As a kid, one of the many things that attracted me to motorcycles was the helmet. Seeing a CB750 whizz by with a rider sporting a Simpson full-face, or watching Goose in the movie Mad Max driving like a maniac with his open-face Bell equipped with a snap-on chin bar, was the coolest thing in the world to 10-year old me. To this day, I get a little giddy slipping on my helmet before a ride, not just in anticipation of the journey ahead, but also because I feel a little like that 10-year old playing Star Wars.
Selecting a helmet is serious business, not just for the safety factors involved, but also for comfort, and fashion. The best helmet in the world will be useless if it causes discomfort on rides, and chances are that very few people would buy it at any price if it were seriously ugly.
The various helmet manufacturers offer different levels of quality, features, and certifications, and fit differs from one model to the next. Finding the correct one for you is a matter of researching brands, settling on a reasonable budget, and trying on all of the suitable candidates, in various sizes, to find the best combination of fit, price and features.
Arai Helmet’s top-of-the-line model, the thousand-dollar Corsair-X, is the latest in a line of premium models stretching back to the RX-7 in 1996 that featured the diffuser ventilation system, and is the model of choice for Arai-sponsored road racers. As you’d expect, each generation of Corsair improves on the last, with advances in safety, added features, and the latest graphic designs. The Corsair-X, and really, Arai helmets in general, are not inexpensive, because each one is handmade and meets or exceeds the Snell Memorial Foundation standards that are required for road racing use.
This is my second Arai, and I bought it last summer; the first was a Corsair-V purchased in 2007 that gave its life for me at Calabogie the following year. The Corsair-X fits virtually identical to the V, but features some significant changes, despite them looking similar at a glance.
Top on the list of changes is a new shield engagement system that improves on the finicky (and crunchy sounding) operation of the V. Instead of just a flip-out lever and a guessing game of trying to engage or disengage the edges of the shield, the new system features the lever and tethered side pods that snap on and off for easier removal and install of the shield. It is still not a perfect system but it works better than the last, although I actually prefer the shield system on my old Shoei X-Eleven. In Arai’s defence, its system is based on a strategy that removes the main shield pivot from the temple area of the head, allowing the shell in this crucial area to be smoother and to better absorb shock.
The shield features the Pinlock system, a third-party anti-fog system that requires buying a Pinlock insert to take advantage of its anti-fog capabilities. The shield lock now has a large lever that you push upwards to release the lock, instead of the old system that had a simple nub on the bottom edge of the shield that you just pushed outwards and up directly. The new lever actually feels a little bit cumbersome at first and not a real improvement over the old system, but it does lock very securely, and might be a bit easier to use if you have big hands and thick gloves.
The old Corsair-V had remarkable ventilation, such that it felt like wearing a well-vented baseball cap, with the feel of wind circulating across your scalp. The Corsair-X has several new or improved features aimed at even better air circulation, such as a re-designed centre top vent, and re-shaped diffusers on either side of it. The result of these changes feels … about the same, to be honest. I think the ventilation on the V was so good that the improvements in the X are hard to feel. Bottom line, the Corsair-X is very well ventilated.
Wind noise and buffeting are quite minimal, much less than some cheaper helmets I’ve used in the past. The bottom of the chin bar features a little pull-down spoiler to adjust the air flow or keep your chin a little warmer. A larger chin curtain is available as an accessory for cool weather riding, as well as a breath deflector that mounts to the top of the chin bar in the nose area to help prevent fogging.
One size does NOT fit all
One Arai feature is that different models fit different shaped heads. The Corsair-X is one of Arai’s “intermediate oval” designs, while the Quantum-X is “round oval”, and the Signet-X is “long oval”. I have a huge head (size XL, sometimes XXL). [Join the club – Ed.] It’s like an orange on a toothpick. I’ll be crying myself to sleep tonight on my huge pillow. It is also very round, so I actually fit the “round oval” Arai shape a bit better, but I prefer the features, graphics, and “bling” factor of the top-of-the-line Corsair-X over the Quantum-X.
So, while it is great that Arai does offer different shapes, it would be even better, for me at least, if it offered the different shapes in each model. I understand that this would be expensive for Arai to tool and catalogue, and just as expensive for dealers to stock, but in a perfect world it would be great.
All Arai helmets are handmade in Japan: the Corsair-X features fibreglass composite shell construction with an EPS (expanded polystyrene) layer for shock absorption, and an anti-microbial, fully washable liner. Replacement liners are available and the temple pads are removable for custom tuning the fit. The fit and finish is outstanding, with a quality feel throughout, and the graphics are covered with a nice, thick clearcoat. Weight is a little heavier than some other helmets, at 1,590 grams for a medium size; this is on par with Shoei’s X-Fourteen, with sizes XS to XXL available.
If, like me, you value your head, love signature graphics, and appreciate good fit and ventilation, the extra money spent on a helmet like the Arai Corsair-X is money well spent. MSRP is $999 for solid colours, $1265 with signature graphics, though you should find them for $100 less at most outlets. For a little less money, Arai’s Quantum-X and Signet-X offer many of the same features and the same handmade quality for about $200 less, depending on model and graphics. With Arai’s different shaped models and a good range of sizes, there will certainly be one that fits you well.