regard as well. Didn’t think I would spend 10 minutes reading an article about helmets today but glad I did!

    1. Hahaha thanks Sean! I do really appreciate Shoei’s products. They’re lovely to wear even if they tend to be on the narrow side for my round oval head more often than not.
      The Shoei GT Air II in particular is one of my favourite helmets. It’s very quiet, lightweight, comfortable and fits me perfectly with a thinner crown liner installed in it. It has the integrated sun visor that I love and holds a Sena SRL2 system that works great too. It’s everything I enjoy in a helmet, but it’s not Snell approved and it has a rubbery coating on the shell along with some ridges and grooves that could drag in a crash.
      Shoei still builds Snell approved helmets at this point and I know they protect well in a crash, but I get the sense they’re moving away from Snell certification and sadly their newest lids don’t seem as focused on reaching the highest level of protection as they used to be. They used to be right there step for step with Arai. This trend bothers me especially from what I feel is the next best helmet builder to Arai (though Schuberth is high on my list as well).
      Anyway, I’m just repeating myself from what I wrote in the article. I appreciate your time in giving me feedback and giving your time to read my ranting. Cheers!

  12. Hi great write up!! I own an Arai VZ-Ram-Plus (Aka Ram-X in USA ). And in the past an Arai GP-5s for auto racing.

    But have you noticed the price difference between Japan and USA? It’s quite huge. I paid about 40,000 yen ($360 usd) and in the states it would cost $600+ . Not sure if this question was every brought up on your visit there

    1. Hi Davis!

      No I didn’t actually talk pricing. It never occurred to me Arai helmets might cost less in Japan. What a bargain at $360 USD for a quality helmet. Thanks for letting me know about this. I’ll be sure to keep it in mind when I do future factory tours.

  13. Interesting and informative article, I agree with Ian Heller that a factory tour will be very one-sided and I hope other manufacturers extended you an invitation to tour their factories. Would like to see the “replace a helmet every 5-10 years” mantra disappear, the comfort liner may need replacing but the EPS and fibreglass/Kevlar /carbon fiber shell will last a lifetime. The idea that the helmets worn by MotoGP racers are the best for street riding should also be trashed, racetracks have no trees, concrete curbs, lamp posts, parked cars, etc. into which your head can smash.

    1. Hi Florin!

      Thank you for adding to the dialogue. I did contact Shoei before I went to Japan asking to tour their factory while I was there, but it wasn’t possible at that time. They do seem willing to let me or one of our other reviewers in with more notice though, and that is going to happen at some point because I think their helmets aren’t far behind Arai from what I’ve seen. I haven’t reached out yet to any other manufacturers about doing a similar piece to this one, but I recognize the need to do that in order to better gauge whether I need to change my Arai recommendation. I think I left myself a way out of this in this article by saying that I’m willing to change my mind if presented with a better product.

      Yes it may seem premature choosing Arai after only touring their factory, but that’s not exactly the whole story.
      I’ve also toured the Snell Memorial Foundation and seen them test Arai helmets there. I spent plenty of hours interviewing their team and in particular Ed Becker their Chief Engineer. They have been independently testing helmets for 60 years and so I put a lot of stock in what they shared with me. Arai echoes what Snell says and vice versa. That’s very difficult to ignore I think you would agree, but I certainly recognize other newer groups and organizations question what Arai and Snell insist is reality. At this point though, I am more inclined to be in the Arai/Snell camp.

      Ed Becker told me that the 5 year replacement rule is based on research their founder Dr. Snively did using retired California Highway Patrol helmets. They found some helmets 12 years old were totally fine when tested, while others that were only 2 years old didn’t pass testing standards. Because of the results from that research they decided to go with the average age of the helmets that still were passing testing to be on the safe side. That was the 5 year mark, though they admit it depends almost entirely on how the helmet was treated by the owner over time. Specifically they say quite often people damage the EPS liner unintentionally which totally compromises the helmet’s ability to protect. The shell still looks fine on the outside most of the time.

      Yes I agree with you about racing helmets. They’re specifically purpose built and not the best for average street riders from what I know about them.

