Products

Gear Review: Arai Corsair-X Helmet

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When it comes to helmet brands, Arai Helmet is perhaps one of the best known in the business; and when it comes to the Japanese company’s flagship model, the track-focused Corsair reigns supreme.

So, it’s a big deal when Arai decides to update its ready-to-race helmet offering, creating the Arai Corsair-X in the process.

This week, we got to test the new Corsair-X in the flesh, spending a full-day riding at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, California on Monday — melting away in the 104°F heat — as well as riding around my new hometown of Portland, Oregon.

So let’s cut the fluff, breakdown what’s new with the Corsair-X, and talk about what our impressions are of this top-of-the-line helmet.

What’s New:

At first glance, it is hard to tell the differences between the latest Corsair-V iteration and the new Corsair-X model — the helmets are visually very similar. That’s not on accident, as one of the staples of Arai’s helmet design is the very round and smooth shell shape.

The theory is that a round and smooth helmet is better at creating glancing blows, and is less susceptible to rotation upon impact.

The last thing you want during a motorcycle crash is for your helmet to catch on the pavement, and cause a snap or twist to your neck and head — a round shape helps prevent this, and we have seen this concept appear with many other motorcycle helmet brands lately.

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Getting into the nitty-gritty details, the Corsair-X has a new composite shell that is 30% lighter than Arai’s previous design. It’s also stronger than the previous shell design, and incorporates a longer chin bar, for better spacing between the helmet and your mouth (+3 mm).

Arai is also using three different EPS densities – the impact softening foam interior — on the Corsair-X, thus creating different foam cushions for different parts of the helmet. The purpose of this is to make the Corsair-X respond better to the different types of impacts different parts of the head typically encounter.

When it comes to fit, I wear a “Large” with most brands, and the Arai Corsair-X is no different, so we will call the sizing consistent to what seems to be prevailing in the industry.

One of the more obvious changes to the Corsair-X over the Corsair-V is the change in the venting switch-gear. Gone are the vague, and easy to break plastic snap-vents on the top of the helmet, which have now been replaced with larger and more user-friendly sliding vents.

The top-center vent brings in 11% more air than its predecessor, and is a noticeable improvement. The Corsair-V was a well-venting helmet, and somehow Arai has found a way to improve upon this. Kudos.

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Moving along the top of the helmet, the two signature air channels at top of the Corsair have been lengthened on the Corsair-X (+20 mm), and also have been made more straight in order to reduce wind buffeting and increase air flow. The chin vent has also been revised, and is now removable for easier servicing.

The visor latch has also been changed in order to more securely hold the visor in-place during a crash (a huge issue in the helmet safety arena), and is intended to make it easier to unlatch the helmet with a gloved hand.

It takes some practice to get right (and to understand how it works), but overall I consider this an improvement on Arai’s previous basic, yet effective, design.

The big change we suspect everyone will be talking about though is the new visor pod design, which has what Arai calls “variable axis system” or VAS.

We will let the video explain more fully how to change a visor on the new Corsair-X, but basically the new system allows the side covers to pop-off and let the rider see what they are doing while removing/install a visor.

This is good for new-to-Arai customers, though we think current or past Arai owners will find the old system more beneficial. I’ve probably practiced about 30 visor changes so far on the Corsair-X, and I am almost at where the demo video is for time and skill. This system takes some learning.

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The Arai Corsair-X comes with a Pinlock visor installed, which gave us fog-free clarity through the lens. That action is aided by what Arai calls ASAC, which is basically an air channel that pulls air from the visor through the helmet and out the rear-facing ear vents.

Between these two anti-fog features, we couldn’t make the Corsair-X visors mist up, even under the mega sweat-producing conditions at Thunderhill.

How It Rides:

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Comfort, fit, and quality is something that Arai has always been able to deliver on with its products, and the Corsair-X is no different.

