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Arai and Icon Tie for Top Spot in J.D. Power Helmet Survey

In the following chart and press release provided by J.D. Power and Associates, Arai Helmets ranked first for the 13th year in a row in customer satisfaction, although this year it was tied by the relatively lesser-known brand Icon. These two brands were followed closely by Shoei. Not surprisingly, J.D. Power also reports that the percentage of motorcycle helmets purchased on the Internet is steadily increasing, and now represents nearly 1/4th of all helmet purchases. Take a look at the press release that follows the chart for a description of the 11 separate attributes considered by the customers taking the survey, as well as other interesting facts concerning helmet purchases.

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: Motorcycle helmet owners are increasingly likely to purchase their helmet online, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Motorcycle Helmet Satisfaction StudySM released today.

The study finds that nearly one-fourth (23%) of motorcycle helmet owners purchase their helmet on the Internet, compared with 20 percent in 2010. In 2002, less than 10 years ago, this proportion was just 4 percent.

“While the dealership is still the main source for a majority of helmets purchased, it’s clear that customers are continuing to shift to the online channel to purchase their motorcycle helmets,” said Brent Gruber, senior manager of the powersports practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “The percentage of helmets purchased online has increased steadily during the past 10 years. As a result, it’s crucial to ensure that dealers have an e-commerce website available for customer use as their preferences change.”

The study measures overall satisfaction of motorcyclists with their new helmet across 11 attributes: quietness; ventilation/air flow; de-fogging performance; face shield effectiveness of keeping wind out; face shield resistance to scratching; ease of replacing face shield; scratch resistance of shell; color/graphic design; weight; ease of fastening the strap; and fit and comfort.

For a 13th consecutive year, Arai ranks highest in customer satisfaction, and ties with Icon with a score of 852 on a 1,000-point scale. Arai performs well across all 11 attributes, particularly in fit and comfort and face shield effectiveness of keeping wind out. Icon performs particularly well in color/graphic design. Shoei follows in the rankings with a score of 831 and performs well in ease of replacing the face shield.

The study also finds the following key trends:

  • Overall satisfaction across the industry continues to improve to an average of 788 in 2011, reaching its highest level since the study’s inception in 1999.
  • The average helmet purchase price this year remains consistent with 2010—$209 in 2011, compared with $206 last year. In fact, the average price paid for a new helmet has remained relatively constant since 2007, when the average price was $203.
  • With a consistent increase in the median age of new helmet owners since 2000, this year’s study shows the highest median age to date—48 years.

The 2011 U.S. Motorcycle Helmet Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 4,820 purchasers of new 2009 and 2010 model-year motorcycles who provided information about their most recent helmet purchase experience and helmet use. The study was fielded between August and October 2010.

32 Comments

  1. Robert Entel says:

    I can see why Arai does so well. I have an Arai that started to loose part of the vinyl trim around the bottom of the helmet. I tried several types of glues, but it just would not stay in place. I decided to shoot them an e-mail simply asking for a glue recommendation. They e-mailed back asking how old the helmet was. It was 9 friggin years old! They said no problem. They told me where to send the helmet for free repair, returned it in less than a week and it’s good as new. Expensive, but well worth every penny.

  2. Tom B says:

    I wear at least DOT approved full face helmets. To me the #1 criteria is all day comfort because I tend to ride long distances – this includes space for my ears and reasonable weight. To combat heat and humidity, the #1.5 criteria is exceptional ventilation. #3 would be quietness although I doubt you can find a comfortable, well vented, reasonably priced helmet that is quiet enough to use without earplugs in full ventilation mode for more then an across-town jaunt. And I need the face shield to block UV.

    The importance of other technical factors falls off dramatically. However, a fogged over face shield when its hot and rainy is not a good thing.

    Over the years, Arai’s, Shoei’s and Scorpions have fit well, worked well, have been durable and have been easy to live with. The high-vent Arai’s have gotten too expensive. My Shoei X-11 was purchased at deep discount. Scorpion EXO-700’s work well enough and their price is very attractive by comparison – if you can find one whose graphics don’t make you want to throw up.

  3. joe b says:

    this survey just says how happy one was with his purchase, not how good the helmet really is. interesting 4 of the catagories are about the shield? I’d think an honest test of these helmets, would give different results, other than Arai would still be best.

