It is that time again – time for a new helmet. After spending quite a lot of time in NAPS having to use the make-up bags on my head as additional COVID protection, I finally settled on an Arai Astro GX helmet in Glass White (or Diamond White according to their European site where the helmet is called the Quantic).
This is my third Arai helmet in a row, but whenever I’m looking for a new one, I try to evaluate as many helmets within budget as I can, and this time the gap was narrower with some other models than before. For example, previously I always found Shoei helmets never quite fit comfortably on the top of my head, but this time, their GT Air II was very comfortable. The only downsides were that they favour Sena communicator mounts meaning people like me with Cardo units have to use the adhesive pad further forwards on the helmet, and if you want to mount a GoPro, the large front vent cover means it’ll have to be side mounted. Not deal killers individually, but factors to bear in mind.
Amongst other notable helmets, I did also look at the slightly cheaper Arai XD range, but it’s a 4 year old design, looks to be near end of life, and the venting didn’t look as good as my old one. In a Japanese summer, venting is important. Kabuto also have some nice helmets, but the fit just wasn’t great on my head.
So what are the main updates on the Astro GX compared to my old Astro IQ? Probably quite a few, but these are the more immediate ones I’ve noticed:
- The visor now has a physical locking mechanism which is standard across the current Arai range.
- The chin skirt is larger and fits better, which should help reduce road and wind noise.
- The padding and front of helmet profile is now designed to make it easier to use glasses with the helmet. This will be useful for me.
- The front and top vents are much easier to open with gloves on.
Of course, it’s also using newer materials and designs for safety and comfort such as being one of the first helmets to get the new ECE 22-06 safety rating. Arai is a fairly conservative company, so doesn’t offer things other companies have offered for a while, such as in-helmet sun shades, instead offering a hinged external one for use on top of the visor. They also don’t offer more modern hinged helmet designs, instead focussing their sales pitches on the fact that they’re a family business which still make every helmet by hand. Perhaps what’s most important is that they make great, safe helmets.
I also got a Pinlock 120 visor insert fitted. The visor which ships with the helmet is sold as compatible, so it was just a case of getting the second shield which the NAPS rep installed for me. Pinlocks are fantastic and brought to motorcycle visors what snow sports people had known for a long time – double glazing prevents visors from steaming up. I got mine for my old helmet and after just one day wished I’d invested in one sooner. There are other brands which do this now, and many helmet manufacturers offer their own-brand solutions, but they all seem to be based on Pinlock, and mine was the Pinlock version itself.
On the subject of that sales rep, he (all of them?) had been Arai trained for adjusting the removable padding in helmets, and made some small additions to the side padding on mine to make sure the fit was even better. I think they will do this for anyone with an Arai helmet who comes in, and likely also for most brands, and I think it’s worth taking a few minutes to get it done. I also got a card for free checkups on the helmet every six months for three years, some visor hinge lubricant and some Arai stickers, in case you didn’t think the huge logo on the front (and back) of all their helmets is enough.
Colour-wise, like my previous helmet, it’s basically white, albeit with some very small shiny flecks on it and a gloss finish. Historically, I’ve generally not paid more for the graphic versions, as I like the small amount of additional visibility a solid white may bring, and I have an untested theory it attracts less attention from the police also. Part of me would like something more distinctive, but for helmets I’d rather put the money into a ‘better’ helmet.
To quickly go back to a previous point about that make-up bag on my head. This is a thin bag they always asked women (or anyone I suppose) wearing makeup to put on when trying helmets so the make-up doesn’t come off in the helmet. It’s similar to what some shops give out for people trying on some clothing. It’s the first time I’d ever tried one and it does feel quite strange even when testing helmets!
So that should be me set for a helmet for a few more years. As for the old one, I’m actually looking to get some artwork put on it and use as some wall art, and a bit of a talking point. Update if and when I get that sorted out.