The helmet’s anti-microbial liner is plush high-quality padding that not only feels good against your face, but it does a good job wicking sweat away — something our scorched-earth testing conditions helped prove.

Our sweltering conditions also helped confirm the venting capabilities of the Arai Corsair-X, which we can only describe as excellent. My only complaint with the Corsair-X and its vents are with the chin vent, which is still the Achilles heel of the Corsair line.

When it’s open, the chin vent works wonders, though it can easily find itself closed, like its predecessor. It’s nice to see Arai making the vent more serviceable, but that is really just admitting that the design is flawed, since it breaks so readily and still opens when jostled.

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Of course, we can’t talk about ventilation without talking about helmet noise, as the two items are inversely related to each other when it comes to motorcycle helmets. We didn’t find the Arai Corsair-X to be harshly loud, though there are certainly a bevy of quieter helmets on the market.

I am of the opinion that all motorcyclists should wear earplugs, and I will gladly trade air flow for noise reduction any day of the week, and twice on Sunday. That being said, with ear plugs in, the noise coming thru the Corsair-X was more than manageable, even when brapping around Portland on my supermoto.

Honestly, if a quiet helmet is what you’re after, any top-of-the-line racing helmet is the wrong helmet for you, and the Arai Corsair-X is no different.

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Putting the Corsari-X on a small-mass scale, we get a weight of 1675 grams with the visor installed, 1550g with visor taken off. Compare this to the Corsair-V, which in the same size and fitment, weighs 1570g with the visor on, 1470g visor off, on our scale.

Some of that weight different is due to the Pinlock visor system, which certainly adds some weight to the overall package, though the latest Corsair is still heavier overall than its predecessor, even when you discount that change in visors.

The only helmet in my current aresenal that is comparable in use (racing-oriented) and price (over $800) is the AGV Corsa; so to put those weights into perspective, on our scale the AGV Corsa weighs 1530g with the visor on and 1350g with the visor off, in the same size and fitment.

This makes the Arai a bit heavier than the feather-weight AGV, by about a quarter pound. On your head you can tell that the Arai is heavier and slower to move, but honestly I think the differences are negligible to real world use, and that you really have to go hunting for them.

Neck fatigue has not been an issue while riding with the Corsair-X, both on faired and unfaired machines, which I attribute to some degree to the helmet’s neutral aerodynamic design, as well as its light weight.

Speaking of neck fatigue, the Arai Corsair-X does well with wind buffeting. Behind the fairings of a Ducati 899 Panigale & Ducati 1299 Panigale S (Ducati was kind enough to supply Arai with demo bikes, and Pirelli was helpful in providing tire support), the Corsair-X is very stable and doesn’t wobble.

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Riding the Ducati Monster 1200, Ducati Monster 821, and my Husqvarna supermoto, I noticed more wind noise and some intermittent buffeting at speed. It wasn’t at a level that made me raise my eyebrows, but it is still worth mentioning for the purposes of our review.

Field-of-view is something I am especially sensitive to with the helmets I wear, and in that regard Arai has always excelled. The Arai Corsair-X has a nice big field-of-view for the wearer, especially at the top of the helmet, which is particularly important for track-goers who spend most of their time tucked down on the bike.

The one issue I have with the Corsair-X, in regard to its optics, comes because of the Pinlock. The clear Pinlock outline around the visor vents is both noticeable and distracting while on the track. I suppose with time, I could learn not to see it, but during our initial test it was very obvious.

That distraction is still better than a fogged shield, so be careful with what you complain about, I suppose. Still, I can see some racers and track day riders looking for Arai to release a series of visors without the Pinlock preinstalled, perhaps with tear-off holders installed in its place.

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Moving on, I could probably devote a lot of words to the new Arai pod system. Arai’s helmet latch system comes about from the company’s unwillingness to cut into its shells, thus keeping the integrity of the helmet shell in place.

As such, the Arai helmet latch system has traditionally been hidden behind replaceable side shields. For the Corsair-X, that design has been updated…though I would not say it has been improved upon.

