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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Helmet Review

Correction - The 3 Rivers Dual Sport Ride is on Sunday, 7/25, not Saturday as stated previously. My error and thanks to Tony for pointing it out.

On July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. It reminds me that there was a time in the world when we thought of ourselves as capable of anything. Now we seem to be a nation of greedy fraudsters and whining victims.

The Arai XD3 is an unusual helmet in that it is really two helmets in one. It has a full face shield to act as a road helmet. The face shield then flips up to act as a dirt bike helmet with goggles. Pretty trick for people like me who ride dual sport bikes. I often ride to an area rather than trailer my bike. Goggles on the road are OK but they are limiting in peripheral vision. This limits my enjoyment of the scenery on back roads and can be unsafe in urban traffic if I can't see what's coming at me from the sides.

A couple of years ago I rode my Transalp across country with only a dirt bike helmet and goggles but wasn't that happy. I've found that OTG (Over The Glasses) googles have a bigger lens but it's still limiting. When I saw the first Arai XD I thought I had found my helmet. Then I saw the price. Nose bleed city! However, it wasn't long before Shoei released the Hornet and Arai dropped their prices slightly.

The two helmets are very similar and I have to admit to owning mostly Shoei helmets in the past. I bought the Arai this time because it fit my head better. Anyone buying a helmet from a mail order house on the internet is cheating themselves. Until you try them on and compare the fit you are not getting the best helmet for your head. Heads and helmets come in many shapes as well as sizes. If you have a round head and try to wear an oval helmet you will never be comfortable. This is not a function of price, it's just a matter of design.

So how does it work? On the road just flip down the shield like any other full face helmet. There will be a lot more room in front of your face because the mouth guard is further forward. It also has a large air scoop for ventilation. Because the face shield is farther forward it will catch the wind a bit more when you turn your head at highway speeds. Not a particularly big deal but it's there. After a while you forget all about it.

The visor is nice when riding in the daytime as it effectively keeps the sun out of your eyes. However, this is a real pain when you ride a full-on sport bike. When you are leaned over the handle bars the visor cuts into your line of sight. I ended up having to ride with my head tilted back which was a major irritation by the end of the day. You can remove the visor easily for sport bike duty but I have other helmets so I've never tested this feature.
In the dirt this is just like any other dirt bike helmet once the face shield is flipped up and out of the way. My Progrip goggles fit on my face just like on my regular dirt helmet. No fuss, no bother. Because the helmet fits so well it doesn't bob around on my head when the trail gets rough. The ventilation is good and I haven't had a head heat or fogging problem so far.

I will say that the Arai seems a bit heavier than my other dirt helmet but this may be because it is more heavily constructed. I'm not a great enduro champ so I usually get a DOT spec helmet for the dirt. Since I usually don't go that fast and tend to need a new helmet every year or so I usually buy whatever brand is on sale that fits my head.

The bottom line is that I love my XD3. As long as I'm not riding a sport bike or going on a full on, dirt only ride it's generally the one I grab. It's reasonably light and quiet, fits perfectly, and has the build quality Arai is known for. Because I'm on the Cycle Gear email list I bought it with a 25% off coupon which made it a very sweet deal! It's not the cheapest helmet out there but after hours on the roads and trails I must say it's worth it!