  14. Before you gush over a single brand and its approach to safety and quality, you should talk to some experts, such as David Thom from the Hurt Report, and hear some concerns about helmets that are built for The Big Hit and how they perform in more common and typical impacts.

    There is also the issue of comfort. I have owned a few Arais and worn many more — though not all the current models. None of them were comfortable enough on my head for a long day of riding.

    1. Keep in mind that Jim has been a rider for 20 years (or more), seen how SNELL tests helmets first hand, and been to the Arai factory. I’d say his position comes from one of experience, no?

    2. Hi Jeff!

      You bet I should talk to experts and read the Hurt Report along with the Blowing the Lid Off Snell article from Dexter Ford. I actually have read those both and I see where the rationale behind their thinking makes sense. That doesn’t mean they’re 100% correct in my mind, but neither does it mean the opposite view of the hard shell philosophy from Snell and Arai is wrong. From what I’ve seen and what I wrote in my piece about my tour of Snell there are things that don’t add up for me in both camps. Both work, but as you say building for “the big hit” does cost you a bit on the more common “lower speed” impacts. The data I saw though indicates the loss of protection is quite small on the Snell and Arai certified helmets. You’ll find my analysis of this in this article:
      When it comes to fit and comfort I totally get your concern with Arai. I find some people just can’t wear certain brands comfortably. For me it’s Schuberth and it makes me really upset, since I like their helmets and want to review them. More and more I want to do a tour and article with them to see whether they can help me fit their helmets somehow.
      Have you had an actual Arai rep try and fit you in their helmets or just tried a few on off of a store shelf?

  15. Jim,
    An in-depth review for sure. Well done. I wore Arai Quest for 15yrs. I needed something lighter and switched to a Shoei modular. BTW I know that is not an Arai in your headshot. I underminds any of your emphasis on personal safety.

    1. Thanks Dale!

      You’re correct it’s not an Arai in my headshot, but neither am I riding a motorcycle. It’s a Polaris Slingshot I was driving when that photo was taken and it’s equipped with a roll cage. They’re still classified a “motorcycle” here in Alberta so helmet use is mandated by the government, but in other places the Slingshot is considered a car and no helmet is required. Interesting, eh?
      I did wear that helmet for a few years about 8 years ago, but I don’t anymore while I’m riding because I’ve grown wiser with age. I’ve left the photo there out of laziness mainly and perhaps it’s time to switch it out with something new.

  16. Very good points there Jeff.
    So far I also haven’t found a comfortable Arai for my head shape. But Snell approved Shoei works like a treat. So I am keeping eyes open on new Arai products, but continue to enjoy Shoei. And been to Schubert camp for a while.

    1. Well it appears the Schuberth factory is located in Magdeburg, Germany. I have relatives living near Braunschweig which is only an hour away.

      The stars are lining up for an imminent wBW/Schuberth factory tour article it seems…

      I’ll definitely get something done with Shoei too if we can swing both financially in the near future.

  17. Great article. I am, at the moment wearing my first non Arai helmet. I wish I had just gone that extra mile and paid for another. I will soon, but that means I will also have to buy my wife one, if she can still ride, after a few years lay off

    1. Hi Ron!

      I won’t even pretend that I (just like you) don’t hesitate at the prospect of spending $1000 on an Arai helmet— and I know first hand they’re worth the money. I don’t blame you or anyone for trying out something else to test the waters, so to speak. In a way it’s good because as you point out it’s really only then that you realize how good you had it before, eh?

      I hope your wife is able to ride too when the time is right for her. Cheers and take care.

  18. I enjoyed the article and the videos reinforced the need to have a helmet that go beyond the Snell rating for safety. My full face helmets have all been HJC Snell rated. After taking time out read and view your article, my next purchase will be an Arai. I will save up some money for that purpose. I was very impressed with the Hand Craftsmenship and attention to Human element involved with the making these helmets. I understand now why the price tag is the way that it is, and deservingly so. Perhaps you will be privileged to visit other helmet manufacters in the future and present similar articles.

