I recently became the proud owner of an Arai RX-7 Corsair Nicky Hayden Laguna helmet and Shark RSR 2 Kasuaki Fujiwara racer replica.
Being an avid race fan, it has been my goal to one day own a racer replica helmet.
But I was waiting for a good deal first because these type of helmets can be very expensive.
Since I have quite a few helmets in my arsenal of riding gear, I decided to write a review comparing them to each other.
I thought it would be fun to provide a more down-to-earth approach rather than the lukewarm stuff that the print magazines offer.
This should be helpful for those who think that the print magazines have an agenda.
However, if my review doesn’t provide any insight, then perhaps a heavy dose of the X-Files is in order.
Keep looking; the Truth is out there…
I will use my Arai RX-7 as reference, since Arai is often used as a baseline by many people for comparison. It is, after all, a fine helmet in every way, shape and form.
The other helmets that I have include:
- KBC VR-2 Dragon in Gunmetal – wBW review
- Scorpion EXO-400 (Tsunami, Sting, and WarHawk) – wBW review
- Scorpion EXO-700 Crackhead – wBW review
- Shark RSR 2 Katsuaki Fujiwara
webBikeWorld visitor Raul T. sent this detailed report.
It includes his opinions on the Shark RSR 2 helmet compared to others in his collection, so we thought we’d share it with you.
First lets get the safety issue out of the way, simply because I want to make this statement: There is no scientific data to support the stubbornness some people have in believing a price tag is a measure of safety — it isn’t.
It’s simply not true, and my feeling is that if you believe it, you have been duped by a clever sales person…and if the sales person isn’t clever I won’t comment about how that makes you look!
If you disagree, that’s fine. But I will recommend that you stop reading now. My review is based on the fact that according to research and safety standards, all the lids I am comparing are just as safe as any high-dollar racer replica.
Fit is the most important aspect of finding a helmet. Sure the graphics are what draw us most of the time to a particular helmet, but be ready to walk away if the fit is not correct.
A helmet should fit snug and comfortable. The manufacturers know this and often have more than one line of helmets with different internal shapes. Often, consumers see the product lines as another measure of safety, but in reality they aren’t.
Often the different lines sport more affordable materials and/or different internal shapes. So always try on a helmet before you buy it, and if a more affordable style fits your noggin better than an expensive helmet, consider yourself blessed.
Fit and Internal Shapes
Lets face it: we are all different. And our heads are as different as the way we think. Internal helmet shapes range from a round head to an oval head shape. When a manufacturer wants a helmet to fit a wide range of consumers, they opt for a fit of something in-between round and oval.
The shape is determined is by measuring the roundness of your skull front (forehead) to back of the head. See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page for more information.
Let’s Get Started
Sizing among manufacturers varies considerably; for example, I wear a size medium in the Arai RX-7 Corsair line. I have tried the Arai Quantum (wBW review) and a medium fits me best as well.
My Shark RSR 2 is also a medium, although the Shark fits me a bit more snugly than the Arai — more on that later. The Scorpion EXO-400 and EXO-700 are a size Large, as is my KBC VR-2. In both the KBC and Scorpion helmets, I couldn’t get my head in a medium.
Again, I can’t stress too much the need to make sure you try on the helmet before you buy it, since there doesn’t appear to be a given standard.
For the most part, I have found that I preferred the Scorpion EXO-400 fit the best. Once I put that lid on, I find it to be very comfortable. I would classify the EXO-400 as an oval fit, with tons of cheek support, and the Arai RX-7 as more of a round oval shape.
The main difference between the two is how snug my ears are against the side of the helmet; the Arai sort of cups my ears a bit.
The Scorpion EXO-700 has a slightly more relaxed fit in the cheek area on me; beyond that it fits like the EXO-400 in all of the other dimensions. But because of the fit in the cheek area I like the EXO-400 better.
That said, the Arai RX-7 also offer more cheek support than the EXO-700, so I like the fit of the Arai over the Scorpion.
The KBC VR-2 was a favorite of mine for a long time. At one point I had four of them! The fit on this helmet is oval, but it lacks a bit of extra room in the forehead when compared to the others.
I find that I have to adjust the VR-2 somewhat so that there isn’t too much pressure up there. But once I found the sweet spot, it felt good. However, with the added comfort I have found in the Arai and the Scorpions, the KBC is now my least favorite.
Riding With the Shark RSR 2
I recently purchased the Shark RSR 2 after trying it on at a local dealer who had just started stocking them for the first time.
I had to have one! The fit felt similar to the oval shape of the EXO-400, but the Shark seemed to fit me better overall. I can’t quite say for sure, but I think what I really preferred is the lining material…more on that later.
Thus, I am knocking the RSR 2 down a notch in this category.
