Updated 4/23/10 (notes at bottom)
After four years with my trusty Shoei X-Eleven and the new Snell M2010 standard in full effect, I finally felt justified in buying a new helmet. It’s a big deal for me since I’m not the gear hoarder that some of my riding buddies are. I could have extended the life of my X-Eleven by just replacing the flattened cheek pads, but it’s a good idea to replace helmets every few years anyway and more importantly I wanted a helmet that was either Snell M2010* or ECE 22.05 compliant. Enter the Arai Profile.
The Profile isn’t Arai’s premiere race helmet (that’s the Corsair V), but it is the one Arai sport helmet designed for long oval heads (relatively narrow from side to side and longer from front to back). Their other sport models are for intermediate oval heads and will accommodate a wider variety of head shapes. If you’re new to motorcycles, keep in mind that head shape is critical when it comes to proper helmet fitting; always try on a particular model of helmet before buying it. I really would’ve liked the Corsair V or even a helmet like the reasonably priced HJC FS15, but my dang long oval head doesn’t fit quite well enough in them. Oh well.
So what’s so great about Arai anyway and why does everyone talk them up? The first thing that you notice out of the box is the workmanship. The helmets are all hand made in Japan and the attention to quality is unmistakable. The paint, engineering, fit and finish are all top-notch. They’re relatively light too. Right when you pick up an Arai helmet, you know it’s different. The liner is probably the best in the business; it’s worlds apart from the liner that was in my Shoei X-Eleven. It’s got a retractable chin guard that keeps cold air out and reduces noise. Everyone that picks them up says the same thing: “Man, this thing is nice.”
Of course great workmanship is meaningless without performance, but the Profile delivers. It had some high standards to live up to, being my next helmet after using Shoei’s former top model, but a few test rides at a track day and the canyons have convinced me it’s a winner.
One thing Arai does a little differently is integrate brow vents into the top of the visor. They’re a little tough to work with your gloves on, but they’re very effective and easily the ones I notice the most. In fact I can’t remember ever wearing a helmet that moved as much air across my face – I dig ’em. The chin vent works pretty well too. The forehead vents aren’t spectacular but move a good enough amount of air. Overall it’s a very good helmet with regard to ventilation.
There is one Arai quirk that needs to be mentioned – the visor removal system. Arai has pods covering the visor hinges which provide more painted area and a nicer look, but they add difficulty to visor changes. Actually they revised things recently to make removal a little easier, but putting the visor back in is still a little tricky. I won’t get into the details here but let’s just say I thought I broke it when installing my new light smoke visor. Ugh. It’s a minor gripe though and the only thing I don’t like about Arai.
Overall the Profile is a terrific premium helmet for the long oval-headed among us. The workmanship, features, quality and performance are all top-notch. Admittedly it’s not cheap, but keep in mind that you don’t need to spend a lot of money for good protection as Motor Cyclist showed us in 2005. You do need to spend a little more dough if you want top-notch fit and finish though, and the Profile delivers at the track or the canyons.
* Update 4/23/10: It turns out the helmet I received has a Snell M2005 sticker inside, but there’s no way of knowing whether or not it’s also M2010 compliant. I’m annoyed that Snell does not make such a clarification on their own list of M2010 compliant helmets; it would be very helpful if a column was added that showed the earliest manufacture date of compliant models. I’ve sent e-mails to Snell, Arai Americas and Helmet Harbor (my retailer) and will post the replies here on the site. Thanks to Scott M. for inquiring about this.
* Update #2, 4/23/10: Check out the response I got from Arai Americas:
Ray, Arai has made their helmets to the same standards for years and we have always passed the snell certifications. Snell may have changed some of the standards but we did not change anything in our manufacturing and we passed 2005 and 2010 making our helmets the same as always. Thanks, Kathy”
There’s definitely some confusion amongst the retailers though as two separate prominent online helmet retailers have told me and Scott M. that Arai will be making a different M2010-compliant version that isn’t out yet. I’m inclined to believe the manufacturer over the retailers, especially because neither of them said they actually spoke with Arai directly, but I’m interested to see if Snell responds to my question.
* Update #3, 4/23/10: The general manager of the Snell Memorial Foundation responded to my inquiry and provided some very useful information but didn’t directly answer my question. It’s possible I didn’t word it specifically enough for him to safely answer. I replied and asked him if the Arai Profile that was tested for M2010 compliance was an existing model that could’ve been bought by anyone prior to the M2010 standard being published, or if it was a prototype from Arai.
* Update #4, 4/23/10: The general manager of the Snell Memorial Foundation responded to my follow-up question and the answer is… that only Arai can answer whether or not the Profile that was M2005 compliant was resubmitted as-is for M2010 compliance testing. The good news is that Arai has told me in no uncertain terms that the helmet has not changed. I’m going to make a leap of faith and assume Arai is not lying to me. In other words, I believe my new Arai Profile, even though it’s got an M2005 sticker on it, is also M2010 compliant. I’m still annoyed with Snell though and I’ll summarize this in a separate post.