    1. Hi Nathaniel!

      I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the read and it made you think.
      Other helmet manufacturers hand build their products with a lot of care and attention similar to Arai. I was told by the Arai reps that the founder Hirotake Arai was so highly regarded for his work with fiberglass that the founder of Shoei actually spent time learning from Hirotake to help make his Shoei fiberglass helmets. I wasn’t able to confirm this fact, but I suspect it’s true. If you go to Shoei’s website there’s a section there that has photos of their shells being built by hand in their factory. I have a lot of respect for their products too.
      Schuberth is another builder who uses people to build their products. They rely on technology more heavily in their process than Arai does from what I’ve heard, but the attention to detail is still there.
      These are the next two helmet manufacturers I hope to visit and write similar stories about. I just sent an email to our Schuberth contact today to find out if it’s even possible.
      After those two I’m not sure where I’d like to go. Shark helmets is based in France and Simpson in Texas. Those would be great as a follow up. Scorpion is also on my list to see how a lower priced helmet compares to these premium ones. I like Scorpion and Simpson because they tend to value Snell certification as well.

      1. HI Jim

        I’ve been wearing the Schuberth C3 now for 7 years and have had to replace the “visor mechanism” piece twice due to a weak point in the design. They identify this piece as a “visor” mechanism but it is an essential component to the modular section. Without this mechanism not only is the visor no longer able to remain on the helmet but the lower section of the modular will come apart from the area of the mechanism. Poor design for such an expensive helmet. And the bad part about it all, try getting a replacement part from dealers in North America or even Schuberth North America. Three weeks waiting for this part! If you’re going to visit Schuberth pay attention to this weak point of their C3 helmet and ask why this component isn’t better designed since it does more than hold the visor in place!!! Schuberth claims the problem with mechanisms that break is the screw holding it in place may have been fastened too tight. And if that’s the case then it happened at the factory since both sides broke from factory tightened mechanisms. And then there’s the sun visor which is a task to take off without breaking the tabs holding it in place. Mine is taped to the attachment points now and I clean it in situ. Considering Arai for my next helmet. By the way how is the Arai visor for fogging up since one of the things I like about the Schuberth is their pin lock visor which prevents fogging up and here on the wet coast its essential.

  19. Great article, Jim. I got my first Arai when I began an eight year stint as a motorcycle messenger (dispatch rider) in Los Angeles, 1994. I tried on other makes every so often, and even replaced one with a Shoei for about a week before returning to Arai.
    For me there is only one helmet maker.

    1. Hi Paul!

      Wearing an Arai is enough to convince most people from what I see. The brand loyalty is obvious and I think the only reason buyers stray from them is the desire to wear a modular helmet most often.
      Arai is planning on issuing demo helmets to their dealerships in order to win over new customers. That’s a shrewd move and should bring more people over from other brands.

  20. Hi Jim – This is the best article I have ever read about helmets – I personally started riding in 1967, and have owned at least 20 helmets over the years – My personal lids now are a 1995 RX-7 RIII, still in mint, undropped, unscratched, size M, that I let pillion riders wear, and a 2005 Profile size XS, also mint, that fits me perfectly, that I absolutely LOVE. I have tried on literally dozens of major brand name helmets and have never found any that were even close to the quality, and fit, of my Profile… I have that hard to fit Long Oval head shape, that so few makers have the right shape for. I will never ride without a top of the line Arai on my head. In fact, I have my Profile on right now, typing this, as it’s pouring rain outside in Burnaby, BC., and I needed to have the feel of my favourite ever helmet on my head. This spring I will purchase a new Arai, even though both of my current Arai’s appear to be in great shape. What model 2020 most fits like my Profile?

    1. Hi W. Ric Caley! Greetings from Airdrie, Alberta!

      You’re lucky it’s raining over there and can still ride. My bikes are in hibernation for a while longer, sadly. I’m actually looking at taking a trip out to Vancouver soon to check out the Damon motorcycles that will be built there. If you go to the Vancouver motorcycle show this weekend you can see them there.

      Wow you have been riding a LONG TIME, eh?! Good for you. I hope I can keep going that long.

      The Signet X would be the best current Arai helmet for a long oval head shape as far as I’m aware.

      Thank you for the kind words. I’m very happy to hear this piece was so enjoyable for you. Cheers!

