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MD Product Review: Arai XD4, A New Development In Dual Sport Helmets

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Your helmet selection typically relates to the type of bike you ride. In general, sportbike riders wear full-face helmets, cruiser riders go for open face or half-helmets, and no self-respecting motocrosser would be caught without a proper MX helmet featuring elongated chin-guard, wide opening for goggles, and the signature visor (properly called a “peak”). Whether they are attributable to function, or to form, these helmet conventions are noticeable. You wouldn’t wear a MX helmet on a Harley, would you?

Not surprisingly then, the growing popularity of dual sport or “adventure” bikes in the late 90’s warranted a new type of helmet. Arai quickly stepped up to fill that niche when it created a whole new helmet category:  the dual sport helmet. Arai called these helmets its XD series and the XD4 featured here is the latest evolution.

The design basics of early dual sport helmets—styling and functionality reminiscent of a MX helmet, but with the addition of an earnest helping of street-going protection—worked well for the bike offerings of the late 90’s. But dual sport bikes have evolved.  Looking purely at engine outputs, acceleration, and top speed potential, the bikes within this segment have become decidedly quicker in recent years. Think of today’s Super Tenere, Tiger, or Adventure as compared to a DR650 or KLR and you get the picture right away. Not to mention various supermoto scorchers, which are often paired with dual sport helmets.

To its credit, Arai appears to recognize the increased demands—particularly speed-related—being placed on helmets like the XD4. The XD4’s many improvements, over its predecessor the XD3, seem devoted to addressing these demands. The XD4 features a new shell shape for “better aerodynamic stability at higher street speeds,” says Arai. A redesigned peak creates “even better stability and airflow.”  Similarly, the chin vent, exhaust ports, and side cowl vents all help improve “ventilation efficiency as well as helmet stability at higher speeds.” The common denominators are stability and speed.

And the XD4 delivers in these areas. It is indeed refreshingly stable at highway speeds. Since the peak has the biggest negative impact on stability, I removed it for my first ride with the helmet. This brings up one of the most interesting new features of the XD4 – the ability to remove the peak. In fact, the XD4 can be configured three ways: with peak and faceshield, with peak and no faceshield, or with faceshield and no peak (by the way, this configuration gives the XD4 a distinctive, fighter-pilot look – unlike any other motorcycle helmet). By running it without the peak, I was able to gain some idea of how the helmet would handle if it were an ordinary full-face helmet. Then, after a few rides, I installed the peak to compare.

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Around town I experienced no noticeable difference. Even at two-lane highway speeds the peak was barely a factor.  Only once I reached interstate speeds did it begin to feel like anything other than a traditional full-face helmet. And, even then, the sensation was never surprising or unmanageable.

Wind noise was also impressively low. With the faceshield down, the XD4 exhibits no more noise at ordinary road speeds than traditional full-face helmets. This may be largely due to the locking mechanism on the faceshield, which does an excellent job of pulling the shield firmly against the gasket.

The XD4’s other new features are primarily designed to boost comfort. Its shield now incorporates Arai’s trademark brow vents, which route air through cooling passages within the helmet. As any Arai owner will tell you, the brow vents work. Other interior improvements include the Facial Contour Support cheek pad design and Dry Cool liner, which are now featured in a number of Arai’s models.

But perhaps the most notable feature of the XD4 is the Emergency Cheek-Pad Release Design. Arai offers this system only on the XD4 and its two competition-oriented helmets, the Corsair-V and VX-Pro3. As Arai describes, this system was “developed to allow easier access to an injured rider; the XD-4’s cheek-pads slide out easily via the integrated pull-tabs built into the underside of the cheek-pad – which makes helmet removal much easier for trained medical personnel.” I found the emergency release pull-tabs to be clearly labeled and intuitive; hopefully medical personnel would too.

The overall fit and finish of the XD4 are excellent. From the moment you open the box, you see pride of workmanship. Like most new helmets, the XD4 comes in a soft bag but, unlike others, the bag is neatly cinched at the front of the helmet (rather than being simply stuffed into the interior of the helmet at the bottom) and the cinch-string is tied in a perfectly-uniform bow. It’s like opening a carefully wrapped Christmas present from someone who cares. Details like this express quality. The faceshield does not bend or bow when opened, and it locks closed with complete precision. Likewise, the vents open and close with authority, there is no vagueness.  Where parts come together the seams are razor tight. The paint is rich and has depth.

