ARAI XC HELMET TEST REVIEW
— Treat your brain to excellence —
By the staff of Dirt Wheels
There are many different philosophies when it comes to helmets. Arai is a Japanese, family-owned helmet company responsible for many helmet innovations. Arai doesn’t believe that helmets are like tear-offs, but instead are vital and valuable safety equipment. Aside from a core belief in absolute quality, Arai believes in a smooth, rounded shell shape, both for intrinsic strength but also so the helmet doesn’t have edges that catch during a crash. The XC is innovative in its shape in another way. Even though it is an open-face, the shell extends along the jaw, much like a full-face, so it gives more face protection. The tough, polycarbonate face shield locks into the helmet opening, and it comes down as far as the rest of the helmet does for more protection.
Arai was one of the last hold-outs making off-road helmets with removable face guards, thinking that they reduced neck injuries. One of our editors wore those Arai open-face helmets. He wears corrective glasses and likes an open-face helmet for UTVs, so he was more than happy to get a new Arai XC.
The XC begins with a quality hand-laid shell. It isn’t straight fiberglass but a high-tech laminate with multiple layers, varied materials in the layers and strengthening peripheral belts. Inside the shell is a multi-density EPS liner. Up to five densities of foam are molded into a single liner. Different parts of the liner are tuned to absorb different impacts.
The Arai XC is available in four solid colors for $519.95, so it is not cheap. But remember how we said this was a quality item of equipment? The interior of the XC has a superbly comfortable comfort liner, cheek pads and vented neck roll at the back, and nearly every part of the helmet, including the comfort padding, is available for replacement. Liners and cheek pads come in different thicknesses, so you can tune your helmet fit to perfection if needed. Frankly, it usually isn’t. The fit and comfort of our XC are amazing.
LIFE AT SPEED
We’ve spent some long, rough and fast days in a UTV with the XC, and it really is a valuable addition to your safety equipment. The initial fit was great with zero break-in required. We were alarmed at first how much effort was required to open the clear face shield when in the down and locked position. As soon as we realized that we wouldn’t damage it pulling on it, we appreciated the security of hearing it latch down. One of the reasons our glasses-wearer likes an open-face is the ability to put the helmet on and take it off without removing the glasses. The jaw-protecting part of the shell does interfere with the earpieces, so it works better going on than coming off. Nevertheless, the glasses slip right in the helmet without contorting the eyeglasses. Also, the jaw extensions keep the helmet snug and in place at speed and in the rough.
The XC shield is clear, but it is available in a light tint and smoke as well. It has a number of effective vents that are easy to use. Our helmet looked pretty bad after one hard, dusty day, but it cleaned right up, including the cheek pads. With the open-face and shield configuration, shield fogging is rare, and it is easy to flip up the shield to talk with your passengers or others.
The vision, fit, look and stability of this helmet on our heads are all you could ask for. Sizing was right on for us. For an open-face with a shield, the wind noise is virtually nil. For many people, this may be the perfect UTV helmet. It is expensive, but in this case, you absolutely get what you pay for. And with an Arai, you only need one every five years if you don’t suffer any impacts. If you do suffer an impact, the helmet paid for itself. The XC comes in XS through XXXL. See www.araiamericas.com or call (610) 366-7220 for more info.