Written by Pablo Espinosa. Posted in Gear
My brother-in-law used to say, “When things go awry, you’d wish you were wearing an Arai helmet.” His expertise resulted in my first ADV-style helmet purchase, the then new first-generation XD. Fast forward to 2019, and I now have the XD4, Arai’s fourth generation XD.
Arai is a family run business. Founded in 1926 in Japan by hat maker Hirotake Arai. His objective as a motorcycle rider was to build a helmet not only for his own safety, but for a few of his friends. At the time, there were no helmet manufacturers in Japan, so he took it upon himself to create one. By 1963, he produced the first SNELL-certified Japanese helmet, and in 1967, the first full-face helmet. Currently, his son Michio and grandson Akihito run the company in Saitama, Japan. And they’ve received multiple J.D. Power and Associates Awards for quality. To this day all Arai helmets are SNELL certified and backed by a five-year warranty. Arai helmets are on the expensive end, but few realize that they’re hand-built, which not only ensures the highest possible quality (and safety!) but adds considerably to the cost of manufacturing. It may be a cliché, but you get what you pay for.
The XD4 Features and Functionality
The first thing you’ll notice with the XD4 is the faceshield, which provides the rider with an unusually clear and wide unobstructed view, especially out around the peripherals. Next up is the venting—and I don’t believe there’s another helmet on the market that takes it to this level. For example, the faceshield has brow vents to help circulate air to your forehead while aiding in keeping the face shield from fogging. Arai relies on venting as opposed to using “anti-fogging” chemicals. So, in addition to the standard air vent port at the front of the mouth guard, on the inside of the chin area, off to the sides, there’s a set of toggles to allow more control of ventilation. Then, add two top vents that can be regulated by a rocker switch. That covers air coming in, as far as the exhaust ports you have two on top towards the rear of the lid which can be closed or set to half open, and the two lower exhaust vents below and behind the ears. The helmet also comes with a chin wind deflector that is retractable from which I couldn’t help noticing a significant difference when deployed at high speeds.
As to fitment, the shell comes in three sizes with internal sizes ranging from XS to 2XL. The chin strap is a standard D-ring but without any padding. There’s a new style of comfort headliner, with the ability to peel away 5mm temple pads, and their proprietary Facial Contour System cheek pad design, also with 5mm peel away layers. The entire interior comes with their Dry Cool system which is designed to wick away moisture and heat (aided by the extreme ventilation system). These features add up to absolute comfort with the best all-day comfort I’ve experienced.
As far as weight, Arai uses a special fiber laminate that reduces weight yet keeps the strength and rigidity needed if things were to go “awry.” It’s not as light as a carbon fiber lid, but less weight than other top brand helmets. As far as noise, I find the XD4 average and on par with other peak-laden adventure-styled helmets.
Another sweet feature with this lid is that you can configure it into three different iterations: Peak visor and clear face shield removed, peak visor removed, or just the clear face shield removed. And, the helmet comes in nineteen different paint options, five are solid and the rest in various graphics of which the most expensive is the Honda Africa Twin design. Also, you might not notice but inside of the peak visor is matte black to reduce glare—a nice attention to detail.
Overall, I like what Arai has done with the updates with this classic ADVenture-style helmet. They remain a predictable conservative helmet manufacturer with a reputation for serious comfort and safety. The helmet is priced at the high end, but you are paying for a hand-built product with some complex features along with proprietary technologies in their designs.
As protective as can be
No chin strap cushion