Tandem Trips

REVIEW: Arai RX-7 Corsair Helmet

Posted in Gear, Reviews by Me on February 15, 2009

arai_rx7_corsairI’ve been wearing an Arai RX-7 Corsair for about a year now and feel that I have sufficient experience with it to give my opinion. I’ll try to be thorough, but since this is the first helmet I have worn since I was in high school, other than the lids I tried on when shopping last year, I can only do so much comparison. I’ll will cover the following areas: Fit, Features, Loudness, Weight, Venting, and Finish.

Fit: If a helmet isn’t comfortable you won’t wear it, so get one that fits well and don’t cheap out. I don’t think you need to buy the most expensive helmet you can find, but I am a firm believer in the theory that you should buy the most comfortable helmet you can find. It should be tight enough to make you bite your cheeks if you open and close your jaw, but not so tight that you feel pressure anywhere.

Every head is different, so just because this helmet fit me doesn’t mean it will fit you. Try on as many as you can. Also, I don’t see any point in something that isn’t full face, even for a scooter. I like my teeth.

This is the best fitting helmet I tried on, and I tried on at least fifteen different models. When I was browsing online I got my heart set on the Shoei X-Eleven, but that helmet gave me a headache within two minutes of donning it. The X-Eleven has a relatively round shape, which made pressure points on my forehead near my eyebrows. The RX-7 is a little longer, so it gave me room in front without leaving a gap on either side. I also tried several other Arais, some Shoeis, HJCs, AGVs, KBCs, and Nolans. In the end the RX-7 is un-noticeable for me, which makes long rides that much easier to take.

Features: Arai is one of the few brands that offers a fully removable and washable interior (although not in all of their helmets). This made them very attractive to me because this means I can pull out the lining and wash it with my laundry instead of wearing a do-rag to keep my head grease and sweat out of the cloth. This was a major selling point for me and I quickly decided it was a must-have feature. Unfortunately, this also drove up the price and narrowed my selection quite a bit.

The visor on the RX-7 and several other Arai helmets comes off without tools and installs pretty easily. The first time I tried it I had a lot trouble, but this was mainly because it was brand new and the mechanism needs to wear in a little to work easily. After the fourth or fifth time I swapped the visors they went in like a hot knife into butter. I still haven’t gotten to the point where I can do it with the helmet on, though.

The visor opens easily with one finger, by the tab to operate this is on the left, and I usually go for it with my right hand, which is a little awkward but not devastating. I suppose this is the best place for it, but since I am usually holding in the clutch with my left hand when I want to open the visor it is a little annoying. I only really think about it when I am sitting at a light and suffocating, though, which I try to do as little as possible.

You also get a removable breath guard. This is a rubber air dam that sits above your nose where the chin guard meets the visor. This little flap does two things: it keeps your breath from fogging up the visor by deflecting it down and out the bottom of the helmet, and it channels the air from the mouth vent around the lower part of your face instead of into your eyes. You can take it out, but I leave it in because those pros outweigh the cons (it occasionally touches my nose, which can be annoying).

The helmet strap uses a D-ring clasp, which is supposedly the safest way to buckle the strap to your head but can be a little tough to do and undo with gloves on. There is a red cloth tab you can grab onto that helps with the process, but it isn’t as easy as some of the seatbelt-like button-action mechanisms that other brands use. I’ll forego ease of use for security in this case, though.

Loudness: This is not the worlds quietest helmet, but I knew that going into it. This helmet was designed for racing and sport riding and I chose it because of it’s light weight and high air flow. I probably could have picked something quieter, but I have yet to break a sweat because of this helmet.

I also think you should wear earplugs no matter how quiet you think your helmet might be, especially if you have an aftermarket pipe on your bike. With earplugs in I can still hear traffic and feel comfortable that I am aware of what is happening around me. I can’t hear what someone more than three feet away is saying to me with the plugs and helmet on and the bike turned off, but that’s not really a big deal because that rarely is a problem.

Weight: Amazon says the RX-7 weighs about 5 pounds, which is not accurate at all. WebBikeWorld says it comes in at 3 lbs. 14-0 oz. for the XL, the heaviest size they make, but I am skeptical because they mixed it in with their review of the Corsair V. Mine is about 4 pounds, still light compared to many, but not as light as some, and my scale is imprecise.

Ultimately, though, how it feels is what matters. After wearing the RX-7 for about three hours I have a slight neck ache, but it’s no worse that the way I feel after sitting at my desk all day, and part of that is also due to the fact that I ride a bike with a forward-leaning posture, which invariably causes a little stiffness in the shoulders and neck. Try looking up slightly for three hours and tell me how your neck feels.

Venting: I mentioned earlier that the RX-7 vents well. This is the number one feature other than the removable liner, in my opinion. I usually ride with all of the vents open, sometimes cracking the visor to the first detente to let it a little extra air if I am riding under 20 miles per hour. The helmet has three air inlets on the top and a single, wide inlet on the chin bar, all of which are close-able. These vent out of the back through two exhausts on the top, which are close-able, and two small exhausts near the bottom, which are fixed open.

The venting system is part of the reason that the helmet is so loud, but it works nicely with the structure of the liner to flow air around your head and keep you sane. In the winter it can vent too much, even with the vent doors closed, so I may get something for the cold weather, but I could just wear a balaclava, too.

The vent closure tabs are really hard to find and adjust with gloves on, as well, except for the front mount vent door which is fine. I usually mess with the vent doors before I set off, or at stop lights because of this, but on really cold days it can be a problem. Maybe this just takes practice, but I find it to be the only real drawback to the design.

Finish: Mr. Arai started out as a hat make, and you can tell. I don’t think I’ve seen a helmet company that can make such a nice product. There is a reason this helmet costs as much as it does. The fabric that covers the liner is very soft and wicks moisture very well without getting mildewy or smelly. The foam is still very firm. The paint is nice and glossy and hasn’t chipped because of bug or debris impacts (fingers crossed). All of the mechanisms are holding tight and work the same as the day I got it.

The only problem I have noticed is that the vent louvres are made of plastic and one unfortunate knock against a chest of drawers caused a small crack. These parts aren’t replaceable, so I will have to live with it. A little superglue firmed it up and you can’t really tell it’s there.

In Summary, I love this helmet. I recommend it to anyone who it fits. It was by no means cheap, but if you scrounge around online you can find substantial discounts over the in-store prices. Mine came in at just under $450, but in store would have been over $600.

If the Corsair doesn’t feel right, I recommend you try another Arai product before you go with another company. My wife went with this brand (a 2008 Quantum 2 in Red purchase over the winter), and any helmets in my future will be from Arai until the other brands step up their game.

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One Response

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  1. Gordon said, on June 10, 2009 at 6:36 am

    Very well written and thorough review Matthew, offering an unbiased but positive review! I tried on a variety of Arai’s but my head shape is like a potato sack, so the only helmets that really “fit” are the Shoei XR-1000 and my current helmet, the AGV GP-Tech. I think the RX7 is the equivalent of the GP-Tech, so it’s interesting to read the differences between the two.

    My AGV was one of the first out the factory and as such has many flaws, one of which is soft paint. I have 3 (so far) chips just above the visor and air vents, which is really annoying. But apart from that it’s a gem.

    I’m just going through your updates, so will probably comment on others before the days out!

    Thanks for your review and excellent site!


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