What at first felt great against my ears turned out to be a bit too much pressure on them I guess… Nonetheless, I only noticed it after I got home and took the helmet off, so I’m hoping that this just means it needs breaking in.
Comfort Ranking based on the above would be:
- Scorpion EXO-400
- Shark RSR 2
- Arai RX-7
- Scorpion EXO-700
- KBC VR-2
Graphics, Paint and Finish
This is my favorite part of any helmet, and it’s what often drives me to try a helmet on for the first time. Do I love eye candy! Who doesn’t?
The Arai has been a long-time standard for what a cool helmet should look like — they have some great artists. I have seen some other companies such as Shoei and Suomy come out with some killer designs as well, but for the most part, the Arai was the brand I was most familiar with.
The Arai RX-7 Nicky Hayden Laguna replica does not disappoint. In fact, it looks better in person than in any online photo you could see; they could never do it justice.
The helmet is simply stunning, especially when looking at the effect that lighting has on the paint. This is especially noticeable in sunlight, because there are metallic particles that sparkle throughout the graphics, which really bring out the colors.
Scorpion is a company that in my opinion needs some talent in the paint department. While the graphics are cool, they don’t use any of the fancy metallic colors in the lids I have seen. But for the most part the finish on their helmets is excellent.
I have contemplated approaching them to freelance some designs to see if they bite! Not much to say here, except that the Scorpion EXO-700 Crackhead is by far the best looking lid they offer, in my opinion.
KBC also offers some really cool designs; they definitely have a nice graphic artist employed. Unfortunately, their artistic work is often put on a helmet that hasn’t been properly prepared.
My VR-2 Dragon Gunmetal is flawless, so I lucked out. But the Repsol I crashed in at the track had a few dust particles that snuck in under the finish. I also had a Gunslinger that I gave my brother, and it was flawless.
So if you are in the market for a KBC helmet, you may want to check over the finish of each helmet you try. KBC does use Metallics as well, but they are not as good as those used by Arai or Shark, in my opinion.
If Arai sets the standard for helmet graphic design, then someone forgot to tell Shark — my RSR 2 Fujiwara is in a league of its own.
The finish is not only flawless, but the use of metalflake in the paint is stunning.
It has some pinstriping that isn’t captured in these photos, but take it out in the sunlight and it looks like someone turned the backlighting way up to bring those details out. WOW! Very clever graphic design — I love it!
Graphics and Finish Ranking:
- KBC (would have edged the Scorpion if it wasn’t for the finish quality control)
Many people want the lightest helmet possible. This is not a big deal for me, since riding a naked bike means I have bigger things to worry about.
But nonetheless, weight is about the only feature where price is a factor. In other words, if I am going to shell out $700 on a lid, it better be made of carbon fiber or some other strong and light exotic material.
Holding a helmet in your hands isn’t exactly a good way to judge weight, but it is a good way to measure balance as you tilt the helmet.
The Scorpion EXO-400 is the heaviest…and it should be, since it doesn’t use any super-exotic lightweight material in the shell. Nonetheless, is it well balanced and that distribution of weight is important, since a top-heavy lid is more likely to be felt easier when wearing it.
- Shark RSR 2
- Arai RX-7
- KBC VR-2
- Scorpion EXO-700
- Scorpion EXO-400
We should all be wearing ear plugs; see the wBW Ear Plugs page for reviews and more information. I will admit that when I don’t, I can hear all of the noises within a helmet that can cause hearing loss.
I am ranking these helmets without the use of ear plugs, and there is a good chance that with earplugs I could probably tell much better the diff in noise levels.
I also ride an unfaired bike, so my helmets are exposed to wind all around rather than behind a fairing that directs air over the top of the helmet. These aspects have an effect on noise as well. Also note that a helmet’s ability to flow air can also have an effect on noise.
A note on the Shark RSR 2: On my initial four-hour ride, I decided to open all the vents on the RSR 2. I wanted to make sure I got maximum air flow, and the ram air vent on top looked like it promised to make some noise.
But I was surprised to find a quieter helmet than I expected. As a matter of fact, the RSR 2 seems nearly as quiet as the Scorpion EXO-400. I’m thinking that the really snug fit around the ears helps to mask some of the noise.
I certainly could hear the airflow through that big gaping ram air hole in front of the lid, it just wasn’t as loud as I thought it would be.
Noise ranking (quietest to loudest):
- Scorpion EXO-400
- Shark RSR 2
- Scorpion EXO-700 (rear vents closed)
- Arai RX-7
- KBC VR-2
Air Flow and Venting
I have no hair, so the need for hurricane or gale winds flowing through my helmets in hot weather isn’t as great as it might be for others.