  21. Thanks for the input about the Signet-X
    I will check it out at the MC Show
    If it fits, I’ll definitely buy one.
    Just sold my Interceptor, and might buy another Ducati… I loved my S2R-1000, that I had 2008-2010, and miss every time I think about Ducati’s, or hear one ride by. The V4 Streefighter is my top choice… I used to run 10.85 secs on the 1/4 mile with my heavily modded Monster at 118 mph!
    Can’t wait to see what 200+ HP on a Ducati feels like! But I’ll need a 2020 Snell lid for that!
    Keep up the great tests… It was wBw that had me buy my first Arai and taught me about proper fit for my weird head shape, and led to the Profile when I bought my 2006 Monster…

  22. I’ll be at the show for sure – as I sold my Interceptor V-4, and now I’m addicted to V-4’s and expect to buy the new Ducati V-4 Streetfighter – my last Duc was the 2006 S2R-1000 that I had heavily modded and lightened and ran a best of 10.85 at 118 mph on the strip – I anticipate needing a 2020 Snell lid to race with this year and will try on the new Signet X at the show.
    It was WebBikeWorld that taught me about the proper fitting of quality helmets in 2006 ( thanks to Rick Korchuk) when I bought my Ducati SR2R-1000 new… I loved that Duc and as much, I Loved the Arai ! Hoping to see low 10’s, possibly high 9’s this year – My 2008 ZX-14 ran a best 10.12 at 145 mph, in stock condition. I have run the 1/4 since 1969 when I first ran a Norton 750 Trackmaster framed Flat-track bike back in my home town Winnipeg way back in 1970…Just a kid having fun racing, with the original Bell Star full-face helmet on my head. I can’t wait to get out to the Bike show!

    1. We owe what we are today to Rick K and his great reviews. I still go back and read his stuff to know which direction to take mine.

      That Ducati Streetfighter has got my eye as well. My local dealer has promised me a demo of it this year FINALLY as I haven’t gotten out on any Ducati bike other than the Multistrada 1260S (which I loved!). There’s something truly delicious about a V4 engine that can hit high revs! I also like V2 bikes for the same reason, but that V4 roar is in a class of its own. I’m not sure I can resist putting the Streetfighter in my garage this year either. I have my Ninja H2SX SE and love it, but I’m selling it in the spring to long term test something new. I’m looking at the Honda CBR1000RRR SP, the Ducati Streetfighter and the Triumph Rocket III GT as the front runners.

      I think I may have to look you up when I get out to Vancouver to check out the Damon motorcycles. I’ll send you an email directly if you like the idea of that. I’d love to hear more about your riding adventures in person.

  23. I got “converted” to an Arai believer back in 2008 when a dealer let me ride in one before purchasing. I had a Quantum II and a Vector followed by an RX-Q. The RX-Q was my last Arai helmet. The liner was basically an embarrassment for a helmet that expensive. I still have my old Vector around and while it was at the lower end of Arai’s line at the time the materials are positively luxurious. The RX-Q interior was coarse, ugly, and a seam left a dent in my forehead after riding in it that took days to go away. After a few years I replaced it with an RPHA 10. I wore than one out and now I have 3 helmets in rotation. A Scorpion 410 and 710 and an RPHA ST. Both Scorpions are Snell rated and the RPHA is not probably due to the internal sun visor that is very handy for touring. I don’t doubt that Arai makes a very safe helmet. You have presented evidence that Arai makes a great helmet. You have presented no evidence that compares it to others so declaring it the best is just opinion based on anecdotal evidence. I used to be able to make the argument that buying a high end helmet at least bought you more features and more comfort. That is no longer true. My EXO-R410 is more comfortable than my last Arai being poly though it’s a bit heavy. Just for giggles I weighed all my helmets the other day. My Arai was the lightest by an ounce or two, closely followed by the RHPA 10 and the EXO-R710. When you are putting something that weighs in the neighborhood of 3 and a half pounds on your head, I am not sure a few ounces matters for comfort. Aerodynamics is probably more important.

