Those who follow the Scenic blog know that, after many months of deliberation, I finally got a new motorcycle. Of course, with such a hard core adventure motorcycle, I couldn’t possibly continue using my mellow touring helmet, the Schuberth C3 Pro. So I got the Arai XD-4 (or Tour X-4 as it’s called in Europe). But was that the correct decission?
Apples to Oranges
Some of you might argue that comparing the C3 Pro with the Arai XD-4 is like comparing apples to oranges, but I beg to differ. A lot of adventure riders come from a touring background. And a lot of those old touring riders, like me, will have a premium touring helmet, wondering if it’s worth to upgrade to an Adventure helmet. Well… this article is for those guys and gals.
Why get a new helmet at all?
That’s a good question. Why would you get a new helmet at all? Well… there are many reasons. Here are some of them…
Even though adventure riding, for many, entails touring with the occasional dirt road, there is no denying that the image of adventure riding is quite different from the touring image. In fact, a whole sub-industry was built around this ‘adventure’ image, with specific adventure motorcycles and all the specific gear to go with it, including helmets. So, image, is one reason that people might want to get a new helmet.
That’s an easy one. If your old helmet is, well, old, you’ll have to get a new one. No questions there. Helmet manufacturers recommend to renew your helmet after (more or less) 5 years because the internal materials of the helmet degrade, making the helmet lose its protective properties. Many articles have been written on that so I won’t get into that here.
New riders often get sub-premium (cheaper) gear because they are trying out this new ‘hobby’ and don’t want to break the bank just yet. Once they are hooked, often times they start upgrading their gear. Mostly the gear that is uncomfortable or of less quality. Helmets are certainly in that category.
Looking for a specific property
Helmets are usually compared against key properties: Weight, Noise, Ventilation, Comfort and Features (like a sun visor, modular mechanism, speaker pockets, com system preparation, chin strap closure, etc.). One of the reasons why people get a new helmet is because they are looking for a specific property that their current helmet doesn’t offer. E.g. my very first helmet was a very cheap B-brand (I don’t remember the name to be honest) and it had horrible noise insulation. That’s why I switched to Schuberth very quickly. Have a look at my article Windscreens and other causes + solutions for noise and buffeting in motorcycle helmets if you’d like to know more about this topic.
Why did I get a new helmet?
For me, it was a combination of image, ventilation and field of vision. I will admit I am a bit vain in that. I wanted my helmet to reflect the adventure style my new motorcycle had. My C3 Pro simply didn’t fit the image. Living in Mexico I also wanted a bit more ventilation. The C3 Pro is a great helmet with great features, but ventilation is not one of those. Also, because of its modular character the visor is not very big. Adventure helmets mostly have a bigger visor (to be able to wear goggles), giving you a bigger field of vision.
Why did I get the Arai?
I decided for the Arai XD-4 / Tour X-4 as that’s one of the best adventure motorcycle helmets according to the many reviews I read and viewed. It’s often compared to the Klim Krios and the Shoei Hornet. Just google those names and you’ll get many hits for reviews and comparison articles and videos.
Before we start, a bit of background: Before I got the C3 Pro I owned its predecessor, the C3. I have ridden almost 10 years with these helmets. So, needless to say, I really like them. I got the Arai late last year, and now have ridden about 3 months / 3000km with it on all kinds of terrain. Mostly in warmer weather as we don’t get much cold weather here in Mexico.
With that out of the way… here we go:
Both are not the lightest in class, but to be honest, weight has never bothered me and was not really a purchase argument for me.
- Putting it on
Because the C3 is a modular helmet it’s easier to get it over your head. That’s just the difference between a modular and full face helmet. I will say it’s pretty difficult to get the Arai over my head without dislodging the in ear headphones I use (which serve as headphones and earplugs). It’s gotten easier over time though.
- Chin strap (and modular vs full face)
The chin strap on the C3 is of the ‘ratchet’ type. I find this easier and faster than Arai’s D-rings… especially untying takes longer with the D-rings. This becomes more annoying because the Arai is a full face helmet. There are situations, for example in a gas station, at a public ATM or a quick dash into a corner store, where I would leave my C3 on with the chin bar flipped up (I know this looks dumb, but I don’t care :), but where I now feel obliged to take off the Arai completely to show my face. What I’m trying to say is that it’s not only the untying taking longer, I also have to do it more often.
Comfort is a lot better on the Arai. Even now, while the Arai is still pretty new, it’s already more comfortable than my broken in C3 Pro. This can be highly personal though, so if possible do some fitting before buying.
Airflow is a lot better on the Arai. Living in Mexico that’s very nice. Wearing the two helmets back to back really makes clear just how much of a difference there is. The C3 feels stuffy and cramped, while the Arai is cool.
- Wind noise
Airflow and wind noise are linked. Typically, the more airflow, the more wind noise. The Arai is definitely more noisy than the Schuberth, but to be honest, not by a lot. At least not on my new bike with the aftermarket windscreen and earplugs (I always ware earplugs on longer rides with highway stretches). Your results may vary though.
- Sun visor / Peak
I really like the peak on the Arai. I was not expecting to like it that much, but it’s actually really useful in Mexico. The sun is quite high in the sky here, so I didn’t use the C3’s built in sun visor a lot. Only at the beginning or end of the day, when the sun is low, I would use it, but then the sun visor would not really be enough. The peak on the Arai however is very effective for both the sun high above and for the low sun around sunrise and sunset. By simply tilting my head a bit I can very easily put the peak between the sun and my eyes, which helps a lot better than the C3’s built in sun visor. As for the peak ‘catching’ wind on shoulder checks… you do feel it a little bit, but I’ve not found that to be a problem… even though I tried this at highway speeds and beyond. Your results may vary though. One of the modification on my new bike was a bigger windscreen, which helps against that as well.
- Glasses friendly
I’m lucky enough to not need prescription glasses for driving/riding (yet). However, I recently bought a package of 3 riding glasses on Amazon for under 10 USD, just to try this out… and I really loved it. In the C3 I never tried sunglasses (because it has the sun visor), but in the Arai, when I tried it, it not only helped in sun protection, but it also enabled me to ride with the visor open at lower speeds, which helps tremendously in keeping cool in the Mexican climate.
Would I buy the ARAI again?
I have the C3 Pro and the Arai ready for the taking for every ride. I find myself taking the Arai almost every time. I’ve gotten used to the chin strap closure, I like the extra ventilation and the adventure image. The only thing I do miss in the ability to flip the chin up at a gas station or when dashing into a corner store.
So, the answer is yes! I would buy the Arai again. HOWEVER, if, by the time I need another helmet (not for many years), there is a modular alternative that still offers the adventure image, great ventilation and the big visor with possibility to wear goggles, I might give that one a try. A cherry on top would be if it had the ratchet closure in stead of the D-rings.