I tend to like helmets with limited air flow to minimize the noise levels, and this is one reason I like the EXO-400 so much — it’s the quietest helmet in my collection.
The KBC VR-2 is the noisiest, but the Scorpion EXO-700 and the Arai RX-7 aren’t far behind. What they have in common is that they flow more air than the EXO-400.
The Shark’s big gaping round hole on top that reminds me of a ram air intake had me expecting that it would flow tons of air and make lots of noise, but so far it hasn’t, and I’ll have to get more experience first with this helmet before I can really decide.
After my initial ride, I felt like the Shark is as efficient at flowing air as the best in this group, the Arai RX-7.
Ultimately, the best way to measure this would be to somehow figure out a way to monitor the exact air flow with an instrument in CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute), but I have yet to learn of anyone doing this with helmets.
Air Flow Ranking:
- Arai RX-7 and Shark RSR 2 (tie)
- Scorpion EXO-700
- KBC VR-2
Shields should be easy to remove and replace, but the manufacturers have yet to perfect this, in my opinion. There are some pretty clever designs, but there are also some weird and completely idiotic ones too. Of all my helmets, I think I hate the Arai’s visor removal system the most.
The Arai requires that you open it fully and pull up and out evenly on both sides.
This makes all sorts of noises that make me cringe. The RX-7 is basically a $700 lid with a $5 shield removal design, and if you break it will likely cost you a good chunk of change to fix. I hate it!
The only thing I can offer in its defense is that the Arai shield does seal completely when shut. (Editor’s Note: See my report on the broken visor removal system on the Quantum II).
The Shark visor removal system is simple and effective; it’s not my favorite but it’s worlds apart from the Arai.
Open the shield on the Shark half-way and press the button (firmly) to release the shield. Bearable, and best of all, not likely to break anything.
And by the way, the visor that Shark uses is the thickest in the market at 3 mm. When it’s lifted from one side it doesn’t flex, which is pretty cool. And it also seals firmly when shut — nice!
The Scorpion offers a simple twist dial to remove the visor. It can be a bit awkward, and I have found that some of their helmets have dials seem harder to turn than others.
My advice is to place a towel down on a flat surface and lay the helmet on its side, since you may need to use both hands as you turn the dials and wiggle the shield out. Again, I can live with this, and nothing’s likely to break if you are careful.
The KBC VR-2 has a poor visor and visor removal system in my opinion. The visor doesn’t seal along the top when it’s shut — I got caught in the rain once and water leaked inside.
The VR-2 also sports a difficult shield removal shield system — but I’d still rather deal with the KBC system than with the Arai. Removing the KBC visor is a two-handed affair as well, so set a towel down and pull the tiny lever down firmly as the shield pops out.
It doesn’t sound too bad — that is until you have to put the visor back on. The visor has tiny tabs that lock onto the mechanism and you must pull on the lever to get the tab to fit behind it.
Pushing it until it snaps, as is recommended by KBC, breaks the tab. So TLC and patience is required.
Visor Ranking (best to worst):
All of the helmets discussed here feature removable and washable linings; this seems to be pretty much the norm lately with most helmets.
An advantage of this feature is that it can sometimes provide the ability to further customize the way the helmet fits by replacing the size of the cheek pads.
All of the helmets discussed here have linings that are comfortable for me, but each is different. The Scorpion lining feels like Lycra, and Scorpion claims it wicks away sweat, and I think it does.
The KBC lining feels like it’s made from some type of plain cloth, and it absorbs a considerable amount of sweat. I have washed both of these liners and the cheek pads survived the washer and dryer — nice!
The Arai and Shark are my newest helmets, so I have not had a chance to wash the liners in either. I think both of these helmets have a similar-feeling liner, but I’m going to give the Shark an edge because I think it looks a bit nicer.
Helmet Liner Ranking:
- Shark RSR 2
- Arai RX-7
- Scorpion EXO-400 and EXO-700
- KBC VR-2
This wraps up my personal opinions and feelings on these helmets after owning and using them. I like all of them, in case you haven’t noticed, and, as you can see from the photos, I own quite a few.
Always remember to follow the manufacturers instructions for maintenance and shelf life, and always ride with a helmet, and yes…remember that you have to buckle it up for safety! 😉
Owner Comments and Feedback
See details on submitting comments.
From “S-M” (12/08): “I wanted to clarify a couple things about Raul T.’s comparison. I thought it was great that he did it himself without any fancy tests as word of mouth and “do it yourself-ing” is always the quickest way to prove something to yourself!
I do it all the time with everything.
He talked about how important fit was. So true.
A properly fitted helmet will reduce noise, head shake at high speeds, that awful push on your head that makes your neck sore and of course it will do much better job of fulfilling its purpose if its nice and snug on your coconut.