  4. Joey Wilson says:

    There’s another problem at work for me: I wear a 2XL helmet (OK, start the jokes NOW), and not all of them build a helmet that will fit me. By dumb luck, I stumbled onto a 2XL HJC CL/SP that a dealer was stuck with (not a lot of traffic in that size, no doubt)
    and fortunately if fits like a glove. I would have shelled out for a Arai or Shoei, but could not find any to try on. I did not want to get into an endless round of buy/return over the web.

    I don’t know how it is where you live, but here in Middle Tennessee, you’d be very hard pressed to find anything but cheap/medium price helmets at any dealer. I’ve yet to see anyone with big $$ helmets in stock, though one dealer cat told me he special ordered one for himself (at cost, no doubt), ’cause they’re mighty expensive!’.

  5. ze says:

    funny, 3 of the best brands aren’t ther: shark, agv, suomy… bad research imo

  6. Gavin says:

    For independent test results of a huge range of helmets I suggest readers check out http://sharp.direct.gov.uk/home. Arai fans will be disappointed to see that the ghastly Chinese V-Can helmets score better than a many of the premium brands.

    Personally, I wear an HJC HQ1 carbon helmet because it’s reasonably priced, comfortable and light. It also scores maximum points in this survey.

    • Switchback says:

      The Sharp tests focus on European models which are built to different standards than US helmets with Snell certification. The only helmet tests that are useful are non Snell helmets like the modulars. Therefore the Arai comparison is relatively meaningless

  7. Jeff Roberts says:

    Also…I have thoroughly field test 2 Arais at high speed and they saved me both times.

  8. Jeff Roberts says:

    After 44 years of riding I can only guess that most of the Icon owners have never tried an Arai due to the price. If they had an opportunity to sample the difference in ride quality they would probably fork out the extra money to own one. I have owned many brands of helmet and nothing is as good as an Arai for comfort, light weight, clear optics and ventilation. Even the heaviest Arai feels lighter than any other brand at the end of the day and the aerodynamics are exemplary.

  9. MikeD says:

    As the owner of an Icon Alliance SSR Solid Black (Large) all i can say is:

    For the kind of $ i paid for it i feel OK about it’s performance.

    The thing is huge(me having a big-o-head don’t help either i figure) , maybe heavy by other’s standards but i haven’t owned any other helmet yet (this one is been with me since 2008).
    Quality and durability i would say kinda dissapointing, then again i only paid $130 at the time.
    The perforated leather(vinyl?) part at the bottom that holds the cushion around your jaw bone is starting to crack. The 2 vents that run front to back started to come apart at the front like a year ago(nothing Crazy Glue couldn’t fix, lol).
    It has gotten kinda noisy as of lately (1 year or so already)…i think the visor is not sealing as good as before(should be expected).

    One of the things that caught my attention was the style at that price point.
    For those of u that don’t like graphics they have plenty of solid options.

    It ain’t no Arai or SHoei, but for what i need it and what i payed for it i think is an Ok Helmet.
    Perhaps im a cheap mofo but i can’t see myself forking over more than 200$ for a brain bucket…and ICON knows how to make happen ( with Style to BOOT ! ).
    Personally i think they have a good product at a good price point.
    When the time to replace it comes i will look at Scorpion and ICON again.

    And no, I don’t ride a Gixxer or any other “torture rack” and wear all the gear minus riding pants all the time(working on that).

    • MikeD says:

      I forgot to add:

      If u have the $$$ to get the best in class on anything, go for it ! I sure would like to but can’t.

  10. TurboSlug says:

    I urge people to do their own research before buying a helmet. It won’t take long to figure out how misleading this survey is. Shoei and Arai are hand made helmets everything else on this list are machine made “cookie cutter” helmets. Harley Davidson does not manufacture a helmet, they use KBC, HJC etc. Shoei and Arai uses a fiberglass, organic fiber shell vs polycarbonate or plastic from almost every other manufacturer on this list. Yes, some Icons have a small amount of carbon fiber in the shell but most of it is polycarbonate or plastic. You get what you pay for! Got a ten dollar head, get a ten dollar helmet. Do your own research and build your bike IQ and you will buy a Shoei or Arai. I understand not everyone can afford the premium brands, in that case I recommend an HJC. HJC makes the best helmet for the money, they have been making helmets LONG before Icon. I have been working at a motorcycle dealership for 15 years and have been GM for 5 of those years. Do your own research and enjoy your Shoei or Arai and be smart and safe.

  11. JSH says:

    I would recommend anyone looking to purchase a new helmet take a look at the NHTSA Database first. This is a database of helmet tests done to ensure that a helmet meets DOT requirements. These are tests done on a sampling of helmets purchased from retail locations. Not all helmets models are listed but most of the popular ones are.

