To a certain extent, the XD4 is in a class of one.
Sure, there are (much) cheaper dual-sport helmets (also known as enduro or adventure-touring helmets), like the Fly Trekker (review) and the AFX FX-39DS (review), but honestly, they don’t come close to the level of quality displayed in the XD4.
But having tried them all of these dual-sport helmets and then some, there’s no question in my mind that the XD4 is the “King” of the dual-sport helmet type.
Unfortunately, there’s a downside: the price. The original Arai XD had a list price of $485.95 in 2006, when it was first released.
The 2012 XD4 carries a list price of — gulp! — $589.95 for solid colors, all the way up to a cardiac-inducing $719.95 for the graphic version.
That’s a lot of semolians in anybody’s book for a motorcycle helmet.
And the heck of it is, the dual-sport helmet type (basically a motocross helmet but with a face shield) is not for everyone. In fact, it’s one of the most limiting helmet designs available, in my opinion.
Dual-sport helmets for sportbike owners? Fuhgeddaboudit. Ditto for tourers and sport-tourers.
Off-road riders? Get a true motocross helmet, like the excellent, nicely styled and light weight Vemar VRX7 (review).
Supermotard owners (are there any)? That was the much-hyped motorcycle fad that never happened, but I’d guess they’re split between the dual-sport and motocross (no face shield) helmet types.
That leaves us with dual-sport riders. Adventure-touring/dual-sport motorcycles are the hottest thing since exhaust wrap.
In theory, that means there should be a big market for a helmet that was basically developed solely for on-off road dual-sport use. But, strangely enough, I have yet to see a local GS, DR650, KLR650 or KTM Adventure rider wearing one.
In any case, if you are looking for what amounts to a very focused helmet for your dual-sport adventures and you want high-quality and the Arai reputation, well, you don’t have to look very far. The XD4 is it. Let’s take a look…
The Arai XD4: Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality
The XD4 is a typical example of Arai build quality. The paint, liner and moving parts are all top-drawer, with a solid feel.
And this is quite different from the original Arai XD I reviewed 6 years ago, which was, quite frankly, a mess and way below typical Arai standards.
The knock I on Arai is that the helmets generally seem, well, pretty conservative. You won’t find a lot that’s new in the XD4 — just a very careful evolution of what has worked in the past and has been proven on other Arai helmets.
This pleases the Arai fans to no end, apparently, but my feeling is that it makes the XD4 seem a bit boring. Part of the problem is that all Arai helmets have nearly identical features, right down to the vents, liner fabric and other parts.
No doubt, there’s a lot to be said for proven technology. But on the other hand…for 700 bucks, I’d sort of like to see something, well, new, different and exciting from Arai, rather than riffs on the same theme?
Like, how about a new, ground-breaking shell or liner technology or a new type of internal fit with super-special, bespoke Caress-O-Matic padding and fabric?
And, I hate to say it, but the dual top vents found on nearly every Arai helmet are starting to seem old-fashioned.
Isn’t it time to develop a system that uses just one switch, so the rider doesn’t have to fuss around opening and closing a host of vents while riding?
First-time Arai owners may be a bit surprised at how conservative Arai helmet designs really are. But for Arai lovers, there’s nothing to complain about here. The XD4 is leagues ahead of the original XD in terms of quality.
The paint is typical Arai; that is, flawless. The very bright silver finish on this helmet has a beautiful metallic sheen and thick-feel clear coat.
The peak has been redesigned and it fits well, feels solid and works very nicely. It even has a matte black appliqué placed on the underside, to reduce glare.
All of the switchgear works with the typically precise Arai click-lock feel — and thank goodness for that, because with a chin vent, two brow vents, two top vents and two rear exhaust vents, you’d travel quite a distance 60 KPH before you’d get them all opened or closed.
The XD4 liner material doesn’t feel quite as scratchy as the first RX-Q’s, but it’s also not as plush as the Signet-Q and nowhere near the Mommy-soft kiss of the Shoei Neotec (review).
