Think of the new Arai XD as basically an Arai dirt bike helmet with a built-in face shield. The concept is not new, and actually has been around since the 1990’s as the Arai TourCross. But don’t feel too bad if you’ve never seen one. It was pretty much an expensive novelty that had very little real-world appeal. The TourCross didn’t sell very well and was eventually discontinued everywhere in the world except for the Japanese market… until now that is.
According to Arai, thanks to a renewed interest in dual sports, adventure touring, SuperMoto, and naked type motorcycles, and a certain market segment Arai identified as “something faintly Hooliganesque”, an Arai dual sport helmet is back on North American shelves. Even better, due to the fact the XD has been on the Japanese Market for ages, I’ve had a chance to ride test it for the past 2 years!
The XD is nicely built. It has all the features common to premium Arai helmets. The comfort lining and cheek pads are easily removable for cleaning. If the standard sizing doesn’t quite fit your malformed cranium, both the lining and cheek pads are available in a range of sizes to achieve that elusive perfect fit. The outer shell is made of Arai’s exclusive Complex Laminate Construction. Ventilation consists of two forward “I/C” ducts on top, “Double Delta, DDL-2” (despite there never being a DDL1) bridged rear facing exhaust, two lower exhaust vents, and a very large and effective mouth vent located in the chin bar.
All that is lovely market-speak and techno-babble, because one feature makes the XD standout in a crowd; the uber cool combination of an MX-style visor/peak with a street-practical face shield. Depending on the particular need of the moment, and urge to look like a storm trooper, the helmet can be used with peak and shield together, or just the peak or face shield in place.
Over the past three months the new Arai dualie has seen almost everyday use, over a wide range of conditions and motorcycles. The properly serious testing began last October with a little 6000km jaunt; on a BMW R1150GS, I joined a few friends on a 9-day tour of southern California, starting from Vancouver, British Columbia. The ride included freeways drones, twisted back roads and even a few stints of unpaved adventure.
In touring mode, comfort of the helmet was top notch. Behind the GS’s reasonable wind protection, the helmet’s dirt bike styling presented little aerodynamic issue. Even in moderate crosswinds, it remained fairly stable; it only suffered some lifting when I attained autobahn worthy speeds (or as close as the GS can manage). The vents and wide opening afforded by the forward chin bar allow for movement of high volumes of air across the face and around the head. Highly appreciated, especially on a few desert days when the temperature crossed into the high 30C range. Unfortunately, the high airflow does have a notable draw back – noise. The helmet is quite noisy at anything beyond 70 km/h (45mph). For highway riding, earplugs are mandatory unless on a Goldwing, or an ’85 Magna with a storefront windshield.
One other memorable note is the changing of the shield. There is no quick-release mechanism; every switch between the optional dark smoke and clear shield is an exercise in mechanical aptitude involving four plastic screws, side plate and the peak. Once mastered, it’s not a difficult task, unless you happen to drop a piece, then add search-curse-and-rescue to the procedure.
Riding off-road, using the built in shield rather than the traditional helmet/goggles setup is fine if the going does not get too serious. For those days when bashing through water and mud, or roosting up a dust storm is the plan, the fun bits of nature will get into the helmet and onto the inside of the shield. It will muck up the shield and occasionally your eyes. So while the helmet works well for riding on gravel or logging roads, for more serious fun in the dirt, it is best to give the shield a rest and throw on a pair of goggles.
Out of curiosity, I decided to take the XD out for a day’s visit with elevated velocities to the local twisties onboard a Suzuki TL1000R. Yes, this was despite Arai’s firm warnings against such behavior (there, the legal department has been appeased). If you ever want to give your neck muscles a workout, skip the gym, this is probably the most fun way to achieve that no-neck-Joe look. The sharply raked, low windscreen of the sporting Suzuki shot a steady and directed flow of air right into the underside of the peak. The higher the speed, the higher the head-tugging force exerted by the helmet.
Indeed, once, before fitting different pads sorted the issue, the XD decided to pull a Linda Blair at speed, I’m certain that anyone driving past at that moment figured I was possessed. Tilting your head down somewhat reduces the pull, but there is no real need to try and find ways to fight the wind; the peak is designed to be removable. Just take it off if the day’s speeds dictate it. To reiterate, Arai does caution riders that the visor/peak is not suitable for high speed use; I’d have to agree after frightening the locals with a sideways-facing head.
The past month, winter has arrived here in our corner of the Pacific Northwest. The temperature generally ranges from near freezing at night to 7C or so in the day. To go along with the cool temps are generous amounts of cooler rain. Not the greatest weather to go for a leisurely tour, but still perfectly fine for urban travel on a motorcycle. Surprisingly, stormy traverse in the urban zone is where the XD performs best. With its big-enough-for-goggles eye port, the helmet has excellent outward visibility. The not-so-welcomed noise noted earlier becomes a plus in the city; thanks to the extra space provided by the forward chin bar, the XD extends the rider a sharper awareness of the surrounding traffic than most full-face helmets. Even in freezing cold or the worst rainstorms the shield only fogs up slightly while at a stop. Once there is forward motion, there is enough airflow to keep the shield clear.
But the thing I like best is that the helmet does not muffle my voice when I speak. Want to state your objection to the lunkhead that just cut you off? Go ahead, you shall be heard. Does the “cutie” in that convertible stir your interest? Say “hi”, how can she turn you down… you’ve got on an Arai XD.
Functionality, quality, DOT and Snell approved… yeah, yeah, it’s got it. But really, it’s all about the look and the attitude. Hmmmmm… Hooliganesque, eh? I think I like it!
Test Duration: 2 years.