    The site is at: http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/problems/comply/index.cfm Select “Equipment” and “FMVSS” the click the “Submit Search” tab. From there you can select the helmet manufacturer you are interested in.

    My $600 Shoei X-11 was damaged in a crash last fall and I was planning on replacing it with a X-12. However, after the Motorcyclist article comparing cheap DOT helmets to Snell helmets I thought I would do some research on some DOT only helmets. Sure enough, my old X-11 measured a peak of 205 G’s in the first hit vs. the X-12 @ 174 G’s. The $100 DOT only Sparx S-07 measured only 138 G’s on the same standardized drop test. I guess the old saying “If you have a $100 head wear a $100 helmet” no longer applies.

  12. Alaskarider says:

    One thing i noticed is everyone(meaning in general,not the posts above) seems to praise their cheap(nolan,scorpion,kbc,hjc etc.)helmet because it “fits just as good” or “It was $400 cheaper than an Arai or Shoei and it doesnt seem any different”. Yet anyone who has ever crashed in one of those helmets and lived to tell about it will almost always upgrade to a “boutique” brand helmet.Fit,finish,graphics and all of that are only 1/4 of the equation. How well that helmet absorbs the energy of your crash is the other 3/4. I have worked in motorcycle dealers all of my life and sold everything from Junk $99 sparx to $900 Arai’s. I have been to Arai,Shoei,Shark,bell, etc. “schools” or “sales pitch seminars”. Trust me when i say you get what you pay for. Whats your head worth?Food for thought.

  13. Ayk says:

    No doubt the Harley guys are happy with their Harley helmets because they say Harley on them. But I’m wondering about J.D. Powers themselves, now that I see they can’t spell ‘Fulmer’ correctly. I prefer Arai except for the shield change ritual; I also have 2 Shoeis (1 great, 1 OK), and have a Scorpion that rivals Icon for graphics but is a fine helmet. I had a KBC that literally fell apart and one that was OK. Just got an Icon that’s light and comfortable, but doesn’t deal with my glasses very well.

    Helmets are something you should buy from dealers both from a fit standpoint and possible return for any problems. But dealers need to give a little on the price to keep that slice of their business.

  14. endoman says:

    Of course, the basis for the ratings are different for the two brands. Arai riders want good protection with high quality throughout. Icon riders want their buddies to think they’re cool. Me? Give me my Shoei’s.

  15. Wendy says:

    Confirmed Arai owner/wearer here. Comparing the Arai to the Icon is Ruth Crist vs. McDonald’s. I know where my good meals come from.

    • Davis says:

      Same experience here Wendy. I have had 5 or 6 Arais over the years and recently purchased the RX7 Corsair V. Lots of great helmets out there. I used to wear Shoei until I tried on an Arai. The fit for me is perfect and it feels the same on my head after 5 plus years of use. I haven’t had any quality issues as noted below and once you get used to the shield system (which is outstanding IMO in use on the road) it’s very easy to swap a shield.

  16. Ruefus says:

    Had an Arai Astral literally save my life. I’ve had 3 now, all have been absolutely great pieces of equipment.

    That said, research indicates that the cost of the helmet has very little to do with safety performance. Even cheap-o Pep Boys stuff works very, very well as protection.

    People want to slag Icon. They make nice stuff. If the graphics aren’t your cup of tea, here’s a newsflash – You aren’t the target market and you probably either 1. Have some gray hairs showing or 2. Have very little hair of any sort….or both.

    Personally, I’m the former working on the latter.

    • bikerrandy says:

      Anyone who thinks that by paying more $ for a helmet automatically gives them more protection in a crash is a fool. I’ve crashed twice in my Nolan helmets and they protected my head/brain just fine. My wife has been struck by lightning on the back of our MC and still uses the same Nolan helmet on occasions.

      I’ve talked to the people @ Snell and they agree with me. What you get for paying more $ for your helmet is appearance, comfort(maybe), and a false sense of superior protection.

      I’ve been riding for 47 years. I used to wear Shoei helmets until they got too pricy for my tastes. I used to have a $100 dollar head. Now I have a $200 head just because the price of decent helmets has gone up. Any DOT helmet will protect your noggin’ the same whether it costs $100 or $600. I have a Nolan full coverage helmet that is both DOT & Snell approved. Fine, but I really got it for it’s air flow and price $100.

