Back in 2007, I was shopping for my first helmet; looking to spend the most money I possibly could to protect my head—arguably, a solid plan. With price as my quality gauge, it looked like I’d be buying either an Arai or Shoei.
“You have a Shoei head,” my sales person told me, even before I started trying helmets. He was right. But I wanted an RX-7 Corsair; the hotness at the time. I tried one on and discovered that my chin rested firmly on the chinbar. That is, the part of my chin that did not hang out of the bottom of the helmet rested on the chinbar.
I bought a Shoei that day and assumed that I would never own an Arai.
The Corsair-V briefly got my hopes up, but the fit was the same story. Fast forward to 2015, when I was invited to Thunderhill Raceway to try out the Corsair-X. I wasn’t holding my breath for a less muzzle-y fit, but there was no way I was going to turn down press launch track time.
I was excited to learn that Arai completely redesigned the Corsair-X, and doubly stoked once I put one on and found my chin safely contained behind the chinbar, not hanging out in the breeze. Arai redesigned the chinbar area to include an extra three millimeters of beard space—thanks hipsters—and as a result, I can finally wear a flagship lid from this world class brand.
The chinbar is not the only revision. The brand new Variable Axis System (VAS) shield features a pivoting axis, allowing for a lower shield mounting point. This gives the Corsair-X an average of 24mm of shell area above the shield side pods and allows the temple portion of the shell to be as round and smooth as possible.
Why is this important? Arai believes that the round shell shape encourages “glancing off the shell” rather than catching onto the pavement in a crash, reducing the force of the impact.
While I never plan on testing that feature, I will remove the shield quite frequently. The VAS design makes changing the shield much easier than any other helmet I have used. Pressing a lever on each side of the shield pops off the side pods and releases the shield. Reattaching is just as easy, and after a couple of practice runs I had the system down. My peripheral vision is also better than average in this helmet.
The vents on the Corsair-X are designed to flow 11% more air than prior models, and the three position switches help you regulate the temperature. They also lengthened and straightened the diffusers to reduce wind noise and generate more airflow. On a triple-digit day out at Thunderhill I barely broke a sweat.
None of that means anything without a strong shell. Arai has you covered there with their handmade Peripheral Belting & Structural Net Composite construction, a blend of proprietary strands, synthetic fibers, and a new resin. Think of it as Arai’s “11 herbs and spices”. The strength of the shell was demonstrated at the unveiling by the Arai rep conducting part of the introduction by standing on a shell that was laying on its side.
The inner liner is antimicrobial meaning it stays fresh longer, and it is removable for cleaning when the funk gets to be too much. The entire inner lining system allows for subtle adjustments, from the Facial Contour System cheek pads and their 5mm peel away layers to the all new replaceable top pad. The liners and cheek pads are all very soft and comfortable, even after several hours on the bike. They also gave more space in the ear area to accommodate headset speakers.
Of the 9 helmets I own, the Arai Corsair-X is far and away my favorite. It was so comfortable at the track that I rolled the dice and wore it on a 1,300 mile, three-day trip after just one day with it. I did not regret my decision. With the excellent ventilation, crystal clear optics, and perfect fit I barely noticed that I had it on.
Arai: Everything That’s A-right With The Moto Industry
At Arai’s Corsair-X press launch, I had a surreal, eye-opening experience.
After my first session on the Panigales we were forced to ride for the day, I brought my new Corsair-X and asked about thicker cheek pads. I was greeted with a smile and tape measure, and told that I should have been in a medium, not a large. The same man that measured me swapped out the liner bits and pads, giving me the best fitting helmet I’ve ever experienced.
The man that did the measuring, consulting, and labor to get me properly fitted up was Mr. Akihito Arai—yes, the same man that is heir to the Arai family empire. When was the last time you saw Mr. BiLT, Mrs. HJC, or Joe Rocket interact with one of their products? What? They’re not real people?
The Arai family started off with the same thing as many now-household industry names: passion for the sport. They noticed an area that needed improvement and attacked it head on. (D’oh!) The difference between Arai and many well-known moto-brands is that the Arai family has not strayed from their original mission: making helmets that obliterate the minimum requirements other manufacturers sometimes struggle to achieve.
Arai remains an enthusiast company in a world of soulless, sales-driven executives. I’m certainly not saying Arai is the only company with a true passion for the motorcycling, but this function over finance thing is surprisingly rare—there are a lot of companies, both domestic and abroad, that are no longer run by riders, often with little rider involvement in product design.
Let that sink in for a minute. You might be wearing lifestyle gear that was primarily designed to protect corporate profits, with protecting you in a crash a secondary goal.
The Arai family believes in the helmets that bear their name, every one of those helmets proves that being a dedicated enthusiast still matters in this industry, and that it’s possible to be successful without sacrificing the soul of your company.