Shortcomings? The chin curtain can be pivoted up and down, according to Arai, to serve as an “Airflow Spoiler.” But try as I might I could detect no difference in air flow by lowering or raising this device. Another minor area for improvement is the snap that keeps the end of the chinstrap from dangling. While not particularly difficult to secure, it could be easier. For example, other manufacturers have replaced the snap with a magnet embedded within the chinstrap.  Given the effectiveness and ease of that system, it would be a welcome addition to the XD4.

The XD4 has an M.S.R.P. of $729.95 for any of the “Explore” graphics options, such as the “Explore Orange” version shown in this review. Solid colors range from $599.95 for White to $619.95 for “Fluro Yellow.” The Explore Orange helmet I reviewed will not disappoint those with allegiances to KTM. For more details, and a look at all of the color schemes available, visit Arai’s website.

As the inventor of the dual sport helmet category, Arai has raised the bar with the new XD4. It is a well constructed and well designed response to today’s road-going realities of the dual sport market.

Courtney Olive lives in Portland, Oregon where he and the Sang-Froid Riding Club challenge motorcycling conventions.  He has been known to wear a MX helmet on a Harley, once.  

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38 Comments

  1. BillyGoat says:

    To the Author: You didn’t mention it’s ability to accomodate bluetooth accessories.

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  2. Vrooom says:

    Seriously this thing is $600 to $750.00 That’s only going to sell to the BMW crowd despite any KTM orange they put in it. I have a Tour XD I use for dual sporting but not general street use. The beak can be removed on that as well. I felt guilty spending $300 or so on that. The helmet is definitely important protection, but not sure how much more protection you get for that last $200-350.

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  3. red says:

    I do like my Arai’s but question the bang/buck on this one. Clearly aiming for the deep-wallet bmw GS crowd at $750 msrp. Happy to see no “Super Adsis” shield swap system, hate that.. flexing plastic is not a good “system”.

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  4. Tom R says:

    If you ride an adventure bike, then the sun shade thingy is spelled “pbeak”.

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  5. Terry M. says:

    I have worn Arai’s for years. I have a sport bike (VFR), dual sport (KLR) and a ’06 Tiger 955i that get ridden on road/off road and whatever road I chose to go down. I am not an “adventure poser” but an enthusiast. I bought an XD because it is one helmet that will do everything. Don’t knock the visor until you try riding home into the setting sun. I don’t care what anyone thinks or says, these helmets just plain work!!

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  6. Rick Young says:

    I have an XD3 2010 vintage & an RXQ 2011 vintage they both have emergency pull tabs tp remove the cheek pieces…my local Arai Distributor tells me other than the Brow vents the XD4 & 3 are virtually identical….my XD3 is as quite as the RXQ on the Highway & alot quieter that the Corsair V5 I had.I disagree with anyone that thinks Arai quality has slipped…I’ve owned several Shoei & HJC helmuts plus 5 or 6 Arai & in my opinion they’re still way ahead of anyone.

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  7. william says:

    I have had 5 Arai’s over the years, I bought the first XD and I thought I was the best ever, until the second hour. Then I just want to use it for target practice. Why cant Arai make a Long Oval version.

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  8. John says:

    Courtney,

    I was just looking at the XD4 yesterday and was disappointed to see the face shield did not seal around the lower corners properly on any helmet I picked up – with peaks installed. A similar AGV sealed much better, how was your XD4?

    Cheers John

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  9. Ayk says:

    Would be nice to know what bike(s) the helmet was tested on. Was there clear airflow (no windscreen), crappy airflow (my F800GS w/stock screen), decent airflow (R1200GS with the windscreen tilted just-so)? And BTW, I can remove the peak/visor on my original XD, as well as my XD3, so that’s not a new feature.

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  10. Yoyodyne says:

    “But perhaps the most notable feature of the XD4 is the Emergency Cheek-Pad Release Design. Arai offers this system only on the XD4 and its two competition-oriented helmets, the Corsair-V and VX-Pro3.”

    My Signet-Q has this feature too, as does the RX-Q.

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  11. paul246 says:

    Another expensive poser-ish accessory for “adventure bike” posers.

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  12. Gpokluda says:

    Add me to the list of former Arai customers. When it came time to buy a new lid this year, I went to the local shop intent on getting another XD. After inspecting the new XD4 and being underwhelmed especially given the hefty price, I opted for a Nolan instead.