    1. Hi Robert!

      Great points you make and I respect your experience with several helmets.
      My evidence is partially anecdotal, but as mentioned in other responses I’ll point out a few important distinctions between some Arai helmets (not all models qualify I admit) and any other helmet on the market.
      1 – There are a couple of Arai helmets that meet both ECE 22.05 and Snell certification. No other helmet maker can claim that. Not Scorpion or Shoei as good as they both are.
      2 – FIM Gold Medal Award. No other helmet manufacturer has been recognized by FIM for their contribution to racing safety, but Arai has.
      3 – SHARP- an independent safety organization has tested several Arai helmets and (though one scored a paltry 2 star score) the majority are 3 stars and up. Notably, a couple are 5 star rated. Scorpion averages very high across the SHARP board as well. Most are 3 stars and up with even a few 4 star scores (including your 410 which is impressive!)… but there are no 5 star models.

      So none of the above is anecdotal but factual information that helped me arrive at my controversial decision proclaiming Arai as my recommendation. Is it worth twice the money or more than a Scorpion helmet like your 410? I would still say it is to me, because the Arai helmets I’ve worn have been more comfortable than the Scorpion helmets I’ve tried to this point.
      You’ll be interested to hear that I just confirmed a visit in April to the Shoei factory where I will have the chance to spotlight the great work they’ve done there to produce some excellent helmets. I’m looking forward to seeing whether their tour will sway me from my current champion Arai. They’ve accepted the challenge I threw out in this article where I invite every other manufacturer to show me why they make the best and safest helmets on the market.
      We’ll see what happens! I’ve reached out to Schuberth already too, and they’re looking at whether I can visit there for a similar experience.
      I promise Scorpion is another I really want to investigate further because they have always impressed me. Simpson, Nolan and AGV too.

    2. Oh one more comment on the RPHA integrated sun visor. When I toured the Snell Memorial Foundation last year I asked Ed Becker if those features automatically void Snell certification and he said it didn’t right away, but that the majority of helmets they’ve tested with that feature have failed their impact testing due to the void needed in the EPS foam to house the lens.

      1. I read that article and found it very informative. People like to say Snell won’t certify modular helmets or ones with drop down visors when the truth is no one is submitting ones that will pass. My RPHA ST is my first helmet with the internal visor and first non Snell helmet. Older eyesight and touring in varying light conditions made me decide to try one. A rider will flip up the internal shield in conditions that will not make them pull over and change visors so I am trading some visual acuity for some crash protection. Accident avoidance and accident survival are both part of riding safety. I have no data to support whether this is a worthwhile trade off and I’m not wearing it all the time. I bought specifically for touring. My buddies wear modulars which are likely even worse.

        1. From what I understand statistically speaking in the majority of crashes a non Snell helmet will protect just as well as a Snell one will. It’s really only when velocity increases past a certain point (7 meters per second if I recall correctly) that the Snell standards benefit the wearer more, so each person needs to decide whether they want to play the odds or not.

          I fully admit to LOVING the integrated sun visors in helmets. I hate wearing sunglasses and even the transition visors don’t fully satisfy me the way the integrated ones do. There have been some Snell rated helmets that had these sun visors in them, but none are currently being produced.
          I also love wearing modular helmets, but sadly they don’t tend to protect quite as effectively as full face helmets do… especially when the chinbar is raised obviously.

    1. Hi Athanasios!

      SHARP is a great organization that I respect. You’ll be pleased to know they’re similar to us here at webbikeworld in that we’re both independent, unsponsored reviewers who publish the results of our testing and research. I’m a big fan of theirs. I’m glad to hear you are too since you’ve mentioned them.

      Which SHARP report are you referring to that disagrees somehow? I bet it’s not this one of the Arai RX-7V in which they scored it 5/5 stars as you can see here:
      That’s the same helmet I saw tested at the factory that passed one of the FIA standard tests which you can see in the video.
      Yes it’s true not all Arai helmets scored 5 stars on SHARP testing nor are all Arai helmets equally good in a crash, but the RX-7V surely did earn a perfect score as did two other Arai helmets. In fact, the average score of the 16 Arai helmets that SHARP tested is 3.5625 out of 5. Not too shabby.