Ironically, if there’s one thing I do wish they’d make standard across all Arai helmets, it would be the plush-feel liner fabric used on the old Quantum II (review).
Score: I’ll give the Arai XD4 an “Outstanding” rating for paint and build quality. See the Summary Table at the bottom of the page for a description of our rating system.
Arai XD4 Helmet Fit, Internal Shape and Liner
Arai is one of the only motorcycle helmet manufacturers to admit that human heads come in different shapes, and their helmets are made to match (more or less).
The Arai internal shape categories seem to have been revised over time, however, and they also seem to have recently been converging on a more “Neutral” shape.
Arai still makes a “Long Oval” helmet (the Signet-Q (review)) but it’s simply not the same as their Long Oval helmets of the past, which had a blade-like internal fit.
And the “Round Oval” Quantum II has been discontinued, much to the Editor’s dismay; Arai no longer makes a helmet for round-heads, unfortunately. Whassup with that?
Intermediate Oval in Arai-speak is the webBikeWorld “Neutral” to “Slight Narrow” in the wBWMotorcycle Helmet Shapes descriptions.
We found the XD4 to fit nearly identical to the RX-Q up top, but it’s slightly tighter on the cheeks. This is probably due to the more pointed or angled chin bar design of the dual-sport XD4.
A pair of thinner cheek pads would fix this in a jiffy, but that will cost you another $45.00 or so on top of what is already an expensive helmet.
Here’s an idea: why doesn’t Arai offer a no cost, bespoke fit service at local Arai dealers? That would be a motivation to buy at a brick-and-mortar store, keeping the retailers happy.
Note that the XD4 does have the 5 mm internal pads at the temples that can be inserted or removed by the owner to modify the fit slightly.
Bottom line? If the RX-Q fits you, the XD4 should also, give or take a couple of millimeters at the cheeks.
Note that we called the RX-Q a “Slight Round” in the webBikeWorld helmet internal shape classification, but the slightly more snug cheek pads on the XD4 push this just a touch over to the “Slight Narrow” side of Neutral for this helmet.
To a certain extent, we’re splitting hairs here — the XD4 internal shape should fit a majority of head shapes because in the end, it’s more or less “Neutral”.
The liner fabric used in the XD4 is nice and it feels better than our first-off-the-assembly-line RX-Q, but it’s not ultra-plush.
Score: We’ll give the Arai XD4 an “Excellent” rating for fit and internal shape, although the liner material isn’t as plush or soft as we’d like.
The Arai XD4 liner fabric isn’t quite as soft as we’d like.
One of the advantages of the dual-sport helmet type is the large face shield, which usually provides an outstanding view of the road ahead on this helmet type.
The XD4 face shield is a redesign and Arai added the brow vents found on their other helmets.
The brow vents work — better than the top vents, as it turns out (more on this in the next section).
The face shield rotating mechanism has also been designed to work with the revised peak.
The face shield rotates upwards to stop just under the peak. It has a single soft detent at the half-way mark and friction holds it open in other positions.
There is no first position for defogging, although the face shield includes the Arai friction lock at the lower left and the face shield can be left open and resting on the lock for a tiny bit of ventilation.
The tab that operates the lock also acts as the lift tab for the face shield.
The face shield rotates smoothly with no twisting and it seals completely around the eye port.
The eye port gasket has a special extra section along either side to ensure that no water leaks through at the sides, which is the most difficult section to seal correctly, due to the curvature along the front of a motorcycle helmet.
Arai says the peak of the XD4 can be removed and the face shield and helmet can be worn for riding, although I’m not sure who would want to do this, as the helmet would probably look, well, strange.
We did not remove the peak or the face shield on this example; two plastic screws and a plate on either side must be removed to do so.
The face shield on this helmet measures 2.14 mm thick. Its size and shape do give it a slightly more flexible feel than a “normal” motorcycle helmet face shield.
But overall, it’s a solid system and the fact that it seals completely around the eye port gasket is a testament to Arai design and it’s one of the many little features that cost more to get right.
Arai doesn’t say anything about anti-fog treatment on the original equipment face shield, but they do mention that a Pinlock (review) version is available. I would think at this price though, a Pinlock should come standard.