      • Pushrod says:

        The Harley branded full face AGV that I bought with my first motorcycle in 22 years was a huge improvement over the (recently fashionable again) 3/4 models I wore in my squandered youth. When I replaced it with an Arai after 7 years of faithful service, I wondered how I could have tolerated such a POS for so long. The superior ventilation, and especially the reduced drag when my head wasn’t facing precisely forward, have convinced me that “premium” priced helmets are worth the money.
        It is almost certainly true that current DOT standards assure that almost any helmet will protect my skull adequately in a 90th percentile crash, but the added “comfort” or User Friendliness of my solid white RX-7 are a good deal in my opinion.

  17. Ninou says:

    @Joe: I had exactly the same experience. I bought a top of the line Arai for $700 and that thing just fell apart from all places in little more than a year. Not to mention the most stupid screen replacement system ever! What a rip-off!

    My Shoei had lasted me in perfect condition for years before that! I went back to Shoei and I’m a happy man again!

    To me Arai being the highest rated helmet is like HD being the highest rated motorcycle: a lot of marketing!

  18. What is funny is that HJC makes ICON helmets……..

  19. Tim says:

    I have 7 helmets, the Shoei is the best. The most expensive is a Schuberth (I don’t think I spelled that correctly but I’m too lazy to look.)

    The Schuberth is a piece of junk. It developed a crack just above the face shield for absolutely no reason. I don’t recall a rock hitting it, and it has defintiely never been dropped. One day a 1/4″ crack just appeared out of the blue. There is a rubber like finish on the outer part of the neck roll, and it is flaking off.

    I have an inexpensive KBC that is very close in quality to the Shoei. For the money, very tough to beat. For looks, I love the Suomy’s and the AGV’s, but haven’t owned any. The finish on the Suomy’s are amazing.

    I’ve never pulled the trigger on an Arai, but will someday. For now, I’m loving my Shoei.

  20. Kent says:

    Interesting info but some of the listed don’t make their own helmets at all or in part. ex….J-Tech, KBC, big manufacturers for some of the listed in survey but not mentioned.
    Personally have several Arais, recently purchased an Icon (“flat black” for “KTM”) and found it quite nice, but still no Arai.

  21. John A. Kuzmenko says:

    Goes to show what skulls, demented clowns, and naked chicks on your helmets will do for popularity.
    Either that, or the whole thing is rigged. :)

    I wear Arai, myself.

  22. deltaboy says:

    I don’t have a Gixxer. Therefore I don’t have an Icon helmet.

  23. Joe says:

    I had a Shoei X-8 Rainey for years with no problems. I then bought an Arai Signet GT thinking it was a step up. I had nothing but problems: Vents fell off, faceshield vents came out, weather stripping on chin came off, tab holding cheek pad came unglued. It was quite honestly the most disappointing consumer experience I have had in years. I just bought a new Shoei RF1100, and all is right with the world. I love it as much as my old one and that is all I will ever buy again. (And I don’t work for them, and I paid full retail for my new helmet)

    • blackcayman says:

      I had the Shoei Wayne Rainey Helmet too – excellent lid and was my second Shoei. When it came time to replace I tried on the Arai Quantum F (Round Oval Fit). The fit was perfect and I made the switch. The ventilation was excellent, the quality of the materials was comfortable and the helmet was stable at speed on a naked SV 650. The quality was better than / equal to Shoei. I prefer to wear the best protection / highest quality lid to protect my one and only brain. No ill will to those who wear other brands.

  24. Chris says:

    How many Icon owners have actually tried much more reputable brands such as Arai, Suomy, AGV, etc. Most of the Icon riders I notice are those more drawn to skull graphics design by Ed Harvey than proven performance.

    On a more positive note, Arai’s (personal experience withthe RX-7 Corsair) really are fantastic although my personal favorite is still AGV (5 Dreams Rossi rep).

  25. Mickey says:

    Dang, I just counted them and my wife and I have 10 helmets, (1) open face,(2) 3/4, (4)full face and (3)modular..all HJC’s. I’ve always liked HJC’s. I used to like Bells too. All of them below industry average according to the chart. Guess I’m easily pleased.

  26. bikerrandy says:

    That’s fine. Now tell us which brand helmet’s sell the most units by style of the helmet(half,full open,full coverage, modular, street, dirt, etc.).

    I’m perfectly satisfied with our Nolan helmets and 1 Scorpion 1/2 helmet w/retracting tint lense.