Photos: Larry Tate
Arai has always done things its own way, specifically insisting on helmet shell shape and integrity above all else. There’s nothing wrong with that; I personally have been wearing mostly Arai helmets for the best part of four decades with delight at the quality and fit for my head shape, and no damage – I think – from more than one crash. Although, as far as I’m concerned, lots of other companies do a much better job of visors and venting.
That has led to Arai’s late adoption of things like internal air venting for coolness (still mostly accomplished through visor rather than brow vents), and their (to me) irritating insistence on using a strange external-mounted shield system. Changing an Arai visor, if you’re not used to it, is a simple but noisy and seriously nerve-wracking experience.
So it’s no surprise that the most recent common helmet innovation – internal sun shades – just hasn’t caught on with Arai. Something built into the front of a helmet is obviously is going to affect the strength of the brow area, and Arai just isn’t interested.
Enter Arai’s Pro Shade System. This is a flip up/down sunshade, but mounts externally – in fact, it’s a whole new visor. It should fit pretty much any Arai full-face helmet, and consists of a normal clear visor, but with an external sunshade that pivots up or down, one position either way. The shade includes large vents that match up with the normal Arai visor vents, so it’ll still allow air into the helmet even in the down position.
I tried it on a new Vector model that I have (it also fits my older Quantum, RX-7, and Signet models) and must say that I came away with mixed feelings. I should state up front that I normally ride with a light smoke visor, so I’ve never had much trouble with needing extra screening. And when I’m touring, a clear shield always comes along for the (hopefully) odd day of heavy cloud or rain – night riding isn’t a common thing for me at all. As ever, your needs may differ.
On the plus side, the thing works as advertised. There’s a very positive stop between the up and down positions – you have to pull the shade strongly out before it’ll come down, so there’s no chance of it moving by accident. To my great surprise, when it’s in the up position there’s absolutely no feel of it grabbing the air and pulling your head around. I expected that to be the worst thing about it, but it was a total non-issue. I still find it hard to believe that having an open visor doesn’t have any effect on the aerodynamics of the helmet, but it doesn’t. Full kudos to the engineers on that one.
On the other hand, while it certainly does provide a good straight-ahead shading, the bottom half of the clear visor is still clear, and I found it allowed a bunch of glare up into the helmet, particularly off the instruments. In the case of my own (admittedly aging) eyes, I found it a bit difficult to quickly change from the shaded to the unshaded part of the visor.
Riding on the same day with and without the system, I was much happier with my normal light tinted visor. The Pro Shade works as advertised, in fact better than I expected as noted regarding the aero characteristics, but for me I don’t see the point.
Plus, at about $100 at retail from a big discount shop, it’s hardly cheap.