Visibility is, of course, outstanding in the XD4, one of the major advantages of this type of helmet.
Score: We’ll give the Arai XD4 an “Outstanding” rating in this category for the face shield, visibility and eye port design.
Arai XD4 Ventilation
The XD4 has plenty of vents to adjust: chin vent, two top vents and two very large rear exhaust vents.
In addition, a pair of non-adjustable exhaust vents are located on either side at the lower rear and two non-adjustable screen-covered intake vents are arrayed on either side of the chin vent.
Starting at the bottom, the chin vent is outstanding, providing a lot of air flow when it’s clicked down for open. The slider has two positions, but the detents aren’t well defined, making a half-open position difficult to acquire when wearing gloves.
However, the chin vent also has a separate slider on the inside, for more adjustability. It covers the intake channels that are molded through the front chin bar.
This plastic slider cover can be adjusted up and down for intermediate positions or to close or open the vent all the way, if desired. The chin vent does not have a filter, which is a strange oversight for a dual-sport helmet designed to be worn off-road (at least some of the time).
The chin bar has the pull-down Arai spoiler, which isn’t as effective as a full chin curtain.
It would be nice to see a full chin curtain on the XD4; I think it could use it to help block some of the air that flows up under the chin bar.
The brow vents in the face shield are new for the XD4, giving this helmet a feature found on most of the other Arai helmets.
The brow vents work well to flow air on to the rider’s face, but they are a bit difficult to locate, open and close due to their location under the peak.
Also, their small grip tabs are difficult to grab when wearing gloves, so messing about with brow vents while you’re riding can be a bit tricky. Best to set these before you take off, rather than blocking your vision trying to operate them whilst riding.
The top vents are a bit of a disappointment on the XD4. They have the same design as found on other Arai helmets, but the addition of the peak seems to somehow impede their efficiency.
In fact, I can barely notice the difference whether they are opened or closed when riding. Thank goodness for the brow vents!
The top vents are also a bit tricky to find and operate when wearing gloves. The typically small Arai rocker switches are the culprit, but reaching up and over the peak doesn’t help.
The liner has nicely designed air channels, but somehow the combination of the redesigned peak has affected the top vent air flow efficiency.
The huge rear exhaust vents also have Arai slider tabs and they can be opened half-way or all the way (or closed completely). We’re guessing that the extra-large exhaust vent design also has something to do with the air flow over the helmet caused by the peak.
So overall, the front ventilation on the XD4 provided by the chin vent and brow vents is excellent, but the top vents aren’t quite up to the standard set by other Arai helmets I’ve tried.
Score: The Arai XD4 ventilation system gets an overall “Excellent” rating.
Arai XD4 Sound Levels
The aerodynamics of the XD4 are excellent — this is the smoothest-feeling dual-sport helmet we’ve tried. The redesigned peak is exceptional, as it is barely noticeable when riding; i.e., it causes very little lift compared to other dual-sport helmets.
The peak also is perfectly located to block the overhead sun — something the other dual-sport helmets should do but often don’t. And the black masking underneath the brim is icing on the cake, as it helps block glare.
The peak doesn’t seem to cause any additional noise volume either, although overall the XD4 is just about average when it comes to noise control. A sung fit, tight fitting face shield and good aerodynamic design all help.
The top vents do make some noise when opened and a slight amount of noise when closed. Also, noise levels increase slightly as the head is moved side-to-side when riding and this will vary, depending on speed and crosswinds.
Note also that all of the helmets reviewed on webBikeWorld have been weighed and the weights are available on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page, along with a chart that lists the helmets by weight and shape on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.
Score: The Arai XD4 gets an “Excellent” rating for low weight with good balance and aerodynamics.
The XD4 has a double D-ring chin strap retainer, but the straps are ridiculously short.
In fact, the D-ring side is so short that it almost seems a mistake — it’s tucked up near the cheek pad, making it very difficult to snap the extra length of chin strap to the button.