I’ve worn a couple Arai helmets during my time on motorcycles, and I trust the “I’m about to break my helmet” visor changing process that comes with owning an Arai helmet.

New riders won’t have to deal with that, but the new latch system takes some serious getting used to; and even at expert-level, it will still take some time to change between visors — not that owners will change out visors very often.

I would put the visor-changing system as a high priority for Arai and its future helmets; but for consumers, the issue is perhaps of medium importance. I can think of worse visor changing system, but I can also think of better.

In reality, my biggest gripe with the Arai Corsair-X’s pod system is that as it stands now, it feels over-engineered. There are far more elegant solutions on the market from rival brands, and it is items like the pod design seen here that Arai gets its reputation for being slow-to-change with its helmet design.

Talking of complaints, the biggest issue anyone is going to have with the Arai Corsair-X is of course the price, as it is not a cheap helmet.

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The Corsair-X will be available in October 2015, and it will retail for $840 to $850 for solid colors, and $970 for the graphic options.

The price reflects the company’s in-house production in Japan (a rarity in the industry), and the quality put into each hand-built helmet, which is clearly evident when you hold the Corsair-X in your hands.

I am a firm believer in buying the best gear available to a rider, regardless of cost, as I seem to go through jackets, boots, gloves, and helmets with far less frequency than I do motorcycles.

Good gear is an investment in your well-being, and a purchase that you will amortize over thousands of miles and years of use. A wise rider shouldn’t skimp in this department.

Whether the Arai Corsair-X’s price makes sense in that cost-benefit analysis is up to you, but it certainly should be on your short-list of helmets to consider, especially for the race track.

If you’re really in the market for a race-level helmet, you should expect to spend at least $600, and $800-$900 really isn’t outside the norm….so what are we complaining about again?

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In summation, the Arai Corsair-X is an extremely well-built track-oriented helmet. We have no doubt that it will become the new standard by which similarly focused helmets will be measured by, just like its predecessor the Corsair-V was.

Arai Helmet knows that it produces a quality product, and has priced the Corsair-X as such. We expect that experienced and discerning riders will see the value in Arai’s design and in the company’s craftsmanship.

For myself, I certainly expect to be reaching for the Corsair-X on my shelf, more often than not when I go for a ride or track day.

On Safety:

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I want to conclude my thoughts with the obvious admission that we haven’t talked at all about helmet safety in this review, the most important aspect of any motorcycle helmet. A subject better left to its own article, the short truth is that there isn’t good information out there about safety for each helmet model.

This means consumers are left with mostly anecdotal evidence about a helmet’s safety, and the limited amount of crash testing results from organizations like SHARP and CRASH, which can only quantify a fraction of the issues that arise in a high-dynamic event like a motorcycle crash.

Talking about safety when it comes to the Arai Corsair-X is the same. Arai Helmets made compelling evidence during our presentation, highlighting nasty crashes from high-profile racers, which is good for show, but ultimately anecdotal in evidence. Additionally, we don’t have crash ratings for the Corsair-X yet, though I would expect the helmet to score well, and better than its predecessors.

What we do know is that the Arai Corsair-X is SNELL, DOT, and ECE rated, three safety standards that approach shell-strength and impact foam roles from opposite ends of the spectrum. That’s not an easy feat to accomplish, and it at least helps us triangulate a reading on true safety when it comes to the Arai Corsair-X.

The closing thought is that no one in this industry can accurately tell you the most important feature that is relevant to a helmet review, and a buyer’s helmet purchase. It is a subject we hope to examine more here at Asphalt & Rubber, and it is something we hope changes in the American motorcycling landscape.

Photos & Video: Arai Helmet

Jensen Beeler

Despite his best efforts, Jensen is called one of the most influential bloggers in the motorcycle industry, and sometimes consults for motorcycle companies, whether they've solicited his expertise or not.

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