      Shoei only has 13 helmets tested by SHARP, but their average score is higher at 4.1538 out of 5. That’s why I was going to do the same kind of tour with the Shoei factory last month until this COVID19 disaster unfolded. I still hope to later this year in my quest to share what I discover here on the site.

      I think I made it pretty clear in this piece that I’m open to changing my mind if and when I’m presented with different information, but so far no one has shared anything with me to sway my stance. SHARP shouldn’t be our one-stop-source for helmet choice. One viewpoint just isn’t enough to get the truth. They’re still fallible even as good as they are. I want to consider the data from more than one source to tell me which helmet is the best to buy. For now, I’m sticking with Arai as my recommendation as the one to buy if safety is your ultimate aim and I’m sure if you ask any testing institution their opinion of Arai helmets in that regard it would be high.
      Having said that, I doubt Shoei is far behind if even they are. There’s a definite chance they’re just as good or slightly better.

      Thanks for your comment.

  24. I have never seen any real-world statistical evidence proving that any one full face helmet is any safer than any other full face helmet. I say that as the owner of a Bell Star and an Arai Quantum-X, both Snell rated. The Arai seems to have better build quality than the Bell, which is made in China. Any helmet, even a bicycle helmet, is better than no helmet, in my opinion. In my state, Florida, about half the riders are going helmet-less. Obviously, a lot of riders are making bad choices. We would be saving lives if everyone wore a helmet (other than a novelty helmet).

    1. Hi Ed!

      I agree it’s difficult to say for sure one brand is safer than others, especially since model to model the protection also varies even from the same manufacturer.

      Having said that, what do you make of the fact Arai has the only helmet in existence at this point that has passed both ECE and Snell certification? Wouldn’t that be an example of real-world data to show that particular helmet might be the safest?

  25. Excellent article.
    I have crashed on the track in both an Arai and a Shoei. Similar high sides, though no dynamics are ever the same, and similar damage to the helmets.
    The Shoei left me with an egg on my forehead – but no concussion. I then switched to Arai and walked away from the next crash without even a headache.
    It is the brand I always recommend. I, too, am convinced it is the superior product though there are other excellent brands.
    I own four current models. My one gripe: I wish they were a bit lighter. After reading your piece, I understand why they are not.

    1. Hi Dan!

      I’m glad to hear your crashes were both ones you could walk away from.

      I agree the Arai helmets could be lighter, but I find them light enough still to really enjoy wearing. I’m currently testing the XD-4 adventure helmet and doing a three helmet comparison with the Shoei Hornet X2 and Klim Krios Pro. Let me tell you… it’s a dogfight between these three! All are so excellent, but the Arai is the most comfortable to wear at this point.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your point of view.

  26. I just switched from a Shoei NeoTec II to an Arai Quantum-X – not so much for safety concerns but because Arai actually provides a good selection of helmets for those of us with more “round oval” heads instead of “intermediate oval”. Wish I had known earlier that choosing a helmet isn’t just about circumference of the head, but also head shape. The Shoei produces a very painful left temple hot spot.

  27. Jim, I rarely get through an article as lengthy as this, but I’m glad I stuck with it.

    I’d love to have a conversation about what we’re up to here in the UK around motorcycle helmet safety.

    1. Hi Martin!

      Yes, I’m notoriously long-winded but I can’t help it. I love the details and have to share. I always reason that if someone is bored they can just skip ahead. Get ready for more of the same once I can get to the Shoei factory… hahaha!

      To me, the UK is leading the pack thanks to SHARP with their unbiased and detailed helmet testing. I only wish they would test more helmets including the ones from North America instead of only the European ones. If I had the money I would open a SHARP North America laboratory, but I don’t.

      I appreciate what you’re doing with the NDT helmet scanning too! Very useful services and I wonder if companies like Shoei and Arai use The Helmet Doctor when people send in helmets for assessment after a crash? My friend recently sent his Arai in to check over and was told it was good to continue using. Arai didn’t mention how they determined that and I would wager it’s difficult to do without proper scanning.

      1. Hey Jim, the data SHARP provide is exceptional when it comes to making a decision around a new helmet purchase, but there’s little support in this area for the biker once that new helmet has left the production line.