And what’s up with the helmet manufacturers, who seem to be scrimping on chin strap padding lately? We’ve noticed this disturbing trend. The padding on the XD4 chin strap is way too short and too thin besides.
The helmet meets the DOT and Snell 2010 safety standards when sold in North America.
The XD4 is no doubt the best of the dual-sport helmets we’ve reviewed. However, it’s not perfect and it’s very expensive.
We’ve been rather critical here but that’s our job.
And helmets costing this much definitely get “The Works”; a going-over with a fine-toothed comb.
It’s only fair, because spending this much money on a helmet means that most owners will expect perfection.
We can live with the slightly disappointing ventilation from the top vents, but the way-too-short chin strap with less padding than is found on helmets costing 80% less is very puzzling. A deal-breaker? Probably not, but disappointing nonetheless.
Otherwise, there’s a lot to like about the XD4.
The aerodynamics have apparently been carefully considered, as have the small details like the matte black overlay on the underside of the peak, the careful fitting of the face shield to the eye port and the paint and overall construction quality.
Still, $600 to $700 bucks is a lot to pay for a helmet that admittedly has a narrower range of suitability.
You won’t look out of place wearing a flip-up, full-face or even an open-face helmet on a sportbike or touring bike, but somehow, a dual-sport helmet like the XD4 just doesn’t seem to be as stylish.
From “J.H.” (April 2012): “I will preface by stating this is my first Arai helmet purchase coming from Bell helmets in the past and the first time I have ever spend more than 250$US on a helmet.
As always, I do highly enjoy reading your gear reviews. I was especially excited to see your most recent review of the Arai XD-4 helmet. I have had my XD-4 for about two months now riding virtually every day (year rounder with commuting, etc.).
I did find a few of your comments to be…shall I say…a bit misleading, at least from my perspective. Allow me to elaborate, please.
I ride a full fairing Honda GL1800 Goldwing. I had been riding with full face helmets in the cooler months and a 3/4 helmet in the warmer months within an attempt to stay somewhat comfortable in the stifling North Carolina summertime heat and humidity.
The traditional full face helmet was way too hot and did not flow enough air and my 3/4 lid had literally zero vents.
The XD-4 is a great combination. This helmet flows very good air and allows me to wear a full face helmet year round. Granted it is only mid-April (at the time of this posting) but we have had a very unseasonably warm spring.
I can attest that the Arai XD-4 is indeed a good choice for touring and sport-touring riders. I even keep the peak attached to the helmet as it cuts down on some of the sunshine glare in morning and evening commutes when riding into the sun.
I say that (the reviewer’s) comment on the XD-4 is designed for a small niche of riders, is a bit off-base.
“Designed” for a specific group of riders? Maybe.
This helmet can be utilized for several riders/bike styles…as long as the rider can get past his ego and vanity of wearing a DS helmet on a non-DS bike. Function over fashion is always the best approach. Of course…YMMV!
Pricing: You can find this helmet all over the interweb for less than 550$US…not the 700$US MSRP. I paid 525$US for mine.
Sizing: (The reviewer) failed to mention that the XD-4 has 5 mm removable cheek pad adjusters to allow a more customized fit. You did mention this feature on the temples, however.
Each cheek pad has 5 mm removable pads that allow a 25 mm cheek pad to get reduced to 20 mm. Just peel back the fabric on the cheek pad to access the 5 mm removable pads. There is a small bit of removable foam-rubber type material on each cheek pad.
Liner Material: Although the liner material is not the “Mommy-soft kiss” that you speak of with other Arai styles, I surmise that Arai made the XD-4 liner material a bit less-soft with the theory that the DS riders would be much more abusive on their helmets than the street riders and thus allowing the liner material to last longer when riding in less than ideal conditions.
There seems to be much more dirt, dust, bugs, etc. when you get off the streets and track and onto the dirt paths and real-world touring. A baby-butt soft liner may not hold up as long to the rigors of non-track riding.”
Editor’s Note: We use the list price for comparisons, as discounts can vary quite a bit. The XD4 has a list price of $589.95 for solids up to $719.95 for the “Explore” graphics.