Arai has long been heralded as one of the best helmet manufacturers in the market, thanks to their safety research, attention to detail, and perfected construction. The Japanese brand has rested on the laurels in motocross recently, as their VX Pro 3 line has seen change or professional endorsement on the track. Despite this absence of marketing or innovation, the lid has remained one of the safest and best-selling available and this has urged the company to reinvest in motocross for 2015 and beyond with the restyled and refined Arai VX-Pro4 helmet. While at the intro for the new premium piece, we grabbed a representative from the company and asked for all the information possible behind the build. What he told us was extensive, but explained their exact reasons for the latest offering.
The Arai VX-Pro4 will be available to the public soon. While we did not get a price, expect this helmet to range from roughly 500-dollars for plain white or black, and around 650-dollars for shell complete with graphics.
Being riders, Arai makes helmets for protection first. Everything that Arai does is based on function for protection, and everything else is secondary. Mr. Arai mentioned that the helmet may not be following the current fashion trends, although it is cool looking, because we are not focusing on fashion. Our shells are round, smooth, and strong for the reasons they have been for decades, and that is because this is the strongest shape in nature. When you are bouncing off of the ground, you do not want it to catch or rotate your head with the energy. The best way to do that is with a strong, smooth shell.
Mr. Arai wants to give people the most protection we can. We have tried to make price-point helmets in the past, like our Vector 2 helmet in street. But it is only 90 bucks cheaper. There is only so much Mr. Arai is willing to take out of helmet and still put his name on it. For the Vector 2, we took a few vents out and other little details, but at some point there is not a way to remove, make the price point worthwhile, and still put an Arai logo on it. For years people have told us to go to China, but Mr. Arai said he cannot do this because it is his family name and a company his father started.
Everyone deserves the very best. If you are a novice rider, you probably need it a bit more than an experienced guy, because you will probably fall more often. Our goal is that new or old, experienced rider or not, you need the best helmet.
We focus on the shell of the Arai VX-Pro4 helmet, first and foremost. By having a much stronger shell, we can use a softer liner that is more comfortable when you are wearing it that also on impact transfers less energy to the wearer. We have a lot of people tell us that they hit the ground but don’t think they hit their heads, while the helmet has a huge bash in it. We use a multi-density liner, which allows us to tune the density to where we’d like it. It is stiffer in the forehead, where it uses less material, and softer here so there is more material to absorb the energy. By doing that, we can use less material overall, and make the helmet smaller and lighter.
We reinforced the bottom opening and now we actually carry more weight down low, so the helmet has a lower center of gravity. A lighter helmet with a higher center of gravity can cause more fatigue over time, but the lower center of gravity causes less fatigue and makes it seem like the helmet is lighter than it actually is. Even though no one else tests the lower portion of the helmet, we do because we feel it is important.
We moved the stainless steel mesh of the chin vent to the outside of the shell. By doing this, we have moved the material inside the chin liner forward and created more room for your face. A lot of riders commented that the older chin bars were too close and that they’d like them to be further away. The dimensions of the fiberglass shell are identical to the previous model, but moving the vent to the front makes it an optical illusion. We have increased the room in the face without lengthening the shell itself, which allows it to retain the oval shape. You don’t want a chin bar to be so far out that it creates an outrigger to catch on. As is typical for Arai, all of the vents are designed to break off from impact. The outer vent creates the room for the chin bar and flows more air, but is also designed to break away in a crash. The rear exhaust vents are a little more robust than the previous offering, but are also designed to break off in a crash.
Keeping with fashion has always been difficult for Arai and we have been accused of being behind the times. But again, we put the emphasis on the safety first. The previous helmet was a damn good helmet in that it does exactly what it needed to do for protection. The new helmet has been tweaked and improved a little bit, and then we styled it for riders who’d like something for fashionable. Safety isn’t sexy and many riders are more impressed by what they see, so we have an uphill battle of trying to sell protection of what a helmet is supposed to do. This has style that will get people’s attention, and once they pick it up they will understand the balance and safety. The materials we use impresses people once they see experience them firsthand. Once you’ve worn an Arai, it is hard to go back, and once you crash in an Arai, you understand how protected you really are.
Energy scrubs away as the vents break, but the whole idea for the helmet is not to catch or snag.
This is our effort to get back into a sport we haven’t paid much attention to recently. Years ago when the clothing companies went head to toe and started making helmets, it was difficult for us to sponsor riders against the gear company’s package. Then the price wars hit hard, so we pulled back a bit in advertising and racing, but we never dropped in sales. We believe we have a core customer base that believes what we represent, and now that the market is looking at protection a little more we will try to educate them and hope the appreciate the efforts we put in to offer more. We will try to pick up a few riders for professional racing next year, some younger guys that will get people thinking about Arai again.
The ridge that runs along near the bottom of the helmet is called a hyper ridge. What it does is opens up the helmet so that it goes on and off the wearer easier, because our helmets taper in at the bottom more than most. The hyper ridge kicks the bottom out without actually making the helmet bigger, and also reinforces the bottom of the helmet. We can alter it for styling but do not want to make it too large and create a sharp edge. We have also widened the peak by five millimeters and lengthened it by 10 millimeters, which offers a little more protection.
From Formula One to Moto GP to motocross, the round and smooth shell applies everywhere. While we do tune helmets for particular markets, it is amazing how much of the technology is shared. It is amazing how much of the feedback from Formula One is used, particularly in the cheek pads, where the drivers complained about a change we made from one model to the next. Over three or four months, they helped us to develop a cheek pad that is supportive and comfortable, which is a fairly difficult task.
Mr. Arai patented the removable emergency cheek pad system and then opened it up to everyone, because he wanted everyone to have it. As far as I know, our cheek pads have never been used in the manner the were meant for, but at Daytona a few years ago a rider wearing another brand was knocked out and the medics used an emergency system that was based on our technology. We are very proud that the innovation that we have shared has helped someone else, even if it was with another brand.
The cheek pads in this helmet feature our Facial Contour System. We can micro-fit to more people, and to enhance this even further on the new helmet the cheek pads and top liner feature a removable five millimeter layer that allows you to increase the fit of the helmet without having to buy an all-new liner. When you pull the layer off you will have a looser fit. If you have a rounded face and head shape, we have removable layers in the temple area to reduce pressure without going up a size. Our goal with fit is to give someone the most comfortable helmet possible without the need to go up a size.
We haven’t changed our helmets to work better with neck braces because there are so many brands and styles, and something that is good for one may not be good for another. Our goal is head protection and if someone wants to add to their body from their, we recommend finding something that works well for you when wearing the helmet. If you tweak the helmet for something else, you could lose something else the helmet needs to do.