But he made a booboo. He didn’t try a Profile. From his description of the Corsair (which is a wide intermediate oval, not round like the Quantum) I think he has more of a long oval head. Same structural integrity, minus the diffusers and the saved weight.
(The Corsair is the shape that fits most people, thus it was modified for Racers, the shell is the same strength but wayyy more costly due to materials that make it lighter so we could add on those diffusers and save weight when they really haul).
Plus the center of gravity on an Arai is nice and even so you won’t notice the weight at all (even they are made extremely light for their shell strength!) .
He was right about no standard for helmet sizing from manufacturer to manufacturer, the other guys rely on a couple of shells stuffed with comfort padding to even out sizing.
Fit importance – cheeks come in last – brain is 1st. Take the cheek pads out and decide crown fit.
This is what determines the right fit. THEN add the proper sized cheek pads if you require them (snug enough to keep gum in your teeth…not chew it loosely. You don’t EAT while RIDING that’s not the point).
Cheek pads in the dryer…oh boy this is why boys shouldn’t do laundry.
Your quality jeans and button-ups get hung up or air fluffed. Ditto for the pads. This just increases that new feeling. An Arai helmet should fit the same from the first day to the last. Wash when its needed.
Euro standards- we smoke ’em every year…FYI
Shield issues. OK, anyone having trouble with this needs to go to an Arai rep. Even I was pulling and yanking on the side pods to take mine off. DON’T DO THAT!!! They don’t need to come off. Right person to teach you and you’ll have it down pat. I can do it with it on my head :p and I’m blond!
OK that’s it just wanted him to at least know all that stuff.”
From “L.R.” (11/08): “I recently purchased a Shark RSR 2 Foggy replica helmet. I read your review of the RSR and the comparison review with an Arai.
My experience with this helmet varies drastically. On the plus side, paint and graphics are amazing, it’s lightweight, and the ratchet-less friction-held visor system works perfectly.
However, the downsides are major and weren’t mentioned in your reviews. First, airflow from the vent system is negligible. I have a shaved (ahem, bald) head and am sensitive to airflow, and can barely detect any.
Second, for whatever reason, the helmet wants to rip my head from my shoulders at speeds above 50 mph. As I accelerate I can feel the helmet continue to lift up and pull, and at freeway speed it’s quite uncomfortable.
I’ve never felt a helmet do this before. And last, the field of vision is the narrowest of any helmet I’ve ever worn. Dangerously so. It’s very hard to turn my neck far enough to either side to see what’s behind, and I’m pretty flexible.
Just wanted to give a differing opinion.”
From “J.”: “Many thanks to Raul T. for doing a good helmet comparison. One helmet that he did not review is the Shoei RF 1000 (wBW review). I own one of those and an Arai.
The Shoei is currently my favorite because it is quieter than the Arai and has a much better visor system.
Thanks for finally stating what I have always felt about Arai’s visor mechanism. It has almost seemed politically incorrect to make negative comments about this system. I have broken mine a couple of times at about $30.00 a pop. I now keep spare parts around.
This year I am due for a new helmet.
The Shark looks to be the leading contender. When I try the Shark helmets on I way pay close attention to the fit around my ears. I tried on Arai and Nolan helmets at the local bike show this year.
The Arai was comfortable, but there is that visor issue. The Nolan was not comfortable and the mechanism for the chin strap ranks up there with Arai’s visor on my dislike list. This was a disappointment because I was thinking of incorporating their Bluetooth system into the helmet.
As far as graphics go, there are many cool paint jobs out there. I just go for basic black because it saves a lot of money.
Although the manufacturers recommend against it, there are a number of artists who will create a custom paint job for your helmet.
I will admit that I have been guilty of trying helmets on at a local bike shop and then buying the one that fit on line. This can save lots of money.
In spite of an article in a motorcycle magazine disputing the validity of the Snell Memorial Foundation safety standards, I still look for their label on a helmet.
I also look for the DOT labels but I have always felt that government standards can be a little arbitrary sometimes. I am a little suspicious of them.
Thanks for a great review.”
From “P.N.”: “With a long oval shaped head, I’ve been wearing Arai’s for years. But in the past year I became convinced that I didn’t want a Snell-rated helmet any more. I wanted a helmet that met the European ECE 22.05 standard.
I bought a Shark RSI (very similar to the RSR 2) after reading the excellent review of it in webBikeWorld. I really like it. If somebody had asked to describe what I liked about it, I’m sure I would have said something like, “I dunno, I just do.”
Many thanks to Raul for his great review and telling me the reasons why I like it. But I can echo his complaint about his ears hurting.
There is a seam in the lining that cuts across the top of my ears and it’s somewhat aggravating, but I only notice it for the first 10 minutes then, after that, I’m oblivious.”