The Arai XD-4

Posted on July 22, 2019 in Live to Ride, Ride to Live

I have a Shoei RF-1200 head. The RF-1200 in an XL is the best fitting and most comfortable helmet I have owned, yet when my lovely all white RF-1200 with its extremely cool Mass Effect and Destiny the Game stickers was due for replacement, my eyes started to wander. In particular they started to wander over dual-sport / ADV style lids, a dirt bike style helmet with nods towards a street helmet such as a full face shield.

I was particularly interested in the visor that such helmets have. I ride a lot, and am often in the saddle for many hours a day, days at a time. While using a dark smoke shield or an internal sun shield helps cut the sunlight, you still have the (muted) sun on your face for hours at a time, which can get pretty stifling after a while.

The potential advantage of the dual-sport helmet visor is obvious: it can completely block the sun, and would be of particular use in the early and late season when you can use the visor to block that low early morning / late evening sun just like you would do with the sun visor in your car.

Also, dual-sport style helmets make you look cool, sending a clear message that you are truely adventurous person, riding your 600lb behemoth places that the peasants can only dream of. Like Starbucks. Opinions may vary on that front.

After much internet window shopping and a good deal of humming and hawing I decided on the rather expensive Arai XD-4. RyanF9 says it is the best. What more do you need to know? Here’s a bit of a review after about 4 months and 8,200 kms, and in comparison to may bae, the Shoei RF-1200.

Fit

The XD-4 is not as ‘comfy’ or plush as the RF-1200 for me. It also does not fit my large mishapen noggin quite as well as the RF-1200. There is however nothing to complain about on either front. It is plenty comfortable enough to wear all day long, every day, and while there seems be the slightest bit of pressure on my forehead, that pressure is spread out over my entire forehead so there is never a hotspot that eventually feels like someone is taking a drill to your head (I’m looking at you BMW Motorrad System 6 Evo helmet).

Note that Arai has lots of interior padding options. You can tear away pre-cut strips of padding, and buy thicker or thinner pads as needed to customize your fit.

Function

This helmet is both Snell and DOT approved in Canada.

The visor can be adjusted up and down a few inches just twisting it up or down.

The D-ring style chinstrap seems to be situated further back towards my throat vs. other helmets I have used. I find myself making the conscious effort to pull the chinstrap forward as I am cinching it up, after which it is perfectly comfortable. That said, D-ring style chinstraps are garbage people. Let’s all just stop using them. Ratchets are where it is at.

Being a dual-sport helmet, there’s a good deal more room in the chin. I really like this as it makes it easy for me to use my hydration pack. The more snug chin bar on a street helmet like the RF-1200 makes it hard to get the hose in there.

The helmet flows a great deal of air, though on the hottest and stickiest days, nothing short of riding around with the shield up will suffice. I have yet to try the helmet with goggles, which might be a good solution for such days.

There are nine independant vent controls: two venturi vents on the back, two top vents, two brow vents in the shield, a central chin vent, and two additional chin vents to either side of the central vent.

The central vent can be directed up over the shield or allowed to flow through to your face though I don’t find either configuration works particularly well. The functionality of the top and brow vents seems to depend on head angle and visor positioning. I find I have to tip my head forward a bit for the top vents to catch air on my 2016 R1200GS with the stock windscreen in its low position.

Opening and closing the shield is easy enough, though I wish more manufacturers would put shield opening / closing tabs on both sides of the shield (something I really appreciated on my BMW Motorrad System 6 Evo lid). Sometimes your clutch hand is free, sometimes your brake hand is free.

The shield has three open positions: cracked, half-open, and fully open. I really don’t get the half open option. You get extra airflow but the shield is at an angle such that is messes up your vision. Not useful. Closed and cracked the shield is clear and does not warp your view.

I had no problem installing the clamp mount for my SENA 20S communicator. The clamp easily slides between the EPS layer and the shell.

You can remove the shield, the visor, or both, depending on your needs. I always leave both on. With the shield open I think there is plenty of room for googles (TBC), and the visor works fine at freeway speeds so I never feel like I need to take it off. Which is good because the retention mechanism is terrible. See below!

I have not yet gotten around to mounting my GoPro.

Finish

This thing is gorgeous. Flawless. The images don’t do it justice.

XD-4

What’s not to like?

The XD-4 has a crap selection of shields. Clear, light smoke, dark smoke. I bought a dark smoke shield to block the sun and because it looks good. But there is no pinlock option with the dark smoke shield. You have to buy the clear pinlock shield and then use a dark smoke pinlock insert.

My idea of using the visor to block the low early / late season sun did not quite work out. This is an dual-sport helmet, which means it has motorcross DNA, which means it flows a ton of air. A ton of bitterly cold early and late season air. The visor does work as I had hoped, but this lid is not warm when the mercury drops meaning you will likely want something warmer.

Finally, the visor and shield retention mechanism makes swapping the clear and dark smoke shields a pain in the ass. I can understand why the mechanism works the way it does, but coming from an RF-1200, with one of the slickest shield change mechanisms on the market, this is a little annoying, especially on a helmet at this price point. Fortuately I rarely ride after dark.

Bottom Line

I would 100% recommend this helmet. If scores are your thing, the XD-4 gets at least a 4/5, maybe a 4.5/5. If it had a dark smoke pinlock shield (better, a double pane shield) and a ratchet style chin strap, I might give it a perfect 5/5.