        The helmet manufacturers aren’t forthcoming when it comes to explaining how they inspect customer helmets, as your friend will testify. I suspect they simply do a visual check, like any authorised dealer would do. The problem with this is the human eye cannot detect micro fractures in the outer shell, which would lead to damage of the EPS liner. Our equipment scans to 10 nano metres (for context – that’s the size of a virus).

        We’re using technology to turn this on its head, if you pardon the pun, and provide the customer with a detailed report accompanied with a definitive answer to the question.

        Sorry, don’t mean to hijack your post.

        My next helmet will almost certainly be an Arai after reading your article.

        1. No worries Martin. I agree that I would much prefer a scientific report card on a helmet using x rays or ultrasound along with a nod from the practiced eye of an experienced helmet manufacturer representative. Have you reached out to Arai, Shoei and others to float a partnership, by chance?

  28. Hi jim

    I just stumbled across your article, it’s taken me all day to read, due to interruptions, but I kept coming back as it was so interesting. With the exception of two helmets, over 20 years, every lid I’ve had has been an Arai. My first, which was a shoei, I naively bought in Paris, and subsequently found it didn’t fit, and my current lid which is a Nolan N87, tested by the UK’s Motorcycle News journo’s as Best Buy, praise indeed. I only bought it as a bargain / spare, but now my only lid as my last Arai was literally worn to death & I couldn’t afford to replace.

    Despite my both non Arai lids being very good manufactures, the difference in quality is second to none, and if I had the choice with money as no object, it’s a no brainer.

    The only one thing that wasn’t mentioned is that if you do have a spill, regardless of how small, Arai will get the helmet especially inspected, for hairline fractures, to confirm if it still safe to use. At least they did, a few years ago, & returned it with a full bill of health, I haven’t checked but I hope they still do this, it really does give you peace of mind if you’ve only juts purchased & haven’t had time to save up for the next one.

    Thanks for the article, although UK based, if I need to do any product research I now have another place to look, even if you are US based. Keep up the good work.


    1. Hi James!

      Thank you for reading another one of my long-winded articles. I know they take a while to get to the point, but I try and make it worthwhile and interesting at the very least.

      You’re correct about the Arai inspection after a crash. I forgot to mention it. They still do it (as does Shoei actually). Coincidentally, a friend of mine recently had his Corsair (RX-7V) given a clean bill of health after a crash. It only cost him some shipping fees and they replaced his visor and vents damaged in the crash. A bargain for sure.

      These helmets are expensive without question and I appreciate that obstacle for many people. If you have an equivalent to Revzilla across the pond I’m sure you know even Arai helmets go on sale around this time of year so watch for it and perhaps you can find a Regent X (their least expensive model) or a DT-X (discontinued) for a number that fits your budget.

      I’m going to send you an email in addition to responding to this comment. Please watch for it as I have a question for you.

  29. Wow, I appreciate your thorough review of Arai helmets! I was in the market for a new helmet and just ordered an Arai last night. After trying some different helmets on in the store I settled on Arai as it felt the most comfortable out of the box.
    I’ve been riding motorcycles for only 2 years now, so I’m fairly new still. This is the second motorcycle helmet I’ve purchased, my first being a less expensive Icon Airmada. I upgraded as I had grown my hair out and the Airmada became too tight-I wanted to throw it in a field about 10 minutes into a ride! I’m hoping the new Arai Regent-X I ordered will continue to be more comfortable. I also super appreciate it’s safety rating! I like to stay alive! Thanks!

    1. Hi Colleen!

      I think it’s terrific you’re going with the Regent X. We’ve just secured a sample of that exact helmet to do a review on this summer as a matter of fact. I expect it’ll do very well and you’ll enjoy wearing it too. The real beauty of that helmet is how you’ll be able to adjust the fitment using the comfort liner 5mm thick peel-away layers. Make sure you find someone trained by Arai to help you do that if you can’t sort it out yourself because taking advantage of the Arai ability to get a perfect fit is the way to also get the full potential of the helmet’s protective qualities. Fitment more than anything else makes the difference.

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