Gear: Arai XD4 helmet

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Category: Gear

Now in its 4th generation, the XD range started the whole ADV helmet craze. And with good reason, they combine excellent ventilation and vision with all-day comfort. But, now existing in a very crowded market, can this new Arai XD4 still hold its own?

Helmet Role:
It’s been… never since we’ve reviewed an Arai here at HfL. We figured we’d give our take on one of the most recognizable helmet brands, so we reached into our gear closet to bring you this review…

The XD4 is the forth generation of the original Arai XD, the helmet that basically started the whole flock of adventure-touring helmets that every company feels that they need to make these days. This type of helmet needs to be all things for all riders, so it starts from Arai’s VX-Pro dirt lid. A shield is fitted and the venting is exchanged for more street-oriented intakes. Depending upon your needs, it can be a dirt helmet with goggles and the standard peak, an aggressively styled street helmet sans peak, or a hybrid of the two. As the O.G. of the class, the XD4 does seem to be the most functional helmet in the class and there are several places where you
can see the extra development and dollars spent.

The XD4 is the forth generation of the original Arai XD, the helmet that basically started the whole flock of adventure-touring helmets that every company feels that they need to make these days. This type of helmet needs to be all things for all riders, so it starts from Arai’s VX-Pro dirt lid. A shield is fitted and the venting is exchanged for more street-oriented intakes. Depending upon your needs, it can be a dirt helmet with goggles and the standard peak, an aggressively styled street helmet sans peak, or a hybrid of the two. As the O.G. of the class, the XD4 does seem to be the most functional helmet in the class and there are several places where you can see the extra development and dollars spent.

The updates to the XD4 bring it in line with much of the rest of Arai’s line. Arai’s distinct brow vents are now present, along with updated venting, shell shaping and interior padding. Arai’s MO always seems to be more evolution than revolution, and that’s the name of the game here. Like all of the helmets from the Japanese brand, Arai’s XD4 uses the, in our opinion less-desirable, SNELL standard.

Fit and Comfort:
Let’s get the easy bit out of the way first: this is an Arai, and as such, it is excruciatingly comfortable. Unless your head shape is radically different than the shape of the Arai you are trying on, your head will love the inside of any Arai. This company sells on their fit, and once you’ve lived inside one for a while, you will find it hard to go back.

Arai labels the XD4 with their Intermediate Oval shape, which should fit most heads even if it is a bit short front-to-back for some. But the answer is more complicated than a simple spec sheet. Arai’s new Microfit liner includes peel away temple pads that allow you to customize the shape without having to buy new liner components. The end result is a helmet that fits my pointy head right out of the box with no complaints. And thanks to the longer snout that comes from the dirty VX-Pro roots, there’s plenty of room for your chin and face. Finally, Arai’s Facial Contour System (FCS) does exactly what it promises: cradling your jaw once the helmet bell is in position around your head. It’s cool how the helmet almost seems to melt around your head when you slip it over your skull.

The end result is helmet that seems to fit everyone that tries it on with a firm, secure fit that feels broken-in out of the box. As picky as I am about helmets, I don’t make statements like this lightly, either. The only question is how that springy foam in the FCS holds up to years of use. Oh, and the chinstrap is a bit rough and stiff.

Visibility and Noise/Sound Attenuation:
As comfortable as the XD4 is, you’d better invest in some comfy earplugs to match. It’s not that the Arai is any louder than average, but every helmet is loud without earplugs. And unlike some helmets on the market, the XD4 doesn’t include ear pockets with additional noise damping material. Wind noise is dead average, in other words.

On the bright side, the ventilation doesn’t cause any strange roars, whistles or booming noises in regular use. That being said, wearing the peak and shield together can create a minor whistle at certain angles. Not a terrible whistle, but noticeable all the same.

As for visibility, that’s one of the biggest selling points for this type of helmet. The huge eyeport gives unrivaled visibility compared to standard street lids. For that reason alone, I love using the XD4 for commuting and urban jungle survival. Of course, with the peak in place you lose the upper third of your LOS but that only really matters when you’re sport riding with your head down. I’m not the dirt-eating type but there seems to be plenty of room for goggles if that’s your thing.

