Writing a report about the Arai helmets I wear for racing and road use is one of my most difficult journalistic tasks.
Arai kindly gives helmets to me free of charge, and with a ticket price of just under $970, this is very kind of the company. However, faced with the choice of buying an Arai or having any other helmet free of charge I would still purchase an Arai. And, clearly, the helmet I would want to own is the Corsair-X – Arai’s top of the range race and road and offering.
For me to say that I would actually pay for a helmet, as in acquire it with my own money, when a free alternative is available is roughly the equivalent of Donald Trump offering Hilary Clinton the post of Ambassador to Mexico. Not actually impossible – but high on the list of very unlikely. Now, you may ask, why this unique frame of mind when it comes to Arais?
First, no-one- including Arai – is claiming that the Corsair-X is any safer than other super premium helmets. For example, the Shoei X-Fourteen or an AGV Pista GP-R Matte Carbon are both superb helmets. However, what you get with a Corsair-X is the knowledge that there is nothing better available – anywhere, at any price. If you are safety conscious, as I am, then this is the most comforting piece of knowledge you can have.
One of the reasons I am so locked into the Arai way of life is that there are no good Arais, bad Arais or special Arais for the company’s star riders. I have a standard Statement White paint job, which is somewhat confusingly red and blue, but other than this, my Corsair-X helmet is the same as those worn by Cal Crutchlow, Dani Pedrosa, Nicky Hayden and a host of other Arai sponsored riders. There is simply one quality for everyone.
Arai’s design philosophy is to have a very thin, but extremely hard and strong, outer shell. It is simplistic to refer to the shell as being made from conventional fiberglass because Arai claims that their structural net complex of “superfiber and synthetics” is 40% stronger than conventional fiberglass.
For the Corsair-X, there is also a new resin which “sticks” the layers of fibre together more securely and results in a 30gm weight loss.
Certainly with its aerospace “superfibers” and resins, the Corsair-X is a world away from the fiberglass shells of old but it still enjoys the benefits of this type of construction: primarily, that the shell is designed to be sacrificial in an accident. In practice this means that the shell self-destructs during impact and, in so doing, reduces impact on the inner shell.
What makes the Corsair-X clever is that the thickness of the shell varies in different parts of the helmet. The practical implications are that the areas not likely to impact the road – for example, adjacent to the wearer’s ear – are thin whilst the front and rear of the shell are much thicker.
Directly adjacent to the visor aperture, the helmet is strengthened to prevent flexing in the case of a face down impact: something I know about all too well, from personal experience when I slid out of Donington Park’s Redgate Corner at high speed a few years ago during a Classic GP race.
A large, heavy object waving around on the end of a human neck is highly undesirable in every way. Clearly the lighter the helmet is, the safer it will be. When an accident happens, or when rider fatigue kicks in, lightweight is good.
The shell is hand made in Japan by Arai staff, who probably eat their Sushi off Arai plates with Arai chopsticks. Arai’s press release says that each Corsair shell takes 27 steps to make and 18 man hours. These are not $50 polycarbonate helmets, sold out of the back of a van at the local Swap Meet!
The big change between the Corsair-X and the previous Corsair, is that there is a new shape which is aimed at increasing the “glancing off” characteristics of the helmet. This sounds simple, as in getting your elbow down on a MotoGP bike looks straightforward, but is hugely important. If the helmet can be made to slide along the road in an accident then the effect of the impact is vastly reduced in those first, critical few milliseconds following impact.
A by-product of the new shape is that the helmet is quieter and the increased visor aperture really does help with peripheral vision. On the road, I can see suicidally inclined cyclists at stoplights and aggressive trucks on the Interstate. Even in close combat racing, I never need more peripheral vision.
At the end of a long, high speed straight when the rider pops up from behind the fairing, classic race bikes create a lot of dirty air and my Corsair is perfectly stable in these conditions – noticeably more so than the old helmet.
The same applies to turning my head in a race. Even sideways on, the helmet is like an exo-skeleton and effortless.
Inside the Corsair-X are five densities of liner. Gruesome as it sounds, in a really big accident the job of the helmet liner is to stop the brain from slowing down too fast and hitting the inside of the skull. If the deceleration can be made progressive then the chances of avoiding death or brain damage are hugely increased. This is the difference between a budget helmet with a simple, single density polystyrene liner and Arai’s high tech system.
Strap fastening remains by “D” ring and I wouldn’t want anything else. “D” rings do take a little bit of learning if you are new to motorcycling but they are simple to use and are 100% reliable. Again in the case of the huge accident, I don’t want to be quite confident that my helmet strap won’t slacken or even come undone: I need to be totally certain.
The question of comfort with an Arai is always a vexed one. If you have an “Arai head” then there is no more comfortable helmet in the world. However, Arais do not suit every head shape and it is worth taking the trouble to get the initial fit perfect. Have a look at my colleague Adam Waheed’s video for a more detailed explanation of Arai’s system.
Arais come in a vast range of shell sizes and can be tuned internally to fit the wearer by subtly adjusting the padding. My head does fit Arai’s concept of the human skull and so I can wear my Corsair all day.
Importantly, I can wear a very tight fitting Arai without any discomfort and this is an important aid to safety. What you don’t want is your head loose inside the helmet so it has the space to accelerate into the liner in the case of a huge impact.
The adjustable spoiler is of immense value. You can stop for a pie and a cup of tea at a café and then look knowingly at the weather and adjust the spoiler a notch – whilst the spoiler-less underclass look on with envy. As far as I am concerned, this makes the whole of the $900 price worthwhile.
In reality, I have never found any practical value from playing with the spoiler but it’s a fun thing to have.
By contrast, the ventilation system is good and when open there is excellent airflow through the helmet – a real benefit when racing in summer. The new ducts apparently provide 11% increased airflow over the old model but I can’t say that I have noticed any difference in practice.
All the vents break off easily in an accident so that the helmet slips across the road surface and avoids critically fast deceleration.
I have spent this article discussing the safety elements of the Corsair-X because this is really all that counts. However, a bonus is that the helmet does carry on the tradition of being the most premium of the super premium helmet brands in terms of fit and finish.
There is something very special about unwrapping a new Arai for the first time, with its lovely bag, visor lube and an attention to detail which really does say you are now in the Chanel, Rolex, Jaguar end of the market. Combined with safety as good as is achievable in 2017, this is why I would get my own credit card out to own a Corsair-X – and you don’t hear a motojournalist say that very often!
Arai Corsair X Statement Motorcycle Helmet
Color: White and Black
Sizes: Small – 2XL
Warranty: Five-year limited warranty