If you’re serious about riding you’ll want the best kit you can afford. Most rally going scooter riders know that safety is important and a pretty looking £30 open faced lid from a rally discount trader wouldn’t protect your packed lunch, never mind your head. You’d be better off wearing the Tupperware container your sandwiches usually live in. Thankfully longer distance riders will almost always own a decent quality full faced helmet, but do you really need to spend £600 on the best? In a word, no but we’d reccomend buying one with an ACU Gold label, if it’s safe enough to race in it should be ok for us on the road. But having said that there are benefits from owning a helmet with a designer label, just as there are from owning a classic Italian scooter rather than a cheap imitation.
The latest Arai RX-7V arrives in dealers this month and replaces the RX-7GP as the flagship Arai model. We’ve been testing one since May last year, here’s how we’ve got on…
Sitting in a cab heading to Douglas on the Isle of Man, just before the start of the 2015 TT, I’m accompanied by three Japanese Arai employees (two of whom hold the revered Arai surname). I begin to wonder just how important this new helmet is to the factory. As well as some of the top brass from Japan, over 50 journalists have also flown in from around the world. All will be wearing a new top of the range Arai RX-7V when they leave the Island a couple of days later.
Personally I’ve been wearing Arai for 12 years. I’ve amassed quite a collection since then, including the predecessor to the new RX-7V (RX-7GP). I love the fit, style, features and comfort of my Arai helmets (although they’re less than perfect in other ways). I also, admittedly, like the prestige of the brand and would rather wear a decent helmet than a designer watch. The difference in timekeeping between a cheap watch and top of the range is pretty small now. The difference in cheap to premium helmets though can make a much more noticeable difference.
These Arai helmets come at a premium price. They’re individually hand-built by humans, rather than machine. They’re also worn by some of the greatest racers on the planet; if it’s good enough for them at over 200mph then I should be ok on a scooter.
For starters the new PB-SNC² Super Fibre composite shell is 30% lighter than the old shell and has a rounder and smoother shape. It’s designed primarily to ‘glance off’ objects in the event of an accident, rather than snag on anything you may hit. The new improved vents are designed to simply break away as well, rather than causing further injuries by catching on objects as you slide and tumble. The new Variable Axis System (VAS) means the visor mounts have been made 24mm lower than they were; this also helped the designers in their quest for a smoother, stronger shell.
Like all Arai helmets, the RX-7V is built to protect above and beyond the current standards. Arai don’t design their helmets just to pass a drop test in specific areas though (some helmet manufacturers products are strengthened specifically at the points where the tests are carried out) Arai build their helmets to be as strong as possible all over and they test to the stringent American Snell standards.
One of the annoying things about the old RX-7GP (and most Arai helmets) was the visor removal mechanism, it was well overdue an update. The old system was fiddly and took some getting used to. The gap at the top of the visor could also let rain in at times. The designers have addressed things though and the new RX-7V visor pods can by released very easily using the two tabs, they pop off easily and the visor can be changed in a couple of minutes, even during the first few tries. It gets much quicker with practice though and during a recent visit to the UK distributor I timed, James Egan – the Arai brand manager at 8.48 seconds. He does change riders visors at the TT though, so has had some practice. For added safety, the visor locks in the closed position and has a new latch to open it; it can be opened easily with one finger. The helmet also comes equipped with a Pinlock visor insert to prevent fogging.
Watch our superfast TT visor change video:
The plush interior features an Eco Pure liner with slimmer frame, and for extra comfort the cheek pads and skullcap can be custom fitted by simply removing or adding layers of foam. There’s also a chin curtain to keep the wind out and help quieten things down and the chin bar is 3mm further away from your face as well so it feels a bit less claustrophobic. As you’d expect from a top end lid the interior is fully removable and can be washed.
Straight out of the box the helmet felt comfortable. The feel is certainly different to the Arai Tour X-4 I’d been wearing for the last year or two; it’s softer for sure. With the X-4 I had to remove one layer of foam to make it fit around my huge ears and the lining itself doesn’t feel as comfortable as the RX-7V. As tests go I had a ride to Croatia planned just days after getting the new helmet, it was a risk as to whether I took the new and potentially uncomfortable new lid, or one of my well-worn ones. The new one won.
It’s fair to say the RX-7V coped admirably with two weeks of non-stop riding and over 2500 miles on the road. I had very little discomfort and found the vents good enough on even the hottest days when the temperature was in the mid 30’s. Since then I’ve worn it for the last seven months and have done at least 7,000 miles in it, I can’t really fault it.
What is R75?
You may have noticed the R75 sticker on newer Arai’s, it denotes the shell type. Arai weren’t happy with the helmet protection standards, so developed their own. R75 means the shell is rounder and has a 75 degree constant radius. This smoother shape helps to disperse kinetic energy and glance off objects.
As helmets go you’ll have to go a long way to beat an Arai overall, although they do still let themselves down slightly with wind noise. I always wear earplugs on longer journeys anyway but I wish Arai would design some kind of pump up comfort fit lining to quieten things down further. Other than that it’s a great helmet. The visor changing process is much easier than it used to be and I’ve not had an annoying drip during heavier rain so it seems to seal better as well. The helmet feels as plush as a £600 crash helmet deserves to and looks great as well.
Lab rating: 9
Prices start at £599.99 for plain colours, for more information visit: #Whyarai