Ventilation:
The XD4 scores pretty well on the ventilation front. The large intakes from Arai’s street lineup work with the VX-Pro3 diffusers to pull a lot of air through the helmet. We also like Arai’s proprietary brow vents that route air directly to your sweaty temples. Like other Arais, the venting is clearly felt and very noticeable between open and shut, but lacks that direct “wind in your hair” feeling you get with racing helmets like the old Shoei X-11, the Bell Star or the Schuberth SR1. And as always, it’d be great if Arai would install a forehead vent. But they refuse to compromise on drilling holes into the brow region of the shell, citing research that is boring but probably quite valid. I don’t care, I want a cooler-running forehead!

On the bottom end, the slotted face vent is awesome. With the ducting closed, the airflow is blocked with only minor drafts reaching your face. (A version of Arai’s usual pull down spoiler is present to help direct the airflow around the lower opening of the helmet.) And with the grill open, the chinbar might as well be nonexistent, with a blast of fresh air directly to your face. Two complaints: one, the slots seem to block the wind at high angles of attack, such as when your chin is dipped into a sport riding position; and two, that super open grill does a great job of fileting insects and then shotgunning the results down your throat.

Weight and Balance:
Without having a precise scale handy, I’m only able to say that our size medium XD4 is on the heavier side of average. More noticeably, the outer shell is quite bulky looking despite being tweaked during this model update. The helmet never feels large on your head though, which is more important. In your hands, the helmet also feels slightly rear heavy but the feeling disappears once secured to your head.

Without the peak, the helmet feels nicely balanced on the road, even when making a head check. Some ADV helmets have such a long chinbar that it can seriously catch the airflow at speed. The rounder Arai design does not. Another cool trick is how the peak barely affects the helmet when it is mounted. You can feel it to be sure, but it doesn’t try to rip your head off if you look up, for example.

Graphics and Finish Quality:
Pretty much perfect… as it should be for this sort of pricing. All the vents function with an authoritative snap. The shell’s trim and visor gaskets are molded perfectly. And the shield seals well, which is impressive considering the surface area it covers. It’d be nice if you didn’t have to play with a bunch of plastic screws to change the visor or shield, but I guess that can’t be helped if you want to keep the shield system simple.

In the Explore graphic we have here, it also looks pretty good, with a simple design that evokes the popular old Squadra graphic from Arai’s past. I love it, but YMMV. A word of warning for folks that don’t use meticulous caution in handling their helmets: Arais tend to chip and scratch easily! Don’t bump this thing into a table and expect it to shrug off the hit. Arai’s shields are made out of butter, so be careful when cleaning off bugs and dirt. Of course you shouldn’t ever be banging your helmet around, but Arais require pampering if you want to keep it looking new.

Unique Features:
It’s hard to say that many of the XD4’s features are unique anymore, since so many other companies have copied the basic concept. Still, there’s enough Arai tech in this lid to make it stand out. The FCS, brow vents, Microfit liner, etc. all make the helmet work just a bit better than competition. The truly smart feature is the addition of the emergency cheekpad removal system from the Corsair V and VX-Pro3 race helmets. Getting a helmet off without aggravating potential neck injuries is just as useful for a street rider as it is for a racer.

Value and Desirability:
It’s an Arai. Everyone in this industry, from MotoGP on down, says you should want to buy and wear an Arai. You’ll get appreciative glances from fellow riders and folks that you want to have sex with will return the favor. And yes, they really are that good. It’s comfy, vents well and has that elusive luxury feel that so many products strive for and never attain.

But is it $729.95 worth of good? That’s a question you’ll have to ask yourself. If I was fighting to pay rent, I wouldn’t be able to justify an Arai. If you like the ADV styling, you can spend a lot less to get the same look. I keep coming back to Arai for the peerless, head-inside-a-cloud comfort. The fact that I know an Arai will still be serving me well five (or more) years down the road is also a nice plus.

The Good:
It’s an Arai, with all the great things that comes along with that name.

The Bad:
It’s an Arai, with the few negatives (like price, weight and Snell) that come with that name.

Verdict:
Great if you can spare the coin, but not life changing. That judgement is reserved for the high holy realms of the Nexx XR1R Carbon, Corsair V and SR1.

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