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  13. Malc says:

    From a UK perspective, the visor is the clear bit that covers the face, that’ll be a face shield in the US. The peak is the bit on top, that’ll be the visor in the US.

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  14. Joey Wilson says:

    I have great respect for Arai, butI have this problem with them: It’s very hard to find stocking dealers, and I don’t feel like sending an online purchase back two or three times to find out whether I’m a ‘Long Oval’, etc., and for the $$$ they understandably charge for these things, I’m not about to get stuck with something that fits me less than perfectly. The blurb on their website that their dealers can fit you properly sure doesn’t apply at any place I can find.

    Puh-Leeze Arai, I buy your selling points completely and I would buy one if you could only give some sort of guidance on your website that I could use to fit me into one of your lids !

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    • DorsoDoug says:

      I’m fortunate to live not too far away from a major well known vendor who has a well stocked retail location with at least one very knowledgable helmet salesman. When you are fortunate to have a place and a person like this to guide you through the process you will almost certainly find the best fitting helmet to suit your needs and wallet. I’ve owned Arai helmets and they are definitely premium in terms of materials, performance and price. As the cost of entry for an Arai helmet approaches $1000, I explore my options, particularly when it is suggested you limit the usable life of one to several years. I wear three helmets at this time. A Shoei, a KBC and a Bell. Like my various motorcycles they all have their positive attributes. Like motorcycles, I find there is no “one size fits all”.

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  15. brinskee says:

    We’re not in England or Australia, it’s a visor, not a peak.

    I have noticed some fit/finish issues, but having owned the original XD and now and XD3, these are great lids for that they’re made for. I love mine and have gotten used the the aerodynamic issues. If the XD4 makes them easier to live with, all the better.

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  16. MGNorge says:

    “He has been known to wear a MX helmet on a Harley, once”

    Lucky it was just once! Scandalous!

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  17. Mike says:

    Back in the day when we road dirt bikes we had visors and we liked it. Today to be proper we have to call them peaks,a name some advertising guru thought up to be cute. Why do we have to rename everything? My duels port helmet has a visor and I like it.

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  18. Jesse says:

    Wow – they finally redesigned the horrible shield attachement that they’ve been using for decades, and it didn’t even merit a mention in the review?

    I am on the exact same page as Jeremy and Ken, and have noticed the exact same issues. And, like them, I wear Arai because they fit the best, but the quality, and behind the curve R&D don’t justify the price. Every time I buy a new lid, I try on other brands, but keep coming back to Arai for the superior fit.

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  19. Jeremy in TX says:

    It seems every Arai reviewer talks about how the high quality and workmanship are immediately evident. I have found the opposite, particularly with the vent mechanisms which seem cheap and flimsy. Correction – ARE cheap and flimsy: two of the three size mediums I checked out recently in a local shop had at least one top vent that would not stay closed on its own. One of the helmets also showed scuffing on the finish caused by the shield not quite clearing the surface as it was raised. As mentioned in the article, the strap snap could be brought up to par with the competition.

    I am not hating: Arais fit me better than any other helmet I’ve tried, and I will likely continue to buy them unless I find something that fits as well or better. But I do expect a little more for my $600+ than what they have been putting out lately.

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    • Ken says:

      I agree. I’m on my third Arai, a Signet-Q, and the fit is great, and I like the exterior shape, but I just don’t see the quality. The interior moves around (behind the chin guard) a bit when I handle the helmet, and the face shield vents quickly broke, as in all my other Arais. Not to mention, the wonky shield replacement “system.” As I said, ‘great fit,’ but over-all, I’ve been happier with the quality of my Shoei helmets.

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    • Ralph says:

      Similar on quality, I used to buy Arai Signet series all the time, but the last one a few years back was terrible. Vents and trim just falling off a the two year point. $600+ for this?

      I’ve been wearing HJC since, and no complaints. Decent interiors, and nothing falls off, even after five years of almost daily (ab)use. Just as quiet as Arai. I bought my winter IS-16 and summer Sy-Max III both for less than one Arai, and as Motorcyclist’s big article a few yours back showed, there is no correlation between price and protection.

      Had Arai’s quality not gone downhill, I’d still be a customer. Oh well, tough for them.

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  20. todd says:

    A peak to match your beak. Is the face shield actually faceted like the bottom photo suggests?

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